Resolving To Let It Go

This post revisits some of my goals I made on the new year.

Summer is in the air, which means the year is already half over. Summer has always given me a sense of urgency, a deep stirring I can’t quite shake (or maybe Vivaldi did that). This feeling is full of want and drive. Sometimes, it’s hard to know what to do with all of that yearning, especially when you’ve conveniently forgotten all your New Year’s resolutions and intentions.

Resolutions? What resolutions?

As the year progresses, I often lose track of my well-meaning intentions, which means productivity turns into a mythical creature and flies away on newly minted wings. But I want to be better about spending less time trying to wind down on Instagram after my kids go to bed and more time producing work. Which brings us to revised goal #1, which may seem a bit counter-intuitive.

Let it go.

Hear me out.

For me, being my best self means being the most perfect mom possible but also someone who cares for herself, which means quiet reading time, keeping my body strong, and writing. This is a feat when I’m just trying to keep my cool with kids at that age where  controlling any aspect of their behavior requires dabblings in the occult–they’re extremely selective eaters, they tantrum daily, and they get into these manic moods where they just dart around like very large, very loud squirrels. I’ve been reading How Toddlers Thrive, which has helped me understand that letting a little of my control go can go a long way toward happy, healthy children. This will make for a happier mom and human being, which will ideally result in divine creative inspiration (right?!).

So the goal is to stop striving toward perfections, and let it go. I’m learning this with writing too.

Submit work

I have achieved a couple things on my list in 2017 in Review; 2018 Goals. I have already beat my number of submissions from last year. After one bout of divine inspiration for a flash fic and some serious work on a couple other projects, I have some stuff I’m pretty confident about. Problem is, all those polished pieces are out right now, and I’m in that purgatory of WAITING. Maybe someday in the near future I’ll have some good news to share on this front.

I also finished draft #3 of The Space Between Me and You, and I am 5 chapters into my current WIP and pretty dang happy with them. Despite these achievements, I wage a constant battle with the negativity that seems woven into the very fiber of my being telling me ‘you’re not good enough’, ‘you’re raising your kids wrong’, ‘you can’t even get anything published when writing is what you do‘.

But like with loosening up on my reins in parenting, I’ve realized that every day, you have to make a choice. And sometimes, that choice involves letting go of your best laid plans. You have to embrace things the way they are, and no matter how strong that inclination is to control everything, you may never be happy if you don’t loosen up your expectations just a little.

Deadlines

I work best when I have deadlines–the distant memory of working on research papers down to the wire, procrastinating and then pulling off my best work when the time was nigh. Or the flash fic I wrote this year in response to a contest, which had to be submitted by a deadline. When I plan a critique meet-up with my partner, I make the words happen. And sometimes they are pretty good. However, when there is no goal, I exist in a pudgy, lackadaisical state of ‘maybe I’ll write tonight’, ‘after I finish cleaning the entire house, I’ll write’, or, my personal favorite, ‘maybe I’ll be inspired’. Therefore, I will be better about giving myself a time frame to have a chapter plotted or drafted by and keep track of my progress for motivation. It will also help me structure my free time better, so it isn’t all spent winding down on Instagram. 😮

Get active, stay active

  • I’ve been working out at least 3 days a week for 2 months now, and 5 days a week for 3 weeks!!! I also kept true to my goal to go on more adventures. Today, I encountered this handsome fella (coyote or kit fox? We may never know. Unless you do, then tell me, please), and also a piece of wood shaped like an Edvard Munch depiction of a lizard monster in agony. But you know, I was like whatever.20180625_070911
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  • I will be participating in Pitch Wars this year, so I’m getting my submitting goodies together (query letter, synopsis, and pitch) for The Space Between You and Me. Follow me on Twitter to watch me be awkward–digitally!
  • Plot and write Chapter 6 of my WIP; maybe outline the dang thing? But let’s not put the horse in front of the cart. Wait. That’s exactly what we want to do? Oh…

READ

Keeping myself buried in stories ignites all the hodgepodge stacks of kindling in my brain for my own stories. I am five books over the halfway mark to my goal of 40. It isn’t so much about the number, as it is about the goal to let myself revel in this almost completely indulgent pastime (hey, it’s research like 20% of the time at least) and to read widely.

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Some books I’m excited to read (be reading) this year: Contact by Carl Sagan, rereading the Harry Potter series so I can undertake The Cursed Child, of which I am wary, but I need it because it goes with HP, therefore it goes in my soul (Look, I don’t own a wand or a Dumbledore beard or anything, so I think we can all agree this obsession is safe). Also, mysteries! I have so many mouth-watering mysteries waiting for me to feast my very dry eyes upon.

So that’s my biannual checkpoint on my year’s intentions. My goals for the rest of the year are modest, but even taking the time to document them is an achievement in and of itself for me. 😉

How have you done on your resolutions or intentions for the year? Does summer make you productive or lazy?

 

What I Learned From Reading Female Authors Only Last Year

February is Women In Horror Month, so I thought I’d talk a bit about having read 44 books last year all by women authors. These 44 books were not all within the horror genre, but because this is a month celebrating underrepresented authors in an underappreciated genre, I’m squeezing this post in 🙂

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So, 44 books all by women. What trends did I see? What was evident when reading only women authors that might not be evident when reading between genders? What was surprising or disappointing? The answer to all of these questions, folks, is nothing. That’s right.

I had gone into this endeavor thinking that, perhaps–and yes, I know I expose my own bias here–I would read a lot of romance, regardless of genre. This is partly because I lean toward these types of stories, but also, even when I intentionally pick up something that doesn’t feature an epic romance, I kind of expect it. However, I was mistaken in considering, for even a moment, that romance is at the core of most novels by women.

The goal of this post is to reinforce that authors are authors and books are books, and we shouldn’t be dividing them by the “types of books women write” versus “the types of books men write”. If anything, last year, reading all female-penned novels (and a book on craft), showed me that to think in such categories falsely represents any author and artist. This tweet from YA author Maggie Stiefvater demonstrates my point.

Though I’m reluctant to even divide these up by genre, I thought I’d review some of the badass reads that stood out last year. Bear in mind, I only read a select set of genres; by no means, did I do a sample of every fiction genre.

Standout (Badass) Reads of 2017

Jamaica Inn and Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

First up is the horror master who resurrected the gothic genre in the 20th century. You may not know this but Hitchcock’s The Birds was based on a story by Du Maurier. Both of these books elicited all over body chills. There were a couple scenes in Jamaica Inn that will forever stay with me in my vault of scariest moments while reading. Rebecca was more of an all over eeriness and discomfort, the horror of the psychological. Both of these are horror classics.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

This tome was a literary goliath. It was everything I had hoped it would be–intimate portrayals of each larger-than-life character, epic friendships, scholarly atmosphere, and a timeless, mythic feel to the entirety of the story.

The Anatomy of Curiosity by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff

This was an enjoyable, eye-opening book on the craft of writing. I appreciated the unique approach to showing a writer’s mindset and decision-making process while working on a short story. The three stories were all strong and varied, making it an invaluable addition to any shelf that already bears On Writing by Stephen King.

The Foxhole Court, The Raven King, All the King’s Men by Nora Sakavic

No softness here. Sports, brutality, fatal competition, and hungry hit-men. I was propelled through the series over two feverish weeks. There were a couple times, the events were so gruesome, I had to put the book down. Funny thing is, I have almost no interest in sports, but Sakavic’s descriptions of her fictional sport Exy were riveting.

Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi

Mafi’s dystopian superhero series is so much more than meets the eye in the first book. The series even transcends its genre. In Juliette, the reader experiences this awe-inspiring transformation of a girl, broken by her parents, her dying world, and her government. This series is an impressive psychological study of the effects of war and the war a person can have within herself.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

You know this book has made an impact on me, as I’ve talked about it before, in a post about unexpected horror and a round up of my favorite 2017 reads. I recently started listening to Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, and I can see how Novik expertly invokes her predecessor in the fantasy genre in Uprooted. This novel is mythic and dark and utterly moving.

Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

A scathingly sharp, perilously witty, modern day bildungsroman–about a young woman, imagine that.

Middle Grade Mavens: Tamora Pierce and J.K. Rowling.

While both The Song of the Lioness series and the Harry Potter series are listed as YA, Alanna: The First Adventure and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone are middle grade novels. I adore that both of these series grow up with the readers; but even for starting so young, neither of these first books shy away from life, death, or violence. As a reader who is oftentimes propelled through story by romance, these series don’t have a heck of a lot of it, but they’re succinctly and thoughtfully plotted, populated with amazing characters, funny, and addictive.

The Brontës

Finally, we cannot forget the indomitable Brontë sisters: Charlotte Brontë’s Villette has been attributed to as the first modernist novel before the term was coined. It is overtly feminist, as its main character is seeking economic independence, but it is also devilishly sensual, fierce, and despairing. Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was not only subtly feminist but also presented a dark tale of vice and deception, and an outright battle between innocence and corruption, subjects of which a woman in her day should have no knowledge.


Do you agree that there should be no difference between how we perceive novels by women versus by men? What do you think about this cross-section of epic reads by women? Do you have any of your own to suggest?