Reading and Writing Wrap-Up for February

The Month in Numbers:

Books read: 11

Audiobooks: 3

Nonfiction: 3

Birthdays this month: 1

Girls Nights Out: 3

Hours spend editing new project: 43

Papers graded: 85

Most steps in one day: 14,534

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Best Books of the Month: The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters (how had I never read Waters before?) , Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (I could have read entire novels in each perspective), and The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante (read more than half of this in the airport. I had a 7 hour flight delay in the airport on my way out to AWP…)

Funny story: I have a toddler who is just learning to talk. She was obsessed with the cover of Homegoing and kept bringing the book to me during play time. I taught her to say “Yaa” when she did that. I think she might be Gyasi’s youngest cheerleader.

I’m obsessed with #audiobaking… baking while listening to audiobooks. I made thin mint brownies and snickerdoodles this month while listening to VE Schwab’s A Conjuring of Light.

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Loved running into friends at AWP in February! (waves) I’m already mourning the fact that I probably can’t go next year, but hopefully I’ll be there in 2019 (geez does that sound like a long time away).

I finished the first draft of a new novel (hooray!). It’s now with my trusty and very honest beta-readers.  I can’t read anything in my genre while I write and polish, so I’ve been reading a LOT of excellent sci-fi and fantasy lately. I’d love some more recommendations. I’m going to read the Jemison’s Obelisk Gate and Butler’s The Parable of the Sower, but I’d love more recommendations for what to read after those!

Speaking of the writing and reading life, I’m proud to announce that my partners at the Litsy Feminist Book Club and I have started a review site over at Books That Shook Us. We’re looking for submissions of book reviews, so see that site for more details.

Happy March, everybody!

Litsy Lemonade Interview: Mariam Williams

Mariam Williams

Really lucky to get a chance to interview the woman behind “Redbone Afropuff & Black GRITS” today! Mariam has been published on Salon, Calliope, and the Huffington Post (as well as many other outlets) and writes a biweekly column for the National Catholic Reporter.

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1.How did you get into blogging?

I ventured into blogging after I was laid off in 2008. The financial crisis hadn’t long started, and I found myself a casualty of it. Going from a regular 9-to-5 to staying in your house all day is hard, and blogging made me feel like I was less alone. Besides, I wanted a place outside of my journal to document what was happening—the long lines at the unemployment office, the changes in my diet due to the cost of food, the rejection letters from potential employers, the feelings of hopelessness, the resentment I felt at always being a straight arrow who did the right thing and usually pursued what was practical, and still ending up in the unemployment line … You know, all that fun stuff.

I was without full-time employment for nearly four years. After about six months of blogging, I decided to I wanted to write in essay form more, but on other topics. Black women’s history, feminism, and family stories were interesting to me, so I began a blog with the intent to publish personal essays—mine and others’—on those topics and to raise the level of black feminist consciousness and the importance of elders among the younger generations subscribing to blogs. Redbone Afropuff & Black GRITS is the result.

2.What are your favorite kinds of topics to tackle?

I’ve gone from black women’s history, feminism, and family stories to the tagline of my blog: faith, family, and feminism. Those topics are broad, but because they’re the main forces that have shaped me, I find a way to put them into a lot of essays and posts about a lot of things. One of the topics within those broader headings I’m writing about more often (but not necessarily publishing) is sex and sexuality among black Christian women, specifically how sex and sexuality are defined for us by history, our families, and by the Black Church.

3.What post are you most proud of, and why?

I’m going to cheat a little here and pat myself on the back for a poem instead of a post. I’m most proud of “Wish Remember, June 2015: An Annotated Lyric.” It was published earlier this year in the online journal, Bozalta. I selected “Wish Remember” because that piece went from a 20+-page essay to a 10-page prose-poem hybrid piece that’s light years better than the original essay was. I think it shows me combining many of the things I love to tackle in my writing—prose, poetry, history, black female sexuality, Christianity, current events, the Movement for Black Lives, social justice—and experimenting with them successfully.

4.Who are your favorite blogs to follow?

Awesomely Luvvie (because who doesn’t love to laugh?), Son of Baldwin (I love analytical people), Very Smart Brothas (another for radically intelligent humor), The Unfit Christian (we blog about similar themes)

5.What’s the weirdest/best/worst interaction you’ve had with a follower?

I also have a blog called “The Intersection,” at National Catholic Reporter, and I sometimes get letters from NCR readers. And I mean, snail mail letters. Sometimes, they’re from other countries. The furthest away so far has been Germany.

6.Best book you’ve read this year?

Another question that necessitates cheating! I have to divide this one into genres.

Nonfiction: Small Fires, by Julie Wade

Fiction: Beloved, by Toni Morrison

Poetry: Kingdom Anamalia, by Aracelis Girmay

7.Favorite track on Lemonade?

Don’t Hurt Yourself

Thanks to Mariam for taking time to answer our questions! Join us on Litsy for the discussion about Americanah starting next week (already!) On Litsy, follow @BookishFeminist, @LitsyFeministBookclub and myself (@rachelm). I have just a few spots let to feature black blogger interviews before then, so contact me on Twitter or Litsy if you’re interested in being interviewed!

Litsy Lemonade Interview: Stacie from The Next Book

Stacie C.

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So pleased to welcome the book blogger from The Next Book on My List! Stacie has been chronicling her book journey since 2013 and is one of the must-follows on Litsy (TheNextBook). Per her picture above, you can tell she’s a Gryffindor, and her TBR is worth following…

How did you get into blogging?
I kind of fell into blogging. Friends of mine would ask for my opinion on books and authors so I decided to start reviewing books. I came up with my blog, The Next Book On My List, as a place to simply put those reviews. I have been going strong now for over 3 years. I review everything I read. I enjoy it.

What are your favorite kinds of topics to tackle?
Books, Books, Books, Books, Books, Books. I just blog about Books, books, books, books, books, books. If you sang that to Rihanna’s Work then we’re on the same brain wave because that’s what I was thinking when I wrote it. Honestly, my blog is full of book reviews and my opinion on authors. I also include information about my current reading theme. I’m working on a new segment centered around my son and his adventures with reading. As a parent, I’m always looking for new resources and information on keeping kids interested in reading. It will be a new venture and a way to expand the blog. I love seeing kids reading.

What post are you most proud of and why?
There isn’t one particular post that I am proud of. But I am really proud of myself for going through with my Banned Books theme in 2014. I love having reading themes and in 2014 I read at least two banned books a month, researched why they were banned and discussed those reasons as part of my review. This theme took me completely out of my comfort zone and forced me to critically think about why certain books get banned. It’s always really reflective of society at that time and it just says a lot about different cultures and the way we choose to accept or reject literature. So I am definitely proud of how those post came out.

Who are your favorite blogs to follow?
I actually don’t follow a lot of blogs! I know, complete fail on my part. I’m on Book Riot quite a bit but my latest obsession has been Litsy! I’m on there probably way more than what’s socially acceptable. I love a social media focused on books and sharing that love for books. It’s pretty inspiring to see how excited people still are about books.

What’s the worst interaction you have had with a follower?
The worst interaction I ever had didn’t happen on my blog, thankfully. It happened on a different website that I was reviewing books for. I posted an unfavorable review of a novel and the author responded to my review and was not pleased about it all. She defended her book but completely belittled my review and was not willing at all to understand why I didn’t enjoy it. Mind you I didn’t attack her as a person at all. I simply didn’t enjoy the plot or writing style. It was an unsettling interaction. I responded to her and I shouldn’t have and it got really uncomfortable. I left the review site soon after.

Best Books you’ve read this year?
I hate this question! There were so many amazing books that I’ve read this year. I can’t choose just one. End of Watch by Stephen King, The Fireman by Joe Hill, The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchinson. I absolutely loved Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet (spoiler alert: it’s a book about building cathedrals and it is amazing). I read that one as part of my Reading through 30 year’s theme. And I finally read We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and it was spectacular. I’m stopping here because I could go on and on.

Favorite track on Lemonade?
Can I just say that I love the album as a whole but I love “Pray you catch me” It was such a powerful introduction to the album and whenever I think of that album, that’s the first song that pops in my head.

 

Thank you, Stacie! We’re continuing the Litsy Feminist Bookclub interview series until October 15, the end-date for our discussion of Americanah on Litsy. A side note:  join Litsy if you haven’t yet! They just released it for Android, so I believe it’s on all major app platforms now! Make sure to follow me (@rachelm), Stacie (@TheNextBook), Sarah (@BookishFeminist) and of course, the @LitsyFeministBookclub.

Interested in being a part of the interview series? DM me on Twitter or @ me on Litsy.

Litsy Lemonade Interview: Antoinette Scully

So excited to be back with another great interview for our series for Americanah. If you missed the first two interviews in the series (and the explanation of the Lemonade Syllabus project, see these two posts– first and second)

Antoinette Scully

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Today, I’m lucky enough to hear from the awesome blogger behind Black and Bookish, where she focuses on black culture in fiction and non-fiction, and she shares the reasoning behind her blog in her post “What Made Me Go ‘All Black‘”

Below are her responses to the interview. Make sure to check out her blog, as well as follow her on Twitter (@amariescully) and of course, Litsy (@BlackandBookish).

 

1. How did you get into blogging?
I sort of fell into it a few years ago just to try. I didn’t have anything compelling to talk about, so I would start a new blog, and then leave it. I tried to keep up with blogging about motherhood when my oldest was born in 2011, but actually being a mother made that difficult for me. My current blog is the longest running blog I have had and I love updating it. 
2. What are your favorite kinds of topic to tackle?
I love philosophy. It’s the why we think the way we think questions that I like to find answers to. Sometimes the answers are there. Sometimes they are not. But it always helps us grow more when we aren’t afraid to ask those big questions. 
3. What post are you most proud of, and why?
I thought this would be easy to answer but I don’t know. Black and Bookish is less than a year old, and I’m still trying to find my voice. Reviews of local authors have been the most well received. I think I’m most proud of whatever is the most recent post since I know I’m still doing this. 
4. Who are your favorite blogs to follow?
My favorite book blog is African Book Addict. Her thoughtfulness and tone are welcoming. My favorite non-book blog is Simple Homeschool. I’m a homeschooling parent and I love all the different ideas that come out of this blog. Many different contributors and ways to really be good to your homeschooling family. 
5. What’s the weirdest/best/worst reaction you’ve had with a follower?
I love to review indie authors so the best reactions are reading the joy the feel about my review of their books. One author added my review to her own blog so I was really touched by that. 
6. Best book you’ve read this year?
Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching gave me my first book hangover in a very long time. I finished reading it the night Alton Sterling died, so it was even more poignant. It was the best because Mychal Denzel Smith said all the things we needed to be said about the black community and I connected completely to his writing and message.  
7. Favorite track on Lemonade.
It’s probably Formation. Sometimes it’s Freedom. These songs just release a passion in me that rocks me to my core. It feels like someone thanking me for my hard work and pushing me to be better all at the same time. This whole album is amazing, of course. 
Thank you, Antoinette! If you’d like to be featured for the blogger interview series (running through Oct. 15), let me know! Message me on Twitter (@rmckennyisu) or Litsy (@rachelm)

Litsy Lemonade Interview: Camryn Garrett

This blog post is the second in a month-long series for the Litsy Feminist Bookclub’s goal to read through the Lemonade Syllabus (see Justina’s post here, if you missed it!) Our first book comes from the top of the fiction list, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  We’ll be reading this book through Oct. 15 and then discussing it on our litsy page.

It’s no spoiler to say that the main character in Americanah runs a popular blog. In this blog, she highlights the intersection of race and gender on the internet. Because of this, we wanted to highlight some black female bloggers to follow and get their take on how the medium works for them.

Camryn Garrett

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I am so glad that Camyrn agreed to be interviewed! Camryn’s work has been posted on Time and Huffington Post on a variety of topics, and her Twitter account is a must-follow!

1.How did you get into blogging?

I got into blogging after I was a Kid Reporter for TIME for Kids. Your time ends after a year, and I wanted to find another way to have consistent writing. I started blogging at Huffington Post Teen, and then branched out to my own blog. Now I’m here!

2.What are your favorite kinds of topics to tackle?

I’m really good at covering diversity, racism, sexism, biphobia, etc., because I live them and like to bring them to light when they’re being ignored. It’s nice to feel like I’m actually doing something. But I think that I’d like blogging about movies or pop culture more – I just haven’t done as much of it!

3.What post are you most proud of, and why?

I’m most proud of my most recent blog post because I was able to finally articulate a lot of feelings I’ve had and didn’t understand, but also because it was my first post after this really weird public internet showdown I was involved in. I felt really worried about easing back in, and I think I did well with that one.

4.Who are your favorite blogs to follow?

My favorite blogs to follow are YAInterrobang, YAHighway (if that still counts?), Reading While White (even though I am not), and Disability in YA Lit.

5.What’s the weirdest/best/worst interaction you’ve had with a follower?

The absolute BEST interaction I had was when I had a fundraiser to try to go see Hamilton, and someone who follows me donated, like, hundreds of dollars so I could go. They were anonymous, so I don’t want to say who they are, but it was one of the best gifts I’ve ever received.

6.Best book you’ve read this year?

I’m torn between AMERICANAH by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche and HOMEGOING by Yaa Gyasi.

7.Favorite track on Lemonade?

Oooh, this is a hard one! The best is probably Formation or Freedom – I wrote an essay about Formation and they’re both songs I jump around to. But I love the entire album, and 6 Inch is a song I listen to when I try to reinforce goals and remind myself that I’m badass 😛

 

Thank you for taking time to answer the questions, Camryn!

 

Readers, please join us to read through the Lemonade Syllabus. Want to be a featured blogger? @ me on Twitter and let’s talk!

Litsy App Review

New social media tool for book discovery and review? Instagram meets Goodreads? Yes, please. Litsy is a book ranking and discovery app (for iOS only at this point) which lets you create ongoing discussions about books you’re reading with other users as well as share bookish pictures.

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Buttons on top decoded: The list button: your timeline— The open book button: your currently reading shelf — The closed book button: your reviewed books

The buttons allow you to see a timeline of the users whose reviews you follow (the house icon), a notifications lightning bolt, a magnifying glass to search for books to add to your shelves, and a fast action button to add a blurb, review, or quote.

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I’ve had the app for, oh, three days? So far, I love it. Going to the page of a book you’re reading and seeing cool pictures, quotes, and status updates all in a single timeline really adds to the fun of reading a book (especially if you’re trying to read Infinite Jest for the first time like I am— and a lot of other people, I discovered!) The blurb and quote feature are much more stylized and in focus than on Goodreads and you can create Instagram-like pictures to go along with them, including frames and filters and all of that fun nonsense.

And really, all that extra noise is a bit of nonsense, as fun as it is. The main point of this app is the connection between users and the incentive to help other readers find good books and to read as much good literature as you can. This number is gamified into a Litfluence total. This total starts at the number 42 (thank you Douglas Adams fans who get the reference and thank you to Litsy for the homage– side note that it is #TowelDay.)

My biggest complaints so far about the app:

  1. No tags. If you’re looking for suggestions for #scifi or #debut or want to read some #ARC reviews, no such luck– you’ve got to know what you’re looking for.
  2. No way (yet) to import your Goodreads reviews (I swear I’ve read more than 26 books…)

Otherwise, it’s good fun. If you’re on there, find me and I’d love to see the reviews you’ve added so far. User name: rachelm. You can leave yours in the comments if you want to connect with others!

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