“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas….”
Seriously, though. Can you believe Christmas is a month away?? Thanksgiving was last Thursday here in the States, and now it feels like full steam ahead to the end of the year. Thank goodness I’m almost done with my Christmas shopping already… Because if the past two months are any indication, this December is going to be my busiest one in a long time.
I’m not joking. October and November were kind of crazy on my end. In a good way, though. (Wait – is there such a thing as a good kind of crazy-busy?) But I’ve made time to have some fun and take care of myself. So here are some of the things that have made me happy over the past two months, starting with…
What Made Me Happy in October
Meeting V.E. Schwab
Fantasy author V.E. Schwab (a.k.a. Victoria Schwab, YA fantasy author) stopped in the Boston area for her Vengeful book tour in October – and of course I couldn’t miss it! Not after reading six of Schwab’s books (Vicious, Shades of Magic Trilogy, Monsters of Verity Duology) in the past 2 years and enjoying every single one. 😀 So I met up with DIY MFA colleague Abigail K. Perry for the event, and it was so. Much. FUN!
Due to the high turn-out, the book talk was held at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline, and the signing followed shortly after at Brookline Booksmith across the street. Victoria talked about Vengeful, her writing process, the craft of writing in general, and a little bit about her upcoming projects. Here are a few other standouts from the night:
- Victoria announced at the beginning of the book talk that Vengeful was going to debut at #7 on the NYT Bestsellers list the following week! Yay!
- During her talk, Victoria shared how Vengeful “almost killed her.” After submitting Draft #1 to her editor in December 2017, she rewrote the book from scratch earlier this year after her editor challenged her to write a book she could truly be proud of.
- One of the major revisions to Vengeful was turning the spotlight to three women who are powerful in different ways. Victoria summed it up in this way: “For Victor and Eli, this book is about losing control. For the women in this book, it’s about taking back control.” It resonated with me more than I’d expected, maybe because of what was going on politically in the U.S. at the time.
The 2018 Boston Book Festival
Morning rain and chilly temperatures couldn’t keep me away from the Boston Book Festival! This annual, free event celebrates reading, writing, and Boston’s local literary culture, and this year was its 10th edition. So I didn’t want to miss this milestone, especially since this year I volunteered at BBF for the first time! I spent a couple hours at the Editorial Freelancers Association’s booth, connecting with freelancers, writers, and other professionals and sharing information about how they can benefit from the EFA’s services.
It wasn’t all work and no play, though. I was able to attend two sessions: a fascinating poetry revision workshop, and an eye-opening talk on the psychology of art and reading. And while the volunteering shift conflicted with a YA magical realism panel I’d hoped to see, I managed to catch authors Anna-Marie McLemore (Blanca & Roja, among others) and Nova Ren Suma (A Room Away From The Wolves, among others) just as their signing session ended. So… yeah. I was exhausted when I got home that night, but for good reasons.
The Boston Red Sox Won the World Series!!
I don’t watch sports as often as I did when I was younger. But that doesn’t mean I’m no longer a fan of my local baseball team, the Boston Red Sox. 🙂 They had a magnificent regular season, winning the most games in the team’s history and highlighted by some spectacular performances by pitchers, catchers, infielders, and outfielders across the board. So when the team limped along at the end of the season, I was worried about how well they would do in the playoffs.
Yet the Red Sox beat the New York Yankees in the first round, then the Houston Astros to win the American League… and even though this wasn’t the first time I’d seen the Red Sox win the World Series (they’ve done it in 2004, 2007, and 2013), it still felt surreal to watch them dominate against the L.A. Dodgers. They found a way to win almost every night, and the players supported one another through the ups and downs and stayed positive in all circumstances. They define what it means to be a “team,” and I’m so thankful we in Red Sox Nation had such a fun group of guys to root for this year.
What Made Me Happy in November
A Literary Tea Party and the Goodreads Choices Awards!
Remember A Literary Tea Party by Alison Walsh? The literary-themed tea party cookbook that I wrote the introduction for? It was nominated for the 2018 Goodreads Choice Award for Best Food & Cook Book! Even better, IT WENT ALL THE WAY TO THE FINALS!!
If you use the bookish social media site Goodreads, you’re probably familiar with the annual Goodreads Choice Awards, where users vote for their favorite books across a wide range of categories. So when Alison first Tweeted about A Literary Tea Party’s nomination, I swear I spent the rest of the day in HYPER-SQUEEEE. And as November went along, the book got enough votes to move on to the semifinals, and then the final round, which ended on Monday. (Sorry I didn’t get around to posting the news sooner!) We’ll find out next week where A Literary Tea Party placed in the final voting. But for now, it’s incredible to see Alison’s book in the same company as well-known chefs and personalities like Joanna Gaines, Ina Garten, and Giada de Laurentiis, and I couldn’t be more thrilled for her.
Summer House Soaps
During one of my summer visits to Cape Cod, I went to a soap-making demonstration at Summer House‘s headquarters in Hyannis, MA. Later I took home a 2-pound bargain bag with samples of their various bar soaps, but I didn’t start using any of the soaps until recently. And now, I don’t think I’ll ever go back to name-brand soaps. 😉
Summer House uses only natural products (coconut oil, cocoa butter, essential oils, etc.) for their soaps, lotions, and other bath and body products. In other words, they don’t use detergents and harsh chemicals you’ll find in commercially made soaps. Many of their scents are inspired by the nature and folklore of Cape Cod, like Summer Hydrangea, Nantucket Sea Clay, and Mermaid Mist. Others are more basic scents – Almond, Cucumber Melon, Goat’s Milk – that you can’t go wrong with, either. So far, I can’t say I have a favorite, because each one smells like a sliver of heaven. ❤ Plus, while my skin used to feel dry after showering with name-brand soaps, it now feels clean and moisturized after using Summer House’s.
Wow. I saw this movie with my parents last Friday, and I’m still thinking about it days later. Led by Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali, Green Book is based on the true story of Italian-American tough guy Tony Vallalonga, world-renowned black pianist Dr. Don Shirley, and the unexpected friendship they develop as they drive through the Deep South for a concert tour in 1962.
Some reviews describe the movie as part buddy comedy and part feel-good road trip. IMO, this is true to a degree, but the film’s historical and social commentary on racism and segregation is much more important. (The title comes from The Negro Motorist Green Book, a travel guide for black Americans during the era of Jim Crow laws.) Ali and Mortensen are both outstanding in their roles; and the movie deftly moves between the slow blossoming of friendship, the bleakness of life in the Deep South for blacks, and the uncomfortable, eye-opening moments in between. That being said, I would have liked a little more insight about the Green Book itself and how blacks used it for their travel accommodations.
October / November 2018 Writing Update
Since I’ve discontinued the Creativity Corner series, I’m now including a quick update on writing projects at the end of What’s Making Me Happy. Here’s how things have progressed – or, in some cases, changed – over the past 2 months:
- The Big Secret Project: Some of you may have noticed my references to this in blog comments or on social media. It’s writing related, and it’s BIG in terms of time commitment, action steps, and my overall excitement toward it. But I also don’t want to say too much about it until the time is right. And when that time comes, I’ll share the news here. 😉
- Poetry: Two of my poems were published recently! “Breath of a Humpback Whale” was published in the Fall 2018 issue of Muddy River Poetry Review, and “Gifts” was published at Amethyst Review a couple weeks ago. More poems will be making their publication debut soon, so stay tuned!
- Fiction: Between the Big Secret Project and poetry, I’ve had no time for fiction-writing lately. But I’m not worried. Now isn’t the right time for me to be working on stories, and I’ve accepted that.
- Iceland-Inspired Worldbuilding: Also on the backburner at the moment. But I love this project and its related story ideas too much to keep them there permanently.
What were some of your joys in October and November? Seen any good movies lately? Have you met any of your favorite authors? And if you’re a writer, how is your WIP or NaNoWriMo coming along?