Inspiration Kindled

Reading, Writing, Living. Inspire each day!

Category: Books (page 1 of 2)

what I’ve gained from tackling the 1000 Day MFA

1000 Day MFA

I first read about Shaunta Grime’s 1000 Day MFA DIY challenge a few months back.  It’s not an actual program, and it certainly doesn’t boast a real degree.  But what it does offer is an experience that will make any reader/writer more prolific.

To undertake the 1000 Day MFA, you must:

  • Read one short story, one essay, and one poem every day
  • Watch three movies every week
  • Write one short story every week
  • Read one writing craft book every month
  • Read one novel every month
  • Write one novel every year
  • Repeat for 1000 days

There’s an official facebook group for those participating.  The cost is $10 a month, and although I haven’t joined myself, I’m sure it’s worth it if you can come up with the money.

I was intrigued and inspired by this challenge, so much so that I read Shaunta’s article no less than five times.  It was something I told myself I’d maybe do someday, but couldn’t handle at the moment.  When I kept going back to it, and back to it again, eventually I bit the bullet.

I’m now three-plus weeks into my MFA journey, which in the grand scheme of things isn’t very far.  Here are a few things I’ve learned.

Writing Every Day Is the Best Idea Ever

Every writer waxes poetic about the benefits of developing a daily writing habit.  It’s not like I thought they were wrong.  My problem was that as much as I wanted to be a writer, writing was often painful for me.  IF I managed to shut off my inner editor, as one is supposed to do, I couldn’t shake the thought that every word I typed out really sucked.  I hated my perceived lack of control over what I was producing.

Notice I wrote that daily writing was painful, because it’s not so bad anymore.  On the ever-famous scale of ten, my writing has gone from around a nine to about a four.  I’ll take it.

So not only am I actually producing a heck of a lot more, I’m doing so much more willingly.  I’m braver now.  I’m less afraid.  I have a voice.  I even bit the other bullet and joined the Medium Post-a-Day challenge.

I don’t know what else to say about this, so I’m going to leave you with…

sky is the limit

Short Stories Are Awesome

I’ve never been a short story person.  Writing-wise, I’ve never been a short kind of person at all.  If an essay had to be five pages long, I’d often wind up in the vicinity of eight.

Since starting the challenge, I’ve written four short stories.  Four.  The first of these was around 3500 words, but the others have averaged in the 700s.  You have no idea how freeing this is.

Like anything else, writing is motivated by accomplishment.  Writing a short story every week has given me a rapidly-growing portfolio of completed work in seemingly no time at all.  I’m not giving up on novels, but I’m certainly a short-story convert.

You can read one of my stories, The Violinist, on Medium.

Essays Can Be Awesome. Sometimes. Maybe.

Does anyone read essays for pleasure?  Somebody must, as I’ve seen anthologies of them at bookstores.

I’ve never been tempted to pick up one of those books and read it.  Not even once.

Maybe this is because my understanding of essays is somewhat limited.  After all, my American education on essays consisted of a) writing them on some (often boring) assigned topic or b) forcing myself to read them in order use them as a resource for said assignment.

Not a very encouraging standard, I’m afraid.

Since beginning this challenge, I’ve forced myself to read maybe ten essays.  Another ten were okay to read – they at least had an interesting premise.  And then there were a few I surprisingly enjoyed.

I’m convinced now that essays can be pleasurable, and I’m determined to educate myself on the different types of essays and which kinds and which authors I find appealing.  Who knows: maybe I’ll even write one someday!

In case you’re interested, the essays I enjoyed are:

(I feel it’s important to note the not insignificant possibility that I read essays every day and enjoy them and don’t know they’re essays.)

That’s all on this for now, friends, but if you’re interested in this challenge, please do read more about it.  I may or may not share personal progress updates in the future!

six inspirational children’s books every adult should read

reading children's books

Some of the best books I’ve ever read are children’s books.  This is attested by the worn copies that still sit on my bookshelf, in spite of the fact that I’ve sold the majority of my physical book collection over the last few years.

These titles vary in popularity, and they make my list for different reasons.  Some have irresistibly well-crafted plots.  Others are superior in world-building.  Most have valuable lessons to teach.  All are inspirational.

If you missed out on these as a child – and even if you didn’t – don’t be ashamed to read them now.  I promise it will be worth it!

1. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

Who were these people, these specially selected tenants?  They were mothers and fathers and children.  A dressmaker, a secretary, an inventor, a doctor, a judge.  And, oh yes, one was a bookie, one was a burglar, one was a bomber, and one was a mistake.  Barney Northrup had rented one of the apartments to the wrong person.

This mystery is an easy read, but there’s nothing simple about it.  The cast of characters – and the plot – is interesting and complex, and there are plenty of twists to keep you going.  It’s the first book I recommend to teens and tweens I come across, boy and girl alike.

2. Whoever Heard of a Fird? by Othello Bach

Once there was a little fird – just an ordinary fird, part fish, part bird – and he wanted to find a herd of fird.  But nobody had ever heard of a fird.

This delightful story was out of print for a number of years, and my mom paid a pretty penny to replace the copy she lost.  It was released again in 2012 with new illustrations, but I firmly believe it’s worth it to pay for the original.  The pictures are fanciful and entertaining, and the story is heart-warming.  The world in which Fird lives is entirely unique.  You’ll be eager to join him as he journeys away from his home with the dickens in search of a herd of fird.

3. Searching For David’s Heart by Cherie Bennett

But now I knew that love was a poisonous thing. It had turned me into a murderer. I would die with my secret before I would tell.

I want to sob at the mere thought of this story.  It’s about a 12-year-old girl who loses her beloved older brother, David, and sets out on an epic journey with her best friend in search of the boy who received his heart.  It gets extra kudos for dealing with issues of class and racism in an honest but respectful way.  Also, you will cry.

4. Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…

This is indubitably the most famous book on this list.  I fell in love with it as a child, having heard it read out loud year after year at otherwise boring graduation ceremonies (my dad plays the piano for the local college where he works.)  If you read only one book for the rest of your life, make it this one.  Better yet: read it first thing every day.

5. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

You never know the worth of water until the well is dry.

I remember when I was younger struggling to get through this book.  As a voracious reader, the story intrigued me, but several times I lost interest somewhere in the middle and bailed out.  And then came the day when I didn’t; I finally reached the end.

And it was beautiful.

Rarely since have I found a story as well-crafted as this one, nor an ending so satisfying if bittersweet.  Push your way through; you won’t regret it!

6. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Wild nights are my glory!

This story and its sequels are truly brilliant works of sci-fi/fantasy that include a taste of dystopia and, later in the series, biblical history.  Not only that, but the characters are easily lovable and some of the most unique and memorable of any series I have read.  If you really can’t make time to read the book, check out the movie.  There’s a new movie version debuting on the big screen in 2018, and I can’t wait!

I hope you enjoyed this list and that it brought back some memories.  I’d love to hear about the books you choose to read!

inspiring this week: thinking, saving, creating, reflecting

It’s 8:30 pm and I just signed on to give this post – already written – a quick read-through and hit publish.  But, surprise!  My post was gone.

So please forgive me for jumping straight to the point this week.  I promise to write again soon!

creating, reflecting, thinking

Be Like Steve Jobs: Think Differently

I love this article from Zat Rana for its celebration of what is unique in all of us.  I also like that it lists several models of thought that inspire fresh perspectives.  Here’s to thinking outside the box and acting beyond the predictable!

How to Become a Multi-Millionaire

This is a lengthy article; however, it’s so comprehensive as to encompass the entire message of many personal finance books.  No one could accuse Rohan Punamia of not knowing his stuff.  Take the time to read it for excellent and thorough financial advice.

13 Reasons Why

You’ve probably heard of this recent series from Netflix, if not watched it already.  It’s been reproached by numerous sources for its graphic content and intensity.  One article has even called it “dangerous”, accusing the drama of glorifying suicide.

I don’t disagree that this show should be handled with care, but I also feel that it delivers a powerful message in exploring the depths and realities of adolescent life.  In particular, I found that the unique experience of young adults – old enough to make pivotal decisions, but often too young to discern the far-reaching consequences – was impressively well-articulated throughout.

In short: watching this series will definitely be traumatic for some, and thus I would recommend caution, and, with teenagers, adult supervision.  But it also has an important message that may be helpful – and even necessary – to some teens.

Alternatively, you could read the book.  I haven’t done so yet, but someday I hope to pick it up.  This is a story best digested over time.

Your Next Month Can Be Better Than This One

A list of 30 questions for reflecting each month on where you’ve been and where you want to go.

Product Creation Masterclass

There’s only one day left to register, but if you’ve ever wanted to create something or teach something, or you simply have something you feel you need to give the world, now’s the time to sign up.  This is a 100% free course offered by ConvertKit

If you missed it, don’t forget to check out the post I published this week on  3 simple rules to encourage positivity every day.

Wishing you an inspiring week!

inspiring this week: reading fiction, inspirational people, and changing your default

 

book coming to life

My birthday was this past week.  I had a truly lovely day, spent lounging around the house and eating too much delicious food. I have a feeling that this year, wonderful things are going to happen in my life.  Optimism is better than any present!

I know this blog is still a fledgling, but I’m committed to growing it into something incredible.  I truly appreciate my readers and want you to be a part of that growth!   Please stop by my new contact page and let me know what you like about Inspiration Kindled, what I can change, and what you’d like to read about.  You’ll have my eternal gratitude for the feedback!

Without further ado, here are my inspiration picks for the week:

7 Fiction Books That Change The Way You Think

I collect a lot of book lists, which is an easy thing to do when you subscribe to Medium.  The vast majority of these lists are composed of nonfiction books.  The inclusion of fiction books is rare, and those that are mentioned are usually classics.  That’s why I was so excited to stumble across 7 Fiction Books That Change The Way You Think.  As a writer and voracious reader, I deeply believe that works of fiction can be just as inspiring and life-changing as non-fiction, if not more so.  After all: non-fiction may feed your brain, but fiction nurtures the heart!

The DO Lectures

This week I discovered The DO Lectures.  The site boasts a large collection of videos featuring various inspirational people discussing what they do.  Kind of like a more laid-back version of TED talks.  Poke around and you’re bound to find a topic of interest!

Reset Your Default

Ben Hardy’s How To Make Immediate Behavior Changes introduces some fresh ideas that are at least worth a read.  My favorite is “change your default option.”  What are your go-to free time activities?  Instead of checking your phone for the millionth time or re-watching that episode of Friends, could you be writing or reading or brainstorming new ideas?

I’ve also been reading recently about the value of taking advantage of all those bits of downtime scattered throughout the day.  Five minutes here or ten there doesn’t sound like a lot, but what if you used that time to work on something meaningful?  It could add up.  And over time, it could add up to a lot of accomplishment.  Reportedly, this is how Stephen King reads for five hours a day!

Until next time – wishing you an inspiring week!

What I’ve Been Reading: Uprooted

I have a couple nonfiction books I need to write about soon, but this novel was so engaging I just had to write about it first!

Uprooted Cover

I stumbled across Uprooted by mistake while searching for the author of the last novel I reviewed, Jephte’s Daughter – both authors share the name Naomi.  Although it wasn’t at all what I was looking for at the time, the cover intrigued me enough to read about it further, and the summary was so interesting I immediately put it on hold.  By the time it was automatically checked out to me, I couldn’t recall the book at all, but I wasn’t reading any other fiction at the time so I dived right in with no expectations.  It’s rare for a fiction book to appeal to me quickly – I tend to need time to get to know the characters in order to be hooked – but this fantasy novel had me engaged from the very first chapter.

What’s It About?

Although this is not a young-adult novel, Uprooted follows the story of a seventeen-year-old girl named Agnieszka.  She lives in a small village that’s under the protection of the Dragon, a mysterious wizard who is notorious for claiming a girl from the villages every ten years.  Everyone Agnieszka knows expects her best friend, Kasia, to be the one chosen, and all are surprised when it’s Agnieszka herself instead.  The Dragon is not the rapist Agnieszka expects, but he is cold, insulting, and unapproachable.  He begins to teach Agniezska magic to both their distaste, which proves to be especially useful when the wicked wood that threatens to overtake the land and all its people launches a fierce battle against their kingdom.

Three Things I Liked About It:

  1. The antagonist of this novel isn’t a person, it’s a forest.  “The wood” is mysterious and intriguing and genuinely creepy, and it’s story – which you learn towards the end of the novel – sets everything in a new light.
  2. This is one of the most unique fantasy novels I’ve ever read.  This isn’t some variation on the typical fantastical fare: no actual dragons, no elves or giants or mermaids or dwarves.  It’s something entirely different, and refreshingly so.
  3. There is romance here, but it’s my favorite kind: a sprinkle of salt to flavor the story rather than a main ingredient.

What I Didn’t Like:

The characters might have been further developed.  For instance, the Dragon is indubitably one of the most intriguing characters of the novel because he’s rude, and irredeemably so.  I just wanted to know more about why.  Unlike many books I enjoy, this book is less heavy on character development and relationships and focuses more on plot, with characterization being executed in a subtle way that still works somehow.  The book would have been ridiculously long if these details were drawn out any more than they were, but it might have added an extra something.

Conclusion:

If you’re in the mood for something engaging and fast-paced and entirely original, this is the book for you.  There’s something stylistically about this novel that I really admire – it’s very different from the way I write, but wholeheartedly wonderful.  If you enjoy fantasy at all, you want to give this one a read.

About The Author:

After reading her three-paragraph author bio (as well as the novel itself,) I’m a fan of Naomi Novik.  This woman is a queen of geeks.  She’s involved in the Organization for Transformative Works – which is responsible for the Archive of Our Own among other things – and writes fanfiction in addition to original work.  Plus she has a daughter named Evidence, which is maybe the coolest name ever.  Ms. Novik is most famous for an earlier fantasy series containing eight books, the Temeraire series.

Older posts

© 2017 Inspiration Kindled

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑