Reading Plans for the New Year

The new year brings its own set of challenges, and for me one is always tackling my goal to read more. Given my job description, “reading more” refers to submissions, comp titles, and books purely for pleasure, and part of the challenge there is finding a good balance between keeping up with work and also discovering what wonderful books have already been let loose on the world.

Last year my personal reading fell a bit short. I had lofty ambitions and got off to an excellent start, but by the end of the year my travel schedule, submission pile, and mood over the turn the country was taking had all joined forces to make it difficult to get really absorbed by a good book. Still, I read a fair number of titles, so I’m not too disappointed with my efforts. Among my favorite reads for the year was Shonda Rhimes’s Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person. I read it early and it remained strongly in my mind throughout the year, even if I didn’t always follow all of its good advice. I’m thinking this is an excellent time for a reread, in fact.

My reading goals for this year are very similar to the ones from last year: Read more works by authors of color, read more works in translation. I’m aiming for 60 titles, which I didn’t quite hit last year, and we’ll see what happens. I kicked off the year with poetry — milk and honey by Rupi Kaur, which I loved — but right now I’ve got my nose back into the submissions pile.

Do you have reading goals for 2017? Anything in particular you’d love to pick up? Maybe a big book you’ve been saving for when things calmed down post-holidays? I’d love to hear what you’re all excited to read.

Happy National Book Lovers Day!

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It seems we’ve gone a bit overboard with these national and international days, but National Book Lovers Day is certainly one I can get behind. And frankly, there’s something a bit decadent about it landing mid-week. Almost permission to sneak off and read on the sly, instead of doing whatever it is you’d be doing on a random Tuesday.

I’ve got my nose deep in manuscripts at the moment, so I will resist the urge to play hooky because I feel like reading client projects and submissions definitely falls into the spirit of the day. But I do hope to find some time this evening to settle in on the couch with a nice glass of wine and a good book with a cover.

So what’s everyone reading? Any recommendations?

Readathon Wrap-up

Here’s a quick wrap-up for anyone curious as to the outcome of my readathon experience this weekend. I made it about 18 of the 24 hours, but because things geared up at 5am in my time zone, I was pretty much done by 11pm, without a lot of hope for waking early and reading more before the 5am deadline the following day. So I crashed and just got up briefly to cheer everyone on Twitter, then conked out for a few more hours.

Still, I read two entire books over the course of my readathon, one full comic book trade (about 6 regular-length issues), and made it about 50 pages into a third book, so I call it a win. Sunday, I did very little, and certainly no more reading, but it made for a great weekend, and as always I found the readathon experience to be tons of fun. There’s something about knowing so many other people around the world are settled in with their books and keeping track along with you. The social media aspect makes it even more enjoyable. A different experience for what is normally such a solitary activity.

Books read:

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

How to Set a Fire and Why by Jesse Ball (ARC)

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert (in progress)

Secret Avengers v. 1: Reverie by Nick Spencer and Luke Ross

Readathon: Six Hours Down

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We’re just over a quarter of the way through the readathon, and I’m about two-thirds of the way through my book. I always have high hopes for these events, but the reality is I rarely manage more than three books over the course of a readathon, and that’s only if I read pretty steadily for the full 24 hours. Today I will probably grab something short to read in the middle, once I’ve finished the Ishiguro, so I have a bit more sense of accomplishment.

I do realize that reading speed is personal and enjoying your book is the important part of the readathon, but at the same time, I’d love to make more of a dent in my TBR stack, which is enormous. All I can do is keep plugging away, and put down any reading picks that aren’t suiting my mood to move on to something that might engage me more. And on that note, I’m headed back to my book.

Ready, Set, Read!

Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon kicks off this morning. It’s an east-coast-centered event, which means for me here in SoCal, the reading starts at 5am. I’d considered delaying a bit and reading slightly later than the rest of the crew, but what’s the fun in that? So I set my alarm and now I’m wide awake and raring to go. This means: coffee is brewing, I’ve pulled out my Jane Austen mug for the occasion, I put an extra pillow on my couch, and the coffee table is weighed down with books. I’ll post here occasionally throughout the day, but will probably be updating on Twitter: @NepheleTempest, so if you’re curious about my progress or what I’m reading, that’s the place to check. Happy reading to anyone else participating!

 

LA Times Festival of Books: A Quick Wrap-up

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Every April, The Los Angeles Times hosts their Festival of Books (note: their website is already gearing up for next year), a two-day extravaganza that features panel conversations on every publishing, writing, and bookish topic imaginable, author signings and interviews, awards, and a campus-full of stages and tents catering to everything from cookbooks to young adult fiction to literary magazines to local writing groups and organizations. And since writers and readers need to eat, there have also been a heck of a lot of food trucks in recent years. It’s a feast for the eyes, the brain, and the stomach, much of it outdoors, and really, what more could you ask for on a spring weekend?

This past weekend we might have asked for a little less rain, but the weather on Saturday was more drippy than anything, and the sun obligingly came out on Sunday. I try to attend most years, and was glad it was a bit cooler and maybe a touch less crowded than usual, though there were still plenty of people in attendance. I went to a number of panels and heard authors speak on their recent works, including young adult authors Nicola Yoon, Jason Reynolds, Ruta Sepetys, and Victoria Aveyard; romance authors Tessa Dare and Anne Girard; and upmarket authors Alexander Chee, Laila Lalami, Stewart O’Nan, Aimee Bender and more. I managed not to cart home any more books, but only because purchasing them at the festival meant carrying them around the USC campus the rest of the day. I certainly added a number of titles to my TBR list, and of course I’ve already read much of these authors’ work.

Anyone near LA or planning to travel in this direction should aim to come the weekend of the book festival. It’s a wonderful event every year and catnip for anyone who loves to read and write. But in the meantime, I’ll be posting a few videos over the next few days to share some of the interviews held with attending authors. Whether or not your read/write the genre in which these authors work, I think you’ll find they each have a great deal to share.

Reading Wrap Up for 2015

I started this year with a number of reading-related goals, among them to read more published books (as opposed to manuscripts) than I have been managing recently, to read more diversely, and to try my hand at a number of reading challenges I’d found around the internet, one of which in particular focused on reading books you’ve had sitting on your bookshelves for a year or more instead of endlessly buying new ones. As it’s the last day of the year, it’s time to see how I’ve done.

In terms of reading more, I certainly managed that one. I’m one book shy of hitting my goal for the Goodreads Challenge, and I’m nearly finished with my current read, so I can safely say that’s one goal met. In terms of diversity, 63% of the books I read were by women, with the remaining 37% by men, and that’s about on par for me in terms of gender split, falling a little more heavily on the women-writers side than last year, but then I tend to read more women than men by default. As for writers of color, they accounted for 30% of this year’s reading, up slightly from last year’s 25%. It’s not a bad number, but I’d still like to raise it, so that’s a goal that will carry on into 2016.

As for the other challenges I took on, I failed pretty abysmally, indicating that perhaps given the small amount of time I have for personal reading, I should focus on fewer goals rather than spreading myself thin trying to find ways to read things that count for more than one challenge. So I’m sticking to my basic reading goals for the coming year: Read more books, read more diversely, and try not to buy quite so many new books when I have so many waiting for me at home already. I’d also like to read more books in translation, but I feel that dovetails nicely with my goal to diversify.

I’m happy to say I read some really wonderful books this year. I could probably go on for ages extolling the virtues of a few of the titles in particular, but instead I’m just going to list a few favorites, in no particular order. Please note that these books are all personal reads; none of the authors are clients.

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I’d love to hear what books have made an impression on you this year. New favorites? Recommendations? Or were there any books that were a true disappointment? Feel free to share your bookish thoughts in comments. I look forward to hearing what had you excited in 2015, and wish you all the best for a wonderful new year of reading and writing!

 

 

On Holiday Reading

Anyone who has spent much time visiting this blog knows I’m a sucker for seasonal reading. I love matching some of my reading choices to the time of year, and of course Christmas begs for this sort of treatment. As an adult, my favorite reread in December is Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, but I’m also happy to cherry pick from a volume of Christmas stories or delve into something new. Romance readers know that this time of year brings a wealth of holiday-themed romances, both novels and anthologies, because romance goes so well with winter activities such as sleigh rides and ice skating and shopping for the perfect gift for that special someone. Young adult fiction has a handful of holiday choices, too, and of course, children’s books provide the most plentiful selection, with books about Santa Claus or Hanukkah traditions, holidays from different countries and cultures, or holiday mishaps.

Do you pick up something special to read this time of year? What are your holiday favorites?

Flash Fiction: Saying A Lot in a Small Space

There’s an old adage, attributed to many, about the speaker writing a long letter because he lacked the time to make it shorter. This can be said about a number of formats, including fiction. Short work can take more time to craft than something twice as long because each word must be made to work harder, and there’s no room for fluff or filler. Flash fiction, which typically runs under 1,000 words in length, certainly falls into this category to some extent, but if you normally tackle novels, flash fiction might end up feeling like a nice little vacation.

Those of you participating in the December Writing Challenge have reached day 17 (hurray!), and may be looking for a little break. Or perhaps you’ve been switching up your projects all along. But have you given flash fiction a try? Whether you’re part of the challenge or just looking for something to spark your creativity, flash fiction might be worth your time.

If you’re new to flash fiction, consider checking out a few helpful sites to read some examples of these micro works. Keep in mind that different venues impose slightly different word counts to the format, so if you want to write your own, you should investigate before submitting your stories to make sure your particular flash fiction meets a publication’s parameters.

Literary Hub has recently posted A Crash Course in Flash Fiction, providing a list of great short stories to introduce you to what’s out there.

Author kc dyer has been hosting a Flash Fiction Festival on her blog for the month of December, with a new story going up each day, featuring both her own work and guest writers.

Flash Fiction Online features flash fiction between 500 and 1,000 words long, in any genre.

Brevity features very short nonfiction.

Many other publications include flash fiction along with a range of longer stories, so if you discover you enjoy reading them and/or have a knack for writing them, you’ll find plenty of places to indulge your interest. Good luck, and happy writing!