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Mini-Blog #4: Reading

I realized this week that I don’t talk enough on this blog about reading.

The blog has become about writing, which as an emerging writer and someone who edits others’ writing, I appreciate and am passionate about. But two years ago I imagined that if I ever had a blog it would be a book¬†blog, so as I wrap up this summer series of mini-blogs, I have to stop for a minute and talk about reading.

I learned to read when I was four. Literally less than two weeks after getting my first glasses. My mom felt guilty that I hadn’t gone to get my eyes checked sooner because I would have read sooner. I can remember my first time reading. I can remember the words just suddenly making sense.

I spent four years as the school librarian of a school serving kids with dyslexia and related reading and writing challenges, so I know everyone’s story isn’t that easy. Only about one in ten kids will magically learn to read like I did. Six in ten will need some formal instruction, and three in ten will need a lot of formal instruction and possibly academic interventions. For a lot of people, “reading for pleasure” is a difficult thing since reading at all took so much work in the first place.

For me, reading is a lifeline. A co-worker at a library once told me that when she started working in libraries she found herself almost physically hungry for reading, for stories, for books. It can be overwhelming to work in that giant room filled with books.

I am a fast reader, and as such, re-reading is a joy for me. I pick up on so much detail and nuance I missed the first time.

I am also a professional librarian, so I have training in readers’ advisory, which is the art of recommending books. It’s a delicate art, and I was also a youth services librarian, so my knowledge of adult books is really limited. If you want to learn more about readers’ advisory, I highly recommend the talented superstar librarian Nancy Pearl and her writing. Nancy is a celebrity librarian. She is literally an action figure.

Also if children’s books are your thing, I would be remiss in not recommending Esme Raji Codell, the self proclaimed readiologist and author of the totally delightful Diary of a Fairy Godmother. I want to be her groupie.

Favorite books? Oh, I knew you were going to ask me that. A Wrinkle in Time. Anne of Green Gables. Never in a Hurry by Naomi Shihab Nye (which my toddler pulled off my shelf and handed to me today, God love him.) The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers. Time You Let Me In: 25 Poets Under 25. Where the Wild Things Are. Betsy-Tacy and its sequels. Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes. Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

Should I just keep listing them?

Notice my list is not just fiction. Or nonfiction. Or grown-up books. Or chapter books. Or modern books. And some might even be books you hate.

So why do a short blog post on reading? As a reminder. Because sometimes we forget that we are in the business of entertaining people and getting them to like what we create. Because sometimes we forget to be consumers of good literature ourselves. Not just as research. Not just to support your author friend. Not just to read in your genre or category. Oh yes, for those reasons. But for many more reasons. And for the simple reason that there are good books.

That’s reason enough for me.

Happy reading,

Kris

Mini-Blog #3: Flash Fiction

I was writing it before I knew what it was.

In college I took a writing course not for credit, just to get a break and do some fun writing in the middle of all the academic stuff that college entails. When given “permission” to write whatever came out, what I ended up creating was a series of what the instructor called “vingettes,” but what I would call now “flash nonfiction.”

When I started doing Nanowrimo in April of 2015 in what would eventually lead to this podcast, it happened again. I created four main characters and just started writing stories about them. Almost all of those came out under 2,000 words, and most were somewhere between 450 and 750. This is when I really started researching what flash fiction is.

I quickly learned that flash fiction is in the eye of the beholder…how it gets defined depends in large part on who is defining it. I love this piece from The Review Review where they talk to flash fiction editors about it. You can see that while they are all definitely talking about the same thing, they all see it differently and they all look for different things in it.

Flash Fiction Online is a great journal to check out for examples of the form. I particularly like their Classic Flash section that reveals how not new this form is. Hemingway did it. Kafka did it. We always think we are new, but really nothing is.

It’s also important not to forget flash nonfiction. Brevity does that probably as well as anyone, and my prediction is this form will grow.

The great news about flash is that it fits really nicely into our digital world. When you look carefully, it’s everywhere. People put it on their blogs, on Twitter, on facebook…of course there are duds out there, but there are also brilliant pieces of tiny fiction just waiting to be discovered. I hope you find some today!

Happy reading,

Kris

Mini-Blog #2: NaNoWriMo

Camp NaNoWriMo wraps up today. I’m not participating this year, but Camp NaNoWriMo is the origin story for this podcast.

For the uninitiated among you, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. Every November, thousands of writers from around the world take on the challenge of trying to write the rough draft of a novel (50,000 words or more) in the 30-day month of November.

It’s a crazy challenge. I’m not doing it this year due to a travel schedule, but I’ve attempted it three times and succeeded (in hitting 50,000 words, anyway, let’s not talk about what they were) twice. As someone who has struggled with churning out consistent content, I can’t recommend it enough as a jump-start, but there’s more to NaNoWriMo than November. In April and July they offer Camps, where you set your own goal, to write or revise or push yourself forward in whatever project you like. Last April I signed up for Camp with low expectations…the new mom I was in November 2014 had burned out badly doing NaNoWriMo. Camp let me fit writing into my life and without feeling strong enough to handle a big project, I started scribbling short stories and here we are.

NaNoWriMo is a community. Access to online forums and in-person regional write-ins add to the fun. Published writers I’ve talked to have loved doing it, stepping out of their usual process to try something totally new. And for a friend who has done it and won once, she tells me whatever happens to her project and her writing future, she wrote a novel. That’s saying quite a lot.

So give it a try!¬† You don’t have to wait until November to jumpstart your writing…give yourself a challenge right now, or seek out your local NaNoWriMo region and look at what prep events they have for this fall. Of course, if a month is too long for you, there’s always the 3-Day Novel Writing Challenge. I’ve not been crazy enough to attempt that one…yet.

Happy writing,

Kris

Mini-Blog #1: Podcasting

The Mini-Blog feature is one I’m launching this summer while the rest of No Extra Words is on a reduced schedule: bite-sized blog posts that answer some of the questions I’m asked a lot while giving you lots of links. Look for them select Sundays in July and August.

The whole idea of podcasts feels daunting, but in simple terms it’s just audio done in episodes. You don’t have to know what technical stuff is working in the background, but you do need an app to listen. Many people use iTunes (on your iPhone, that’s the default Podcast app,) but you can also find podcasts using Google Play Music, Spotify, or a number of “podcatcher apps,” like Overcast, Podcast Addict, or Stitcher. Check your app store and try one. From a podcast app, you can search for podcasts, listen to select episodes of podcasts, or just hit subscribe and your app will automatically populate with episodes of shows you like (the quickest and easiest way to make sure you get all those new episodes right away.)

One awesome thing about podcasts is that anyone can produce one. Honestly. Anyone. Okay, there’s a little more technical setup than writing a blog, but not much. You don’t have to know exactly how the tech works, and if you want to keep it simple, your costs can be quite low (I started No Extra Words with a $10 mic, a $5/mo. podcast hosting plan, and a free website. I have since upgraded to an $80 mic.) As with anything out there, though, there’s a lot of advice and a lot of it’s bad.The good news is that some of my favorite podcasters have made a Podcasting 101 course and it’s free!

I am often asked what my favorite podcasts are, and the truth is that the answer has changed a lot since I started listening to podcasts in 2008. I have been really into indie podcasts and fewer NPR shows lately. I love The History Chicks, a great take on women in history, She Podcasts, which is about podcasting and so much more, and I recently discovered Write Now with Sarah Werner, which I’m really enjoying. I also recommend The Wisest, which is the coolest interview show out there IMHO and although she hasn’t come out with a new episode in a long time, First Day Back has to be one of my favorite podcasts ever. (Note: I’m giving you iTunes links for these show because that’s where most people listen. If you don’t listen in iTunes, don’t worry…you can search for any of these shows in a podcast app of your choice.) The great news is that if you don’t like what I like, there are thousands of podcasts out there waiting for you, and all for free. I started podcasting because I love podcasts and I’m happy to say a year into the podcasting scene, I still do.

Happy listening,

Kris

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