Five on Friday

1. Michael Cunninghman gives us a glimpse behind the scenes of this year’s Pulitzer non-selection.

2. Who knew that Flannery O’Connor started out as a cartoonist?

3. I spent five hours strolling through artist booths here today. Being around all that awesome creativity never fails to inspire me.

4. Excellent interview with Cheryl Strayed. Thank you to Dylan Landis for sharing.

5. 22 rules of storytelling. Lots or good stuff here

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Books Read in May & June

“Let’s Pretend This Never Happened” (A Mostly True Memoir)” by Jenny Lawson, the Bloggess

 This book is totally true, except for the parts that aren’t. It’s basically like Little House on the Prairie but with more cursing.

I admit, I came late to this particular party. “The Bloggess” party as she is known in the blogosphere. But now I visit her site regularly and I devoured her book so that my sister could take it back with her on the plane but not before I practically read the whole thing to her out loud. It went something like, “Okay, just this paragraph. It’s freakin’ hilarious.” “Okay, just this footnote.” And on and on until pretty soon my sister was convinced she’d have no need to actually read the book herself. But it’s like that. It’s so damn funny, you can’t keep it to yourself. In fact, it should come with a disclaimer that if you read it in public you’ll end up laughing out loud, sitting there at your table, all alone. If you’re okay with that, then go ahead. I’m fairly certain I laughed out loud on almost every other page. That’s a lot of funny, people.  Whether she’s writing about her father’s weird obsession with dead animals or her marriage (a virtual fount of material) or their struggle to have a baby, she never shies away from any part of it all. She lets it all hang out, the good, the bad, the ugly and manages to make us laugh while doing so. Seriously. Stop reading this blog right now and go. Buy. This. Book.

What I learned: To just own your story.

11/22/63 a novel by Stephen King

I have never been what you’d call a crying man.

My husband is not a big reader of novels but he read all 849 pages of this one in about a week. It took me a bit longer but worth the journey. King makes time travel seem both possible through his careful writing and terrifying because of the unforeseen consequences of changing even the smallest thing in the past much less a huge game-changing event like the assassination of JFK. Really hard to put down even though it must weigh several pounds.

What I learned: That there might be instances where an e-reader is not horrible.

“Imaginary Girls” a YA novel by Nova Ren Suma

Ruby said I’d never drown–not in deep ocean, not by shipwreck, not even by falling drunk into someone’s bottomless backyard pool.

Ruby is Chloe’s mysterious, devoted, glamorous older sister. A party at the reservoir turns into a nightmare after Chloe finds a body floating in the water and she is sent away, far away from Ruby. But Ruby is determined to bring her sister home and will do anything to make that happen. In a story that enchants in a style reminiscient of Alice Hoffman, Suma brings us an eerie tale of a sisters’ intense bond.

What I learned: To let a little surrealism into my stories and see what happens. 

“MWF Seeking BFF- My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend” by Rachel Bertsche

I’ve known by two best friends since I  was 10 and 14.

If I had thought of this and had the guts to actually follow through, I could’ve written this book. I sometimes feel that same pang of loneliness as Bertsche describes. But instead of merely whining about it as I tend to do, she came up with a plan and executed it. She would go on fifty-two girl dates in the span of one year. She met women through friends, friends of friends, at an improv class, even on a rent a friend website. While reflecting on her search she also weaves in research on the art and benefits of friendship. One of the things I loved most is that she suggests that you should have at least one friend you can call adn say “Why do I have 4 jars of pickles in my fridge?” I can think of one, if now friends I could call adn say that to  and they wouldn’t blink or think I was some kind of pickle freak. The other thing I admired is that she made a plan and completely followed through even when it was hard. Truly a lovely book about friendship adn the lengths we can and should go to cultivate and maintain them throughout all the stages of our lives.

What I learned: The best ideas only work if you actually follow through with action like she did. 

“Memoirs of a Muse” a novel by Lara Vapnyar

A Parisian hotel room.

Tanya is a teenager obsessed with Dostoevsky and realtionships to his mistresses dn muses. Noticing that he fails to mention his wife, she is determined to become a muse herself. The woman behind some great writer. once she moves from Russia to America she has her chance after meeting Mark Schneider, a “Significant New York Novelist.” Tanya quickly moves in with him, giving up her own means of supporting herself, ready to throw herself into the role of caring and inspiring this writer who doesn’t seem to actually write all that much. A thoughtful reflection on the creative process as well as the role of women.

What I learned: That I love books that explore the creative process.

“The Fault in Our Stars”  a YA novel by John Green

Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided I was depressed, presumably because I rarely left the house, spent quite a lot of time in bed, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently, and devoted quite a bit of my abundant free time to thinking about death.

So… I have adored all of Green’s books to date, but this one… sigh… this one took my breath away. It’s not only a beautiful love story, it’s a love letter to Existence. I laughed out loud, I cried (which I rarely do while reading a book.) And I was so sad when I had to leave this sweet, tragic, beautiful world he created, filled with beautifully flawed characters that I just fell in love with.Okay. Enough gushing. Just go. Read it for your yourselves.

What I learned: To not be afraid to let crappy things happen to and around my characters. 

“Hint Fiction” edited by Robert Swartwood

Hint fiction is a story of 25 words or fewer that suggests a larger, more complex story. as Swartwood explains in his introduction, “Hint Fiction should not be complete by it having a beginning, middle and end. Instead it should be complete by standing by itself as its own little world.” This collection is filled with such little worlds that stand on their own, hinting at a past or future that the reader need never read to understand that it exists. Reading this collection has made me want to experiment with this form myself.

What I learned: No matter the length of the story, every single word counts.