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Monday Musings

ImageWhat I’m Reading: Killing Lincoln by Bill O’Reilly. Can you guess what it’s about? It’s the fourteen or so days leading up to Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.

Ok, so this is another book that is out of my comfort zone. I’m reading it because I think it’s good to be put out of that comfort zone. Like I’ve said before, I don’t generally read non-fiction and I certainly don’t read history books. This book is a double whammy. I’m doing this because I’ve noticed that certain genres are very formulaic and I want to see other “formulas.”

The first sentence: The man with six weeks to live is anxious.

What a great first line! The opening paragraph is equally great. It hooked me instantly…but, it doesn’t hold me there. Don’t get me wrong this really is a good book, but it’s going to be a struggle for me to finish it in a week.

What I’m doing: I’m plugging away on my next book. Enough said about that because it’s quite a process for me to wrap my head around a story and get to writing. Maybe I’ll post what my notebooks look like while I’m doing this!

ImageWhat I’m listening to: Ben Howard’s Every Kingdom album. This is one of my favorite albums right now. If you want some music to get you ready for summer or just something to relax to–then this is it!

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Monday’s Musings

Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 6.26.04 PMWhat I’m reading: The Film Club: A Memoir by David Gilmour. It’s about a dad who, as a last resort, pulls his failing 16-year-old son out of school on one condition–he has to watch 3 movies a week. There are some caveats to this: the kid can’t do drugs, but he can sleep all day if he wants, he doesn’t have to work, and he can pretty much do anything he wants.

My first impression is that I like it. Mostly. I don’t usually read non-fiction. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it or anything, it’s just not really my thing. I like the Film Club, I can get into it, but it’s not a book that I put down and have to pick right back up again. I’m about half way through it already, so I’ve discovered things that I like and things that I don’t like. I like the fact that David Gilmour did something unconventional with a kid that didn’t fit into the typical school system. Jesse, his son, gets on my nerves a bit. He’s sixteen and has this childhood entitlement thing happening–he drinks and smokes (sometimes with his dad), has sex with his girlfriend (with dad upstairs), and basically lives a teenagers dream. I get the let-your-kid-do-what-he-wants-as-long-as-he-talks-to-me situation, but…well, read it and let me know what you think in the comments below.

What I’m working on: I’m going slow on the querying process. I don’t want to send a million out just yet, so I sent out a few and am now waiting on a response. I’ve also decided to go with the YA magical realism story. I need a little bit of fantasy in my life and definitely in the stories I like to write. This one is pretty low-key.

What I’m listening to: Bon Iver Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 6.40.02 PM

Weekly Mashup

ImageWhat I’m reading: Pride and Prejudice. I can’t believe I’ve never read this one. I’m roughly 50 pages in and can’t put it down. So far Mr. Darcy is a bit of an ass, but I think I really like him.

What I’m working on: Plotting, plotting, plotting. And then I need to decide between the three possible projects and start writing. It’s between a YA magical realism story about a boy looking for a “wishing tree” to change the course of a past event OR a YA contemporary story about a girl in rehab who is forced to write a letter to every person she wronged in the course of her addiction OR an Adult (grown up) contemporary about a woman who upon learning her mother is headed towards her third divorce vows to never divorce herself–and then her husband cheats on her and she is thrown back into the dating scene at age 35.

Oh yeah, I’m also querying THE BODY THIEF! Yay!

What I’m listening to: Arctic Monkeys (I’m a little bit obsessed with them right now).

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Where does the time go?

I am the worst blogger ever. It’s true. I come up with these absolutely wonderful ideas (in my opinion) and a blogging schedule (that I never look at) and I have no idea why I don’t follow through. I have excuses, I really do. But I won’t tell them to you, because they’re really not excuses at all. It’s life and it’s the nature of my life. I need to make it a priority. Maybe once a week or twice a month, but something. Or maybe no schedule at all?

I don’t know the answer, but I am here now. The school year is in its last four weeks, I’m anxiously waiting for my final round of beta readers to get back to me with all of their fabulous notes, and I am busily scheduling out my summer.

My school’s annual art show ended last night and it is such a relief. The planning and energy and physical work involved is crazy. I am so proud of my students and can’t believe I am lucky enough to teach them, but wow…sometimes, I just want to slap them silly. The typical teenager can’t think for themselves. They lie often. And they are almost physically incapable of doing anything without the promise of a reward at the end. It is the select few that make it worthwhile.

By the way, the first 5 pages of THE BODY THIEF are up for critique at Adventures in Young Adult Publishing. Feel free to take a look and let me know what you think.

Anyway, thanks for reading!

The Paper Crane

ImageSo, the Japanese legend goes like this (or something like this anyway): Anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish by a crane. Some believe you will be granted good luck for the rest of your life, some say a single wish…and you have to fold them all within a single year and only the person who receives the wish can fold them. 

For a project, I had all of my students fold their first crane (it was a very quiet day) and then take a picture of it. Later, they wrote what they would wish for if/when they folded 1000 of them. 

And now I feel completely inspired and full of good vibes. This is me passing them on to all of you!

 

My “To Read” List

First off, can I just say that there is an endless amount of amazing reading out there. There really is. No matter what your interests might be there is something for you. As some of you may know, I’m a high school teacher. Which means I’m surrounded by teenagers most minutes of my life. The one thing I hear more often than not–“I hate to read.” Gah! That’s impossible. How could anyone hate to read? So, my response to that teenager–“You just haven’t found the right book yet.” As some or most of you know, all it takes is one. One book and it’s over. You might fall in love, experience all sorts of recklessness, save a life, take a walk through history, slay a dragon, become a witch, kiss a vampire… the list is endless. My love of reading spawned a love of writing, but that is a whole separate story. In my attempts to become a more well-read person, I have attempted to expand my reading choices. First, I made a list of all the books currently on my list (they are in no particular order). Like I said though, that list was severely limited. My second step was to talk to those high school students that actually do like to read and get their choices. Then, of course, I went to Pinterest. The lists I found on there ranged from Romeo and Juliet to Fifty Shades of Grey and everything in between. I’m sure there are some amazing books out there and I missed all of them, so this is just my starting point. Here’s what I came up with so far:

1. Anything by Maggie Steifvater (personal addiction)

2. *The Infinite Sea, Rick Yancey (this is the second book to The 5th Wave)

3. *City of Heavenly Fire, Cassandra Clare

4. The Selection, Kiera Cass (and if I like it, the rest of the series)

5. Cinder, Marissa Meyer

6. Eleanor and Park, Rainbow Rowell

7. Anna and the French Kiss, Stephanie Perkins

8. Anything by Susanna Kiersley (I am currently working my way through all of her books)

9. *Dreams of Gods and Monsters, Laini Taylor

10. Blind Assassins, Margaret Atwood

11. The Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan

12. Perfume, Patrick Suskind

13. The Fault in Our Stars, John Green (this one makes almost every list!)

14. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

15. No Exit (this is a short play)

16. A Long Way Gone, Ishmael Beah

17. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, Judy Blume

18. In Cold Blood, Truman Capote

19. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter S. Thompson

20. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens

21. A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

22. On the Road, Jack Kerouac

23. Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut

24. The Giver, Lois Lowry

25. The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood

26. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy

27. Brave New World, Aldous, Huxley

28. Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte

*The book hasn’t been released yet.

 

This list is in no way complete. So, my next task–what do you think should be on this list? Please remember I didn’t include a number of amazing books because I may have already read them. That’s a whole other list.

 

Things that Make Me Happy #1

I’m still playing with the title on the hopefully recurring blog post. Last week I tried out “5 things” and found that coming up with 5 things was a little intimidating. It’s so sad that I couldn’t come up with 5 things that made me happy during the week. I think it’s one of those things that you truly have to change your mindset about. Negative energy breeds more negativity while positive energy breeds positive. Last week, I was a little down in the dumps. I’m not really sure why either. It was just one of those weeks. Everyone has them and I’d be stupid to think that another one isn’t around the corner, but here’s to positive thinking, right?

I have a good one this week: my niece was born two days ago! Yay! I really want to post a picture, but I promised my brother I wouldn’t. He’s not really into the idea of pictures of his kid floating around in cyberspace. That conversation started a huge blowout between him and his in-laws. Anyway, no pictures. But, believe me when I say she is adorable. Two weeks early and over 7 lbs! I saw her yesterday and I’m in auntie heaven. I have two kids of my own and let me just say there is something super special about getting to enjoy a baby and then handing them off to the parents. So, that’s my happy thought of the week. What’s yours?

5 Things

I came across this post by photographer, Brooke Shaden, called 5 Things. Every day I get so bogged down by life’s daily challenges that I sometimes forget all that I should be thankful for. Reading her post was so inspiring that I became intrigued by the idea of it that I had to do it for myself. The gist is this: find 5 things a week to be thankful for. Each week I am going to sit down and remember all the things that made my life better and not worse. Today, while my students were complaining about a number of things, I told them about the idea. Some of them looked at me like I was crazy. Some nodded thoughtfully. And some were just plain confused. Oh, the glory of the teenaged mind. I remember myself at that age and thought life was horrible in so many ways. Looking back, I’m not so sure. There were a lot of great moments in there.

Who knows, maybe my positive energy will reflect in you. Try to do the same and post your thoughts below.

#1 The Juice Cleanse

A year ago, this is something I would not even attempt. I won’t bore you with all of the details, but it started with a documentary I watched called “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead.” I ended up really liking the idea of juice cleansing and issued myself a 3 day juice challenge. Surprisingly enough, I enjoyed it. I have more energy, my moods are more level, and waking up in the morning has gotten easier. I knew this isn’t going to be a permanent thing so that too made it simpler. I don’t think I could go longer than 3 days.

#2 A Writing Breakthrough

Technically, this happened last week, but since I’m just starting this whole thing, I am throwing it in. I’ve been working on a book for about a year. Everything was done, mostly polished, beta read, etc. Everyone said the same thing I already knew: love the beginning and middle, but the end…  That’s how I felt too. Then something clicked and BAM a breakthrough. I have a whole new ending. And I love it! Ah, it feels so good when that happens.

#3 A Trip to Big Bear

My family and I took a much needed vacation to Big Bear. Unfortunately there wasn’t any snow, but it was still absolutely amazing. I came home feeling rested and inspired. It was everything a vacation should be.

#4 The Family Photographer

The truth of the matter is that I rarely take pictures anymore unless they involve my kids or vacationing. There was a time when I was never without my camera. Then it became a job. I tried doing weddings, babies, etc. That stuff just wasn’t that fun. My sister-in-law asked if I could take her family photos for a Mother’s Day gift for her mom. First, I feel it is a huge complement when someone asks nowadays. Second, it was a lot of fun.

#5 Nice Words

This one is simple: One of my students came up to me and told me how much they like my class AND they  want to take my advanced class next year. It always gives me the warm fuzzies when I have a student that wants to come back–especially after I tell them how much work it is.

Anyway, that’s all for this week. Please join me in spreading the good vibes by posting something good that happened to you this week.

 

An Update

I am currently in the process of changing some things up on the site. I’ve mentioned before that I teach high school and because of that side of my life, I am looking for some separation between my private and public selves. Please forgive me while I navigate the world of coding in my attempts at privatizing (is that a word?)

If anyone has any help to offer, I am more than willing to listen. 

My current dilemma is in changing the URL address without having to start a new blog. If anyone knows how to do that and to explain it in non-computer-nerd terms, I would be super grateful. Right now, the URL is jessicabeckerbooks.com and I’d like it to be jessicalynnbooks.com. Such a tiny change and it is creating the biggest headache in my life. 

Thanks for understanding!