Have you ever wanted to become a writer and brave the strange and confusing world of trying to sell your work to the publishing industry? Do you feel you might need a refresher course in creating a marketable thriller or romance novel? If you are curious about improving your writing technique to make your work more compelling, concise, or appealing to publishers, you may benefit from How Not to Write a Novel, a writing guide from Howard Mittlemark and Sandra Newman. This guide is a compilation of examples of common writing mistakes that can make novels confusing, boring, or unappealing to read. Humorous and well-organized, this book is both a great educational resource and a good comedic read.
I picked up I Never Promised you a Goodie Bag, by Jennifer Gilbert, thinking that it would be full of hilarious mishaps that occurred at weddings and events that the Save the Date’s CEO had experienced. However, I soon found that it was something more. It is the memoir of a young woman who started out life being fiercely independent, the daughter of wealthy parents who had an import business and were frequently overseas. Jennifer traveled all over without a care in the world until at 22 years old she was attacked in the hallway of her best friends’ apartment. Her friends were too frightened or too selfish to come out, even though Jennifer was screaming for help. The girls in the apartment did call some boyfriends and they came over with baseball bats and drove the attacker away.
One of my customers recently called to tell me that she really enjoyed Hinds’ Feet on High Places. This is an inspirational novel that has been described as Christian fiction at its best. It got its name because the girl in the novel wants to be like the deer in her mountains that have special feet that allow them to leap and play high up. She, too, wants to be free of fear and strives to be a courageous person who can overcome her limitations with the help of her God. She wants to rework herself into a better and more spiritual person.
Halfway through this spring, during a week of practically living out of our minivan and eating dinners on the run due to a parade of soccer games, drama rehearsals, and tae kwon do practices, I said to myself, “Enough. I want to get off this ride!” I picked up Putting Family First: Successful Strategies for Reclaiming Family Life in a Hurry-Up World, by William Doherty and Barbara Carlson, and devoured it in the next 2 days. Doherty and Carlson first trace the evolution of the overscheduling of today's kids and then provide concrete steps for reclaiming family time. I found myself nodding along to almost every chapter and came away with some great suggestions for how to streamline our outside commitments and reconnect as a family.
Doherty points out there are positive reasons why kids are busier today - like more opportunities to choose from - but also several that are negative, like more intense sports schedules, fear that children will be left behind if they don’t engage from an early age, and parental guilt due to long work schedules. Whatever the reasons, Doherty stresses that the end result is that “the adult world of hypercompetition and marketplace values has invaded the family.” What to do about it? The first step is to slow down and reconnect over family meals, optimally four times a week or more. The second is to reclaim bedtime as a soothing ritual. And the third step is to look critically at the schedule, cut back on outside obligations, and find time to “hang out as a family.”
“Simple living is about living your life with a purpose that aligns with your values. It’s about enjoying the things you love and care about and not stressing over the things that don’t matter.”
I love reading about new systems for meal planning, housekeeping, and productivity….but when it comes time to implement them, I often get lost in the details and quickly return to my previous, imperfect system. Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living by Tsh Oxenreider goes beyond the checklists: “…at the foundation of this book is the idea of redefining simplicity…I want to help you find what simple living looks like for you.” Oxenreider does this by gently guiding the reader through several reflective steps, like creating a family mission statement, evaluating your family’s current commitments, and making a plan to get and stay out of debt. Then she provides concrete, action steps for decluttering, cleaning, and organizing your physical space.
"Cultivating Community" is a community-wide program designed to share information in the Fredericksburg region about farm-to-table and sustainable food communities. These web sites support those goals by exploring how you can assess the sustainability of your community and your home, finding locally grown foods or growing your own, cooking, and sustainable gardening.
Community Sustainability Assessment: gen.ecovillage.org/activities/csa/English
A comprehensive checklist that anyone can complete to get a basic idea of how sustainable their community is. While it requires good knowledge of the life-styles, practices and features of the community, it does not require research, calculation and detailed quantification. This assessment takes about three hours for an individual to complete, or a series of sessions if done as a group experience by community members.
To explain my reasoning for choosing to read What Should I Do with My Life? by Po Bronson, I must first explain a little about myself. I'm a senior in college and in the process of applying for graduate school. One day, while frantically exploring graduate programs at various schools across the U.S. and abroad, I started to worry: Will I choose the right program? What if I wasted my college years studying the wrong subjects? What am I suppose to do with my life? Well, during my craze I jokingly typed in Google, "What Should I Do with My Life?" Po Bronson's book was the first thing to pop up in my browser. I immediately searched the library's catalog to find out whether I could borrow the book, and I drove up to Porter branch that night to check it out. I never set out to review it since it was simply a pleasure read, but I feel as though others may benefit from some of the events portrayed in this book as well.
Last year, I made a New Year’s resolution to clean up my house. In reality, I just needed to attack the horrific mess that used to be my garage. I needed to be able to walk the length of it and get out the other end, unscathed. This grand task sounded great on paper, but unfortunately I had made this promise many times before. From reading countless articles about New Year’s resolutions, this time I knew how to make it happen. I needed an outline of specific steps. I needed to let others know about my goal. And I needed to set aside time to make it happen.
As we all know, life has a habit of getting in the way. There are bills to be paid, grocery shopping to do, meals to be made, and appointments to keep. Let’s not forget about work, house repair, yard work, and general cleaning! All of these unfortunately take precedence over organization and sorting through clutter. But I was determined to make it happen. I took one day this summer to clean out the garage, giving my husband the baby and playing “invisible” for a day. We ended up with a much neater looking space and a generous truckload of items off to Goodwill and various recycling entities. But a few months later – yup, you guessed it – the piles were back and the garage was nearly impassable again.
Do you know what your “love language” is? If you adore it when your husband takes out the trash and he enjoys going out to dinner with you more than anything, your love language may be “Acts of Service” while his may be “Quality Time.” In The Five Love Languages: The Secret to a Love that Lasts, Dr. Gary Chapman asserts that every person speaks one of these “primary” love languages: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Physical Touch, Quality Time, or Gifts. People can also speak a secondary language, but the primary language is the most important. Although the focus of this book is on romantic relationships (primarily marriage), Chapman also has applied this concept to relationships with children, teens, and co-workers in other books.
If there was one thing that people across the country could agree on right now, it would be the ridiculously high cost of today’s college education. Most parents assume that student loans are a fact of life, and most students assume that student loan debt is a necessary and even positive thing. If you want to get a good job, it’s commonly thought that going to a good college (chosen in part by U.S. News and World Report rankings) and getting a good name on your diploma simply costs money and there’s nothing you can do about it.