What I’m Reading, What I’m Writing: Reading challenge update and preparing to submit

Inspired by the New Hampshire Writer’s Network Live to Write – Write to Live blog, I’ve decided to start my own regular posts about what I’m currently reading in books, audio books and blogs, and what I’m working on in my writing. I hope to make this a regular (weekly or biweekly) feature on the blog.

I hope you’ll share what interesting things you’re reading and writing in the comments, and please feel free to link back to your own blog!

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As Spring timidly begins to show her reluctant face, things are picking up. I have a busy few weeks ahead and it seems the first half of summer is already spoken for. In preparation of events to come, I’ve been quiet on the social media front. While I have certainly fallen behind on my blogging, I haven’t fallen behind on my reading. In fact, with 13 out of 44 books read so far this year, I’m one book ahead of schedule on my 2014 Reading Challenge!

Here’s a look at what I’ve been up to.

What I’m ReadingApe House Sara Gruen

In the last few weeks, my selection of reads have been across a variety of genres. I took a nostalgic trip to my younger days, listening to the audio book of The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I first read this as a teen, and I was surprised to find how much of it stayed with me over the years that have passed.

I read my first Neil Gaiman book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, a magical and transformative read. I listened to the audio book read by Neil Gaiman himself which itself was a treat!

I read Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, a fun and quirky read. I flew through a lighthearted read, The Men I Didn’t Marry, and slogged through Proof of Heaven, a book I thought I would enjoy but didn’t.

Now I’ve just picked up Sara Gruen’s Ape House. Have you ever loved a book so much, you were afraid to read another book by the same author out of fear of not loving it as much as the first? Water for Elephants ranks among my favorite books of all time, and since reading it years ago, I’ve avoided reading any of Gruen’s other novels.

I have finally put my reservations aside to read this book that I’ve wanted to read for so long.

 

What I’m Writing

After going through two rounds of critiquing with a trusted writer friend, and another set of revisions, I’m preparing to submit a short story for publication. This will be my first attempt at submitting a piece I have written, and I am equal parts excited and anxious.

I’ve begun researching literary magazines to possibly submit to (more on my lit mag adventures later) and am bracing myself for the rejections that are sure to come. I will be sure to share my progress along the way!

 

My Favorite Quote of the Week:

“Energy and persistence conquer all things.”

– Benjamin Franklin

Blogs and findings around the Interwebs

Five amazing tips to help you write your novel
I love these tips from Alice Hoffman.

Advice every young writer needs to hear
A collection of short videos from published authors sharing their advice.

Oh, the Places you’ll Go!
From the Write Unboxed blog, how to create an authentic sense of place in fiction.

The 9 Ingredients for Character Development
Some tips from Writer’s Digest

23 Essential Quotes from Ernest Hemingway
What can I say, I just LOVE quotes about writing. This is a great collection of some great ones from Hemingway.

10 Life Lessons to Excel in your 30s
I enjoyed this article and hope to get a head start on a few of these things before I enter the next decade of life!

 

Enjoy the weekend!

What are you reading? What writing projects are you currently working on? Share your reading and writing adventures in the comments, and feel free to link back to your own blog!

The Future of Reading

Last week I came across an article about Spritz – no, this isn’t a new fizzy soda drink, it’s an app designed to improve reading speed and can help you read 600 words a minute.

Sounds insane, right? Here’s a quick glance at how it works.

Spritz streams text on your screen one word at a time, which, the company claims, allows your brain to comprehend it much more quickly and easily. The idea is to reduce the amount of time moving your eyes from one word to the next and reformatting it so that our eyes don’t move at all as we see the words. This way, we can process information instantaneously rather than spend time decoding each word.

spritz

Visit http://www.spritzinc.com/about/ and Click to Spritz to try it for yourself

I shared this article and it got a lot of reactions from my friends on social media. The responses were overwhelmingly positive. As a book lover, the idea of being able to read faster without losing comprehension is wonderful. Being able to read 500 words a minute, rather than the average reading speed of 220 words per minute, would certainly help me reach my reading goals.

But this got me thinking about what would happen to the overall reading experience – will reading become nothing more than watching words flash by on a screen?

This technique, while it has obvious advantages, is initially a bit unnerving. I am a voracious reader, a writer, a lover of words. The way I see it, words are not merely data to be digested as quickly as possible and downloaded into our brains. Language is art and art is to be enjoyed and appreciated.

What about the ability to linger over words and appreciate the language and word choice of the author? One of my favorite moments as a reader is coming across a sentence that is so striking, I need to go back and read it again to appreciate it. Would this speed-reading app allow for going to back to a review a sentence? Will technology like this take all the pleasure out of reading?

And what does this mean for us writers? We spend hours honing our words, poring over every sentence, deliberating over details like whether to use “an” or “the.” In our world, every word matters, each one must contribute something to our story. If reading becomes a way to simply process words and information as quickly as possible, will our craft become obsolete?

Between emails, web pages and other texts, we each read thousands of words every day. In this aspect, technology like this has a very practical application. I spend a lot of time in my work day reading and responding to emails. It would be a huge improvement to my productivity if I could decrease the time I spend reading emails in order to focus on everything else I must accomplish. And how about textbooks – imagine finishing your assigned reading in half the time?

Textbooks, emails and online articles – I would love to read these more quickly. I just don’t think I want this app infringing in my novel reading.

I need to time to imagine a scene as it is being set, to hear the character’s voices in the lines of dialogue. There’s no app for that.

Take a look at the article and try this technology for yourself:
Spritz speed-reading technology

What did you think of it? Do you think this app will change the future of reading as we know it?

Confessions of a Book Polygamist

Book Polygamy: “Reading several books at one time without being able to commit to just one of them.” – NYC writer Michael B.

I discovered this phrase in an article by Rita Meade (@ScrewyDecimal) on Book Riot: Made up words for literary experiences

I used to believe that reading multiple books at once was some sort of literary sin. It felt wrong to read more than one book at a time. I refused to pick up a new book before I had finished the one I was currently reading, believing that it was a form of book adultery, that I would be “cheating.”

That all changed when I realized that as a self-proclaimed book worm, I needed to make more time for reading in my life. Enter, the audio book.

I began my foray into book polygamy when I discovered the joy of listening to audio books and realized it added nearly an hour of reading time to each day. But I only read audio books while I’m in the car, which left me craving a book to read before bed or while curled up on the couch in the evening. And so, I began listening to an audio book on my commute and reading another book, at the same time.

As it turned out, reading two books at once wasn’t so bad after all.

I started juggling three books at a time when I was reading a book that was too big to fit in my purse. I began leaving it behind because it was too heavy to drag back and forth to work everyday. Instead of reading on my lunch break, I passed the time playing games on my phone.

What kind of “avid reader” would I be without a book to take with me everywhere I went? Moments spent waiting at the doctor’s office which could have been spent reading, I wasted by checking Facebook.

I needed a book that was portable, one that I could easily fit in my purse for lunchtime reading. The solution: my Kindle. It is lightweight, and perfect for taking advantage of those found reading moments.

Now, I am never without a book in my purse, another on my nightstand and an audio book loaded up in my car’s CD changer.

I am almost constantly reading two to three books at once. When I’m not, I seem to fall behind on my reading. I don’t know how I would meet my reading goals without reading several books at the same time.  I’m not sure why I resisted the temptation for so many years.

So there you have it. I am a book polygamist and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

What is your take on reading multiple books at the same time, is it a literary sin? Are you a monogamous reader or  a book adulterer like me?

 

If you liked this post, you might also like: Re-reading books, do you do it?  Subscribe to my blog for more posts like this!

New Year’s Reading Resolution: 44 Books in 2014

In 2013, I challenged myself to read 40 books. I knew I wanted to read more this past year when I realized I had only read about a dozen books in 2012, and as it turns out, 2011 wasn’t much better.

After a few years of not reading as much as I’d like, I’m happy to say I reached my goal of 40 books!

My Books StatsI was on track with my goal throughout the year, but as 2013 was winding down, I was dangerously close to being one book short! Here’s what made reaching my goal difficult and what I plan to do differently this year:

  1.  I didn’t set my goal until several months into the year. I knew I wanted to read more, but it wasn’t until I discovered the Goodreads Reading Challenge that I decided to set a specific reading goal.
    I’m hoping that by starting the year off with a number in mind, reaching that number will be easier.
  2. I didn’t take into consideration how little I would be able to read during the entire month of November for National Novel Writing Month. It was tough to stay on track when I was spending every spare minute writing!
    This is where audiobooks are a great solution. Even when I don’t have time to read at home or on my lunch break, I can listen to an audiobook for an hour a day on my commute so that I don’t fall too far behind.
  3. Reading longer books may have set me back. I read all 800 plus pages of King’s 11/22/63 when I could have read two or three books in that same time frame.
    A reading challenge shouldn’t deter readers from choosing longer books – that defeats the purpose! I just have to get creative with the timing of the books I read.

Why set a reading goal? I like that having a goal makes me look at my reading habits and think about how much time I spend reading. It’s not so much about the quantity of books I can read in a year but about focusing on reading as much as I can because I enjoy it.

I’ve been thinking about what my goal should be for 2014. I’d like to challenge myself to read even more this upcoming year, but I want to make the goal a reasonable one.

I think I’ve settled on 44 books in 2014.

How did I arrive at that number? It’s a mixture of art and science, really. Mostly because 44 in 2014 has a nice ring to it, but also because it’s a slightly higher goal that still seems attainable.

If you’re thinking about taking on a reading challenge in 2014, check out my tips for Reaching your Reading Goals.

Will you be setting a reading goal for 2014? Let’s hear it!

Reaching your Reading Goals

A few months back, I wrote about making a reading challenge for myself. I set a goal to read 40 books in 2013. That’s 28 more books than I read in 2012. I’ve completed 25 books so far this year and I’m right on track.

Here are my tips so far for setting and sticking to your reading goals:

IMG_0450Make your goal a reasonable one

I knew I wanted to read more books this year when I realized I had only read 12 books last year. I have been astounded by readers who set goals of 100 or more books in a year. Kudos to them, but I knew that wouldn’t be a realistic goal for me! I settled on 40 books, because that’s a little bit more than 3 books a month which seemed reasonable for me and my schedule. For some people, it may be 12 books in a year, or 20. Setting an unrealistic goal for yourself can lead to frustration and disappointment. It’s not about picking a huge number, for me, it’s about making more time to read and paying more attention to my reading habits.

Keep track of what you’ve read

As previously mentioned, I’m using Goodreads to keep track of what I’ve read, rate books, and add books to my To-Read list. Goodreads helps me stay on top of whether or not I’m on track for my goal and – if not – how far behind I am.

I would love to connect with other readers and bloggers on Goodreads! If you’re on Goodreads, please feel free to connect with me here.

You can also simply keep a hand-written list and cross books out as you go. Use the notepad app on your phone or even Evernote to log what you’ve read.

Make time to read

The greatest part about setting a reading goal for myself has been that I consciously make the time in my day to read by watching less T.V. and reading in small batches. I listen to audiobooks during my commute, I bring my Kindle to work so I can read on my lunch break. I read before bed, in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, under the hair dryer at the hair salon. Spending those extra ten minutes reading, rather than checking my Facebook feed again has made all the difference.

Enjoy it!

A reading goal should be fun, not something to stress over! If you find you’re reading too fast and rushing to finish one book in order to start the next,  you may  be missing out.

What tips can you share about meeting reading goals?

How are you doing on your own reading challenge?

Setting Reading Goals

Sometime last year, I became curious about how many books I read in a year. I have never kept track and only had a vague reference of how long ago I’d read a particular book – last year? two years ago?

So I began keeping a list of books I read in 2012 and was shocked at how short the list was. Twelve. Twelve months, twelve books. Was that all, really? Take a look at my 2012 list.

Admittedly, 2012 was a bad reading year and I blamed it on the fact that I spent the majority of that year planning my wedding. But I knew, wedding or not, I simply wasn’t making enough time to read.

Jennifer Kierecki Blog Reading GoalsSo I decided to make a reading goal this year. My goal for 2013 is to read 40 books. It’s not a terribly ambitious goal compared to some, but I chose 40 because that’s a little bit more than 3 books a month which seemed reasonable for me.

I’ll admit I was late to the Goodreads party, but it is a great way to make a keep track of reading goals. It will tell me if I’m behind or on track, and right now, at 18 books under my belt, I’m right on track!

If you like to set reading goals, I recently learned about a blog called A Novel Challenge which is a great place to find all the latest reading challenges. I love the idea of challenging myself to read books by a particular author whose work I am interested in, or books related to a certain topic or genre. Maybe it’s not too late to set a summer reading challenge (or maybe I should stick to one challenge at a time!)

With my reading challenge for 2013 well under way, this may not have been the best time to read Stephen King’s 800+ page  11/22/63. Considering I could read two or three books in the time it will take me to read this one, it may set me back, but I’m enjoying it nonetheless.

I recently wrote about how good readers make good writers. And now that I’m really making time to read as much as possible, I’m finding that it is making a huge impact in my writing. Not only am I writing more, I want to write every chance I get.

I’m a believer now that it isn’t enough for a writer to simply read a book or two here and there. Reading is part of the creative process.

How many books do you read in a year? Do you have a reading goal? Please share your goals in the comments below!