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Writers’ Group: Traditional Publishing

8 Apr

My writers’ group got together recently! Jason spoke about his journey through traditional publishing and gave us some great insight into the process.

The first step in traditional publishing is to get an agent. Writers pitch to agents, agents pitch to publishers. Jason recommended a few places he was able to find agents listed. The first is a directory such as the Writers’ Market which can be found in print or online. He said he had success with the print version, available at our library. Other sources would include the acknowledgments section of a book similar to yours (where the writer thanks their agent) or referrals from other writers. When sending query letters, be sure you follow the submission guidelines to a T! Some agencies say a rejection from one agent is a rejection from the whole agency, others allow for multiple submissions. Most ask for no attachments in query emails so paste everything in the body of the email. If you do get an agent, this person is likely to take 15% of your royalties, so make sure it’s someone you like!

Gary shared some writing infographics and we spoke about topics for future meetings. We talked about dynamic characters and discussed the possibility that the main character doesn’t change. We recognize it’s possible but couldn’t think of a book we’d read where it happened.

It was a bit of a short meeting this month and I had to leave early, but I really appreciate this team and how much they convince me to keep writing as much as I can.

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!

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Off Topic Thursday: Training

28 Mar

I’ve talked about my 70.3 Race in July so I thought this would be a good chance to talk about the training I’ve been doing to get ready for it.

Cover image via Goodreads

I borrowed a training book from my tri club with week-by-week training plans. This gives me workouts to do six days a week, usually more than one per day. I’m trying really hard to keep to this and have only missed one workout so far! It’s currently week six and I’m in the ‘build’ phase where I ramp up time and intensity and train my body to push harder for longer.

There are ten levels for each distance. I was going to go for level two, but a teammate talked me into trying level six! He said levels 1-4 were not enough and to go for six because if it was too hard, I could drop to five. So far, I’m sticking with six. It will have more than prepared to complete my goal of finishing the race. At this point, completing the training feels like more of a task than the race itself.

During a non-recovery week, I’m doing about ten workouts a week, ranging from 45 minutes to two and a half hours. Most of this is biking, my weakest discipline and where I need the most work. I replace one swim a week with my team swim practice and I’ll probably start swapping out other workouts for team workouts as the weather warms up and those start. I want to follow the plan, but I also want to be social and see my friends!

For cycling, I use an app called Zwift for indoor riding now since the weather makes it too cold to ride outside. Zwift creates an avatar that you control by riding your bike. It uses a heart rate monitor and speed/cadence sensors on my bike to estimate my power output which determines how fast my avatar rides. There are different maps available (London is my favorite) and you can use pre-set workouts or join groups of other uses for workouts, training rides, or races. It’s way better than staring at a wall and more motivating than watching a movie. I listen to audiobooks while I ride and I’m getting through them very fast with all the time I spend in the saddle!

To run, I prefer to go outside, but Michigan weather doesn’t always participate. I’ll also use the treadmill at my gym and I often take an iPad with me and watch Netflix. Comedy specials are a favorite but it can be hard to laugh and sprint! I try to run with my husband or a friend whenever possible. It pushes me harder and it makes it much more enjoyable.

I usually swim at my gym though I’m looking forward to swimming in some lakes once the temperature warms up. I still saw ice this morning so that feels ages away. Maybe by May?

So don’t mind me being absent from my friends and spending every spare second planning out workouts and meal prepping. July seems ages away, but I know it’s right around the corner. My plan is going to be halted a few times by weddings and other obligations so I’ve built some slack time into the calendar to let me enjoy life and to keep me pushing hard.

Until next time, run (bike & swim) 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 Club Reflection: Hunger by Roxane Gay

21 Mar

My book club met to discuss Roxane Gay’s Hunger last week. It was a very emotional book and it made very a very emotional discussion!

I wasn’t the only person who listened to the audiobook. There were a range of opinions about the narration. Gay spoke slowly and some readers listened at a faster speed. She read it in a very monotone voice and some felt it didn’t give the subject matter the right amount of gravitas that a professional reader may have given it.

Many felt the book itself was a bit long and repetitive. By the end, some described it as whiny. Interestingly, there were not many professional reviews that had anything negative to say about the book. I guess it’s hard to criticize someone’s raw pain. No matter how many times she repeated it, though, someone who’s never been her size will never understand what it’s like for her. I can’t get it, even after reading this book. The subject matter was very personal and it felt like the reader was almost too involved in her life to the point of being obtrusive.

Roxane has the conflicting desires to be larger and unattractive to men but to receive the rewards that she sees as coming with weight loss and being small. She’s scared to be small because she thinks that if she is, she could be raped again. This contradiction carries through the book.

One thing that stood out to us was her not being able to tell her family about the rape until years later. We think they would have been more than understanding and helped her get the justice and guidance she needed. For a family that was so accepting of her bisexuality, surely they could accept something that she suffered so terribly.

Reading this book opened many of our eyes to how someone who is overweight feels about being looked at. Our society is very critical of someone who overindulges in food rather than something less visible such as alcohol, drugs, or sex. It’s because it’s something we can so readily see. Saying someone is obese is an accusation of something that is wrong with a person. It’s something medical personnel want to treat and which they get paid to correct. Gay’s problem was compounded by her gender. We all felt it was easier for a man to be overweight than a woman. They’re less likely to be stared at in the same manner.

We wondered if writing this book helped her cope with anything. We felt she firmly cemented that she is always going to be big and that she’s OK with it. We speculated that if Gay did lose the weight, people would comment on it and those comments would likely upset her because she wouldn’t lose weight to gain anyone’s approval. If she ever did it, it would be for herself.

I’ve only just started our next book, Dodgers by Bill Beverly. I’m hoping that one won’t be so emotional, we need a break!

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 Club Reflection: Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani (Part 2)

12 Mar

Since Trigiani is visiting our area, both of my book clubs read her book, Kiss Carlo, over the past few months. My second book club met to talk about it and we didn’t have too much to say about it. We spent the majority of the meeting picking books for our next season of reading. So this will be short.

I aired the complaints my other group shared about extraneous plot lines and many agreed. We did have a member who just adored this book and I can see how someone would. This reader is from an Italian family and she adored Trigiani’s depiction of an Italian-American family. I married into one and I could appreciate it as well (and commiserate with the sisters-in-law!). It’s clear Trigiani knows what she’s writing about in that respect. Some of our readers come from a Jewish background and they identified with the strong family ties as well. It was well written and relatable. We talked about how her writing, the words on the page, were enjoyable. However, a lot of people agreed that there were some things that were hard to believe and that the book could have been edited nearly in half.

One reader described the book by saying “It was like eating Cool Whip expecting a turkey dinner.” It was nice, light, and enjoyable, but it didn’t have the meat to it that we’d hoped for and it didn’t leave us satisfied.

Most of us have already read our book for next month, The Gilded Hour by Sarah Donati. We’re making up for a snow day in January where we missed a meeting.

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!

Off Topic Thursday: Volunteering

28 Feb

I heard somewhere that the Millennial generation volunteers more than any generation before us. I’ve also heard this is because we have no money because of student loans, but I’m going to focus on the good side of this. I have two groups that I volunteer my time with that I’d like to share.

The idea for this post came to me while I was on the train to Chicago for a conference. When I was in college, I joined a co-ed business fraternity, Delta Sigma Pi. The group provided me with amazing leadership opportunities, scholarship money, and recognition for the work I did. I enjoyed it a lot and upon graduating and moving to Detroit, I got involved with the alumni chapter as well as serving as a mentor for a local university. Each chapter has a designated mentor and I’ve been in the role for four years and have enjoyed my time doing so. It allows me to stay in touch with the collegiate members and help them develop themselves as leaders and professionals the way I was able to do in school. I was heading to Chicago to represent our alumni chapter in a voting session and visit my friends from my collegiate days, including an old roommate. It’s a perk that I get to see great friends while I do this.

The second position is with my local Friends of the Library board. I’ve been a board member for six years and have slowly taken on more responsibilities as time allows and as I move toward holding a position. I’m the unofficial ‘bookie’ right now, securing entertainment for our annual Gala event in the summer and helping to put on our fundraiser event in the winter. Most recently, I booked a barbershop quartette to sing show tunes. I like being able to advocate for the library in my community and help direct funds to new programs to serve the patrons. It really aligns with my passions and it’s been a great position for me.

I’m sure there are a ton of other ways I could volunteer and share my time, but these are my big two now. Who else out there volunteers? Anything you particularly enjoy? Anything that lines up with your passions?

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!

What’s the Most Disturbing Book You’ve Read?

21 Feb

I found this post on The Guardian about books that have shocked readers and (thankfully?) there were none on the list that I recognized. Well, just one, The Lovely Bones but it’s been so long since I read that I’ve (thankfully) forgotten the really odd twist, though I remember that it had one.

There are times in a book that I’ve been horrified by something. The starvation in Lisa See’s Dreams of Joy comes to mind. But I can’t think of a book that was overall so horrifying or disturbing that I had to put it down and walk away.

I did something no one should ever do and read the comments. One post brought up Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love which was the first book I read for one of my book clubs. It’s a wonder I kept going to that group. I didn’t find the book disturbing, however, just weird and I didn’t like it. I’ve read other books like that (The Children’s House) but I still don’t think I’d describe them as disturbing.

What disturbs one person might not disturb another. A commenter mentioned Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go which is a favorite of mine. Maybe it’s a matter of how you view the book. I saw this one as fantasy so it didn’t bother me. Other commenters mentioned true crime books as disturbing. It’s never done too much for me.

Now I’m trying to find a disturbing book and read it just to see how emotionally dead I am. Does anyone have a particularly disturbing book to wish upon me? Maybe something that would be best in October when it’s time for spooky/creepy reads?

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 Club v. Polar Vortex

7 Feb

If you weren’t aware the American Midwest (where I live) got blasted with a polar vortex last week that had temperatures below zero with wind chills that took us to about -20 here in Michigan. It was -60 in other places. (This is all in Fahrenheit, by the way. Yeah, we’re shocked, too.) With such extreme weather, some things had to step aside.

One of them was my book club. Monday night, we got about six inches of snow starting at noon and going until midnight. We needed it so the roads would be super icy come the freezing weather. Anyway, with such poor road conditions, the library closed early. Which made it hard for my book club to meet.

We were supposed to discuss The Gilded Hour by Sara Donati. I was already nervous about this meeting because I read the book so long ago, wrapping it up in late December. I wasn’t sure how much I would remember in late January.

Our discussion leader and our librarian contact discussed some options for us. The book that we are set to discuss in February, Kiss Carlo, is part of a program at our library and if we push it back, other groups won’t have access to our copies and won’t be able to read it before the author comes to speak. So we must push ahead with Carlo. But what to do with The Gilded Hour?

It was decided that we’ll push The Gilded Hour to March and bump all out future books back a month to compensate. I’m even more nervous about remembering the details of Donati’s book now, with three months between finishing it and discussing it. I bet I’m not the only one who forgets a lot.

I’d like to think there’s not a lot that can come between me and reading. But I guess sub-zero freezing temperatures can.

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!

2018 in Books

5 Feb

I can’t believe I didn’t post about this yet! It’s been a month already and I’m late to the recap. Well, better late than never. I was able to find my 2018 recap much easier this year than last year.

I read 51 books in 2018. My goal was 55 and I’m sad to have missed it. I’ve lowered my goal for next year to 52 and I think I’ll make that one.

I read 18,339 pages. That’s an increase for the third year in a row, even if it’s a book-number decrease from last year. I knew I was reading long books!

The shortest book I read was The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr and E. B. White. I should have guessed this one, it was such a short audiobook! The longest book I read (or listened to) was A Column of Fire by Ken Follett. Over the past five years, the longest book I’ve read each year was either Follett or George R.R. Martin. Man, can those guys write long books!

The most popular book I read (re-read, really) was Harry Potter y las Reliquias de la Muerte (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows). Not a big surprise there! I’m glad to have finished my Spanish re-read of the series. Maybe I need an English one next! The least popular book I read was Critical Chain by Eliyahu Goldratt. I guess he’s more of a one-hit wonder.

My average rating was a 3.7, a tenth higher than last year. I must have had a lot more 5 Star reviews this year because I did, unfortunately, have one 1 Star review. Here’s how my ratings skewed this year:

5 Stars: 8
4 Stars: 24
3 Stars: 13
2 Stars: 5
1 Star: 1

No surprise to me that 4 Stars is my most common rating. To me, it means I liked a book a lot and that it was just shy of perfect.

Thanks for taking a look with me! If you’ve been here a while, you know I love numbers and book-related numbers are the best.

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!

Off Topic Thursday: 2019 Goals

31 Jan

I usually address my reading goals in my monthly recap posts but I wanted to dedicate this Off Topic Thursday so some non-blog related goals I’m working toward. I’ll revisit these briefly at the end of each monthly post as well.

  1. Finish a 70.3 Half Ironman. This has been a goal for a long time and I decided that 2019 will be the year. I’m signed up for a race at the end of July and I’m excited to finally do it! I start my training plan next week so I’ll be a bit tired for the next six months.
  2. Attend six weddings. That’s how many we’re invited to this year and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure I go to all six of them! I’ve never missed a wedding before and I absolutely love them. We’ll see if I can keep it up.
  3. Finish a weather blanket. I’ve done these the last two years and I’ve loved the project. I’m going to do one in green/white this year. I’ve bought most of the yarn but I have yet to start knitting.
  4. Write. I had the initial idea of writing one day a week, but I’m not sure how feasible that will be. I think twice a month is good to start. I’ll set aside one weeknight each week but if it doesn’t happen, I won’t hold myself to it too strongly as long as I get to it a few times a month. I know this is a small change, but it’s a big difference from where I’ve been the past two years.
  5. See friends more. Now that I’m done with graduate school, I need to make an effort to see my friends more. I’ve started making plans more often, even if those plans are of the ‘Netflix and Chill’ variety. It seems ‘craft night’ is a big hit with most of us.

So here’s where I start and where I hope to go. I’ll keep my fingers crossed and we’ll hope to see this happen! I think it’s feasible, it’s just a matter of watching less TV and planning my days a bit more. I’ve got this.

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!

Off Topic Thursday: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

3 Jan

I know that these posts usually come at the end of the month, but the end of December was crazy and I figured I’d start off the new year talking about something that’s become very important to me over the past year: plastic and recycling

I should really say using less plastic has become important to me. My husband and I were contemplating when I’d become such a hippy, and we pinpointed it to the day I saw the video below. Many of you know I love turtles, so this hit me in a very sensitive place and made me cry for days. When I was done crying, I decided I needed to start reducing the amount of plastic I consumed.

Be warned, this video is rather graphic.

I knew I needed to do something to help me deal with a man-made threat to my favorite animal. So I started finding ways to reduce not only plastic but as much waste as possible from my life. None of these have been very extreme but together, I think they are making a difference.

  • Brushing up on my recycling to make sure I’m recycling everything I can
  • Bar soap, shampoo, and conditioner instead of plastic bottles
  • Cardboard tampons instead of plastic (Diva Cup would be better… not there yet)
  • Cloth napkins instead of paper
  • Reusable grocery bags and produce bags instead of plastic
  • Wearing clothes twice when possible/not dirty
  • Wool dryer balls instead of sheets
  • Buying products in recyclable packaging (ex. eggs in cardboard, laundry detergent in a box)
  • Turning lights off when I leave the room
  • Wrapping gifts in newsprint or using reusable bags
  • SAYING NO TO PLASTIC STRAWS!
  • Carrying a set of bamboo cutlery and metal straws in my purse
  • Telling as many people as possible about the harm plastics are doing to wildlife and easy ways they can reduce their impact

I know these are small steps, but that’s the beauty of them. None of these have made large impacts on my life. They are easy steps that you can take if you want to which will positively impact the planet and help save turtles and other wildlife. If you’re interested in more information on any of these, please leave a comment. I’m no expert, but I can share with you what I know.

What do you do to reduce your impact on the planet? Is there anything else I should start doing?

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!