29 January 2009

Reading in 2009

One of my New Year's Resolutions is to read more.  I used to read all the time (especially during college), and I've fallen out of the habit of sitting down on a rainy afternoon and opening a book.  It's a bit embarrassing.

So to help me be more accountable for my reading (or lack thereof), I've decided to make my reading a bit more public.  So if I fall behind, not only will I have my personal guilt to deal with, but also the guilt of any readers of my blog who decide it fitting to scold me for not keeping up with my personal reading goal of completing at least two books each month.

The first book I'm going to read (which will count for February, obviously) is The Meridian Anthology of Early Women Writers: British Literary Women from Aphra Ben to Maria Edgeworth, 1660-1800, edited by Katharine M. Rogers and William McCarthy.  I picked it up at a used bookstore a few weeks ago and it's been sitting on my desk since then, begging to be opened and explored.  One of the things that excites me about reading this anthology is that I don't know the authors in it.

What are you reading right now, and why?  What are your reading goals for 2009?

25 January 2009

Explanation, Announcement, and Jumping Up and Down in Excitement

I really love this blog.  It's been a way for me to keep in touch with friends, fellow writers and readers, and random people I've met in the blogosphere.  However, you may have noticed that my blogging became a bit erratic right before Christmas, and hasn't quite gotten back to normal yet.  Well, my life has been quite chaotic since Christmas, so I haven't been blogging here as faithfully as I once did.  I can officially tell you why.

I've been cheating on this blog with an invite-only blog since December.  I know.  And I'm sorry.  But this blog is very important to me, and now that I've made it a public blog, I can tell you about it.

Yes, that's right.  The Coffee-Stained Writer is going to have a little java bean of her own!  Squee!!

You forgive me now, right?

22 January 2009

"Praise Song for the Day" by Elizabeth Alexander

The following is the poem written and recited by Elizabeth Alexander at the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other’s
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum, 
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what’s on the other side.

I know there’s something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign, 
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need
. What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light.

10 January 2009

Detail, Exile, and Tequila-Stained Rambling

If you haven't already, I suggest you pop over to En Tequila Es Verdad to check this out.

I always adore Dana's ramblings, and this post was no exception.  Not only in her explanations of the feeling of being "other," but also her comments about the importance of detail in writing.  She says:
The most inconsequential detail can end up having huge dramatic impact, taking the plot in a completely different direction from what you'd considered, or changing the relationship between characters in a subtle but fundamental way. It can keep the story from following much-treaded paths. One detail can change absolutely everything.
If only more writers realized this, m'dear.

08 January 2009

Scholars say....

I've kept journals on and off throughout most of my life.  Even when I could only write my name and a few odds and ends, I hid notebooks I found in order to be able to have diaries for myself.

Blogging opened a new world of journaling for me.  Not only did it provide a creative outlet, but holy moly I could share my ideas with others and allow them to react!  Wow!

In addition to blogging, though, I've managed to (somewhat) keep a traditional journal for myself.  For one thing, despite my navel-gazing on this and my other blog, there are things I'd rather not share with the whole world(wide web).  A traditional journal allows me to record those thoughts, ideas, and fears without inviting comments.

Also, I think there's something romantic about writing in a journal.  My current journal is a beautiful leather-bound one I got from my sister, and I love curling up in bed with my journal and favorite black ink roller ball pen to reflect on the day (or week) and how I feel about whatever's important in my life at the time.

I know some people keep journals in order to record their own history for the people who may be interested in it: children, grandchildren, scholars....

I've considered the fact that, someday, someone may come across Grandma NP's journal and wonder what she thought about when she first got married or started her family or moved to Ireland (ha!).  I love history, so I'd love to be able to read an ancestor's journals, to see what they found significant, as well as mundane.

However, when I'm journaling and I think about future generations reading what I write, I get a little self-conscious.  I mean, some of my journal entries are pretty...boring.  Even I only scan them if I decide to reread my journal.  What would my great-great-granddaughter think of me if she read my endless lists and weird ramblings?  Will I be labeled vapid or flakey or obsessive-compulsive?  It's in those moments I find myself thinking about editing what I'm writing to make it more "future-worthy."  Usually I catch myself and go back to writing the way I want, but the thought of what people might say about me based on what I leave behind between the leather covers of my journals.

What would you want said about you if someone picked up your journal and thumbed through it?  Would you consider burning your journals to prevent people from getting them?

04 January 2009

2009, on Its First Day

Welcome to 2009!  I hope you accomplished all you wanted to during 2008, and I hope you're starting 2009 with a fresh perspective, a good attitude, and a smile.  There's lots that can be accomplished this year, and today is the first day to do that.

I'm looking forward to an exciting, eventful year, as well!  I have a lot going on this year, both professionally and personally, and while I'm not fully sure what to expect, I know 2009 will be a good year.

I've been thinking a lot lately about my professional resolutions.  There's a lot I want to accomplish this year, and between my business plan and my professional resolutions, I think I'll be able to meet my goals.

In no particular order, here are some of my New Year's Resolutions.
  • Read (at least) two books each month, and keep a better record of what I've read.
  • Write (at least) 7500 productive words a month (may be supplemented with editing).  At least half of written words each month must be fiction.
  • Do a better job of staying "in the know" when it comes to the publishing industry.
  • Follow my 2009 business plan to strengthen CSW.
  • Experiment with a different genre/writing style each month (calendar forthcoming).