Favorite Author Feature: Laurie Halse Anderson

In 2017 I shared Favorite Book Features on my favorite books. This year I started a new series—features on my favorite authors! I’m going to return to my favorite books shelf and look into some of my favorite authors. I’ll share about their books I’ve read and why they’re an awesome author. Today’s featured author is the incomparable Laurie Halse Anderson!

Fav Author Feature (2)
Favorite Author Feature: Laurie Halse Anderson

Laurie Halse Anderson is a New York Times-Bestselling author. She writes for kids and teens, and writes both contemporary and historical ficiton. Her books feel so true to life and have a way of putting real faces and heart-wrenching stories on the sometimes undefinable problems that teenagers face today. I’ve read all of her books for teens except for the Seeds of America Trilogy.

While I wouldn’t say that Twisted or Catalyst were very memorable, I truly enjoyed reading Prom, Fever, 1793, The Impossible Knife of Memory, and Wintergirls. And, of course, Speak is my favorite book. And I think I like the graphic novel of Speak (with art by Emily Carroll) even more than the original version. Click on the book titles to check out my reviews of Anderson’s books.

44FBAD06-25A2-41DC-8161-3EEE8CD0F101
As you can see, I own a lot of editions of Speak.

I recently read Anderson’s newest book: Shout, which is a memoir in poems. I loved getting a look “behind the scenes,” learning her history and what led to her writing Speak.

anderson-1
I got to meet Laurie Halse Anderson in 2016

I had the opportunity to meet Anderson in 2016 when she came to speak at a local bookstore as part of her tour for Ashes. In person, she bubbles up with passion for her subjects. She is a fierce advocate for the unheard, and an incredible writer that inspires me every day.


Have you read any of Laurie Halse Anderson’s books? Which ones are your favorites?

Half-Year Reading Recap

This is the last week of June, so I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on all of the books I’ve read so far this year.

My goal for 2019 is to read 55 books, 40 of fiction and 15 of nonfiction. In 2018, I read 60 books and crushed my goal of 45 for that year. I wanted to up my goal a little bit this year, but not push myself too far. It is so important to set goals that are reasonable to attain so that you aren’t setting yourself up for failure.

However, I guess I should have set my goal higher. As of today, I have read 42 books this year, which is 76% of my goal. And we’re only halfway through the year.

The main reason I have been able to read this much is because this year I branched out into novels-in-verse and graphic novels. These are the numbers of each kind of book I’ve read this year:

  • Fiction Total: 26/40
    • Prose: 16
    • Verse: 6
    • Graphic: 4
  • Nonfiction Total: 16/15
    • Prose: 14
    • Verse: 1
    • Graphic: 1

I’ve already reached my nonfiction goal for the year, and am getting close on my fiction. I have loved reading the novels-in-verse and graphic novels in addition to the regular prose books. (I would insert a picture here of some of the books I’ve read this year, but all of my books are in bags because we’re moving this weekend!)

0B92A6A6-C867-40E5-95DF-027C74BE2529
Speak: the Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson with art by Emily Carroll

A few of my favorite books from this year are The Martian by Andy Weir, Stolen by Lucy Christopher, Ellen Hopkins’ Crank Trilogy, and Lighter Than My Shadow by Katie Green.

My favorite book I’ve read this year is, of course, Speak: the Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson and art by Emily Carroll. Be sure to check back for my next blog post, which will be a Favorite Author Feature on Laurie Halse Anderson!


How are you doing on your 2019 reading goals? Any new favorite books?

Showing Up to the Page

I have a secret to admit: I haven’t written more than 15,000 words of fiction since I wrote Somewhere Only We Know. I wrote SOWK over a period of three months, but in the three years since I’ve only managed to write the equivalent of a quarter of that book.

I’ve been struggling a lot in my writing. No idea has felt quite right since SOWK. And I was so busy with so many different babysitting jobs that I felt like I never had long enough stretches in which to write.

So I decided to quit my job two months ago. My husband and I are blessed in that he earns enough to support us both, and I am doubly blessed that he wants me to stay home and write. I was sick of spending so much time and energy running around to five different babysitting jobs a week when what I want to do—what God has called me to do—is write.

However I was so exhausted by the time that I quit my jobs that I wasn’t ready to jump back into writing. Instead I’ve taken the last two months to rest and read a lot. I was hoping after doing so, and after going on our vacation to the Great Smoky Mountains, I’d feel inspired enough to jump back into writing.

One of the mornings on our vacation, I woke up before anyone else and decided to walk out on the deck to watch the sun rise. I took probably the most beautiful photograph I’ve ever taken that morning, but it’s not as inspiring as it seems.

70D2BD89-E65D-4DEE-AC43-2DF827D0B881
Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

That morning on the deck, I begged God to reach me, to show me how to do this, to change me, to show me how to write again.

But I felt nothing.

I took the photograph because I couldn’t believe the beauty before me, but I didn’t feel God speak to my heart that morning.

I had this blog post marked in my planner ever since I quit my job, figuring I’d get back to work by June and that I would be full of inspiration after resting and seeing the mountains. I was going to write about taking breaks and coming back to the page refreshed.

Instead I’m coming back almost as worn and weary as before, but with a new perspective. We can’t ask God for beautiful, inspiring sunrise moments on demand. We must simply show up to the work he’s called us to do, and do it.

I didn’t make a whole big schedule this time. I simplified my social media and blog planning to a minimum. I made a list of stories that I can work on. And I’m only trying to write 200 words each day. I’m just showing up to the page.

I’m trying.

I’m learning how to write again.

I’m focusing on nonfiction, because that seems to come a little easier right now.

I’m jumping into writing opportunities at my church.

And we’ll see how it goes and how God leads me. But I have to take the first step by putting my fingers to the keyboard again.

What I think is going to help me the most is that my husband and I are about to move into our first house. I will have my own library/office and my books will all be in the same place for the first time ever. I will finally have my own space in which to create, and I can’t wait to see what magic my new library will hold.

 

Favorite Author Feature: Neal Shusterman

In 2017 I shared Favorite Book Features on my favorite books. This year I’d like to start a new series—features on my favorite authors! I’m going to return to my favorite books shelf and look into some of my favorite authors. I’ll share about their books I’ve read and why they’re an awesome author. Today’s featured author is the incredible Neal Shusterman!

Fav Author Feature (1)
My new blog series will look into some of my favorite authors!

Neal Shusterman is a successful novelist and writer for television and film. He grew up in Brooklyn, New York and went to UC Irvine. He now lives in Southern California with his four kids. Shusterman is the author of the Unwind Dystology, the Skinjacker Trilogy, the Arc of a Scythe, the Accelerati Trilogy (with Eric Elfman), the Nation Book Award-winning novel Challenger Deep, and many other books for teens and kids.

IMG_4254 (1)
I loved Shusterman’s Skinjacker Trilogy and Unwind Dystology

The Skinjacker Trilogy—Everlost, Everwild, and Everfound—follows Nick and Allie as they navigate Everlost, the world between life and death where kids who “don’t get where they’re going” end up. It is a mysterious and dangerous world, full of lost souls and crossed-over objects, and if you stand in the same place to long you sink to the center of the earth. I’ve definitely never read anything quite like this before.

Like with Everlost, Shusterman blew my mind again with the Unwind Dystology. This series (UnwindUnwhollyUnsouled, and Undivided) takes place in the future after the second civil war was fought over abortion. Now children cannot be aborted, but from ages 13-18 they can be “unwound,” a process which results in 100% of their body being donated, so they’re not technically dead. These books are eerie and exciting and wonderful.

I think my favorite thing about Neal Shusterman’s writing—besides the incredible stories he comes up with—is his awesome omniscient narration. Most of the time I don’t like omniscient stories because I want to stick close to the main characters, but Shusterman uses the omniscient narrator to take you into the both the villains’ and side characters’ heads and beautifully characterize them in even as little as a paragraph. He puts the omniscient point of view to its best use by really getting deep into all of the characters (no matter how brief) to give the readers all of the perspectives on the situations in the book. These two series are both unique and really cool, and his narration makes the books some of my favorites and Shusterman one of my favorite authors.

IMG_4255
Everlost and Unwind are two of my favorite novels

Though I haven’t read many of Neal Shusterman’s books, I absolutely love the ones I have read, and I can’t wait to try more!


Have you read any of Neal Shusterman’s books? Which ones are your favorites?

How to Fit in More Reading

Writers should read as much as they write. As Stephen King puts it, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” Reading helps you as a writer by letting you see what kind of stories are out there and observing how others’ write. Reading a lot surrounds you with words and stories and makes it easier to write your own stories.

But writers often have a hard time fitting in reading. And there are two main reasons for this.

The first is that reading is time-consuming. Writers are often already doing their writing in their spare time on top of day jobs and don’t have any extra time to read, no matter how much it would benefit them. Since I only have a part-time job as a babysitter, I don’t have too much experience with this reason for not being able to read, but I do struggle a lot with reading slumps. I go through many periods of time in which nothing sounds good and I simply don’t want to read.

Whether you have trouble fitting in time to read or are struggling to find something you want to read, I have ideas to help you fit in more reading so that you can have the tools you need for your writing.

King blog quote
This quote by Stephen King sums up the need for writers to read.

Time-Restraint Tips

  • Audiobooks
    I’ve written before about how I love audiobooks and how they can be a great writing resource. Listening to books as I get ready in the morning or for bed, or while doing housework, is an excellent way to fit more reading into your day even when you don’t have time to sit down with a book in your hands. If you have a commute to your day job, try audiobooks to fill that time with more reading.
  • Always have a book with you
    You never know when you might have a few minutes to read. I don’t usually carry a physical book with me, but I have apps on my phone with ebooks and audiobooks. However, when I know there’s a high probability of having time to read (like at doctor appointments or at babysitting jobs during nap times) I always bring a physical book.
  • Schedule it
    If you struggle to find time to read but know how valuable it can be to your writing, schedule it! Reading is important and we should treat it as such. In my writing planner I schedule it out so that I can read a third to a half of two different novels each week and a chapter a day or so of a nonfiction book about writing. You’d be amazed how much reading you can get in if you break it down and schedule a handful of pages per day.

Reading Slump Tips

  • Quick Books
    Sometimes I get into a slump because the book I’m reading is really long and it’s taking forever to get through it. Long books may make you feel like you’re not getting any reading done at all simply because it takes a long time to finish. I love to read short books. A book you can finish quickly can give you the boost of confidence you need to get back into reading. Graphic novels and novels-in-verse are my favorite quick books.
  • Something Different
    When nothing sounds good to read, sometimes all you need is something different to make reading exciting again. Try something outside your comfort zone—a book in a genre you never would’ve picked up before. If you only read YA (like me) try an adult fiction novel. If you usually read fiction, try a memoir or poetry. If you’ve never read a graphic novel before, give it a try! You might like it as much as I did. Something outside the norm could help you jump back into a reading groove.

Do you have any tips about fitting in reading to add to the list?

What I’m Reading: Graphic Novels

When I read The Lunar Chronicles, I was so sad to finish the books because I already missed the characters. Then I discovered Marissa Meyer had written two more books in the series, set between the main novels and the epilogue in Stars Above. And they were graphic novels.

In my mind, graphic novels always meant superhero, action-packed stories. So I avoided them. But I loved the Lunar Chronicles series and wanted more, so I finally decided to give graphic novels a try.

I loved them.

And Wires and Nerve, volumes I and II, much like the novels-in-verse I’ve been reading lately, opened my eyes to more of what books can be.

It was so cool to see the Lunar Chronicles come to life. I had spent months immersed in this story world, and I could finally see my favorite characters in action. I thought I wouldn’t like reading the comic book style, with pictures and captions, but I found myself excited to pick up the story whenever I had time to read. It was a fun and interesting experience to “see” the story while technically still reading.

I finished the Wires and Nerve books all too quickly, so I rushed back to the library for more, only to find the graphic adaptation of my favorite book: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Reading the Wires and Nerve books opened me up to graphic novels, but the graphic adaptation of Speak affected me in a way I wasn’t expecting. Melinda’s story is powerful in words, but seeing it drawn out, especially when you get to see the art Melinda creates, makes this story even stronger. I almost felt like it was supposed to be in graphic form all along.

After reading these three graphic novels, I am ready for more. I have three more graphic novels checked out from the library (two more adaptations of existing books like Speak and an original) and I can’t wait to read them.

IMG_4149
I can’t wait to read the graphic adaptation of Anne Frank’s Diary!

I’ve been working to expand my reading over the past year, reading many books by people of color, lots of novels-in-verse, and now graphic novels. It’s important to open your mind to all that reading and writing can be, and to take in a lot of different voices. But, even though I think graphic novels are cool now, I still don’t think I’ll be reading superhero stories any time soon.


Do you like graphic novels? Which books would you recommend?

How Music Can Help You Write

Sometimes silence is a good thing for writers. I love to sit with my dog and look out the window together, letting my mind wander and brainstorm. But most of the time I’m listening to music. And I think there are many benefits to listening to music while you write.

IMG_3950
Listening to music while you write can inspire you and help keep you focused.

I’ve always felt that different forms of art can influence each other. Music influences my writing. My writing influences my paper crafts. The Bible, which is God’s Word and a work of art in its own right, influences everything I create.

Music can be a great source of inspiration for writing. Different genres and tones of music can influence your ideas. For example, I like to listen to music that reminds me of a character or a story in order to brainstorm. But the main way music helps me is by keeping me inspired during the physical act of writing.

I have the radio station K-LOVE on pretty much non-stop. Listening to Christian music and worship songs is a great reminder of God’s presence. The music helps me remember that God is always with me and that I need to look to him when I am creating.

K-LOVE helps me when I’m reading, brainstorming, working on social media and my blog, and doing pretty much everything else during the day. But when it comes time to get my word count down for the day, I can’t seem to listen to lyrics anymore.

Instead I turn to movie scores and other soundtracks and classical music. Orchestral music helps me so much when I am writing. I try to pick music that has a tone and pace similar to what I’m writing so that it helps me keep my head in the right place. Some of my favorite movie scores to listen to are Inception (or anything else by Hans Zimmer) and the Harry Potter movies. I also like listening to Cirque du Soleil soundtracks when I want something a little different-sounding. When it comes to classical music, Beethoven has always been my favorite.

Movie scores, soundtracks, and classical music keep me inspired and focused on what I’m doing. It’s so easy to become distracted and turn away from your writing, but a lot of the time I’ll use albums as timers: For example, I know that the Inception soundtrack is approximately one hour long. So if I’m having trouble focusing, I can turn that on and tell myself I have to work until it is over, and that will keep me focused for a whole hour.

Another tip I’ve heard before is that video game soundtracks are even better than movie scores to listen to while writing because video game music is specifically designed to keep you concentrated. I’m not much of a gamer and I only have one video game soundtrack (Epic Mickey), so I don’t have much experience to know if this really does help. But movie scores help me just fine.

No matter what music you like, you can look to is as an inspiration for your stories and use it to help keep you focused while you write.


Do you listen to music while you write? If so, what kind?