Saturday, December 13, 2014

6 Essential Gifts for the Serious Writer in Your Life

I should've thought of this ages ago, but an email from an old friend from college arrived yesterday and prompted me to action. She has a niece who wants to be a writer and was asking about some good gift ideas to give in that regard. It took me almost no time at all to put together a pretty solid (though not by any means comprehensive) list of what I would consider essential items as I currently use (or would like to use) all of these on a daily basis. 

1.) Great First Lines of Literature Mug

The beautiful thing about this gift is it can be given to the avid reader in your life too and they'll appreciate it just as much as the writer. I love this mug. Like, seriously love. It's monster-sized and holds a ton of coffee (or in my case, scotch or vodka). When I first bought it, we played around with some of the lines, trying to guess where they had come from (the answers are on the box if one doesn't know how to use Google). Some real gems on here, but my favorite may be the one from Fahrenheit 451:
"It was a pleasure to burn."

(to purchase, click HERE)

2.) Old School Style Lap Desk

I didn't even know these things existed until I was halfway through grad school. I arrived at a fellow writer's house for an end of semester party, saw it, and quickly became enamored with it. There are plenty of different styles of this kind of lap desk, but I got one for Christmas that's nearly identical to the one shown above. Prices range depending on how fancy you want to get, but these are great for the writer who prefers going the old school route of using pen and paper. Also great for holding manuscripts in need of editing and tons of red pens, highlighters, whatever. ESSENTIAL. 

(to purchase, click HERE)

3.) The Macmillan Visual Dictionary

During my second semester of grad school, my professor opened up his workshop class by passing this book around. While he said it wasn't necessary for us, he said it was a pretty excellent accompaniment to any other writing guides we might have. Personally, I think it's a necessary addition to any writer's reference shelf as I've used it hundreds upon hundreds of times since first purchasing a copy in 2010. Ever wanted to know the names of the moving parts that make up a pocket watch? Look here. Ever wanted to know the names of particular aspects of architecture? Look here. Got a question about anatomy? Go here. A seriously amazing reference guide good for choosing exactly the right descriptor. 

(to purchase, click HERE)

4.) "Write Like A Motherfucker" Mug

Created by The, a writing organization here in San Francisco, I picked one of these up at a reading a few years ago. Cheap in cost, solid in product, the reason the writer in your life needs this should be obvious. Sometimes you just need a kick in the pants to get words on the page and it's nice to have the motivational mug to do that for you. 

(to purchase, click HERE)

5.) Writer Emergency Pack

I don't recall who passed this start-up website my way originally, but the more I found out about the product, the more I wanted it. A set of cards meant to help unblock the creative mind or find ways out of a particularly sticky section of writing, the kickstarter for the project was funded quickly: their goal was $9,000 and they raised almost $160,000. Shows you how interested people are in this little gem. Production for the public won't start for awhile (the folks who funded the kickstarter are getting first dibs), but the aim is to provide writers with new ideas on story, character, and plot while also funding enough packs of cards to go out to youth writing programs across the country for free. Pretty rad all around. 

(to sign up for update emails for the when the product is finally available, click HERE)

6.) The Writer's Guide to Character Traits

Yet another great reference tool. While writing my novel-as-thesis, I found that I had issues making my characters believable and non-cliched. My thesis advisor (the same professor who had recommended the Macmillan Visual Dictionary the year previous) told me about this. Multiple types of people and multiple types of personality traits are laid out clearly here, giving writers a chance to not stick to a formulaic character type, but to add extra depth to characters that may currently lack in it. 

(to purchase, click HERE)


Monday, December 8, 2014

2014 Reading List

This was a good year for reading on a personal level. The three successive years, I've only been able to read 50 books (half of my intended goal). This year, however, I moved to a place on the far outskirts of the city, so my transit time into the office and back home doubled, giving me plenty of time to do more reading. 

I tried to reread as few books as possible this time around, but sometimes you just have to settle into something fun and mindless or dig into the books you just really love even if you already know how things are going to end for the characters. I picked up some new (to me) authors this year: George Saunders, Margaret Atwood, Haruki Murakami, Stieg Larsson, and finally dug deeper into the Roberto Bolano oeuvre that's been sitting on my shelf for ages. I was pleasantly surprised by all of them, though I found Saunders to be the least interesting of the bunch. Larsson was the standout surprise as I don't normally do crime/popular fiction, but I ended up reading the entirety of his Millenium trilogy within a week or two.

66 books. 21,036 pages. On top of getting thirteen stories written (three of which have been picked up for publication as of last night). 2014 was a pretty good year for all things literary in my world. How was it in yours?

2014 Reading:


01.) (reread) Salvador Plascencia  - "The People of Paper" (256pgs)
02.) Shaun Tan - "Lost and Found: Three Stories" (128pgs)
03.) Shaun Tan - "Tales from Outer Suburbia" (98pgs)
04.) Shaun Tan - "The Arrival" (128pgs)
05.) Luis Negron - "Mundo Cruel" (91pgs)
06.) E.B. Hudspeth - "The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black" (208pgs)
07.) Jean Telue - "The Suicide Shop" (169pgs)
08.) Ben Marcus - "Leaving the Sea" (271pgs)
09.) Max Ernst - "Une Semaine de Bonte (208pgs)
10.) Kobo Abe - "The Box Man" (178pgs)
11.) Madeline L'Engle - "A Wind in the Door" (245pgs)

(1,980pgs total)


12.) Margaret Atwood - "Oryx and Crake" (374pgs)
13.) Ann & Jeff Vandermeer - "The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities" (305pgs)
14.) Margaret Atwood - "The Year of the Flood" (431pgs)
15.) James Smythe - "The Machine" (320pgs)

(1,430pgs total)



16.) Robert Coover - "A Night at the Movies or, You Must Remember This" (187pgs)
17.) George Saunders - "Civilwarland in Bad Decline" (179pgs)
18.) Margaret Atwood - "MaddAddam" (390pgs)
19.) Laura van den Berg - "What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us" (205pgs)
20.) Amelia Gray - "Museum of the Weird" (171pgs)

(1,132pgs total)


21.) Seth Fried - "The Great Frustration" (192pgs)
22.) Jose Donoso - "The Obscene Bird of Night" (438pgs)
23.) Ray Bradbury - "The Martian Chronicles" (181pgs)
(reread) JK Rowling - "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" (309pgs)
25.) (reread) JK Rowling - "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" (341pgs)
26.) (reread) JK Rowling - "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" (435pgs)
27.) (reread) JK Rowling - "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" (734pgs)
(reread) JK Rowling - "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" (870pgs)

(3,500pgs total)


(reread) JK Rowling - "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" (652pgs)
30.) Anthony Bourdain - "Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly" (312pgs)
(reread) JK Rowling - "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows" (759pgs)
32.) Steven Millhauser - "The King in the Tree" (242pgs)
33.) Mikhail Bulgakov - "The Master and Margarita" (396pgs)
34.) Cameron Pierce - "In Heaven, Everything is Fine: Fiction Inspired by David Lynch" (345pgs)

(2,706pgs total)



35.) Brian Evenson - "The Open Curtain" (223pgs)

(223pgs total)



36.) Norman Lock - "A History of the Imagination" (223pgs)
(reread) Dexter Palmer - "The Dream of Perpetual Motion" (353pgs)
38.) Roald Dahl - "The Witches" (201pgs)
39.) Tom Robbins - "Jitterbug Perfume" (388pgs)

(1,165pgs total)



40.) Roald Dahl - "The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me" (73pgs)
41.) Roald Dahl - "Matilda" (232pgs)
42.) Franz Kafka - "The Penal Colony" (317pgs)
43.) Roald Dahl - "Danny, the Champion of the World" (214pgs)
44.) Haruki Murakami - "Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World" (400pgs)
45.) Roald Dahl - "The BFG" (199pgs)
46.) Roald Dahl - "Boy: Tales of Childhood" (176pgs)
47.) Roald Dahl - "Going Solo" (210pgs)
48.) Fox Spirit Anthology - "The Girl at the End of the World: Book 1" (360pgs)
49.) Roald Dahl - "George's Marvellous Medicine" (104pgs)
50.) Roberto Bolano - "Distant Star" (149pgs)
51.) Stieg Larsson - "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" (590pgs)
52.) Roberto Bolano - "Antwerp" (78pgs)

(3,102pgs total)



53.) Roberto Bolano - "The Skating Rink" (182pgs)
54.) Roald Dahl - "Fantatic Mr. Fox" (82pgs)
55.) Lois Lowry - "The Giver" (179pgs)
56.) Stieg Larsson - "The Girl Who Played with Fire" (724pgs)
57.) Stieg Larsson - "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" (743pgs)
58.) Roberto Bolano - "Monsieur Pain" (134pgs)
59.) Jeff Vandermeer - "City of Saints and Madmen" (704pgs)
60.) Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman - "Dragonlance Legends: Time/War/Test of the Twins" (909pgs)
61.) Roberto Bolano - "Last Evenings on Earth" (219pgs)
62.) Madeline Roux - "Asylum" (310pgs)
63.) Courtney Moreno - "In Case of Energency" (274pgs)

(4,460pgs total)



64.) Don DeLillo - "White Noise" (310pgs)

(310pgs total)



65.) Philip K. Dick - "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" (214pgs)
66.) Carlos Ruiz Zafon - "Marina" (238pgs)
67.) Blake Butler - "300,000,000" (576pgs)

(1,028pgs total) 

21,036 pages for the year