Tag Archives: Emily St. John Mandel

WWW Wednesday, 27-May-2020

27 May

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’m making my way through Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich but it’s a slow go. I’m feeling a little more motivated to write, but not a lot like I’d hoped. I’ll see about picking up with my editing or maybe start something new. Something new might be freeing.
I’m making good progress with The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai and really enjoying it. It’s a long audiobook, but it’s nice to have a story last a while instead of flying through it. The plot has been great and I’m looking forward to getting further into this one.
I started an ebook of The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits by Emma Donoghue. Our book club made a switch and this is our new book for June. I’m not very excited about it if I’m being honest. I don’t like short story collections very much. I’ll probably finish it without issue, but I’m not sure how much we can talk about.

Recently finished: I pushed to finish The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel so I could start my new ebook. It was a good story but I wasn’t as excited about it as I should have been. Stretching it out over so long dulled how I felt about it. I’ll plan to review it next week.

I posted my review for White Oleander by Janet Fitch on Thursday. I’m glad I read this again, it was a beautiful story. I’m hoping to find the movie soon and see if it’s similar and as enjoyable. I gave it Four out of Five Stars.
I also reviewed Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell and posted that review yesterday. This was fun and I’m so glad I read it. I’m excited for the third book and I hope the release date hasn’t been delayed.

Reading Next: I recently checked for an update to what’s available on my audiobook services and was excited to see that there’s a copy of It’s All Relative by A.J. Jacobs. Jacobs is one of my favorite non-fiction writers so I’m excited to read about this project. He narrates the audiobook himself so I’m getting excited about that, too.


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!

WWW Wednesday, 20-May-2020

20 May

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 made some decent progress with The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel this week. I’m still a ways from finishing it, but I’m happy with still moving forward with it.
I started Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich and I suspect this one will be a bit slow for me. It’s nonfiction and right before bed, that can put me to sleep pretty fast. I’m hoping to feel motivated to do some of the exercises and get to writing again. It would be great to feel like I accomplished that during this lockdown.
I began the audiobook for The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai. I picked this one up as a physical book when I was visiting Atlanta but it seems I’ll get to the audiobook first. A lot of my books have fallen this way and I’m okay with that.

Recently finished: I was able to finish up White Oleander by Janet Fitch on Thursday. Finally! I liked the ending to this one, though it was pretty sad. It was a very different mother/daughter relationship than is usually portrayed in fiction and I liked that it was different, but it was still sad. I gave it Four out of Five Stars.
I flew through Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell and finished it on Saturday. It was a really fun ride and I enjoyed hearing about Simon and Baz and I’m looking forward to book three soon! I gave it Four out of Five Stars.

I posted my review of Viola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiani on Thursday. It was a light, fun ride and I gave the book Three out of Five Stars.
After getting through The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky by Mackenzi Lee in one day, I posted a review on Monday and gave this one Four out of Five Stars. What a fun ride!

Reading Next: I’m going to pick up my book club selection next: Old Baggage by Lissa Evans. This one has some length to it so even with tri training, I probably will take at least a week to get through it.


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!

WWW Wednesday, 13-May-2020

13 May

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’m getting really close to finishing White Oleander by Janet Fitch! This book is taking me much longer than I would like so I’m really excited to finish it off. It’s a very sad story but very intriguing at the same time so I’m engrossed.
I made an effort to make more progress with The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel. I like this one, but the mystery is still a bit too shrouded for me to be completely engaged. I’m hoping to get more into it soon, though.
I’m loving some fun YA right now so I decided to keep it going and picked up Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell on audio. It’s been a while since I read the first in this series (Carry On) so it might take me a minute to pick up on the plot and characters again. However, the parallels to Harry Potter make it a bit easier to pick up on.

Recently finished: I sped through The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson. It wasn’t what I expected and it came across as a disappointment because of that. I wanted more about books and bookselling but that wasn’t the focus. It felt like a bait and switch so I ended up frustrated. I posted my review yesterday if you want to check that out. I gave it Three out of Five Stars, though I contemplated Two.
I got through Viola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiani much faster than I expected to. It was a fun YA read and I enjoyed it well enough. It didn’t have much for me that was really a standout, though. I gave it Three out of Five Stars and I’ll have a review up tomorrow.
I had way too much fun listening to the short novella The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky by Mackenzi Lee. This is installment 1.5 in the Montegue Siblings series and I wanted to read it before I picked up the second which I’m sure I’ll do this summer.

I posted my review of The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye by David LagercrantzThanks for those who have commented about their opinion of Lagercrantz taking over the series. I’m still unsure if I think it was the best move but I’m glad I’m not the only one who has marked the difference.  I gave the book Three out of Five Stars.
I posted my review of The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern on Monday and my final meeting with my reading buddy is tonight! I’m excited to see what she thought of the ending of the book. I finished it over a week ago so I hope my memory is sharp enough and my notes detailed enough to have a good discussion.

Reading Next: I’ll pick up Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich as a physical book very soon. I hope this can give me a little inspiration to read.
I’ll need another audiobook soon and I requested Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray but I’m not sure how quickly it will come in. Fingers crossed.
If that fails, I’ll likely start my next book club selection, Old Baggage by Lissa Evans. I don’t know anything about this one but I see that it’s pretty long so it will be a nice one to settle in with during my long training hours.


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!

WWW Wednesday, 6-May-2020

6 May

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’m over halfway through White Oleander by Janet Fitch now that it’s in print next to my bed. Crazy demands from work have kept me from reading quite as much as I’d like but I’m making good progress with it and hope to be finished in a few weeks.
It’s been slower with The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel since work picked up. I need to be away from a screen when I’m not working so an ebook isn’t as appealing as print. I’ll keep moving forward with it, I’m sure, but it might slow down to my usual ebook pace.
I started The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson as an audiobook. This isn’t quite the ‘book about books’ I thought it was going to be. Honestly, the titled bookseller could have any other job and it wouldn’t have a huge impact on the plot. I’m a bit up in the air about this one, still. We’ll see.

Recently finished: I wrapped up The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye by David Lagercrantz fairly quickly once it was on my phone. I’m a bit disappointed in this one and I’ll be posting my review tomorrow to detail why. I’m not sure if I’ll continue with the series. I gave the book Three out of Five Stars.
I powered through to the end of The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern once I met with my Reading Buddy. We’ll meet very soon to discuss it, I’m sure. I’m still thinking this one over and my review will be up next week. I don’t think I would have gotten nearly as much out of it without my Buddy Reader. There were a lot of references to pop culture and to earlier parts of the book that would have gone over my head.

Reading Next: I still plan to grab Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich as a physical book. I really hope it pushes me to do some writing or editing. That’s one thing this pandemic has stopped that I’d love to get a little motivation to continue.
With the speed I’m going through audiobooks, I have to plan for another one soon. Next up is Viola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiani. This seems like the perfect time for a little YA.


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!

WWW Wednesday, 29-April-2020

29 Apr

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: Forward progress! I’m reading White Oleander by Janet Fitch in print now. I have a copy on my shelves so when I was ready for a new book, I grabbed this. Much easier than trying to renew an ebook every three weeks.
I moved The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye by David Lagercrantz only my phone and I’m speeding through it. I suspect I’ll be done with it next week!
I finished the fourth section of The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern and I’m ready for my next Reading Buddy meeting. I hope it’s this week because I can’t wait to finish this one and write up a full review. Then we’ll have to pick another book. Oh boy, haha.
I’m glad to say I’m still moving forward with The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel. I’m enjoying the story which encourages me to pull it out and squeeze in a few pages when I can. I’m not sure how far into the book I am (trouble with my reading app) but I’d have to guess getting toward the middle. I’m excited to keep moving forward with this one.

Recently finished: I finished up Moby-Duck by Donovan Hohn after posting last week. I really enjoyed this one! I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about it or how I’d get through some non-fiction when escapism was really what I needed but it was enjoyable and a quick read. I posted my review on Monday and gave it a full Five out of Five Stars.
I was able to finish up The Alice Network by Kate Quinn with my increased listening time due to training. This one was pretty good but with the large number of WWII stories I’ve read in the past few years, it did seem a bit unoriginal. I’d still recommend it as a good story, but I wouldn’t say it stands out more than others. I posted my review yesterday and gave it Four out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: I think I need to start making plans again! For an audiobook, I’m hoping to start on The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson. This one came recommended by another blogger a while back and I do love some books about books!
For a physical book, I think I’m going to grab Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich. This was a gift many moons ago from a writer friend. I’m hoping it inspires me to do some writing and editing. I have a terrible NaNo that needs some love and quarantine should be a good time to do it, but I’ve had no motivation to try.


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!

WWW Wednesday, 22-April-2020

22 Apr

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: My plan for White Oleander by Janet Fitch is to pick up my physical copy of it once I finish with Moby Duck. I think I’ll get through it faster this way instead of waiting for holds and losing them so often.
I got through very little of The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye by David Lagercrantz but I have a plan for this as well. Once I finish The Alice Network, I’ll put it on my phone and listen to it that way. I’m not going to be in the car much so I might as well find another way to listen to it.
I’m ready for the third meeting with my Reading Buddy on The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern. This one has been a great escapist read for me and I keep flying through the sections as soon as I start them. I hope we meet soon.
I’m back to focusing on The Alice Network by Kate Quinn full time as my audiobook. I began my triathlon training plan this week so I suspect I’ll start getting through audiobooks a lot faster as I spend more time running and biking. I expect this one to be finished by next week.
I’ve found ways to keep myself moving through The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel as an ebook. I’ll play a game on my phone and switch between the two so I draw out both. It’s been a good way to kill a lot of time and still move forward with my ebook.
I’m really enjoying Moby-Duck by Donovan Hohn. I didn’t think I’d get so into a non-fiction read just now but this topic is really interesting to me and I’m able to sit and read it for some long periods. It’s quite good.

Recently finished: I finished up A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold as fast as I could so another member of my book club could grab a copy. I wonder how much though our organizer put into picking the timing for this book. The anniversary of the Columbine shooting was this past Monday and I posted my review on the day as well. I initially gave the book Three out of Five Stars but changed my rating to Four after I reflected on it more.

Reading Next: Yet again, no plans for something else. I’m doing double duty on all my books already, it seems overwhelming to think of what’s next. Maybe in a week, I’ll have a better perspective.


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!

WWW Wednesday, 15-April-2020

15 Apr

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: Solid hold on White Oleander by Janet Fitch. I’ve lost the hold on the ebook again. I own a physical copy of this book so I think I might visit it in that medium. The platform I’m using to get it as an ebook tends to have long wait times so I’d rather move to another platform where ebooks are more readily available.
I don’t think I’ve been alone in the car for a week so The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye by David Lagercrantz is still where it was before. I’ll try to find some excuses to drive, but I don’t foresee that happening much.
I pushed my reading buddy to have our second meeting on The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern yesterday. I’m flying through this book and dragging her to keep up with me. I think we’ll get through it super fast since we’re both on lockdown right now and reading fantasy is a great way to escape reality.
I started on The Alice Network by Kate Quinn but have put it on hold because a more pressing hold came in. I was enjoying it a lot before I stopped so I hope to get back to it soon and keep moving forward.
That pressing hold was A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold on audio. My whole book club is fighting for a few copies of this one so I wanted to start it as soon as I could and start making my way through so someone else can get this copy before our meeting next month. It’s a hard book to read/listen to but also very interesting and well written. I think we’ll have a great discussion about it.
I switched my ebook to The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel. This is available on a platform that’s easier to use with my slow ebook-reading habit. I’ve just started and it’s not a long book but it will probably take me a while still.
Just to make this list longer, I started a new physical book as well. My logic is to read through my autographed books since I don’t like those leaving the house and I’m a bit homebound at the moment. I picked up Moby-Duck by Donovan Hohn. I’m interested to see if I can fly through this one or if I need to switch to fiction to keep myself going for a while. Maybe I’ll switch back and forth.

Recently finished: I was able to finish Cuando era puertorriqueña by Esmeralda Santiago Friday morning. It was a great way to start off my Friday! It always feels great to finish my Spanish language read for the year. I was able to write up a review and get that posted on Monday. I gave it Four out of Five Stars.
I also read a short book, Pope Francis Speaks to Our Hearts. It was a collection of quotes from early in his papacy and a nice light thing to get into over Easter weekend. I gave it Three out of Five Stars and posted a review yesterday.

I also reviewed The Girl in Green by Derek B. Miller last week. I’m still not sure if this book fell flat for me or if I had unrealistic expectations because of the author’s other books. Either way, I gave it Three out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: With how long my current reading list is, I’m not looking ahead. It’s too daunting.


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!

Meeting Emily St. John Mandel

23 May

If you’ve been here a while, you’ve seen a number of posts about Emily St. John Mandel’s book, Station Eleven. I’ve posted a book review and two book club reflections about her book because it was chosen as the 2015-2016 Great Michigan Read by the Michigan Humanities Council. The finale of the program is usually an author tour around the state and Mandel came to a city near my parents’ house two weeks ago so I had to go!

Me and Mandel

Me and Mandel

The obvious question when an author from western Canada living in New York chooses Michigan as a setting for her novel is “Why?” Mandel had visited Petoskey, Michigan on a book tour one time and fell in love with the area. She said that was her main reasoning, really. She also liked that as a peninsula, it had access to fresh water and a boundary around which the symphony could travel. When my mom was reading the book, she noticed a few lines about how things were more violent in the South. She asked Mandel why this might be. Mandel simply shrugged and said she figured there were more guns in the south. We thought so, too.

She was asked about a sequel which surprised me because I saw the book as very complete. The asker referenced the electricity at the end as the means for a sequel. She assured us this is a standalone and was making the point that the world will continue to change after the story ends. There is a future for these characters.

The symphony played a big part and Mandel was asked why she included them. She liked the idea of a symphony being improvised because of the odd mix of musicians that made it up. The idea was really fun to her and she ran with it.

Everyone wanted to know about the prophet and if she was trying to make a religious statement. Mandel included him because she sees in areas where there is not a strong societal structure, warlords are able to take control. Even though the US does not have a lot of strong religious figures now, she felt the collapse might lead to one. He’s an inevitable figure in a state of anarchy.

This book is a large deviation from what Mandel normally writes. She has written genre fiction before and wanted to do some more literary fiction, but with a strong plot. She didn’t want to be labeled a crime writer and decided to write something about the lives of actors so her first ideas were not post-apocalyptic. She thought about the things we take for granted; phones, planes, lights, the computer I’m using to type this. What would we do as a society if we lost those? We have become complacent to the technology around us, what would we do with solitude and quiet? These two ideas together helped craft the book.

Another popular question is why she chose Shakespeare. At first, she had the actors replaying episodes of Seinfeld or How I Met Your Mother, but it didn’t feel right. She realized that if something was preserved, it would be the best theater of the current world and that’s arguably not a sitcom. The parallels between Shakespeare and the Station Eleven characters is staggering and it played well into the plot the more Mandel looked into it.

Mandel talked about the weird Google rabbit holes she had to go down for this book. If you took a truck down to its frame, how much would it weigh? How many horses would be needed to pull that? She said a lot of the things she needed to know were hard to find and she spent a lot of time on survivalist discussion boards. She does not recommend doing this. A lot of the research went into pandemic research. She felt there were two ways to end the world, the other being a nuclear holocaust, which can be very political and she didn’t want to get into politics. But plagues have unknown or undiscovered origins. The Romans thought they had brought on a plague by sacking a shrine. We all have relatives who at some point in history survived a plague. How cool is that?

There are many reasons readers are drawn to stories of disaster. The one I’ve heard most is economic inequality, the idea that this world is unfair and if it were remade, we could remake ourselves based on our skills and not the hand we were dealt. The other idea is that it always seems like some current event is going to end the world. We all think we’re living at the end of the known world. Mandel’s point is that when the world does end, another one will begin. Yet another idea is that in our modern age, there is so little left that’s uncharted, so little to explore. We want a world that we don’t know or understand and apocalyptic stories satisfy that restlessness.

Miranda’s comic book was something Mandel wanted to say about art. She wanted a character who, like her, went to art school and found it was hard to become employable. That was her own story. As the plot evolved, the book started to tie the story together and it became a good way of reflecting the future world in the present story.

img_3006-1Before I had the chance to, someone else asked Mandel if she had advice for aspiring writers. Her first advice was to finish stuff. It’s so easy to start writing a book and when it gets hard, to put it aside and start something else that’s fun and new. Push through the problems, finish a story and see where it goes. She said to also actually write (I’m guilty of this), not just talk about writing but to actually write. She writes by hand (first time I’ve heard an author say this!) and she writes everywhere, even on trains while she’s out for the day. Five to ten pages is a good day. Mandel doesn’t have a high school diploma and wants people to know that publishing is not closed to them if they don’t have the MFA or creative writing degree that ads online tell us we need.

When Mandel was 26, she had the first draft of a novel and started searching for agents. She got a full request from one agent who later rejected the novel, but sent her a lot of ideas on how to change it. Mandel made those changes and, though it wasn’t requested, resent the manuscript to that agent. It was accepted. Two years and 35 publishers later, the book landed. Mandel recommended looking at the agents of books you love or books similar to yours. Let them know that’s why you’re querying them in your letter. Flattery almost always works.

I ran into my friend Chelsea in line and she was nice enough to take the picture of Mandel and I. I got my two books signed and they’re now safely on my shelf. I don’t have another author event on my calendar but I’m sure I’ll find something to go to soon.

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: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

10 Mar

Because it was chosen as the 2015-2016 Great Michigan Read, both of my book clubs have read Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. I think it’s a fun book to discuss and I really enjoyed hearing what this other group had to say about the story.

Though he dies in the opening paragraphs, Arthur seemed to be the central character of the book. Everything that happened revolved around him and many of the characters are brought together because of him. Most of the characters were a bit underdeveloped but for a dead man, Arthur makes a huge impression on the book and could be considered the main character. Jeevan is a well-defined character at the beginning of the book because of his interactions with Arthur and what happens the night Arthur dies. Unfortunately, he disappeared for a large chunk of the timeline and only makes a brief appearance at the end. The jumpy timeline was a little off-putting for some members of my group who would have preferred a chronological story.

Arthur wasn’t very likable. One reader suggested we didn’t like him because he was the only character we got to know. He’s described by his best friend as acting through life, even in his social life. He felt he was only ‘real’ when he was home, on the island he grew up on. He marries his first wife because they share that and she makes him feel ‘real.’ Toward the end of his life, he years for that reality and seems to be trying to share it with his son. Celebrity had been his dream for so long and he realized in the end that it was worthless and didn’t give him anything. Kind of like an iPhone after the collapse of civilization.

We had a long debate over the prophet. If you haven’t read the book, this paragraph will spoil the ending so skip on down to the next. We wondered when he became so radical. My school of thought is that his mother radicalized him before the collapse. She gave up celebrity and fame and moved to Jerusalem, the heart of three faiths. To me, this shows he might have had a very sheltered upbringing with Elizabeth and could point to him being inclined toward radicalization very young. Another argument is that he began developing his school of thought after the fall on his own. When he ran out of battery in his game, he picked up the Bible that his mother gave him and ended up preaching to a plane full of flu victims. He rationalized in his brain why he had survived and others had perished. The final thought was that Elizabeth had radicalized him after the fall by telling him he was special and chosen by God and that if she were still alive, she would be his strongest follower. I’m curious what any readers of this post think, please leave a comment below.

The book made us very aware of the things we take for granted. We’re not very many generations removed from people who lived with the technology of those after the collapse. However, we’ve lost the survival skills those ancestors 1000 years ago lived by. We know what conveniences we’d have to give up with a collapse which would be more emotionally trying than not knowing they ever existed. Though some people might claim they’d miss television or cars most, we thought running water, medication, and communication would be the hardest to live without.

The troop clung close to Shakespeare but we wondered if there was a reason. The message in the stories didn’t ring true with the life situations they were in so why was it so popular? I’m sure this is not the right forum for why Shakespeare has stayed relevant for 500 years so I’ll say only that there’s something about him that’s survived this long so it’s not a stretch of the imagination to think he would still be a favorite in twenty years. If they weren’t going to perform Shakespeare, we thought Greek tragedies would also be popular. And everyone loves a musical!

Our other long debate was about history. Should the survivors teach their children about the old world? Or is it better not to know? Those who remember are looking back on a horrible incident from their past, something that has scared them. They’ll likely view ‘before’ as a bad thing. However, having the knowledge of what has been discovered before has the potential to rocket the society through scientific discoveries faster than the original discovery took. Instead of learning how to make penicillin, we already know and only have to duplicate the process. Instead of learning the most efficient ways to make a product, we would already now. The society after the collapse had already advanced enough to have a class system where Clark didn’t have to work because he somehow achieved a class status where he didn’t have to do that. The symphony could survive without putting down roots. Everyone was headed back to what they’d had before.

Mandel will be in my area in May so I’ll be able to meet her and have my books signed then. I’m very excited to talk with her about how she started writing.

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: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

25 Jan

I’m excited to share my second post about Great Michigan Reads selection, Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. I’ve previously posted a book review you can read here. This was one of my top books of 2015 and if you haven’t picked it up yet, I really highly recommend it. You can follow along with the posts I have forthcoming (at least two more).

Emily St. John Mandel Image via Michigan Radio

Emily St. John Mandel
Image via Michigan Radio

Emily St. John Mandel was born in British Columbia and studied dance in school. I liked that the story focused a lot in her native country, Canada, and not in her current place of residence, the United States. She was homeschooled as a child and every day had to write a story or poem which helped fuel her love for writing. She currently lives in New York and in the opinion of my book club, she looks a lot like Anne Hathaway.

Jeevan had an interesting role in the book, being at the beginning and appearing throughout. Whatever his role was, he was anonymous or unknown to the characters he was interacting with. He was ‘the paramedic in the crowd,’ ‘the paparazzo,’ ‘the doctor.’ His brother and later his wife knew him well, but the main characters in the story were always removed from him, like he was there to help but never to participate fully.

By the end, he’d found his purpose and calling in the medical field. Finding a purpose was important in the story. Arthur never found his. He was always acting, even in front of his good friend, Clark, and his wives. He tried to be close with his son, but it never worked out. The symphony, on the other hand, had found their purpose in performance. For them, surviving wasn’t enough. They needed something else to keep them going, to help them feel connected to humanity. Art and performance was their purpose, something Arthur never seemed to find.

We had hoped Miranda would make it back to North America. She was describing the boats in the water that would have been isolated with no contact to the outside world and the virus. She could have been safe if she’d made it to those boats and sailed away. On the last pages, Clark mentions ships sailing out in search of other humans. We thought that would be Miranda. Kirsten is a lot like an heir to her because she has the comic books and the paper weights and it would have been really cool to have them know about each other.

The comic was an unusual way to tie the characters together and parallel the main plot at the same time. The comic characters want to return to what they knew before their world was destroyed which is the goal of many of the inhabitants of Year 20. With the two copies in the world, Tyler and Kirsten take them and interpret them completely differently. This isn’t so different from how religious works are interpreted in different ways by individuals or sects. Having them come together at the end and fight was a really cool way to see what determination and the passage of time did to Tyler to make him into the Prophet and how it helped keep Kirsten grounded.

The tagline ‘Survival is Insufficient’ permeated Kirsten and the novel. Books could have survived in libraries, but music would have been lost. No radio and no way to play recorded music erases all the history of music but having survival as a main priority almost completely wiped out the players. The symphony must have been one of a kind. The people who came to hear them probably hadn’t heard music in years besides what they could sing themselves.

One of our members lived in a small, remote town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for a few years and she told us about groups performing opera, ballet, bluegrass and other mediums that would come to town and be attended by everyone in town. There wasn’t a lot to do for culture and arts so when the opportunity presented itself, the whole town grabbed it and took advantage of the time. The Traveling Symphony would have attracted crowds in much the same way for a long time. It’s similar to when traveling circuses would roll into town and attract crowds.

We questioned why Shakespeare was performed. Other than the tie-in Shakespeare has with the plague in Europe, they’re well-surviving plays that can be performed without technology. In Shakespeare’s time, there wasn’t lighting and special effects and sets like you’d see in 2016. They could be performed with simpler techniques which the magicians knew how to do. Plus, there would have been plenty of copies available at abandoned schools and libraries and people would be familiar with the topics. The culture had started to evolve to a point where some were ready to start creating their own art as demonstrated by the Clarinet writing her own play. Their way of life was stable enough to start making something of their own.

Would the remote societies of Mandel’s world have been as impacted? Would the small towns with limited access to major towns have been hit by the illness? How self-sustaining could they have been and could they still be there? Small island nations might not have been touched at all and indigenous people might not have noticed. We tend to think of society as those who are connected but there is still a large group of people who would have been less impacted and could still be living a similar to what they had before the flu.

The flu gave humanity to start the world over. We could have stopped the evil and violence that had become engrained in societal dynamics but it was still there. Good and evil would not go away, it’s something that we can’t wash out of human nature. There is a shame and a pride in the tattoos Kirsten has on her wrists. She doesn’t want to talk about those she’s killed, but she feels a need to recognize that it’s happened. There’s an organization to the society that could not be escaped. People still form into groups and cities.

We were left hanging at the end. So many of our group wanted them to go on to the city with electricity. One member predicted that they would go, perform, and leave the city. They did just fine without lights and their purpose was to perform so staying did no good. As of now, I can’t find any Station Eleven on Fanfiction.net, but I’m sure someone is writing it somewhere.

I’m looking forward to another discussion on this book in late February. 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!