But first: THANK YOU.
Okay, let’s get on with it, sappy just isn’t my style.
Okay, let’s get on with it, sappy just isn’t my style.
I have Christina here today, who is a burgeoning young author *claps EVERYWHERE!*. Her credentials also include being best friends with our AnnaSaurus Rex and general awesomness. Christina wrote an extremely thoughtful essay on getting closer to thirty and what that means for her and other millennials. So without further ado here is:
Follow her on:
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Medium: Christina Patel: Explorer of Hearts, Reader of Souls
So. The other night I was writing my review of A Year of No Sugar and was a little baffled to come across this snippet in a review:
“One thing that I wish was cleaned up a bit more was the language. There’s several people I know who would like this book but I can’t recommend it to them while it has both minor profanity (D’s and H’s and words like crap) and, more “moderately” (S, three times) and even the euphemism “motherfreakin” (that one kind of shocked me). I just know it would turn them off. And it really isn’t necessary for the story telling. The “S” words especially were entirely unneeded, if you took them out no one would know where they ‘went’, they’re that superfluous.”
The ‘S’ word is “shit” not “sugar”… just in case that wasn’t clear. Allow me to further clarify on the book… I didn’t care for it, but the language is no worse than you would find on daytime television.
This review unfortunately led me down a rabbit-hole that turned into the hellscape of ‘clean reading’ blogs. An entire evening of my life is gone. At first I was merely amused at this one reviewer being so appalled by the shocking use of ‘motherfreakin’ that she was unable to recommend this book to others.
But the more I became mired in not just this one reviewer’s thoughts on ‘profanity’ and other ‘icky things’ the more incensed I became. I became more concerned when I realized that this wasn’t just one reviewer, but a whole legion of reviewers and bloggers, alike.
“Also had to recently stop reading “Wild” which was really unfortunate because her description of her mother really moved me. But I couldn’t tolerate the F bomb, and her negative view of God and response to Him when her mother died.”
This reviewer has missed an opportunity to examine the pain and anger that some may feel towards god(s) when a loved one is unfairly taken. Couldn’t that experience be useful not only in empathy, but in better assisting friends and neighbors that will inevitably experience similar losses?
The last blurb from a clean reader I want to share with you is this:
“There are people who would say I can’t make a judgment on a book I haven’t even read. I happen to disagree. I think it’s like demanding that I take poison to see if something’s going to poison me. I know about things without having experienced them first hand, and we all do. I know about the horrors of the third reich, and I know about the beauty of the aurora borealis. I also know which one I want to experience for myself. The trouble is, when people I disagree with refuse to accept it.”
Specifically on the issue of The Third Reich here, you know about the horrors because you have experienced them – in the only way we can experience history. Literature and media. This whole statement is an oxymoron. We feel compassion and horror at distant wars (distant in time, culture, and actual mileage) because we are willing to subject ourselves in some small way to the horror of the Rwandan genocides, the Holocaust, and life under the Taliban by partaking in literature that speaks of ugly things in ugly ways. If we are lucky enough never to have been hurt or abused we feel empathy with victims because we have read fictional narratives that helps us understand only the palest shade of their pain.
What I’m not saying.
I’m not saying that every book you read should be wildly outside your comfort zone. I’m not saying that every book with sex, drugs, and swearing is worth reading. You definitely should read books that bring you pleasure, that are within your idea of ‘comfortable’. After all, more so than any other art form, reading requires a commitment from the reader and I want people to continue to read.
But I do think that every now and then we should make an effort step outside our own echo chambers and explore things that make us a little uncomfortable or that we find a little bit ugly. Those are the places where we will learn the most, where we will grow the most. We will learn not only about the ugliness and terror to be found in the world, but also the empathy, compassion, and love that we, ourselves, are capable of.
So, Reader, what are your feelings? How often do you get out of your comfort zone?
“…and suddenly your joy will turn to ashes in your mouth…” A Clash of Kings, George R.R. Martin
I’m still reading books – but everything feels disappointing. Nothing has arrested me and grabbed my attention and made me want to shout from the rooftops lately. I guess it’s kind of the nature of the beast – we have the best of times and the worst of times and the key is to keep slogging through it. So I guess I’m just gonna push on through. Thanks for sticking with me.
So, you probably know that as a reader, I’m pretty much a slave to my Kindle. For ‘regular reads’ I will take an eBook over a ‘analogue’ book any day of the week. I have my various reasons, but that could be a whole different post.
So I want to talk about the physical books that I do buy. Every now and then an author, or sometimes just a single book can get under my skin. Then I get super loyal. All you have to do is see all my raving about The Word Exchange to get a peek into that.
Because of this psychosis, or loyalty, or whatever combined with my naturally collective nature I end up collecting signed first editions (where possible) of favorite books, authors, etc. So, since this is a book blog I’m going to show off my collection!
We’ll start today with Chuck Palahniuk. His best known novel is probably Fight Club. It’s fabulous. What’s cool about Chuck P. (Anne Rice does this too) is that you can order your personalized signed copies online from certain indie bookstores. Chuck P. had a great relationship with St. Helen’s Book Shop in Oregon, which I believe has since gone out of business. (Boo.)
Okay, let’s see the goods.
Aren’t those tons of fun? All I sent was my name to the book store and I got these fabulous inscriptions in the mail! It appears that the man behind the books is just as quirky as the novels that he writes. Other bonus – all I paid was the price of the book! While actually attending book signings is generally preferred, if you can’t find one near you, this is an amazing option that some authors offer.
I have at least three more of these posts planned, so keep your eyes peeled!
What about you, Reader? Do you have any quirky or fun inscriptions from authors? Any other Chuck P. fans out there?
So, I got back from vacation a few days ago, right? This is where I went. This Parahoy! A specialty music cruise full of bands who I had no idea who they were. I went, because I friend that I’ve known for more than twenty years is obsessed with Tegan and Sara and couldn’t find anyone else to go with her. I love a cruise as it’s nothing but gluttony and spa treatments. So, I agreed.
For sure, I was not the intended demographic of this cruise. Median age was maaaaaybe twenty-three. Maybe less. Maybe more if you count the ‘cool moms’ who were pretending to be twenty-three. Or the divorcee dads trying to make their absence up to their daughters…
I’ve been naive. I thought that even in the age of tabloid magazines that most people still realized that celebrities are just people too. Apparently not. Especially not my friend. I’m sitting in the casino. I’ve been playing roulette for forty-five minutes and I am an amazing $500 up. An entourage shows up, I figure it’s someone because of the entourage but, whatev’s… I’m kicking the casino’s ass.
One of the entourage sits down and starts getting fairly lucky. My friend comes back from the bathroom she grabs my arm and hisses into my ear “Do you know who that is?!” No. Of course I don’t know who it is. I don’t know anyone on the boat. “That’s Sara Quinn!” Oh. Okay. Cool? Sara Quinn is wearing a shirt that says ‘El Dorado’, just to prove a point to my friend before the next spin I call over “Hey! El Dorado! Is it red or black this time?” I don’t remember her answer, but we had a nice little chat like a million other people do at a million other roulette tables about numbers and odds and whatever.
My friend is meanwhile still hissing in my ear, “I can’t believe this. April, should I ask for her autograph?” Now, part of the contract you accept when boarding the boat is that you’re not going to hassle the performers outside of their ‘public’ appearances. There are times set aside for fan-girling and autographs. This makes sense to me as the boat is only so large and surely the bands want to unwind too, say… in the casino. My friend knows this, as we have been through it several times just talking to each other.
“No.” I tell her, “Absolutely not.” Alas, my friend has the entitlement complex of Kanye West at seven years old. I’ve been boozing so I go pee and ask my friend to watch my chips (Did I mention I was $500 up?!) While I’m gone I guess she asks El Dorado to sign her bar receipt. At least I wasn’t there for it.
The rest of the cruise we have to keep talking about the casino incident. My friend is crazy happy about it. “I can’t believe that we got to play roulette with Sara Quinn!!!” This celebrity worship is weird to me. I also don’t want to make my friend look like the only crazy fan-girl on the boat. I was sitting at another bar, with my Kindle and a couple who look to be about fourteen (later I found out they were thirty…) started to chat me up, we were just talking about Georgia, I brought up the blog (“Oh! Is it on Tumblr?!”) whatever, all the sudden an entourage passes and the girl gasps: “That’s Paramore’s drummer Taylor(?) and there’s his stylist, and his stylist’s wife…” she went on and probably named everyone of the ten to twelve person entourage.
Now, it’s well known that I would marry the dog to get into the Stephen King family. I have a creepy amount of knowledge about his works and some of his personal life stuffed inside my head but I try to put Stephen King in that casino instead of a girl I’d never heard of… I just don’t see the same kind of reaction. I might be able to pick out Tabitha King (that’s a very big might), and possibly Joe Hill but stylists and girlfriends and aunts and uncles? No.
You’re thinking, April, that’s apples and oranges. Writers are by nature more anonymous, they don’t need stylists. True. So I think of the other person I might go fan-girl on. RuPaul. I know I couldn’t pick his partner out of a lineup, I don’t even know his name. But could I be cool if Mama Ru was at the roulette table next to me? I think so. I hope so.
It’s like I told my friend. Even Stephen King and RuPaul put their pants on one leg at a time. (Unless RuPaul is putting on a fabulous dress…) A good way to test out my theory might be to go on the Drag Stars at Sea cruise.
No, I don’t want to talk about the usual Amazon complaint.
Yes, they’re a giant conglomerate. Are they ruining the publishing industry? I don’t know. Is reading and writing as we know it in danger? I don’t know. For now, I’m not worried about it.
No, I want to talk about reviewing on Amazon. Lots of bloggers, readers, and just plain ol’ consumers will review everything on Amazon from chocolate truffles to obscure psychiatry texts.* So that’s awesome, not a whole lot to discuss.
What we’re here to talk about the ‘Was this review helpful?’ button.
Me, it’s kind of like when I’m going to say something to management at a restaurant. The service has to be incredibly wonderful or incredibly terrible for me to leave feedback.
So what does a review have to do to get a ‘Yes’ from me? Generally it must be well written and clue me into information either:
1. I didn’t know I needed or,
2. That I was seeking out specifically.
But what about a ‘No’?
Well, I take this much more seriously. Unless the review is way off topic or patently offensive (and I mean really really REALLY offensive, which probably means offensive times a million since I’m hard to offend anyway…) I don’t vote either way, I just read the review and move on. So what possesses people to click no?
Do you click no because you disagree with the opinon of the reviewer? Is it because there is no helpful information for you? Is the information supplied self evident?
I’m interested in a dialogue on this because unlike a comment left on your review – there’s no way to understand why the review was unhelpful. I write reviews to be helpful, so when I see a bunch of votes saying that my review wasn’t helpful, it piques my curiosity.
*Dear Amazon, I will never be reviewing my legal casebooks that I ordered from you, please stop asking. No means no.
So I love me a good memoir. But right now the market seems to be glutted with people who seemed to have gained their book deals from running a successful blog. Don’t get me wrong, there are many blogs turned books that are fabulous, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by: Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess), The Happiness Project by: Gretchen Rubin (The Happiness Project), Hyperbole and a Half by: Ali Brosh (Hyperbole and a Half) and even Jesus Feminist by: Sarah Bessey (Sarah Bessey).
But allow me to re-emphasize the word glutted.
I know, you’re probably thinking hater’s gonna hate and that’s true. I’m unpublished and run this blog for my own edification, definitely not for the numbers, but there seems to be an uptick of poorly written books from perfectly good blogs out there these days. For me the breaking point came with Hands Free Mama by: Rachel Macy Stafford (Hands Free Mama). The blog is written quite well and I like a lot of advice and the general idea behind the blog, unfortunately a blog is not a book. I’m not speaking only of Ms. Stafford, there are many other poorly written book to blog adaptations. She just happens to be the easiest target since I just read her book.
In my (very) humble opinion if you’re going to write a book based on your blog you need to, well, write a book. With this statement, I’m not suggesting that your book shouldn’t contain content from your blog. To the contrary! Your blog is what drew in the publishers, ultimately it will be a major selling point for your book but often the informal tone of a blog makes for a poorly written book.
As a reader I’m looking for something different in a blog versus a book. A blog can be all over the place, if I’m looking for a certain topic I can use the search function. While eBooks often do come with search functions these days, that’s not how I read a book. Structure! It doesn’t have to be linear, but there should be flow. Remember, the idea is to keep the reader engaged for 150+ pages, not three paragraphs. This in and of itself requires a different style.
I didn’t start this post meaning to come off as bitchy as I have, but alas, here we are and since I made a graphic and everything I guess I’m going to queue it up. I’m really trying to express how I have become cynical. I used to pick up memoirs enthusiastically without abandon, now I find it refreshing when I discover that an individual has published a memoir without having a blog first.
Clearly, I’m not an expert. I am but a humble reader who submits this silly opinion to the internets for its own consideration. Does anyone else miss the days of memoirs like Running With Scissors by: Augusten Burroughs?
What about you? Are you jaded?
I hit my 50,000 word count on 22 November, but my story wasn’t finished, though I wanted it to be. I wrapped things up in my story, though admittedly I think a little hastily on 26 November. My final word count according to the validation machine on the NaNoWriMo website was 52,152 though my word processor said it was about 100 words less, weird.
Anyhow. I did it all within the month of November as prescribed by the rules. (I like rules too.)
Now what? I don’t know. I sent it to a few friends who expressed interest in reading it, they’ve promised to send me back notes and edits but I really think I’m just going to leave the file as is in my Dropbox folder for safe keeping for at least six months or so, maybe longer. I posted my stats on my Twitter account (because I like public validation too, hence the blog). I had one of my twelve followers ask me if I was a writer. I was a bit taken aback by the question, just surprised not offended and I think that it helped me to answer a question that I’ve been both consciously and unconsciously asking myself since I learned to read and write.
Am I a writer? I’ve journaled my whole life and always thought that being a novelist or a published author would be a fantastic job. I’ve always considered myself creative and verbal, my undergrad was in English, now I’m trying my hand at book blogging… it seemed to be a reasonable question with an easy answer… right?
Turns out the answer is no. I’m not a writer. To paraphrase John Irving in A Prayer for Owen Meany, I’m a reader not a writer. Book reviews, restaurant reviews, legal briefs, that’s all different. Pumping out that meager 52,000 words was something harder and more primal than almost anything else I’ve ever experienced, and it wasn’t a completely pleasant experience.
My little novella went so far astray from my initial conceptual idea of what I was going to write about I had to change the title. The characters took on lives of their own and I felt stuck, compelled to tell their unhappy stories. I guess some of the uneasiness that I experienced was a loss of control over something that I felt I should be the ultimate arbiter of. Another unintended side-effect was that it took so much psychic energy for me to tell these stories that I spent considerably less time reading and that made me sad.
So, that’s how I feel about it. Will I try again next year? Maybe. Does that make me a writer? Nope.
Did you learn anything about yourself during this NaNoWriMo? Did it go like you thought it would?