New Blog

So, I started a new book blog.

Wait!  Don’t go anywhere.  This here blog isn’t going anywhere.  It’s just that I wanted to create a separate blog devoted to books pertaining to disability, because I read a lot of them.  I’m hoping it will grow into a place where people who are interested in disability will come together to discuss books about disability, and specifically, how disability in literature impacts and reflects attitudes and perceptions about disability.  And maybe it will become a resource, too – a place where someone interested in disability might go to peruse reviews of books concerning disability.

So, if you’re someone who might be interested in that sort of thing, check it out, and be sure to subscribe via email, Feedly, whatever.


Disabi(LIT)y: Disability in Literature

In any case, I’ll still be writing reviews here, too!


Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

bird-by-bird Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
by Anne Lamott

This little non-fiction jewel is about writing, so it’s not likely to appeal to many people who aren’t interested in writing, although there is plenty of wisdom about life, as well.  Anne Lamott has lived a pretty colorful life and has a lot of wisdom to share, sprinkled generously with humor.

In Bird by Bird, Lamott talks honestly about the ups and downs of a writer’s life, condensing the material she covers as a writing teacher into a book.  It’s mainly geared towards those who wish to write fiction – she covers character development, plot, and dialogue – but she talks at length about bigger issues that face writers of every stripe, from getting motivated . . .

You begin to string words together like beads to tell a story.  You are desperate to communicate, to edify or entertain, to preserve moments of grace or joy or transcendence, to make real or imagined events come alive.  But you cannot will this to happen.  It is a matter of persistence and faith and hard work.  So you might as well just go ahead and get started.

. . . to the deep desire that some people have to write –

Writing can be a pretty desperate endeavor, because it is about some of our deepest needs: our need to be visible, to be heard, our need to make sense of our lives, to wake up and grow and belong.

She offers such sage advice as committing to “short assignments” because looking too far down the road can be immobilizing, and accepting that the first draft of anything is sure to be shitty.  Lamott speaks honestly, too, about every writer’s desire to be published, and how rare it actually is to be published, and how being published usually isn’t all it’s cracked up to be anyway.  In other words, do it for the love of writing, not for the desire to be published.  A hard pill to swallow, but no doubt true.

This book was published, however, back in 1994!  I do wonder what Lamott might have to say were she to write an updated edition to this book, taking into account the explosion of blogging (where virtually anyone can be a “published” writer) and self-publishing.  How have these things impacted the craft of writing?  Has the market  – and the niche of the writer itself – been diluted by work published based on commercialism and pure marketability rather than true writing talent?

This is a book I’ll hang onto and refer back to in my own writing endeavors.

The Novelist by L. L. Barkat

The Novelist by L. L. Barkat

At just over 100 pages, this novella is a quick, easy read and will appeal, especially, to writers and wannabe writers.

The story opens with Laura, the protagonist, typing, “The End,” leading the reader at first to believe that she has just completed a story.  The truth, however, is that “The End” is all she can manage to come up with.  Laura, a poet, has been challenged by a friend she only knows by way of Twitter to write a novel, and fast.  The entire story covers one afternoon and evening during which Laura struggles with what to do with this challenge, and in trying to come up with a story to tell, she tells us her own story.  There are lots of references to tea and poetry, neither of which particularly interest me, but the struggle to write is something that definitely does resonate with me.  The author also manages to reference herself in this fictional story, as “that Barkat woman,” which I found amusing.

L. L. Barkat has written about writing, and I have a mind to take a crack at her Rumors of Water.

Reflections on Reviewing Books . . . Or, Who The Hell Do I Think I Am?

My friend Joyce recently sent me this article about the nature of book reviews and the people who review books, and it’s had me thinking about why I like to review the books I read, and how, exactly, I see myself in terms of a “critic.”

I remember being seven years old and reading Heidi, and then writing a book report about it just because I wanted to.  I’ve been an insatiable reader since I first learned to read, and I guess on some level, I’ve also always enjoyed thinking about, talking about, and writing about the books I’ve read.  As an adult, I tried on a few occasions to keep a “book journal” in handwritten form because I like the idea of somehow keeping track of the books I read (I’m a little on the Type-A side) and being able to go back and revisit the impressions certain books left on me.  I was never good about keeping up journaling about anything in handwritten form, though I’ve always loved to write almost as much as I love to read.  Eventually I discovered GoodReads, and I started writing about the books I was reading on my blog, which eventually evolved into a separate blog devoted to talking about books.  And here I am.

I do this for fun.  It’s a hobby.  It satisfies my need to keep track of things (did I mention I’m a little on the Type-A side?), and darn it, I just like to talk about books.  I’m not a literary scholar by any stretch of the imagination.  I don’t have any credentials, and I don’t see myself as anyone who has clout in this area.  I think I’m a decent writer and recognize decent writing.  I read mostly what I want, and I’m opinionated – and sure, I want to share my opinions.  What I write about the books I read are probably very much what that article describes as “customer reviews” rather than true literary critiques.  Take ’em or leave ’em.

It has surprised me, therefore, when I’ve actually been contacted by (a) disgruntled authors and/or fans of authors who have taken some less-than-glowing reviews I wrote on my humble little blog very personally and very seriously, and (b) authors and publishers who have actually wanted me to read and review their books.  I’ve never been paid for a review, and I have no desire to be any sort of professional book reviewer, but still, it’s very flattering to know that a certain select few apparently believe that what I think matters.

Several months ago I was contacted by the editor of Literary Mama who asked me if I would be interested in writing a review of The Shape of the Eye by George Estreich for their Father’s Day issue.  It turned out that Jennifer Graf Groneberg – the Jennifer Graf Groneberg, author of Road Map to Holland – a beautiful book that meant so much to me at a particularly trying time – had recommended me – me! – for this gig.  I could hardly believe it.  Literary Mama is an e-zine devoted to writers who are also mothers, so this is an opportunity for my writing to be noticed (and judged) by people who actually know something about writing.

I’m honored . . . and a little intimidated.  I’m hoping to get a draft written and submitted this week.  Wish me luck!