Sunday, February 7, 2016

Should I Hire an Editor? (guest post at Writing About Writing)

There's no blog post this week. I have been working on my final 2015 Reading Challenge update post, but Blogger keeps eating my formatting. (I'm so close and yet somehow eternally unable to get my changes saved.) In the meantime, if you haven't seen it already, you can check out my guest post, Should I Hire an Editor (What to Look for and How to Decide If You Need One), over at Writing About Writing.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Reading Challenge Update for 2015 (part 1 of 2)

I really didn't think I was going to finish the PopSugar 2015 Reading Challenge, but by the end of December, I was so close that I couldn't stand the thought of giving up. So here are the final books I read to complete this challenge (previously read books are in blue and newly listed books are pink).

1. A book with more than 500 pages (The Art of Fielding—Chad Harbach, 512 p.)
2. A classic romance (Wuthering Heights—Emily Brontë)
3. A book that became a movie (Cold Mountain)
4. A book published this year (The Sculptor—Scott McCloud)
5. A book with a number in the title (Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal)
6. A book written by someone under 30 (Relish)
7. A book with nonhuman characters (Bone: The Great Cow Race)
8. A funny book (Hyperbole and a Half—Allie Brosh)
9. A book by a female author (Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal—G. Willow Wilson)
10. A mystery or thriller (The Yiddish Policemen’s Union)
11. A book with a one-word title (Trillium—Jeff Lemire)
12. A book of short stories (Africa39)
13. A book set in a different country (Behind the Beautiful Forevers)
14. A nonfiction book (Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas)
15. A popular author’s first book (Cinder—Marissa Meyer)
16. A book from an author you love that you haven’t read yet (Shadow Hero—Gene Luen Yang)
17. A book a friend recommended (In the Open)
18. A Pulitzer-Prize winning book (Delights and Shadows—Ted Kooser)
I actually read this earlier in the year, but I forgot it had won the 2004 Pulitzer for Poetry.

19. A book based on a true story (Gaijin: American Prisoner of War)
20. A book at the bottom of your to-read list (At Home—Bill Bryson)
21. A book your mom loves (Boundaries—Henry Cloud and John Townsend)
A long-time favorite. She also recommended A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd, but I haven't gotten around to that one yet.

22. A book that scares you (Through the Woods)
23. A book more than 100 years old (Wuthering Heights—first published in 1847)
24. A book based entirely on its cover (Mister Orange)
25. A book you were supposed to read in school but didn’t (The Diary of a Young Girl—Anne Frank)
It sat on a shelf in my parents' house for years. And I always intended to read it, but I never got to it until now. Waiting didn't make it any less heart-shattering.

26. A memoir (Relish)
27. A book you can finish in a day (Return of the Dapper Men)
28. A book with antonyms in the title (Alpha Zulu—Gary Copeland Lilley) 
29. A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit (Griffin and Sabine Trilogy)
Portions of the trilogy take place in Dublin, as well as other locations I'd like to visit.

30. A book that came out the year you were born (American Primitive—Mary Oliver)
It feels like an accomplishment to share a year with this book.

31. A book with bad reviews (Wuthering Heights)
32. A trilogy (Griffin and Sabine Trilogy: Griffin & Sabine, Sabine’s Journal, and The Golden Mean—Nick Bancock)
It's almost like I did Google search for "really short trilogies. . . ."

33. A book from your childhood (Frog and Toad Together—Arnold Lobel)
Frog and Toad friendship = life goals.

34. A book with a love triangle (Wuthering Heights)
35. A book set in the future (Trillium—Jeff Lemire)
36. A book set in high school (Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal)
37. A book with a color in the title (Little White Duck)
38. A book that made you cry (The Secret Remedy Book—Karin Cates and Wendy Anderson Halperin)
The only solution I could think of to the whole "Bethany doesn't normally cry when she reads" problem was to re-read a book that had made me tear up in the past. And yes, I was an adult when I first read this.

39. A book with magic (How Mirka Met a Meteorite—magic not explicitly mentioned, but a witch turns a meteorite into a person)
40. A graphic novel (Relish)
41. A book by an author you’ve never read before (Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal—G. Willow Wilson)
42. A book you own but have never read (The Yiddish Policemen’s Union)
43. A book that takes place in your hometown (Gemini—Carol Cassella)
Parts of this book take place on the Olympic Peninsula and include familiar locations like Port Townsend.

44. A book that was originally written in a different language (Mister Orange—Dutch)
45. A book set during Christmas (Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas)
46. A book written by an author with your same initials (At Home—Bill Bryson)
Since I gave up on finding an author with same middle initial, it's been much easier to meet this challenge.

47. A play (The Winter’s Tale—William Shakespeare)
Famous for the stage direction "exit, pursued by bear."
48. A banned book (July’s People—Nadine Gordimer)
Banned in South Africa during apartheid.
49. A book based on or turned into a TV show (Frog and Toad Together)
Does anyone else remember the Long Ago and Far Away television series? It was hosted by James Earl Jones. The Frog and Toad stories were claymation. 

50. A book you started but never finished (Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner)
It had been unfinished for at least a year and a half. Most books are bit confusing if you wait that long to pick them up again, but I almost think Faulkner made more sense this way.

In my next post, I'll list all the books I read for 2015 and my new reading goals for 2016. But what are your goals (reading or otherwise) for 2016?

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Poetry and Edible Houses: Christmas 2015

Someday, I will write a holiday-themed post before the holiday in question. But today is obviously not that day.

We had a simple, stripped down Christmas this year. (Thank goodness.) But I did attempt some baking. Last year, a friend gave me some house-shaped cake molds.

One of the houses came out cleanly:
Gluten-free gingerbread cake with chopped candied ginger and powdered sugar snow.

The other one. . .less so. At which point, it was 11 p.m. on Christmas Eve, and I decided that the only logical thing was to attempt to glue it together with cream cheese frosting.

Remember how I said that I don't bake much? The last time I had tried to make frosting, it went flat as a lake and turned into glaze. ("How can you mess up frosting? There must have been something wrong with the sugar," my mother said. Sure, let's go with that.) But this time, it actually became frosting, so I'm marking that as a success.

I knew the second house wasn't remotely pretty, but I was still a little shocked when Mom said, "Oh, what a cute chimney."

That's a tree, Mom. Obviously.
Well, at least it tasted good.

This year, my church's Advent sermon series was titled "Simply Jesus." I wrote a poem for the series that was handed out at our five o'clock service. 

A small Christmas gift to the other members of Gateway Fellowship.

I realize that (unless you are Orthodox) we are well into the post-Christmas season now, but I've included the poem below for those who are curious.

Simply Christmas

Don’t misunderstand, I love
the ridiculous ritual
of it all: the maudlin movies, the bell-song,
the scent of cinnamon and cloves, the way everything
is red and green and glitter
until your eyes water. The trouble
lies under the glitz and the gilt,

near the core of Christmas: a human poverty, the empty ache
that called the riches of Heaven
down to earth. The trouble is I know
there will never be enough
in my checkbook to give
the people I love the gifts they need most.
So the ache in me prays for the ache you:

May you receive a spark of courage
to light the woods ahead of you
in dark months. May you find a peace
to wrap around your head like an oversized
scarf, blocking out the cold and anxious wind.
May you maintain that stubborn flame of joy
we find in the Beatitudes: “happy are. . .
the poor in spirit, the ones who mourn, the meek,
the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers,
and the persecuted.” May all your God-given hungers—
for food, for safety and shelter, for love, for justice, and for family—
be filled. May you find your people this year,
your place of belonging, and may you discover
forgiveness for those who once ignored your worth.

May your heart not just be a cup
waiting to be filled, but a channel
that spills into the thirsty world. May you give
as you have received. And may the gift
that stays the closest to your
heart be the one that first arrived
without receipt or ribbon, tagged
for the world God so loved
with Heaven’s brightest beam and wrapped,
by human hands, in simple
swaddling cloth.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

30 Last-Minute Bookish Gifts

Let's be honest: I rarely need lists like "Top Ten Great Gifts for Readers" because it's generally the non-readers in my life that I have the hardest time shopping for. ("You don't enjoy reading? I know a great book about that you might like!") But I love looking at those lists anyway. It's a like a catalog of all the things I didn't know I wanted. So here, in an attempt to be useful, but with the understanding that I am probably just tempting you, is my last-minute gift guide for 2015.

Shipping and tax are included, but the cost estimates are based my location in the U.S. Items should arrive in time for Christmas (particularly if you have Amazon Prime), but do double-check with the seller (particularly on Etsy). Some of these sellers only guarantee a Christmas delivery through their standard shipping method if you order by Dec. 16th.

You'll notice that at times I've stretched the term "bookish" to mean "things Bethany likes."

Gifts Over $25 (with some exceptions)

Digital Subscription Services. When you just don't know what to get a reader, but you know you want to give them reading, this may be your best bet. At this point, most people know about Amazon's Kindle Unlimited service (at $9.99 a month, or $59.99 for six months, and $119.88 for a year). But there are many other options.

1. Scribd has a wide range of books available, including comics and graphic novels. It's $25 for three months, $50 for six months, and $100 for a year.

2. I don't know much about it yet, but there's also the recent Playster, which allows you to choose between movies, music, books, video games, or a combination of your favorite services (runs between $3.95 a month for movies to $9.95 a month for books or music, with deals on bundles).

3. For the comic book fan, Marvel Unlimited is available for $9.99 a month. (The fact that there is no similar service for DC keeps me up at night. Just take my money already, DC!)

Non-digital Subscriptions.
4.  In spite of how often I hear that print is a "dying medium," I'm constantly surprised by the number of small journals and literary magazines I run across. These publications vary widely in price and themesci-fi, YA and children's lit., poetry, religion, and much moreand chances are pretty good that you can find something for any reader. I find that small literary journals produced by colleges are sometimes a little cheaper (but it really depends), and many print journals also offer a digital version of the publication for a reduced rate. This could run anywhere from $50 to $10 a year, depending on the publication and how frequently it's printed.

Home Decor

5. Customized Penguin Book Pillow from DecorByEdna on Etsy ($22.00, plus $7.50 shipping).

6. If you want me to fall in love with something, just tell me "It's a normal household object. . .except it's tiny." This isn't directly book-related, but I find that readers also tend to be "collectors of bits of paper." (Recently, I've been overrun with business cards.) Just look at this miniature filing cabinet from Kikkerland and tell me couldn't use one ($30.00 w/ free shipping).

Clothing and Accessories

 7. I'd be lying if I said that I knew why anyone would need this $44.00 Literati Club Hamlet umbrella, but I'd also be lying if I said wouldn't use it all the time if I had one.

Gifts Between $25 and $10

8. What does Edgar Allen Poe smell like? I'm not sure I want to know. But you can give his essence in the form of candle from Bookish Gifts ($18.00, plus approx. $4.00 shipping for the U.S.). The description simply says "Can also be used to summon ravens." (There's also a Dickens candle and an Austen, as well as smaller travel candles for $7.00.)

9. What goes together better than books and tea? This Kate Spade thermal travel mug lets you celebrate both ($22.95 w/ free shipping through Amazon Prime).

10. Dictionary is one of my favorite group games, so Discovery Bay's Liebrary game sounds amazing. It's basically a similar bluffing game, but with the first lines of books. The game doesn't seem to be in production anymore, but "collectible" editions are available at Amazon for $24.99 (after tax and w/ free shipping through Amazon Prime).

11. These tea-scented erasers available through The Academy of American Poets should make mistakes a little sweeter (five for $5.00, plus $7.15 for two-day USPS priority shipping; these can also be found at Kikkerland).
Clothing and Accessories

12. I have this tote, and I love it. The bag goes with most outfits, it's fun, and it has room for several books. It's available from the wonderful Out of Print Clothing for $16.00 (plus $5.95 for USPS shipping). It also comes in a variety of colors.

13. I didn't even know this existed until I received one for my birthday this week, but oh. my. word. I love this! Yes & Yes Designs makes pins from recycled, falling apart books, including these lovely ladies. (Pins are approx. $18.00, depending on style, w/ $4.50 for standard shipping.)

14. The only thing wrong with this Eric Carlye, Hungry Caterpillar umbrella is that it seems to only come in child-sized versions ($19.97 w/ free shipping through Amazon Prime). It seems like the sort of accessory that could brighten up anyone's rainy day.

Gifts $10 and Under

Bookmarks. When in doubt, readers always need bookmarks. Sure, any piece of paper will do in a pinch, but why not have a little fun?

15. Zipper bookmark ($7.00 or less w/ free shipping through Amazon Prime).
16. Hippo bookmark ($9.90 w/ free shipping through Amazon Prime).

17. Cassette tape bookmark ($8.09 w/ free shipping through Amazon Prime).

18. Woodland Friends magnetic bookmarks (eight for $3.95 w/ free shipping through Amazon Prime).

15. I have a weakness for cute notepads. And cupcakes. (From Kikkerland for $4.00 w/ free shipping.)

16. Or if you prefer something a little more natural looking. . . . ($3.00 w/ free shipping from Kikkerland.)

17. This ninja pen makes its own "SHHINNG" sound ($6.00 w/ free shipping from Kikkerland).

18. "I shot a pencil through the air. . .good thing I had three others" (4 for $5.00 w/ free shipping from Kikkerland).

19. And if you're buying pencils, you'll probably need a pencil sharpener. So why not get a fun one? (From Kikkerland for $5.00 w/ free shipping.)

20. Book labels are always a good stocking stuffer, and here some from one of my favorite Esty shops, boygirlparty (six for $4.50, plus $2.30 shipping). Other designs are available (but I thought the reading octopus was unusual).

Food and Drink
21. Jane Austen cookie cutter, enough said. From regencyaustenation at Etsy ($7.50, plus $2.25 shipping). 
22. Or you could get a regular book-shaped cookie cutter from Cheap Cookie Cutters (a three-inch cutter for $3.49, shipping runs between $2.90 and $5.99).

23. I am always looking for an excuse to combine books with good tea, and this Book Lover's Tea from Adagio sounds like the perfect stocking stuffer. (Sample tins start at $4, plus $3.75 for ground shipping.)

24. "Tea + Books = Bliss." This tea ball knows what's up. It's available from TillaHomestead through Etsy ($6.50, plus about $2.90 for shipping).

Clothing and Accessories
25. Ashi Dashi Pencil socks! ($9.99 w/ free shipping through Amazon Prime).

26. Or if you prefer to immortalize a slightly more "modern" writing instrument on your feet, Sock Smith offers these typewriter socks ($9.95 w/ free shipping through Amazon Prime).
27. Typewriter key jewelry. Typewriter key buttons are available from TursiArt through Etsy for $1.50 each ($2.99 for shipping). Typewriter key charms can be purchased for $2.00 each from Gvioletshop through Etsy ($1.00 shipping).

28. If you're looking for something similar but a little fancier, I suggest SugarLaneShoppe's necklaces ($6.95, plus $2.50 for shipping through Etsy).

29. Speaking of typewriters, SkullAndHawk has a silver typewriter pin/tie tack ($5.99, plus $3.00 shipping through Etsy).

30. Or there's this lovely wooden typewriter pendant, from FrillyChili ($6.95, plus $2.50 shipping through Etsy).