What’s Making Me Happy: October and November 2018

“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 TrilogyMonsters 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.

Green Book

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?

17 thoughts on “What’s Making Me Happy: October and November 2018

  1. I love the photo of you and Victoria! I adore her, I think she’s one of my favorite speakers. I’ve attended events with her several times and she’s so down to earth and enthusiastic about her projects and the book world in general.

    Liked by 1 person

    • She’s a fantastic speaker! Very candid, engaging, and eloquent. And everything else you said as well. *lol*

      Have you watched her Tolkien lecture that she did in Oxford earlier this year? I’m pretty sure the video is still up on YouTube.


  2. I listened to a story on NPR about the travel book. Apparently, the family of the Ali character is not happy, and others have noted that this is yet another film in which a white man saves a black man, or teaches a black man a lesson. I haven’t seen the film yet, so I don’t have an opinion, but these criticisms are common. Even Hidden Figures caused quite a stir about Kevin Costner’s character being the savior.

    I have something that’s probably stupid that brought me joy in November…my husband is an only child, and I have one brother. We have no children. However, my brother has four children–3 girls (ages 9, 8, and 2) and then a little boy (1). I got so used to the girls being nice and polite and wanting me to put their hair in baby buns and to play Barbies with them that I wasn’t sure how a nephew would fit in. I’ve seen little boys; they can be rough, exhausting, and downright awful. I was worried that was just a “boy thing.” But when I went back home for Thanksgiving to see my family, my nephew was super sweet. When his 2-year-old sister started crying, he would bring her toys to comfort her. While he was taking a nap, his sisters put up the Christmas tree, so when he woke up he sure was surprised! I kept gently touching the ornaments and lights. So, I say “probably stupid” because we always fit our loved ones into our lives if we want them there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was reading something similar about Green Book the other night, too. Other critics have also said it’s another movie about a white man’s perspective on life as a black person and therefore isn’t completely accurate or might paint a rosier picture than it should. And as much as I liked the movie, and would say that Viggo Mortensen’s character goes through a huge change in terms of learning compassion and tolerance, I also agree with the argument those reviewers have made.

      *lol* That’s not stupid at all! What a sweet little boy, and what a lovely Thanksgiving story. And loved ones can always be a source of joy and happiness. I think it was back in the April / May edition of this series that I listed my friends as one of my recent joys. That two-month period had been hard for a few of us (including myself), so having each other there for moral support and encouragement was a balm for the soul.


      • Yes, it’s a series! I do it every other month, so the next one will come out at the end of January (or the first week of February) and will cover the months of December and January. And in general, I post a new blog article or news item every Wednesday unless I’m on hiatus.

        Thanks for visiting, btw! I hope you’re enjoying the blog so far. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Mogsy! And yes, it’s insane that Christmas is so close, isn’t it? At least Thanksgiving was early this year. So it sort of feels like I have an extra week to finish decorating my tree and buying gifts. XD That’s one positive way of looking at it, right?


  3. ‘Is there a good kind of crazy-busy?’ A good question! And I think the answer is yes. There’s a time and a place for it, like most things.
    And I like your Instagram pics, particularly Wesley The Inverted Owl!
    I hope to dip into ‘A Literary Tea Party’ over Christmas for a break from my usual gallons of coffee.


  4. It sounds like you’ve had a fabulous past two months! Congrats on your poetry and those soaps sound lovely! I love LUSH cosmetics for the same reason. Great scents with natural ingredients. ^

    Liked by 1 person

    • I barely remember October and November now. XD Both months were kind of a blur, and December has been even more of a blur… and when you’ve been sick for a few days, you’re not totally with it mentally, either. :S

      Thank you regarding the poetry! I posted more news on that front yesterday. 😉

      Ooooh, natural cosmetics? Where can I learn more about LUSH?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yep! I saw! I’m about to comment on the posts! I read them at work then comment later. XD

        Lushusa.com is the website! They handmake all of them and donate to a lot of charities.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m curious about watching The Green Book now.
    I haven’t seen any great movies this past month, but what with Christmas and all I’d like to find some good holiday movies. Are there any you’d recommend, besides the obvious choices?

    I can’t wait to here about your big secret project! Please do share about it soon! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Honestly I don’t watch a lot of holiday movies, so I can’t help you there too much. My brother and I are planning to see “Mortal Engines” in theaters over Christmas weekend, though.

      The Big Secret Project will have to remain a secret a little while longer. But I’m hoping it will be ready for its Big Reveal sometime in January. 😉


  6. Pingback: Reflections on 2018 and My Keyword for 2019 | Sara Letourneau's Official Website & Blog

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