See You at Harry’s: A YA Must Read

See You at Harry’s has been on my radar and on my TBR list for a few months now, thanks to my Nerdy Book Club friends via Twitter. I had to wait a few weeks after buying it last month before I could read it, but it was totally worth the wait.

I have been a big fan of Jo Knowles for a while now and loved her novel Lessons from a Dead Girl. You can read all about it here.  As I read See You at Harry’s, I began wearing various hats: mother, young teenage girl, sister, and writer. I experienced a slew of emotions as I continued reading, sometimes stopping because I had to catch my breath and let my eyes rest—not from strain, but from tears and swelling.

I feared I would run out of tissues.

This book touched my heart in ways not many books do. Knowles has an incredible talent for writing, and for getting to the heart of things, for tapping into our emotions, grabbing them, and not letting go. Not even when the book is finished.

As a writer I always wonder how other writers craft scenes that tear your heart out, and I wondered this over and over as I read See You at Harry’s. I wondered how Knowles captured such raw emotion and handled it in such a genuine and delicate way. I marveled at how she handled such sensitive issues and captured the essence of this family, which could be anyone’s family really.

I want to be like Jo when I grow up. She’s freakin’ awesome.

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A Little Victorian Lit Is A Good Thing

Can you believe it’s already nearing the end of September? I can hardly believe it myself! My kids have been in school for over a month now and so have I. Although I’m not teaching in my own classroom right now, I have been subbing for my local school district and am enjoying it immensely. I still get to do the teacher thing, but have no papers to grade or lesson plans to make. It’s a pretty sweet gig right now.

These days I am up to my eyeballs with my grad school readings and course work, but I really don’t mind it most days. I’ve read a couple of really good books from the Victorian era so far: The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins and Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskill. I have to admit I was unsure how I would like Victorian lit, but so far I’ve been pleasantly surprised.

There is one book on my Victorian Lit horizon I’m not super excited about reading: Bleak House by Charles Dickens. I’ll let you know how that one goes, but in the meantime, I’ll tell you a little bit about the two books I did like.

The Moonstone is hailed as the first detective novel, and while I love television police procedurals like NCIS and Hottie Hawaii Five-0, I’ve not read many mystery or detective novels. The Moonstone focuses on the theft of the famous Moonstone diamond that brings with it a curse from its native India. The novel’s narrative is shared by multiple, and very distinct, voices that must follow very strict rules during their turn to narrate. Wilkie Collins did a remarkable job with the narrative voices as he wove them together in a seamless fashion. The plot is interesting, and just when you think you’ve figured something out, you realize you really haven’t.

If you’re a Jane Austen fan like I am, you will very likely like (or in my case, LOVE) Wives and Daughters. This novel follows two families: the Gibsons and the Hamleys as they navigate life, love, and marriage in English bourgeois society. It is so unfortunate that Gaskill died before it was completely finished, as I desperately wanted to know more about Molly Gibson and Roger Hamley, and also Cynthia Kirkpatrick (Molly’s step-sister) and her husband. One thing I find fascinating about the book, is the fact that the two marriages we as readers are most interested in are the two marriages we know little or nothing about. Perhaps this is a result of Gaskill’s death prior to the completion of the novel, or maybe for her it was the girls’ journey to marriage that mattered most. We will never know for certain, and it certainly doesn’t detract from the beauty of this novel.

Oh, I almost forgot! It’s International Book Week!! I’ve seen this all over Facebook this week:

It’s International Book Week!! The rules: grab the closest book to you, turn to page 52, post the 5th sentence as your status. Don’t mention the title. Copy the rules as part of your status. Here’s the quote from the book I grabbed:

“The corners of his lips turned up, yet despite his smile, the pain on his face made my eyes well with tears.”

Feel free to leave yours in the comments!

The Not So Secret Secrets of Writing

When I think about writing, I get all tingly and, if I’m not careful, can get lost in the fantasy of being a world renown author who has millions of fans waiting breathlessly for my next novel to hit the shelves of their local bookstore. I have book signings and my adoring fans wait for hours for a few moments with me and have a photo taken together. I am financially secure and can easily afford to send my kids to college; I have a cozy writing cottage (a la Laurie Halse Anderson’s, but without all that snow) or some other really great writing space with a door that is mine alone. No boys allowed. No kids allowed. Just me. And maybe my dog.  Ah! It’s good to have dreams, right?

I realize, though that before that can happen, I have to get a grip on my own writing skills and nurture them. I must hone those skills and do my best to master them. I know what I do well and what my strengths are, and I also know where my weaknesses lie. I know what you’re thinking….yes, I do have weaknesses in my writing, but I’m not going to tell you what they are. Cheeky, I know. 😉

I have figured out some secrets along the way, though. Okay, so they’re not really secrets. I know I should join organizations for writers and attend writing conferences and workshops whenever I can. I need to build and maintain an active web presence that engages social media so I can continue to build a solid network of writers, agents, and editors who may be willing to help me get closer to my goal of publishing.

Mostly though, I need to sit my butt down and WRITE my novel. I also have to be a better juggler of the kids, the husband, the insane amount of reading I have to do for my Masters program, and all of the research and academic writing I must do. Oh, and there are these pesky little tests (known in graduate circles as the dreaded Comprehensive Exams that are the final determinates as to whether or not you graduate) I have to prepare for next spring.

I must confess that after doing my academic reading, writing, and preparing, all I want to do is watch Big Brother and eat chocolate. And maybe sleep a little. And then watch an NCIS marathon.

I hate that since school has started I’ve lost the momentum I had this summer when I was so energized with Teacher’s Write! and all the support and encouragement that went along with it.

BUT, the most obvious thing I have to do if I want to get that novel finished, or take the smallest step toward its completion, is MAKE the time to write.

It’s okay. You can call me Captain Obvious. I won’t be mad. I promise.

**Oh yeah, I almost forgot: I have a WRITER/AUTHOR page on Facebook now, so you can come on over and join me there if you like. Please do. I’d love to see you there!

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