Holiday Reading Binge: Catching Up on the TBR Pile

I firmly believe in the power of the holiday reading binge. The days following Christmas can be a fabulous time to squeeze in a few good reads before the new year. One year I’d love to visit Iceland, where this post-holiday reading time even has its own word: jólabókaflóð. Icelanders traditionally give a large number of books for Christmas, and then take the time to binge read. Sounds heavenly.

Holiday Reading Binge: Girl reading by the Christmas tree

My holiday reading time shrinks a bit each year, as my parents get older and demand more attention during my visit. But I’ve been known to forgo sleep after they’ve gone to bed to squeeze in a few pages. I’ve also taken to listening to audio books at bedtime. I plug my earbuds into my phone and listen for an hour or so until I start dozing.

This December, I’m trying to finish the Alexandre Dumas classic, The Three Musketeers. It’s long, and I’ve been at it for months in fits and starts, but I’m hoping to finish in the next couple of days. I’ve also got some great audio books on loan from the library, including Mackenzi Lee’s The Gentlemen’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, which I’ve had on my TBR list for ages.

All in all, it’s been a great year for reading. The busier I get with work, the fewer books with covers I seem able to read, but it’s quality, not quantity. Or so I tell myself. Though I’m not quite through with my holiday reading binge, I thought I’d share some favorites from 2018. These are in no particular order.

Favorite Reads of the Year:

The Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal (The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky). – A wonderful alternate history that puts women smack in the middle of the space race.

The Hanging Girl by Eileen Cook. – A young adult mystery about a teenager using her psychic ability to help the police locate a missing girl.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. – Because I am always trying to catch up with the fun bestsellers I missed when they originally dropped. An epistolary novel about a young woman who travels to Guernsey from London in the wake of World War II, in search of a subject for her latest novel.

The Wicked Deep by Shea Earnshaw. – A young adult novel about a small Oregon town where three young women were drowned as witches two hundred years ago, and future generations have been forced to pay for the deed.

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays by Alexander Chee. – Part memoir, part writing advice, these essays paint an interesting picture of Chee’s life and experiences so far.

Friday Links: Holiday Gift Giving Edition

Each year I like to offer up a holiday gift giving guide of sorts, mostly geared toward writers and readers. So that’s the slant of this week’s selection of Friday Links. Whether you’re shopping for the holidays or a birthday–or hinting at things you’d like–I hope these give you some ideas.

holiday-gift-giving-wrapped-presents

There will be plenty of book-centric posts in the next week or so. ‘Tis the season for end-of-year lists, after all. So for this post I’ve focused more on useful items and fun toys. But before I get to the links themselves, I have a few more general suggestions if you’re shopping for the writer in your life.

Writers tend to spend a lot of time hunched over a desk. Gifts that counteract that can be both helpful and luxurious. Think about gift certificates for massages or other spa treatments, a yoga class, or a new pair of running/walking shoes. Bath salts, a new wrist wrest, a good supportive desk chair, or even a standing desk might be excellent stay-at-home options.

Lack of writing time can be a frequent complaint. Give your favorite writer time to themselves for the holidays. Offer up babysitting services, take over a few extra chores for them while they’re finishing a project, or buy them time at a shared work space in their area. On the more extravagent end, send them off for a short writing retreat. That might mean a weekend at a local bed and breakfast or a week in a nice hotel with room service.

And finally, writers always appreciate new tech. Even if you’re not up to buying them a new laptop, a gift certificate to Best Buy or the Apple store might be a welcome contribution.

If you missed it, my December Writing Challenge is now underway, so please do join in. Now, witout further ado, I give you this week’s links. Enjoy, and happy writing!

Holiday Gift Giving Links:

21 Gifts Under $21 for Writers and Book Lovers (2018 Edition). – A fun assortment of useful book- and writer-themed items, some novelties and some quite helpful.

25 Gift Ideas for the Writer in Your Life (Even If That’s You). – A thoughtful collection of suggestions both writer- and reader-centric.

The Reader’s Catalog for The New York Review of Books. – One of my favorite bookish catalogs, where you can find literary napkins, classic character book tags, pencils with quotes printed on them, bookish jewelry, and more.

Storiarts. – A lovely, artistic shop featuring tees, totes, pillows, scarves, etc. with quotes from classic literature on them.

The Literary Gift Company. – Exactly what it sounds like. I’m particularly fond of their collection of journals with fun covers.

Goulet Pens. – My favorite spot for shopping for lovely fountain pens and beautiful colors of ink. They offer other stationery items as well. Worth a visit.

Freedom. – The app that temporarily blocks internet access from your computer, tablet, or phone. Help the writer in your life focus on their work and ignore the lure of social media, etc.

Literature and Latte. – Home of Scrivener writing software, which is my personal favorite, and useful for organizing writing projects of all sorts, from novels to blog posts to scripts to presentations.

 

December Writing Challenge: Maintaining Momentum

Maintaining momentum with your writing can be difficult at any time, but December offers some unique obstacles. Whether you’ve just finished NaNoWriMo and hope to keep writing so you can finish your novel, or you despair of getting any work done in the coming weeks, this challenge is for you. The December Writing Challenge seeks to help writers generate words during what is probably the busiest time of the year. December comes with a collection of holidays, all requiring cooking and shopping and socializing. Plenty of distractions from your work in progress. Plus it’s not just the fun distractions. Year end means finalizing work projects, reconciling finances, and other less pleasant but unavoidable tasks. What’s a writer to do?

Every year I challenge writers to keep their writing going. Don’t let the busy season keep you from maintaining momentum. If writing is important to you, you’ll commit to working on that latest project, whatever it might be, all month long.

So what’s the challenge? I challenge you to write, every day in December, for at least a little while. That’s it. There are no manditory word counts or goals for the month, just a commitment to putting your rear in the chair. I hope you’ll manage at least 30 minutes per day, but 15 will do if you can’t swing more.

Why every day? I know there are plenty of successful writers who do not write every day. But I’m a fan of building a habit, and the idea here is to keep your brain primed for the new year. Most writers charge into January with all sorts of writing goals, so this keeps your imagination churning in the meantime. Train your brain to come to the table–or desk–expecting that it needs to produce. You’ll be much happier come January 1st.

I do, however, acknowledge that life happens, especially in December. You’re traveling. You have guests staying with you. Holiday traffic leaves you trapped on a freeway for hours. I get it. So you are allowed two free days, to use at will, when you can take the day off from writing. Use them for Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Use them for the day the in-laws hit town. Whatever. Your choice. Choose wisely.

Of course, there’s no grand prize if you complete this challenge, beyond the satisfaction of knowing you did. Oh, and that lack of dread when you head to your desk in the new year. It’s all up to you. But I believe you can do it, and maintaining momentum with your writing will give you a great head start on those 2019 goals.

I’ll be putting up some cheerleading posts here and also on Twitter as the month progresses. I hope you’ll have fun with this challenge. Work on a couple of projects. Start a new story. Experiment in a different genre. Hit that upcoming deadline. You decide what to write; the sky’s the limit.

Enjoy, and happy writing!

Friday Links: Halloween Distractions and Other Fall Stuff

Halloween distractions feel like an appropriate reason to post the latest Friday Links collection. It helps that my whirlwind conference schedule wrapped up last weekend. I love sharing links with all of you, but when I work three conferences in four weeks, something needs to give. In this case, blogging took a back seat. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been keeping my eyes open for fun sites, however. Halloween-themed literary links have been popping up a lot the past week. I’ll admit I took it as a sign–the internet gods smiling down on me. Or reminding me to get back in gear. Either one works.

Halloween Distractions: spooky abandoned house

In case you missed my earlier posts this week, please note The Knight Agency announced a new submissions system. All details are available in yesterday’s post, or over at the agency submissions page. Basically, we’ve migrated to using QueryManager. All submissions sent through the old system will still receive responses; please don’t resend anything.

And with that, I’ll get right to the links. They include a mix of spooky, seasonal goodies to check out and a backlog of things I bookmarked over the past month. I hope you find them entertaining and inspiring in this run up to Halloween (and NaNoWriMo!). Now on to those Halloween distractions. Enjoy, and happy writing!

Halloween Distractions and Other Links:

How Victorian Mansions Became the Default Haunted House. – A fun look at this history of this imagery in books and film.

The Ghost Story Persists in American Literature. Why? – The ongoing love affair between readers and the supernatural.

Vincent Price’s Delightful 1969 Lecture on Witchcraft, Magick, and Demonology. – Because really, what’s Halloween without Vincent Price’s wonderfully spooky voice in your ear?

Who Are the Forgotten Greats of Science Fiction? – Some wonderful old titles for anyone interested in the roots of the genre.

Talking to Arthur Levine about 20 Years of Harry Potter. – A nice look back at the journey of the boy wizard with the American publisher.

A Premature Attempt at the 21st Century Canon. – Vulture chooses the best 100 books of the 21st century… so far. They admit it’s early, but clearly still had a good time putting this together. I like a lot of their choices and their effort to keep things diverse. Interesting, regardless, especially if you’re looking for a good read.

Roxane Gay: What Does a Political Story Look Like in 2018? – Gay talks about the challenges of choosing this year’s 20 best American short stories.

How Do I Become One of Those Writers Who Remember Everything? – Advice on how to cultivate a writer’s brain, and tricks for keeping all that information straight.

35 Over 35: Women Authors Who Debuted at 35 or Older. – Because everyone works at their own pace, and succeeding young isn’t the only way to do it.

 

Friday Links: Labor Day Weekend Edition

Here in the U.S., we’re heading into Labor Day weekend, so it seems wrong to tell you all to spend the holiday weekend laboring. Of course, many writers consider writing time precious and to be hoarded, time to indulge rather than time spent working. I don’t know any of those writers personally, but they do exist. At the end of the day, even when you enjoy the process, writing takes work. So this week’s links focus more on ways to relax this holiday weekend. If you’re not blessed with a holiday on Monday, please do piggyback on ours and have some fun this weekend anyway.

Labor Day Weekend by a lake

Meanwhile at agenting central, I’m in reading mode, trying to finish up some things for clients before taking time off myself. I will be out of the office next week, though I’m sure I’ll pop up online. It’s my last gasp vacation before the long fall haul until the end of the year. September always kicks off the busiest season for me, even if summer was busy, too. I’m attending several conferences over the next few months, dates for which will appear shortly in my travel schedule here on the site. In addition, I’m planning to send some of you back to school. More details on that when I return from vacation.

Looking for bookish activities for your long weekend? I’ve got some reading-centrinc suggestions in the links, but also it’s a great time to head to the movies. So many book-inspired films are either in theaters now, streaming, or coming soon. If you haven’t seen Crazy Rich Asians yet, go now! I’m queueing up To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before on Netflix. I loved the book, just haven’t had a chance to watch the movie quite yet. Also, The Bookshop, based on the Penelope Fitzgerald novel, opens in NYC and LA this weekend, elswhere soon. And finally, Jack Ryan, the series based on the Tom Clancy character, starts streaming on Amazon Prime today. I know there are more; those are just off the top of my head.

So without further ado, I’ll get to the links. I wish you a wonderful Labor Day weekend, or just weekend in general, with time to sit back and relax. Enjoy!

This week’s links:

Deciding to Read More than One Book at a Time Has Made it Easier than Ever for Me to Meet My Reading Goals. – The reading habits of a book nerd. I’m totally onboard with this.

My Favorite Bit: Andrea Phillips Talks about Bookburners Season 4. – Are you a fan of serialized fiction? Check this out for a peek into this great series at Serial Box, plus discounts on some early episodes if you’re looking to get started.

Problematic Classics: Four Questions to Ask When Beloved Books Haven’t Aged Well. – An interesting look at how to address older works from a modern, more socially aware perspective.

Haruki Murakami On Parallel Realities. – The author discusses his new story in The New Yorker.

All the New Genre-Bending Books Coming Out in September! – Nice round up of titles that might appeal to a broad readership. (And an excellent reason to finish that August TBR pile and make room for new goodies.)

The Books Tayari Jones and Ann Patchett Say Remind Them of Fall. – Can’t wait for red leaves and sweaters? Pick up one of these titles to get in the mood.