Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘fiction’

2018 Book List

Screen Shot 2018-12-28 at 12.21.57 PMSo many books, so little time! Reading is one of the greatest pleasures in my life—and one of the few things I can do indefinitely without feeling like I “ought” to be doing something else. Reading supports many of my personal values and is one of the few forms of recreation I embrace wholeheartedly. I read widely, as I like to know what’s happening in various genres, and I listen to audiobooks daily—while walking, driving, folding laundry, exercising—while doing most anything physical that doesn’t require concentration or conversation.

Each year I set a target number of books to read and track my titles on Goodreads. Typically my target is 50 books. This year I hit 53, although the year isn’t over yet (I hope to finish Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry of Utmost Happiness before 2019; thus far I’m not liking it nearly as much as The God of Small Things, which is one of my all-time favorites).

I read a lot of books pertaining to racial justice this year, which is a primary area of interest. I also did some catching up on often-taught classics (such as I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Wuthering Heights) that I’ve long wanted to read or wanted to read more closely.

What_to_Remember_When_WakingOne of my favorite discoveries of 2018 is the poet David Whyte, who writes what I would call poetry-based self-development. Whyte lives in Washington State, and I had the opportunity to attend one of his live events last month. Believe it or not, poetry can actually be a seriously inspiring shot in the arm.

As a category, the very best books I read this year were memoir. I highly recommend all six of the titles in the category below. Below, I’ve segmented my 53 reads into categories and marked all of my favorites with an asterisk; books by friends or in-person teachers are marked with (RL) for real life, meaning that these books have an extra layer of personal relevance. I added a few “meh” tags to the books I struggled to get through.

If you’re a book freak like I am, please leave a comment with a few of your personal favorites of the year and any thoughts on the titles below!


  • Educated, Tara Westover*
  • Heavy: An American Memoir, Kiese Laymon*
  • The Only Girl in the World, Maude Julien*
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou*
  • A Second Chance: For You, For Me, And For The Rest Of Us, Catherine Hoke*
  • Open, Andre Agassi*


  • The Death of Truth: Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump, Michiko Kakutani*
  • Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, Jack Weatherford
  • Me and My House: James Baldwin’s Last Decade in France, Magdalena J. Zaborowska
  • The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature, Steven Pinker


  • Atomic Habits, James Clear*
  • What to Remember When Waking: The Disciplines of an Everyday Life, David Whyte*
  • Midlife and the Great Unknown: Finding Courage and Clarity Through Poetry, David Whyte*
  • Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity, David Whyte*
  • The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are, Alan Watts*
  • Your Best Year Ever, Michael Hyatt*
  • Living Forward, Michael Hyatt*
  • A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy, William B. Irvine
  • Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now, Jaron Lanier
  • The 10X Rule, Grant Cardone
  • You Are a Badass Every Day, Jen Sincero
  • How to Stop Feeling Like Sh*t, Andrea Owen
  • Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion, Sam Harris
  • The Introvert’s Way, Sophia Dembling
  • The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down, Haemin Sunim
  • Quiet, Susan Cain*
  • Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality, Henry Cloud (meh)

BarracoonRacial Justice

  • What Truth Sounds Like: Robert F. Kennedy, James Baldwin, and Our Unfinished Conversation About Race in America, Michael Eric Dyson*
  • Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo”, Zora Neale Hurston*
  • I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness, Austin Channing Brown
  • So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo
  • The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin*
  • James Baldwin: The Last Interview and Other Conversations, James Baldwin

Books on Writing

  • Story Genius, Lisa Cron*
  • Writing to Change the World, Mary Pipher*
  • Lifelong Writing Habit: The Secret to Writing Every Day, Chris Fox (RL)


  • Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman*
  • Self-Help: Short Stories, Lorrie Moore*
  • Germinal, Émile Zola*
  • Giovanni’s Room, James Baldwin*
  • Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone, James Baldwin*
  • If Beale Street Could Talk, James Baldwin*
  • The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell, Robert Dugoni (RL)
  • The Nest, Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney (RL)
  • Hot Head, Damon Suede (RL)
  • Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
  • The Great Gatsby, F. Scott FitzgeraldSam_Hell
  • The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah
  • The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas
  • Still Me, Jojo Moyes
  • The Hating Game, Sally Thorne
  • Less, Andrew Sean Greer (meh)
  • The Summer Before the War, Helen Simonson (meh)

I look forward to learning your faves!



Sh*t’s Gettin Real


Come see me at Insta.


How to Get Back on the Writing Wagon

Cathy YardleyCathy Yardley is an author, mother, and the brains behind Rock Your Writing, a terrific online resource for novelists. Cathy’s ebooks and audiobooks — Rock Your Plot, Rock Your Revisions, Rock Your Query, and Write Every Day — are full of accessible, well-grounded strategies. While Cathy’s focus is genre fiction, writers across the board will benefit from her advice. (I keep the audio versions of Rock Your Plot and Write Every Day in my Audible app for frequent hits of inspiration.) Writers among the Studio Mothers audience will appreciate the article in Cathy’s latest newsletter, which is reprinted below, with Cathy’s generous permission. Enjoy!

Ah, February. The month when the shiny, sexy promise of New Year’s resolutions turns into the dreaded “morning after” of everyday life… when the dream meets the routine.

Suddenly, getting up at 5:00 am every morning to bang out a few pages isn’t as enticing as staying under your warm covers. You’ll do the pages at night, you promise yourself, tapping the snooze button.

But you have a hell of a time at the day job, you find out your son’s book report is actually due tomorrow and he hasn’t started, you’re out of dog food, and you’ve got no idea what you’re making for dinner.

By the time everyone who needs to be is fed and in bed, it’s nearly 11:00, you’ve got all the energy of a dead car battery, and your creativity resembles a fossilized raisin.

Next thing you know, you rationalize: I’ll just double the pages I write tomorrow.

After “doubling” to the point where you’d need to write 20 pages in one day to catch up, you find yourself passively or actively avoiding writing altogether.

You’ve fallen off the writing wagon — and you’re not quite sure how to get back on.

“No plan survives contact with the enemy.” — Helmuth von Moltke

If this sounds familiar, fear not. You are in good company (to the tune of 95% of the writers I know). If you want to get back on track (and stay there), here are some tips that might help:

  1.  Set the bar really low and hit it out of the park.

The first way to “pull out of the spin” is to simply do something. Write a page, or 250 words. It’s relatively small, but it’s also substantial. (In 400 days, a series of 250 words turns into a 100K word draft!)

If you can’t do 250 words, do 100. If you can’t do that, write a paragraph. But do something small, and then celebrate that accomplishment.  

That may seem ridiculous, but you’re not doing this for the milestone. You’re doing this to start re-training your brain to think “action, momentum, result, reward.” Not “disappointment, exhaustion, discouragement, aversion.”

  1.  Mindfully adjust.

The word “mindful” gets kicked around a lot, and can seem awfully Zen and mystic. It isn’t. It’s just another way of saying “pay really close attention without being judgmental.” In other words, instead of beating yourself up for not writing (which will drain your energy), just go “Huh. So that didn’t work. What happened instead?”

Again: no judgment. It won’t help you. There isn’t even an inherent benefit to it. It’s not like the world will think you’re a better person because you felt guilty.

Just the facts. You didn’t write. As I explain in my ebook Write Every Day, it’s usually a time issue, an energy issue, a fear issue, or a process issue. Be a detective. Determine what the issue is (or issues, plural) and then create an action plan to address it and keep moving.

  1.  Get support.

There are a few different kinds of support.

You can have critique support. One benefit to this: actually showing someone your work, which in turn encourages you to complete and hand something off. Hopefully, you will also receive valuable input and hone your writing skills, as well.

You can have accountability support. You don’t need a writer for this. This is just someone you tell your goal to, someone you report in with on a weekly basis, to make sure you’re staying on track. If you need a boot camp-styled “drill instructor” or a “loving supportive mentor,” match your personal motivating style. The wrong mix (you need gentle, comforting motivation, and you’ve got somebody yelling on your voice mail “WHERE ARE THOSE PAGES?”) will actually derail you faster.

You can have mentoring support. That can be check in with a coach, or taking a class.

Finally, you can have emotional support. Going to writing groups where you actually feel energized because people are talking shop, may be an option. Or simply connecting with a group of other people who are pursuing big goals and who are cheering each other on might be helpful.

If you’re lucky, you’ll find a combination of several kinds of support in the same person. However it works, it’s very difficult to accomplish your writing goals without support of some kind.

Forty Places to Find a Critique Partner

I’ve written a guest post over on The Write Life called “Forty Places to Find a Critique Partner Who Will Help Improve Your Writing.” It’s a hefty article, but if you’re looking for critiques, accountability, or even mentors, the list might have just what you’re looking for.

How to you plan to achieve your writing goals this year?



Tammy: Art Journal–Fiction

“People from a planet without flowers
would think we must be mad with joy the whole time
to have such things about us.”
~ Iris Murdoch

There are no rules to art journaling. You get to play using color, words and images. Art journal on cold-pressed watercolor paper or a box of Chex. Artist quality paints or cheap acrylics. Graffiti grunge or elegant typography. Just have fun, explore, create, get messy. This was a fun page to put together; it has a little bit of everything!

I’m always looking for spare moments to make progress on something creative, like drawing mandalas or embroidering. The first layer of this art journal collage was written while my daughters were in swimming lessons. I wrote pretend bits of short fiction in the form of slow journaling. Little mini-stories of detectives searching for clues, a lavish purse, and personal trainers pushing vitamins. Writing each letter slowly, constrained by the wavy lines, allowed time to have fun with the words.

Later (as in months), I added bits from an old children’s math text (discovered in my dad’s attic), quotes, paint chips, maps, psychedelic batik cardstock, cotton fabric stamped with a handmade FIMO stamp, fluid acrylic paint, even a 35mm slide case.

Have you tried the Kick-Start Art Journal Prompts?

[Cross-posted from Daisy Yellow; image copyright Daisy Yellow.]

Editor’s note: If you’re ever in search of creative inspiration, go immediately to Daisy Yellow — do not pass go, do not collect $200 — just go. Tammy’s blog is one of the very best blogs in the artful blogosphere — never fails to delight the senses and empower the creative soul.

WOW! Women on Writing

wowWOW! (Women on Writing) is a useful website and complementary blog that the writers among us may enjoy browsing. The website hosts a flash fiction contest and a collection of useful articles, including:

From the site’s About page:

WOW! is a global magazine, designed to support women’s creativity, energy, blood, sweat and tears, throughout all stages of the writing process. We envision Wow! being a favorite watering hole for professionals, the up-and-coming, and the recipients of our labors — the avid readers.

Our concept is unique, as it fills in the missing gap between writing websites and women’s magazines. We are dedicated to raising the overall standards within the writing community, and devote an active profile within writing industry associations, organizations and websites.

Ultimately, WOW! hopes to contribute to the love, enjoyment and excitement of producing quality writing — so that the reader in all of us will never want for good material, in any form.

Bethany: Dilemma, Dilemma

Remember that small little non-fiction project I’ve had in my closet for about 3 years?  I dug it out from under the virtual bed and have revamped it.  Proposal… done.  Sample chapters (this is the exciting part)… done.  And now I am knee deep into writing my query for agents.


Why am I nervous?  Well, see, I always wanted to go out with my fiction first. And I did.  But my book didn’t sell.  And I lost an agent in the process.  So now I am back at square one.  With a non-fiction book… essays.  Personal memoir-ish essays. And I can go out to query tomorrow.

So tell me, virtual friends, do I go with a new plan?

%d bloggers like this: