By Leslie Lindsay
A curated newsletter on the literary life, featuring ‘4 questions,’ reading & listening recommendations, where to submit, more
Leslie Lindsay|Always with a Book
~MUSINGS & MEANDERINGS~
Hello 2023, Friends!
Many folks ask how I read so much in a year. Trust me, there are others who read far more than I! My goal for the last couple of years has been 80 books a year. That’s roughly a book-and-a-half a week. It would be disingenuous not to say that reading is part of my job; I treat it as such. I have a pretty active lifestyle–and mind!–and so I sometimes struggle to keep up. In fact, this last year, I was scrambling to get all 80 books in before the end-of-the-year, but I did it!
Here are some gentle tips and encouragement, if you need it:
Carry a book with you at all times.
It doesn’t have to be a physical book, but maybe something on your Kindle or phone. You never know when you might be ‘stranded’ somewhere without something to do (or no Internet).
Stop with the scrolling.
Wait…that wasn’t very gentle. But seriously, how much are you really getting out of the constant bombardment of images and clutter? Can you squeeze in a few pages of book instead?
Give yourself social media/phone ‘rewards’ for completing a chapter or some other reading goal.
I do this! I find that once I reach my reading goal, I’m no long itching to check my phone. Sometimes I’ll read something I want to ‘look into’ and so I have a Google moment. That helps.
I know, I know…there are SO many good shows these days…plus streaming! I get it. We all need a little escape. How about just one show a day? Two hours of viewing a day? Think about all the reading you could accomplish in two hours! Maybe, like social media, use TV as a reward and no a default?
Match your Mood with your Reading.
Who says you ‘have to’ read this book now? What piques your interest now? Read that.
That stands for did not finish. It used to be that I read every book I started, front to back, never missing a beat, never sitting aside if it wasn’t jiving for me. I don’t do that anymore. If something just isn’t striking me at that moment, I sit it down and try something else. I always give it another shot. If it’s still not working for me, I might skim it or just stop. No harm, no foul.
I read chapbooks and poetry all the time now. It used to be that I didn’t–gasp!–and what a disservice. Poetry is concise and beautiful and while it might be a ‘short’ read, it’s rich in interiority. I can often visualize more and better with poetry; it helps me round out text with narrative, daydream a little, helps with vocabulary and my own writing. A few books of poetry a year can help boost those reading goals.
Speaking of, I’ve got one I’m highlighting in today’s Insights|Author Interviews.
Sometimes busy minds need something to focus on while working on simple, repetitive tasks like walking, putting together a puzzle, waxing the car, mowing the lawn, driving, cleaning, etc.
I have been known to read on the exercise bike. It helps the time fly and it’s a win-win: pages turned, calories burned.
Want to know what I struggle with? Literary journals!
I have several that I really want to read…but…I don’t know…since they aren’t actual books, do they ‘count?’ If I’m reading a journal, I’m not reading a book. Reading takes time, as you know, and sometimes I must prioritize my reading material.
how and when do you read literary journals? The second they make their way into your life? Do you set aside a day or time for reading them? A few minutes each day? Do you read them cover to cover or pick and choose high-interest pieces?
~Leslie : )
This issue of Musings & Meanderings is jam-packed with some really great stuff to get your [writing and reading] year off on the right foot. Coaching, book recommendations, journals to submit to, reading recommendations, author interviews, recently published prose, and a quick 4 questions insights interview with poet Lauren Camp on her chapbook, TOOK HOUSE (Tupelo Press, 2021).
By the way, I do not get any ‘kick-backs’ or other kind of payment (in-kind, or otherwise) for mentioning these classes/workshops/books/individuals. Sharing because if helps me, maybe it’ll speak to you, too.
Some Writerly Things:
- A writer friend of mine brought this retreat/residency to my attention and it looks pretty dreamy. It’s application process is in three-parts throughout the year with the first deadline Jan 15. Don’t worry if you miss that one, there’s two more this year.
- Amy Shearn is open for manuscript consultations, coaching…micro/macro, developmental, and more. She’s wry and smart and just might have the magic bullet for your WIP. Tell her I sent you. Check out our chat about her book, UNSEEN CITY, which I loved. Here’s more information and to snag one of her 15-min FREE consultation spots check this out.
- Nicole McCarthy will be judging CRAFT Literary’s hybrid writing contest now thru March 1. You can check out the submission guidelines HERE. Also! I’ll be interviewing her for CRAFT Literary in February, so stay tuned for that.
- Check out When Poetry Meets Memoir, a 4-week generative class hosted by Catapult/Anastacia Renee, starting Feb 2, which really speaks to me right now.
- One Story will be accepting submissions starting today, January 15th, until the cap is reached. Check out their guidelines HERE.
New! Featured Author|Insights
“It’s as if Camp is holding a magnifying glass in the light until the page beneath it catches fire.”
— Washington Independent Review of Books
Without responding in complete sentences, what would you say TOOK HOUSE is about?
desert predators, contemporary art, and a relationship, danger and attention, versions of home
Where did you write TOOK HOUSE? Do you have any special writing routines or rituals? Do they change with each project, or remain constant over time?
I began Took House at my home in Santa Fe, then reshaped the poems at a few residencies. I worked on the poems (and later, the manuscript as a whole) from 2005 until Tupelo Press claimed it. Much of what I began with is no longer included, or has shifted dramatically from its early form. Start to publication, this was a 15-year process.
I don’t have routines or rituals. I claim whatever bits of time appear, and I focus well. I love revision for its surprises. Not much is sacred with me in the process. I will shift poems until something clicks. Very often, this means I am choosing to settle in to a long process—because what I am really waiting for is a new me to approach the work. I am seeking some other vision, connection or understanding than what I originally thought was important to say.
If you weren’t writing, you would be…
hiking, stargazing or admiring my cactus garden
What book did you recently read that you can’t stop thinking about?
I would like to name two here:
Olivia Laing’s The Lonely City
and George Saunders’ A Swim in a Pond in the Rain
Some Recently Published Interviews, Prose, Etc.:
- Y’all, I am super-excited about this illustrated review in DIAGRAM, which has sorta been like a dream place of mine to get work published. It’s a beautiful melding of all things that bring me joy: fonts, words, ideas, art, books, and the human body. I mean…the only obsessions missing for me is architecture, travel, nature, and basset hounds. Check it out and the book, YOUR HEARTS, YOUR SCARS: Essays by the late Adina Talve-Goodman (Bellevue Literary Press, Jan 24 2023), which happens to be a Powell’s pick for January.
- Hippocampus Magazine…Juliet Patterson’s SINKHOLE: A Natural History of a Suicide (Milkweed, September 2022).
- Kathryn Gahl in conversation with me about her poetic memoir, THE YELLOW TOOTHBRUSH (Two Shrews Press, September 2022), about her incarcerated daughter, perinatal mood disorder, more in MER, November 28, 2022.
- Sarah Fawn Montgomery’s HALFWAY FROM HOME (Split/Lip Press, Nov 8) in Hippocampus Magazine, about her working-class unconventional childhood in California, moving across the country to pursue writing, home, displacement, and so much more November 13, 2022.
- A conversation-in-review with the EIC of Salon, Erin Keane, about her memoir, RUNAWAY: Notes on the Myths that Made Me (Belt Publishing, September, 2022), in Autofocus Literary, November 12, 2022.
- A conversation with Sheila O’Connor about elegantly exploring the nonlinear, (a total obsession of mine), in her EVIDENCE OF V: A Novel in Fragments, Facts, Fictions (Rose Metal Press, 2019), in Fractured Literary, October 25, 2022
- A review-in-dialogue with Su Cho about her debut book of poetry, THE SYMMETRY OF FISH (Penguin Poets, October 2022) in The Cincinnati Review, November 1 2022.
- Prose in SEPIA Journal Oct/Nov 2022 issue. Interiors is about an Appalachian family, black bottom pie, trains, and ear aches. It was inspired by my own family lore, and also: this journal is STUNNING!
- An interview with Lauren Acampora about the pursuit of art, the suburbs, growth and stagnation, more as related to her highly anticipated novel, THE HUNDRED WATERS, in The Millions
- A review-in-dialogue with Kristine Langley Mahler about her debut, CURING SEASON: Artifacts, in Brevity. We unpack home, displacement, found forms, more.
- An essay about an experience at a workshop/retreat, featuring design/architecture, and how we are all works-in-progress, in The Smart Set.
- Speaking of Apraxia: A Parents’ Guide to Childhood Apraxia of Speech, 2nd edition (Woodbine House, 2021) through some online retailers, your local library, used bookstores (it’s now officially out-of-print), and the audio edition is downloadable (with additional PDFs, resources) through Penguin Random House.
There’s more to this newsletter. Keep scrolling.
What’s Obsessing Me:
- Jane Friedman recently brought this search engine to my attention and I am obsessed–ddmm is all about stock images for whatever your heart desires. You can filter to show results for creative commons only. I searched up ‘floor plans,’ and was instantly drooling.
- Along those lines, I have started thinking about a playlist for my WIP. Many writers do this to get in the writing mood/mindset, and while that might work for you, I’m using it as an accompaniment for the book itself, sort of a multi-sensory read. Check out the Natural Language Playlist, which is an AI-generated mixtape concept you can download right to your Spotify account. Pretty slick!
You are reading Musings & Meanderings, a consistently inconsistent weekly newsletter about the literary life from Leslie Lindsay, and home of an archive of bestselling and debut author interviews. I’m also on twitter and instagram. I try to answer comments as best I can. Feel free to find my book suggestions on bookshop.org, and also check out the authors I’ve hosted in in-depth interviews HERE.
In the meantime, catch me on:
Reviewing books and talking about them with others on-line and in-person is one small way to engage with & support the literary community.
Thank you for letting me guide you on your bookish journey.
Let’s walk this bookish path together.
Some of you have been reading my reviews, interviews, and meanderings for more than a decade now. That’s huge and I am so humbled. Thanks for being here.
More than 2,800 folks read Musings & Meanderings.
Wishing you much comfort and joy in the New Year!
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