Archive | July, 2017

Book Club Reflection: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig

6 Jul

For only the second time ever, I went to my book club meeting without having finished the book. I was fairly confident this wasn’t a book where the ending could be ruined for me and it ended up fine. As I write this, I’m still finishing up the book but by the time this is posted, I’ll have it finished.

The book talks a lot about dialogue and another form of that is a dichotomy. The book was built around dichotomies. Robert and John are the first and most apparent. The way they view their motorcycles, through classic and romantic reasoning, set up the rest of the book. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was another dichotomy that permeated the rest of the book.

The book had three focuses: Self, trip, and quality. The first is Robert’s search to find himself and rediscover his past. The narrator and Phaedrus are at odds much of the time. Robert has trouble understanding why Phaedrus did things he did and how he reached certain conclusions about life and Quality. Robert strongly believed in preparedness and it seems Phaedrus didn’t follow this as well. Robert was always planning and he believed you had to understand how things worked to get unstuck. He talks about this in terms of motorcycle maintenance, but he was searching for the same understanding in himself. Robert seems intent on pleasing people, wondering how Chris is feeling about the trip and how John and Sylvia are holding up. Before, when he was Phaedrus, he destroyed anyone who didn’t agree with him. With the University of Chicago professor, he felt he was being attached and armed himself with the knowledge to attack back.

As for the trip, we wondered for a while why he picked Chris to come with him, not his wife or other son. I’ve been told this is somewhat explained in the end when Robert talks about the shock treatments he’s received and expresses that he’s afraid Chris will have the same issues with mental health that he’s had.

The search for quality was a huge part of the book and there were a few parts of it that we helped each other understand. The first was classic reasoning. Classic reasoning dealt with achieving the necessities of life: food, clothing, and shelter. On page 114, Pirsig talks about how since all of these things have been achieved, classic reasoning no longer applies. A member pointed out that we’re at another identity crisis now where work is disappearing and being replaced by machines. We may undergo another crisis of values until we’re able to find new values for this modern world.

Another idea we had trouble defining was how man didn’t create the laws of nature. Man identified them but the laws, such as gravity, that man defined, do not cause things to happen because they are named. They existed before they were identified and will continue to exist if the name is forgotten. They are not tangible things.

We roped ourselves into another conversation about quality and education. Since Phaedrus was a teacher, this seemed a big problem for him. In the US, education is all about the grade and not about learning. I know I’ve written certain things in papers because I knew it’s what a teacher wanted to read and not what I thought and I knew if I said what I really thought, I’d get a poor grade. How is that quality?

We’re discussing Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth next month and I’ll be starting it as soon as I finish this book!

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 5-July-2017

5 Jul

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

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The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

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Currently reading: Still nothing with A Son of the Circus by John Irving. I’m hopeful I’ll get back to it soon with my book club being off for a few months and having read one of the future selections for my other club. I want to finish this one soon!
I read a bit of Love in the Elephant Tent by Kathleen Cremonesi during my lunch breaks like I’d wanted to. This one is slow and steady but I’m enjoying it a lot.
Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith AKA J.K. Rowling has been going well. I convinced hubby to listen to it while we drove to our holiday weekend vacation. I’m about half way now and I still have no idea who the crook could be. I hope to find out soon!

Recently finished: I just finished Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig while I was Up North (northern Michigan). It was a good read and I really did like it, despite the time it took me to finish. I’ll likely have a review up next week.
I got through Abraham by Bruce Feiler over the weekend. I didn’t like this as much as his other book that I’ve read but it was still interesting. Another review for next week.

Reading Next: I plan to start Commonwealth by Ann Patchett today. I hope this is a quick one and I’m really looking forward to it because it seems like one I’d really enjoy. Fingers crossed!
I’m also about to start The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde. I have an audiobook that’s full cast and only two hours so I think this one will be done by next week.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Library Writers Group

4 Jul

The amazing Maria led our writers’ group this past month and concentrated on Tense and Point of View in writing. Let’s start with POV.

There are a lot of advantages and disadvantages to certain POVs. In some cases, the genre dictates what is normally used. I write YA and I know first person is most common and I know that my 3rd person book might have to be completely rewritten at some point (I hope it never comes to that) because it’s YA. We talked about times books are written in two points of view and how that works. Sometimes, the writer will combine first and third person POV. Some chapters are written in first from a certain character’s perspective and others from 3rd, following one or more characters. Most commonly, this is done with two 3rd person POVs.

There are some major disadvantages of 1st person. You are limited to what the character sees so you can’t write about anything outside his or her vision. This can result in a lot of ‘telling’ and not enough ‘showing’ which makes a book drag.

Second person is not as common. Maria found an example in How the Mistakes Were Made. The character Laura is represented in sections of the book written in 2nd person but this isn’t the whole book. Second person creates some distance from the reader so a whole book in this format might be tedious. I’m always reminded of the Choose Your Own Adventure series that I read in elementary school. Those were so fun.

Third person unlimited can head-jump too much if the writer isn’t careful. This can be confusing to follow. The suggestion is that you write like the piece is a play. Too many soliloquies can be annoying! This style is common in romantic intimate scenes. It can be tricky because it can confuse who knows what information and what each character can act on.

Third person limited is more common. It can feel distant and narrative distance from the action becomes possible. To limit this, a writer can use words that match a character’s personality. Maybe a character scowls but he thinks it’s just a frown. Maybe someone with anxiety is panicking not fidgeting. The tone of the writing can match the character as well to limit narrative distance.

There are four people involved in any third person narration: The protagonist, the viewpoint character (if different), the narrator, and the author. Think of The Great Gatsby. Gatsby is the protagonist, Nick is the main character, there is a narrator, and Fitzgerald is the author. How the narrator describes something and how Fitzgerald might describe it could be different from how the narrator describes it, thus creating the different people.

The most important thing to do is stick with the POV you’ve chosen. Even if it’s an unreliable narrator, the key is to be consistent. Maria recommended the website http://www.novel-writing-help.com for more information on POV.

The second part of our discussion was tense. Past and present tense can give writing a very different feel. Present tense can be restrictive. It’s good for action books and jokes but it can be hard to reflect on past events leading to the present action. Switching from past to present tense is more than changing ‘was’ to ‘is’ and so forth. There’s adding more thoughts and description that’s being noticed at the moment.

We did an exercise where we chose a piece of our writing (or a sample from the book) and changed the POV and tense. It’s fun to try if you want!

We’ll be meeting again next month. Until then, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Challenge Update, June 2017

3 Jul

Summer is finally here! I’m done with classes and as you read this (if you read the day I post), I’m on vacation at the cottage and enjoying the warm weather. I’m hoping to make this next month one for books because this month was a bit slow. You can look at my progress at any time on my challenge page.

Books finished in June:

Murder on the Orient Express // Agatha Christie (4/5)
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim // David Sedaris (4/5)
Tigerman // Nick Harkaway (2/5)
People Analytics in the Era of Big Data // Jean Paul Isson (4/5) [school read]
Sarah’s Key // Tatiana de Rosney (4/5)

Thank God for audiobooks! I’m struggling to get through print now and I know school didn’t help. I’m pushing to get more print read in July.

When Are You Reading? Challenge

9/12
No new adds this month. It’s going to be a challenge to fit in some of those historical periods so I might have to pick an audiobook that will help me fill them in. I usually get The Future pretty easily but my reading hasn’t gone that way in a while so that may need to be a conscious pick, too.

Goodreads Challenge

27/50
I’m three ahead and feeling good about it. I have a lot of books I’m about to finish that will push this further ahead and I think I’ll be well positioned to finish the year with this one well-done.

Cover image via Goodreads.com

Book of the Month

This month it’s going to have to be Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. This story was engaging and the ending was unexpected and amazing at the same time. I’m really glad my husband and I decided to audiobook this during a car trip, it was a great read.

Added to my TBR

I’m still at 109, the same as last month. I wish I was knocking it down faster, but there are a number of books that are piquing my interest.

  • A House at the Bottom of a Lake by Josh Malerman. I adored Malerman’s last book and I hope this one is equally creepy and amazing!
  • The Sellout by Paul Beatty. This is a book club selection for August so I’ll be picking it up in July to have it finished in time.
  • How to Speak Midwestern by Edward McClelland. I heard McClelland speak and obviously had to buy the book. Because I’m compulsive that way.
  • Commonwealth by Ann Patchett. This is my next book club book and I’ll be picking it up very soon to start reading. Maybe before this post goes up!

Personal Challenge

I mentioned in my challenge announcement post that I had some non-reading goals set for myself in 2017. I figured this would be a good place to keep myself accountable to those as well. Here goes!

  • Keep my 4.0 GPA: Still going well! I got my grade pack in my summer class and it was an A so I’ll have this until December at least!
  • Knit blankets:  I’m very close to finishing the boy blanket I started last month. No new pregnancy announcements so I haven’t had to send any off. Finishing this one will put me at my ‘stash’ amount and I’ll focus on other projects until I have to make another.
  • One race per month: My busy summer of racing has begun! I had two triathlons this month within 5 days of each other. First was a week-night sprint tri and I placed 5th of 8. This is a really competitive field so I’m proud of that one. It was my second fastest time on the course and I could tell the run was rough. The second was an Olympic distance, only my second one ever and the course was much flatter and my time better than previously. I dropped over 20 minutes! Again, I was 5th but out of 10 this time and the run felt great.
  • Get my novel out to beta readers: July will be my time to work on this. I’ve heard back from two and I plan to focus on revisions while I’m home in July. Classes start again in August so I have until then.

How were your challenges? I hope you made it. If you love historical fiction, give some thought to my challenge for 2017, it’s fun!

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!