A Writer In Her Library

2016-01-07 ACN Pic 1When I teach, students often ask me for books that I recommend.  I like Debra Dixon’s GMC: Goal Motivation & Conflict; The Building Blocks of Good Fiction.  Debra breaks down how good stories work and why, and helps us create compelling characters that will drive our story forward.

Her grids are helpful for evaluating our own stories and making them stronger.  I particularly like how she uses several popular movies as examples, and breaks down where they work and where they don’t.  It makes it easy to see her points and figure out how to apply them to our own writing.

Highly recommended.

A Writer In Her Library

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I’ve missed my Thursday “A Writer In Her Library” feature, so I figured I’d resurrect it.  I’ve been doing a lot of work with autobiography and memoir lately, and I adore Tristine Rainer.  She has a great book, Your Life As Story,  and I’ve found it really helpful through the process.

One of the first assignments she gives is to write a fairytale of your life’s story.  It’s an interesting exercise.  She said that some students want to cram their lives into an existing fairytale, but she suggests writing a completely new tale, in the style of a fairytale.

What about you, Dear Reader?  How do you feel about memoir and autobiography?

Make Something Monday – Coloring

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Image drawn by John Green, from Dover Publications Little Seashore Stained Glass Coloring Book; colored by A. Catherine Noon.

 

Okay, ever since I started knitting, I’ve discovered that I’m hip.  Not because I’m, like, hip, or something; but because, apparently, what I’m into is the new black.  My theory is, it’s all us X-Geners putting our collective spending power together and making stuff popular because we want to buy it.  Take coloring books, for instance.  I’ve adored coloring books for years.  My two favorites are the Dover line of Stained Glass Coloring Books and mandala coloring books.  The latter were hard to find up until this holiday season when, apparently, booksellers started listening to me and my X-Gener pals and poof – lots of options.

Just in time for me to be on a budget, of course.  🙂

But I figured I’d share some of what I’ve been up to, particularly because it dovetails nicely with the whole yoga-meditate-getinthemoment-beinthebody vibe that I’ve got going lately.

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This one is held up against my monitor so you can see it by the glow of the light.  That’s why I like these, because they are translucent.  One project I’d like to do at some point is make a Japanese-style paper lantern using these colored designs.

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Here’s the back of the book so you can read a little more about it.  (If you click on the image, it will jump you to the Amazon page if you’re interested in shopping.)

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I figured a discussion of pens is warranted, especially since there’s such an interest in adult coloring books now.  I’m a pen snob.  This will not surprise any of you who have been reading me a while, but I say it because I’m extraordinarily picky about what pens I like to use.  Pentel pens are, by far, my favorite for luminosity and lasting power of the pens themselves.  I know there are more expensive and higher quality pens (I made the mistake of telling a graphic artist friend of my love affair with Pentel and got an ear-full).  But here’s why I like these:  I’ve owned this specific set for OVER 20 years.  No, that’s not a typo.  The red’s a little dry now, and so is one of the greys, but by and large it’s still working for what I need it to do – color coloring books so I can relax.  I don’t use them for serious Art with a capital A.  (Well, that’s not true – I have used them for that; my point is, I’m not saying these are the best pens out there, just that they’re my favorite).

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Here’s the inside of the set; I like this wallet type.  I saw online that there’s a version in a rectangular case, but this one allows me to put them in the order I want them in and they stay organized.  They do sell smaller sets, if you don’t want to fork over the money for all 36; I used a smaller set for years too.  They really seem to last.  I’ve put a hyperlink to Amazon in the image so if you click on it, it’ll jump you to the shopping page.

Tell me, Dear Reader, what are your favorite coloring books and tools?  Pens?  Pencils?  I’d love to know.

(I think I’ve fixed the comment problems, but holler if not; email is a.catherine.noon AT gmail.)

 

I Is For… Inquiry

2015-04-10 Pic 1Curiosity.  What’s that they say about it?  It killed the cat?  Not a very auspicious axiom for those of us who are afflicted by it.  The thirst for knowledge can be an anodyne to modern life, the bustle and invasion of distractions in the form of social media and entertainment.  But all that chaotic, frantic chatter is simply the next chapter of the Great Conversation that humanity has been having with itself since Lascaux.

Charles Van Doren’s book, A History of Knowledge:  Past, Present, and Future – the Pivotal Events, People, and Achievements of World History is a good overview of how we got where we are today.  They say that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it, and being aware of roots can help us in all sorts of ways.  Understanding the impact of the printing press on society and how it forced open the gates of knowledge, for example, can help us see the possible implications of the internet on the world today.

What about you, Dear Reader?
What subjects intrigue you?

H Is For… Home Design!

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Used book sales are a lot of fun, because you can find all sorts of things that are now out of print.  I have several collections of different subjects, and one of them is what I’ve decided to call, Home Design.  A while back I did a series about redesigning my home library, and how the shape of the subjects my husband and I collected told me something about us in the same way an autobiographical sketch might.

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I have a mix between practical how-to books and design books.  I differentiate those by whether they tell me how to achieve a particular aesthetic (design) or how to make or fix something (how-to).  I also found that I have a fascination with how to manage a home; things as varied as a housekeeping manual (I have several) to how things in the home work (which is the actual title of one of the books).

In my fiction, I have found recurring themes of Home and Belonging.  The two are related:  how to create that home where one can feel a sense of belonging, and how to find that home in terms of stories and allegories.  It’s cropped up in fiction, poetry, and apparently, on my shelves.

What about you, Dear Reader?
What are some of the subjects that you have on your shelves, or like to read?

A Writer In Her Library – The Shape of the Whole

The Library at Chez Noony
Or, The Ladybug Bed and Breakfast Dining Room and Reading Nook

I spent much of December and all of New Year’s Day organizing my library.  I put everything in order by topic, and then alphabetical by author.  As I did so, I started to realize something:  my library is a clue to myself.  As I am exploring new diary techniques and autobiographical writing, organizing my possessions, and more particularly my books, has been a window that looks into the world about which I’m writing.

I can trace my own development as an adult through my books.  There are the ones I have from my first university degree; Russian, philosophy, metaphysics, Wicca, and astronomy.  Then there are my travel books and books about hiking – how to do it and where to explore.  I have a startling number of personal productivity books – Covey and Smith, of course, but lesser-known authors as well.  Personal finance features largely even before my MBA books, and I had a blast of nostalgia when I found my macroeconomics book, the first course I had to take as a prerequisite when I started my MBA.

There’s also the material I collected when working on my unfinished master herbalist coursework, aromatherapy science, and cooking.  I have a huge home section, and not just on decorating the home – how to buy it, what to do when things go wrong, how stuff works in it, how to remodel it, and even how to entertain in it – and more than one entertaining book, too.  I even have a book on how to be a blonde (don’t ask, it was at a used book sale and made me laugh, which was worth it for the dollar it cost to buy).

As I explore my own mind, and give myself permission to tell my own story and not the ones that were handed to me to cover the facts, I find that my library is a comfort to me.  I enjoy sitting in the Ugli Chair and looking around at the books.  I imagine staying in there for days, leaving only to use the restroom or get food and water, and that image is one that’s exciting.  A retreat from the world to think and contemplate and read and write?  What could be more fun?

Excuse me, but I think I’ll go sit in there for a while before I go to bed.  But before I go, I have a question for you, Dear Reader:

What are your favorite topics about which to read?

A Writer In Her Library – Taming the Chaos

I have been a reader for a long, long time.  I started collecting books in my early teens and, despite two deep – and I do mean, deep – purges, I still have a prodigious collection.  The hieroglyphics above is a screenshot of the index I use to keep track of all this bounty.  (You can click on it to enlarge the picture if you’re that masochistic.)

A couple thoughts about personal library organization:

If you’re serious about being published, making an index of all the books you either own or have checked out – and liked – from the library would be prudent.  But don’t just keep the author and title.  Dig a little deeper for clues into the business:

Who is the publisher?

Where are they located?  Are they an international conglomerate (tip-off here is if they have multiple, international, cities on their title page, like New York, London, and Tokyo).

What year is the book published?

What genres are listed on the Library of Congress listing?  This will give you an idea of other topics in which you might be interested, as well as give you thoughts about topics about which you might be prompted to write – even for blog posts.

Who is the agent?  You might have to do some digging.  It may not say in the front material, but some internet sleuthing might reveal it to you.  If you adore five authors, for example, and four of them are from Publisher A, and three of them are represented by Agency B, then poof! You know to whom you might want to submit something in a similar vein.  (This is the natural extension of the old adage, “Write What You Know.”)

You might also be interested in where you bought it or who gave it to you.

Even more, you might want to say a few words about whether you liked it, or when you talked about it on a blog, or other information that is of use to you.

I keep my book index in Excel because I’m good with Excel and it’s immensely customizable.  Others I know have done it in online communities such as GoodReads or LibraryThing.  I don’t like those options because I can’t control them, can’t customize them, and at the end of the day, don’t own them.  I like to have complete control over my list.

Over time, your library can reveal to you the shape of your own mind.  Maybe in 2010 you collected nothing but books on such-and-such subject, but this year, you’re deeply interested in this other subject over here.  You can write essays on your books and share them with other bibliophiles online.  Or, like I’m doing here, you can even write a blog post about your organization system.

Fun times, nu?

Now, back to reorganizing.  We moved last year and it threw my library into disarray.  Next up:  textile arts books.  I can’t wait!

What about you?
About which subjects do you enjoy reading (whether or not you have them in your library at home)?

A Writer In Her Library – Journaling with Deena Metzger

I’ve re-discovered one of the books in my personal library, Writing For Your Life: A Guide and Companion to the Inner Worlds, by Deena Metzger. I’ve been doing a lot more journaling in the last year and it re-ignited my interest in books about journaling and ways that have worked for other diarists.

This particular book has an emphasis on specificity and poetry. She has us examine our observations as though we were a traveler in a foreign country, visiting a new place. By doing so, we turn our attention to things and see them as though for the first time. She invites us to get more specific in what we see. In this way, we can bridge into poetry and metaphor, see the importance of what we’re seeing in a new, and deeper, way.

I like books that have exercises in them because, at the end of the day, I’m a writer and not just a reader. I prefer books that invite me to be an active participant. I think that’s why I enjoy mysteries – because I get to solve the story along with the characters. Metzger has us experiment with many different methods, trying each of them on to see what works for us and for our writing.

It is through facts that we can get to the heart of emotion. Rather than tell the reader, “I felt sad,” we show the reader what sadness felt like and its uniqueness in that time and place. Each sadness is different: different causes, different participants, different consequences. The more we can report the facts of the feelings, the more we can get to the center core of Truth in our experience. I think this is at the heart of the old writer’s adage, “show, don’t tell.” When I say to the reader, “I felt angry,” I’m telling the reader what I felt. When I say, instead, what that anger did to me physically, what I said and how others responded to me, and what was left unsaid, I show the reader a moment in time – so much more than just the emotion of angry, but an entire scene and its aftermath.

I’m only in the first part of the book right now but am thoroughly enjoying myself. Highly recommend this to those of you that enjoy journaling, or that think you might want to give it a try.

What how-to books do you recommend?

A Writer In Her Library – Rainy Day Saturday

It’s a rainy day today, so I can’t go in the garden and dig up the side plot to plan my broccoli, beans and cucumber.  ~pout~

Instead, I thought I’d share my three newest book acquisition (because, clearly, I need more books).  Two of them are related to job search, and the third is a craft book.

The first one is What Color Is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers, 2013 Edition, by Richard Nelson Bolles.  It’s an amazing book and I’ve used it for years whenever I needed to tweak my career path.  I own a couple older version but I decided to get the new one because it’s a complete revamping of the process, taking into account the new reality of social media and the internet.  I am rethinking my entire approach to this endeavor and we’ll see what the next few months bring.

The next one is The Artist’s Way at Work: Riding the Dragon – Twelve Weeks to Creative Freedom, by Mark Bryan with Julia Cameron and Catherine Allen.  I’ve wanted to play with this one for a while, since I’ve worked with Cameron’s other Artist’s Way books.  I’m excited to give this one a try.

The final one is by Suzen Millodot and is a companion to one I already own, about Celtic Knots.  This one is Chinese Knots for Beaded Jewellery.  I used to do macrame and like the idea of getting back into it; I think it would be fun to experiment with some of the knots in this book either with jewelry or with contemporary patterns for plant hangers and bottle covers but with Chinese knots.

What have you bought recently?