New Years Resolutions

Normally I’m not a huge fan of making New Years resolutions. I’m really terrible about working toward general, long term goals when I don’t have specific perimeters or guidelines in mind. However, I have two vague goals that I’ve had in mind for a while–reading more broadly and writing more regularly–and since I haven’t managed to pursue these goals like I want to, I decided to set specific goals within these general ones.

28ac88647e7b7abd3a1faa0284636e4cReading more broadly:

I have pleasantly surprised myself with the variety of books I’ve picked up over Christmas Break so far. I saw this book list on pinterest recently and I hope to use it to continue this trend of reading outside of my comfort zone.

Writing more Regularly:

Unfortunately, in the crush of college classwork and all of the writing that comes with it, I’ve started neglecting writing for fun. I have some novel length projects that I’m in the editing stage of, but it’s really hard to establish a writing routine that has priority over classwork when I feel overwhelmed every time I sit down to work on editing. I’ve decided to write 200 words of whatever pops into my head every day for the month of January, and adding 50 words to the daily word goal every month in the hopes to slowly, but surely, establish a strong writing routine.

What New Years Resolutions are you planning on? Have New Years Resolutions ever been effective for you? What do you think of the reading list? Are there other things you would add to the list? Comment below!

“Shovel Ready” by Adam Sternbergh

Before exams were over and Christmas break began I found out about a terrible thing (and by terrible, I mean WONDERFUL). Blogging for Books is a website were bloggers can sign up to receive free copies of books through Crown Publishing Group (a division of Penguin Random House). The only two requirements are that: 1) you must have a blog, and 2) you must post a review of each book you receive (and you do get to pick out of their list) to your blog. If you love books and you have a blog (which you probably do if you’re following me through wordpress) I would definitely encourage you to look into it! Now, on to my first review:

“Shovel Ready” by Adam Sternbergh is described in glowing terms in the reviews I read before I received it. And it was a good book. However, for a debut novel, it was honestly a bit boring and extremely hard to read. I’ve never read a book before that completely threw traditional dialogue out the window (and throughout the book I was constantly wishing he hadn’t). For a book that was already pretty slow, but redeemable, I believe that having to trudge through the difficult to read writing style was an almost certain death blow.

At first I was surprised by the choice to do away with traditional dialogue, but increasingly throughout the story I began to cringe every time I had to re-read (again) a set of sentences in order to understand what was being conveyed. For a short story, this type of writing style might be do-able–and possibly helpful, as short stories rely on fewer words to convey something and therefore need the reader to dwell on what words are being used to understand the full meaning–but it severely affected the pace of the novel.

Goodreads

I recently finally jumped on the Goodreads bandwagon, and, let me tell you, sometimes I forget the sheer mass of the amount of books I’ve read in my short lifetime. I also realized that I do a lot of re-reading of books, which isn’t in and of itself bad, but since I’ve started college I spend a lot less time reading new literature and a lot more time falling back to old favorites. So, this Christmas Break (which is only a week away!!) I’m going to attempt to read ten books that I’ve never read before, possibly in genres I don’t read very much, and possibly review them. As I study to become an English teacher, I also want to be prepared to share books with students with tastes other than my own, so I’d like to start gaining a knowledge of good fiction (and non-fiction) outside my basic taste in fiction.

If you have any suggestions for me to add to my list, leave them in the comments!

Flash Fiction?

So, I’ve been exploring different forms of writing/genres/lengths of writing in order become a more rounded writer. Since most of my writing time lately (what writing time I’ve been doing between school assignments!!) has centered around editing a short story I’ve been working on, when I saw a pin on pinterest about a flash fiction story contest, my interest was piqued. I REALLY want to put most of my efforts into working on my short story, but it gets a little monotonous working on the same story without any other form of creative imagining. The general consensus for the length of flash fiction is anywhere from 300 to 1000 words, which is the perfect length for getting some creative juices going without becoming incredibly invested in a new project while I’m working on my short story.

I’m looking to start writing a couple of pieces of flash fiction a week to create some better structure for my writing schedule, and I would like to challenge you, dear reader, to try your hand at it as well!

Establishing a Daily Writing Routine: AKA the thing all the “experts” say you have to do

If you’ve read anything on how to become a better writer, how to publish a book, how to become an author, etc. you’ve most likely come across some form of the advice: “YOU NEED TO WRITE EVERY DAY!!!” And, you do. Well, kind of. More accurately, in order to produce enough content to learn how to write better and write something worth publishing, there isn’t some tip or piece of advice where you can wave a magic wand and suddenly your writing will be incredible and everyone will love it and you’ll be published and get awards yada yada yada. In the end, it all boils down to hard work, aka actually sitting down and writing. You learn by doing. So in order to learn how to be a better writer, you have to write. A lot. All the time. When you don’t feel like it. When you’re busy. When you’re bored and tired of writing. When you have “better” things to do.

But, that’s easier said than done. If all the experts say that you need to write daily, well, how do you write daily? Now, buckle up. Some of these numbered bullet points will be completely contradictory, and that’s okay. Everyone learns differently, and everyone writes differently. These are some suggestions to get you started, and I would encourage you to at least try most of them to see how they work for you, but remember that some of these WON’T work for you. That’s just how things are. But use these ideas to figure out how you best work and how to motivate yourself to become a better writer.

1. Establish a routine

Whether it’s an ambiguous, “I’m going to write five days a week,” “I’m going to writing in the morning,” or “I’m going to write at 7 am every morning,” tell yourself that you are going to write and do it!

2. Give yourself a goal or reward

Whether it is a short term goal like, write for at least 4 days this week and I’ll get a milkshake or watch the new episode of my favorite show, or a REALLY short term goal like, if I write for 30 minutes I can make a cup of tea, setting more tangible, immediately accessible goals than, if I write today, eventually I’ll publish a book, will help motivate you.

3. Start small

You aren’t going to be able to immediately start writing every single day for 2 hours at a time (unless you’re Superman or something). Start with a smaller goal of 15 minutes a day, 3 days a week. Or 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Or 45 minutes a day, 2 days a week. Whatever seems doable to you so that you won’t feel like you’re drowning if you miss a day’s writing.  (Side note: Also, don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day! You want writing to be exciting, even though a lot of times it won’t be, and a surefire way to make yourself not want to write is to feel guilty about not writing the day before)

4. Avoid distractions

If you have a hard time getting things done with people all around you, vying for attention, get someplace where you don’t have those distractions while writing! Of course, it may be hard to get completely away from all distractions (its a little impractical to have to go someplace like the park or the library to write everyday unless they’re right across the street), but try staying away from main centers of your home while you write, or go into a room and put a sign on the door to let others know not to bother you.

5. Use distractions

However, sometimes staring at a blank, white screen while you’re sitting in a room with complete silence can make it pretty hard to write too. Again, it may be hard to go somewhere like a coffee shop everyday for the background noise of people talking around you, but not talking to you, but you can try writing in a part of the house off of one of the more trafficked rooms where you aren’t immediately apart of whatever is going on, but can still hear things going on. Another option is to go to a site like Coffitivity, and let it make some background noise for you! (music works too, but that’s a whole separate post!)

6. Use a timer

Deciding to work for a set amount of time can really help writing regularly seem much more manageable. Instead of working toward a word goal everyday which can be effective, but makes it hard to measure when you are working on editing or brainstorming, which are both perfectly legitimate uses of  your writing time, using a timer keeps you on task and focused for a fixed amount of time, helping you to make your writing time more efficient.

7. Work at your desk

Working at your desk tells your brain it’s time to get down to work. A clean desk holds much fewer distractions than trying to write in other places.

8. Don’t work at your desk

Working at a desk can also feel stifling. If you feel like you’re not able to get anything done when you sit down at a desk, find somewhere else to write!

 

A Flame that Never Dies

Prologue

Once upon a time there was a happy little child…and then the child grew up and turned into a monster.

I was only a child when the world fell apart, too little to understand why Mommy was crying, why Daddy wasn’t coming home, why everything was so terribly loud. But, even as a child I understood that the loud was far preferred to the unearthly quiet that followed.

They came for me soon after that.

The leaders who remained alive after the destruction was over immediately formed together in order to “prevent destruction on such a massive scale from ever occurring again by bringing the remaining people under one banner, one government, as one people.” I have played that broadcast over in my head so many times since I was able to understand. I’m not unconvinced that the Leaders didn’t orchestrate the Great Destruction for their own gain, but, where I am, to utter such a thing aloud would mean certain death.

As I said, after the Great Destruction, they came for me. Not the Leaders, not yet. I was still only a child. The Leaders wouldn’t have any use for me until after I’d been trained, until my potential and usefulness had been proven. No, they are much worse.

I was still a child, unable to think for myself beyond basic necessities and desires. I wailed like the child I was when they took me away from my mother. If I had known what was coming, if I had been capable of understanding, I wouldn’t have dared cry. What lay beyond our safe home shut me up soon enough, however.

I recognized nothing that lay beyond my door. Our neighborhood was in ruins—the city beyond billowed great clouds of smoke, obscuring much of the familiar skyline. Bodies lay in the street, broken and bloody, piles of rubble from what had once been their homes scattered about them. I quickly buried my face in the shoulder of the man carrying me, and that was the last time I ever saw my home.

After that they took me to what would become my new home…of sorts. It most certainly was not a home, but it was all I had. They trained us in what must have once been barracks for the army of whatever country the land had once belonged to. One of the other kids asked where we were once—she came to dinner that night with a black eye and a broken arm, and those were just the injuries we could see, the rest likely hidden by her uniform. Questions were discouraged. We were expected to do as we were told promptly and without question.

Our lives were living hell, but that was only our training. What they had us do in the field made us monsters. And I was one of their finest monsters of all.

The Beginning of an Adventure

Tales of a New College Student

Well guys, I’m here. I made it to college. It all seems so surreal right now, probably because I haven’t started the difficult part of the experience yet, the actual classes part. Still though, it’s been pretty interesting so far. My entire family came up with me to Mississippi State to help me move in an stuff, and, since it’s a six hour drive from home to college, they got a hotel room and stayed the night before driving back home yesterday. Needless to say, there was a lot of crying and, even though I had told myself I was going to be social and open my door to talk to people, after saying goodbye to my family, I was not up to doing anything but playing computer games in my room until my roommate, Katilyn, got back from band camp around 9:30.

This morning was when the fun began. In case you can’t tell, my tone of voice just became extremely sarcastic. I woke up with a terrible headache and an upset stomach, but I had a mandatory Honors meeting upstairs for an hour this morning that I somehow suffered all the way through only to beeline back to my room and jump straight back into bed. Unfortunately, though I had medicine to make my head feel better, I had nothing to take for my stomach. That’s when my roomie swoops to the rescue, coming back in at lunch time to tell me that she has exactly the medicine I needed to take for my stomach. Skip to two hours later when I’m finally feeling better and decide to run up to the store for some basic groceries (peanut butter, apples, and the like), and I switch bags, accidentally leaving my student i.d. on my desk. *facepalm* I realize in Walmart that I don’t have it, and as my roomie has already returned to the band hall, I have no way of getting into my room. So, toting a watermelon, I have to go to the desk and get one of the RAs to open my door for me. Hopefully won’t be doing that again.

Looming

DSC00511The Magic Fifteen

So, I was just about to get up off of my couch, change into some actual clothes, and get something done today, but then I realized something and I had to share.

In fifteen days I’ll be leaving home and going to college.

There, I said it. (Mom, it’s going to be okay. Although, you’re welcome to come into my room and cry with me if you want to. It won’t take much to set off my waterworks at this point.) In a little over a week, I’ll be leaving my family and friends (and cats *sadface*) and braving the unknown. Wow.

It hadn’t really hit me yet. I mean, in the back of my mind, I knew I only had a short span of time left before I left for school. This past week though, I’ve fallen into the trap of thinking that I still had loads of time left. Every day this week I would mentally repeat to myself (excitedly, I might add!), “Only three more weeks until college!” Only, it’s not three weeks until college anymore. Now it’s two.

I’m almost ready. I mean, I’ve finished packing up most of my stuff. My parking permit came in the mail last week. My new laptop arrived in the mail yesterday. Soon I’ll be ordering my textbooks. Things have just sort of been falling into place. I’ve been taking things slowly, lazily. I haven’t been rushed, haven’t felt that deadline looming. The past week I’ve lounged around in bed until lunchtime every morning.

Do svidaniya America!

Day 1

Tomorrow afternoon my mom and I are getting onto a plane to go to Russia! Well, officially it would be this afternoon, since I’m writing this at 12:30 at night—we stayed up late packing the last few things we’ll need for our trip. But that’s beside the point. In a few short hours, the two of us will be getting on a plane bound for Atlanta, then one to Paris, then one to Moscow, and finally one to Perm! I’m really ridiculously excited. Just the fact that I’m going to get to fly in a plane out of the country for the first time since I was six has me as giddy as a little kid waiting for cotton candy. But to also be getting ready to go spend time with kids—one of my passions—at the orphanage my little brother and sister are from…well, words cannot express my joy.

I probably really should be getting to bed, since I do still have to get up in the morning to go to church and finish packing, but hopefully I’ll be able to update soon. Please keep us in your prayers!

Do svidaniya!

Christine

Sandbox 11

The Return of the King

Pippin looked out from under the shelter of Gandalf’s cloak.

“Well, I’m back,” he said.

 

The Good Earth

It was Wang Lung’s marriage day.

But over the old man’s head they looked at each other and smiled.

 

The Last Battle

In the last days of Narnia, far up to the west beyond Lantern Waste and close beside the great waterfall, there lived an Ape.

All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.

 

Memoirs of a Geisha

Suppose that you and I were sitting in a quiet room overlooking a garden, chatting and sipping at our cups of green tea while we talked about something that had happened a long while ago, and I said to you, “That afternoon when I met so-and-so…was the very best afternoon of my life, and also the very worst afternoon.”

Whatever our struggles and triumphs, however we may suffer them, all too soon they bleed into a wash, just like watery ink on paper.

 

The Legend of the King

Sir Dinadan of Camelot, knight of the Fellowship of Arthur’s Round Table, emissary of Emperor Alis of Constantinople to the Seljuk Turks, sniffed cautiously at his left armpit. (It smelled very bad.)

As for Dinadan, he and Palomides rode the length and breadth of England—and every other nation—singing the tales of Arthur and his knights to everyone who would listen, in every language they could learn, for as long as they both lived.

 

North and South

“Edith!” said Margaret, gently, “Edith!”

“Hush!” said Margaret, “or I shall try and show you your mother’s indignant tones as she says, ‘That woman!’”

 

The High King

Under a chill, gray sky, two riders jogged across the turf.

And, in time, only the bards knew the truth of it.

 

The Dark is Rising

“Too many!” James shouted, and slammed the door behind him.

And in a great blaze of yellow-white light, the sun rose over Hunter’s Combe and the valley of the Thames.

 

The Empty House

It was in the spring of the year 1894 that all London was interested, and the fashionable world dismayed, but the murder of the Honorable Ronald Adair, under most unusual and inexplicable circumstances.

“Meanwhile, come what may, Colonel Moran will trouble us no more, the famous air-gun of Von Herder will embellish the Scotland Yard Museum, and once again Mr. Sherlock Holmes is free to devote his life to examining those interesting little problems which the complex life of London so plentifully presents.”

 

To Kill a Mockingbird

When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.

He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning.

 

Out of all of these openings and closings, words that for me conquer up memories of some of my favorite stories and characters, my favorite pair is the opening and closing lines from “The Last Battle”. The opening is simple, yet it introduces the story so completely, and the ending is so beautiful it always makes me cry, for the end is not the end—it is only the beginning of something greater.