Archive | June, 2019

Writing Check In- June

11 Jun

One of my goals for this year was to write more. My husband had the suggestion of making a monthly feature to talk about my writing and how it’s going. They’re supposed to be the first Tuesday of the month, but life is screwy sometimes and I’m running a week late. My apologies to anyone who remembered better than I did.

I’ve been fairly successful at sticking to writing despite ramping up for my triathlon next month. I finished my round of editing which felt huge. I had to rush through the end to get it to an interested party the last time around so this time, I was going slowly through the end and tweaking it a bit.

I started reading Writing Fiction for Dummies by Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy and I’m feeling less and less confident that it’s ready to share with an editor. There are some great suggestions for self-editing in this book and I think I may take another month or so to do a few of these things. One is making a scene list and seeing what the point of each scene is as well as who is speaking more, how long they are, and the pacing of them. The second is answering a series of questions about the motivation of a character. I think I need to do this for my female lead character, she doesn’t seem as strong as the male counterpart.

I hope I can finish the Dummies book before it’s due this weekend and I hope to pick up a few more tricks in the meantime. I don’t want to put off querying forever!

On that note, I got the Writers Digest guide on Literary Agents and small publishers and I’ve made a list of those who might represent my book. It’s a nice, long, intimidating GoogleDoc that’s ready for me to start populating when I begin querying. I know there are a few steps between editing and querying so I’ll have to write my summary and query letter soon as well. I’m strangely looking forward to this process.

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!

Book Review: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

10 Jun

I’m a huge fan of Noah. I like him on The Daily Show and I watched a documentary about him that covered some of the same things in this book. I loved how resilient he is and how he shares the struggles he had as a child in a way that is informative and comedic. I was so excited to read this book for my book club.

Cover image via Goodreads

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

Summary from Goodreads:

Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

The eighteen personal essays collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humor and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love.

More than anything, I want to meet Trevor’s mother after reading this book. She’s almost as major a character as he is in his own memoir. Noah faced a lot growing up in South Africa, but his mother faced it for herself and for Trevor. Any problems he had, she dealt with as well. Any changes to try and help Trevor were hardships for Patricia. Their relationship was beautifully depicted and was a great way for Noah to say ‘thank you’ to his amazing mother.

I could so easily picture Trevor as the mischevious young boy he describes. He’s always trying to get just a little something more than he’s given, be it a book or a few extra rand. He was open about things in life that would have been difficult or embarrassing and I appreciated that honesty. When he talked about his mom and brother, it was clear it was hard for him at times. I appreciated how he told us about the hard times he endured. Apartheid is something American education doesn’t dwell on very much and I feel like I know a little bit more about it now.

I loved hearing about Trevor growing from a shy small boy to an out-going and ambitious teenager and 20-something. Nothing in between felt rushed and I could see how his childhood influenced him as a young adult and shaped him into who he is today. He tells stories similar to these on clips from his show and it’s very eye-opening to hear about political oppression from someone who now reports on it.

One of the most eye-opening things for me was how much I related to Trevor’s stories of high school romance but how different they were as well. Prom was a disaster for me my Junior year but nothing like Trevor’s and my date at least spoke the same language as me. I had a middle school heartbreak and Trevor’s story brought back memories. It was a very relatable childhood but the lense of apartheid and race made his stories give me pause and make me think about them more.

Trevor Noah
Image via the Comedy Central Press

I laughed the hardest when Noah talked about his friend, Hitler. What an unusual name. But, Noah explains why Hitler isn’t uncommon in South Africa and it seems a bit far-fetched, but I’ll believe it. Hitler performing at a Jewish school, though, is hilarious. I’m surprised it didn’t end more violently, to be honest. You’d think someone named Hitler would know about the man his name came from and understand why it might upset children.

Hearing about Trevor’s step-father was hard for me. His mother had been such a strong woman and great presence in his life and it made it hard for me to understand why such a bad man could be part of their lives. Trevor explains how it happened slowly and over time, but 20-20 makes it very clear that he was never going to help Trevor or Patricia.

Having Noah narrate the audiobook was an amazing idea. He talks about the power of languages in South Africa and how he was able to use mastery of languages to fit in with many different groups and communicate with people. Having him use those language skills to quote people in their own language and read passages in Xhosa, Zulu, and Afrikaans was wonderful. I don’t think anyone else reading it would have worked.

Since Noah is such a big name in America, I think it’s wonderful that he’s shared his childhood and how different it was from an American childhood. He talks a lot about American politics so understanding his background helps us understand why he feels the way he does. I loved the humor he used, but his message about assimilation and racism were very strong and impactful to me.

Writer’s Takeaway: Any writer wants to use some form of comedy to lighten the mood in certain parts of a book. Not many can make racism and apartheid funny. Noah has a great gift in this and really shines in this book. We all know he’s a funny guy but it’s different to see him laugh through the hard times.

I enjoyed the book a lot, especially the audiobook version. Four out of Five Stars

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!

Related Posts:
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah | Book Addiction
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah | Court Reads
“Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood” by Trevor Noah | Zezee with Books
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah | The Rogue Storyteller
Trevor Noah, “Born a Crime” | Don’t Need a Diagram

WWW Wednesday, 5-June-2019

5 Jun

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!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

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

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I keep thinking I’ making good progress on Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min but I’m moving forward so slowly! I’ll get there eventually, I’m sure, but it’s slow going with my short lunches.
I’ll keep pushing forward with A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin. I’m loving it, so it’s no problem, just a bit sad when I see how much more I have to get through still.
Still holding on A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers. I look at it longingly on my bedside daily.
I’m moving forward with Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray and am about halfway done. The biggest problem with this book is that it’s so creepy that I get scared if I’m running in the dark while I listen to it!
I wish I was reading Writing Fiction for Dummies by Randy Ingermanson faster, but this week was very busy and I have no such luck. I’ll try again next week.

Recently finished: Nothing new this week. Everything was so busy that I’m not surprised, but I wish I had more to report. Maybe next week? Maybe?

The bright side is that I’m getting caught up on reviews! I posted my review of Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi last week. Please check it out!

Reading Next: I hope to start Wolf’s Mouth by John Smolens soon. It’s not one I’m really excited about, but a reader in our group highly recommended it, so there’s that to look forward to.


Leave a comment with your link and 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!

Book Club Reflection: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

4 Jun

My book club met to discuss Exit West by Mohsin Hamid a few weeks ago. For the most part, we really enjoyed this one. We were led by a reader who had found this book a while back when it was featured on PBS. She enjoyed it so much she’s read Hamid’s backlist.

Hamid was born in Lahore, Pakistan and got his undergraduate at Princeton. He ended up getting a law degree from Harvard. Talk about smart! He currently splits his time between Lahore, London, and New York. Like Exit West, his other books have a vein of current events running through them and Hamid is a good analyst of human nature.

A lot of readers were bothered by how vague the setting of Saeed and Nadia’s hometown was. I saw several guesses for its true identity when I was reading reviews, but no one seems to know for sure. Having it unidentified makes the story a little more universal. Throughout the story, Saeed and Nadia are the only named characters as well. It helped focus on the two main characters, but also keep the story vague. You had to suspend disbelief for a moment, as you did with the doors, to not be bothered by this.

When the people passed through doors, they had no idea where they’d end up. Historically, this wasn’t always the case with immigrant groups. People would have boat tickets or train tickets. But today, you get out when you can go where ever you can. It makes the doors scary but that’s the reality today.

We puzzled over the reason for the quick interludes to other characters. They taught us little lessons that Saeed and Nadia’s story didn’t always emphasize. One was about the doors and how lost and disoriented the newly arrived can be. One was about things changing around you when you don’t leave and how it can be just as disorienting as when you do leave. And more than one was about racism and having to face it when you wind up somewhere new.

As more and more refugees started to arrive, they were watched by some over-seeing authority that we never see and is never named. They complied in groups of other people like them to feel safe from this authority figure, though Saeed and Nadia (mostly Nadia) resisted the change.

Most of our group thought the ending was a bit of a disappointment. It seemed to fizzle to a close instead of having more of an event. It was odd that it was fifty years later, putting these characters in their 70s. They’d had coffee on their first date, so it seemed appropriate that they did that again on this, their ‘last’ date. Their uncoupling was done with so much kindness that we believed they could be so civil with each other after so much time.

We had to wonder if the two would have even gotten together if Saeed’s mother hadn’t died. It was her death that pushed Nadia to move into his house. They were very different and were trying to change each other subtly. When they realized it wasn’t going to happen, they realized it was time to split. Nadia didn’t realize that she was unattracted to Zaid because of her homosexuality. Or maybe she was bisexual and was attracted to him. We thought it was more likely that she didn’t realize she could be homosexual and that was part of why she never felt comfortable with Zaid.

I haven’t started our next book yet but I’ve got an extra week because of the Memorial Day holiday. 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!

Challenge Update, May 2019

3 Jun

I’m feeling pleased as punch about my reading this year! I know most of it is audiobooks because of training time, but I’m still happy about it! You can look at my progress at any time on my challenge page.

Books finished in May:

Hawkes Harbor // S.E. Hinton (2/5)
The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing // Mira Jacob (4/5)
Exit West // Mohsin Hamid (4/5)
Survival in Auschwitz // Primo Levi (4/5)
Born a Crime // Trevor Noah (4/5)

I’m happy to have two physical books on this list (Hawkes and Auschwitz) and still be killing it with audiobooks. I’m making great progress toward my challenges for the year, too!

When Are You Reading? Challenge

7/12
Nothing new this month. I’ll probably have to start being strategic soon. I’ll see what book club picks will hit for me and then start filling in the rest. I don’t want to be rushed in December with this one!

Goodreads Challenge

28/52
Over 50% done! Feeling good about this one for sure. I don’t think I’ll be sweating when it comes to the end of the year. I think I’ll be sailing through to the end.

Cover image via Goodreads

Book of the Month

It could be a recency bias. Or it could be a ‘cute TV host’ bias, but I’m going to pick Born a Crime by Trevor Noah as my book of the month. I learned a lot about apartheid from this book but I also laughed at it because Noah has a great sense of humor. He had a very effective way of telling his story.

Added to my TBR

It hurts to see this list up, even if it’s just by two to 74. I added my book club picks for the rest of the year so it took a bit of a jump.

  • Vessel by Lisa A. Nichols. I saw this on an ‘upcoming SciFi’ list and it sounded so good that I added it to the TBR.
  • Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. Here’s the beginning of the book club list. I hadn’t heard of this one before but I’ll be reading it soon.
  • An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. This one I had heard of and I’ve read another book by Jones, Silver Sparrow, a few years ago.
  • The Alice Network by Kate Quinn. I hadn’t heard of this one but our sponsoring librarian was pushing it. I think another group is ordering it, which means we sometimes get roped into books we didn’t ask for. We’ll see what comes of it.
  • East of Eden by John Steinbeck. We’re trying to read more classics so here’s the first attempt!
  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. After so much good press surrounding this one, I’m excited! I wish it wasn’t a year out, though!
  • Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. I was excited to see this on the list because I have an autographed copy after meeting Lee at the Midwest Literary Walk a few months ago. I’m excited to have people to discuss it with!

Personal Challenge

I’m gearing up again to track personal goals here. This is a great way to keep me accountable and to tell you about me outside the wide world of books.

  • Finish 70.3 Half Ironman: I’ve been able to ride outside a few times so I’m feeling better about this. I’ve got a big charity ride coming up so my bike seat muscles are about to get a crash course!
  • Attend six weddings: Feeling good about this. Two in June so I’ll be sure to let you all know shortly!
  • Finish a weather blanket: I’m no more than a week behind at any point so it feels great. I need to start some more baby blanket projects soon to keep up with those.
  • Write: I finished my editing, just making a few adjustments as I gather a list of agents. This doesn’t feel real but I’m so excited at the same time.
  • See my friends more: I am terrible at this. Does seeing my tri club count? If not, then I failed. I see my training partners, but that’s about it right now. I’ll argue I’m becoming closer friends with them.

How are your challenges going so far? I hope you’re off to a good start If you love historical fiction, give some thought to my challenge for 2019, 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!