Hello everyone! It’s been awhile since I wrote personally to update on writing. The past few weeks have been pretty busy for me – I was working nearly 40 hours a week and on top of that also trying to get out of my reading slump (more on that to come soon). But, as of yesterday I have been filled to the brim with inspiration.
I have almost been exclusively working on The Astrologist for the past week. Especially yesterday, where I spent two hours researching Irish mythology and most likely four hours just trying to plot things out. I also have been working on characters and their motivations, and as of yesterday I have a handful of characters that I am thrilled with. I can’t wait for everyone to read about them soon.
I would also like to take a moment to thank two of my best friends, Miki and Mikaela, for dealing with my craziness that happened yesterday (8/12). When I’m trying to brainstorm ideas, I need to talk through them with someone. Both of these wonderful people allowed me to talk at them for upwards of an hour (on separate occasions) about the story: from the tiniest detail to the biggest plot points. Thanks to them, I can safely say I have a basic plot outline for The Astrologist.
Something interesting that I’ve learned about myself this week is that I actually prefer to do my plotting/outlining in a sketch book. I have always written everything down on google docs or even just in the notes app of my phone, but as I was creating a map I realized I loved the feeling of being able to control the formatting of outlining on paper. Does anyone else feel the same way? Preferring to outline on paper than online? I am able to see my progress better on paper because I can’t just delete it, it’s still there and I have to think about all these old ideas.
Besides The Astrologist, I have been trying to catch up on reading. I am currently reading The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern, who is one of my favorite authors, and I am loving the book. I usually fly through books in one sitting, but this time I am taking my time. The Starless Sea is set up with smaller books inside of it, so I have been reading one book (or section) at a time. I adore Morgenstern’s writing and her storytelling, and this is helping me savor every moment of the book.
That’s all I have for an update as of today. You will be seeing more of these as I work through a first draft of The Astrologist. I also want to thank you guys for 45 followers! Thank you for making my writing dreams a reality.
I have been trying to find local bookstores in my area to support, which has ultimately become quite a challenge. Besides the one bookshop downtown, I hadn’t found another place that I had enjoyed. That was until I stumbled upon Titcomb’s Bookshop in East Sandwich, MA.
I am in love with this place. I mean, who wouldn’t be? Books AND Cape Cod? Count me in!
I wanted to write a little bit about my experience here today, because let me tell you: it was incredible. I will definitely be going back. The two women working there today were some of the kindest people I have ever met. I was staring at everything and they offered help, and I told them it was my first time at the shop. They welcomed me with open arms – step one in making my day.
They are in contact with a lot of bookstores in the Massachusetts area, and I actually found out that they are connected via meetings with Trident Booksellers and Cafe – another one of my favorite places!
And the interior was to die for! There are three floors in the shop: the lower level is all toys, the main floor is new fiction, non-fiction, children’s books, as well as historical books. The second floor follows a similar theme, but also includes notebooks, pens/pencils, blankets, pillows, and a slew of other trinkets.
These pictures don’t do the store justice. I wish I wasn’t in a rush so I could have taken pictures myself. But for now, this will give you a taste of what it was like!
Now, onto the haul!
The Library Book by Susan Orlean
“On the morning of April 29, 1986, a fire alarm sounded in the Los Angeles Public Library. As the moments passed, the patrons and staff who had been cleared out of the building realized this was not the usual fire alarm. As one fireman recounted, “Once that first stack got going, it was ‘Goodbye, Charlie.’” The fire was disastrous: it reached 2000 degrees and burned for more than seven hours. By the time it was extinguished, it had consumed four hundred thousand books and damaged seven hundred thousand more. Investigators descended on the scene, but more than thirty years later, the mystery remains: Did someone purposefully set fire to the library—and if so, who?
Weaving her lifelong love of books and reading into an investigation of the fire, award-winning New Yorker reporter and New York Times bestselling author Susan Orlean delivers a mesmerizing and uniquely compelling book that manages to tell the broader story of libraries and librarians in a way that has never been done before.”
White Fragility: Why It’s so Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin Diangelo
“In this “vital, necessary, and beautiful book” (Michael Eric Dyson), antiracist educator Robin DiAngelo deftly illuminates the phenomenon of white fragility and “allows us to understand racism as a practice not restricted to ‘bad people’ (Claudia Rankine). Referring to the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially, white fragility is characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and by behaviors including argumentation and silence. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium and prevent any meaningful cross-racial dialogue. In this in-depth exploration, DiAngelo examines how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what we can do to engage more constructively.”
The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman
“In Berlin, at the time when the world changed, Hanni Kohn knows she must send her twelve-year-old daughter away to save her from the Nazi regime. She finds her way to a renowned rabbi, but it’s his daughter, Ettie, who offers hope of salvation when she creates a mystical Jewish creature, a rare and unusual golem, who is sworn to protect Lea. Once Ava is brought to life, she and Lea and Ettie become eternally entwined, their paths fated to cross, their fortunes linked.
Lea and Ava travel from Paris, where Lea meets her soulmate, to a convent in western France known for its silver roses; from a school in a mountaintop village where three thousand Jews were saved. Meanwhile, Ettie is in hiding, waiting to become the fighter she’s destined to be.
What does it mean to lose your mother? How much can one person sacrifice for love? In a world where evil can be found at every turn, we meet remarkable characters that take us on a stunning journey of loss and resistance, the fantastical and the mortal, in a place where all roads lead past the Angel of Death and love is never ending.”
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
“Lydia Quixano Pérez lives in the Mexican city of Acapulco. She runs a bookstore. She has a son, Luca, the love of her life, and a wonderful husband who is a journalist. And while there are cracks beginning to show in Acapulco because of the drug cartels, her life is, by and large, fairly comfortable.
Even though she knows they’ll never sell, Lydia stocks some of her all-time favorite books in her store. And then one day a man enters the shop to browse and comes up to the register with a few books he would like to buy―two of them her favorites. Javier is erudite. He is charming. And, unbeknownst to Lydia, he is the jefe of the newest drug cartel that has gruesomely taken over the city. When Lydia’s husband’s tell-all profile of Javier is published, none of their lives will ever be the same.
Forced to flee, Lydia and eight-year-old Luca soon find themselves miles and worlds away from their comfortable middle-class existence. Instantly transformed into migrants, Lydia and Luca ride la bestia―trains that make their way north toward the United States, which is the only place Javier’s reach doesn’t extend. As they join the countless people trying to reach el norte, Lydia soon sees that everyone is running from something. But what exactly are they running to?”
Hummingbird Bookmark and Bibliophile Keychain
If you have the chance too, please check out Titcomb’s Bookshop! It is an incredible experience and I highly recommend buying some books there. Be sure to support your local independent bookstores!
When I was in high school, I hated the editing process. I wrote everything in one draft and submitted it. And guess what? I faced no consequences. I always got A’s on my papers and projects. Even in one of my hardest classes (which I never scored higher than 65 on a test) I would get 100’s on my papers.
College was different though. When I got to my first day of WRI101, taught by one of my favorite professors to date, we spent days talking about the revision process. We had three drafts of every paper, which in different stages were edited by different people, and ultimately got our letter grade after the third draft.
At first, I hated this process. I didn’t like rereading my work, let alone did I like classmates reading my work and seeing all of my mistakes and imperfections. It would keep me up at night.
Until, we read “Shitty First Drafts” by Anne Lamont. This passage from her book Bird by Bird changed my editing life. If you’re interested, you can read it here. I hope it changes your life too.
I am a perfectionist when it comes to my writing, and to top it all off I constantly radiate anxiety – so editing was a no go for a long time. I would write something once and that would be it. I didn’t want to be wrong.
The way that Lamont frames this idea of editing is just enough assertion for me to finally get it. The first draft is shit. The first draft is always shit. Lamont writes that “Very few writers really know what they are doing until they’ve done it. Nor do they go about their business feeling dewy and thrilled.” I knew this, for writing is taking pieces of yourself away. Writing is constant suffering. But, to hear it from someone else? From an accomplished author? And to read this in my FIRST college writing class? That’s what I needed. I finally believed in the power of editing.
Sophomore year comes around, specifically we’ll call it November 2020. I’ve talked about this before, but in that month I wrote more than I’ve probably ever done before in my life. A whole 64,000 words (not including planning, editing, or anything like that). 14,000 to my play Blue Ends and 50,000 towards finishing my untitled novel.
Blue Ends has become my challenge. After I wrote the first draft, I proceeded to edit it twice. Before the end of the year, I had a third draft. I had never been so proud of myself in my life.
I didn’t look at the play for a month. I didn’t look at it until I had a meeting with my mentor Brett. I worked in a directed study with him, and we are continuing to do so for the next two years that I am at school. It was intense, working with him on this project. He pushed me to write and edit more than I’ve ever done before. He got me in contact with some incredible individuals in the Boston theatre scene, and he even had me hold a table read of my play. Before that, however, I took the liberty of not taking his advice and practically rewrote my play. I hadn’t looked at it in months at this point, and it was March when I had the table read.
I hated my play. I wanted nothing to do with the original contents. I rewrote the whole play in a week, and edited it once as well. After the table read, I edited, and even after Brett and his girlfriend read it, I edited it again.
So why am I still so unhappy with how it turned out? How am I so unhappy even though when I first wrote Blue Ends I was so proud?
No one ever really talks about editing burnout. At least, the people I follow on social media and talk too in person – no one talks about how much this sucks.
I haven’t opened Blue Ends since the end of April. I cannot bring myself to open it because I think I’ll tear the whole thing apart again and start over. I was so happy with it months ago, and now I want almost nothing to do with it. I edited my heart out for months and months, built up these characters in my mind, and now I can’t bring myself to look at it.
Burnout sucks. It’s something I’m trying to pull myself out of now. I was told I need to read a play a day for six weeks before I could open the document again. Before I could write another play. And I feel bad, but I’ve been pushing off starting to read those plays as well.
The best advice I’ve been able to gather in this situation is being able to give yourself a break. Brett told me this, and for some reason I can’t listen to myself so I took his words to heart. I hope you can take my words to heart – you are allowed to give yourself a break. If you go hard for too long, you will hate what you’re working on, no matter what. In my personal experience, I love all of the characters I work with, but now I want to rip them to shreds.
Self-care is allowed. Breaks are allowed. If you can’t bring yourself to write, try and hone that creativity elsewhere in your life. Getting through the rough patch is hard, but necessary.
I’m making it a goal of mine to read more than one book a week. I tend to read one book in one sitting, and then it takes me a week or two to pick up another. I have a lot of books to go through in my bookshelf – which I only realized when I organized them. I had two big stacks of books that I had read… and four that I hadn’t read yet.
The following are the three books I read this week, and my ratings and opinions on them!
BOOK 1: Fierce Fairytales by Nikita Gil
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
This is probably the book I read the fastest this week. Nikita Gil is a new love of mine, as I haven’t read a ton of her poetry yet. However, this book of stories was breathtaking. I love fairy tales, and with Gil’s feminist readings of these classic stories – I was in love.
One thing I personally enjoyed from these stories were that it wasn’t just the heroes’ perspective, but the villains and in some cases, their children (i.e. Cinderella) had their own sections of text. Gil is able to make you feel not only guilty for the typical heroines, but as well as their captors who were conditioned into their behaviors.
Alongside that, I am not giving this book a 5/5 because of that very reason. I feel like one of the things about a villain that I like is trying to not like them. As I read this, I felt as though I couldn’t connect with the heroines in some cases because of the connection I felt with the villains instead. The only difference between the heroes and villains in this case is that the villains didn’t get the chance to redeem themselves, their characters were molded into the villains that they ultimately become.
If you like fairy tales and modern readings of them, then Fierce Fairytales is for you.
BOOK 2: Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher
Before I get into my review, I need everyone to know that I DID NOT do this too my poor book. I bought it used from Thriftbooks, so I had no choice in what the damage was. Nonetheless, it is still readable.
I love Carrie Fisher, and I mean all things Carrie Fisher. When I found out about her passing years ago, I was heartbroken. Star Wars had been such a huge part of my childhood, and knowing that my space princess was gone broke me.
Now, I have finally learned that she does in fact have books. I had no idea until I bought The Princess Diarist a few weeks ago. So, I took no time in purchasing Wishful Drinking. This is one of my favorite books I have read in a long time. Not only is Carrie Fisher an amazing actress, but her writing is hilarious and moving. In this book, she writes because she had just come out of ECT (Electroshock Therapy) for her depression and bi-polar symptoms. She writes to try and remember everything that she forgot during that time.
She writes about her crazy family tree, and how Hollywood breeds, and how George Lucas told her that there is no underwear in space. She ties in mental health issues, broken families, and comedy so beautifully that I found myself laughing at probably the worst moments. But, that’s what she wanted. She didn’t want pity, as she says several times in the text, but for the reader to understand the crazy time she had growing up to two huge Hollywood superstars. I loved every minute of this book and I would recommend it to anyone who needs a good laugh.
BOOK 3: The Night Country by Melissa Albert
The Night Country is the sequel to The Hazel Wood (which is the book that actually got me back into reading!) and continues the story of Alice after she has escaped the Hazel Wood, where her grandmother wrote all of her dark fairytales that brought her to fame.
One thing I love about Albert’s writing is that she is able to describe the switches between worlds beautifully. When traveling between worlds, her words reflect the moods and feelings of that place. In the case of Alice, when she is miserable – you feel her misery leaking on the pages. The worry of Ella gives you anxiety as well, leaving you wondering – what is going to happen next?
There are a lot of new characters in this book. I like and don’t like this at the same time – because I was left confused on occasion when we had met this character: in the Hazel Wood or in NYC. The characters are all quirky in their own ways, and some of their mannerisms are, I feel, less helpful to pushing the plot of the book.
Melissa Albert is one of my favorite books, and I recommend her books to anyone who enjoys fairy tales with dark twists, and watching some of the best character redemption arcs I have ever read.