02 Jun 2018

what I’ve been reading

Photo by Alex Sawyer on Unsplash

One of my more indulgent fantasies features a room filled with books. Floor to ceiling books. Books spilling out of shelves. A ladder that allows me to climb to places where I can’t reach. I secretly hold onto this fantasy, especially when life brings me more than I think I can bear. But I manage because this is what one does–bear the dark spaces knowing that they will always, invariably, lead you to light. Books have always been my companion through this journey. When I’m jubilant, I read. When I’m feeling broken, I read. The only difference, really, is the types of books I cleave to in these moments of sadness and joy. When I’m on my game I read literary fiction and heady non-fiction. When I’m pulling the covers over my face, I go for the best of the genres–thriller, horror, historical fiction, YA, etc. Sometimes, when you reside too much in your own head, it’s nice to get lost somewhere else. In someone else’s world, one so artfully created. Push me back, pull me forward, or take me somewhere I’ve never been.

I’m excited to share what I’ve been reading over the past few weeks!!!

Tigers in Red Weather by Lisa Klaussman: I’m endlessly fascinated by the 1950s and 60s and the tension women faced between ambition and societal norms. When I was young, I devoured all the books about families come undone–families with lofty bank accounts and cocktail mixers–and Klaussman’s novel does not disappoint. I got glimpses of the Wheelers in Revolutionary Road and all things Cheever while reading this story of a family coming apart at very delicate seams.

Nick and her cousin Helena grew up in the privilege of gin parties and summering as a verb in a beautiful home in Martha’s Vineyard. They’ve got their men and their dreams and after WWII, they realize that the world they so assiduously built is far from their reality. Nick’s husband Hughes is withdrawn, no longer resembling the man she married before the War. Avery, Helena’s smooth-talking Hollywood charlatan, is hungry for fame, dollars, and all the trimmings Helena’s world provides. Both women are stuck with men who are pale facsimiles of their former selves and by societal norms. Who leaves their husband, especially after having children? You stay and endure the steady march of the years that follow. One summer, their teenaged children, Ed and Daisy, find a mangled body in the Vineyard and their family embarks on a decade-long downward spiral. This book is DARK, darker than I actually anticipated, and I loved it for all its bleakness. Why? Because sometimes life isn’t as tidy as you want it to be. It’s messy, unsatisfying, heartbreaking, and I find that SO MANY people want to be anesthetized. They want their shiny, happy ending, and I get it. I do. But that doesn’t stop me from going after that which is honest and real. There’s also a psychopath thrown into the story for good measure, and you guys know how I feel about THAT.

The Widow by Fiona Barton: Don’t you hate when publishers compare one book to bestsellers, even if the plot isn’t even remotely related? Yeah, me too. Everyone and their pony compared Barton’s first thriller to Gone Girl (I hated this book so much I actually through the film saved it) and Girl On the Train, but aside from an unhinged wife married to a douchebag husband, the similarities end there. Barton’s first book opens with Jeanie, a woman married young to a controlling husband, who loses said husband during a freak accident. We soon learn of the stench on them–Jeanie’s husband was a lead suspect in the abduction and murder of two-year-old Bella, four years ago.

The story is told through alternating POVs–you hear from the lead detective on the case, the ambitious reporter, the mother of Bella, and Jeanie, the widow. Over the course of the novel, we learn more about the insular couple, what binds them, and what tears them apart over the course of the trial. The question hovers around how much the widow knew? Did she know about her husband’s pedophile tendencies? Did she know about Bella? More importantly, when did she know? The pacing was on point (the book is literally a page-turner) and the inner workings between the police and the media were fascinating and well played out–no doubt to Barton being a well-regarded journalist in the UK. My only beef is that the story went exactly where you expected it to go. There’s no twist or red herrings. Rather, it’s a slow burn to uncover who knew what and when. Aside from the ending, which was less than satisfying (I like my twist), I finished this book in under a day and it’s definitely worth renting from the library.

Being Boss by Kathleen Shannon and Emily Thompson: I’m not a snob about career books, but many of them are just SO BAD. They’re either dry and redundant or too woo for words. However, Being Boss manages to straddle pragmatism and personal velocity in a way that’s practical, inspiring, and motivating. I also purchased their CEO Day kit and in one day I got complete clarity when it came to my career and its direction. Shanon and Thompson are small business owners who also produce the wildly popular Being Boss podcast. I love the podcast because it constantly reminds you of the difference between working in your business (knee-deep in the weeds) and on your business (establishing that bad-ass vision).

You don’t need to be a creative entrepreneur to find value in the book, which takes you through practical advice on how to manage and build your brand and career. You’ll learn everything from how to combat imposter syndrome to how to build your offering (and why you’re so awesome and unique, i.e. value proposition) as well as building real, actionable goals to jettison your career. Their voices and real stories from the trenches were infectious, and they’ve also brought in quotes and insights from people at the top of their career game. You also get worksheets and checklists! I found that this book, combined with their CEO Day course, really helped me gain clarity and focus when it comes to my career. This book is absolutely worth your $$$. And yes, this book is also helpful for the guys in the house.

Articles I’ve LOVED this week:

  • I had a blast on The Hartford’s Small Business Ahead podcast where I talk about firing wack clients.
  • The double-edged sword (and reality) of remote work.
  • How your email list can do some of the heavy-lifting when it comes to sales.
  • “It’s a very slippery slope from admiration to jealousy, especially as social media has become so prominent, giving us the ability to follow anyone’s carefully curated image of success and glamour.” This piece on online jealousy and hate-reading is excellent.
  • Five ways of looking at a serial killer.
  • As a small business owner, you need to be working on your business, not in your business. Making calculated moves is the key to success and you’re not able to do that if you’re knee-deep in handling the day-to-day details. I write often for The Hartford’s Small Business Ahead blog and here’s my latest on the power of delegation.
  • “We cannot manage time, we can only manage ourselves and our workflows. Time doesn’t change, it isn’t flexible and can’t be manipulated to fit our needs.” Some real truth on time management.
  • You can’t be well-read without reading women. AMEN, people. AMEN.

 

Full Disclosure: There are Amazon affiliate links in this post, which means if you purchase any of these books, I make a little cash to pay for my site’s hosting fees. 

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Instagram

  • We spend our time devoted to the periphery. If periphery was an altar trust that we’d all gather and worship. We cleave to the shiny objects that are social media, email, podcasting—we’re told we have to be diversified—at the expense of the one true thing you create. The thing by which you want to be known and remembered. We give equal (if not more) weight and devotion to that which surrounds our thing instead of getting laser-focused and refining our skills, being a student—all to keep getting better at the thing.
.
Trust me, I want to do ALL THE THINGS. Now, I ask myself what portion of my day have I committed to being a better writer, a better storyteller and brand builder? Am I learning something new, regardless of how minor that something is? Or am I zeroing in on the things that are conduits and bridges to and from the work. You’ve created all these points of entry to a thing that isn’t as good as the vehicle that got them to the thing.
.
Think about that. Prioritize. .
.
.
#thursdaymotivation #freelance #freelancelife #femtrepreneur #beingboss #ladyboss #protip #beastudent
  • So, I fell down in the middle of the street while walking to an important meeting. I scraped up my knee pretty bad, but kept it moving, because I have a long-term play to earn as much as I can to move somewhere super remote and quiet by the end of the year.
.
It’s weird to think that I’ve lived in NY for the first 39 years of my life, Los Angeles for the past four, but I’m watching old episodes of Shetland and wondering how I can get myself to a remote farmhouse, cabin, outhouse, etc. All I need is good WIFI for work.
.
But an island in Scotland isn’t realistic, so I’m setting my sights closer to home, California. And I’ve got time to research, thankfully. .
Until then, I’ll keep plugging, keep writing, keep up with newly-revisited healthy habits.
.
.
.
#freelance #freelancewriter #tuesdaymotivation #beingboss #bosslife
  • New post up on medium. Link in bio.
.
“If I had my way, I’d never leave my house. My home is small, and I know every inch of it. An 800-square foot box with two windows, walls, and a doorbell that plays instrumental Julio Iglesias. Half the rooms are cloaked in effulgent light and the other a cool charcoal black. I’ve become fluent at oscillating between the two. I don’t even love the space in which I live, but I’m hard-pressed to leave it.”
.
.
.
.
#authorsofig #authorsofinstagram #writing #weekendvibes #mediumstory #friyay #friyayvibes #novelplotting
  • I live in a city of four million people, which was a marked improvement from my home, New York, of eight million. I snapped this photo during my trip to Cape Town (488K people), and during that trip we traveled to towns of four thousand people and it was GLORIOUS.
.
It’s bizarre that I’ve always been a city girl and all I want now is small. Quiet. Remote. I feel like my dad.
.
I cracked my tooth on Friday (it’s all good—I got Percocet and a $3K bill), and it made me think that there’s so much I want to do, work-wise and artistically, but I’m always thinking about money. Years ago, I heard Paul Jarvis talk about reducing your expenses to feel richer. I know, captain  obvious, but it resonated with me on Friday while on Percocet.
.
I’m considering another move when my lease is up to a small AF town in California not too far from the Redwoods and the ocean. I LOVE California, and I can’t imagine living anywhere else in the US. And I love the idea of FEWER people. Quiet to write. Maybe I can get a dog friend for my Felix! .
So, we’ll see. Does anyone here live in a remote or super small town? If so, what do you love about it?
.
.
.
#sundayfunday #sundayvibes #weekendvibes #freelancing #authorsofig
  • My breaking point was over a hazelnut. A hazelnut that cracked my tooth at two-thirty this morning. Because I was stress-eating granola. But it was the three thousand dollar bill to fix said tooth that did me in. Only a few weeks before, a persistent ache in another tooth turned into a five-hour fiasco involving a dentist, an endodontist, a $5,000 bill and me texting a friend — while the fifth shot in my mouth was kicking in, and I was inhaling nitrous gas like a glass of water in the fucking Sahara — ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THIS BULLSHIT?
.
My dentist tried to reassure me, after rejecting my pleas for a fifteen-year repayment plan, that this particular tooth had already booked a one-way ticket to a root canal, so I ended up saving $2,000! Oh, cool. So, instead of dropping ten grand on two teeth, I was only paying eight. Like I have eight thousand dollars just laying around, waiting to be flushed down the dental toilet. Apparently, the hazelnut was my salvation. I started laughing and continued laughing. For a while. To the point where everyone in the waiting room was uncomfortable.
.
****I wrote about teeth, money, and debt in my latest medium post. Link in bio.*****
.
.
.
#risingtidesociety #freelancing #freelancinglife #bosslife #bossbabe #beingboss #cashmoney #fuckstudentloans #femtrepreneur #realtalk
  • This is our one life. We love. We lose. We overcome. We break in ways we never thought possible. We climb, ravage, and wreck. While it’s possible that every story has been told, that knowledge doesn’t stop us from reading, watching, listening, and feeling. It doesn’t disconnect us from someone’s unique experience. Instead, we live for the retelling: how individuals bear that which is familiar or common, and how their singular experience feels fresh and new.
.
Today, I wrote a tutorial about crafting plots. Instead of vivisecting plot arcs — because frankly, I’d rather gouge out my eyes with an acetylene torch — I invite you to consider three simple questions: what story will sustain your interest for 70,000 words? Can you commit to your story and the sequence of events that unfold for months or years of your life? Does your novel have the weight to capture and hold your reader until the end?
.
.
.
This year, I’m committed to sharing what I know for FREE. I’ve got no classes to sell after this (I actually hate the idea of teaching writing; I’d rather be doing it), but lots of people have asked for the goods and I believe if you’ve got the skill and privilege, you should be sharing it.
.
So, if you want to get your plot on (I am such a 40-something), hit up the link in my bio. If you like what you read, consider clapping (you can clap up to 50x on medium) and share it, so more people get the education love.
.
.
.
.
#authorsofig #novel #howtowrite #authorsofinstagram #freelancewriter #novelplotting #mondaymotivation #risingtidesociety #writing #writingcommunity
  • Want to write a book? I'm sharing a six-part series in how to get the job done. The first two I'm previewing on Medium. Yesterday, I wrote about writing killer dialogue. Today, I'm sharing how to craft compelling characters. If you love what you read, consider sharing and clapping (more than once!). link in bio!
.
Characters are delicious. When I was small, I didn’t have many friends, so I surrounded myself with books and my imagination. It’s a strange, magical thing to live your life inside your head, but this is what I did. Long, sultry summers formed a backdrop for one of the many worlds I’d created, complete with a cast of characters who felt so real you could touch them. This was more than inventing an imaginary friend or anthropomorphizing a stuffed bear; my characters were fully-formed people who had their own personalities, a particular way of talk, and facial features I’d cobbled together from television shows and magazines. They clasped pearls around their thin necks and wore sweaters and shoes made of silk and dyed blue. They were carriers of credit cards, plastic rectangular shapes I’d only seen on TV — a far cry from the crumpled bills and pennies we hoarded. My characters were breathing Frankensteins, only far less frightening. What made them real was they refused to follow a script — they rarely behaved the way I wanted them to.
.
.
.
#howtowrite #writing #writingtips #characterdesign #authorsofinsta #authorsofinstagram #bookstagram #howtowriteabook #weekendvibes #sundayfunday
  • Want to write a book? I got you. Below is an excerpt from my latest medium piece—the first tutorial of six I’ll be sharing on writing mechanics. You’ll get the other 5 later this month if you’re on my email list. Link in profile!
.
Denis Johnson once said that dialogue isn’t about what characters are saying, but what’s left unsaid. The leaner the dialogue, the bigger the bite. Darkness fell. The summer in 2005 was unseasonably chilly, and we wrapped ourselves in light jackets and thin cotton sweaters, watching the author of Jesus’ Sonchain-smoke and dole out advice with humor and humility. We were at a writer’s conference where we workshopped our stories during the day and mingled with boldfaced names in the evening. This would be the summer before I sold my first book and I was floored that my teacher at the time, Nick Flynn, found something honest and worthy in my essays that would become my memoir, The Sky Isn’t Visible From Here. Back then, I was painfully shy and prone to giving violently awkward first impressions, so instead of the cocktails and conversation, I chose to sit on the wet grass and listen to writers whom I admired. One evening, Denis Johnson gave a talk on dialogue.
.

Dialogue is difficult. I often think of it as the power-lifter of novel writing because it has to operate successfully on several different levels. Not only does it have to move the story forward, convey information quickly, and grant narrative breathing space (because who wants to plow through pages without an exhale), but it also has to reveal core character truths. Dialogue delivers what narrative can’t — a voyeuristic, in-depth look into the minds of characters through what they say, and more importantly, what they chose not to disclose. Characters come to life when they speak. We visualize them as living, breathing people who have a particular way of talk, a specific view of the world and their place in it. While the author has dominion over the narrative, serving as your tour guide through the story, the dialogue serves as the wild card, the wrench that could usurp everything you’ve just read and what you’re about to read.
.
#howtowrite #writing #writingtips #authorsofig

Follow Me!