An Interview & Notes

If you missed it (and I almost did myself! Whoops!), I did an interview with Apex Magazine Editor Lesley Conner via Zoom yesterday, along with authors Elana Gomel and Beth Dawkins. It was a great conversation about writing, process, how the pandemic has impacted productivity, balancing kids and writing, and the kinds of books we’re drawn to. I had a blast! If for nothing else, watch it for Beth’s hair, because she looked FANTASTIC.

I don’t know how much of a “year in review” post I’ll be doing this year, but I read 21 books this year. Of those, these are the ones I enjoyed the most:

Sayaka Murata is one of my new favorite writers. While I haven’t yet read her novel, Earthlings, I immensely enjoyed Convenience Store Woman. Lately, I’ve found I have an absolute craving for the mundane life portrayed in fiction. Ordinary people doing ordinary things. But Convenience Store Woman hits my other love, too: weird. This book may not be for everyone, but if you want a quiet but strange little story about a woman trying to find her place in a world that doesn’t quite understand her lack of ambition, you’ll find this one wildly satisfying. I loved the hell out of it, and it made me laugh, too.

I read a lot of non-fiction this year (I find it’s much easier when constantly interrupted by wee ones to read non-fiction rather than fiction), but this is hands down my absolute favorite, and may just have changed my entire perspective on writing. Beyond it’s scary-sounding title (spoken like a true recovering perfectionist), Refuse to Be Done by Matt Bell is a deeply heartfelt, encouraging read. Beyond the last chapters which provide some great methods for editing, Bell spends a lot of time on the first two chapters: how to write the draft, and how to rewrite a draft. It changed my entire process for writing long-length work, and reminded me why I write in the first place. I’ve been recommending this book to every writer I know since I finished it. Short but packed with thought and generosity, definitely check this one out.

Sometimes I read an ebook on vacation and just realize I’m going to need a physical copy of it someday. Anna Quindlen’s Write for Your Life is one of them. A short, sweet treatise on why journaling and letter writing is so incredibly vital for the average person and humanity as a whole, this book will definitely give you permission to document your everyday life, even when it feels dull as hell. Her thoughts on handwriting as a tool both for capturing someone’s authentic voice and the moment in time in which they wrote it (that letter from Great Aunt Clara was touched by her, crafted by her, and sounds like her, even long after she’s gone) were deeply moving. Definitely gift yourself the ideas in this book. It’s deeply encouraging.

I was a little on the fence about recommending this one. There are some things I just…didn’t quite love about how he presented his subject. If you’re a woman, you’ll know it when you see it. BUT–BUT–it did leave quite the impression on me in terms of organizing time and being more deliberate about what one chooses to take on. I do recommend it, though it is undoubtedly skewed Western and Male, but if you can look past that, there are some compelling ideas for anyone wanting to be less “busy” and more “productive.” It definitely gave me a lot to chew on.

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