Welcome to the World, Teddy!

So I’ve been pretty absent from blogging, mostly since I was busy building this guy from scratch! He was due September 4th, but when I woke up on September 2nd, older brother Jack tapped on my belly and said, “Baby Teddy, you can come out now!” And lo, I went into labor almost immediately. For real. Big brother Jack FTW!

Born 9/2/2016 at 4:28 pm, weighing 8 lbs. 10 oz. and 21 inches long. <3

Reading Challenge – Update #2

OK, super behind on reading right now, but here’s where I’m at:

Five Books by Women

1. OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu

2. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (woman and man still counts, right?)

3. The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

4. The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski

5. The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

Five Books Set in Foreign Countries

Five Adult Category Books

1. When a Scot Ties the Knot by Tessa Dare

2. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Five 2016 Debut Books

1. When We Collided by Emery Lord

2. The Love the Split the World by Emily Henry

Five Award-Winning Books

1. Bone Gap by Laura Ruby (Printz Award)

Five Middle Grade Books

Five Poetry Books/Books Written in Verse

Five Graphic Novels/Manga

1. Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral 

2. Will and Whit by Laura Lee Gulledge

Five Books Already on my Shelf

1. The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Five Classics

Other Non-Conforming Books

1. The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

 

Battle of Shelf Space

Been a while, how’ve YOU been? I’m the worst at blogging, I know. Moving on.

So, I’m currently battling a problem that is likely familiar to my fellow book-loving friends: the Battle of Shelf Space. Ugh. If I had a Beauty and the Beast library (or that library from Game of Thrones on Sunday–YOWZA!), I would keep every book ever, because I am totally a sentimental hoarder. Unfortunately, even after moving to a house with more space, I still have too many books. But how do I whittle down? Do I just give in and buy more shelves? We don’t really have the space for more shelves. Do I store some away until I can make more space? But then what’s the point of keeping them?

I’m not really a re-reader, but I like having books around. They feel like memories to me. And I like being able to push them on my friends and family. I like the idea of my kid (soon to be kidS) growing up around lots of books–I grew up with only a couple weird Bibles, an Encyclopedia Brittanica set, and a Dictionary that I used to read for fun. We used the library for any other books. But on the other hand, I do know my favorite books could find new homes with other readers and it might be nice to spread the joy and simultaneously de-clutter our office.

My instinct is to maybe create a cap on how many books I keep. Anything over the cap has to go. But honestly, I don’t know the right answer. How do you control your book piles? Are they cluttering your house in unsafe towers that promise to bury unsuspecting toddlers at the slightest provocation? Are they given away as soon as they’re read? Or you know, something in between?

Reading Challenge – Update #1

Five Books by Women

1. OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu

2. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (woman and man still counts, right?)

Five Books Set in Foreign Countries

Five Adult Category Books

1. When a Scot Ties the Knot by Tessa Dare

Five 2016 Debut Books

Five Award-Winning Books

Five Middle Grade Books

Five Poetry Books or Books Written in Verse

Five Graphic Novels/Manga

1. Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral 

Five Books Already on my Shelf

Five Classics

Deja Vu

Hey, blog! It’s been a while! And I will tell you why: I’m pregnant, again!

So, apparently, pregnancy does this thing to me where I can’t find motivation for ANYTHING. This happened when I was pregnant with my first son, and is happening again now that I’m pregnant with my second son. I’m currently using a pretty effective shame-based system to keep me writing during this time (thanks to check-ins with one of my beloved critique partners!), but everything else has been impossible. Reading? Snail’s pace. Unpacking the boxes at my new house? LOL. Parenting my toddler? <3 Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood <3. I know this funk will likely get better upon birthing my new baby bundle, but ughhh it’s really hard to get around it.

What’s been going on with you? Have you read anything great lately? Written anything you’re excited about?

 

 

Reading Challenge 2016

book-759873_1920New year, new reading challenge! I’ve sifted through a gaggle of book challenges on other blogs, and none of them were quite right for my reading goals this year. So I’m creating my own!

Only about a quarter of my 2015 reads were diverse*, so my challenge within this challenge is for about half of my 2016 reads to be written by diverse authors or prominently featuring diverse heroes/heroines.

 

Five Books by Women

Five Books Set in Foreign Countries

Five Adult Category Books

Five 2016 Debut Books

Five Award-Winning Books

Five Middle Grade Books

Five Poetry Books or Books Written in Verse

Five Graphic Novels/Manga

Five Books Already on my Shelf

Five Classics

 

*For the purposes of this reading challenge, I am defining diversity with the same definition used over at WeNeedDiverseBooks.com:

“We recognize all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities*, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities.

*We subscribe to a broad definition of disability, which includes but is not limited to physical, sensory, cognitive, intellectual, or developmental disabilities, chronic conditions, and mental illnesses (this may also include addiction). Furthermore, we subscribe to a social model of disability, which presents disability as created by barriers in the social environment, due to lack of equal access, stereotyping, and other forms of marginalization.”

2016 Resolutions

light-person-woman-fireFor 2015, instead of a resolution, I chose focus words. It worked for me, because I was so unfocused. I felt like the embodiment of Carl Sagan’s pale blue dot–miniscule and impotent in the face of the wide open universe.

But so far, 2016 looks slightly less intimidating, so I’m going to make a list of some more solid goals this year.

1. Be healthier by the end of the year. I don’t want to put any numerical parameters on what this will look like for me, because there are certain mitigating factors that might come into play. So I think, overall, my goal here is to be happy with how I treated my body in 2016. Particularly, I want to move my body more, find a way to get around my son’s objections to gym child care so I can do yoga, and eat more meals at home.

2. Write at least two manuscripts. I currently have one mostly written that needs a MAJOR re-write (like, basically from scratch), and one draft that is about 40% written.

3. Read 50 books. I was only two books shy of that this year, so this seems doable!

4. Go on a trip out of state.

5. Volunteer with Jack. I signed up for a local service that provides rides for seniors, so that’s my plan for now. We’re going on our first trial run in January, and I’m hoping my son will be chill enough for this to work out. If he’s too much of a handful and annoying for the clients, we might have to find a different volunteering opportunity.

6. Take an online class. Graphic design? Excel?

7. Sign-up for music lessons, or take lessons via YouTube. I’ve always wanted to learn guitar, and I used to play violin in school, so I’d like to work on either this year.

8. Learn French. So, this is something I already started doing via Duolingo, because I was planning a summer trip to Paris with one of my besties. Circumstances have indefinitely postponed our trip, though, and I have fallen completely off the French-learning wagon. Time to get back on, whether we’re going to Paris this year or not!

9. Go to three plays. I love theater and I need to make more time for it.

10. Dress up and go to a fancy local restaurant.

11. Take over my husband’s wood burner and try to burn something (preferably wood and not any parts of myself).

12. Learn to cross-stitch.

13. Grow veggies or herbs on my balcony this summer.

14. Go to some kind of live sporting event (hockey?).

15. Take several vacations from electronics.

2015 Wrap-Up

2014-12-31 12.06.40In January, 2015, I wrote this post. Instead of resolutions, I chose three focus words:

Peace. Keeping anxieties at bay and being thankful for my crazy, beautiful life.

Courage. Putting myself out on a limb. Facing down fear.

Diligence. Working steadfastly toward achieving my goals. Carving out time to care for myself and others and to do the things I love.

How’d I do?

Peace: I started seeing a therapist, which was step one on my road to feeling better. What I didn’t say in the 2015 post was that I was in the midst of an insane hormonal crash after weaning my son and was having constant panic attacks. There is this picture of me riding on a train with my son back in January, and from the outside, I look happy-ish. But I remember that picture and I remember thinking, “I better smile. This is probably going to be the last picture my son has of his mother.” I thought that about every picture from January until at least March or April. I constantly checked my pulse. I sincerely believed my heart would just stop in my chest. I worried how my son would fare when his mom inevitably collapsed in the middle of the day. Would he survive until his dad came home?

Peace was a codeword for finding some semblance of normalcy again. I started attending more yoga classes, which was helpful until my son suddenly decided he HATED the gym child care around August. I also started taking magnesium supplements, which helped keep my brain from spinning out of control. But honestly? Time has been the biggest help, along with my hormones becoming *mostly* normal again. It’s hard to believe, in the moment, that all this anxiety could be attributed to something as simple as hormones. I read a lot about postpartum anxiety–but I didn’t get postpartum anxiety. Anxiety after weaning was much harder to find on the internet, and the stories I did find were about women who went straight back to normal within a matter of weeks. My issues didn’t disappear after a couple wonky weeks. My hormones were still screwing with me well into the summer, as evidenced by a resurgence of migraines and abnormal cycles. I felt so broken and scared back in January. It sounds overdramatic, but I felt doomed. You know that stomach drop you get on tall roller coasters–like, “oh shit?” I had that feeling in my stomach over and over, all day long. Every. Damn. Day.

Thankfully, things have gradually eased. As fall scooted in, I realized I’ve spent less and less of my time worrying. I wasn’t checking my pulse anymore. I wasn’t convinced every day was my last. And now it’s the end of 2016. I made it another year. Obviously, I can’t say I no longer experience anxiety, but I can say that right now, it’s a side note in my life. And that’s enormous progress.

Courage: With all my anxiety problems, I knew I had to take measures to keep that anxiety from making my decisions for me. Courage, in 2015, didn’t look like it might have in other years. It wasn’t about taking grand leaps, but about making my own choices without listening to my anxiety screaming in the background “THIS IS TOO SCARY AND YOU’RE GOING TO DIE!”

Therapy, again, was the first step here. (Can you tell I’m super proud of myself for taking this step? Because it was one of the hardest/smartest calls I’ve ever made, so yes, I am goddamn proud.) I also went on a family vacation to a lodge that had no cell service or WiFi (it was an hour from the nearest well-equipped hospital, I checked). I made time for friends, new and old. And I defiantly continued writing (you all know how much courage that takes).

Dilligence: Since I had a baby in late 2013, most of my hobbies took a big hit in 2014. I didn’t write or read nearly as much as I wanted to, and I felt like I wasn’t making enough real progress toward my goals. When I had time to sit down and write, I was logging on to social media and reading click-baity articles instead. Being more diligent in 2015 meant that I worked harder at keeping my writing time sacred, and I carved out more time for reading by eliminating electronics in bed. (This also helped my sleep!) My husband gave me some “Mommy Days” for Mother’s Day, which allowed me to run off to a cafe and write all day without feeling guilty. (I always felt guilty anyway, but it was nice of him to try alleviating it for me.)

And my diligence paid off! I’ve written and revised SO MUCH more in 2015, I’ve read over three times as much, and I signed with my agent, Caitlin McDonald at Donald Maass Literary Agency, back in late September! All while dealing with crippling anxiety!

Overall: 2015 was a quieter year. No big moves. No new additions. No far-flung adventures. But as quiet as it was, it was also a year full of internal accomplishment. It was a year that helped rewire my brain and nurtured my creativity. It was a year I survived and came out a little bit brighter.

So, enough about me. How was your 2015?

 

Book Challenge – The End

Reading Challenge: THE FINAL UPDATE!!!

Total Books Read in 2015: 48

Total List Items Completed (out of 50): 40

Favorite Adult title read in 2015: Tie! ATTACHMENTS by Rainbow Rowell & YOU’RE NEVER WEIRD ON THE INTERNET (ALMOST) by Felicia Day

Favorite YA title read in 2015: I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN by Jandy Nelson

 

Here’s the list, updated with the books I’ve read since the last update in bold:

1. A book with more than 500 pages – CARRY ON by Rainbow Rowell 

2. A classic romance –

3. A book that became a movie – SCOTT PILGRIM’S PRECIOUS LITTLE LIFE by Bryan O’Malley (The movie adapted all of the books, and I plan to read them all, but this one counts enough for now.)

4. A book published this year – ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES by Jennifer Niven

5. A book with a number in the title – STATION ELEVEN by Emily St. John Mandel

6. A book written by someone under 30 – HYPERBOLE AND A HALF by Allie Brosh

7. A book with nonhuman characters – HITCHHIKERS GUIDE TO THE GALAXY by Douglas Adams

8. A funny book – THE ROSIE PROJECT by Graeme Simsion

9. A book by a female author – BRIGHT COIN MOON by Kirsten Lopresti

10. A mystery or thriller – TINY PRETTY THINGS by Sona Charaipotra & Dhonielle Clayton – sort of a ballet-inspired thriller, I think? I can’t tell. Seemed pretty thrilling to me!

11. A book with a one-word title – US by David Nicholls

12. A book of short stories – BEWARE THE LITTLE WHITE RABBIT by Charlotte Bennardo, C. Lee McKenzie, David Turnbull, Christine Norris, Jacqueline Horsfall, Medeia Sharif, Laura Lascarso, Tom Luke, Jessica Bayliss, Crystal Schubert, Holly Odell, Jennifer Moore, and Liam Hogan (YES, this is the anthology that I was published in, BUT I read all the other stories so this totally counts–they’re all great, btw. Although I might be a little bit biased.)

13. A book set in a different country – WISH YOU WERE ITALIAN by Kristin Rae

14. A nonfiction book – YOU’RE NEVER WEIRD ON THE INTERNET (ALMOST) by Felicia Day. <3 <3 <3 <3

15. A popular author’s first book – I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME by Lisa Schroeder (at least, as far as I can tell this is her first novel)

16. A book from an author you love that you haven’t read yet – ATTACHMENTS by Rainbow Rowell

17. A book a friend recommended – LIFE IN OUTER SPACE by Melissa Keil

18. A Pulitzer Prize-winning book

19. A book based on a true story – THE ROYAL WE by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

20. A book at the bottom of your to-read list – RE-GIFTERS by Mike Carey, Marc Hempel, & Sonny Liew

21. A book your mom loves –

22. A book that scares you –

23. A book more than 100 years old – THE DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL by Anne Frank

24. A book based entirely on its cover – USES FOR BOYS by Erica Lorraine Scheidt (though the cover did NOT seem to match the story…)

25. A book you were supposed to read in school but didn’t – THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET by Sandra Cisneros (I actually was never assigned this book, but people in other classes were and I was always curious about it)

26. A memoir – YES PLEASE by Amy Poehler

27. A book you can finish in a day – POISONED APPLES: POEMS FOR YOU, MY PRETTY by Christine Heppermann

28. A book with antonyms in the title –

29. A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit

30. A book that came out the year you were born –

31. A book with bad reviews – WENTWORTH HALL by Abby Grahame (which was actually pretty good! I don’t know why it had such bad reviews…)

32. A trilogy

33. A book from your childhood – LETTERS FROM RIFKA by Karen Hesse (loved this book when I was in middle school, and I have to say, it was really interesting to read it again and realize that I remembered so much more than I thought.)

34. A book with a love triangle – THINGS WE KNOW BY HEART by Jessi Kirby (OK, stretching this one since one of the triangle members isn’t living, but I think it counts…)

35. A book set in the future – MORE HAPPY THAN NOT by Adam Silvera (I think so? Right?)

36. A book set in high school – SAINT ANYTHING by Sarah Dessen

37. A book with a color in the title – THE BOY IN THE BLACK SUIT by Jason Reynolds

38. A book that made you cry – I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN by Jandy Nelson

39. A book with magic – EVERY DAY by David Levithan (kind of? right?)

40. A graphic novel – PAGE BY PAIGE by Laura Lee Gulledge

41. A book by an author you’ve never read before – RACING HEARTS by Laura Lascarso

42. A book you own but have never read – CRACKED UP TO BE by Courtney Summers

43. A book that takes place in your hometown – P.S. I LOVE YOU by Jenny Han (technically not my original hometown, but this is set in Richmond, VA which is where I currently live and also where I spent my college years, so… it totally counts)

44. A book that was originally written in a different language

45. A book set during Christmas – FRIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS (anthology) by Ally Mathews, Andrea Stanet, Boyd Reynolds, Dax Varley, Jacqueline Horsfall,Jessica Bayliss, Judith Graves, Laura Pauling, Lea Storry, Medeia Sharif, Patrick Hueller, Richard Ankers, Ty Drago

46. A book written by an author with your same initials – WILD by Cheryl Strayed

47. A play

48. A banned book – SOME GIRLS ARE by Courtney Summers

49. A book based on or turned into a TV show – WHY NOT ME? by Mindy Kaling (This doesn’t really count, because it’s about her and not just The Mindy Project, but this is my list and I’m counting it.)

50. A book you started but never finished – FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS by Diana Peterfreund (WHYYYY did I stop reading this one?? It was fantastic!)

Books that I couldn’t even manage to force-fit into these categories, but I read anyway, because hey, reading is for fun and this list doesn’t own me:

DRAMA by Raina Telgemeier

KISSING TED CALLAHAN (AND OTHER BOYS) by Amy Spalding

AS YOU WISH: INCONCEIVABLE TALES FROM THE MAKING OF THE PRINCESS BRIDE by Cary Elwes (& Joe Layden)

EMMY & OLIVER by Robin Benway

EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING by Nicola Yoon

DUMPLIN’ by Julie Murphy

GAMER GIRL by Mari Mancusi

THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater