Summer ends tomorrow, and what a busy season it’s been. Traveling, sightseeing, getting a head cold (OK, that wasn’t fun, but it did happen), and through it all I managed to get a lot of writing and reading done. So despite the busyness, it was a productive and satisfying summer. 🙂
Without further ado, let’s launch into the Creativity Corner for a recap of what I’ve been writing and reading, and other related happenings, since the end-of-spring edition in June.
Writer’s Digest Conference & the Anathema Concert
Last month’s NYC trip was nothing short of amazing. The Anathema concert at Gramercy Theater is now one of my all-time favorites (click here to read a short summary of it), and the Writer’s Digest Conference proved once again to be an invaluable experience. I finally posted my recap of the conference last week, so if you had missed it before, you can catch up now by reading it here.
Apart from the main events, I also visited Central Park for the first time – and man, I wish I’d brought my camera to NYC, because Central Park is gorgeous and HUGE. You need an entire day to explore the whole place! I also ate at some fantastic restaurants, so give these a try if you’re in the Big Apple:
- Argo Tea, a loose-leaf tea retailer with cafe locations in NYC where you can pair hot or iced tea with pastries, sandwiches, salads, and other foods.
- Chopt, which focuses on salads and vegetarian dishes and do so deliciously.
- La Bonne Soupe, a French bistro that serves omelettes, quiches, and crepes along with American favorites with a distinctive French twist.
- Le Pain Quotidien, a bakery-restaurant chain inspired by Belgian boulangeries that’s highlighted by its breads, fresh ingredients, and communal table seating.
- Pazza Notte, which specializes in “Italo-American home cooking.” Need I say more?
What I’ve Been Writing
The New WIP: Since the end-of-spring Corner posted, I’ve more than doubled the word count on my new WIP Storm, bringing its first-draft word count to over 41,000. This makes me all kinds of happy because, “Yay! It’s progress!” But the nerve-wracking part about sharing that word count? Other writers have responded with, “That’s awesome! You’re almost halfway done!” And my reaction?
The truth is, I don’t think it’s halfway done yet. Maybe somewhere between 33% and 50%, but it’s hard to tell since 1) I overwrite my first drafts, and 2) I skip around when working on first drafts. Right now, 10 chapters are complete, and 18 others are in various stages of being written. It’s intuitive and a bit disorganized, but that’s how my brain operates during first drafts. I work on whatever scene or chapter I visualize most clearly at the time until it’s done. If I get stuck, or if I need to do more research, I’ll come back to that scene or chapter when I’m ready.
Thank goodness I keep a tracking sheet to remind myself which chapters are finished and which ones aren’t.
I’ve also started sharing the premise of Storm with other writers. In fact, last week’s post on the Writer’s Digest Conference was the first time I shared it here on the blog. In case you missed it:
Storm is a YA magical realism novel about a girl with anxiety as she faces the challenges of her first year in college.
It’s more personal than my previous WIP. Parts of it were inspired by my struggles with anxiety (recently) and during my freshman year of college (not as recent, but you get the idea). I’ve also been researching and interviewing people who suffer from either anxiety and depression, or who had trouble adjusting to college life. It’s important that my protagonist’s experience isn’t based solely on my own, and talking to other people and getting their perspective has both opened my eyes and validated the direction I hope this story will take.
Poetry: I’ve written a few more poems and resurrected a couple more “oldies” for revision. To be honest, though, the amount of time I’ve spent on poetry pales in comparison to the amount of time I’ve spent on Storm. But I’ve got my eye on an October 2nd submission deadline for a poetry contest, so over the next couple weeks I’m restructuring my writing time slightly to choose and finalize those pieces. Any prize or placement will be icing on the cake. Right now, it’s more important that I get back in the habit of submitting my work. That will encourage me to keep writing new poems, keep revising, and keep submitting to other journals.
Research for Other Stories: Currently on the backburner while I concentrate on Storm. But it was awesomely informative and exciting when I first dug into it, and I (patiently) look forward to resuming it in the future.
The Secret Project: I recently completed a short writing project that I’m REALLY excited about. I can’t say much about it yet, other than it’s for a blogging friend who has something deliciously delightful in the works. But when the time is right, I’ll share more here!
What I’ve Been Listening to While Writing
As I’ve continued drafting Storm, I’ve also added more songs to its playlist. And so far, it’s turning out to be an interesting mix. Progressive rock, melodic metal, soothing flutes, singer-songwriter pop/rock – and who knows what else will sneak its way in? 😉 Here are some of the latest additions:
- “The Attic” by Kingfisher Sky
- “Hallway of Dreams” by Kingfisher Sky
- “Over” by Guilt Machine
- “She Used to Be Mine” by Sara Bareilles
- “A Simple Mistake” by Anathema
- “The Storm Before the Calm” by Anathema
What I’ve Been Reading
Boy, did I LOVE my summer reading choices! I read 16 books since the previous Corner, bringing my year-to-date total to 39. And when I say I loved my reading choices, I mean the quality of those stories. I didn’t DNF a single book all summer; and apart from four books, I enjoyed each one enough to give it 4 stars or higher on Goodreads.
I’ve also changed my reading priorities slightly to work in “market research” reads for Storm. The plan is to focus on YA magical realism, with some YA contemporaries (either with college settings or a mental health focus) and adult magical realism. I’m hoping to borrow as many of these books as possible from my local library, since (*ahem*) someone is running out of bookshelf space. (*looks around sheepishly*) So far I’ve read seven books that count toward this project, and I’ve really enjoyed them. In fact, I think I’m enjoying this market research more than the comp titles I was reading for TKC. Go figure, right?
So which books were my favorites over the summer? Here are the top five, along with links to my reviews on Goodreads:
- Becoming Bonnie by Jenni L. Walsh: This historical fiction debut is an imagining of Bonnie Parker’s life when she first met Clyde Barrow (and before they became the infamous Bonnie & Clyde). Between the immersion in Prohibition Era / early Great Depression era America, Bonnie’s charming first-person “voice,” and her arc from wholesome good girl to criminal infancy, this book was an irresistible companion at the end of my NYC trip.
- Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab: Gosh, did this sequel to last year’s This Savage Song leave me stunned. It’s more of everything I enjoyed most about its predecessor – suspenseful, action-packed, and full of unique and frightening monsters – but with a dark psychological twist that forces the protagonists to confront their inner demons as well as the monsters who want to take control of their city.
- The Stone Sky (The Broken Earth, Book #3) by N.K. Jemisin: I give up on finding words other than “masterpiece” for this book, and this series as a whole. It’s such a powerful story, in all its pain, hope, and heartbreak; and there are no easy choices for Essun and Nassun, mother and daughter who are caught on opposite sides of the main conflict: saving the world, or ending it. Fantasy readers NEED to get on this series if they haven’t yet.
- The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma: Part ghost story, part real-life nightmare, this YA novel brilliantly blurs the lines between magical realism and paranormal horror. Suma uses flashbacks, a shifting timeline, and two unreliable narrators (one dead, the other alive) to paint a chilling picture of what happens when murder destroys a friendship, innocence is confused with guilt, and justice is hard to come by.
- When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore: I enjoyed McLemore’s debut novel The Weight of Feathers, but her second one… Wow. A haunting, evocatively written work of YA magical realism about love, family, and the shattering liberation of telling one’s truth. It’s also respectful and eye-opening in its handling of LGBT characters.
Other summer reads I really liked are Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Lathe of Heaven (science fiction), Brian Staveley’s The Emperor’s Blades (grimdark fantasy), Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl (YA / college-age comtemporary), A.J. Hartley’s Firebrand (YA steampunk mystery), and Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate (magical realism for food and romance lovers).
Looking Forward to the Fall
Creatively speaking, the rest of the year looks quiet. I’m planning to go to the Boston Book Festival in October with a friend and am already excited about it. Otherwise, I’ll work on Storm and poetry as much as I can until Thanksgiving and the Christmas season are in full swing. So unless there’s any news or important updates on the writing front, I hope to post a new Creativity Corner around the winter solstice.
How are your writing projects going? What books have you read lately? How about musicians or albums you’ve been listening to? Did you go anyplace this summer (literary-related or not) that was fun or inspiring? How about any plans for the fall?