Craving Those Comfort Reads

No doubt about it: I have Book Lust Syndrome. I already have far too many books on my “to-read” list. But that doesn’t keep me from adding new ones to my shelf when something catches my eye, or a trusted friend makes a reading recommendation (talking about you, Courtney!) In short, I’m a textbook (pun intended) victim of this adage:

 

Leona, 7, poses inside a labyrinth installation made up of 250,000 books titled "aMAZEme" at the Royal Festival Hall in central London
Photo credit: Olivia Harris/Reuters.

But as giddy as I get over cracking a new book’s spine and exploring the possibility contained within, there are times when a familiar read offers much-needed comfort. These comfort books aren’t always the most refined or revolutionary. But there’s something in their familiarity, in their resonance of a simpler time, that is soothing.

Life at this moment is definitely making me want to hide in some well-worn pages. The deadline for my massive, months-long work project is approaching with terrifying rapidity. I’m still juggling my writing and my full-time “real” job at the Embassy, along with all my other responsibilities, my relationships. It’s all I can do to get in my lap-swimming sessions. I haven’t picked up a paintbrush in months and that makes me sad.

Continue reading “Craving Those Comfort Reads”

Key West: Hangin’ with Hemingway

In my last post, I mentioned that I was recently in Key West, soaking up the sea and much longed-for time with family. I got to swim in turquoise waters, stuff myself silly with seafood, and wander streets lined with tropical trees and homes that, to my untrained eye, blended the beach architecture of my childhood with southern-Victorian and Spanish styles.

But of course, no writer’s visit to Key West would be complete without a stop at one house in particular: The Hemingway Home and Museum.

I’m always a bit embarrassed to admit this–after all, I have a Masters in English and American literature–but I haven’t actually read all that much Hemingway. I did read his “Hills like White Elephants,” a short story that exemplifies Hemingway’s Iceberg Theory (the concept of writing around a particular subject–here abortion–without ever explicitly naming it). But my research emphasis in my degree was Romantic, Victorian, and Post-Colonial British literature, and Early American and 19th-century literature. Chronologically-speaking, Hemingway came a little too late for me.

But a few years ago, I picked up Paula McLain’s historical, Hemingway-themed novel, The Paris Wife. Obviously, this book is A) fiction (and therefore, a not-necessarily-rigidly-factual interpretation of history) and B) more focused on Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley Richardson, than Hemingway himself.

Continue reading “Key West: Hangin’ with Hemingway”

All Key-ed Up

You may have noticed my blog has been quiet of late. Part of this is a result of busy months at work. But the last few weeks of silence have been for the best of reasons.

Vacation.

I find coming home to the U.S. after living overseas is like a big gulp of oxygen after holding your breath underwater. It’s not that Suriname is such a dreadful place to live. It just feels so good to be home.

This particular trip back was a whirlwind: a day in Houston, a weekend jaunt to the Midwest, down to Key West to meet my family on their vacation, a few more days in various Texas locales, then a week in my hometown on the Texas Gulf Coast (and surfing!).

With all that travel time, I wasn’t going to be caught without a book in my hand.

So one night in Key West, while my dad and twin brothers were being awesome and doing a night dive around an old shipwreck (their tales of octopus, shark, and fish sightings have made me determined to finally get my scuba certification), I was cheerily getting my nerd on at a local bookstore. Continue reading “All Key-ed Up”

Look What Came in the Mail….

Yesterday brought an exciting surprise in the mail, all the way from the U.S. of A.: my new book, Insult to Injury: Violence in Spanish, Hispanic American and Latino Art & Literature.

Right there on page 94 of the anthology, starts Chapter 7… my chapter!

“Brutality, Borderlands, and Bildungsromans: Violence and Cultural Conflict in Rodolfo Anaya’s Bless Me, Ultima and Américo Paredes’s George Washington Gómez

This may call for a celebratory class of wine with my gal-pals. (You know who are are!)

(P.S.–Aren’t I spoiled? Check out the lovely Valentine’s Day roses my husband made sure I had at my day job.)

Bite-Sized Book Reviews: “Uprooted”

As you’ve likely sussed out by now, I’m a fan of reading. But rare is the book that tempts me to sacrifice my own writing time. It’s been ten months since that last occurred. (That siren was Kate Forsyth’s The Wild Girlwhich I review here). But Naomi Novik’s Uprooted called too sweetly to be resisted. I wound up rolling two hours of writing time into the weekend, because I blew them off on Thursday to finish the book.

That wasn’t the only irresponsible thing I did, either. I stayed up until 1 AM, when I had to be into work by 7:30. I thought I’d skim just a few pages before I did my post-work lap-swimming… I wound up reading in the pool locker room for an hour. Uprooted was that compulsively readable; I had to know what happened next. And I definitely wasn’t confident about how it would end: I could see the author taking the triumphant track, or the bittersweet one. (But no spoilers here–you’ll have to read it yourself to find out!) Continue reading “Bite-Sized Book Reviews: “Uprooted””

Romance: Formula & Fizz

I’m so grateful for my beta readers. By the time a manuscript is ready for eyes other than mine, I’ve sunk so many hours into the beast that total objectivity is no longer possible. This is the point where my test readers become my knights-in-shining; they tell me what’s working and what needs a tweak (or overhaul).

Recently, a reader for my young adult novel reported apathy regarding the book’s central romantic pair. For her, their tie to one another wasn’t compelling enough for it to seem justified when the heroine surrenders her dreams in order to remain with the hero.

Obviously, I would’ve preferred for her to gush over my love birds. But this kind of honest feedback is enormously helpful, indispensable… and a good reminder of the two elements essential for writing the kind of romantic relationships readers want to sink into:

  1. Puzzle-Piecing (Yup, this is a newly-coined term, à la yours truly.)
  2. Chemistry

Continue reading “Romance: Formula & Fizz”

Help me, Dear Reader. You’re my Only Hope….

A writer’s best friends are her readers and her writing community. Thus, à la Princess Leia, I’m not too proud to ask for a bit of help now and again.

Frequently, I find myself amazed by the speed with which the writing world changes. When I first ventured into publishing, eBooks were a twinkle in someone’s eye. Self-publishing meant arranging for a vanity press to print (for a fee) hard and paperback copies of your book. The standard method for seeking publication was for an author to directly submit her manuscript to a publishing house. Literary agents were a nice-to-have, rather than the (with rare exception) must-have they are today if you’re pursuing traditional publication.

In little more than a decade, all this has changed.

Now it’s almost unheard of for an author to pitch his or her own “unsolicited” manuscript directly to a publishing house. Today, common practice means landing an agent who then uses her institutional knowledge and professional credibility to act as an intermediary, approaching publishers on her author’s behalf. Continue reading “Help me, Dear Reader. You’re my Only Hope….”