There's no time like the new year to try something different, so if you haven't been reading with purpose, now is your chance to start.
Why does it matter what you read?
As writers, we may not need to attend every conference or have an MFA in writing, but we still should be honing our craft. Nearly everything we read should be considered research. I believe a writer's to-read list should include three essential categories:
Every writer should be reading these on rotation. If you can read more than one book at a time, even better!
We can still read books that don't fit these categories too, of course. I'm simply suggesting that these be your top priorities. The goal is to become better writers, and the only way to do that is to become focused readers.
The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.
Visit diyMFA for more great information on developing your writing.
It's Christmas week, and we're all busy baking, wrapping, cleaning, and putting on our best smiles. In the midst of all this, I was challenged by the lovely Tammy Theriault (writer and fellow Daydreamer) to post a selfie with my tree and something uplighting about the season. I'm glad she asked us to do this because it's given me a moment to reflect on Christmas' past and revel in this one.
A Christmas Gift
As trees shed their suit of spring,
Winter sets in and Christmas bells ring.
Holly and mistletoe adorn the halls,
Sparkling lights and wreaths hang from the walls.
Snuggling together in front of the fire,
Listening to carolers and children who don't tire.
With the tree dressed in its finest décor,
And an abundance of presents sitting on the floor.
Drinking eggnog and watching it snow,
Reminds me that I am blessed more than I know.
My Favorite Memory
It was the Christmas of 2010. My husband and I had been living in a camper for two and a half years, trying to pay off debt and gain control over our financial future.
If you want to live like no one else, you've got to LIVE like no one else. - Dave Ramsey
We decided that living in a camper for a short time would be better than living paycheck to paycheck for the rest of our lives. (It's one of the best decisions we ever made!) I also had an opportunity to return to my home state of Alabama to finish my degree cost-free, so my husband and I had been living in different states for a few months. He, working in Texas. Me, studying Literature in Bama. That Christmas, I flew back to Texas to be with him. One thing that had been difficult for me the entire time we'd lived in the camper and the places we stayed before was that I'd never had room for a tree. He knew I missed decorations, lights, family, and at the very least, having a tree.
Of course we couldn't fit a tree inside our tiny, tiny camper. There was barely enough room for us and our three dogs as it were, but he did something even better. He put a live tree up right outside our door. He even added the lights (which is a big deal for my husband, who hates putting up lights). He had to strap it tight to keep the ferocious desert wind from knocking it down, but it withstood. We enjoyed sitting out there at night watching the tree's lights under the backdrop of stars.
Looking back, I can hardly believe how far we've come. From living in a hotel, to a camper, and now in our own little piece of heaven. It's been bumpy and cold and sometimes scary, but life hasn't given us anything we couldn't tackle together. I always call him my Prince Charming, and it's beyond true. His love and our relentless spirits have convinced me that fairy tales really do exist.
Right now, in this moment, I'm reminded how blessed I am to be able to take a selfie with my tree in my warm home and finally live in a place where we get to enjoy the holidays with our families. My hope for this season and every season forward is to be grateful for what was, content with what is, and excited for what will be.
Merry Christmas, friends. May yours be warm and full of joy.
I absolutely adored this tale of an nine-year-old boy and his magic pencil. It's a story of growing up, learning how to share, and developing friendships. Daniel, the quintessential boy, doesn't like homework or meatloaf, so he sets out to draw and thus create his own pizza making, math homework doing machine - the Pi-zzabot. Who wouldn't want that?
Throughout the story, he and his only friend Annie create many fun objects and creatures that spur the imagination and keep readers wondering what they will think of next.
I truly could relate to Annie. I can remember being a tom boy, swearing off dresses, and anything the color pink. She ate a worm; I fried ants with a magnifying glass. (Sorry ants!)
This story is enjoyable for people of all ages, which is truly amazing. Sometimes I have trouble getting into middle grade books, but not this one. It was funny, entertaining, and creative. The audio version is the perfect listen for your next little road trip.
Daniel the Draw-er is available for purchase for eReaders and as a paperback at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or in S.J.'s store.
The audiobook version is also available at Amazon, Audible, and iTunes!
It's that time of year when we're trying to come up with a plan to be better. I've put together a short booklet with questions to help spur your imagination on how 2015 can be your best year yet. Download this printable for free.
Don't forget to share your goals with me, so I can cheer you on!
What happens when the winds of adversity blow in your life? Do they flatten you, knock you down, stop your growth? Or, like [deep rooted] trees, do you grow stronger?
These are the words I read in my devotional yesterday, and they've bounced around in my mind ever since. Let's continue the tree metaphor for a moment, shall we? When rejection blows the leaves of your canopy and critics pull on the strength of your limbs, do you waver? When your flowers wilt from the lack of nourishing encouragement and you thirst for acceptance, do you question why you even try?
And I'm sure you have too.
When I look back on the last few years, I realize that something in me has learned to adapt to harsh conditions. Writers learn how to bend, starve, and regrow. Agents and publishers tell us our work is "just not right for them" and we turn around and continue down the road of martyrdom by writing yet another book. We're either devoted, passionate, or just plain crazy. Or probably all three.
The world knows how to mistreat us, and it doesn't need the additional help of form letters and bad reviews; yet that's what writers face. Most jobs require a quarterly/yearly review of your work. Most of the time this is done from a supervisor who determines if you've been earning your keep around the office. For writers, we work countless hours and face a mountain of NOs and then if we receive a YES, we face another monsterous mountain of reviews. Imagine working the entire year at your 9-5 and your boss posts his comments online, for the world to see, and the people of the internet are the ones who determine if you'll keep your job. Terrifying, right? Yep. Welcome to being a writer, where our whole careers are centered around the acceptance of other people - people we have never met.
The question isn't whether or not we can survive; it's can we grow? Sure we'll have seasons when we've shed all we have and are standing in the middle of our own windstorm, leafless and broken. And we'll likely have summers of endless thirst for encouragement. And maybe some long winters full of brutal critique will leave us cold and bitter for a moment. But the hope of spring will always linger just around the corner. A time when we'll be blooming and at our best, when everything, even if for only a moment, will be as it should be.
May our roots be deep, winding, entangled, and captivated by the hope of spring.
Vanessa K. Eccles
Books, life, and travel.
Author of FABLED, RED RIBBONS, and OF LOVE & LEGEND // Founder of The Faithful Creative Magazine