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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!

PitchWars Mentee Bio–Jessica Lynn

 

So I’m hopping on the “Mentee Bio” train! Here’s some little tidbits you probably never thought you’d want to know about me.

1. I’m a mother to a 7 year old boy and a 5 year old girl.

2. I teach high school photography to mostly 17 year olds, which is fairly insane on some days, but gives me lots of writerly ideas. On most days I don’t feel that much older than them.

3. I have 2 dogs–both Labrador Retrievers. One is white, the other brown. The brown one is overweight, and looks a little like a seal. I’ve tried putting her on diets and excessive walking…now, I embrace her waddle walk.

4. I’ve written three books, not counting the last one that has been vastly rewritten several times. Each time, I get a little faster at finishing.

5. I love all things supernatural and paranormal. I read and write to escape…why would I read about real life? (I do. Just not extensively. I’m currently reading “Reconstructing Amelia,” by Kimberly McCreight and loving it.) But seriously, my favorite shows are Vampire Diaries, The Originals, Supernatural, and most recently Reign. Back in the day, I was a huge Buffy and Angel fan. I still have all the DVD’s and whenever I get sick, I pop them in the player and watch them in order.

6. My favorite coffee drink of all time is a Caramel Brulee Latte from Starbucks. It’s very sad that they only offer it for a few months a year.

7. I often have strange food cravings. When I was pregnant, I ate a hot dog every single day for 2 months. It’s disgusting, I know!

8. I chose ghosts for my paranormal world because of a song. “She Talks to Angels,” by the Black Crowes got me thinking about a girl who could see more than everyone else.

9. When I’m in a bad mood or have had an awful day, my husband puts on old episodes of Friends. Once I’m laughing all the bad stuff melts away.

10. I’m allergic to chocolate. I found out when I was 17ish and ate a candy bar. I had hives for two weeks. Last year, I felt the urge to test out my allergy a second time–you know, just in case I grew out of it. Nope, I’m still allergic. Not fun!

11. I can’t stand lying. If someone asks me a question, I will answer it. Sometimes I’ll warn the person first, but usually I will straight out tell them the truth. Everyone I know is good with this now and often comes to me when they want the truth.

12. I’m a Photoshopping wizard. Well, sort of. I do take hold of all the outgoing holiday photos and pretty them up before sending them out. My sister-in-laws love me for this.

Okay, that’s enough for now. Happy PitchWars!!

Interested in seeing more bios. Go here.

Book and Movie Review–The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

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Synopsis: It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

Let me preface this by saying that this isn’t generally my type of book. I don’t mean that I don’t read books like this. I do. Sometimes. I love historical fiction! But usually when I scour the YA shelves, I’m looking for fast-paced with a smidgen of romance sprinkled in there.  This book isn’t any of that. And yet, I LOVED IT!

There was a unique narrator–it’s told from the perspective of Death. He (I think he’s a he) offers enough comedy and lightheartedness to not drag the book into a depressing litany. He oversees many areas of the time, but focuses mostly on Liesel’s story. I started the book on a Sunday and got about half way through when my mother-in-law deemed it the perfect time to see it in the theatre. Now, I hate seeing a movie before I’ve read the book, but I went anyway. The movie was phenomenal. I loved the actors in it, especially the little girl who played Liesel. She was just beautiful. And the setting–don’t even get me started. Perfectly magical in the right way and desolate too. 

As I thought it would be, it was difficult to get back into the book afterwards. I already know the outcome and that’s not always incentive to keep reading. I finished it because the writing is amazing. The voice of the novel will grab hold of you and keep you up into the wee hours of the night. 

Should you read it? Hell, yes! And then go see the movie too. 

The Year of Change

This year has brought a lot of changes in my life. They’ve been tough on a lot of levels. My brother moved away, then my mom moved away (but in the opposite direction), and now one of my closest friends is moving too. For each and every one of them it was the right decision and a positive step in their lives. Still, it is hard to remain in the one place I have never really left when everyone else is not. 

Normally, I love change. I embrace it fully. Change is exciting. It bring adventure. It brings new things to think about, to do, people to meet. Maybe I’ll write another book…

What do you do in the face of change?