I’m up!

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Hello,

A lot of time has passed, over a year in fact, since I last wrote. I wanted to come back sooner, but some days I didn’t want to, some days I physically couldn’t, and some days I felt too embarrassed and disappointed in myself to believe I should or could write.

But here I am. Again. Wiping the dust off my shoulder and my keyboard and trying.

I looked up a few of those inspiring quotes to add to this post. None of them really explained why I decided to pick up my long abandoned blog and book.

I started the year on a great reading kick. I was commuting for three hours every day and everything I read was great. If I started a book I didn’t like I dropped it. For nearly five months, I was in book reading bliss. But once my work shifted to back at home, my reading didn’t come with me and I felt like garbage. I binged watched television and movies, spent too much time scrolling through Twitter and Facebook, and got caught up on the youtube channels I follow. One day, I was scrolling through Twitter and read a post about self-comfort vs. self-care. I realized that I was comforting myself but not caring.

So I picked up my books again. Hilary Mantel. Kevin Kwan. I even attended an author event with Kwan for his newest book, Rich People Problems, which was delightful. Reading good books has turned into wanting to write a good book.

This summer, my brother asked me if I’d been working on my book. I didn’t try to hide my lack of progress behind the too busy response. I haven’t been working on it, but I know that I should. I still, after all this time, like the idea of my book. But blank pages don’t tell a story. Not even a bad one.

So I will write. I will write for this blog. I will write my book. I will read. I will keep trying because I want to and that’s enough reason for me.

 

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Writing > Reading

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For the past few days, I’ve put down the book from my 50 Book Challenge to take up a different kind of challenge – writing a short story. I was spurred on by a deadline from Writer’s Digest magazine of January 15. Every year they have the same contest. I’ve even written for it in the past (with no success) but shelved the idea for the past few years. In fact, this year, I let one, then two, opportunities to submit a piece pass me by. But when a third extension was announced, the best thing ever happened. A story idea popped into my head. A complete story. A story I knew I could write well. A good story.

So once New Year’s Eve past and a round of sickness left my house, I sat down and put that story to paper. Even with the beginning, middle and end all in my head, it was a lot of work to get down what I saw in there. I needed silence. I need coffee. I need to block Facebook and Twitter and the whole World Wide Web. I need to read it back out loud over and over again.

And tonight, I did it. I wrote the final word. You want to know how it felt? Do you remember that classic cinematic gem Romancing the Stone staring Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas? The movie begins with a voice over by Turner, who plays a romance novelist named Joan Wilder, reading the final sentences of her latest book. As she types the last words, the camera cuts to her face, covered in tears, and she says “God, that’s good.”

 

You see her face? That was me but with more fist pumping. Yeah, that’s good!

 

But, now I’ve got to tell you, after all the work I put in to write just 1,500 words, I’m ready to kick back with a good book. And that’s what I’m going to do tomorrow because on Wednesday I’ll be editing and fine-tuning so that I can send this story, my story, for consideration.

Wish me luck!

BJL

A Journey of 50 Books

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Happy New Year!

I hope everyone got in some good reading time over the Christmas holidays. Sneaking in some time for a few pages of a good book is how I de-stress in the midst of multiple big holiday gatherings.

Finding more time to read is one of my goals for 2016 and to that end I am I taking part in a 50 Book Challenge. I spent some of my December putting together a list.

I have already organized which books I will read in each month (though not in any particular order) so that could build in reading breaks between heavy subjects or longer reads and will be able to prepare for what is coming up. Also, I primarily use the library to get books and, as good as the Toronto Public Library is at having a lot of copies of in-demand books, I didn’t want to have to worry about my holds coming in on time, so I don’t have any new fiction coming out in 2016 on my list.

With so many great books from so many lists and recommendations I had to narrow my choices. Here are some of the deciding considerations I used to make my list of 50 books.

A lot of my choices came in groups of six to help get me going without overwhelming me if I didn’t take to any particular group.

  • David Adams Richards: I love his writing and want to get through more of his work but the stories are not easy reads in content or style so I wanted to space them out every other month.
  • Non-fiction: I am challenging myself to read more non-fiction since I so rarely pick any up
  • Young adult: To balance out the non-fiction, I found six interesting young adult books to read. I don’t really read YA, but so much great work is coming out of this group that I didn’t want keep missing out.
  • Canadian: Even with Richards on my list, I added six additional Canadian writers to bring my country home
  • TBR: I have books on my shelf that I have never read, so six of them got added for this challenge

The rest are all a mix of books I found just in looking for this list, rereads of old favourites, and recommendations from one friend or online list or another. I’m really looking forward to tackling this project and sharing all my reads with you.

Let me know what you think of my list, if there are any books you loved (or hated) on there, and if you’re taking part in any reading challenges this year.

Happy reading!

50 Book Challenge Sword in the Stone

Sword in the Stone

50 Book Challenge 2016

January

Road to the Stilt House by David Adams Richards

Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant

The Sibyl by Par Lagervist

Getting Things Done by David Allen

 

February

Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro

Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

 

March

Nights Below Station St. by David Adams Richards

Looking for Alaska by John Greene

An Orange From Portugal Editor Anne Simpson

The Book of Forgiving by Desmond Tutu

The Dark Endeavour by Kenneth Oppel

 

April

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

The Feast of Roses by Indu Sundarsan

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

The Devil You Know by Elisabeth de Mariaffi

 

May

Evening Snow Will Bring Such Peace by David Adams Richards

The Last Great Dance on Earth by Sandra Gulland

Cosmopolis by Don Delillo

The Hours Count by Jillian Canter

 

June

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

After Alice by Gregory Maguire

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell

Scary Close by Donald Miller

 

July

For Those Who Hunt the Wounded Down by David Adams Richards

All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews

All the Rage by Courtney Summers

Did You Ever Have A Family by Bill Clegg

 

August

60 by Ian Brown

The Imperialist by Sarah Jeanette Duncan

The Hours by Michael Cunningham

Artic Summer by Damon Galgut

 

September

Hope in the Desperate Hour by David Adams Richards

Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

This Can’t be Happening at MacDonald High by Gordon Korman

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

 

October

An Inconvenient Indian by Tom King

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Adichie

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

 

November

The Bay of Love & Sorrows by David Adams Richards

Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantel

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

What We All Long For by Dionne Brand

 

December

Mercy Among the Children by David Adams Richards

Outline by Rachel Cusk

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler

All I Need is Love by Klaus Kinski

2015 in review

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I’m looking back as I’m preparing for 2016, so here is the 2015 annual report for re: read pages as prepared by WordPress.com. Thanks for visiting, and I look forward to reading and writing with you more in the coming year!

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 800 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 13 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

A wish, a dream, a concrete plan

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I love structure and organization. I get excited when I see pretty boxes and I have different coloured pens and papers for making notes. So why I never wrote out a plan for my blog is a mystery to me. I had ideas. General expectations of when and about what I would blog. This hasn’t worked out for me too well as the consistency of my blogging is not strong, to say the least.

For 2016, one of my goals is to change that and to that end I am putting together a real plan with weekly scheduled posts, complete with topics, for the next few months. I am on an organizing kick and I must say it feels pretty good.

The first step in my plan is to make a commitment to the 50 Book Challenge. I will read 50 books over the next year, roughly a book per week, and blog about them for re: read pages. Knowing myself, I can’t just leave that to chance, so I am compiling a list in advance. I’m aiming to have a diverse list, with a balance between heavy and light reads (to give myself a break). I am keeping my focus on debut novels, historical fiction and David Adams Richards, but I’ll also try some books outside my usual interest, such as non-fiction and YA.

I am somewhat limited by my desire/need to source my books from either the library or my bookshelf as buying 50 books is not something I am prepared to commit to, thanks. This means that I probably won’t be reading the hot new title of 2016, unless I get a gift card this Christmas or score the top spot on the library’s hold list. But, in my mind, a good book is a good book no matter the year, so that shouldn’t hold me back.

I’ll share the complete list in a post to kick off the new year.

I think having a concrete goal with stages and objectives will really go a long way to helping me stay on track and be a more consistent and productive reader and writer. I’m hoping that the results I see will spur me to better work overall.

  1. I’m already excited.

Don’t tell me what I can and cannot do

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Here we are heading in to late July and I haven’t posted in a long, long while. I’ve written things. I’ve been reading. But I couldn’t make myself click publish.

I couldn’t get excited about what I was writing. All I saw were the ways in which it wasn’t matching up to the expectations I have for myself and what I want to be.

Mostly I was feeling like a failure because recently I’ve had a string of professional rejections. A lot of no thank yous were filling up my email and filling up my mind.

I had a crisis of faith: faith in myself, faith in my writing, faith in my life. I had already been feeling the need for change. Things haven’t been fitting together as comfortably as usual. My kids are getting older. My interests are changing. My needs and ambitions are shifting.

And as I tried to discover new experiences and opportunities, I was getting shutdown. I began to feel stuck. Like who I am and what I am capable of isn’t good enough for where I want to go and what I would like to be doing.

I felt stupid. Incompetent. Useless.

And so I haven’t published anything. I’ve avoided looking at my blog and pretended that it didn’t matter to me. I binge watched tv and read too many Buzzfeed quizzes (I would be sorted into Ravenclaw and I should go to Paris on my next vacation; these are things I needed to know).

But then I got really busy with my day job. Like seven-days-a-week busy, with nights and evenings, too. And I thought being bad at something I enjoy is better than being good at something that just pays the bills. And am I really that bad or do I just need to make room for improvement?

So what does that mean for re: read pages?

That means that re: read pages is going to be a place where I work on my voice. I’m going to write more broadly or at least with fewer restrictions on what I may post and when. If I read something that makes me pause, I’m going to blog about it. If I have an idea for something other than my novel, I’m going to blog about it. And if that means I post things less than perfect, or scholarly, or deep, so be it.

I love reading and I love writing. And if the requirement for me getting more professional opportunities is spending more time reading and writing – that is nothing to complain about.

Last weeks of a cold spring

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I can’t believe it is already midway through the first week of June. Bring on summer (because this spring has been too cold for my liking). As always, May was a packed month in my home. Both of my sons’ birthdays are in May (on the 7th and 18th), and I spend much of the month shopping, preparing, celebrating, and cleaning. Now I have a four year old who can’t wait for September so he can start school and a two year old who is preparing for life as a free-climber if the number of times I’ve pulled him off the third shelf of the bookcase is any indication.

We, of course, got them book-related presents. For the eldest, we made a trip to our local library and signed him up for his own library card. Thrilled doesn’t begin to describe his reaction. He proudly chose a book to take out: Seasons by Anne Crausaz, an old favourite.

For the youngest, we bought Jane Eyre: A Counting Primer from the wonderful BabyLit series by Jennifer Adams and Alison Oliver. We already own several of these books and he is happy to keep practicing his numbers with a new story.

On top of celebrating the boys’ birthdays, I had some exciting book-related moments on Twitter. I was retweeted by Irvine Welsh after I mentioned that I was rereading Trainspotting in preparation for a screening of the movie and discussion with Welsh with TIFF’s Books on Film series. I was giddy with amazement as I was momentarily flung into a wider audience; I picked up three new followers as a result of contact cool.

The very next day, I am astounded to share, I was mentioned in a tweet by none other than Sarah Dunant. I had been struggling with my novel (that’s another post) and tweeted that I was going to reread Blood & Beauty to inspire and improve my writing. And she gave me a shout out as she worked on finishing the sequel to that novel. I still get a smile on my face when I think about it.

I finished May with a meeting of my book club to discuss The Lobster Kings by Alexi Zentner. While not many of us could attend this month, we had a good conversation about the use of art in the story. I certainly enjoyed this book more than last month’s selection (see here for a refresher).

So while my May was very busy personally, it also set me up for a good month of reading and writing for June. I hope to share my thoughts the books that I read in May, the screening of Trainspotting, and a new idea for a story that I recently started developing. And, like last year, I’ll also be putting a summer reading list together.

BJL