Books and pregnancy

Well, I finally went social media official about my pregnancy and thought I would do a post on this book I am reading, Like a Mother A Feminist Journey Through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy by Angela Garbes. She is actually doing a reading at Powell’s at the end of the month. If I am not too tired and pregnant by then I hope to go to it. Ha!

Anyway, I am not quite halfway through and I am really enjoying it. My favorite chapter was about the placenta. Maybe I am one of the few, but I had no idea the placenta was considered and organ (one that my body grows specifically for the baby) and that it has 50% genetic material from me and 50% from my husband! I love biological facts of all kinds and the whole chapter just made me want to read it out loud to my husband! He had me mark it for him so he could read it on his own. I just kept interrupting him while he was reading his book and I guess that annoyed him…

Anyway, I recommend it to people who are curious about pregnancy and also the culture surrounding it. I might hold off if you are just a few weeks away from giving birth though. At least skip the chapter where the author talks about how her birth went. The message is great in the end, but it might freak you out.

Lately, people have started telling me their horror stories of their birth experiences. I need to find a way to stop them. I don’t want to feel anxious about that part of pregnancy yet. That day will come and I trust my body, my support system, my doctor, and my husband to help me through, even if it ends up a horror story!

Any book recommendations that include biological science for the everyday reader? Lay them on me!

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Q & A with Author, Erin Kettle

I met Erin at The Attic Institute in Portland. We took a novel writing class with Whitney Otto that connected us and kept us writing. I’m so glad we’ve kept in touch and now you get to learn a little more about her.

Erin Kettle is an author of women’s fiction. Her career is also in communications and EPatterson_Photopublic relations, most recently as a spokesperson for NIKE, Inc. As a result, Erin has written countless statements, manifestos, and press releases. Prior to her career in communications, she wrote for several publications as part of their editorial staff including The New Yorker, BRIDE’S Magazine and GQ.

Erin’s last two books were chosen to compete in a variety of unpublished fiction contests including Writer’s Voice on “Team Coffeehouse,” Query Kombat 2016, WriteClub 2016, PitchWars Setting Critique 2017, Query Kombat 2017 and Nightmare on Query Street 2017 and Nightmare on Query Street 2017.

When not writing or consulting, Erin enjoys spending time with family and friends and trying to catch her two young girls and two dogs, as they run circles around her.

What do you write?

Ever since I was little, whether watching a movie or reading a book, I was enthralled with how they would draw me into this fictional world. I wanted to find a way to write that could make people feel so deeply and would often find myself thinking of different types of story ideas. I remember writing my first short story in elementary school just for the heck of it in my spare time and wanted to create a whole book concept to go along with it. After college, I started writing editorials for magazines, moved into public relations and strategy work, but it wasn’t until I began writing novels that I realized how much if fed the soul.

Favorite book that you think is underrated?

I have to say that even though they are short stories, “The Body” (aka Stand By Me) and “Shawshank Redemption” are two of my favorites. Yes, they are both amazing movies as well, but if you read the book, the dialogue is literally verbatim. Stephen King is an amazing author, but the way he creates these characters that come off the page are outstanding in all of their faults and glory.

Favorite book from childhood?

There are so many from Shel Silverstein as the first shock and awe, to my first book love, “The Hunky-Dory Dairy” by Anne Lindbergh (1986) where a young girl stumbled upon a farm with people that somehow time traveled from the 1800s. I was fascinated.

Use three words to describe what keeps you writing and persevering?

Possibilities, dreams, survival

Where do you draw your inspiration to keep writing?

Inspiration is everywhere, and sometimes reality is crazier than fiction. Writing is a cross-pollination of ideas where you just keep pushing the narrative to see what could happen in a particular story. It’s exciting when it really starts coming together.

As a writer who/what is your muse (person, animal, vegetable or mineral)?

Sloth. Kidding! I just think they’re cute. I’d say I love snow leopards. I always loved their beauty as a child, and how stealth they were. That is until my mom told me they just wanted to eat me. At any rate, they’re unexpectedly interesting.

What was one of the hardest scenes for you to write?

To be honest, in my first coming of age book, it was the sex scene. I kept imaging my family and nieces/nephews reading it one day. I just had to let go of that idea and try to be true to the characters.

What do you think helps you to become a better writer?

Relentless learning. I just finished up a five-week class last night at the Attic in Portland, Oregon. It’s not easy to go to class 8-10 PM every week, especially when life is so busy, but it’s so important to get out of your head and just try something different. I’m always reading, usually three books at a time as well: fiction, non-fiction and some type of writing book. I’ve realized the thought process I have when working through these books is really introspective as well.

How do you think being someone else’s beta reader helps inform your own writing process? Or helps you become a better writer?

Thinking about writing structure and character development, among other things, as a beta reader really helps to build up that writing lens to also dissect your own work.


Connect with Erin here:
Website
Twitter
Facebook
Instagram


Check out previous Author Q & As:

Beth Green, Crime Fiction Author
Karen Hugg, novelist

Solitary

 

I just discovered this website, Sad animal facts. I love it! This particular graphic reminds me how much writers are like bees. So much of our writing life is done as a solitary endeavor, mostly in our minds and through our fingers. That doesn’t mean it isn’t awesome to have a writing group or other writers to go to happy hour or tea with.

Recently, I got this old familiar feeling surrounding the fact that I’m a writer. A crawling and awkward feeling. I feel uncomfortable talking about my writing to new people. It’s something that I feel often. Sometimes they are writers and sometimes not. Overall, I think the discomfort is based on fear. Mainly I’m afraid they won’t understand what I’m talking about when I talk about one of my projects or they’ll look at me and nod, but inside they are judging me, not understanding how important writing is to my emotional well-being, not to mention my soul. It’s dramatic but true.

Sometimes I wonder if I even know how to talk about writing. By that I mean, can I talk about it without sounding dramatic or odd. It’s so personal, but at the same time when a short story gets published or a creative non-fiction piece, it’s out there for all to see, for all to judge and I want it that way because I want to share my world with others. Once it’s out there it’s for everyone else to decide how it is perceived. Oh, my! That is pretty scary…

In the end, I know it only matters how I perceive the writing and the response, and I also know that I’ll keep trying new things both in writing and talking about it.

What makes you uncomfortable?


Next week I’ll have the next aspiring authors Q and A with Erin Kettle, women’s fiction writer! Don’t forget to check it out.

Inevitable Certainty

This post is going to be a little scattered. I have a couple things on my mind and I want to talk about both of them. To be fair, the subject of each idea is linked closely together.

IMG_9680First, on Twitter, I follow Caitlin Doughty, mortician, activist and founder of the death acceptance collective The Order of the Good Death. I made a pledge to The Order of the Good Death a few years ago. I quietly advocate for a death positive existence, but I don’t push the topic on people. It means a lot of different things to different people. My main goal in life is to somehow “normalize” death for myself and to be able to talk about it in meaningful ways in my writing and to others. Some people are more receptive to it in conversation than others. I’m not a doom and gloom type of person, I can be serious, but overall I hope to figure out a way to deal with the overwhelming emotions that come with it, a practical response to an inevitable certainty. Granted, I fully believe that any reaction is appropriate to the death of a loved one. Emotions can’t be controlled, nor should they be. Doughty makes these conversations funny and serious at the same time. If you are interested, Doughty recently posted her 7 Habits of Highly Effective Death Positive People on YouTube. 

Now, there are many different ways in which the inevitable happens so it’s not about the actual event, but more about preparations before it happens. One way to do that is to make sure you have an Advanced Directive. Doughty has a Youtube series that talks about all kinds of things, but this is just one of many that are super important if you can wrap your mind around the inevitable. I will admit that I still need to get this done. I’m planning to sit down with my husband, make a living will and create advanced directives for both of us. I’m giving myself a deadline of two weeks from today. I’ll check in with you on the blog and let you know. It isn’t an easy thing to make yourself create. I get that.

Now to switch it up to a different but related event . . .

The second part of this post is about saying goodbye to a fantastic and well-known Portland-beloved writer. I was fortunate enough to attend the Literary Arts tribute to Ursula K. LeGuin a couple days ago. I was late to reading Ursula, but she sparked my interest again at an event about eight years ago. It was another Literary arts gathering called in conversation with Margaret Atwood and Ursula K. LeGuin (thank you to Gina for giving me your extra ticket!). I’d long admired Atwood and that night I was struck by the vitality and wit LeGuin exuded from the stage. I’d only read short pieces by her. Soon after, I read The Left Hand of Darkness and then a friend gifted me her book, The Dispossessed. Both are fantastic. I also read a few books in her EarthSea series. Anyway, her willingness to be part of the literary community not only by participating in it but in supporting other writers gives me a lot of hope. Yes, we are living in scary times, but LeGuin has given us many guidelines on how to move forward through social justice and speaking out in whatever voice you call yours. I remain optimistic.

Drop me a line or comment below. What are your thoughts on death, Ursula LeGuin, or anything else?

 

Q and A with Aspiring Author, Karen Hugg

I love meeting new writers online and Karen is no exception. Last month I wrote about Beth Green, aspiring Crime fiction author.

Karen-HuggKaren Hugg is a writer and gardener living in the Seattle area. She is a certified ornamental horticulturalist and has an MFA from Goddard College. She’s been published in various anthologies, journals, and websites. She’s married to a very patient husband and has three kids, two dogs, and two cats. To learn more, check out her website at www.karenhugg.com.

What do you write? (genre etc)
Mainly, I write fiction. Last year I finished a literary thriller called The Forgetting Flower about a plant shop owner in Paris. This year, I wrote a New Adult novel about a young woman who can communicate with ghosts through plants. Occasionally, I write narrative nonfiction and short stories. I’m always writing for my blog, The Cultivated Life, at http://www.karenhugg.com.

Favorite book that you think is underrated?
This sounds weird but I think Les Miserables is underrated. A lot of people think it’s a boring literary book because it was written in the 1800s and is long but it’s actually a compelling thriller! Yes, Victor Hugo talks too much about politics but I encourage people to skim those parts and read the rest. It has nail-biting suspense and the most touching, sweet passages. Right now, as I think about Jean Valjean rescuing Cossette, I still get teary. He’s such a good father to her — and yet he’s hunted like an animal by the police.

Favorite book from childhood?
That’s easy. When I was ten, I read The Lord of the Rings during a summer and it blew me away. I wanted to live inside that fantastic world. It was so rich with mystery and beauty and darkness. The idea of Lothlorien, a city built among trees, was the coolest idea I’d ever heard of. At the time, I was in Chicago and Tolkien’s love of the natural world awoke my love for it too. It’s no wonder I later moved to the Pacific Northwest where we have giant trees!

Use three words to describe what keeps you writing and persevering?
Plants. Dreaming. Sharing.

Where do you draw your inspiration to keep writing?
From the natural world. I’m a professional gardener and I love plants. I want to bring the awe and wonder of plants into people’s lives. From a more practical standpoint, I draw inspiration to keep writing from husband, who truly believes I have talent, and friend-writers, who are also struggling to share their truths. I admire established writers too, especially the ones whose road to success took many years of perseverance.

Do you have any tricks/tips for aspiring authors you’d like to share?
I would encourage writers to write short pieces as well as long, and then try to get those short pieces published. You have to try again and again but when you get a hit, that small “yes” makes you feel like a million bucks. It means there is another person out there who does care about what you’re saying and thinks it’s worth publishing. It may take awhile but it’s worth the effort. Plus, it helps you build a list of publications to show off to an agent or publisher.

As a writer who/what is your inspiration (animal, vegetable or mineral ☺)?
Again, it’s plants. Plants are amazingly delicate and yet incredibly tough. They’re fascinating. They have little lives of their own and care nothing about us. They make their own food and don’t need us at all. Yet we think we rule over them. It’s a crazy dynamic. Without them, humans would be eradicated as a group.

What was one of the hardest scenes for you to write?
I’d say generally the first scene of every novel is the hardest for me to write. I’m constantly wondering if I’ve backed up the tape in this character’s life far enough or come in too late into the scene, etc. I do begin the novel just before the inciting incident but how far before is always the question. There’s a lot of pressure on a novelist to land in the exact right place.

What do you think helps you to become a better writer?
Reading beyond my comfort zone. We all have favorite writers or genres we tend to read but when I read a book that is very unlike what I would choose, I find I’m always changed by it more. My brain has expanded into a new way of thinking. I put sentences together differently. I write insights I never would have before. For instance, I love reading 20th-Century, Eastern European writers like Bruno Schulz and George Konrad. They are wild and absurd and amazing. The language travels like a scribble on a paper, going where ever the author needs to go and the result is a trippy dream.

How do you think being someone else’s beta reader helps inform your own writing process? Or helps you become a better writer?
Being someone else’s beta reader temporarily turns you into an editor and that’s a good thing. It teaches you how to nurture someone else’s vision rather than you just rewriting the book as you would have. It also teaches you how to approach a work from a distance. It helps you become a better writer because you can take the weaknesses or strengths in another’s manuscript and apply those lessons to your own writing.


Reach out to Karen:

If you like this post check out my other Q and A with aspiring author, Beth Green.


Owning Books

I’m a day late and it’s already JUNE! YOW!

IMG_8947

I’m currently reading these two PRINT books right now.

 

Recently, I read an article about how owning print books feels different from owning e-books. The research comes out of my undergraduate alma mater, The University of Arizona, and Twoson University. The article doesn’t go super in depth, but when I read it I kept thinking, duh. Of course, it feels different than owning an e-book. The experience is different because of the physical structure of the book, but when they pointed out the emotional aspect of it, that really hit home.

The study found that research participants “described being more emotionally attached to physical books, and said they use physical books to establish a sense of self and belonging.”

That puts a finer point on why it is I feel more connected to reading a print copy as opposed to the distance I feel in reading an e-book copy. For me, it feels like a wall springs up between me and the text when I read e-books. My preference is definitely print, but every so often an e-book or even an audio book sneaks into my reading rotation. What do you prefer?

Overall, I’m fascinated with how to describe and understand our emotions. They are so nuanced and each person has such a different experience when reading a book and in everyday life. It’s putting those emotions down into a novel or story that can be a challenge. Especially in showing specifically why someone reacts the way that they do, but oftentimes the why seems to be the driving factor.

 

Check back next week for my second Q and A with an aspiring author post. 

10 more minutes . . .

mika-annoyedA few days ago, I started thinking about the different types of waiting there are in life. While I waited to get inspiration for this blog post, in fact. The picture of my dog waiting for me to finish writing before her morning dog walk popped into my head. She doesn’t look too thrilled and that’s because just when she thought the wait was over . . . I asked her for ten more minutes. That’s hard for a dog who wants to get outside and go to the bathroom or sniff every blade of grass in sight.  This type of waiting I’m going to label waiting times infinity, because it feels like it will never end. I think it’s pretty common to feel this way if you are anticipating some type of payoff at the end of your wait.

Another type is waiting for the dreaded inevitable. Something big like dying from a terminal disease or well, what else is worse than that? I guess to a lesser degree having to go through surgery for a broken bone or going to the DMV. That first example though, that’s the worst kind of waiting.

A friend of the family recently passed away. She was in her early 40’s. We all knew it was coming, but it doesn’t make it any easier. I want to be better at this, holding space for grief and caring for those going through it in their own way. Feeling like it is okay to grieve is still somewhat of a struggle for me and probably for a lot of people. There is something irrational about it. Just move on. By its very nature, a definition of that thing locked in our throats and hearts is so inconsequential. I do not need to define it, it just is. It’s easy to give in to feeling hopeless, but that isn’t what grieving is either. I’ve read about the stages of grief, but not everyone goes through each of them. Really, I think the only way to talk about it is in the way you are feeling and sometimes that also involves a physical reaction. Everyone has their way and every way is the right way. And not everyone wants to talk about it. When it comes to emotions (unless you feel like harming someone) leaning into it and doing it your way is okay.

And just to lighten up this post a little, I saved the best type of waiting for last. Waiting isn’t all bad, is it? Waiting for the good thing (expected or unexpected) like a free drink at a coffee shop because someone decided to pay for yours, or when you have enough punches on your punch card at your favorite donut shop and you get a free one! Last weekend I went to see my husband’s band play at a local bar. Unexpectedly, I felt a surge of joy at how grateful I am to be able to go into this bar, see our friends supporting him and his music, and getting to pet the cutest bar dog, Ghengis. That simple. All I had to do was wait for the show to start.

What kinds of waiting have you experienced lately?

Book Event: Oregon Book Awards

IMG_8760Last week, the Oregon Book Awards sponsored by Oregon Literary Arts doled out checks and drink tickets to the winners. This year I knew one of the nominees and had read three of the books nominated, two of which, won their awards. The three books I read were The Last to Die – a young adult novel by Kelly Garrett, The Fish Market – nonfiction book by Lee Van Der Voo (she subbed on my co-ed soccer team a few years ago!) and Strange the

IMG_8757Dreamer – a young adult novel by Laini Taylor. The latter two won in their category. I highly recommend all three books depending on your mood. Each one was well-written and immersive. After sitting through the list of nominees and reading their book descriptions, I have a few more books to add to my “to read” list.

This year, I truly felt part of the writing community. Over the past few years, I’ve gotten more involved in readings, workshops, and writerly events. What that means is, I recognize or have had interactions with many of the writers in the Oregon community. I’ve also put myself out there to meet new people. It’s fun to see some of them out in the world and getting nominated for awards, receiving fellowships (Yay, Jacob Aiello!), or enjoying an event.

The night started out with vegan gluten-free pizza with two friends (Erin and Erica) who I met through a writing workshop at The Attic Institue. We’ve been friends now for a few years. We met up with Kelly and her husband to celebrate her accomplishment as a nominee for the Oregon Book awards. I was a little off that night due to getting hit by a car as a pedestrian in a crosswalk two days before, but I wanted to be there. The whole getting hit by a car story is one for another day, or maybe I’ll turn it into a short story or a scene in my next novel! I’m doing okay after a few days of limping, a bandaged hand, and some emotional trauma that is ongoing. I don’t recommend this experience. My advice: wear a fluorescent jumpsuit at all times and be aware of your surroundings at all times!

Anyway, we ate and headed to the event where we sat up in the balcony. A few minutes after I sat down, I looked to my left and noticed I was sitting next to another writer, Mo Daviau, who I had recently met at a happy hour I hosted! She also wrote a fantastic book called Every Anxious Wave about a wormhole that allows people to go back in time to see their favorite band play. There’s more to it than that, but check it out. It’s a small community once you start putting yourself out there and meeting others around town. On our way out, I saw my friend Hillary an awesome librarian (and someone who is always smiling) who said she and her staff chose the adult novel, American War by Omar El Akkad, and highly recommends it. I’ve already added that to my reading list.

What’s on your reading list?

Aspiring Writer Q and A Series, Edition I: Beth Green, Crime Fiction Author

I had the pleasure of interviewing Beth Green, freelance writer and aspiring novelist, for the first edition of the title of this post! I first met Beth through one of the Manuscript Wishlist (MSWL) holiday party Google Hangouts in 2016. Lot’s of great resources for aspiring authors there too. Anyway, we chatted and offered to help each other with beta reading. It was so great to have feedback from her and to get to know her over the past year or so. Thank you to MSWL for having such fun online events. Okay, onto the actual Q and A. First, let’s learn a little more about Beth…

Beth

Beth Green grew up on a sailboat but these days is most often found ashore—currently in Prague, Czech Republic. Beth is a former reporter, English teacher and travel blogger; she is now a full-time freelance writer. When not writing for clients or plotting international crimes to take place in her fiction, Beth enjoys reading, scuba diving, and the art of slow travel.


What do you write? (genre etc)

I write crime fiction because I am fascinated by the darker side of the human psyche and I love both reading and writing stories where the world is torn apart and then set to rights.

Favorite book that you think is underrated?

Ooh, tough question! I am not always sure how the books I read are viewed—I am pretty much an opportunist when it comes to reading, so I don’t always check out reviews before I dive into the book. That said, I know that I love the fantasy and dystopian books by fellow Prague expat author Sonya Lano and that she doesn’t have the readership she deserves. Her book The Ever Spirits is dark and beautiful and immersive and her ongoing Heiress series (Heiress of Healing, Heiress of Magic) is captivating!

Favorite book from childhood?

Oh, so many! I am an only child who was homeschooled on a boat (that’s another long story…) and I read ALL. THE. TIME. A few children’s titles that I read and re-read were classics: The Princess and the Goblin, the Narnia books, Harriet the Spy. I also read a lot of adult fiction even when I was a kid (a lot of it went over my head, I’m sure!) with favorites that I still re-read regularly: The Valley of Horses by Jean M. Auel (hence my current pre-historical projects!), The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy, Jurassic Park. I also went through a phase at 10 or 11 when I scared myself silly reading Dean Koontz and Stephen King late at night.

Use three words to describe what keeps you writing and persevering?

The story wants to be told. (That’s not 3 words, sorry. I’m not good at word limits…)

Where do you draw your inspiration to keep writing?

From travel and meeting people and questioning everything.

Do you have any tricks/tips for aspiring authors you’d like to share?

Try new things! I switch up what I do and how I do it all the time. Some stuff works, other stuff doesn’t, but trying new stuff always helps me—whether I’m looking for motivation or inspiration or to level up on craft.

As a writer who/what is your muse/familiar?

If I were a witch I’d 100% choose a jaguar as a familiar. But the Pottermore test told me my Patronus is an orangutan or something else ridiculous, so IDK. How well do we really know ourselves?

What was one of the hardest scenes for you to write?

Generally, for me, it seems that if a scene is difficult in the first draft, I have missed the mark somewhere—in my plotting, in my assessment of the character motives. Usually, it’s a sign that I need to go back into the planning phase and rejig it until I can get in the zone and make it just flow. In my current project (a thriller set in Europe), I am stuck on the transition between the second and third acts for one of the POV characters. I’ve tried to write it about ten times and keep coming up on a wall. I have been avoiding getting back to the outline phase and ripping stuff up, but I know I will have to do it before I can move on!

What do you think helps you to become a better writer?

Reading. Reading lots. Getting over the fear of having other people read your work and owning your style, including its flaws.

How do you think being someone else’s beta reader helps inform your own writing process? Or helps you become a better writer?

Being someone’s beta reader is so helpful! (Like yours, Christi!) It’s helpful on several levels. First, on a craft level, it’s important to train yourself to look for the things that a reader responds to in a work in progress and to ask yourself, “Why?” Why did the author choose to do this? Why does it work or not work? Why does it seem out of place or unpolished or effortless or deft? Why does it produce an emotional response? You can do this of course with a published book too, but when you’re in the beta process you’re at a place where you might be able to get a dialogue going with the writer. Then, on a more emotional level, it helps build up the expectation of criticism. Getting feedback on something you’ve written and poured so much of yourself into can be distressing. Putting myself in another writer’s shoes, trying to couch feedback so it’s helpful but not devastating, helps me put the feedback I get on my own work in perspective. Plus, it’s just so cool to see books that are on their way to the world!

Thank you, Beth, for sharing your insights!


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You can also connect with her on Twitter @bethverde, Facebook.com/bethgreenwritesor Instagram @bethtravel.