book·ish : How Do You Choose a Book?

I read this really lovely quote the other day from Wentworth Dillon, IV Earl of Roscommon : 

"Choose an author as you would a friend." 

It made me think about all the books I've read and how I met them. Most often, I choose books at the recommendation of someone whose opinion I trust. In recent years, those recommendations most often come from you - my blog community. But sometimes it's a serendipitous happenstance that I recognize as a blessing in retrospect.

I rarely choose a book at random and enjoy it. The one exception was The Reader; it's one of my favorites, and now Bernard Schlink is one of my favorite authors, and the way that I found it felt sort of providential, like I was supposed to find it. It was sitting on a shelf in my local library, where I worked as a teenager. Its cover was beautiful, but when I opened the book I realized that it was placed upside down - to read it, you had to flip it over, and so to the rest of the world it looked as though you were reading it back-to-front and upside-down. The description on the back cover was intriguing, but I felt compelled to read it because of the misplaced cover, because I noticed that if patrons picked it up and noticed that the cover was a mistake, they often put it back down and found something else. When I read it, the secret in the story made it feel like I was meant to read it and if someone else didn't choose it because of the cover, then it was a secret between me and that book alone, one that I would always treasure. They didn't know what they were missing and I wasn't about to tell them.  

No matter how we meet books or people, the relationship requires trust, mutual interest, shared language. I love reading a book and thinking quietly to the characters and author, "Me too."




1. (of a person or way of life) Devoted to reading and studying rather than worldly interests.
2. (of language or writing) Literary in style or allusion.
3. (of art and all manner of lovely things) devoted to the written word as a form of art and as a way of seeing the world.
4. (of SheWritesandRights.blogspot.com) anything of the aforementioned characteristics as they are found on the interwebs and reposted by Bethany, because bookish and writerly things always give reason for amusement.


Prodigal : Watering the Peace Lily.

So I have this peace lily... and despite how often I neglect it, it's been teaching me some things about prayer, patience, and grief. Read my musings today on Prodigal Mag :
"I always go a day too long without watering it. From my usual spot in the corner chair of my living room one evening, I looked up from my computer screen, bleary-eyed after hours of writing, and blinked at the coffee table. There was my peace lily, slumped in a terrifying wilt, its leaves prostrate..." - Read more here

P.S. My Prodigal archives.


I'll Be Back Soon...

It's been quiet around here for the last few days. My apologies. There's been some excitement at the office, a pile of other to-dos for my other writing commitments, and I'm spending a lot of time on a little surprise for this blog (coming soon to a computer screen near you!)

Thank you for your patience, dear readers. Thank you for your kindness

Thank you in advance while I take another few days to right my writing self again, and swing back into a routine here on She Writes and Rights. 

I am taking the rest of this week off from the blog. I rarely do this, and I don't really want to, but I feel it's needed right now. I'm in need of more moments like the one pictured above, and less moments like the scene in my kitchen late last night when I accidentally broke one of our dinner plates and promptly burst into tears. 

Tomorrow I'll post another article over on Prodigal, but I won't be back here again until next week. 

Here are a few worthy reads to preoccupy you until my return : 

Thanks, Joe, for the needed advice.

The denim dungeon (I've been there, too.) 

And this story for This American Life had me in tears and I haven't stopped thinking about it since. (I think I've mentioned before how much I love This American Life. Are you a fan? If you love stories and writing and humor and life, you need to give it a listen. It will be the best part of your Friday and/or weekend.)



Walk Away from the Page.

Sometimes when I'm writing, I fear walking away from the page. I've gotten to a certain point, and now nothing good is coming out, and the blinking cursor is mocking me, heightening my anxiety that this writing business is all just a farce. Tonight is such a night. So I started cleaning my house. It needed it so I had good enough reason. But as I set about gathering laundry and scouring dishes, the anxiety of the unwritten page, the lack of ideas, followed me.

So I sat down and picked up Hemingway. This is the passage that leaped off the page at me, gave me permission to walk away.
I always worked till I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way I could be sure of going on the next day. But sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get going, I would sit in front of the fire an squeeze the peel of the little oranges into the edge of the flame and watch the sputter of blue that they made. I would stand and look out over the roofs Paris and think, ‘Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.’ So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say. If I started to write elaborately, or like someone introducing or presenting something, I found that I could cut that scrollwork or ornament out and start with the first true simple declarative sentence I had written. Up in that room I decided I would write one story about each thing that I knew about. I was trying to do this all the time I was writing, and it was a good and severe discipline. 
It was in that room too that I learned not to think about anything that I was writing from the time I stopped writing until the time that I started again the next day. That way my subconscious would be working on it and at the same time I would be listening to other people and noticing everything, I hoped; learning, I hoped; and I would not think about my work and make myself impotent to it.” - Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast.

If you're a writer, it is so necessary to read. I know that seems obvious - I don't know a writer that doesn't love to read. But I would be willing to bet that many writers struggle with the same thing that I do - if I read, I'm not writing, and if I'm not writing, I could fall behind, forget my focus, lose my muse. This is the real farce : that walking away is somehow a form of quitting. No, you just have to have rest your writing, feed it, nourish it. You have to let things influence and inspire you.

What do you think? Who are the writers that most inspire you?

Some more Hemingway, plus advice about writing from the great minds behind other American classics


book·ish : My To-Read List

Do you remember my goal list for 2012? Reading more was one of my goals, and I've stuck with it pretty well. I wanted to read an average of a book per month. I know other people who devour books on a weekly basis, but my schedule doesn't allow for that, sadly. 

I read Bird by Bird in January/February and Blue Like Jazz in February/March. I just wrapped up Great House, which held some enlightening and intuitive passages, but I am now ready for a change of pace.

On my way home from work today I finally snagged a copy of A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. It's one of those that always seems to be checked out, but today was my lucky day. There are still a few others on my waiting list that I can never seem to catch, like The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides, or On the Road by Jack Kerouac. 

After this I think I'll either read Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott or The Writing Life by Annie Dillard. 

So. What are you reading right now?




1. (of a person or way of life) Devoted to reading and studying rather than worldly interests.
2. (of language or writing) Literary in style or allusion.
3. (of art and all manner of lovely things) devoted to the written word as a form of art and as a way of seeing the world.
4. (of SheWritesandRights.blogspot.com) anything of the aforementioned characteristics as they arefound on the interwebs and reposted by Bethany, because bookish and writerly things always give reason for amusement.


Inspired By.

Meet Sue, the famous dino from the Field Museum! Isn't she gorgeous? 

Actually, as my brother and I walked past her on our visit last weekend, my first thought was that she bears a remarkable resemblance to my face before I've had coffee in the morning. 

Just kidding... 

Honestly though, this may resemble my facial expression at the office every day this week after working for hours on the press release to end all press releases, and after reading a snippy email. 

And this may resemble my reaction last night after glancing at Facebook right before bed and seeing a really nasty status and subsequent conversation thread about someone else between two rather oblivious "friends." My response was rather explosive. 

Today I'm nursing what I've come to recognize as an anger hangover. It's not pretty.

And so I'm just going to be honest with myself, with you, with everyone who might ever fall victim to my wrath and insecurity. 

Sometimes I am not a nice person. 

Sometimes I handle things badly. 

Sometimes I tweet my problems. 

Sometimes I need to suck it up and deal. 

Forgive me? 

Meantime, here are some encouraging links for your perusal. Have a wonderful weekend, friends.

"To be with your truth while being with other sacred, courageous pilgrims..." - On Not Being Alone.

A few thoughts on writing from one of my favorite authors ever.

Can I just have Jess answer all my emails from here on out?

What are your happiest moments?



Removing the Blog-Goggles.

Today I'm struck by the value of time when it comes to good writing. My days have been a little out of sorts lately, in a good way. Last week my brother was in town over his spring break. We spent our evenings in the kitchen as I taught him the cooking basics (he's been on a steady diet of frozen chicken fingers and boxed mac-n-cheese for the last few months since our mom died.) It was time well spent; I don't think we've ever had that much time alone together, and realistically, we may never have that kind of time again. 

This week, my sis-in-law and niecey are in town, and my evenings are spent watching Dora or Ice Age and reading Curious George, and enjoying more than the usual gatherings of family for lunch, dinner, weekend activities, etc. I love it, I adore them, it's comforting to be with family and just relax together when we spend so much of our lives apart.

But I catch myself trying to do double-duty, to enjoy my time with family and think about how to make use of it in my writing. Some people refer to this syndrome as "blog-goggles"; sometimes I have to force myself to take them off, think of it in terms of just my life and not the subject of another post. 

This is time well-spent, just as it is. Stay in the moment. 

And I've long held tightly to this myth that if I just had an extra, oh, 12 hours in my day, I'd have an entire series of novels written and published by now. Instead, I'm stuck with a mere, standard 24 hours, an un-met deadline, a stale blog, and ideas that feel like cold, day-old coffee grounds in the bottom of my neglected french press. Ugh.

I forget that I'm young. I forget that life is messy, and it should be that way. I forget that I'm only human. 

I cringe when I think about what life will be like later, when kids and a mortgage and more job responsibilities might get thrown into the mix. 

Sometimes writing takes a back seat to life. And that's okay, because shouldn't writing be about life? The page will be blank or the words empty if there's no life to fill them. 

I'm learning that one of the biggest challenges of being a writer is to compartmentalize my life from my work, my self from my writing,  and then to allow those different parts of me to interact in a healthy way. 

As Shauna explains, good writing always requires quality time, but when you're caught up in a busy life, you may have to give up the idea of hoarding a large chunk of time for yourself and give in to doing it in smaller increments. I'm trying to implement this sort of method, but there are some weeks like this one, when all hope of writerly seclusion goes out the window.

How about you? What's the hardest part of balancing your life as a writer?


Poem : Life, Written.

I wish to write my life in essay form, 
answers to all your questions carefully crafted,

for when I am asked off the cuff for favorite films, 

I fumble and stutter like I've been caught, asked,
why did I lie about getting my homework done in fifth grade, 
when instead I spent the afternoon reading Judy Blume?
I say nothing that I meant to;
I land on comedy of all things, 
I forget about the dramatic scenes that bring tears to my eyes,
the running reel 
of what I really meant to mention.

And don't ask me why it made more sense to purchase drive-thru

Starbucks this morning,
rather than wait five minutes for the french press at home. 
I'm a walking contradiction, I know,

So let me write it all down for you.

Rather than a hand across my stupid mouth, 

my hand that flies across the page tells its truth, 
the heart of me, 
the heart I wish I wore on my sleeve, but that never really seems to say, 
say what I mean.

And rather than you keeping record of all my wrongs, 

I'd like to write that story myself,
the way I do so now.
All is poetry,
All is true,
But I'd rather you not tell it.


Inspired By.

There’s something sacred about reading a blog post on someone else’s site. It’s like visiting a friend’s house for a quick meal ’round the breakfast table. It’s personal — you’re in their space, and the environment is uniquely suited for idea exchange and uninterrupted conversation. In many ways, we should be treating our blogs like our breakfast tables. Be welcoming & gracious when you host, and kind & respectful when visiting.” – Trent Walton, via Swiss Miss.
I've been incredibly blessed over the last three years since starting this blog. I am being completely honest when I tell you that never once, no matter what I've posted, has anyone written a terrible comment here. I've deleted a few spammy ones here and there, but no one has ever left an anonymous insult or criticized me harshly. I've shared a lot about my life here - about losing my job, about being in therapy, about being a newlywed, about being under-employed, about losing my mom. I've written about my iTunes account getting hacked and losing $800, I've whined endlessly about my lot in life as a writer and I've revealed a lot insecurity. Sometimes I get crickets, but most times I just get encouragement. 

This week I shared an article on Prodigal, and it was one of the hardest things I've ever written. It reveals a lot of what I'm struggling with in-the-moment, and I cried through every word I wrote. I shared a lot about my faith and my lack of it. And the response was overwhelmingly positive. 

Thank you.

When so many things in life - my jobs, my relationships, my family, my self - have felt broken, this space has given me peace, assurance, a place to dwell in the positive, to enjoy the good things. It's because of you, dear readers. I'm happy to have you to chat with around my "breakfast table" of a blog. 

Here are a few delightful pieces I found from other positive spaces around the web this week. Enjoy. 

A tactful guide on commenting etiquette.

5 Reasons I Didn't Retweet You.

"Patience is bitter, but its fruits are sweet." - Jean Jacques Rousseau. A Writer's Most Important Virtue.

Want to do meaningful work? Keep reading. (Some seriously scary stats on the decline of literacy in adulthood.)

What a Life! Happy birthday, Maya Angelou.

Voices of our loved ones.

"I believe in building relationships. All kinds, any kind, if only because it instills a bit of purpose, however small, into the everyday." On being a dedicated, brings-all-her-friends kind of patron.

And because it's just really funny and completely accurate : Kate weighs in on the leggings-as-pants controversy.



Mom's Mug.

In a cupboard full of mugs, she always pulled out this one. Each early morning before work and school she would pour a steaming kettle of water into it with swiss miss mix, and a smell like hot chocolate would waft over to me as I ate my cereal. She would stand in the bathroom, curling her hair, applying her makeup, listening to the radio, sipping her swiss miss from this mug. 

When I was older we would share it, and when I had gone away to college, each visit home was a visit with this mug, which she would let me use to satisfy my own nostalgia. 

Now it sits in my own cupboard full of mugs. Each morning it follows me from room to room as I do my hair, put on makeup, get dressed for work. Or on Saturdays, as I wipe down counters, fold laundry, read a book. 

There are just some things that keep her with me, even if she's gone. 

And like I know so many of you might want to, here’s a link to buy your own vintage Taylor & Ng mugs on their site or on Etsy, including Le Chat.



Poem : In Perpetual Spring.

Stumbled across this on PoetryFoundation.org (such a good place to wander, no?) Her last line just gets me. 

In Perpetual Spring

Gardens are also good places
to sulk. You pass beds of
spiky voodoo lilies   
and trip over the roots   
of a sweet gum tree,   
in search of medieval   
plants whose leaves,   
when they drop off   
turn into birds
if they fall on land,
and colored carp if they   
plop into water.

Suddenly the archetypal   

human desire for peace   
with every other species   
wells up in you. The lion   
and the lamb cuddling up.
The snake and the snail, kissing.
Even the prick of the thistle,   
queen of the weeds, revives   
your secret belief
in perpetual spring,
your faith that for every hurt   
there is a leaf to cure it.



Prodigal : "On Crying in Church Bathrooms."

Today on Prodigal Mag, I share about faith, grief, and whether or not going to church is worth it. It's the  first post in our two-week series, "Why Church?" 

This article was harder to write than most, so I appreciate your support and it would mean the world to me if you would share your thoughts on church, and why you do or don't attend. Here's a snippet from my article :
"A throng of people are making their way to the alter, but I'm running to the bathroom. Once I'm safe in the stall I let my tears flow freely. I hear a toilet flush and the sink run, the crank of the paper towel dispenser. I hold my breath as heels click across tile. The door bangs against the jam and then silence. I'm relieved; I just want to be left alone. In the silence I beg God quietly, Why?"  - Read more here.  

Plus : my Prodigal archives