2019 Wrap-Up

Reading Wrap

I set my original reading goal at the number of books I ended up reading last year, and the comparative of how much I read now that I’m not in the midst of PPD is pretty unreal. I had a lot of favorites this year, but above the joy of finding a good book was the joy of wanting to read at all and I’m grateful for that return.

  • Best Nonfic read this year: How to Sit by Tyrese Coleman (a genrebuster of a memoir and incredible), In the Country of Women by Susan Straight, All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung, and Godland by Lyz Lenz
  • Best Poetry read this year: Citizen Illegal by Jose Olivarez, Our Debatable Bodies by Marisa Crane, and The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (get the audiobook!)
  • Books Recommended to Me that I Loved: My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite, All of Tana French (literally read it all this year), and The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
  • Books that I Could Not Put Down: Trust Exercise by Susan Choi, Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner, The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera
  • Audiobooks that I Could Not Stop Listening To: On the Come Up by Angie Thomas, Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett, SLAY by Brittany Morris, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, and Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  • Books that actually made me laugh out loud: Several Terry Pratchetts (including Going Postal), Bunny by Mona Awad, and French Exit by Patrick DeWitt:

Reading Resolutions for the new year: Read at least 110 books, read more short story collections, continue reviewing ARCs

Writing Wrap-Up

Besides finding a great agent and partner, I’ve polished up some manuscripts, and gotten some publications in The New York Times, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and others. I’m looking forward to forthcoming accepted pieces, including a piece of fiction I can announce will come out in X RAY on January 11.

Writing resolutions for the new year: Finish a new manuscript, continue to write and sub humor, and work toward at least five hours of “deep focus” a week.

Life etc

This New Year’s Eve I spent doing laundry, scrubbing rugs, and bleaching the kitchen floor after my toddler projective vomited everywhere, so this is adulthood I guess. Wrapped in a blanket, watching Star Trek and blogging, and feeling thankful for a good washer/dryer, good health (most of the time), and good friends who commiserate via Snap when I bitch about said vomit.

Happy New Year, folks. May it be the best one yet. Stay brave. Eyes up. We got this.

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.

February 2019 Wrap-Up

Reading Wrap:

  • Total books toward reading goal so far: 18/105 (2 ahead of schedule!)
  • Total books read this month: 10
  • Poetry book read for Poetry Challenge: Season of the Second Thought by Lynn Powell. Lovely nature-based poetry with a wry pushback-against-religious undertone. Lots of fine poems in the collection, picked up randomly off the shelf and glad I did. A taste of all the seasons during a month that has been too wintery.
  • Best audiobooks of the month: On the Come Up by Angie Thomas, read by Bahni Turpin (I adore Bahni Turpin and loved Thomas’s first novel, so I’m not surprised) and The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. Both were so immersive I had trouble unplugging from them.
  • Other bests of the month: I had a really good reading month, which I desperately needed. The Friend by Sigrid Nunez was exactly the genre-breaking, heart-breaking novel I needed, and I chewed through The Nix in less than a month, which had been on my TBR forever. If you want a David Foster Wallace-esque book, but with more heart and firmer narrative structure: you’ve found it in The Nix by Nathan Hill. Finally, I loved Whiskey & Ribbons by Leesa Cross-Smith. It was a multiple POV love story–really, love in every formulation.

Writing Wrap:

This was kind of a fallow month for me, which I think I needed. I wrote a few shorter pieces, essays and humor mostly, and did a bit of editing, but I think I needed a creative recharge. I’m considering myself fallow, but receptive, and I’ll hit the longer works again soon.

Life Wrap:

This month I quit Facebook, had too many snow days, got very little sleep due to a sick baby, went to lots of meetings, counted piles of box tops for my kids’ school, made lots of phone calls for volunteer work, and generally felt a little burned out. These long, cold days need to brighten soon, and I think they will. The seed catalogs have started arriving and mentally mapping my garden brings a smile to my face. Other bright spots of the month include watching Jeopardy! with my husband, starting Harry Potter with my oldest kid, and watching my baby learn to pull himself up and navigate around the furniture.

Also InspiroBot, which never fails to be weird

Thank you InspiroBot

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!

October Wrap-Up

Reading Life:

Total Books Read This Month: 6

Best Books Read This Month: Less was incredible, and just finished and enjoyed The Gilded Wolves (due to be released next year)

Creepiest Book This MonthAffinity by Sarah Waters creeped me out, and then just like a typical Waters, flipped a switch in the last act. I had sipped the book a bit at a time, but she made me finish the last fifty pages in one sitting.

Big Reading Mood This Month: 

Looking Forward to: Finishing Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator  with the kindergartner. We’ve been reading a chapter most nights. It’s not by any stretch my favorite Roald Dahl, but I don’t remember having ever read it before, so that’s kind of fun. I’m also excited to finally read How to Stop Time and Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture, both of which I’ve had on my end table for a few weeks.

Writing Life:

Lots of thinking about writing and not much action this month. I’ve been doing more volunteer work and my job has been challenging. I’ve got a few ideas percolating for the next big project, including one that came to me yesterday morning after the baby decided to stay up for an hour after his 4AM feeding. Need to outline something and jump in. Won’t do NaNo officially like I did last year, but I’d like to write a little each day this month. I missed it this month– and my family knows when I haven’t been writing because I get crabby with them. Best for all of us if I get back to the routine!

Good news about a short story I have played around with for a few years, that will finally find a good home with Literary Mama. More news on that as it gets polished up. Also, published my first piece with Little Old Lady Comedy.

Finally, this month brought an opportunity to  speak at a Story Collider Show. The producers and editors were fabulous to work with in the weeks leading up to the event. It made me realize how much I love live storytelling. It mixes my favorite things about theater with my favorite things about writing. I’ll share this one if it makes it “on the pod,” as they say.

Rachel (Mark Looney)
Photo from the Story Collider event (courtesy of Mark Looney)

Life, Etc:

Halloween was a blast tonight. Kids got a huge haul (most of the plunder will come with me to work). My littlest got to stay up the whole time and enjoyed seeing all of the activity.

Election next week, though it seems like this season has been going on approximately a decade. If you’re a legal voter in the US, please vote.

 

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%

 

March Wrap-Up

Reading Wrap-Up

Total books read this month: 14

ARCs read this month: 3 (including this one)

NonfictionEducated by Tara Westover and The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore (loved them both)

Best of the MonthMaine by J. Courtney Sullivan and Educated by Tara Westover. Both were about complex families. Beautiful writing for both.

Side note: Saw Ready Player One yesterday and thought it was nothing like the book– almost literally no plot overlapped, especially in the fun, kitschy 80s pop culture. I went to see it originally because I couldn’t picture how they would transfer it to screen… and in my mind, they didn’t. So “the book was better” lives on, at least in my mind. Any movies that you thought were better than the books?

Writing Wrap-Up

I’ve been editing a new WIP and making some headway. I’m more than halfway through this second draft and hoping to get it polished enough to send to beta readers soon.  I’m feeling a little overwhelmed between work and family life right now, but hopefully with some extra focus I can get it polished soon.

The draft is fun– a retelling– and more of a rom-com than anything I’ve attempted before. The only problem is I feel like I have to come to the page a bit more playful than I have in the past, so frame of mind is everything.

Have you had any projects you had to get in a “fun” frame of mind to work on? How did you get yourself there reliably? I’d love some tips.

 

Life, Etc

The month in numbers

Family vacations taken: 1

Adorable koalas seen on said vacations: 10

Days until our family grows by one member: about thirty

Things I have to do before due date: about thirty million

Practice contractions which have taken my breath away and scared my productivity-loving heart in the past week: 10

Here’s hoping things don’t get too exciting in the next month….