What I’m reading: It by Stephen King

I never did trust clowns. Never did understand how anyone could find them amusing. Or fun. When I see a small child crying at the sight of a clown at a birthday party, I’m like, hey, I feel you. Now, after listening to the mega-long-and-worth-every-second-of-it audiobook for Stephen King’s “It” (over 30 hours!), I feel vindicated. About the clown thing.

I also feel inspired. And awestruck. Because King is truly the master. There is so much depth, insight, compassion, and food for contemplation along with the edge-of-your-seat thrills, that I will be pondering this book for a long time.

I’ve always believed that to write well, one must read. A lot. And reading Stephen King is not only engaging, it comes with a brilliant display of particularity and “show, don’t tell,” and best of of, insightful commentaries on human nature in all its flawed, many-faceted, and endlessly intriguing forms.

“It” deals a lot with childhood. The sheer hellishness of it–bullies, clueless and cruel adults, the phenomenal willpower it takes to withstand parents who are bent on crushing every bit of individuality and light from their children. “It” also sings of the magical power of childhood–the ability to see and sense what adults are blind to, the belief in the existence of magic and all the things, good and evil, that adults simply cannot or refuse to acknowledge. And the life-changing, dragon-slaying power that childhood belief can wield.

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Now that I’ve read 11.22.63 and It, I can’t wait to read more. But which one to read next? Thankfully, there is much to choose from; the man is seriously prolific.

I’m thinking maybe Dolores Claiborne, since I saw the movie at least three times and couldn’t stop thinking about it for many reasons, including its echoing of the myth of Persephone, its themes of surviving trauma, and its multi-layered performance by the inimitable Kathy Bates.

What I’m Reading: Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

Who would have thought that the powerhouse creator of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How to Get Away With Murder, and The Catch was an introvert? How could someone who “owns Thursdays” become so overcome with fear at the thought of giving a commencement speech at Dartmouth, her alma mater, or being a guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live, that her strongest impulse is to say no?

Except that she doesn’t say no. After years of giving into extreme shyness and its attendant fears of public exposure and ridicule, after years of saying no to everything that would make an introvert shudder, Shonda Rhimes forces herself to say yes. That journey is the essence of her book YEAR OF YESyear-of-yes-9781476777092_lg

With humor, generosity, and tremendous relatability, the author reveals the extent of her terror and how she blasted through it.  I am loving this book, which I’m listening to on audiobook, beautifully narrated by the author herself.

Here’s a clip of Shonda Rhimes on the Stephen Colbert show.

I’m looking forward to listening to the rest of the book. As someone who spent her childhood as an extremely shy person (and still sometimes fights those tendencies), I highly recommend YEAR OF YES to anyone who wants to break the cycle of “no” and step outside of their comfort zone.

Writing at a Standing Desk? Brilliant.

I used to think of ‘writing at a standing desk’ as an oxymoron–can’t be done. And didn’t article after article talk about how despite how good for you standing desks are, writing is best done sitting down? Well, I’m happy to say that I was wrong. I have gone from raising a skeptical eyebrow at the ‘standing desk craze’ to full-on convert.

Why do I LOVE writing at my standing desk?

  • It’s energized my writing routine. I feel physically, mentally, and emotionally vibrant as I stand at my desk and write.
  • I’ve always thought of writing fiction as something akin to acting, and somehow standing enables me to connect on a more physical level with what the characters are feeling and doing than when I’m sitting slumped in my chair. Yeah, I tend to slump when sitting. Which leads me to the next point.
  • My posture is better when I’m standing and writing than when I’m sitting and writing.
  • I am more focused when standing than I am when sitting.
  • I have more clarity about both big picture and details when I’m standing than when I’m sitting.
  • Standing helps me remember to do the ‘power pose’ from that famous TED talk by Amy Cuddy. And that’s always great for my writing.

This is my ReadyDesk standing desk converter, which sits on top of my regular desk. It comes with two shelves that you can move around till you find the perfect height. I also bought an extra shelf:
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What I’m Reading: 11/22/63 by Stephen King

I’ve decided that the definition of “unputdownable” in the OED should now be “11/22/63 by Stephen King.” I have lost sleep and work time racing through yet savoring every word of this masterfully written time-travel, what-if, alternate-reality tale of a man who travels back through a time-warp/rabbit hole in the back of a diner that lands him in 1958, where he must spend the next five years planning how to thwart the assassination of JFK. On the way, there is more of the past to tamper with, survive, and fall in love with–especially because it is where he meets his soulmate. But nothing is ever easy when it comes to changing the past, no sir. The past will do anything it can to stay put. “The obdurate past,” as King puts it. Indeed.

The past is also “harmonic,” according to 11/22/63. In fact, the act of reading 11/22/63 seems to generate its own harmonies, for as I entered the last third of the novel, an ad for the event series based on the work caught my eye on the Hulu home screen. Now I won’t have to feel as sad as I usually would do upon turning the last page of such an enthralling, mind-expanding read. I’ll have eight episodes to look forward to. Am hoping they do this brilliant work justice.

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Surviving the Dreaded 14th: 14 ways to survive Valentine’s Day

Has a holiday ever caused so much unhappiness? I’m not talking about how it was when we were kids. Then it was all about giving everyone in class a paper valentine and those little heart candies. Though kids could get mean about that too if left to their own devices, like leaving out the kids nobody talked to.

As adults, we’re supposed to be more equipped to deal with that stuff, but it takes a stalwart sort to withstand the collective anxiety in the run-up to Valentine’s Day, let alone the day itself.

If you’re not in a relationship, the ads for jewels and bouquets and V-Day menus seem to be mocking your lack of a BF. if you’re in a relationship, it’s sadly easy to get caught up in expectations, and there’s nothing less romantic than thinking, ‘what’s he going to get me, and it had better not be cheap or unromantic.’ Or ‘Is he going to take me out, and somewhere good for a change?’ or even worse, ‘Is he finally going to propose?’

It’s enough to make you want to go underground till February 15.

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But don’t despair: you can get through it. Not by hiding and pretending there’s no such thing as the dreaded V-Day. But by embracing the true message behind the holiday and making Feb. 14 your own, empowering, feel-good holiday, regardless of your relationship status.

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New Year’s Resolutions: doomed to fail, or an excellent idea?

I’m usually not one for New Year’s resolutions. Probably because I tend to fail at them. But is it the inherent concept of a New Year’s resolution which is at fault? Or is it the nature of my particular resolutions?

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This piece in Forbes has some insights into those questions, suggesting that resolutions tend to be unrealistic and/or punishing, and thus we inadvertently sabotage our real chance at making positive change.

Because of course, we can change. I truly believe that with all my heart. If we want badly enough to make a change, and if we make our goals tangible and doable, one bit at a time, practicing till we master and perfect, then of course we can and will and do change. Click here to read more…

EMMA 200th Anniversary Edition

This luxurious new edition of EMMA features a series of pieces by Austen scholar and professor Juliette Wells, who informs us in her introduction that this is “a reader’s edition, not a scholarly one.” With the needs and wishes of her students in mind, Dr. Wells has included in this edition an abundance of extras that make EMMA’s world and its language as accessible as possible. There are tips for first-time readers of Austen, a series of short pieces that illuminate aspects of everyday life that Austen’s contemporaries would have taken for granted but which often elude today’s readers, a glossary of words that are now either obsolete or have evolved in meaning, plus maps, illustrations, and more.

EMMA is a novel that, like all of Jane Austen’s major works, I have read at least twenty times. A great part of Austen’s genius is that there is always something new to be discovered in her novels, no matter how many times one reads them. Now, thanks to this lovely new edition, there is even more. For there is enough substance in this annotated edition to enlighten and entertain not only novice readers, but Austen devotees.

As an object of beauty, this book deserves high marks as well, with its eye-catching graphics that express both contemporary relevance and period authenticity, its textured, matte apricot-colored background, and its deckle-edged pages that remind us of the days when books had uncut pages to be opened by their first readers.

A conversation with JULIETTE WELLS, Editor and Introducer of EMMA: 200th-Anniversary Annotated Edition

Click here to read more…