Monthly Archives: February 2013

My Reading List: Winter 2013

Winter reading waits. c Elissa Field

Winter reading waits. c Elissa Field

Mid-winter makes it perfect time to update my current “must-reads” list.

As noted in prior reading lists (links at bottom), 2012 occasioned release of some fabulous fiction, including several I haven’t gotten to yet. I’ve discovered some other great books released prior to 2012, as well as a few winter-spring 2013 releases I’m really curious to read. Rounding the list are 3 books by writers I love, 3 works of nonfiction, and the “challenge list” that serves to seed the reading challenge I’ll publish in March: reading books you’ve always meant to read.

I’d love to hear your own reading recommendations, recent favorite reads or link to your own reading list in the comments. Happy reading!

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  1. Anuradha Roy, An Atlas of Impossible Longing (2011). This debut novel set in Bengal is being heralded internationally as a great new voice. the author, longlisted for the 2011 Man Asian Literary Prize, has also released The Folded Earth (2012).
  2. Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-Time (2004). The name alone sold me on this book — one I had often picked up and set down before finally taking it home last month. Update: I’ve read lots of haters on this book, but hands down, it knocked me off my feet with its humor, intellect and heart. I quickly added it to a top-recommended read list for upper MG and YA (lower, if not for the f-bombs).
  3. Hilary Mantel, Bring Up the Bodies (2012). See my prior post 2012 Year of the Book: Bring up the Bodies went on my winter list after it won the 2012 Man Booker Prize, making Mantel the only woman to have won it twice. Update: I finally got a copy of this and am reading it in June. Will update further as I finish reading but, in the meantime, it’s worth sharing advice I’ve heard from others: Since all of Mantel’s work is highly recommended and since she writes historical fiction, you would be safe to decide which of her books to read based on which topic most interests you.
  4. Helen Oyeyemi, Mr. Fox (2011).

2013 Releases I am Curious About:

  1. Eleanor Morse, White Dog Fell from the Sky (Jan. 2013). Compared to Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone.
  2. Karen Russell, Vampires in the Lemon Grove (Feb. 2013). I so want this collection of stories by the author of the 2011 award-winning novel Swamplandia and 2007 collection St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves. Vampires lost out in my most recent book run only to Mrs. Dalloway, as I have the March reading challenge to gear up for. Update: Russell’s stories are rich with intelligence and off-kilter with subjects as odd as teen girls enslaved and transformed into silk-spinners. So far, I’m partial to the title story. A little icked by the silkworm story. But genuinely impressed by her writing. Worth reading one of her titles.
  3. Ned Beauman, The Teleportation Accident (Feb. 2013). This LA crime noir/scifi novel made the longlist for the 2012 Man Booker Prize.
  4. Khaled Hosseini, And the Mountains Echoed (May 2013). With its May release date, this is on my Winter list merely as reminder to look forward to it for the Summer List, considering the insight of Hosseini’s prior novels: The Kite Runner (2004) and A Thousand Splendid Suns (2008).  Update: I plan to get a copy of this new release and hopefully watch Hosseini read at Books & Books in Miami 6/19. He is on tour, so you might check if he is reading at a bookstore near you. Or, read this New York Times interview with Hosseini.

Writers Who Inspire Me:

This lists morphs over the years, along with growth of my writing and interests — but there has always been a mental short-list of writers whose work really inspires me. In addition to the 3 authors below, there is Tea Obreht, who has no book for me to add to the list as she has only published The Tiger’s Wife.

If one thing were in common among these writers, it is each of their lack of fear of being intelligent in their writing (think that through: they don’t fear when the writing begs complexity or a long sentence, don’t rush it into something more commercial), fueled by a familiar ease with folklore or magic.

  1. Alice McDermott, Child of My Heart (2003). Child of My Heart was McDermott’s first novel after her National Book Award winning Charming Billy — and my love of her writing in CB was impetus for seeking out ChildUpdate: I may post separately about the experience of reading this, as it became a favorite read for 2013, although I fought it the first 25 pages.
  2. Nathan Englander, For the Relief of Unbearable Urges (2000). Nathan Englander is on the short list of authors I’d like to workshop with, which says a lot.  His 2008 novel Ministry of Special Cases made my favorite reads of 2011, as intelligent, poetic and haunting. His 2012 collection, What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank , made my reading list last year. Update: tsk. Despite my love for Englander, Unbearable Urges lost out on recent buying trip when I realized it was a story collection. LOVE his stories, but Ishiguro’s novel won out.
  3. Colum McCann, Fishing the Sloe-Black River: Stories (1996). I love listening to interviews of McCann for his soft Dublin vowels and his ease with poetic intelligence. He also tops my list of writers I’d love to workshop with, and this collection is one of his books I’ve not yet read. McCann is best known for his award-winning, best-selling Let the Great World Spin.
  4. Michael Ondaatje, Divisadero (2008). While Ondaatje was best known for his Booker Prize-winning  The English Patient (loved), my favorite was his novel In the Skin of a Lion (1997). I’ve not read his more recent work, and Divisadero came recommended by a friend. (I’ve also heard good things about his 2011 The Cat’s Table.)

Rolled Over from my Fall 2012 or 2012 Year of the Book lists:

Follow links to either list in the title above to read more about these highly recommended or award-nominated books.

  1. David Abrams, Fobbit (Sept. 2012).
  2. Ben Fountain, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (Mar. 2012)
  3. Matthew Dicks, Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend (Aug. 2012).
  4. Sarah Winman, When God Was a Rabbit (Apr. 2012).
  5. Margot Livesey, The Flight of Gemma Hardy (2012). I’m trying not to cheat and look this up, but I can’t help finding inspiration from Jane Eyre in this one. Livesey is an intriguing writer and this is in my current stack. Update: I thoroughly enjoyed this book – you could feel Livesey’s childhood thrill of Jane Eyre in richly reimagined scenes — although I couldn’t help feeling the love more flat than sultry. Top marks for all but that.

Three More 2012 Releases That Call to Me on Every Book Run:

  1. Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus (2012). I resist the circus theme, but can’t hold out much longer — I’ve heard such great buzz about this book.
  2. Carol Rifka Brunt, Tell the Wolves I’m Home (2012). You had me at the title.
  3. Jess Walter, Beautiful Ruins (2012). You had me at the cover.

Young Adult and Middle Grade Fiction:

These are titles I’m reading with my sons, my 5th or middle grade students, or (admit it!) just because I love YA & MG fiction:

  1. Rebecca Stead, Liar & Spy. I wish I could take credit for discovering this one. I do follow Rebecca on Twitter and had her 2009 novel When You Reach Me on my to-read list, but this book came as a Christmas gift to my son from Mimi & Papa. Update: Quiet in its own way, Liar & Spy is funny, mysterious and so intelligently written. Rebecca earns my Gold Star for Writers Who Get Kids. It’s one I quickly recommend to my kids.
  2. Katherine Erskine, Mockingbird (2011). A National Book Award winner. Update: ever empty a package then keep shaking for more to come out? I wanted to like this book, but eh.  Pros: for the same reasons I liked Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-Time(above), I liked the POV of an Asperger’s narrator. But. I’m around kids all day (the age of the narrator) and the plot arc felt too issue-y and forced. Perhaps the author’s note at the end rammed it a little too far. It still is a 3-4 star book, but not on my top-recommended.
  3. Theodore Taylor, The Cay (1987). Set in Curacao during World War II, this is a novel I’m reading aloud with my 5th graders. I inherited this one from prior curriculum, not yet sold on it.  Update: I am NOT a fan of this book. The best thing to come from it was the opportunity to teach kids that “setting” can be expressed myriad ways: within the opening pages, there are 2 sentences that each hold 6 separate means of expressing setting — which is great, as kids so often think it is only made up of literal time (date, hour) and place (actual location).


  1. Charles Baxter, Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction (2008). Baxter wasn’t my workshop leader when I went to Bread Loaf Writers Conference, yet I came away from that intense week more impacted by the advice in Baxter’s afternoon lectures than the whole week of my workshop.  This collection of writing on craft just arrived in the mail. I also recommend his Bringing the Devil to his Knees: The Craft of Fiction and the Writing Life (2001).
  2. Shane Connaughton, A Border Diary (1996). I’m fascinated by the culture of borders within related but disputed lands, which was motivation for the hometown of my main character in Wake. This memoir is an odd first-person source in that it recounts a small village along the Antrim-Fermanagh border at the time of the 1994 ceasefire — but during the border country’s use in filming The Run of the Country, as recorded by the hometown Irishman who authored the story.
  3. David A. Sousa & Carol Ann Tomlinson, Differentiation and the Brain: How Neuroscience Supports the Learner-Friendly Classroom (2010). If the first 2 were for development of my craft in fiction, this goes to craft in teaching. This book applies decades of brain research (into how brains learn, and how individual students learn differently) to concrete methods for differentiating in the classroom to reach and activate all learners. Love this book.

Writers I’ve Been Meaning to Read:

Shared by the Library of Congress, this poster is from a Chicago promotion 1936-1941. No known copyright restrictions.

Shared by the Library of Congress, this poster is from a Chicago promotion 1936-1941. No known copyright restrictions.

This part of the Winter List will receive special attention and an update in March, as I’ve stumbled across a vintage literacy challenge to take on reading of a book “you’ve always meant to read.”

I’m curious about the kinds of books we forever postpone on our “to read” lists — and what keeps us from tackling them.

  1. Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go (2006).  I was a huge fan or Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day but haven’t gotten myself to read anything he’s written since. Update: ooh, since I misplaced my Mrs. Dalloway, can this count as my March Challenge book? I read this in 2 days, over spring break. For all of part 1 I argued with his narrative style — talk about unnecessary clauses and modifiers that added nothing! The plot twist in part 2 lights a fire, and I did read nonstop to the finish. Not my favorite, but thought-provoking.
  2. Haruki Murakami, IQ84 (2011). Like Ulysses, I keep hearing this is a book that a writer should challenge themselves to read. I see that brick-of-a-book and can only think of the 3 or 4 books it has to be good enough to take the time of.
  3. Salman Rushdie, Joseph Anton (Sept. 2012) or one of his earlier works.
  4. Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (1925). I’ve read other works by Woolf (I’m a fan of To the Lighthouse) and have read and viewed so many adaptations, but don’t know that I’ve ever read the original of Mrs. Dalloway. Update: Don’t laugh. I swear I can’t find my copy of Mrs. D. Honest – I did not hide it. Looking, looking…

Hmm… What other books have I never gotten around to reading? And which are on your list? 

If you have a minute, please click this link to a survey where you can leave your insights or the kinds of authors or titles you never get around to reading.

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What Are You Reading?

I’d love to hear your own reading suggestions in the comments.  Let us know the favorite books you’ve read this year or ones on your must-reads list.  If this inspires you to blog your own list, share link to your post so we can come read with you.

Where do the book links take you?

For convenience, you can click book titles for their link at Amazon — or find them at your favorite indie bookseller through

Shop Indie Bookstores

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If you like this blog, be sure to subscribe using WordPress’s +follow option, or via email or RSS feed. I love to connect with like-minded readers and writers!

Recent posts:

My Reading Lists from 2012:

Happy reading, all!


Filed under Books, Reading

2013 Writing Conferences & Workshops

Poets & Writers' listing for Bread Loaf Writers Conference:

Poets & Writers’ listing for Bread Loaf Writers Conference:

Late-winter and early-spring are a time for hunkering in from the cold or taking refuge beneath tropical sun. We’re not yet thinking of summer.

But, for writers wanting to attend summer writing conferences or workshops, we are, in fact, in the thick of writing conference application season.

Rather than wait for this week’s Friday Links, today’s post will feature links to several of the best summer writing conferences — and also hashtag for following tweets from next week’s Associated Writing Programs Conference in Boston.

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2 Great Publishing Conferences:

  • #AWP13: It’s time, folks! March 6th-9th, AWP 2013 (Associated Writing Programs’ winter conference) will be off and running in Boston. In recent years, Twitter hashtags have added an entirely new, lively component to conference participation. If you are attending the conference, use the hashtag #AWP2013 to coordinate with other writers, editors, agents, etc., there with you, and to share insights from the conference. For those of us not attending? Become a vicarious conference participant by following the hashtag throughout the weekend.  You’ll be privy to great quotes from workshops, themes that arise and more. It’s a great way to discover interesting people to follow. [Also, here is the website link for the AWP Conference.]
  • Grub Street Muse & Marketplace 2013  was on my 2013 “wish list” as I swear it seemed that every single human involved in writing and publishing was there last May. When I workshopped with Ann Hood, she was flying out to be at Grub Street the next morning, and the weekend was full of #Muse2012 tweets from writers, editors, agents, publishers, digital content folks — you name it. The Muse is May 3rd-5th in Boston; overviews and registration are available online.

Renowned Summer Workshops:

Here are 3 of the most prominent summer workshops. As they are competitive to apply to, consider checking out forums discussing the process by following a link to the Speakeasy forum under Poets & Writers near the end of this post.

  • Bread Loaf Writers Conference: March 1st is the deadline to apply for Bread Loaf Writers Conference held in Vermont August 14-24. If you’ve never been to Bread Loaf, take the time to read about it, as it has one of the oldest traditions for literary conferences in the country, dating back to 1926. Numerous famed writers have participated as attendees before gaining fame and as workshop leaders. Admissions are competitive, so send your best work. If the application date passed you, check out the new Bread Loaf in Sicily workshop, scheduled for September 15-21.
  • Tin House Writer’s Workshop has steadily gained national recognition as one of the foremost summer conferences, attracting fabulous faculty and participants. The workshop is held July 14-21 at Reed College in Portland, OR. The link takes you to the admissions page; use the site menu for lists of faculty and more description. No deadline is posted, although applications are currently being reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis; admission is competitive, so apply early.
  • Sewanee Writers’ Conference  is a by-admission summer conference with a tradition for excellence in the faculty, workshops and participating writers. (Sewanee and Bread Loaf often share faculty in common; attending writers have described Bread Loaf as having a more structured schedule and being slightly more intense.) The conference is held July 23rd-August 4th at Sewanee – the University of the South, in Tennessee. Applications are being accepted Jan. 15th-April 15th.
  • Aspen Summer Words has been on my radar as the only workshop or conference I could find where Colum McCann has taught. Beyond this, search through the site to find clips from speakers and other great insight into the value of Aspen’s programs, which include both juried and non-juried summer programs (June 16-21) and winter programs.

More Great Summer Conferences and Workshops:

To Find Other Conferences or Workshops:

Do not underestimate the value of regional workshops and conferences in your area. To locate more conferences, either by region or by interest, check out these data bases:

  • AWP Directory of Conferences: use this customizable search to find conferences or workshops to meet your needs
  • Poets & Writers magazine: the link at left takes you to a data base of conferences and residencies on P&W’s site. Or, join conversations in the Speakeasy forum, where writers share their wisdom about the application process and what they gained from attending most national conferences.

If Not Summer, Then Next Year:

If summer is not your time for workshopping, then watch for more deadlines in the fall for fabulous conferences and workshops held over the winter. I’ll include one to watch as it unfolds in March:

  • Sirenland: If you have the liberty to take off to beautiful Positano, Italy (one of my favorite places), here’s one to consider applying to for next year. Sirenland 2013 takes place March 17-23, with applications accepted in the fall. The conference was established by Hannah Tinti (author of The Good Thief, and editor of One Story). If you’re curious, check for a #sirenland hashtag during the conference week.

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How About You?

What conferences or workshops have you considered attending? Which have you attended in the past?

Share your interests or experience in the comments, or share links to your own posts about conferences. It’s especially helpful to other readers if you can share advice about admissions, experience from attending, the names of workshop leaders you’d recommend, or the names of local workshops you’ve attended and would recommend.

For example, read this great 3-part series on writing workshops posted by writer Gerry Wilson, beginning with: Workshop Primer Part 1: What, Where & Why?

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If you like this blog, be sure to subscribe using WordPress’s +follow option, or via email or RSS feed. I love to connect with like-minded readers and writers!

Coming tomorrow: My Reading List: Winter 2013


Filed under Novel Writing, Writing Life, Writing workshop

Friday Links for Writers 02.22.13

Ernest Hemingway house, Key West (credit: user MacG5User at stock.xchng)

Ernest Hemingway house, Key West (credit: user MacG5User at stock.xchng)

What I’d like to take time to write about is how much I learned, reading a favorite author’s novel this week. But it’s time for Friday Links — and this Friday includes a range from old school advice from Hemingway to decoding ISBN’s. 

As always, let me know what you found inspiring in these or what topics you’d like to see more of.

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7 Tips from Ernest Hemingway

Going old school, here. While Hemingway pre-dated most MFA programs and was not from the modern crowd of writers laying down how-to-write advice, this article from Open Culture shares 7 pieces of writing advice curated from his letters and works. Unlike H., I’ve often sworn by processing a story while not actively writing — yet reflected on his point to never think about a story when you’re not working on it, as there have been times I was positive I’d written a scene but it turned out I’d thought it through but never written it down.

3 Ways to Save a Scene You Lack Confidence In

Shifting from Hemingway to fantasy writer L.B. Gale, here is an interesting piece about approaching that writing that came so easily yesterday, yet does not seem so fab in rereading, the next day. Gale is honest that there’s a point for binning, but otherwise offers 3 simple ways to regain the intended effect.

Who Should Read Your Unpublished Work?

Agent Rachelle Gardner is consistently fabulous in her advice to writers seeking publication, facing the first steps in promotion, and managing a growing career. This piece tackles the advice that writers should seek beta readers with the caveat that “not all readers are created equal,” with suggestions in making the most of early readers.

7 Common Questions About ISBNs

One of the keys to marketing a self-published book is making it accessible through distribution channels. In her article at SheWrites, Emily Suess explains the coding and practices behind ISBN, or International Standard Book Numbers. Great information for editing consultants and indie authors.

A Visual History of Literary References on The Simpsons

Just for fun, an old favorite: Jared Keller’s fine compilation in The Atlantic of classic literary references on The Simpsons, like an argument between Jonathan Franzen and Michael Chabon.

What did you find in these links that is useful to you? Let me know if you want more on a particular subject, or share your own best finds.

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Shared by the Library of Congress, this poster is from a Chicago promotion 1936-1941. No known copyright restrictions.This week’s writing has included preparing for a reading challenge I’ll kick off in March. As this vintage poster says: it’s time to “read the books you’ve always meant to read.” 
If you have a minute, please click here if you’d like to share the kinds of books on your 2013 Reading List — including any you’ve always meant to read yet never gotten around to.
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If you like this blog, be sure to subscribe using WordPress’s +follow option, or via email or RSS feed. I love to connect with like-minded readers and writers!

Notes of scene and personality of my character, scribbled in the margins while reading Ann Hood's Creating Character Emotions.

Notes of scene and personality of my character, scribbled in the margins while reading Ann Hood’s Creating Character Emotions.

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Coming this week:


Filed under Friday Links

Friday Links for Writers 02.15.13

roses from my boys. c E Field

roses from my boys. c E Field

If you read my January Challenge Week 4: And Then Plans Changed post on Sunday, you know this has been a busy Valentine’s week for me.

I finished out my prior writing courses and got settled in to my new teaching position, leaving me rather drained and ready for the weekend.

Still, much of what I worked on included some great reading about the writing profession, partly inspired by #book2 tweets from the publishing industry’s un-conference last Sunday. (Search that hashtag on Twitter for conversations.)

Here are a handful of the best links of the week. As always, let me know what you found inspiring in these or what topics you’d like to see more of.

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How Do I Improve My Memory? Forget More!

On the heels of ads for memory enhancing games like Luminosity, this TED Talk gives opposing, research-supported advice about the value of forgetting.

Best Blogs for Writers to Read in 2013

55 blogs with consistently effective advice, curated by poet Robert Lee Brewer.

5 Digital Products You Can Launch with Your Writing Skills

This list by Linda Formichelli, on her top-10 blog The Renegade Writer, is a quick resource for one of my back-burner projects. While I focus on my fiction, and while I earn my professional salt as a freelance writer or teacher at varying times, I have been exploring new venues that allow myself — or anyone — to put my expertise directly into the hands of interested readers. Check out Linda’s list, spelling out 5 such venues.

Which Publishing Option is Right For You?

For friends who have been weighing the varying paths, between traditional publishing, self-publishing or a hybrid, here is Terri Guiliana Long’s self-quiz on Her Circle to help you get a sense which options best fit your personality.

Interview with Colum McCann

A great rambling interview with National Book Award (and many othes) recipient Colum McCann, including some stirring commentary on his inspiration for Let the Great World Spin.

Sir Ken Robinson | TED Talk

Want insight into my week? Writing lessons, working with kids, changing classes, rethinking learning approaches… This excerpt from Sir Ken Robinson’s famed 2006 TED Talk is at the heart of it. Ken is inspiring and funny, whether you’re an educator or not.

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Shared by the Library of Congress, this poster is from a Chicago promotion 1936-1941. No known copyright restrictions..

Reading list survey for the March Challenge: Click here if you’d like to share  the kinds of books on your 2013 Reading List. I’d love to hear your current must-read titles!

What did you find in these links that is useful to you? Let me know if you want more on a particular subject, or share your own best finds.

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If you like this blog, be sure to subscribe using WordPress’s +follow option, or via email or RSS feed. I love to connect with like-minded readers and writers!


Filed under Friday Links

January Challenge Week 4: And Then Plans Changed…

space suit c Elissa Field

Anyone who has followed the January Challenge since the beginning knows that it sets out to support all of us in kicking off 2013 goals by spending one week apiece to focus on:

During Week 2, I posted How the January Challenge Arose from Freelance Writing to address how each of these steps is needed to keep a writing career growing — whether as a full time professional, a novelist with a day job, a busy blogger or someone still dreaming of getting a first draft off the ground.

Writers have accepted a profession that seeks unstructured days to have the freedom to write or explore the world. But, truth told, “freedom to work” sometimes takes more discipline and structure than lives yoked into a traditional job. Writers take on responsibility to stoke their own forward momentum so that free hours don’t escape unused.

Beyond that, writing hours need roll-bar-strong discipline to fend off the interruptions that continually threaten to claim a writer’s attention.

Children. Day job. Editing project. New client. Platform building. Broken dryer. Teaching. Deadline. Travel. Blank page. New inspiration. Friends, family. All these quality things vying for attention. For many writers, these distractions increase with success as new demands arise for speaking engagements or teaching or promotional tours.

In posts like 15 Strategies for Finishing Work, I shared some tricks for setting concrete tasks that help create a clear plan for getting the writing done.

And Then Things Change

My own weeks 3 & 4 of the January Challenge became a prime example of why those “roll-bars” are needed.

For Week 2 (“start something”), I set about the steps necessary to begin production of a literary magazine for my students, as planned. Fate laughed, and in a single day my prior job of teaching 3 writing classes and leading the literary magazine was switched entirely to cover a position vacated by a colleague who leaves our school this week.

Which brings us to…

Week 4: (Re)Evaluate and (Re)Plan

It’s easy to take sudden changes in plans or priorities as the latest “derailing” of the writing we planned to get done. How many times does intended writing get back-burnered because of a genuinely justifiable interruption from work or life?

The key to keeping writing moving forward is expecting those interruptions. Change wasn’t a surprise. New demands on our time aren’t a surprise. We know — it’s not our first rodeo — something always comes up.

Whether ending a project and needing a new client, or running into a production snag, or having a new PR issue to address. Whether a writer setting aside your own revisions while teaching others to write, or an agent pitching novel drafts without time to work on your own, or a parent trying to finish a novel with a sick kid, late sports, holidays or packing for a family trip… There’s always something.

As I said in the post about freelancing, this is why I evolved the “finish, begin, improve, and evaluate/plan” cycle, so you can continually dovetail new work in without stopping work on your original goals.

So we take on Week 4 of the challenge: it’s time to (re)evaluate and (re)plan.

Applying Steps of the Challenge as You Evaluate & Plan 

Evaluating and planning really means creating a new to-do list for the coming months, applying many of the steps set out in prior posts.

  • Evaluate what you accomplished in the prior month (or day or week). Reward yourself with check-marks, log word counts in Scrivener, or hours on your calendar. Blog about it. Celebrate.
  • Evaluate where you stand on existing projects. Create a list of tasks for steps that need to be finished, targeting any obstacles that have kept you from moving forward.
  • Evaluate what is going well. What do you want to do to continue this success, or to replicate it on a different project?
  • Measure these successes against your ultimate goal. In celebrating your 10,000 words written last month, will this get you to a finished draft by March? Set new quotas or adjust the ultimate goal, as fits.
  • Sometimes intermediate successes cause new hurdles. New material I wrote on my novel draft last fall requires new revision steps to reach the final version. Since I don’t want to delay finishing, what will I do to add writing hours to fit these revisions in? (I cancelled an optional conference.)
  • Did success in one project prevent work on another? Evaluate if it’s time to reclaim hours for a project pushed to the back-burner.
  • What will you take off your list? Surprises, successes and changes in plans often leave old to-do items irrelevant. Remove things that no longer matter to you.
  • What will you finish this month (or day or week)? Maybe you have a deadline or mandatory project to finish (I need to hand off my prior classes to the new teacher). Otherwise, like in Week 1, pick one thing you’ll just get done.
  • What new goals arose? Add in new goals or things you want to start. For me, this includes starting my new classes. But also planning for a Reading Challenge on this site in March.
  • What needs improvement? I’ve improved linking around my blog, improved how quickly my sons can get out of the house in the morning, repaired my car, cleaned my office. I want to claim more efficient writing time with a computer upgrade: I’ll schedule a laptop upgrade within the month to make the most of working time during the school year. I’ll plan a website upgrade in June, as I’ll have more free hours for tweaking during the summer.
  • What will you delay? It’s not lame to adjust a timeframe if you are still honoring what is most important to you. Don’t quit the goal; just move it to a better time on the calendar. With revisions, this sometimes includes scheduling a break to allow some distance from a piece of work.
  • In a prior post, I mentioned how writers often balance the time-money-credit trifecta. Evaluating your current balance of those 3 things impacts how to prioritize goals in the coming months. This last month brought me increased income and increased street cred to write in one of my subject areas. That means I’ll evaluate and plan where I will steal time back to work on the novel and stories (or when I’ll write pieces to make use of the street cred). This is key in planning my to-do list. For example, the money allows me to pay for 3 tasks which actually free my time or increase my efficiency to work on the book — and I need to make sure that takes place.
  • What resources do you need? Don’t forget to list supplies or knowledge you need to acquire to achieve immediate goals, or have on hand as you reach later steps. Key in this: what experts or peers could you seek out to expand your potential? Don’t overlook delegating or reaching out to a friend.
  • Don’t forget to plan when you will re-evaluate again. Consider the chunks of time/priorities on your calendar, and see how they form natural times for when you will pause and set priorities. I will be evaluating things with my day-job daily over the next week, as it is the transition time for the new job. I’ll have a breather to evaluate during next week’s 3-day weekend, at which time I’ll plan for the weeks until spring break. I can claim some writing during break, and will also use that to spend time with my sons and plan through the end of year.

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Where Are You in Your January Challenge?

write start badgeHopefully your January Challenge didn’t involve as drastic a change as mine did — unless it was a fabulous success that makes your wish list irrelevent!

A few readers who responded said that they wanted to take on the challenge but weren’t sure if they were doing it in the right order or at the right time. Hopefully the post on freelancing or this post make it clear: there is no right order or time. Our mutual challenge is just to get our 2013 goals off and running by recognizing obstacles that keep us from getting started and breaking projects into steps we can tackle.

It would be great to hear from you in the comments (or share link to your post if you blog about it):

What challenges did you take on, whether to finish, start or improve?

What obstacles are you encountering? What strategies helped you move past them, or what encouragement could you use?

What successes have you had?

If you blog about your January Challenge, please include a link back to one of the January Challenge posts here, and then share a link to your post in the comments below. You are welcome to use the January Challenge badge if you want to be festive. There is no time limit — we are working on goals for the whole year, so you are welcome to participate well past the end of the month!

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grasp c Elissa FieldThe Complete January Challenge:

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Friday Links for Writers 02.08.13

friday linksToday was a week where “other plans” intervened — a complete position change in my teaching post wiped me so “blank screen” that I even forgot I had jury duty to call for on Tuesday. I spent my week getting to know new students and sentimental over some great writing students in the class I gave up.


It made little time for fiction writing. But there’s always time for reading. Pinterest has become my stress reliever, and it’s just your luck that this leaves me stumbling on some great pieces.

Here are some of my favorites, which take us from revision to queries, and then to the joy of reading.  Enjoy!

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Home Improvement

As writing conference season approaches, I was reminded of the great things I’ve heard of author Benjamin Percy as a workshop leader. In this article, published in the May-June 2010 issue of Poets & Writers, Percy offers some brave advice about the daily work of revision.

Query Pitfalls

In response to readers who appreciated the link to agent Sara Megibow’s query twitter chats, here is link to a blog by literary agent Janet Reid. Janet is bluntly entertaining in evaluating just what steers a query wrong. This link goes to a most recent post, but the full series is available by clicking the categoy “query pitfalls.”

Query Shark

Want more query pitfalls? This site evaluates actual query letters blow-by-blow.

Everyday Miracles

Tin House runs a series on its blog called The Art of the Sentence in which authors take turns reflecting on the perfection of one single sentence that inspires them. In “Everyday Miracles,” Pamela Erens mulls how John Updike was trained first as a visual artist, wondering if this is what leaves his writing so intimately revealing. Wondering to myself: did I ever actually read Updike?

Shared by the Library of Congress, this poster is from a Chicago promotion 1936-1941. No known copyright restrictions.

Shared by the Library of Congress, this poster is from a Chicago promotion 1936-1941. No known copyright restrictions.

Perfect segue to say I am in the process of getting ready for a March Reading Challenge, which has me thinking about books we “always meant to read.”

Reading list survey for the March Challenge: Click here if you’d like to share the kinds of books currently lingering on your “to read” list.

Finalists for the Story Prize

The Story Prize is given annually to honor an outstanding collection of short stories. The link above takes you to announcement of the 3 finalists for collections published in 2012: Junot Diaz, Dan Chaon and Claire Vaye Watkins. Want more great collections? This link here takes you to The Story Prize blog, with an annotated long list of other great collections they considered.

100 Notable Books of 2012 & 100 Recommended Books of 2012

I’ve posted before, calling 2012 the Year of the Book. It really was a year of some fabulous reads. But where “top 10” lists and award lists tend to hit the same few books over and over, these two lists by the New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle offer a more comprehensive range of the fabulous books published in 2012, in all genres.

Bookshelf Porn

If your eyes lit up at links for The Story Prize or {100 + 100} great books from 2012, they you’re probably in a category who would find photography of gorgeously shelved books satisfying. Kick back and enjoy yourself.

What did you find in these links that is useful to you? Let me know if you want more on a particular subject, or share your own best finds. Be sure to click through to the survey for the March Challenge, to share the kinds of books on your 2013 Reading List. I’d love to hear your current must-read titles!

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If you like this blog, be sure to subscribe using WordPress’s +follow option, or via email or RSS feed. I love to connect with like-minded readers and writers!

Summer hours spent revising Wake. c. Elissa Field

Summer hours spent revising Wake. c. Elissa Field

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Filed under Friday Links, Reading

Friday Links for Writers: 02.01.13

February 1st. Jam-packed January, where did you go?

If your week has gone like mine, it’s been a busy one. Lots of boots-on-the-ground work with little time spent reflecting.

Despite the pace, what has made it a great week has been some of the great reading and links I’ve come across.  Here are a few of my favorites.

Last week’s Friday Links featured great resources for writers working on a novel draft. This week features a couple more great links for novel and short story writers, but also 2 that are specifically for social media consultants or bloggers.

Enjoy, and feel free to suggest your own favorite reads in the comments!

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Tikka's litter born at our house a few years back. Masala, Attaluna, Twinkle, Orangey, Lilybird and Sunset. c Elissa Field

Tikka’s litter born at our house a few years back. Masala, Attaluna, Twinkle, Orangey, Lilybird and Sunset. c Elissa Field

Written Kitten

Wondering if I should explain this one or let it be a surprise. So, you ever say you want to write x-number of words a day but just can’t find the right, hmm, incentive to keep you going? What if someone invented — just hypothetically — a frame you could type in and — kind of like those mice trained to get a treat if they ring a bell — every time you typed 100 words a cute picture popped up on the screen beside your words? If you need a genuinely silly motivator to get your writing going, click this one.

Poets & Writers Tools for Writers

What to do now that Duotrope has turned to a paid-subscription service?  If you are submitting short fiction, Poets & Writers is one of the most generous resources available. This link takes you to their Tools for Writers page, which features coming contest deadlines, literary magazines, conferences, and even writing prompts and a Speakeasy discussion board that pre-dates most online venues. If you’ve never discovered the site, it’s definitely worth a look.

How to Write a Query Letter: A Flowchart

For those of you ready to query, literary agent staffer and freelance editor, Cassandra Marshall, shared this simple flowchart to guide you. (This one made it to my Pinterest. If you’re a pinner – or curious – here’s link to my boards.)

7 Libraries of Sensational Photographs You Can Use for Free

On his website, Bestseller Labs, author Jonathan Gunson shares links to 7 sources of photos available for use without royalties. It is good blogging practice to include an effective photo with each post, but it’s important to be able to accurately verify source information and availability to avoid inadvertent copyright infringement. This is the largest list of resources I’ve seen in one place.

7 Shortcuts for Fast Blog Posts

This post on Joan Stewart’s The Publicity Hound recognizes that many writers set January goals to post more often on their website, and offers 7 shortcuts for creating fast posts. On the flipside, for those of us writing social media for clients, it’s a great go-to list for generating posts for client sites. Some of her strategies can be transformed into a process for new client interaction, like asking clients to gather “frequent customer questions” to generate a list of likely articles.

What did you find in these links that is useful to you? Let me know if you want more on a particular subject, or share your own best finds.

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If you like this blog, be sure to subscribe using WordPress’s +follow option, or via email or RSS feed.  I love to connect with like-minded readers and writers!

My car's view while I'm in a fiction workshop today (Freedom Tower, overlooking Biscayne Bay, Miami)

My car’s view while I’m in a fiction workshop today (Freedom Tower, overlooking Biscayne Bay, Miami)

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