My Summer Reading Giveaway! — on tumblr.

summer reading giveaway banner june 16Hey, guys! Two things have happened recently:

  1. Tumblr’s become the social media I’m most active on, which lead to
  2. I discovered the Book Depository.

The Book Depository is a magical and wondrous place where you can buy books online and ship them to over 160 different countries— FOR FREE. Yes. FREE. Shipping. Worldwide. As such, it is the perfect vehicle for internet-based giveaways. Which leads me to the grand announcement…

In honor of discovering TBD, some writing milestones, and an upcoming birthday, I am hosting my very own book giveaway on tumblr! The prize is $20 (USD) of books from the Book Depository. Full rules and details here. You can enter until August 22!

Please note that for ease of operation, this giveaway is open to tumblr users only. But I hope to see some of you over there!

Hope your summers (and summer reads) are off to a great start!

10 Reading/Writing Goals for 2015

  1. Read 52+ books.
  2. Attend 3-5 readings.
  3. Beta read for at least two new people.
  4. Read at least one new book on the craft of writing.
  5. Freewrite and do more exercises when not actively novel writing.
  6. Revise Project A until next stage.
  7. Revise Project B until next stage.
  8. Plot, research for, and begin writing new book. Ideally finish first draft this year (though that may depend on how/where things go with A and B).
  9. Pursue new experiences (which feed the pen).
  10. Volunteer at local book festival.

Ye Olde Reading Liste

– very late that night –

(Panting) OK. OK. I think I finally got it. I’ll still have to update it manually, but I managed to get pretty dang close to the shiny Goodreads montage without the help of widgets. Check out my new Reading List page here!


– 1.5 hours later –

So I thought I could just add a cheeky Goodreads widget and have this beautiful, automatically updating montage of books read and books to read on my Reading List page, but ahahahaha, oh-hoho I was wrong. WordPress does not support the necessary javascript, and even with the simplest widget Goodreads offers, WordPress displays it wrong.

SO my friends, it appears I’ll be getting creative. Stay tuned.


As my TBR list sprawls wildly out of control– hard to read, nearing 200 items, and hopelessly behind on both additions and books I’ve actually finished– I have decided to move from a written list to a system that will be easier to process and less work to maintain.

But before I do, I thought I would post the old list here as a sort of memento of times past, and also a celebration of the progress I’ve made in my efforts to read more since starting this blog. As many items as there are remaining, there are quite a few crossed off, too. And who doesn’t enjoy the satisfaction of items crossed off a list?

While living in Japan, where I had very slim access to books in English, I started a reading list. Containing novels, nonfiction, plays, speeches, classics, books for teens, children, and adults, the list quickly ran wild. It continues to grow, taking over cities, genres, and age groups and plotting world domination faster than I can pare it down. Keep an eye out for additions– if we aren’t careful, they just might block out the sun.

Julie’s Assorted To-Read List, in no particular order:

  1. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (9/4/2013)
  2. Finnegans Wake by James Joyce
  3. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (5/27/2012)
  4. Food Rules by Michael Pollan (7/15/2013)
  5. And The Pursuit of Happiness by Maira Kalman
  6. The Illiad by Homer (1/22/2012)
  7. The Odyssey by Homer (3/14/2014)
  8. The Aeneid by Virgil
  9. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (1/22/2014)
  10. Infero by Dante Alighieri
  11. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (9/27/2011)
  12. Paradise Lost by John Milton (11/18/2011)
  13. How to Be an Explorer of the World by Keri Smith
  14. Never Let You Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (8/4/2011)
  15. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (4/29/2012)
  16. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Márquez
  17. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Márquez (9/17/2013)
  18. Life of Pi by Yann Martel (4/2011)
  19. The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
  20. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (3/21/2013)
  21. Public Enemies by Bernard Henri Levi
  22. Greek & Roman Myths
  23. Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss
  24. Dubliners by James Joyce (11/3/2011)
  25. Ulyssess by James Joyce
  26. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde (1/12/2014)
  27. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (9/14/2011)
  28. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1/14/2013)
  29. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (10/10/2013)
  30. The Prince by Machiavelli (1/10/2014)
  31. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  32. House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
  33. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (2/11/2012)
  34. American Gods by Neil Gaiman (6/30/2013)
  35. A Strategy of Peace (commencement speech) by JFK (1/20/2014)
  36. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (5/28/2013)
  37. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  38. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (10/6/2011)
  39. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (10/12/2012)
  40. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (9/10/2012)
  41. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (5/22/2013)
  42. Bleak House by Charles Dickens
  43. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (3/24/2012)
  44. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (12/3/2011)
  45. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer (1/6/2013)
  46. The Tao Te Ching by Lao-tzu
  47. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (12/11/2011)
  48. Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy (2/22/2012)
  49. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
  50. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (6/7/2012)
  51. Imagine by Jonah Lehrer (2/14/2014)
  52. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  53. Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
  54. A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
  55. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (9/25/2013)
  56. A la recherche du temps perdu by Marcel Proust
  57. The Fate of the Species by Fred Guterl* (research for my WIP!) (1/20/2013)
  58. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (5/25/2014)
  59. Bel Ami by Guy de Maupassaunt
  60. On Writing by Stephen King (9/16/2012)
  61. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (2/10/2014)
  62. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  63. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  64. John Dies at the End by David Wong (11/1/2013)
  65. The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro
  66. The Cider House Rules by John Irving (3/3/2013)
  67. Martin Eden by Jack London
  68. Men Without Women by Ernest Hemingway
  69. Germinal by Émile Zola
  70. Jumper by Steven Gould (4/7/2013)
  71. Pereira Maintains by Antonio Tabucchi
  72. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (10/2/2013)
  73. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
  74. Legend by Marie Lu (2/16/2014)
  75. The Beach by Alex Garland
  76. Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving
  77. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
  78. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (7/18/2013)
  79. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
  80. The Giver by Lois Lowry (3/3/2014)
  81. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (3/18/2014)
  82. Tenth of December by George Sanders (7/4/2013)
  83. Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke (8/23/2013)
  84. 11/22/63 by Stephen King (8/8/2013)
  85. Logan’s Run by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson (8/22/2013)
  86. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
  87. No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July
  88. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
  89. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
  90. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (10/15/2014)
  91. Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
  92. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  93. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (1/31/2014)
  94. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (11/12/2013)
  95. I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore (1/4/2014)
  96. If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler by Italo Calvino (11/27/2013)
  97. Vicious by V.E. Schwab (12/6/2013)
  98. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (3/1/2014)
  99. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (11/13/2014)
  100. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (12/23/2013)
  101. Stardust by Neil Gaiman
  102. Coraline by Neil Gaiman (5/25/2014)
  103. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
  104. Astor Place Vintage by Stephanie Lehmann (12/16/2013)
  105. Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
  106. Chocolat by Joanne Harris
  107. On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta (7/26/2014)
  108. Looking for Alaska by John Green (9/6/2014)
  109. Divergent by Veronica Roth (2/24/2014)
  110. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
  111. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin (1/21/2014)
  112. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
  113. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
  114. Black Swan Green by David Mitchell
  115. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
  116. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
  117. Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
  118. Prodigy by Marie Lu (#2 in the Legend series)
  119. Insurgent by Veronica Roth (#2 in the Divergent series)
  120. The World According to Garp by John Irving
  121. The Cavendish Home for Girls and Boys by Claire Legrand (3/21/2014)
  122. Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier (4/3/2014)
  123. The Theory of Everything by Kari Luna
  124. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly (3/28/2014)
  125. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare (4/14/2014)
  126. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott (7/28/2014)
  127. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
  128. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
  129. Wool by Hugh Howey (4/25/2014)
  130. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (5/6/2014)
  131. After by Kristin Harmel (5/1/2014)
  132. 34 Pieces of You by Carmen Rodrigues (5/2/2014)
  133. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
  134. If I Stay by Gayle Forman (9/9/2014)
  135. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
  136. Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
  137. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver (5/15/2014)
  138. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  139. Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
  140. Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver (5/31/2014)
  141. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
  142. Doctor Sleep by Stephen King (6/8/2014)
  143. The Maze Runner by James Dashner
  144. Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman (6/14/2014)
  145. Summer and Bird by Katherine Catmull (6/26/2014)
  146. Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu (7/7/2014)
  147. The Real Boy by Anne Ursu
  148. Nightingale’s Nest by Nikki Loftin
  149. The Shining by Stephen King
  150. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  151. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (11/28/2014)
  152. The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey
  153. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (10/12/2014)
  154. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
  155. Landline by Rainbow Rowell (12/8/2014)
  156. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
  157. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (8/13/2014)
  158. I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You by Courtney Maum
  159. Paris in Love by Eloisa James
  160. Delirium by Lauren Oliver (8/31/2014)
  161. 17 First Kisses by Rachael Allen (9/17/2014)
  162. The Graham Cracker Plot by Shelley Dougas (10/19/2014)
  163. The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow by Jessica Haight and Stephanie Robinson
  164. Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder (8/21/2014)
  165. Paper Towns by John Green
  166. Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
  167. Last Train to Babylon by Charlee Fam
  168. Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver
  169. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
  170. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (10/23/2014)
  171. Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
  172. The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
  173. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

What’s in a reading? Some observations as attendee, as author

A former professor once said that she liked to think of readings as gifts: something that one gives one’s audience. That listeners can enjoy and take meaning, amusement, solace from. Or anything, really; it’s the author’s gift to give. What it does is, by and large, up to them.

I am fortunate to live in a city never wanting for literary events. This year, especially as it was one of my writing resolutions to attend more readings, I have had the chance not only to experience these events, but to observe just what sort of “gifts” their authors are giving.

Here are some observations I’ve made– both as an attendee, and as an author taking notes for the hopeful Someday she might be on the other side of the podium. First,

As a listener:

1. Most readings consist of the same parts: introduction/stand up (the author introduces him/herself and drops a few well-chosen lines to get listeners laughing and engaged); the actual reading of material from the book the author is there to promote; open Q&A with the audience; the signing of books.

2. Every author reads differently. Some authors read a great deal. Some don’t. Some read from books other than what they are there to promote, or in addition to it, and some read what they’re working on now or just wrote that morning.

3. Distraction happens. People sneeze. Babies cry. Small children, and occasionally long lines of teenagers thread through the audience or before the podium at THE MOST inconvenient occasions. A speaker can either read on, or, as David Mitchell did, take it in stride: acknowledge a running child with, “Hello, little person!” a throng of teens with “Hi guys!” and a crying infant with “It’s my reading, and he can cry if he wants to.” For me, this last approach really harkens back to the gift-giving aspect: rather than shaming these people or willfully ignoring them (or indeed competing with them for the audience’s attention), one is reaching out to the source(s) of distraction in a respectful, playful, and even inviting manner. Thus rather than a nuisance, it becomes a bit of fun for the audience, and parents/sneezers/wanders-through are more likely to feel gratitude than embarrassment. Might even gain some new listeners.

As an author:

1. There is more than one way to engage with an audience. What a speaker can do beyond speaking is perhaps limited by context, but there’s a certain amount of room for creativity here. Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, at one point discussed the small indulgence of appreciating smell, and as a sort of enhancing prop passed around vials of some of her favorite handmade scents.

As someone with classroom experience, I could see engagements taken in other directions, too: shows of hands. Short games. Trivia with candy/literary/other prizes. As long as it’s relevant.

2. What a presenter can give is not limited to a great performance. I’m thinking specifically of David Sedaris here, who makes a point of giving his listeners (particularly teens, who it is rarer to see at readings) some kind of physical token to take home. He gives small things, random things: tiny plastic toys, postcards,  bracelets, hotel shampoos, packets of honey mustard, things from his pockets, sometimes things former listeners have gifted him (like a small box of chocolates, which he couldn’t eat).

Obviously this is one to exercise good judgment with, but for Mr. Sedaris’s standard genre (humorous creative nonfiction) it’s both amusing and appropriate. And what an unusual, lasting impression it makes!

3. If you’re trying to generate interest in something other than your book, a reading may be a good place to do it. I have seen newsletter signups passed around (Rubin) and authors promoting another author’s book alongside their own (Sedaris). Both alluded to these extras only briefly, and did so in a non-intrusive way.

Again, though, it’s all about relevance. Most readings are not places for promoting political agendas, etc.

4. If you don’t want to take pictures with people, you don’t have to. As a presenting author, you can work with the bookstore/library/school etc. staff to establish some ground rules beforehand. While some speakers are naturally photogenic and happy to pose with those getting their books signed, others would prefer not to pose, and some would rather not take pictures at all. David Sedaris mentions a sly trick in Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls: he asks the bookstores to put out a large sign forbidding photography, and makes it sound like it’s their policy that photos not be taken.

5. Engagement doesn’t have to end at the event. Many authors are on social media, and some take to the Tweets (/tumbls, etc.) after a reading to continue engaging with people who came to see them.

BJ Novak favorited my Tweet. I felt Twitter famous.

Forum Friday: Favorite books of 2013

What were your favorite books this year? They don’t have to be new as long as they were new to you!

Here are some of my favorites (not presented in rank– they were all 5 stars for me):


  1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  2. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
  3. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  4. Vicious by V.E. Schwab
  5. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  6. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
  7. The Cider House Rules by John Irving
  8. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Forum Friday: Do you have a literary bucket list?

If so, what’s on it? Writing fan letters to your favorite authors (or perhaps meeting them)? Visiting places from your favorite books, like the House on the Rock in American Gods (or the Harry Potter world in Universal Studios)? Going on a literary pilgrimage, or filling a library of your own with signed first editions?

A literary bucket list is something I’ve been meaning to sit down and commit to paper for a while now. Or at least brainstorm over. I think it’s always good to have dreams, and as a writer it could be especially nice to round out some of the Years Away, Distant Mountain goals like publication and viable authorhood with things you can cross off in a day. I’ll be interested to see what’s on other people’s lists! 🙂

Deadlines, Girl Jams, & 5 Good Reasons to Write

30 Day Know Thyself Writing Challenge

Day 13: What motivates you to keep writing?

Deadlines. Deadlines and coffee.

OH, you mean the POSITIVE things.

Well, let me first say this: deadlines have their positive attributes, too. If you have them, it means that someone is expecting your work, which means that someone will be reading your work (and why does a writer write except to be read?), probably that somebody has already admitted to liking your work, and it may very well mean that there is money involved. I just finished my second paid freelance gig ever and actually have a check on the way. Ain’t gon’ lie: had myself a wee bedroom dance party just now.

DANCE PARTY??? Cue the girly jam-a-thon!

But let’s be realistic: I didn’t become a writer for the money. Nobody who wanted to would blow 5-10 years worth of regular freelance gigs on a university education in creative writing. Ha, ha, ha…

So what are some of the other things that regularly motivate me to keep writing?

1. Fans. Having loyal readers is priceless for motivation—they encourage us writers in so many ways. From friends to family to online followers (and yes, ideally, one day we all want to be the next J.K Rowling with readers all over the world), fans motivate me with everything from praise (“loved your story!”) to pressure (“why haven’t I seen anything from you lately?”) to the simple anticipation that what I’m writing will be read by somebody else. That in itself creates a beautiful space for meaning.

2. Challenges. I’m no Type A, but a good creative challenge really fires me up. Even though it might initially stress me out, I like prompts that push me to think on my feet and make new connections and try something utterly foreign and scary. This last freelance gig I did? (My second real paid one. Ever.) It was a script-writing assignment for a potential commercial.

I’d never written script before.

Also, the client needed it within 36 hours of the time the assignment was described to me.

Excuse me while I get up and dance again.

3. The Need. The need for expression is twofold for me: on the one hand there is the need to express myself creatively (it is my lifeblood); on the other is the need to record. I’ve kept many, many journals over the years, often haphazard and scattered accounts. But every single entry—no matter how inconsistent or boy-crazy—captured a single moment in time. Put it in amber. I can relive the moment in clear detail and feeling whenever I leaf through the pages.

4. The Learning Curve. I’ve recently realized that even fiction (sometimes even poetry) requires a great deal of research in order to be convincing. For me that’s no concern—I love learning! The only issue is that research time takes away from actual writing time… But really. How cool is it to have a [hobby] [profession] [need] that keeps you mentally agile and privies you to loads of awesome, unsung info?

5. Good Writing. When in doubt, look to your writing idols and role models. They made it and so can you. How did they do it? What wisdom do they offer? There’s a trove of motivation / inspiration to be had right on your bookshelf.