Tag Archives: Book

Friday Links for Writers: 19 Dark and Quirky Research Sources for Writers No. 4

 

Listen, I’ve seen some gory things in all the research I’ve done for writing, so don’t go blaming me that this week’s Friday Links for Writers: Quirky Research Sources #4  goes a little dark. Fact is, most writers joke that they’d get more than a raised eyebrow if anyone caught a peek at the things googled in the name of research. And this week’s collection of odd sources I’ve come across in my reading goes just that dark.

Whether you need to know the actual metabolism of an overdose, or the bureaucratic processes a body goes through after death, there’s a link here for you. Half a dozen relate to journalism in conflict zones. And, if you’re squeamish, no worries: there’s one on art restoration and a couple on our community connection to the bodega, and one to help you track extreme weather happening at the time your story takes place. None of that fits the focus of your work? Find links to the last 3 Quirky Resource posts at the foot of this article, for more.

As you jump in, feel free to share your own favorite research links, or let us know what you’re working on this week, so we can cheer each other on. Have a great writing week, all.

*     *      *      *      *

Often, Writing Requires Knowing Processes That Happen After Death:

192 Days as John Doe

Deborah Halber writes about a campaign to use current forensic processes to identify bodies that have remained John/Jane Does for decades. Interesting details of the processes and obstacles.

Learning to Speak for the Dead

Journalist Winnie Hu writes about the training and process of forensic pathologists in this 2016 piece on the Forensic Pathology Fellows Program, which she says “helped resurrect a long-troubled agency, the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner.”

Silent Witness: What Human Remains Can Tell Us

It’s a shame that this article by the Irish Times was triggered by the discovery of dismembered remains in the Wicklow Mountains. For anyone writing crime or mystery in the Irish Republic, it traces some of the bureaucratic and forensic processes that follow to resolve the crime.

Crematory is Booked? Japan Offers Corpse Hotels

Motoko Rich’s New York Times article reveals a funeral trend in Japan, provoked by changes in community lifestyles and a cremation industry unable to keep up with demand. Well-researched, it is interesting in revealing funereal traditions of a crowded island nation, Buddhist burial traditions, and demographic trends.

Sure, Setting’s Great, But What Drought, Fire or Storm of the Century Was Going On?

Global Hazards – NOAA

Reading Tana French, I noticed the million different ways she describes rain in Ireland. Living in Florida, I know how extreme weather is a part of seasonal culture. Visiting a friend overseas, I remember the drama of hiking through acres of trees blown flat by a hundred-year storm, climbing thick trunks suspended 10 and 20 feet off the ground… Got me thinking: what major weather events were taking place the year or months surrounding my novel? Sure enough, there’s a site for that. The “Global Hazards” page of NOAA allows you to search major weather events worldwide, by year and month. When reduced to simple ledes, I could quickly see how NOAA’s brief reports of massive weather events — from a tornado wiping out Happy, TX, to droughts, wildfires and monsoons — could inspire story ideas.

For Writing Authentically About Resistance, Reporting & Conflict Zones:

CJ Chivers' article is accompanied by stunning photography by NYT's Devin Yalkin

CJ Chivers’ article is accompanied by stunning photography by NYT’s Devin Yalkin @dedecim

The Fighter

I was gripped by this long read by war journalist C.J. Chivers in New York Times Magazine, which peels back layers to the story of the service, crime, PTSD and substance abuse treatment, and sentencing of Marine Corps veteran Sam Siatta. Chivers’ research is eye opening into training, engagement, battlefield protocol, citizens vs. targets, returning to civilian life, subtle development of PTSD (and alcohol dependency), as well as phases of trial, sentencing, prison and appeal. It’s an interesting read for anyone whose writing encompasses military life or veterans, an increasingly common detail even in non-military writing.

2017 Resistance Actions – Week One

How do you grab hold of issues that are unfolding as we speak? This post by Maud Newton is an example of some of the concrete daily actions people began undertaking in response to threats against human rights since the start of 2017. A couple other sources of info (or to support) include the ACLU (e.g., filing cases against unconstitutional legislation, lawyers manning airports during travel bans) and Women’s March.

“Experts in authoritarianism advise you keep a list of subtle changes”

Want one source for tracking the societal changes that have taken place, week by week, 2016-17? Amy Siskind has achieved near-legendary status for having started this weekly list. The link above takes you to a cumulative list, searchable by topic. You can also receive Amy’s updates by following her on Twitter or Facebook

CPJ Journalist Security Guide

I’ve followed the Committee to Protect Journalists in the (unfortunately) nearly 5 years since journalist Austin Tice went missing in Syria. The CPJ is admirable in providing a voice and conduit for information related to persecution of journalists around the world. This link takes you to a collection of 55 guides and checklists for safety and survival for journalists and photographers working in heated environments.

Turkey’s Crackdown Propels Number of Journalists in Jail Worldwide to Record High

This article and others on the website for the Committee to Protect Journalists provides statistics, profiles,  to the capture, release, and deaths of journalists, worldwide. Overall, the CPJ has been one of my leading sources for events and resources impacting journalists in the last decade. On Twitter: @pressfreedom

Drugs & Forensics:

Best Websites for Writers – Guns, Polices, Forensics & More

I’ve shared a link from this blogger before. This post includes links to multiple resources for researching forensics and more.

Everytown for Gun Safety

While writing has occasionally had me researching weaponry or forensics, I am in fact a strong advocate for gun safety and antiproliferation, so should provide a source for that as well.. Everytown is one source of information regarding the escalation in gun deaths in the U.S., particularly since the end of the ban on assault weapons in 2005.

The Opioid Epidemic:

This is Exactly What Happens When You Overdose

While it’s not a topic I’m interested in writing about, I’m sure the current opioid epidemic has some writers interested to write authentically about drug risks. In clear terms, this post walks through the exact bodily processes from drug ingestion through the ways it can go wrong. All the details you’d need to know that get your character calling 911.

Latest Harrowing Statistics of American Opioid Epidemic

If you didn’t know there was an opioid epidemic or wanted further statistics, this recent Vox post suggests that, “in 2016, drug overdoses likely killed more Americans than the entire wars of Vietnam and Iraq.”

Quirks and Specificity – Getting Your Cultures Right:

15 Behind the Scenes Secrets of Art Restorers

I loved the details of this piece on art restoration by Jane Rose at Mental Floss, which connected to my artist in Breathing Water and my museum display expert in “Jar of Teeth.” I can see writers riffing on these processes for characters in the arts, quirky concerns about a setting, or, dare we say, solving a crime.

Secret History of Victorian London’s Dirty Book Trade

In old cities and cultures, it can be hard to see beneath contemporary gloss and acknowledged history to find those remnants of more… textural elements of the past. This article is intriguing, that way. Victorian London your focus (it’s not mine)? Look for more on the site, as The Public Domain Review is a not-for-profit project “dedicated to the exploration of curious and compelling works from the history of art, literature, and ideas.”

What do You Call the Corner Store?

In a year I spent focusing on subtle ticks of spoken language between characters moving through foreign countries, I found Dan Nosowitz’s piece at Atlas Obscura as a great springboard for noticing specific character linguistics. “In many places, you’d be laughed out of the building for calling it a ‘convenience store’. It’s a bodega. It’s a packie. It’s a party store. What you call the store on the corner says a lot about where you live.” He may be talking corner stores, but it’s great prod to work more specifically toward character linguistics.

Earning a Spot in the Neighborhood

Continuing on that thread, Kristen Radke’s piece at Electric Lit had me thinking about the way community stores, pubs, and other locals are such a key identifier for the characters we write. Kristen captures the nuance of this relationship, specific to identifying with one’s bodega, neighborhood to neighborhood, in NYC: “Bodegas represent so much a neighborhood’s mood and energy… They also become beacons of safety, sometimes the only place open and brightly lit late at night, and makeshift meeting places in a city with such limited community space. It’s a mark of belonging… ‘that place is going to see you through some shit.” Beyond literal insight to NYC, it had me wondering: what locals would my characters trust to ‘see them through some shit’?

In the Ashes of the USSR: 5 Books to Understand Russia

In reading Anthony Marra’s Tsar of Love and Techno, I was impressed with his subtle and deep understanding of Russia’s evolution, which went way beyond my views, even having been a huge fan of Eastern European and Russian lit from the 80s on. So, this list by Matt Staggs struck me as that kind of insight.

 

Want more?

Here are the first 3 posts from this series:

*     *      *      *      *

If you like this blog, be sure to click the WordPress +follow button, or use the email subscription button in the sidebar. You can find me on Twitter @elissafield or on Facebook.

At work on novel revisions. c. Elissa Field

More on this site:

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture + World, Friday Links, Research

My Spring Reading List 2016

 Spring 2016

I’ve been meaning to post my Spring Reading List for weeks — in reality, I’ve done so much reading in the past year, it’s ironic that I slacked off sharing my reading lists.

Shaming me into it just the littlest bit today is one of my favorite activities with writing friends. A group of writers with Writer Unboxed meet via Facebook every other month to discuss the craft details that led to a breakout novel’s success. While I posted today’s questions and waited for discussion to start, well, there was just no excuse for not getting this post ready to go live.

So first off, shout out to my WU Breakout Novel Dissection group who are, as I type, in the throes of some really interesting analysis of everything from tittle to time structure.

And then, here’s to great reading. Let us know the best titles you’ve read lately, or releases you’re looking forward to.

*    *     *     *     *

Adult Fiction

  • Julianna Baggott, Harriett Wolf’s Seventh Book of Wonders (Aug. 2015). Julianna is one of the most forthright, witty, magical and generous writers I’ve met, over the years, and I have been really looking forward to reading this novel, which, itself, serves as essentially the missing 7th book in an imagined series. This book is full of surprises, and one of the few books I’ve given as a gift lately.
  • 51CCPq9tcEL__SX336_BO1,204,203,200_Anthony Marra, The Tsar of Love and Techno (Oct. 2015). Anthony Marra has become one of my favorite writers –his Constellation of Vital Phenomena (2014) is the only book I have ever reviewed on this site, and makes my favorite read of year list — so I was excited to see this release. While identified as “stories,” this collection reads like a novel that is handed from one story to the next. I don’t want to oversell it… but it was new and smart and funny and… yeah, great.
  • Tana French, In the Woods (2008). Something about workshopping with Ben Percy last year has had me in a mind of getting back to my reading roots: honoring the kinds of stories that first inspired me as a reader. I crave the mental puzzle of a good mystery — equally despising poorly written ones — so have been glad to discover French’s rich & flawless writing in her Dublin mystery series. Next up: Likeness. Next up after that: Faithful Place. Hooked.
  • Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train (2015).  Keeping with the mystery thread, this one finally made my reading list when it was selected by the group of writers I mentioned in the intro (Writer Unboxed Breakout Novel Book Dissection group). If you’d been holding out to read this once the paperback came out, it just released last week.
  • Eleanor Catton, The Luminaries (2013). This novel has been in my almost-read pile for more than a year, and I’m only adding it here again because I actually read it this time. Incredible writing, great detail, my kind of topic. But the kind of over-writing where you got to each “reveal” about a hundred pages ahead of her. Really turned it tedious.
  • 51CGEPIpYqL__SX332_BO1,204,203,200_Emily Carpenter, Burying the Honeysuckle Girls (April 26, 2016). I have really been looking forward to this debut novel, which uncovers the multigenerational mystery behind the disintegration of women in one Alabama family. Emily delivers a page-turning thriller with a bit of wit and magic. I look forward to more from her.
  • Alexander Chee, Queen of the Night (Feb. 2016). Having followed Alexander online for years, I’ve been really excited to see the acclaim that has arisen around the release of this novel this year. Already a bestseller, a New York Times pick, and rising on numerous reading lists, it’s been described as a mesmerizing work, something like opera. I’ve read the opening chapter and look forward to more.
  • Hanya Yanagihara, A Little Life (2015). You may be the same: this one came home from the book store with me because so many people kept reporting what an emotional read it is. It was a Man Booker Prize Finalist, and made the “best book of the year” lists for more than 20 major publications.
  • 61MBasfoH0L__SX323_BO1,204,203,200_Sara Novic, Girl at War (May 2015). I’m really looking forward to this novel, a coming of age debut that has been an award winner and finalist internationally, with comparisons to two of my favorite novels: Tiger’s Wife and All the Light We Cannot See.
  • Nicole Krauss, The History of Love (2005). I came to this one as a fan of Jonathan Safran Foer, Anthony Doerr, and Nathan Englander. Everything, from a starred Publishers Weekly review to excerpts and recommendations, has me looking forward to an unexpected point of view on love.
  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun (2006).  I previously read this author’s acclaimed Americanah (2013), but had several friends recommend her Orange Award winning earlier novel, so Half a Yellow Sun made my list. (If you prefer audiobooks, Julianne Stirling highly recommends Americanah via Audible, as she says the narrator, Adjoa Andoh, brings the African dialects to life.)

Middle Grade/Young Adult Fiction

  •  Kwame Alexander, Crossover (2014). I’m excited to be able to add not only a diverse voice into my sons’/students’ reading this spring… but it’s a highly awarded novel in verse.

Poetry

  • Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric (2014). I keep forgetting to order this collection, but have heard it consistently recommended.

Nonfiction

  • Richard Engel, And Then All Hell Broke Loose (Feb. 2016). From elsewhere on the blog, you may be aware of the thread about dangers to conflict zone reporters that influences part of my novel draft. While researching and tracking one missing journalist, I was sorry to hear of the capture of Engel and his crew. If you’ve seen him report, he’s the real thing, honest to goodness, diehard reporter, and I look forward to his insights.
  • Robert Young Pelton, The World’s Most Dangerous Places (1995, 2000, 2003). I first read the 1995 edition when writing Breathing Water, and returned to it, over the years, in writing about characters working in hot spots around the world. I tracked down the 2000 version this spring, as a resource a character in Never Said would have consulted before heading overseas. I got a kick out of the deadpa61MV8ZtI4JL__SX331_BO1,204,203,200_n, gravedigger wit of this first time around — but the advice rings much more somber, post 9/11.
  • Benjamin Percy, Thrill Me (Oct. 18, 2016). Yes, this one’s not coming out until October, although I’d love to get ahold of a galley to review. Of everyone I’ve workshopped with, Ben’s advice on fiction has been the most like rocket fuel.

*     *     *     *     *

What About You?

What is on your current must-read list, or what books have you read recently that you highly recommend?  How do you usually get your reading recommendations — suggestions from a friend? lists in the news? books on shelves in the store?

If you post your own reading list, feel free to share your link in the comments below. If you would like to join in a reading blog hop, let me know.

Or, click to connect on Goodreads.

*     *     *     *     *

Where do the book links take you?

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

Shop Indie Bookstores

What’s my “VIDA Count”?

Equity or diversity in voices is an issue many of us are working on improving — some from the publication-end, and I’ve addressed it with curriculum in classrooms. The VIDA count is a done by a group that evaluates representation of gender and identity within publications each year. I’m not a part of their counting, but thought it was positive to see the number of women (11 out of 18) and marginalized voices (7) that coincidentally populate my reading list this time around.

*     *     *     *     *

 If you like this blog, be sure to subscribe using WordPress’s +follow option, or via email. I can be found on Twitter @elissafield , on Goodreads, or on Facebook.  I love to connect with like-minded readers and writers!

More on Books and Reading:

Are you working on a writing goal?

3 Comments

Filed under Books, Reading

Join Wordsmith’s Live Writing Sprints on Twitter: #wssprint

cElissaField What we love about writing: constantly changing corner office view.

cElissaField What we love about writing: constantly changing corner office view.

Do you use word counts, hourly goals or other motivators to reach your writing goals? April is a great month for joining in any of a variety of writing challenges. Wordsmith Studio brings them all together with weekly writing sprints, every Friday in April.

*    *     *     *     *

Join Hourly Writing Sprints Every Friday in April

Along with a fabulous group of writers, Elissa Field is a Founding Member at Wordsmith StudioYou may know I am a founding member of Wordsmith Studio, an awesome group of writers and artists who share craft resources and support each other throughout the year. We celebrate each other’s writing, keep each other going, and laugh a lot. This month, we are celebrating our 4th anniversary.

My part of our month-long celebration has been planning and serving as a moderator for all day writing sprints, live on Twitter every Friday in April. Look for camaraderie, motivation and some seriously smoking keyboards with hourly writing sprints, each Friday from 11am-11pm EST.

How #wssprint Works

The live sprints take place on Twitter. Follow #wssprint , or find via @WordsmithStudio  or @elissafield. (If you’re a Wordsmith member, we repeat some tweets in Facebook, as well.)

Beginning at 11 am EST, sprints start with a kick-off tweet on the hour. Write or edit for 45 minutes, then share your success — word count, page count, plotting solution, a favorite line, whatever — using #wssprint at :45. We take a break for 15 minutes (time to chat, share, ask questions, invite a friend, cheer each other on), then start again at :00, up until 11 pm EST.

Optional Prompts

Every hour, there is an optional writing prompt.

The prompts are great — more than 13 a day. I am a huge fan of novel prompts shared by Donald Maass in 21st Century Fiction (highly recommended for building depth, power and tension, when building or revising a novel), so we share some from him. Here is a favorite – you can see why I think he’s awesome.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Sarah Turnbull (@thesaturnbull) and I wrote the prompts that aren’t credited to Maass, based on writing advice that has impacted our work. There are also photo prompts and ones coordinated with challenges our members are working on (see below).

But there are no rules. No prompts required. Lots of our writers are editing, rather than writing. Use the time however gets you going. Most say it’s just nice to feel like someone else is writing or editing with you.

Do take time to say hello, while you’re there.

What Goals Are Writers Working On?

Some of our participants are using the sprints for organized writing challenges, such as Camp NaNoWriMo, Poem a Day Challenge, A to Z Blog Challenge, or the monthly 500-word-a-day challenge (#AprWritingChallenge this month).

But most — including our Wordsmith Studio Goals Group or visitors from Writer Unboxed and Binder subgroups — are using sprints to keep going with existing goals.

I am using sprints to keep moving from draft 9 to draft 10 of my novel, Never Said. The first week, I finished transcribing handwritten scenes, incorporating new work and changes into the draft. Some writing sprints are chance to anchor scenes with more developed setting, now that I’ve fully developed character and plot. Sometimes I’m working on nonfiction, writing for education or editing for clients.

We’re all jumping in to inspire each other.

Oh, No. I Missed It!

Not all of our participants write along with us “live” — jump in to use the sprints whenever it works for you. You can scan #wssprint to find the prompts and share your success any time. Or, visit previous #wssprint days via Storify. And, considering the success this month and when we ran Fridays Are for (Spooky) Writing last October, be sure to follow @WordsmithStudio for sprints we run in the future.

*     *     *      *     *

How About You?

What challenges are you working on in your writing this week, or what strategies help you reach your goals? We’d love to hear from you — share your thoughts or links in the comments.

*    *     *     *     *

If you like this blog, be sure to click the WordPress +follow button, or follow via email or Bloglovin options in the sidebar. You can find me on Twitter @elissafield or on Facebook.

Thinking of HimMore on this site:

4 Comments

Filed under Motivation to Write, Novel Writing, Writers on Twitter, Writing Life, Writing Process & Routine, Writing Prompt

Friday Links for Writers: 07.03.15

“Thinking of Him” & its neighbor, by Roy Lichtenstein, photographed with students at the Yale Art Museum by Elissa Field 2015 (copyright, repro w written permission).

I am posting this on a raucously beautiful day in Fairfield, Connecticut, where I am rushing to finish morning writing in time to go gather a picnic dinner to walk down to the beach for tonight’s fireworks. That’s right, fellow patriots, the 4th of July weekend kicks off today.

And with this Friday off, you have little excuse not to be writing.

My morning was a hectic finish to a busy writing week: research for the intro to an academic paper, paperwork for a great new freelance client, wrestling with recording a screencast for a digital portfolio… I love the diversity of the writing I’ve been doing the past month — some great content and PR writing projects, and a great new educational client.

But draft 8 of the novel is also going like gangbusters, spread in ungainly documents all through my computer.

How on earth does one steal time to get that novel done? Rally your online communities! The folks at Friday Night Writes gave me excuse to pause for #writeclub word sprints throughout the day. And the fabulous and generous young adult author, Gae Polisner, lent motivation to take time out to find an excerpt to share as she kicks off Friday Feedback today, as the start of Teachers Write. Any excuse is a good excuse to take a break from other work to get this novel reassembled.

(Still pondering the relevance of Lichtenstein’s “Thinking of Him”? It’s from a trip I took as a volunteer with 5th graders who’d used fine art all year to extend understanding of how visual texts construct meaning, same as literature. I love how the diversity of my work takes me everywhere!)

Every busy writing week is also filled with great reading and resources, which brings us to another edition of FridayLinks for Writers — some of my favorite recent reading online. As always, let me know in the comments what was particularly helpful, what you’d like to read more of, or share your own favorite links.

Have a great writing week, all!

*     *     *     *     *

Checklist: Is Your Novel Ready to Query?

In response to a writer wondering if it is okay to withdraw a query, the inimitable literary agent (and Query Shark) Janet Reid answers the question, but then also offers a 5 question checklist to know if a novel is actually ready to query. Also available on the page are several other useful query resources, such as a link to her query checklist and query letter diagnostics. If you are in the market to query, her site is a good place to start for tips.

 Writing Idol: Not for the Thin-Skinned

Speaking of testing queries, Melissa Cronin shares about the experience of participating in Writing Idol in this guest post on Brevity from last fall. With the intensity of American Idol tryouts, writers sit by as their story is read aloud to see at what point a panel of agents or editors would stop reading. This kind of event has popped up at a few conference venues.

Dear Writers: None of Us Know What the F We’re Doing

Forgive the expletives in this one, but Chuck Wendig usually makes them worthwhile. This piece on his blog is one of my favorites — an acknowledgement that we all have ideas about what works or what to avoid in writing, we know certain protocols about submitting… but, in the end, writing is not defined by rules or guarantees. A non-advice piece that has you wondering if there really are ice weasels, and also inspired to get to work without waiting for clearer instructions.

Writing Basics: The Act One Problem

I’ve mentioned elsewhere that screenwriting, plotting and structure have been a source of intrigue for me in novel revision, and this piece by Janice Hardy on her Fiction University website clarifies the concept of the problem that carries plot from inciting incident to door one. Understanding plot concepts is a good way to test for weaknesses in a story.

10 Resources for Writers and Bloggers

Nina Badzin shares a great list of resources, and on each of those links you’ll find multiple options for new publication routes, writing groups and more. It’s been a frequently shared resource among writers and bloggers.

Colin Barrett Talks About His Approach to the Short Story

I’m really intrigued by Colin Barrett, an Irish writer whose story collection, Young Skins, won last year’s Frank O’Connor International Award and the Guardian First Book Award. A silky paperback copy of the collection just arrived into my reading pile, having had to order it since it was not readily available in the U.S., and this interview shares some interesting insights.

*     *     *      *     *

How About You?

What challenges are you working on in your writing this week, or what resources have helped you find clarity toward your goals? We’d love to hear from you — share your thoughts or links in the comments.

*    *     *     *     *

If you like this blog, be sure to click the WordPress +follow button, or follow via email or Bloglovin options in the sidebar if you don’t have a WordPress account. You can find me on Twitter @elissafield or on Facebook.

For more Friday Links for Writers:retyping the draft - scriv3

More on this site:

Leave a comment

Filed under Friday Links

My Fall Reading List 2014

fall 2014 reading list

What a fabulous summer of reading! After 4 months so rich with reading that they merited two summer reading lists (My Summer Reading List 2014 and Mid-Summer Reading 2014), it’s hard to believe that Fall is here with more novels, nonfiction and young adult fiction clamoring onto the must-read list. My poet friends, note the gap in that series: we need your recommendations for poetry titles.

Here are the books I plan to be reading as I enjoy my first fall back in the north in years. Nice how the cooling, crisp weather seems perfect justification for stealing extra hours to read. Enjoy your reading, and do share your own recommendations!

*    *     *     *     *

Adult Fiction

  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah (2013). This Nigerian-American author has won the Orange Award for her prior novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, and had her short fiction published in some of my favorite literary magazines and anthologies. The New York Times Book Review listed Americanah as one of the ten best books of the year, yet I kept passing it up until Julianne Stirling recommended it. Her big tip: Listen to Americanah via Audible, as Julianne says the Audible narrator, Adjoa Andoh, brings pronunciation of African dialects and names to life. Update: I loved the subject and ideas of this book, but felt it rambled, so didn’t gush over this one as much as other reviewers.
  • Haruki Murakami, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage (August 2014). A bit of booklove and… a pinch of guilt went into making this book an impulse buy. Guilt: too long I procrastinated tackling IQ84 (too many books to read and it was soooo long), so I was preconditioned to thinking I should read something by Murakami. Booklove: you have to see the hardcover in person to appreciate the publishing joy that went into the window-cut jacket and underlying map. Shallow reasons perhaps, but I am happy to have this renowned author from Kyoto among my reading this month. Update: Help, fellow readers. I can’t get past the first 40-60 pages. Do I push on; does all the who-cares? detail begin to mean something? So far, it’s losing out to other reads…
  • Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven (September 2014). Author Erin Morgenstern (her Night Circus was among my favorite Spring reads) raved about Station Eleven on its release today, which had me exploring Emily’s author site… I have to say, I am just as curious about two of her earlier novels: The Lola Quartet or Last Night in Montreal. I love the genre-crossover elements of crime or mystery with the depth of character typical to a literary novel. Either way, it’s my plan to read one of her books.
  • Rabih Alameddine, An Unnecessary Woman (February 2014). I discovered this one in a tweet by Aragi, Inc., announcing the novel’s inclusion on the National Book Award longlist, which led me to a series of tweets and webpages ranging from a picture of Rabih, hands to either side of his head in joy on hearing the NBA news, to this description of the book on his author site: “heartrending novel that celebrates the singular life of an obsessive introvert, revealing Beirut’s beauties and horrors along the way.” I’ve shared before my aspirational admiration of agent Nicole Aragi, so could have said, “You had me at Aragi.” For all these reasons, Unnecessary Woman makes my fall shortlist.
  • Ian McEwan, The Children Act (September 2014). I once lamented that I wanted to read McEwan’s Atonement, but had seen the film already and couldn’t get far enough past it to forget the ending, for it not to be a spoiler to reading. So, as a guest at a book club, I had McEwan’s latest novel added to my reading list in Atonement’s stead.
  • Benjamin Percy, Red Moon (2013). I’ve had Percy on my radar for a couple years as a highly recommended workshop leader, and his books are definitely on my reading list this fall as I will be in a workshop with him in January. Red Moon gets the most attention as his most recent novel (other than Dead Lands, due out in April 2015) but I could read one or more of his others instead: novel, The Wilding, or short story collections: Refresh, Refresh or The Language of Elk. Update: Red Moon was a powerful and thought-provoking read — a fantasy thriller set in an alternative America, grappling with terrorism and fear of disease as the government wavers between controlling or integrating a minority population of lycans. I’ve heard nothing but praise of Percy, and found his writing muscular and compelling. I’ll be curious to read Dead Lands, and still want to catch his top-rated collection, Refresh, Refresh.

Fiction carried over from prior reading lists (links to prior reading lists are below):

Young Adult Fiction

  • lupica signing 1Mike Lupica, Fantasy League (September 2014) or Travel Team. For years, students — especially boys who swore they hated to read, but loved sports — have been telling me how great Mike Lupica’s books are. My sons and I waited an hour in line to meet with him at Fairfield University Book Store the day Fantasy League was released, so I will be reading this one or his basketball book, Travel Team, along with my sons. (BTW: If you are an author doing a book tour in the area, Fairfield University Bookstore is a beautiful indy on the walk-around main street in Fairfield – a great place to sign books.)

Carryover from My Summer Reading List:

Nonfiction

  • Jeff Hobbs, The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace (September 2014). I read an interesting interview with the author of this book, which makes me want to take a moment to remember this young Yale graduate, whose life of promise was cut short.

Having just started a Masters program in educational leadership, I’ll be reading these 2 over the next 7 weeks:

Carryover from My Summer Reading List:

*     *     *     *     *

What About You?

What is on your current must-read list, or what books have you read recently that you highly recommend?  How do you usually get your reading recommendations — suggestions from a friend? lists in the news? books on shelves in the store?

If you post your own reading list, feel free to share your link in the comments below. If you would like to join in a reading blog hop, let me know.

*     *     *     *     *

Where do the book links take you?

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

Shop Indie Bookstores

*     *     *     *     *

 If you like this blog, be sure to subscribe using WordPress’s +follow option, or via email or the Bloglovin button in the sidebar. I can be found on Twitter @elissafield or on Facebook.  I love to connect with like-minded readers and writers!

More on Books and Reading:

Are you working on a writing goal?

1 Comment

Filed under Books, Reading

Mid-Summer Reading 2014

Midway between June’s Summer Reading List, and sharing a new list of great books to read in the fall, this week it seemed a good time to post a Midsummer Reading update.  A little feedback on some of the novels I’ve read so far this summer, as well as those great discoveries of books I’ve added to my reading list.

Summer reading, ready to go. c. Elissa Field

Summer reading, ready to go. c. Elissa Field

Early Summer Reading

First, a little update on what I’ve read so far, from My Summer Reading List 2014 and a few carry-overs from My Reading List Winter 2014.

  • reading - long manAmy Greene’s Long Man (2014). I highly recommend this novel, which mixes an element of mystery and beautifully lyrical writing in unveiling the subtle secrets and loves of a small mountain village during building of a dam in their valley to introduce electricity and income during the Depression.
  • Khaled Hosseini, And the Mountains Echoed (2013). Yet another insightful novel from author of The Kite Runner (2004) and A Thousand Splendid Suns (2008). Although… it had a hard time competing against other reading favorites in the past month.
  • Erin Morgenstern, Night Circus (2011). I was slow to ‘discover’ this one, although readily captivated by the unique and mysterious community Erin creates — I loved this one and it makes my recommended reads.
  • Alice McDermott, Someone (September 2013). Actual sigh. I love Alice McDermott, and I also am familiar with her quietly powerful style. But I was so impatient the full first half of this novel. Tons of description of domestic detail (furnishings of rooms, mostly). There is a powerful, albeit subtle, payoff in the end, so I still recommend reading, but I don’t know that it is one of my favorites of hers. Beautifully written, just very quiet.
  • Celebrated first day of summer: reading by the pool. c Elissa Field, 2014

    Celebrated first day of summer: reading by the pool. c Elissa Field, 2014

    Anthony Marra, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (2013). So far, my favorite read of the year (he catches a slight boost in that his writing structure and topic fit my writing mood at the moment). There’s such powerful accuracy in every sentence, with a masterfully balanced structure of varying timelines and points of view. I did a lot of underlining as I read. This one has had several nods for awards: long-listed, short-listed and awarded.  If you want details, I reviewed: Reading: Anthony Marra’s A Constellation of Vital Phenomena.

  • Carol Rifka Brunt, Tell the Wolves I’m Home (2012).  This was another reading favorite. Beautifully told, it was most surprising for being a book so much about love without being about a romance between main characters: love between sisters, between uncle and niece, between a parent and the parent’s sibling… At all times, Brunt delivers authentic and new insights. It is particularly a fresh portrayal of homosexual partnership and the AIDS crisis of the 80’s. While not written as young adult fiction, it’s a book I would include in teen reading lists.

What I’m Reading Now

I just received delivery of a few of the books I couldn’t find in bricks and mortar stores, so am exciting to be reading these, this week:

  • Gae Polisner, The Summer of Letting Go (March 2014).  If you have a teen reader or read young adult literature, I really recommend this one. I was instantly pulled in by the endearing voice of the main character, who is stalking a beautiful neighbor, Nancy Drew-style, worried the woman has seduced her father. Sometimes subtle, sometimes bold, it is compelling, the weight this girl feels to hold her family together after her brother’s drowning. Beautifully written.
  • Colum McCann, Fishing the Sloe-Black River: Stories (1996).  This one was on my Summer Reading List 2013, but I’ve just now gotten ahold of it. Despite a factual detail that really undermined the plot of the first story, it’s so far delivering the voice I so admire McCann for, for its concise and subtle precision. He tends to be a favorite.
  • Colm Toibin, Bad Blood: A Walk Along the Irish Border (2001).  I’m still waiting for this one to arrive as it was hard to track down. Kudos to small booksellers (and my ability to find them through Amazon) for having just the book I was looking for.

Newly Added for Midsummer Reading

Here are a few books I’ve added to my reading list since June’s list.

  • Helen Oyeyemi, Boy, Snow, Bird (March 2014). I first ran across Helen’s writing with a really strong short story in a literary magazine a few years back. I’d put Mr. Fox on my reading list, and was reminded of her when I came across Boy, Snow, Bird, her new release. I’ve heard great things from other reading friends.
  • Colin Barrett, Young Skins (January 2014). This short story collection was just recognized with the Frank O’Connor prize, and Barrett’s writing has been praised by writers I love, like Colm Toibin.

Carryovers from Prior Lists

Some of these have carried over from prior lists as I track them down. Each is highly recommended.

*     *     *     *     *

How About You?

What are you reading, what would you recommend, or what books make you to be read 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 indiebound.org:

Shop Indie Bookstores

*     *     *     *     *

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!

More on Books and Reading:

Is Novel Revision your summer goal?

1 Comment

Filed under Books, Reading

Writing Process: How to Write on the Beach

No so much a selfie as sign of how bad the glare on the laptop screen can be. c Elissa Field

No so much a selfie as sign of how bad the glare on the laptop screen can be. c Elissa Field

One of the best parts of being a writer is supposed to be our ability to do our job from anywhere.

It’s true: I remember getting an assignment while on vacation with my family at a resort in Mexico. I wrote and submitted the piece while lounging in the most gorgeous cabana beneath bougainvillea overlooking the infinity pool with a swim-up bar.

My beach writing this summer: 2 novel manuscripts in print, laptop and a pair of flamingos guarding editing supplies.

My beach writing this summer: 2 novel manuscripts in print, laptop and a pair of flamingos guarding editing supplies.

Likewise, as a mom with sons home from school for the summer, I don’t want to spend all of my novel revision hours holed up beneath my laptop while the boys are stuck watching TV complaining about just what a drag their mom is.

(What unfair irony: I’m researching motorcycle racing in Northern Ireland or writing about a furtive flight into Havana or a photojournalist lost on assignment in Syria… while my boys see just me staring at a laptop. You get my quandary.)

So it is that I spent much of June writing with my boys at the beach.

Today’s post is a pictorial “how-to”, as it turns out there are some tricks to being successful at writing on the beach.

Enjoy your day, wherever you write!

*     *     *     *     *

The Basics

tree topsThe best advice for getting any writing done on the beach is similar to advice I’ve shared in Motivation to Write: Keep Writing While on Vacation.

It’s a twist on staying focused to write at home: you’re still removing obstacles and distractions, setting goals, and working in a format that keeps you productive.

1) Bring your work in a format that is conducive to actually getting something done.

Just like writing on the subway or anywhere else on the go, you have to think through your current writing goal and the format that makes that goal most portable.

Beach writing is great for generating new work — whether longhand in a journal or on a tablet or laptop. The clarifying environment loosens up many writers’ creativity, as might a run on the beach.

Since my goal this summer is novel revision, I use beach time for read-through revisions. For this, I bring a full, printed, bound copy of the manuscript.  Of course I have a pen for writing edits, but have found a highlighter most useful — I highlight just the words that are working and focus on those when typing revisions. I don’t bring my whole editing kit of colored pens, post-it notes, etc., though. I keep it simple.

My novel, Never Said, was mistaken to think this would be a vacation. c Elissa Field

My novel, Never Said, was mistaken to think this would be a vacation. c Elissa Field

But, whoa — that binder is bulky and messing with my tan lines.

If I weren’t working on a full read-through, I might take a short printed section (or a short story). Or, I’ll address working on a laptop, below.

2) It’s not Survivorman…Take only what you need

You can tell the locals on our beach because they carry the least gear. I know: you’re heading to this exotic workspace and all the “seasonal” aisles at the store suggest you need floaties and an umbrella and special blankets and a cooler and…

Get past the marketing frenzy. It’s the same drill as if you were getting writing done at home: you have to limit obstacles and distractions. The more you schlep to the beach, the longer it takes to just get going.

Option 1:  The calmest form of beach writing is if you’re staying at a resort, in which case: casually walk to the pool or neatly raked private beach with your writing materials. Use the towel they give you, the chair adjusted for you, and drink they bring you. Write your work, then leave everything there; they will clean up after you. Return to your room for a massage and nap, dine in the nice restaurant. Repeat. One added obstacle: time needed to brag and Instagram pictures of the waiter bringing you snacks

Option 2:  Sometimes you’re on vacation or staking space at the beach for an entire day. Fine, then recruit your little minions (aka family) to carry a cooler with drinks, lunch, an umbrella and all you need to be comfortable all day.

office equip bonus shells 2Option 3:  For every other beach trip: take just the basics to be comfortable for 2 hours. Even your beer won’t get hot without a cooler for two hours. Stop complaining, just sip faster.  You need: you, sunscreen already applied, a chair (yes, it keeps you off the sand), a towel, your work, a drink. If you can’t carry it all in one trip, you’re carrying too much.

Okay, fine… Here are a tropical writer’s tricks to take a drink that does not require a cooler. (Some of these assume it’s ok to have adult drinks at your beach. I will not come to bail you out.)

  • That’s what frozen drinks were invented for. Margarita, daiquiri. Mix, then refreeze so they melt more slowly. (Don’t get loopy while writing: frozen margarita mix by itself makes a great beach drink.)
  • Freeze your nonalcoholic beverages (water, lemonade, juices) but make sure to do it in BPA-free bottles.
  • Make a great beach “sangria”: Near fill a water bottle with frozen berries or frozen sliced peaches, mango or papaya. Top with half juice (or even lemonade) and half chardonnay.
  • My favorite beach drink is a 50-50 shandy of Peroni and Pellegrino sparkling limonata. Semi-freeze the limonata to keep it cold, or float with frozen berries or a chill-cube.
  • Freeze grapes to use as ice cubes in nearly any drink. They don’t dilute the drink as they melt. Or, freeze cubes of margarita mix, lemonade, juice or whatever you will be drinking, and use those to cool your drink.

Dealing with glare.

No so much a selfie as sign of how bad the glare on the laptop screen can be. c Elissa Field

No so much a selfie as sign of how bad the glare on the laptop screen can be. c Elissa Field

No matter what the ads say, it is harder to read a laptop screen in bright sunlight. But it is manageable. The glare in this selfie of me was cured with a simple tilt of the monitor.

  • Turn up the brightness on your monitor. Most laptops are set to dim brightness when unplugged in order to conserve battery power, so you need to turn this up manually (on my Dell, that’s a combination of Fn+F5). This does reduce your battery life, so close unneeded apps. Save battery power for the manuscript by reading email or Twitter on your phone.
  • Wear sunglasses. Well, duh. Polarizing colors will serve you best. A hat won’t do it.
  • Target what you work on. Glare will be hardest on fine-tune editing work, like commas and spacing.  The least effect will be on typing in new material. Do your fine-tuning at home and use beach time for new writing or read-through’s.
  • Edit in print. Easiest adaptation is to go old school and use beach time for handwritten edits on a printed draft. My best beach work has included rewriting a scene in longhand or highlighting the best text to keep in a novel in process.

Dealing with sand

Despite best efforts, I was typing with sandy hands.

Despite best efforts, I was typing with sandy hands.

Heh. Good luck with that. I distinctly remember the day, my first year in Florida, when I gave up ever having no sand in the carpet in my car. It’s just a reality of the beach.

Some tips for managing sand intrusion into your work:

  • Nothing precious. My print copy of my novel has a bit of permanent sand in its binder. Another draft has a wet splash from a  morning by the pool. They’re working drafts. Honestly: a little water or sand is nothing compared to the red ink, post-it notes and highlighter scarring their pages. I can live with that. Just another badge of courage.
  • Swim last. I don’t swim until after I’m done working, which helps with sand management as my towel and I are dry, attracting less sand.
  • Oops. Flipped my laptop and binder into the sand. No damage though - it dusted off.

    Oops. Flipped my laptop and binder into the sand. No damage though – it dusted off.

    Have a safe seat for your laptop. I carry a separate bag where my laptop stays unless I’m working on it, and an extra towel to rest it on, in a safe place out of direct sun. I don’t leave it unattended while out swimming for hours; I don’t bring a laptop on days I’ll be distracted for long stretches with that kind of activity. (I also don’t leave it in the car as police say beach parking lots can be targeted by thieves who figure beachgoers left purses and wallets in the car.)

  • Only out when you need it. Don’t let sand or water be an obstacle (or you’ll get no work done), but have alternatives so you only need the laptop out for certain work. I leave the laptop in a covered bag while working on a print draft, and use my cell phone rather than the laptop for tasks like checking email, my website or Twitter.
  • Select your seating. While I used to sit picnic-style or lay out on a blanket or towel, a beach chair raises you off the sand. I use a lightweight, adjustable one that folds to carry backpack-style. My boys keep their splashing and gear away from my work area and we don’t settle in right next to someone’s digging dog.
  • Avoid wind. It doesn’t just blow the sand – it makes you squint and wrestle with your work. Enough said.
  • Go resort-style. No one said the beach has to be off-roading. Even if you are not staying at a hotel, resorts often let you rent a cabana or lounge chair for the day, which certainly civilizes the experience. Some of my local friends have paid for a beach/pool membership at local resorts. Sitting poolside gets you off the sand altogether.

*     *     *     *     *

How About You?

What strategies do you use to write in unusual locations? I wrote about the beach, but I’ve heard friends with awesome solutions to writing successfully in traffic, in the grocery store, or… How about you?

*     *     *     *     *

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

More on this site:Running man

15 Comments

Filed under Motivation to Write, Time Management for Writers, Writing Life, Writing Mother, Writing Process & Routine