What Happened to My Reading Life?

my reading life copy

It is Friday, February 19, 2016. So far this year, I have not finished reading a book.

Not. One. Single. Book.

For those of you who know me, this is about as batshit crazy as I get. My husband calls me a “Reading Fool.” When I started this blog, I had hoped to write one book review a week. It started out that way but when you don’t read, you don’t review.

What the hell happened, you ask? I can’t believe this, but I got too busy to read. Since January 1, this is me:K7bdG

I’ve been working on opening an Etsy shop. (More about that soon.)I have been purging all the closets in my house. I have been shooting arrows. I have been going to the gym. Above all, I have been editing my book. I have almost finished editing this draft and then all that’s left will be the final polish to make it shine like the top of the Chrysler building. (Bonus points to anyone who caught the Annie reference.)

Seriously. When I get a spare moment, and they are far in between, I am usually so tired I fall asleep. And when I do try to read (for instance on Sunday mornings with a cup of coffee and a purring cat beside to me), I can’t concentrate for very long because I feel there are other things I should be doing. So I read a few chapters and then get going with my day.

I do know that this particular cycle can’t continue. I will read two books in the next two months, if only because I am leading two book discussions at the library: one in March and one in April. March’s selection is Longbourn by Jo Baker and April is How to Be Both  by Ali Smith. Yes, I chose both books without reading them only on the merits that they sounded interesting. I do that all the time with book discussions. We librarians play fast and loose with your literary lives and you don’t even know it.

So I am going to have to force myself to slow down and read for a bit. Either that or I am going to have to be very good at faking my way through a book discussion…

Just kidding. I’ve never done that before.

Honest.

Method Writing: Letting Loose

method writing part 1 copy

 

You’ve heard of method acting, right? Lots of actors use it from Reese Witherspoon and Nicholas Cage to Johnny Depp and Jane Fonda. For those of you not familiar with the idea, it is loosely defined as this:

“Lee Strasberg’s method is based upon the idea that in order to develop an emotional and cognitive understanding of their roles, actors should use their own experiences to identify personally with their characters. The method uses techniques to reproduce the character’s emotional state by recalling emotions or sensations from the actor’s own life.”

I’ve been thinking about this idea and how I could apply it to writing. There is an old adage that one should “write what you know,” but I believe that applies more to writing from your heart and not trying to contrive feelings that fall flat and come across as inauthentic. Because let’s be realistic, if we only wrote about things we were familiar with (i.e. our own life experiences) there would be no science fiction, no fantasy, nor historical fiction, or any other genre but contemporary fiction or biography. And let me tell you that as a librarian, there are already too many memoirs out there and we don’t need more. Unless your life has been extraordinary, no one wants to hear it.

But as is stands, there are a lot of possibilities in broadening one’s experiences to become a better writer. I know a lot of us already live too much in our own heads so it’s good to get out once in a while and try new things.

For the novel on which I am currently working my heroine is a crack shot with not just firearms but also a bow and arrow. I had an archery unit in P.E. in high school (God help me, some twenty odd years ago) and I remember it as the one bright spot for a mostly uncoordinated kid. I was good at it. I excelled at it.

I wanted to remember the feeling of holding the bow in my hand and drawing an arrow. I wanted to think consciously about how it felt, both physically and psychologically. What it was like to take aim and let that arrow loose.

Since I live in South Florida I didn’t have to wait for spring to find a way to try it out again. I found the closest archery range was in North Ft. Myers, which was about an hour’s drive from home. Lee County Archers is a private club but every Thursday afternoon from 2-6 p.m. they offer free instruction for beginners, and even lend you equipment at no charge. I convinced my friend Di to come with me and we went last Thursday. Our instructor John was knowledgable and patient, and a very good teacher.

Taking aim...

Taking aim…

From the moment I loosed that first arrow I was hooked again. We were out there for over two hours shooting. Di was a natural and took to it right away even though she had been a small child the last time she shot a bow and arrow. I was less adept, but I found that as the afternoon progressed my arrow clusters were getting closer and closer together.

The experience will help me tremendously in my writing, I believe. Just knowing the physical sensations will be a huge help when my protagonist picks up a bow and shoots her first arrow. I may never be a dead-eye, but I am going to have fun with it.

Loosed! You can see the yellow fletching of the arrow moving away from me.

Loosed! You can see the yellow fletching of the arrow moving away from me.

In fact, Di and I both loved it so much we are going to find a way to continue without having to drive an hour to North Ft. Myers. It may take some doing, there is equipment to procure, but I think we both want to keep practicing. Our instructor said that someone using a sightless bow would need to practice three times a week in order to steadily improve. I’m sorry, but I can’t make that drive so often.

In case you were wondering, that is a barebow I am shooting. A barebow has the elements of a compound bow but without any sights on it, like a recurve bow. We also tried a regular compound bow and a recurve. The recurve bow was the one I really wanted to work with, but I found that girls with big racks have a problem with their girls getting in the way. No wonder the Amazon women cut off a breast in Greek mythology.

So what am I going to do next? In April I signed up my husband and I for our local Sheriff’s Firearm Safety Class. Four hours of classroom instruction and three hours on the firing range. This one scares the bejesus out of me but that’s kind of the point. Not that I’m interested in owning a handgun, I just want to know what it is like to pick up a pistol and fire it.

But that’s April. Who knows what experiences I will find to enhance my writing before then. I’m always on the lookout…

 

Let’s Do This

Happy New Year!

I’ve been taking stock of 2015 for a few days now. Some really excellent things happened, the most exciting was that I found a literary agent who is head over heels in love with my book.  We’re looking for a publisher now and I can’t be more thrilled.

This year wasn’t really an easy one. I had to work out a lot of things in my head about my job, my passion for writing and how they can coexist peacefully. I’m still working on it.

New YearBut I have decided 2016 is going to be my sassiest year yet. Last night, when the clock struck twelve, I was in the middle of getting teal streaks put in my hair by a 19 year-old cosmetology student. (Who, by the way, did an excellent job.) I am going to keep hiring her to color my hair until she graduates and becomes too expensive for me.

Mid-life crisis? Nope, I really don’t think so. I’ve decided that I’ve spent too much time being miserable, waiting for things to happen. (Waiting to find an agent, a publisher, to get the hell out of my day job, etc.) And doing all that waiting makes one rather miserable. So I have decided to stop waiting and start doing things. Fun things. Crazy things. Daring things.

New Me

This was me in the car this morning on the way to my first breakfast of 2016. I had the bacon skillet at Hoots, I highly recommend it. See the teal hair? I am so in love with it. It is just the first of many things I will be diving into this year.

For instance, there are a few things I’ve been wanting to try for writing research. Archery, for example. In high school we had an archery unit in gym class and I was pretty good at it. I want to remind myself what it feels like to draw a bow and loose an arrow.

I found an outdoor archery club less than an hour away. They offer free lessons to newbies and let them borrow equipment until the newbie decides what is right for them. Now I just have to find a way to have a Thursday afternoon off in the middle of season. Wish me luck.

I’ve also wanted to know what it feels like to shoot a gun. Not that I plan on owning one, but I want to know the physical and psychological feelings a person has when they pick up a weapon and fire it for the first time. So I signed up my husband and I for our local sheriff’s gun safety class. There are four hours of classroom instruction and three hours at the range. My good friend, who is a former cop, is going to let me borrow her Glock for the actual practical aspect. I have to admit I’m a little scared about this, but the class isn’t until April so I have time to get used to the idea.

I’m also downsizing our posessions this year. We have way too much junk. Stuff that has been sitting in closets for years, things we never use, or even remember we had. I am making a run to the Goodwill tomorrow as a matter of fact. Every time I do I feel lighter.

Speaking of lighter, I also return to the gym tomorrow. In 2014 I went 3-4 times a week. I lost all momentum when I had to have my gall bladder removed this last January. That’s a whole year off. I think it’s time to get back on the elliptical machine.

But above all, I am going to be writing. It is the thing I love most. It gives me such a high to sit with my laptop and create a world and characters so real I feel like they really are out there somewhere living their lives. I have been on fire for the last month, writing every day. I am working o n rewriting my first novel and I am very pleased with how it is coming out.

So won’t you join me? Let’s go find new and interesting experiences to fill our days instead of stewing in anxiety until our fingers get all pruney. A champion worrier all my life, I have decided once and for all that anxiety can BITE ME.

Happy New Year. Let’s do this.