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February 2, 2016 / Angela Sylvia

January Book Haul

I’ve been doing a better job of not buying so many books, knowing that I can get a lot of what I need from the library, which I work at. But, I’m still me, and sometimes I just have to buy stuff.

Dragon Keeper, The Dispossessed, Stich 'N Bitch, Giant DaysStitch ‘N Bitch by Debbie Stoller is the knitting guide (suggested to me by a coworker) that I used to basically teach myself how to knit. It has a lot of basic patterns, and some more complicated stuff. I think I checked out and renewed this book from the library about 12 or so times, so it seems right that I would just buy my own danged copy.

Giant Days by John Allison is another library read that I decided to just buy. This collection of the first four issues of the comic was one of the best things I read last year, and buying a copy of it only cost $10, minus my B&N discount.

The next two books I bought on whims, particularly The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin. I don’t really know much about this book, except that it’s science fiction, but the spine was so handsome, and the cover pulled on me.

The Dispossessed

Finally, on my last bookstore trip, I picked up Robin Hobb’s Dragon Keeper. I have never read a book by Robin Hobb before, and it’s been a long time since I’ve read a thick fantasy mass market about dragons, so I thought this would be a good one to snag. I’m actually about a third of the way through it now, and, well…I thought I would like this more. There are some aspects of it that have become cliche in stories now, like one of the main characters describing her appearance as she looks in a mirror and judging herself to be oh-so-plain. And as much as I love character development, I feel like I’ve read a lot of book for such a small amount of plot to have happened so far. Maybe I’ll like it more as I go? But really, I’m starting to think this is something I’d have been better off snapping up at the library.

That’s all I bought last month. But hey, I’m going to Harvard Square with a friend this weekend, so chances are I’ll have quite a few more books to talk about at the end of February.

Any thoughts on these purchases? What have you bought for your bookshelves, and do you have any regrets?

January 26, 2016 / Angela Sylvia

What’s Cluttering My Desk? Fairy Tales and Doodles

A look at my desk when I’m in the middle of things (especially when I’m not preparing for other humans to come and visit and see my mess) is a good way to get a sense of what I’m working on, and potentially my emotional state.

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With the overall look of it, I seem to be in a pretty good place! I have some notebook stacks, and I still haven’t found a home for the new pack of multi-colored Sharpies I bought, but the only coffee mug in view is the one I’m currently drinking out of, and there is a minimum of crumpled up used tissues.

Desk booksI have a couple other books that are just out of the frame in the first photo, but these are the ones I’ve been flipping through while sitting in my chair. Show Your Work! is another Austin Kleon book that I find helpful, with advice on how to share the things I do and connect with people online. I actually read this one before Steal Like an Artist, but that was from the library, so this one is still waiting for me to completely deface it with those brand new Sharpies.

I’ve also been flipping through my copy of The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales. I’m working on another story idea, and I’ve been borrowing some elements from fairy tales. How do I help myself with that? By reading more fairy tales. (Really, I should always read more fairy tales…)

Notebooks and DoodlesThis pile of notebooks represents Becky, which is currently getting critiqued, and my new middle grade fantasy, which I’m calling The Witch’s Woods for right now. I don’t want to say too much about the plot or the characters, but I’ve been gathering the pieces of it for a couple of months, and now I believe I finally have the clumpy, pudding-like consistency of an actual plot, so I’ve begun writing it. I’m excited for this one — I hope I don’t hate it in a week.

I’ve also got out my notebook where I’ve been drawing and doodling while I try to come up with ideas or wait for my slow computer to load webcomics, and I’m remembering that satisfying feeling of when a drawing comes out sort of right. I’m going to keep at it, and who knows, maybe I’ll start posting a weekly doodle.

And of course, over everything, Sadness watches.

That’s my work space, and (sort of) what I’m working on! How does your desk look right now? Does it become an awful mess when you’re in the midst of a project, or do you manage to keep everything organized and neat?

January 21, 2016 / Angela Sylvia

My Anxiety, Like a Lingering Kick in the Shins

I’m a bit of an anxious person. (No kidding.) But sometimes I feel a little weird, complaining about it. After all, I’ve seen some people who are truly anxious, to a near or actual crippling effect. There are things they actually can not do. My anxiety doesn’t quite keep me from doing things. But boy, it makes it hard.

(Rambly blog post, coming up.)

Read more…

January 19, 2016 / Angela Sylvia

What to Do While Waiting for Critiques on Your Manuscript; A List

I finished another edit on my manuscript. I sent it to my critique partner, posted it in my new writing group, and gave everyone over a month to get back to me with any kind of response.

Now I’m waiting.

And I’m trying to figure out what to do in the meantime.

Here are some ideas.

  • Go back to that other manuscript you shelved for a little while…though you’re sure you still need to wait on it.
  • Take on the vague story idea and do some research so you can slap some more vague ideas on it and maybe get something that resembles a plot.
  • Actually blog on your blog.
  • Read. Read a lot. (You need to read more kids books anyway.)
  • Actually clean your house, maybe finish unpacking those half full boxes in the basement.
  • Draw.
  • COLOR.
  • Critique everything you can on your writing group. (Oh wow I should actually do that one.)
  • Just keep writing. Something. Every day. Whether it’s a story or a query letter or a weird listy blog post and even if you don’t think you’ll ever do anything with it, keep writing, because it’s the only thing that consistently makes you feel like you, that makes you feel like you accomplished something with your day, and keeps you sane enough that the people you care about can tolerate you being around.

Yeah. Those might be a start.

January 7, 2016 / Angela Sylvia

2016 Goals for Writing, Reading, and Life

Happy New Year, all! I’m pretty bad at making New Year’s Resolutions, partly because I never take the time to really think about it. What do I want for myself? How to I want to become better, or what good do I want to continue doing?

I came up with a few goals for the year. Some might change, some might get replaced by new goals as the year stretches on. But right now, these are the hopes I have for myself.

  • Keep on writing. Boy, that sounds obvious. But, I feel like I have to keep reminding myself that writing is a thing that it’s okay for me to do, that it makes me feel more whole and probably makes me an easier person to be around when it’s done. It’s hard to push away the thoughts that I should be doing other things: visiting people, working more hours, folding that laundry already. But writing is something good that I keep managing to get away with that makes me happy, so I want to make sure that I keep a place for it in my schedule, no matter how my life shifts and changes.
  • Don’t get pissed if I don’t write. The above being said, life happens, and I don’t always write/edit every day. Sometimes I’m really busy. Sometimes I’m just having a relaxing day lying on the couch with my husband. Sometimes the words just aren’t coming, and I really should start folding that laundry instead. As long as it doesn’t become a habit, it’s not the worst thing to miss it every once in a while.
  • Widen my reading. I feel like I read a big variety of books. But, there are genres I wish I read more of, like memoir, or that I want to get back into, like epic sweeping fantasy. Or books I want to try out more of, like narrative nonfiction or handy-dandy self help books.
  • Read more children’s books. A specific one, but also, I feel, necessary. I don’t feel I read enough children’s books last year. And I’m trying to write children’s books. So I really need to work on that.
  • Stop dwelling on things. Oh, this is actually really hard. If I’m left to my own devices for too long, I start thinking about all the things I’m angry or sad or regretful about, and oh boy that just ruins the day. These include events that happened way back in my childhood that probably no one remembers except for me, and I really need to move on and stop letting things ratchet up my anxiety and send me crashing into the ground.
  • Deal with my anxiety better. I got much better at dealing with anxiety last year. I’ve started removing myself from situations, I breathe, I exercise more (especially when I know I’ll be entering an anxiety-inducing situation). Now I want to get even better at it.
  • Stop being so critical of other people. John and Hank Green have a quote that I’m massively paraphrasing, that one of the problems with the world is a failure to imagine others as complexly as we imagine ourselves. I’ve started to do that with little made up stories of why that person yelled at me at work, or thought it necessary to cut me off on a rainy highway, and that keeps me from being so mad. Which keeps me from dwelling. Which is good for my anxiety! (It’s all coming together.)

Those are some thoughts for betterment I have for myself. What about you? Any resolutions about writing, reading, or life in general? Are my goals ridiculous? Let me know, and have a great year.

December 15, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Favorite Books in 2015 (Novels, Girl Comics, and Ghost Eyes)

The year is almost over! I read a lot of books this year, and most of them were great. But I can’t list everything in one post, so here are some books that outshone all the other wonderful things I read this year. Read more…

December 10, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Moments in Editing: When You Can’t Sit Still

After so many days of staring at the file on your computer, you finally get over yourself and open up the critiques on your story. The comments are positive, but there are problems, you knew there were problems, and you’re glad that people are pointing out the things you can’t see on your own. You see the difficulty you’re going to have reworking parts of your story, but most of the solutions pop out to you.

Then, you see that one comment. The one that makes you think, the one that makes you realize that maybe you didn’t figure out your characters as much as you thought. The one you know requires changing more than a couple of sentences.

There’s no easy solution to this, but your brain starts sparking and firing. New ideas pummel you from the inside, so you can’t sit still. You jump from a chair, you walk in a circle, you move in a way that will actually match your pounding heartbeat so your brain can slow down for half a second, and you start to see it. You start to see your answer, and with that answer you start to see your story and your characters clearer than you ever have before.

Maybe you don’t see how to fix it… but you see how you can start to fix it, you see how if you follow through and do this right, your story will be better and more true than it was before.

Because of that comment that you finally took the time to read.

You take a deep breath. You go back to your chair. You pick up your pen, and you begin to writ.

December 8, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Girls Comics Today (I’m So Jealous…)

I think I’ve always been a comic reader. I read Archie comics sporadically, and each Sunday it was of vital importance that I read every single strip in the funny pages — yes, even Doonesbury. I bought Garfield collections and started filling up a shoe box with issues of Sonic the Hedgehog and Knuckles the Echidna.

But one thing was obvious, as I started moving into more story-based things: there weren’t a lot of comics, or graphic novels, meant for girls. There were some things, like Betty and Veronica, but nothing that appealed to the other stories I loved, fantasy and adventure, or even stories that just focused so deeply on characters and their problems. No, those were in “boy” stories, in super hero comics that didn’t usually appeal to me.

20151208_101015.jpgMaybe that’s why I fell so hard into manga. The first volume of manga I ever bought was Cardcaptor Sakura, where a girl gains magical powers and fights monsters in outfits designed by her best friend. On the cover she’s decked out in pink and is surrounded by swirling ribbons. This was a story made for girls, and I was so hooked.

Fushigi Yuugi, Mars, Kodocha, Magic Knight Rayearth — manga was an embarrassment of riches when it came to girls comics, even with the limited choice available when I first started reading. And I read plenty of “boy” manga, too, Inu Yasha and Rurouni Kenshin, but even a lot of those stories seemed to have a sense of their large female audience, so saying it was a shonen (“boy”) comic really more of a category than a directive.

Flash forward to nowadays. Now there are loads of lady comic artists/writers who were reading funny pages and Archie around the same time as me, and they are making their own comics for girls. There’s Smile and Sisters by Reina Telgemeier, Cece Bell’s El Deafo, Faith Erin Hicks and Friends with Boys, and Lumberjanes, oh my goodness Lumberjanes. A bunch of girls solving ciphers and fighting monster and preventing petulant gods from taking over the world and falling in love! Even some of those super hero comics that had never appealed to me would have been amazing when I was twelve, with Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and the new Ms. Marvel. And of course, there’s more shojo manga around than I would have ever been able to read.

Lumberjanes!

I’m jealous of these girls today, finding comics made for them, sitting in easy reach in the front of book stores, waiting to be checked out from their school libraries. There are so many wonderful, special things being down with comics that I didn’t even know I craved when I was a kid. So many different stories for them to devour and grow up with and remember fondly as a part of their childhoods.

 

Readers! Did you read comics as a kid? What did you love and collect? Are you as jealous of kids comics today as I am?

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