Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday Odds and Ends

I added a widget to the left from my goodreads account. It shows the twenty most recent books I've read, although I've added few reviews on the site. I'll have to rectify that. Most I've written about either here or for the library... and I can borrow my own content, right?

Anyway, I'm trying to get back into the swing of things, where I can write without thinking so much. I crossed over 35,000 words today -- still behind my original schedule, but not bad considering the number of hours I've been working. I'm feeling better about the story after a couple weeks of self-doubt that probably came from not working on it much. It also helped to read a few books that were really well-written and think, "Hey! I can do that too!"

And my dad is back in the U.S. -- yay! I know how bittersweet it is for him to leave Kenya, but it's so nice having all my family in one state, at least for a little bit. We're a small but mighty bunch.

Here's to a great weekend... and to passing 40,000 words by the end of June!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Reading Spells

I go through spells where I read one book after the next, followed by long periods in which I read nothing but blogs and news articles. My book reading spells are correlated with greater happiness, but I don't know if I'm happy because I read books or if I read books because I'm happy. Either works for me.

In the space of four days, I finished two books I really enjoyed. The first is "Wench," by Dolen Perkins-Valdez. "Wench" follows four mistresses and their slave masters in the 1840s and 50s. The story focuses on Lizzie, who loves her master and has two children with him. Each summer the masters take their mistresses off their respective plantations up to a "resort" in Southwest Ohio (between Dayton and Columbus and north of Cincinnati). For the first time in their lives, they meet other black people who are not enslaved. Despite her special status, Lizzie begins to realize the freedom that she and her children lack. The book moves quickly, and I think it could have gone on for another hundred pages.

The other book I finished is "Divergent," by Veronica Roth. If you liked "The Hunger Games" (which I loved), you'll really enjoy "Divergent." It's set in a future Chicago (the Sears Tower is now called "The Hub") and society is divided into five factions, each of which values a different virtue: Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, Erudite, and Candor. Beatrice, the protagonist, has been raised in Abnegation; members of this faction value selflessness above all else. They dress in plain gray clothes, eat plain food. and leave the walls of their homes unadorned. They serve and defer to others. At age sixteen, based on an aptitude test, boys and girls must choose which faction they will join for the rest of their lives. Most stay with the one in which they were raised, but if they choose another, they are basically excommunicated from their families. Beatrice's choice affects everyone in unexpected ways. She is a strong young female character, and she guides us through the story in first-person present. Like "Wench," this a quick read. But this one ends in a cliffhanger. The sequel, "Insurgent," comes out next year, and I wish I didn't have to wait so long.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


I don't believe in writer's block. I believe we sabotage ourselves, we avoid writing, or we stumble for reasons that hide in our subconscious. If I can't/don't write, it's probably because there's something that isn't working in my piece; I need time away to gain perspective, to figure out what that problem is.

With my novel, I'm slowly getting back. I worked on it a bit yesterday and today, removing a part that had made me uncomfortable, adding more of the teenage character's voice. I think the more I write from her perspective, and the closer I get to her head, the more I'll understand and empathize with her. I'm working extra hours of the library, so I have significantly fewer "writing" days; I need to learn how to make those days count.

As for the blog, I've avoided it because I didn't want to sit down, open up a new post, and realize I have nothing to say. But today I relaxed. Decided I needed to write something, even if it was just about my little struggles.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Tennessee (in pictures)

Our chalet in Pigeon Forge was a short distance from the many buffets, souvenir shops, and amusement parks that line the street leading (eventually) to Gatlinburg. But the view from the back didn't suggest any of that.
My boyfriend and I arrived Friday afternoon; his dad and step-mother (and her mom, 83-years old) were already there, and his sister, her husband, and their two daughters got there just after the pizza that evening.

Saturday, the nine of us headed into Gatlinburg. We rode up the Ober Gatlinburg then took a chairlift even higher (and for another $7) to get better views.

(As usual, I got carried away with the panorama function on my phone.)

That evening, all of us (minus 83-year-old Hilda) went to the Dixie Stampede. I should say, Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede. After a 45-minute warm-up act by a blue grass trio playing everything from "She'll be coming 'round the mountain" to "Sweet Home Alabama," we were herded to an arena where we sat in rows and were served a four-course meal sans silverware. This included a Cornish Game hen.

Pictures weren't allowed once the show started, but I did get a couple before and after:

There were horses and chicken races and buffalo and lumberjacks and singing (including a giant image of Dolly Parton telling us in song that America is beautiful). My favorite part? When Scarlett O'Ham-a won the piglet race. Those piglets were pretty cute.

The next day my boyfriend and I headed into the Great Smoky Mountain National Park to do some hiking, the Alum Cave Bluff trail. We had to hold on to a cable as we walked up these narrow stairs through the bluff:
We went a little nuts on the trail with another cool function of my camera, the "action shot." Hit the shutter once and it snaps a picture whenever something in the frame moves:

The hike took a little over two hours. After that we found the only Indian restaurant in Pigeon Forge (a buffet!) and then went on... a helicopter ride! For a small fee, a pilot flew me and my boyfriend, as well as a man and his young son, over the Douglass Lakes for about twenty minutes. I'd never been in a helicopter before, so it was a pretty cool experience. I asked if we'll be that high up when we go sky diving this summer; my boyfriend replied, "We're probably at 1000 feet now; we'll be at 10,000 feet when we jump." (Dad, did I mention I'm going sky diving?)

Each night (three in all) we saw the sun set behind the mountains in back of our chalet (I'll miss being able to use that word). I probably took sixty pictures of it in all, but my favorite came the last evening:

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Quickish Hits

This past weekend I attended "Crawl for Cancer" in Columbus. For a $40 entrance fee, I received a tee-shirt and a lot of beer. From 1pm to 5pm, the ten of us received four pitchers of beer at five separate bars--if we were dividing equally, that would be two pitchers of beer per person.

Long-time friends and readers know I attend a wine tasting most Fridays. I hang out in a grocery store and, over the course of two hours, drink five 2-oz samples of wine. That's two regular glasses of wine. While eating. That's not much. And except for the occasional glass of wine or mug of beer with dinner, that's all the drinking this thirty year old does.

I guess that's my way of explaining why I stopped drinking midway through the fourth bar as I discretely threw up in my plastic cup.

Regardless of the outcome, it was a great event for a great cause. It was a beautiful day in Columbus, and I was impressed by the area.

Tomorrow my boyfriend and I leave for Pigeon Forge, Tennessee for a four-day, three-night trip. His parents have rented a chalet, and we'll be staying with them, his sister and her husband and two daughters. I'm crossing my fingers for great weather so we can get outside :)