What’s Making Me Happy: December 2018 and January 2019

Winter in Massachusetts means that, as a resident, you often get some… interesting weather. Two Sundays ago, we had a storm that started as snow, then changed to rain and later to sleet / freezing rain. Then our high temperatures for the next two days were in the single digits Fahrenheit, with wind chills below 0. (Plus, all the snow and rain that had fallen? It froze.) By that Thursday, it was precipitating like crazy again – except it was pouring rain, because the temps had warmed up to over 50 deg F (10 deg C). 😮

And then, on other days, it’s still cold but at least nice enough for moments like the banner image. 🙂 So where was I when I took this photo? And what joys from the past 2 months did I decide to share today? Let’s get right to it! Continue reading

My Ten Reading Goals for 2019

Are you one of those readers who challenges yourself to read a certain number of books every year? I’m… well, not one of those people. (*lol*) But I do have a consistent reading habit, and the reading goals I set for myself are more or less to guide my book choices throughout the year. For example, I try to prioritize brand new releases I’m interested in so I can stay on top of my favorite genre’s current market. And, as I shared in this post last year, I read at least one poem per day to help me comb through my extensive collection of poetry books.

But what about other goals, like finishing series I’ve already started? Or borrowing books from the library periodically? Yeeeeaaahhhh…. I haven’t been nearly as good with those. So I decided to organize my next year of reading with LOTS of goals. Ten, to be exact. I was a little afraid that creating so much structure could sap the fun out of reading. But now that I see what’s in my queue, these goals might help put a dent in my TBR pile and keep things interesting. Yay!

Without further ado, here are my reading goals for 2019:

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My Favorite Fiction Reads of 2018

Another year has passed, which means another year’s worth of reading to celebrate! Yes, it’s time to share my favorite fiction reads of 2018. And let me tell you: Even though I had a pretty good idea which of the 53 fiction books I finished last year would end up on this list, I’m glad I didn’t share my list right away – because there was a last-minute shake-up!

Like with past best-of reading lists I’ve posted, this year’s showcases my 10 favorite brand new books of 2018 and 10 favorite previously published books. Unlike past years, though, I’ve made two notable changes. First, goodness, there were too many close calls when I tried ranking the books from #1 to #10! So I opted for alphabetical listing by title instead. Second, and sadly, no giveaway this year. As fun as giveaways can be, I can’t give one the attention it needs right now. So I hope you understand my need for keeping things simple, and you still enjoy reading this post regardless.

Ready to dive into the first list? 😉

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Reflections on 2018 and My Keyword for 2019

The end of December and beginning of January is a thoughtful time of year for me. I think back on the previous year, the highlights and achievements, the setbacks and lessons learned. Then I turn to the year that’s beginning to unfold. I ask myself, “What can I accomplish by the end of the year? What do I want to do? How can I continue to embrace the projects and ideals that matter most to me?”

This year, I’m taking that goal-setting to a new level by trying a New Year’s ritual that my friend Leanne Sowul practices. Every January, she chooses a word to guide her decisions, intentions, and actions for the next 12 months. In that way, it becomes a sort of theme for her year. And knowing what I’ll be up to in the near future, I’ve chosen my own word to be my touchstone for 2019.

Before I share that word, let’s put 2018 into perspective.

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New Poems Published in Canary and Amethyst Review

Happy New Year, everyone! Hope you had a warm, safe, and joyful beginning to your 2019.

Today I’m thrilled to share two new poems that have been published over the past couple weeks. First, “Osprey at Bass River” is featured the Winter 2018 / 2019 issue of Canary, an online literary journal focusing on nature and the environment. This poem was accepted back in March, and the joy of finally seeing it in print (and with a fitting photo to boot) has been worth the wait. 🙂

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My Favorite Fiction Reads of Fall 2018

Is it really the last week of 2018?? How crazy is that? I could swear that not too long ago, I started reading my first book of the year. And now, 51 weeks and 53 fiction reads later, Christmas has come and gone and 2019 is around the corner. I hope you’ve enjoyed your December holidays so far, and any New Year’s plans you have are fun, warm, and safe. ❤

Out of the 11 books I finished reading over the fall, I’m highlighting my nine favorites in today’s post. The funny thing is, I’m also working on my Favorite Fiction Reads of 2018 post, which will go live in mid-January… and you’ll hear about some of these books again then. No spoilers, though – you’ll have to wait a few more weeks to find out which books made that list. Until then, enjoy these reviews! And feel free to visit each book’s Goodreads page by clicking on its title.  Continue reading

New DIY MFA Post and a Quick Holiday Message

In my DIY MFA posts, we spend a lot of time discussing how to explore literary themes. But we’ve yet to cover why any one theme should matter to readers. So this week, I return to the theme of family (which we first examined in this case study) and share five reasons why it’s so important. From the different types of families to historical and cultural perspectives on family, these whys show how complex and powerful this theme is and how a story can act as a window into the dynamics of a family that’s different than yours or as a mirror of your own.

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The Seven-Day Book Challenge

Recently, a Facebook friend tagged me on the Seven-Day Book Challenge. I finally got around to it a few weeks ago and “double-teamed” it through FB and Instagram. And then I thought, “Why not share it on the blog, too?”

The rules of the Seven-Day Book Challenge are simple: For seven days, you share a photo or image on Facebook of a different favorite book and nominate another friend to carry on the challenge. There’s no set theme to follow, and you don’t need to write a caption or explanation for why you choose each book. You simply share the photo, tag a friend, and reply to any comments. But for this blog post, I think I’ll “break” one of those rules. 😉

Here are the books I chose for the Seven-Day Book Challenge, and why I picked each one.

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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…

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Five Ways In Which Writing and Yoga Are Similar

Every Monday evening, instead of writing for 60 to 90 minutes at my laptop, I spend that time on my yoga mat. It’s a habit I’ve consistently maintained for 2 years, though I was first introduced to yoga about 5 years ago. Sometimes it’s with a class, led by a teacher who has become both mentor and cheerleader to me.** Other times it’s at home, thanks to the TV awesomeness known as YouTube OnDemand. Regardless, yoga has become an essential part of my life, much the same way that writing has.

Maybe that explains why I came to this conclusion recently: Yoga and writing sessions have a lot in common.

I’m sure some of you might be thinking, “Um… OK…. But how?” That’s what today’s blog post is all about. 😉 Here are five ways in which yoga and writing are similar, and how I’ve benefited from having both in my life.

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