Tag Archives: books

Summer Reading List

I’m feeling guilty for neglecting this blog for so long.  Really, with everything I’ve had going on, it was necessary, but I’ve got this quirk about keeping up with things I’ve started.  Last night, I finished another book.  I’ve probably read a dozen or so since graduating. I mentioned yesterday that I haven’t been able to write. I once had a creative writing teacher tell me that if I couldn’t write, at least read. So, I’ve been reading a lot.  The other day in the bookstore, I was browsing aimlessly without a plan in mind. I picked up a book, Light in August by William Faulkner, and read the back.  The story interested me, but I was more struck by the quote on the back.

“Read, read, read.  Read everything-trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it.  Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master.  Read!  You’ll absorb it.  Then write.  If it is good, you’ll find out.  If it’s not, throw it out the window.”  -Faulkner

I love to read, and I love books.  The smell, the texture, the words, the stories, characters, and settings.  I am a book junkie.  Modern, classics, pop-fiction, literary fiction, teen fiction, fantasy, I’ll read them all.  So I decided to share my summer reading list-the stories I’ve read, and the novels on my to-read list.  Pick up a book and enjoy!

Some Novels I’ve Read in the Last Month

Firefly Lane-Kristin Hannah –  Reminds me of Summer Sisters by Judy Blume.  An excellent characterization of the friendship between two women.  Be warned, it’s a tear-jerker!

Shadow of a Quarter Moon-Eileen Clymer Schwab – Historical fiction.  The story of a runaway quadroon and her experiences in both the white and African-American community.  Her interactions with characters in the Underground Railroad are very entertaining and pretty accurate.

The House of Spirits-Isabel Allende – I was seriously impressed with this book.  At first, I had a hard time getting into the characters, but I stuck with it and absolutely fell in love with some of them.  The political overtones were wonderfully done, and really captured the essence of an oppressed people.

American Poet-Jeff Vande Zande – A great coming of age story about a college graduate with a degree in poetry who comes home to find that his degree is pretty much worthless in a town that cares nothing for the arts.  Denver Hoptner is a character that seriously reminds me of Holden Caufield with his sarcastic outlook.  Very awesome read.

The Penelopiad-Margaret Atwood – I have to say I was a little disappointed in this novel.  It’s basically the story of The Odyssey, told from the point of view of Penelope.  I found her character very shallow and whiney in this story, and I don’t think this is one of Atwood’s best novels.  I highly recommend Oryx and Crake though!

Water for Elephants-Sara Gruen – I loved, loved, loved this story!  From the first page, I was invested in the characters.  The settings were very well written, and nothing felt contrived about this tale.  The ending made me sad only because I wanted the story to continue.

My To-Read List

You Can’t Go Home Again-Thomas Wolfe – I’m 100 pages in.  So far, I am enjoying this story.  Wolfe has a poetic structure to his sentences that makes them seem easy to read.

In the Lake of the Woods – Tim O’Brien

The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway – I’ve attempted to read this several times, but I seriously hate Hemingway. (I WILL FINISH THIS BOOK IF IT KILLS ME!)

On the Road – Jack Kerouac

The Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy-E.L. James

Through Wolf’s Eyes-Jane Lindskold

And finally, any other book that I pick up that looks interesting 🙂

Happy reading!!



Posted by on June 27, 2012 in Life


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Dry Summer

No, I’m not talking about the weather.  Have you ever felt that the well is dry and any amount of pounding will not produce water?  The well of creativity that is.  For the last month or so, I haven’t written anything new.  Sure, I’ve jotted down some lines, written some paragraphs, even madly typed three pages of what could turn into a novel.  But, I don’t feel satisfied with any of these pieces, finished or unfinished.  I’ve been flat, and my writing is flat.

In my opinion, writing is personal.  Even if the subject isn’t personal, the writing is.  Human beings have emotions, and I believe it is impossible to separate them from our work.  We may not be writing about ourselves, but pieces of us still enter into the work.  For example, I have a strong dislike of vegetables.  You’d never find one of my characters eating a plate of green beans.  My hatred is that intense.  I know that this is a silly example, but it’s true.  I don’t know that it’s vanity when writers put pieces of ourselves into our work.  I just think it’s the subconscious connection between our emotions and our work.  It’s a very personal connection.

Lately, there’s been this huge withdraw of emotion from my work.  I really can’t say why.  Maybe it’s the question of, what’s next for me?  It could be the anxiety of starting a new school in the fall.  Maybe it’s the constant on-the-go mentality of three exuberant kids under seven.  Maybe it’s any and all of these things.   Maybe it’s the pressure that I place on myself to be successful instead of writing for the sheer love of it.  I think that could be why I chose not to apply to an MFA program when I looked at graduate schools.  Sure, they have wonderful results.  The problem for me is that they focus too much on getting published, and writing what will sell.

Do I like my work published?  Absolutely!  I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t. I have two poems coming out in separate journals over the summer: “Curfew” in Yes, Poetry, and “Resurrection” in Adanna Literary Journal.  It’s thrilling to see your work in print, or online, especially when someone comments on how much they enjoyed it.  But, sometimes I wonder if some of us (I’ve been guilty of this as well) focus too much on what a journal will like or want, versus what we really want, or NEED to say.  For me, writing is a need.  I have to write, or explode with all of the thoughts, words, and ideas that run through my mind like wild horses in an open field.

So, I’ve decided to forget about what is “literary” or “correct” in my writing.  I will write what I want to say, and go from there.  I will flood the emotion back into my work, and then revise accordingly.  If I come up with something journal-worthy, I will send it out.  Otherwise, I will write for the sheer joy of expressing my ideas.  I will feel, and feel, and feel some more, until I have to pour those feelings onto the page.

If you disagree, or maybe think writers don’t put emotion into their work, I urge you to listen to Patricia Smith read her poetry sometime, or pick up a work by Tim O’Brien or Sherman Alexie, and then tell me writers don’t feel.  In order for the audience to feel any emotion, the writer must first put it there.  Keep on writing!


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Posted by on June 26, 2012 in Writing


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Dear Gram,

It’s been eleven years now, and I still miss you.  I think of you often, especially while I’m holding Courtney in my lap, reading stories like The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and But No Elephants.  When she follows along with the words to Geraldine’s Blanket, her long, blonde hair in pigtails, holding her blankie, I’m bombarded with images of us.  I hold her the way that you held me, encourage her the way that you encouraged me, and love her the way that you loved me.

Every day, we listen to great songs by The Beatles, Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, and The Eagles, and I introduce her to newer bands, like 10 Years, Godsmack, Avenged Sevenfold, Art of Dying, and Five Finger Death Punch.  I remember how you loved Humperdink, but how you put up with some of my bands like Guns N’ Roses, Damn Yankees, and later, Nirvana, just so you could be more involved with what interested me. Years ago, I heard about the time you were Christmas shopping, and you bought me two of the greatest albums ever made. I could picture the shock on your face when you saw the cover of Nevermind, (that’s tame these days) and I know you winced when you heard the Black album for the first time.

Along with great music, I teach her about books.  You’d be so proud of the full-to-bursting bookshelves in my home.  Classics and popular fiction, poetry and biography, plays and naturally, children’s books. When I see the careful way she holds them, reverent, turning pages ever so precisely, I remember the books that you bought me, and how much I loved them.  I remember the way you fed my passion for books. I remember the time you saved the money that Grandpop gave you for things you needed, and how you spent it on a set of dinosaur books for me.  I remember how you kept my most favorite novels, on the shelf next to yours, when I asked you to keep them from mom and her book ban.  I remember how much she hated me reading, and I remember how you told me to never stop.

We read every day.  Sometimes, when she won’t stop pestering me, I read her my assignments for school.  I doubt she understands that she’s been exposed to some really great literature, like Steinbeck, Ibsen, O’Brien, Vonnegut, Frost, Plath, and Eliot, but I know.  I know that I am imitating something good, something that I was taught by an amazing person with a special gift: you.

Yes, Gram, you were gifted.  You were talented and influential.  You loved me.  You loved a little girl who probably drove you nuts with 10,000 questions per day. You encouraged a young child to learn everything she could, about everything she could.  You taught her to expand her thoughts and reach for impossible dreams.  You were my first teacher, and I think you deserve credit for all of the things I’ve accomplished.

Gram, I’m graduating from college in May! I’ve applied to graduate school, and even if I don’t get in, I’ll keep trying anyway. Not too shabby for a girl who grew up in a trailer, had a bum for a father, and a mom who went to ninth grade…  I’ve published several pieces of my writing, too.  The first acceptance letter I ever got made me nostalgic; I had clear visions of the stories I used to “write,” how you’d staple them together, put a title on them, and how you saved them until the day you died.  I only hope that I can live up to the example you were.

I am the most influential person in my daughter’s life, the way that you were the most influential person in mine. She’ll remember that, even if she remembers nothing else.  She’ll remember that someone will always accept her decisions, encourage her dreams, and dream them with her whenever possible.  She’ll know that she has somewhere to go, the way I always went to you.

I miss you terribly.  Those words seem so inadequate for the empty place I have in my life without you.  Someday, I hope that I’ll get the chance to hug you again, throw my arms around your neck the way I did when I was little, and the way that Courtney does to me now.  No matter how busy I am, I have never forgotten you.  I have such a clear picture of you in my mind, and sometimes it’s as if I could extend a hand and touch you. If only I could reach…



I love you,


P.S.  Could you give Donnie a hug for me?  I think he knows how much I miss him, but it never hurts to say.

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Posted by on December 16, 2011 in Life


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I Want More Than I Should…

It makes me sad to see so many cynical people in the world.  I always thought I was a downer, a pessimist of the worst sort. After all, I don’t believe in myself, I don’t expect to win the lottery any day, and I face reality head on, instead of living in denial.  But, then I went to college.  Compared to some people that I’ve run into, I guess I should consider myself the worst sort of dreamer in the world: an idealist.  After all, no matter how jaded I’ve become, I still want things.  I want a lot of things. 

I want to own every great rock album ever produced.   I want to read a million books before I die.  I want to affect someone’s life.  I want to love, whole-heartedly and without reservation.  I want to see my kids succeed.  And, I want to write the great American novel. 

How many of these dreams will come true?  I don’t know.  But that doesn’t mean I should give up, and not want anything, right?  Should I give up on impossible dreams, simply because it may hurt to fail?  Should I give up writing all together because my book may never compare to The Great Gatsby or Huckleberry Finn?

I think not.   I hate to resort to cliches, but whoever said “youth is wasted on the young” was right.  When I hear half of a college class has no dreams and/or goals that make them burn with a passion to succeed, it fills me with a sorrow I can’t describe.  These kids don’t know what they are missing!  Isn’t it better to burn for something, to pine for something, than to want nothing at all?  Isn’t is better to feel the pain of having failed, than to feel numb for not having tried? 

Find your dream.  Find that thing that makes you burn.  Follow it with all of your heart.  I guarantee you’ll never be the worst for it.  Call me an idiot.  Call me an idealist.  Ten years ago, I might have been offended.  Now, I’ll wear the label with pride.

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Posted by on April 12, 2011 in Life


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Eye of the Tiger

Inspiration comes from all over.  Even a cheesy (but catchy) 80’s tune like Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger.”  I’m not knocking it; it’s on my ipod, and I can belt the lyrics out with the best of ’em.  In fact, I did it this morning.  I’m sure my neighbors really appreciated my 80’s nostalgia while listening to me run on the treadmill for 40 minutes.  Anyway, I got what you’d call an epiphany when I sang along with the first verse of the song.  “You trade your passion for glory/don’t lose your grip on the dreams of the past/you must fight just to keep them alive”

The writing has been hell these past couple of weeks, and I figured out why.  I’ve traded my passion for what I love, which is telling a good story, and I’m trying to sell out by writing something “edgy” or “literary” (duel entry in the dictionary: crap with no characters the common people can relate to, or no story) just to be able to say, “I’m published,” and that’s not right!  Stories that matter are the ones where the author kicks our guts with strong characters, and a story line we can relate to.  Books like Fitzgerald’s, The Great Gatsby, kick us in the gut because we all know what it feels like to want something we can’t have; everyone knows what it’s like to be an outsider.  Books like O’Brien’s, The Things They Carried, can hit us over the head because we all can relate to fear, love, and loss. 

I’m sorry, but I can’t relate to a story about a bug that  visits a woman in her bed, which is the crap that is being published these days, people.  I want my work to matter to a real person, not some literary professor who can’t see the real world for fear of mixing with the “common folk.”  I’ll keep my blue collar, thanks.  I want my work to change someone’s life, and that’s good enough for me. 

I tore up the drafts of my “literary fiction” and I’m working on what I know best.  Real people, real places, real stories.  Eye of the Tiger, baby!

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Posted by on February 9, 2011 in Writing


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