Spring/Summer Wrap Up

Been too busy to write monthly wrap-ups, but thought I would update on the last few months!

Writing Life

Since my last post, I signed with Veronica Park at Fuse Literary, and I’m so pleased to have her as the advocate for my novels. She is a taskmaster when it comes to polishing, and I appreciate her vision for my career.

Image from the New York Times by Molly Snee

This summer, I took a humor course at Catapult under the esteemed Elissa Bassist, which basically changed my life and gave me the confidence to take humor writing seriously (ha), something I’ve always wanted to do. Since then, I’ve placed pieces in McSweeney’s, The Belladonna, and other outlets that I’ve always enjoyed reading. (If you’re interested, see link to clips here.)

I also published my most personal essay to date in The New York Times, and have been so grateful for the outpouring of support from other women (religious or not) discussing their own experiences with family planning and postpartum depression.

As for new things, I’m 30k into a new project and have logged off social media, deleted my phone games, and set some daily writing goals to finish a first draft before the end of the year. I think I’ll NaNo in my own way next month, but probably not to the full level of 50k. Those of you currently outlining in preparation, know that I’m rooting for you!

Reading Life

I’ve been busy reading, so busy that I didn’t realize how close I’ve gotten to my target already! Over the past six months, I’ve discovered and chewed through multiple Tana French novels, adored the new Jacqueline Woodson, Margaret Atwood, and Ta-Nehsi Coates, and dug deep into some fantastic contemporary romance by Jasmine Guillory and Helen Hoang. I’ve tried to diversify my reading diet in genre, especially since I’m working on a project and don’t want to read too close to comps as I’m preparing something new.

I’ve had the chance to talk to a few authors about books I’ve enjoyed, too. For Electric Lit, I was able to talk to Lyz Lenz about her nonfiction debut, GOD LAND, centering around the culture of Christianity in the Midwest (and we talked about casserole recipes, too). For this blog, I interviewed Sonya Heaney about her debut historical romance set in Australia.

Life, etc

Lots of travel this summer and the family and I are settled into the routine of the school year. Kids are busy with their schedules and activities, and we’re finally at a point where we can say, “go out and play” and the kids can entertain themselves (at least for twenty minutes).

Too much rain, too many bug bites, but beyond that, life is sweet. Garden is still blooming with broccoli, squash, and tomatoes, and I’ve got the mums about to open.

Sending good wishes to wherever you are.

December (and 2018) Wrap-Up

IMG_0143.jpgWriting Wrap-Up

  • Total Books Read This Month:  9
  • Total Books Read this Year: 105
  • Best Books of the Month: Can I say all of them? Becoming by Michelle Obama was a balm that I chewed through in two days, I adored Premee Mohamed’s  ghost-ish novella The Apple-Tree Throne  (check that out here). Also The Secret History ruined me for all other books in so many ways. I reread The Sympathizer because I needed to, and got angry when I had to put down the most recent Comoran Strike. Lots of genres, lots of good reads.
  • Best Books Read this Year:  EducatedAn American Marriage, The Heart’s Invisible Furies, The Belles,  CirceLess
  • Total pages read: 36,742 (give or take)
  • Unplanned themes for reading this year: Lots of mystery novels, lots of empowered women in my fic and nonfic, some fantastic fantasy YA, and
  • Goals for next year: Meet or beat my 105 books from this year, read more non-fic and romance

Writing Wrap-Up

For shorter works, I’ve had some awesome stuff published this year that I’m proud of. Just this month, I had a short story published in Literary Mama about the first weeks of parenthood. I’ve published about breastfeeding horror stories in Scary Mommy and posted a ridiculous list about politics in the humor site Little Old Lady ComedyI wrote a few things for the fantastic journal, Cotton Xenomorph, including this little piece of flash fiction about fruit and relationships. Helpful as we jump into 2019, I also got to write about setting bookish new years resolutions in Women Writers, Women’s Books, a site I adore. I ended the year publishing for Data-Driven Investor, talking about the twentieth anniversary of the Furby. The most fun I’ve had this year was also in writing and performing a true story live, without notes, for the podcast Story Collider. Audio of that is available here.

For longer works, I’ve polished a novel and finished another, which I’m still in the process of beautifying. I’m looking forward to diving into another project soon.

Life Etc

The Year In Numbers

  • Classes taught: 5
  • Babies born: 1
  • Family trips: 4
  • Homegrown strawberries eaten: 60+
  • Real push-ups that I can do (for the first time in my life): 10
  • Hours I usually sleep at night now: 5
  • Hours I wish I could sleep at night: 8+
  • Hilarious stories written with my kindergartner: 12+
  • Number of those stories that are about pac-man: too many

Looking forward to the New Year, in all of its glories and challenges. 2018 was not the best in so many ways, but I’ve got hope for the year to come. Wishing the best to you and your crew.

 

November Wrap Up

Reading Wrap-Up

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Books read this month: 10

Books still behind in my GoodReads Challenge: 9! I was aiming for 115 this year, and I’m almost at 100. I need to roll up my sleeves and do some serious reading in the next 31 days…

Best Books of the Month: So many great ones this month that it was hard to pick. Kiss Quotient made me weak at the knees, I chewed through The Consuming Fire in three days flat, and Liane Moriarty’s newest was a little bit of a departure, in the best ways, from her standard. It was one of those months that I couldn’t wait to read after the kids went to bed, and I haven’t felt that way in a while.

ARCs read this Month: I just finished Dhonielle Clayton’s sequel to The Belles, called The Everlasting Rose. It was great, and it is out next year! Details in my review.

Books looking forward to this month: I just started The Thirteenth Tale last night and I’m hooked already. I plan to start either The Secret History on audiobook soon.

Writing Wrap-Up

Wasn’t aiming to do NaNo this year (too much work to do), but bravo to those who took it on, whether you “won” or not! I finished a few short non-fic pieces this month and have been deep into editing a new novel project, a rom-com, which is a nice balm to the stressful world we live in.

Life Wrap-Up

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We had approximately 2.5 beautiful fall days before the weather changed, but me and the clan tried to take advantage of it. Not looking forward to a long winter inside, so might just have to invest in good snow gloves so I can join the kids in making snowmen this winter.

Started weight training at the gym, and I am already super sore, but proud of my progress. My goal in the new year is do to “real push ups,” something I’ve never been able to do.

Busy and happy at work and pulling together year end projects. Just a few weeks left of the semester, then a long break when I plan to finish editing and start work on a new writing project!

Hung holiday lights while listening to audiobooks, and it is my new annual tradition. Out on a ladder, good books in my ear, neighbors honking as they go by.

All the best in this last month of 2018!

August Wrap-Up

Reading Wrap-Up

Total Books Read this month: 11

Most swoony book of the month: The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

Books that kept me up at nightForest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie Dao and Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott

Best audiobook of the monthCirce by Madeline Miller

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Best print book: There There by Tommy Orange

Books so far this year: 76

Writing Wrap-Up

Working on final edits for a big thing right now. Got some good news today (to be announced soon) that’s not exactly book-adjacent, but will be a fun opportunity and another chance to write. Have a very— very— Midwestern piece coming out tomorrow that I’ll post to the pub’s page as soon as it’s out. Making it made me hungry and homesick at the same time.

I’m making it a goal to write 30k on a new thing before November so that I can at least try NaNo again this year (won it last year!) and finish a new draft before the end of the year. That would be two completed book projects for the year, which would be a-maz-ing, but not going to count my chickens before they are even in eggs, let alone hatch.

Life Wrap-Up

I have not been sleeping enough lately to do a “by the numbers” this month, but hopefully that’ll change soon as the baby gets older. Right? (looks around desperately. ) Right?

(narrator voice: “she would not get more sleep soon.”)

Soccer season has started, and my middle kiddo starts dance on Monday. My big kids stopped sucking their thumbs this month, too, so lots of changes around here that make me feel like time’s passing too fast.

The garden is full of strawberries still, and the raspberries are all turning bright red. It’s a beautiful time to be growing things and I’m so grateful for those last few green tomatoes that promise to ripen soon and taste a bit like summer in these early fall days.

Sending you good wishes in the form of digitized fruit and veggies.

July Wrap-Up

Reading Life

Total books read this month: 9

Books so far this year: 65

Mysteries read: 4 (including progress on working my way through the entire works of Sherlock Holmes)

YA Read: Finished Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina and Dread Nation by Justina Ireland (who I interviewed on here about 2 years ago). Loved them both, especially Dread Nation. If you want a zombie book where the systematic racism is scarier than the undead, you’ve got it right there. Looking forward to her second book in the duology.

Best of the MonthI loved The Wanderers by Meg Howry. It was a deeply reflective look on love, space, and the balance of family/career that I didn’t really expect to shake me as much as it did. Gorgeous prose.

Writing Life

Had kind of a topsy-turvy month trying to decide what project to move ahead with. Finally settled on it and getting feedback from a friend before sending it on. It’s been a passion project of mine for years, and meshes sibling love, science, and nerd-dom. Hoping that the feedback is positive!

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Terminator Baby

Life, Etc

Bottles that the baby took successfully since his birth: 0

Days until I return to work: 6

My stress-level about the combination of those two data points: 140%

Family trips this month: 1

Trips to the county fair: 1

Weeks into my Couch-to-5k Program: 4 (going well so far!)

Cucumber salads made with produce from the garden: 5 (link goes to my grandma’s recipe)

 

Hope your summer is going well!

June Wrap-Up

Reading Wrap

Total number of books read this month: 10

ARCs: 2. Illegal and Kill the Farm Boy.  I recommend both! Illegal is a graphic novel about immigrant siblings from Ghana. Kill the Farm Boy  is a zany adult fantasy which upends practically every fantasy trope in the book. Very enjoyable!

Number of people I purchased The Belles for this month: 2. Seriously. If you haven’t read it yet, you’re missing out.

Audiobooks listened to this month: 7! And I wrote about favorite audiobook narrators here.

Best of the MonthWinter by Marissa Meyer (a satisfying end to the quartet of books) and The Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin, which I had never read. I’ll be checking out more of that series soon.

Writing Wrap-Up

Finished the edits and sent my dear little book along to my agent. Hoping to hear back notes soon, and in the meantime, working on essays and smaller stuff. This month I published a piece in Scary Mommy,  wrote an exasperated thing on my Medium , and finished edits for something forthcoming in Split Lip (can’t wait!)

Taking a social media hiatus in July to help get started on something new. Planning on doing Camp NaNoWriMo!

On a less happy note, my computer crashed– blue-screened– and luckily I had backed things up recently. If you haven’t DO IT NOW. It could have been a real nightmare otherwise!

Life Wrap-Up

FullSizeRender (1)Average hours of sleep per night: 4.5

Guests in town this weekend: 14

Dairy products that I’ve had to give up to breastfeed this baby: 100%

Percentage of my diet that was cheese before I gave up dairy: 90%

Dairy free cheese products that taste good: 0%

Percentage worth it when the little guy gives me a grin: 110%

 

Audio-Crushes

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Me? Sleep? Why would I do that??

I’ve been averaging 4-5 hours of broken sleep a night for the past two weeks. I don’t know if the baby is going through a growth spurt or if I can just diagnose it as “baby wierdness” (a real and all-too-prevalent condition). No matter the reason, I have to be up with him when he’s up and audiobooks have been keeping me company.

I always roll my eyes when people say that listening to audiobooks isn’t “really reading”. Sure, my eyes aren’t tracking each word, but my brain is engaged in the same imaginative exercise– sometimes moreso since I’m half-dreaming in the middle of the night anyway. Being read to, especially by a great narrator, can make chores more bareable or these middle of the night feedings more alert.

I admit I have an audiocrush on more than a few of them. What follows are my audiobook narrator crushes, and no, Jim Dale isn’t on there (although he has my undying love for his fantastic work on Harry Potter)

Narrator Stand-Outs

First, Bahni Turpin.

https://twitter.com/rmmckenny/status/972155839451680768

Turpin narrates quite a few of the books in my Audible library, including The Hate U GiveThe Underground Railroad, and Bad Feminist. She could read my grocery list and I would toss all the money at her.

Second, Wil Wheaton

I hadn’t read, or listened to, any John Scalzi before this year, but Wheaton’s voice is the perfect companion to his quirky sci-fi texts. The Collapsing Empire got me hooked with not only Wheaton’s voice, but also the kick-ass cast of strong ladies, and I dug into his older works with Wheaton narrating the Trekkie homage of Redshirts (a perfect pairing for us The Next Generation fans).

Third, Rebecca Soler

Ms. Soler’s voice is the one that’s been keeping me company the past few weeks. Too tired for overtly “literary” works, I turned to Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles. They were honestly delightful with a wide variety of accents and pacing in her reading. Soler, obviously, enjoyed reading them as well. You can hear it in her voice, and in the interview between Soler and the author after the end of Winter, the final book in the series.

Thanks, Rebecca, for keeping me conscious.

BP-SN_350wFourthKatherine Kellgren

I bought the Timeless Tales of Beatrix Potter for my kiddos, and Kellgren’s reading brings Potter’s work to life in a way that I envy (and, with a background in theater, I like to think that I’m a pretty good reader to my children). She sings tunes to Potter’s made up songs and uses voices that somehow sound both refined (because of the accent) and hilarious. My kids laugh every time– their favorite is “The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin.”

Fifth, Readers of Long, Long, Long Books

I like big books and I cannot lie. I like them even more when someone else reads them to me, but I can only imagine the strain and time that goes into narrating forty-hour-plus novels. A few stand-out examples:

  • Stephen Fry’s Sherlock Holmes, a 62 hour behemouth, which also includes personal commentary by Fry about some of the stories
  • Anna Karenina read by Maggie Gyllenhaal, which clocks in at 36 hours. I’m not sure I would have gotten around to reading this classic otherwise, but it touched me to my core with her sensitive reading. Gyllenhall talks about this experience here. 
  • Another book I never would have taken on was Infinite Jest, read by Sean Pratt. I would love to sit down and talk to him about the process of reading this book– the layers upon layers and the footnotes upon footnotes. I ended up buying a physical copy to pair with the audio version, mostly for footnote reference, but Pratt’s wry timing partnered well with Foster Wallace’s surrealism.

Finally, Authors who Read Their Works Really, Really Well

And that’s not all authors, unfortunately. A few in my collection who do, however:

  • Arnold Lobel reads his collection of tales about best friends in Frog and Toad Audio Collection. Lobel’s recordings have stood the passage of time since he has been dead for many years, and his easy pace and diction, plus emphasis on the fun, make him an ideal reader to children.
  • Unlike her collection Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay chooses to narrate Hunger herself– and it was the most stirring thing I listened to last year. Even if you don’t love audiobooks, you need to check it out.
  • As you would expect with a comedian, Trevor Noah is the best possible reader for his memoir Born a Crime. The funny parts actually made me laugh out loud, and the horrifying parts were devestating. I try not to judge people’s reading habits because books are great in all forms, but I feel like you miss half of the experience if you don’t hear him read it.

There are many more, of course, (like Alice Walker’s warm reading of The Color Purple that will leave you breathless).

Maybe you don’t like being read to any more. Maybe you haven’t tried it lately… but maybe you should. There are so many fabulous recordings out there to keep you awake, teach you something new, and make you laugh or ugly cry(oh lord, George Newbern’s reading of A Man Called Ove did me in).

What’s the best audiobook you’ve ever heard? I have three credits on Audible burning a hold in my digital pocket.

May Wrap-Up

 

Reading Wrap-Up

Percentage jealous of everyone at Book Expo right now: 1000%

Books finished this month: 8

ARCs finished: 2, and one in progress.

may2018 211.PNGMysteries read: 4! The ARCs were both recommended mysteries. First, Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett, which was a fun second-in-the-series to the has-been actress turned amateur PI theme Garrett has going. Very voicey, very enjoyable. Second, Ruth Ware (an auto-buy author for me) has a new book called The Death of Mrs. Westaway about a mistaken identity, inheritance, and enough twists to tie a thousand bags of bread closed. Worth checking out, for sure.

Audiobooks listened to while feeding baby in middle of the night: Lots… might even be off about my count this month because I haven’t been keeping as careful track. I am grateful for Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles for keeping me company at three AM. Just enough plot and action, and the prose is straight to the point.

Best of the Month: And then There Were None by Dame Agatha and The Death of Mrs. Westaway

Writing Wrap-Up

In a bout of creative energy and desparation for something adult to do, I finished my edits on my novel during naptimes the first two weeks of the month! I forgot just how

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The snoozer

much newborns sleep (and I’m glad I didn’t wait, because at five weeks old he’s beginni

ng to want to be entertained and stay awake longer). Have already received the first set of beta-comments and will be sorting through them next week, and I’m feeling generally good about where this book is right now. Have to enjoy the good creative energy when you have it!

Wrote and submitted three essays this month. One has been accepted (pending publication at a great venue, can reveal next month) and two being reviewed. It’s nice to work on the shorter stuff while waiting for the next step on the longer.

 

Life, Etc

 

Baby birds in the nest outside: 4

Ball games attended: 2 (with more on the way)

Bugs swatted: 20,000

Average steps/day: 3,500 (will work back up to 10,000 eventually!)

Number of days that went too quickly this month: 31

Pairs of new pairs of glasses (first time in five years): 1

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(They’re very Velma, I think. I’m a fan)

April Wrap-Up (With Baby Pics)

Reading and Writing Wrap Up

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Late season snow leaves us all a little confused

  • Books read this month: Mouse and the Motorcycle series with the kiddos)
  • Best reasons to stay inside and read this month: TERRIBLE WEATHER! I don’t know where all of you are located, but we had snow all the way until the third week of April this month!
  • Best of the monthThe Hearts Invisible Furies without a doubt. In fact, it’s one of the best books I’ve read this year so far. I think it might be one of those books I can’t bear to reread because of how tenderly it hit me the first time, but we’ll see.
  • Books in progress:  3. I’m so close to upping my reading figure, but I’ll be honest. It was a busy month!
  • Revision work done this month on the WIP: some good progress, but not quite to draft 2 yet! I’m trying to get things polished enough to send a draft of this retelling rom-com to my beta readers, but it’s taking a little more time than I anticipated. It’s tricky to get in the mood to revise something light. Now that my school year is finished and I’m on leave all summer, hopefully I can turn to finishing it

Life Wrap Up (aka, why I got so little done this month)

  • Hours of prep work done to prepare for maternity leave, just in case: 50+
  • Baby pajamas washed and ooh-ed over: 12
  • Freezer meals prepped: 10
  • Days of pre-labor that sent me to the hospital twice: 5
  • Most miles walked in one day to try and convince baby to come out: 7
  • Pounds of perfection, finally here: 6 1/2IMG_0375

 

2017 Wrap Up

Reading Wrap-Up:

 

Nonfiction and Memoir:

Total read: 23

Best of the year: Hunger by Roxane Gay, Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann, Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

Graphic Novels/Memoirs:

Total read: 9

Best of the year: John Lewis’s March trilogy and Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani

SciFi/Fantasy Reads:

Total read: 35

Best of the year: La Belle Savauge by Philip Pullman, N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy, and The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

Contemporary Fiction

Total read: a lot– most of my stack

Best of the year: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, and The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker

General reading wrap up:

2017 in books

A-Z challenge: 25/26 (could have tried harder to finish this one! X, you defeated me this time.)

Goodreads challenge: read 157/125 books– very pleased with this!

ARCs reviewed this year: 32

Favorite reading thing done #1: gave recommendations on Twitter and Facebook based on last food ate and color wearing, and got a chance to rec my favorite books of the year!

Favorite reading thing done #2: got a chance to interview the author of The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (a great, great book)

Writing Wrap-Up

Long stuff:

  • Words written on book-length stuff: over 100k
  • Full books finished: 1 (then edited significantly!)
  • NaNoWriMo project: won NaNo, and book from that project in progress. Hope to finish draft zero by the end of January!

Short stuff:

This was my most productive publishing year yet, so a few highlights:

Had the immense privilege this year to publish in a few outlets that I absolutely adore: The Rumpus to talk about ash trees and politics and Electric Lit, where my Wonder Woman history piece found a home.

I had a strange humor piece about airplanes published in Higgs Weldon, and wrote about parenthood and cry rooms for US Catholic. 

I’ve been challenging myself to write and submit more, and have a few things pending for publication that I’m excited to announce.

Life, Etc.

2017 kicked me in the pants, like it did to many that I know.

Some things I’m grateful for at the end of it:

  • family who keeps me on my toes (even with bouts of lice, colds, and constant “Why?” questioning)
  • friends that will share fried pickles, stories, tears, and laughter
  • a great job the challenges me daily
  • a tougher shell, but a better ear for criticism
  • hope for the future

2018
Sarah Scribbles, 12/31/17, Sarah Andersen

Here’s to a good 2018, my friends.