In honor of kids everywhere, I’m back with one of my favorite posts: Real Quotes from Real Kids. They say the best things. I give them credit for every funny thing you think I’ve ever said and since it’s Children’s Book Week, it’s only fair to out my darlings as they’ve inspired every book I’ve written and am in the process of writing.
Here are some latest gems:
1. “Mom, I don’t know that I have an hour a week to schedule you in.” (when asked if we could possibly spend some time together.)
2. “I’m NEVER going to dye my hair! (condescending look my way) Anyway, it’s good to look old in my future profession.” (medieval history.) (hmmm…wonder who that was?)
3. “If I ever run an orphanage we’re going to have fun! And I’ll have Daddy cook!”
4. “I’m marking my territory.” (In response to strewing clothes and personal items allllll over the house.)
5. “When I’m at the pinnacle of success, I’m buying myself a Rolex.”
6. “How do you NOT KNOW HOW TO MAKE NACHOS??!!!? It’s a LIFE SKILL!”
7. “WAIT! Don’t leave me at my darkest hour!” (bedtime stalling tactics)
8. “Take the book away! The temptation is just too great!” (more bedtime stalling tactics)
9. “Mommy, (great worried brow) can you get pneumonia from an ice pack?”
10. “Mom. We’re not there yet.” (when asked to reveal love life secrets.)
11. “I loved your book, Mom…I’m just sad I didn’t get my own personal dedication.” (but they did in the acknowledgements!)
The secret to great writing? I think it’s eavesdropping on the children 🙂 Everything is copy.
Books! Podcasts! Shows and Songs! Here’s what I’ve been loving the last three months.
First: BOOKS. Got book goals? I keep track using a notebook (and pink ball point pen) and the Goodreads Reading Challenge. Haven’t signed up? It’s free, easy, and a great way to track books.
Here’s what I’ve read (and liked!) since January:
1. Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes: An inspirational kick-in-the-pants guide to what happens when you say YES to more opportunities. A bold account from a minority woman in show business, self-described introvert, writer (creator of hit shows Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal), and single mother. I went back and forth between, “I need to say yes to more,” and “This is exhausting. Can I have a nap?” But no doubt about it: Shonda Rhimes is a FORCE.
3. IQ by Joe Ide: The lovely literary agent, Zoe Sandler, sent me IQ and the follow-up, RIGHTEOUS, as she also represents Joe Ide. What I liked: A Sherlock Holmes in the hood mystery, and a needed diverse teen figure in literature. What was hard: the language. Like, it ain’t for the faint in heart. I’m kinda faint.
4. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: This one is getting all the feels, and for good reason. I’m a sucker for a great family drama, and Celeste Ng can articulate the great nuances in family life SO WELL.
6. The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn: As a huge “Rear Window” Hitchcock fan, I dove right into this psychological thriller. Does she see what she thinks she sees – or is Anna crazy? A satisfying page-turner.
7. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion: A stunning, unflinching account of Joan Didion’s husband’s death, daughter’s illness, and navigating the world without them. Sad, but heartbreakingly readable. I loved this.
9. A Deadly Wandering by Matt Richtel: Have a phone? Do your children have phones? Do they drive? Read this RIGHT NOW. So sad, so scary. DON’T TOUCH YOUR PHONE WHILE DRIVING. Your brain cannot pay attention to more than one thing at a time. Think you’re the exception? You’re not.
10. How We Die by Sherwin B. Nuland: Nuland writes that most people don’t die with “dignity.” Calm and descriptive, Dr. Nuland breaks death down from the point of view of the body. Fascinating – and also disconcerting. I kinda thought it wouldn’t happen to me. It will. I’ve been thinking about my coronary arteries a lot more.
11. Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast: I DO NOT enjoy graphic novels. I LOVED this one. NYTimes Bestselling cartoonist, Roz Chast, wrote a memoir about her parents aging and dying (what’s up with my reading choices?). Honest, funny, poignant. It’s so so good. Highly recommended!
12. The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant: I’ve finally read Anita Diamant! All the girls and the cousins and the moms in my family raved about this book until I finally read. A good coming-of-age novel about a Jewish immigrant becoming a woman in 1900 America.
In an attempt to resurrect my foul mood regarding the month of January, let’s reflect on our best friend, BOOKS. Do you keep track of what you read? I wish I’d done it my whole life. It’s fascinating to know what I pick up next and see what kind of trends are trending in my brain…
Of course I have my trusty journal with pink uni-ball pen, but last year I also began keeping track through the Goodreads challenge. My goal was 50 books. I read 33. For 2018, I again put 50 as my goal again because I’m unrealistically optimistic and gosh darn it, there are BOOKS TO READ (and less People.com stories to scroll through. am I right?)
Friend Annie, has an app, and has the ambitious goal of 52 books (one a week!) Do you have a goal?
Let’s get really nerdy for a moment. Of the 33 books I read, here’s a breakdown, with my favorite book for each category (SO HARD to decide!):
Interestingly, of the nine memoir/inspirational reads, only 2 were male authors (Clayton Christenson and Eben Alexander.) Memoir is dominated by female authors, which makes me wonder if men are writing their stories down…
It’s very obvious that I’m drawn to stories with family drama. Favorites will make me laugh AND cry. ALL of the books read this year were realistic fiction or nonfiction. I read no fantasy, speculative, or dystopian. As for my children? Nobody but me and Gregor likes realistic fiction all that much. Does this mean I lack imagination??? But even as a child, I disliked it. Judy Blume couldn’t get write fast enough for me!
I only read one book with one of my children: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert C. O’Brien. This makes me kind of sad as daily reading with a child dominated much of my activity in earlier years. I’m determined to find books to read with Brynne and Paige this year (Brynne is reading The Help right now, on my suggestion.)
Since we’re breaking down the entertainment, here were a few other 2017 Favorites:
TV Shows: Mercy Street (LOVE), John Adams, Chicago PD, Blue Bloods, Hart of Dixie (so cheesey, but that Lemon!), The Crown, Poldark, Victoria, This is Us, The Good Doctor, Turn.
Geez, I could get a lot more reading done with all that time the above, ahem…
Movies: Wonder, Darkest Hour, Dunkirk, and The Greatest Showman (although historically suspect, I loved the acting and the music is tremendous!)
Podcasts: Happier with Gretchen Rubin, Helping Writers Become Authors with K.M. Weilland, Modern Love by the New York Times, and the 10-Minute Writer’s Workshop.
Whew! That’s fun. Okay, your turn. What do I have to get to this year???
I am so very very grateful. It’s been a long haul, which I will tell you all about, but for now, let’s just admire the jacket cover art (which I’ve grown to adore.)
That’s Guinevere St. Clair on top of the tractor. Jimmy and Micah are down below wondering what the heck Gwyn is doing. Also: it’s midnight.
I just love these kids (they are very real to me!) and I hope you will love them too.
The book is being released by Simon and Schuster on June 12, 2018, but you can pre-order now and make my day, and when I see you I will give you a big kiss! Or at least a hug. Not your thing? My undying gratitude.
I’ve read that when you ask people to pre-order your book, you should offer them a *Bonus “thank you” gift. Well, here’s what I’ve got: my heart and soul, years of my life, tears, toiling, and my greatest wish – a story that I hope you will never forget 🙂
PBS masterpiece, John Adams, Chicago PD, Hart of Dixie (only because of Lemon Breeland!), and currently it’s Amazon’s Vikings. The battle scenes are so violent that I have to constantly close my eyes, but I’m drawn to the culture and the curiosity and clash between paganism and christianity. Also: Lagertha.
New York Times, Modern Love, Happier with Gretchen Rubin, and KM Weiland’s How to Help Writers Become Authors.
And…that’s all folks! What are you reading, watching, and listening to?
Make sure to scroll to the bottom for a book giveaway!
One of my favorite children’s author’s, Jessica Lawson, is visiting Maisymak today with the September 5th release of her fourth book, UNDER THE BOTTLE BRIDGE, by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. You can add it to your Goodreads account HERE, and see it up on Amazon here.
If you haven’t read Jessica’s other books, I highly recommend them! (I especially loved WAITING FOR AUGUSTA, so apropo for the times we live in.) Jessica has an incredible grasp of language and uses such clever turns of phrases – I’ve learned a lot from this girl (she’s also the gal I credit for helping me land my own literary agent, woo hoo!)
SEASONS OF CHANGE
by Jessica Lawson
Thank you, Amy, for having me on your blog! UNDER THE BOTTLE BRIDGE will be released on September 5. For anyone wanting an early peek, I’m giving away one advanced reader copy. I’ll choose a winner from any comments on this post (winner will be chosen on August 28).
Autumn has always been my favorite season—it’s a time of such visible and internal changes as nature glides toward its annual sunset. Leaves burst into brilliant colors, then fade, then fall off. It’s metaphor-city for an author (and a welcome way to work cloves, cinnamon, and pumpkin-flavored anything into a story).
In UNDER THE BOTTLE BRIDGE, my main character Minna Treat is not ready to become a teenager. She’s been raised by her uncle, who has a huge collection of parenting books. Minna’s read all of them, and she’s learned enough about the teen years to be nervous for what’s ahead. Here’s an excerpt from the book as an example:
According to the award-winning book Natural Disasters: Emergency Parenting for the Teen Years, youth and innocence were basically over once age thirteen hit, and I needed to be as self-grounded as possible to anchor myself for the “deluge of tumultuous, volatile changes ahead.” If I didn’t have complete faith and confidence in myself as a person before the clock struck TEENAGER, I’d get swept away by some kind of giant invisible flood.
Between that kind of doomsday talk and the fact that my thirteenth birthday was three months away, I felt like I was on my own personal deadline for finding out exactly who “Minna” was before the very last autumn of my childhood was over.
While I wasn’t as apprehensive about the big 1-3 as Minna is, I definitely had reservations about growing up.
At the beginning of sixth grade, I had just moved to a new state. I knew nobody and was starting middle school. I adored elementary school and mourned its ending. Kindergarten to 5th grade was a 6-year-long season in my life that was golden. Everyone started changing a bit after 5th grade. They started growing up and having new concerns that I didn’t share, and it all sort of broke my heart. I was not ready.
I resisted mainly by being myself. I did not wear trendy clothes. I wore things like solid color sweatpants with different-solid-color sweatshirts. I did not wear makeup. There was no “going with” boys for me like there was for the other girls, nor did I want that. I did not get asked to any dances and was relieved, because dancing in public seemed like something I’d rather not do.
I was incredibly shy. But while I struggled a bit socially, other areas were smooth sailing. I was good at school and good at sports and I liked to read. Those things made all the difference.
I liked my teachers and classes. My report cards were thumbs-up. Though I went on to be a Varsity soccer team starter for all four years of high school, in seventh grade, there was no girls team at my middle school. So I tried out for the boys’ team. I made it. Boys did not like being slide-tackled by a girl. Grades and sports did not win me friends. But they gave me the confidence to continue resisting the pressure to “grow up” in ways that I wasn’t ready to. Plus I was a very Late Bloomer, which gave me a natural resistance. The P-word, Puberty, did not pay me a visit until my senior year of high school. I sometimes wonder if my body was simply waiting until my heart was ready for a change in seasons.
In a way, Minna finds refuge in the advice that parenting books give her—she figures that if she knows what’s ahead, there can’t be any hurt or pain. Not to spoil things, but the parenting books do not prepare Minna for what happens in this book. Like autumn leaves shifting colors from green to red and orange and yellow and brown, change sometimes happens whether we want it to or not. Writing this book was a catharsis for me in that way. You can’t always know what lies ahead, but you can choose who is in the boat with you while you weather any storms and celebrate any sunny skies.
And now that I’ve changed from autumn metaphors to sea travel metaphors, I believe that’s my cue to end this post. Readers, do you have a favorite season of the calendar year, or a favorite season in your life?
In the weeks leading up to Gilbreth, New York’s annual AutumnFest, twelve-year-old woodcraft legacy Minna Treat is struggling with looming deadlines, an uncle trying to hide Very Bad News, and a secret personal quest. When she discovers mysterious bottle messages under one of the village’s 300-year-old bridges, she can’t help but wonder who’s leaving them, what they mean, and, most importantly…could the messages be for her? Along with best friend Crash and a mystery-loving newcomer full of suspicious theories, Minna is determined to discover whether the bottles are miraculously leading her toward long-lost answers she’s been looking for, or drawing her into a disaster of historic proportions.
Thank you, Jess! I can’t wait to read this.
Dear readers, please leave a comment – do you have a favorite season of the calendar year, or a favorite season in your life?
Could you help an author out? Please help me share this upcoming release by hitting the share buttons on the bottom of this post – Facebook, Twitter, Email, or any other social media button you’d like.
2. Pax by Sara Pennypacker. Middle grade, especially recommended for the kids (and adults) who love anthropomorphic animal stories (which I don’t normally gravitate towards.)
3. Eloise Wilkin Stories. Oh, the hand-drawn and painted baby faces, the chubby hands, cheeks, and legs. Simply exquisite. I snatched this at a children’s book exchange…for myself. My admiration for Wilkin was cemented after reading her children’s tribute to their mother. Their love is palpable as they wrote of their enormously talented and creative mother.
4. On Living, by Kerry Egan. Nonfiction. Really, really good. As a hospice chaplain, Egan writes of the “spiritual work of dying.” Sound depressing? It’s not at all! So much wisdom here.
5. A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote. Nonfiction. That Capote character is an intriguing chap. Capote was Harper Lee’s childhood friend (he was who “Dill” was based off of). Jealous of Lee’s success and her “little bird book,” he was a great writer in his own right. And so very very odd. Here’s a look at his rural Alabama upbringing. It’s good!
6. Still Life by Louise Penny. An adult mystery. I realized about 3/4 of the way through I’d already read it. The writing is good, but was easy for me to put down.
7. The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon. The Professor looooved this. I liked it. The year is 1968. Lynnie is developmentally slow and therefore deemed “undesirable.” Locked away in an institution, she falls in love with Homan, an African American deaf man. This is their love story. Some of our American history is so appalling.
8. Waiting for Augusta by Jessica Lawson. I LOVED this book. Favorite middle grade read in a long time. I’ve enjoyed all of Jessica’s books, but this one especially. The voice is pitch perfect, making me laugh out loud, and also want to cry (my perfect combo.) I envy her use of language and found myself dog-earring pages to study a turn of phrase. It begins: “Eleven-year-old Benjamin Putter has a lump in his throat, and he’s certain it’s a golf ball…?” With a subplot of race relations, it’s tells the story of one boy’s journey to find his father’s love.
9. Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult. As a lover of all thing Jodi Picoult, this ranks as a favorite. It hurt my heart, made me cry, feel ashamed, offended, offensive, uncomfortable, happy, and sad. A page-turner of a book about race in America. Destined to become a book club favorite. Read it. And may we all do better.
Are you participating in the Goodreads Challenge? It’s fun! My goal is 50 books this year and I’m on track, baby!
What I’m Watching:
1. Mercy Street. LOVE it. This series is so well-made and written, it’s got me reading about typhoid in the civil war HERE, and a Behind the Lens HERE. Mercy Street is a civil war medical drama, and it’s got it all – love, loss, betrayal, redemption, jealousy, historical complexities, race, war, amputations (we’ve come so far in the medical field). There’s blood and some seriously realistic surgeries, but it’s so clean and SO GOOD. PBS, can you do no wrong? I think not. (Free on Amazon Prime.)
1. Ed Sheerhan’s new album, Divide. What a great album! My favorites (on repeat and downloaded for my recent running race): Perfect, Galway Girl, Dive, Happier, Supermarket Flowers (sob!), Nancy Mulligan.
And now, do tell – what are you reading, watching, and listening to these days?
What I love about summer? More reading time. One day I told Paige we were having a reading hour right in the middle of the morning. We laid on my bed for a whole hour and read. It was quite blissful and I vowed to make a daily habit. It wasn’t, but I encourage you to lay aside tasks and chores and television for more words and books.
Paige finished the 7th Harry Potter book – a huge feat for a 9-year-old, but especially gratifying as this was my child who did not care much for reading; it was too hard! But then she discovered Harry. She was in mourning for days with a beloved Harry book to read, but I pushed Laura Ingalls and she’s enamored with a whole other world once again.
I just love good books. Here are my summer reads: what I loved and what I didn’t.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah: Covers WWII in France and serves as a warning of how insidious Hitler’s type of evil can spread. Hard to read at times as it deals with the choices mothers and fathers are forced to make during wartime. Really well written and definitely worth the read! And it will make you cry and pray for peace.
2. The Book of Mormon: I read this often, almost everyday, and always learn new life insights. It’s changed my life. And it’s free 🙂
5. The Self-Care Solution by Julie Burton: Julie reached out to me and asked if I would read and review her new book. It was terrific, a read mothers should read, study, and heed. I’ve got a copy to give away to the first person who asks! I’d love to send it your way. Congrats, Julie!
6. Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee: I resisted for months – who dares to complicate or cast a shadow on my favorite of books, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD? Alas, I opened the book and was quite delighted with Scout, all grown up. There’s so much controversy over the discovery of this manuscript (Google it – fascinating!), but I’m most intrigued by the fact it was the first draft of what would become her great classic. It shows the great power of an editor!
8. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman: I loved this. The movie is coming out in September and Cope and I will be first in line! A great love story. How far would you go for the one you loved? Would you let your wife keep a baby that wasn’t really hers – even under serendipitous circumstances? What would you do if someone tried to take away your only child? The writing is tremendous – and you will cry! My favorite type of book 🙂
9. Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty: My BFF librarian, Gail, ordered Moriarty’s new book and personally handed it over as soon as it came in. What a gal, right!? As always, Moriarty nails character. She always makes me laugh and think. I didn’t love the plot as much as her other books, but I still enjoyed the read.
10. Hamilton, The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter: This book is the score, with footnotes on how each original Broadway cast member was cast, and the long road of writing such a brilliant work of art. Hamilton, the Musical is now an 11-times Tony-award winning hip-hop musical on broadway. Don’t like musicals? Put that aside. This is unlike anything you’ve ever heard or listened to.
Have you ever wondered how a tiny band of scholars and mercenaries defeated the greatest superpower in the world? And then went on to write a Bill of Rights and Constitution, something never before seen or heard in the world?
Do you know anything about Alexander Hamilton? “Every other founding father’s story gets told. Every other founding father gets to grow old.” Lin-Manuel has put Hamilton’s extraordinary life to music in the form of a rap: “How does a rag tag volunteer army in need of a shower, somehow defeat a global superpower?”
I’m OBSESSED with the genius of it all. Back story: Lin-Manuel Miranda was on vacation reading ALEXANDER HAMILTON by Rob Chernow. He was struck by the brilliant, young, ambitious founding father and told his wife, “I think this could be a hip-hop musical.” She didn’t laugh. Instead: “That would be cool.” And so it began. Chernow’s book is on my list. The girls and I don’t drive anywhere without blasting and rapping Hamilton lyrics (to Nelson’s great embarrassment). There are a few expletives…beware. It will make you grateful for America, it will make you want to “rise up!”, and it will make you cry. It’s SO GOOD!
It opens with a Will Rogers quote: “Too many people spend money they haven’t earned to buy things they don’t want to impress people they don’t like.”
Isn’t it funny? Even as adults we’re still trying to impress each other.
Warning: Reading this book may lead to the frantic purging of closets, drawers and cupboards that require multiple trips to Goodwill and the curb. This behavior may also leave you feeling like the weight of the world is off your back … at least that was my reaction after just two dressers.
I often wonder about this phenomenon; why do we feel so much better when we get rid of stuff? What is it about stuff that is so burdensome?
He’s right – it’s important stuff. I’m spreading the word!
The book begins with a story: “Our two-car garage, as always, was full of stuff. Boxes stacked one on top of another threatened to fall off shelves. Bikes were tangled together, leaned against a wall … Rakes and shovels and brooms leaned every which way. Some days we’d have to turn sideways when getting in and out of our cars to squeeze through the mess that filled the garage.”
Oh my gosh, he’s been in my garage!
Reading prompted multiple questions: Why are we working such long, hard hours just so we can buy, collect and store stuff?
Why? What’s the point of it all?
As a society we may be working more, but for what? I don’t want to live in a tree house, but my lifestyle is certainly far more extravagant than my parents, and far far more luxurious than my grandparents and their grandparents! I have a feeling they would be astounded at our wealth – I’ve seen the pictures of their poverty.
It’s hard for us in different ways. We’ve created a lifestyle that requires us to work longer hours, find multiple jobs, and make dual incomes. To alleviate the stress, many of us make it worse: We buy more (dopamine hit!)
And then, to take care of all our stuff, we have to clean it, organize it, buy more containers to organize it, and spend our precious weekends moving our stuff from one location to the other.
STOP the insanity!
We don’t really need to own all this stuff.
These were the words that changed Becker’s world in 2008 while talking to his elderly next-door neighbor as he struggled to clean his garage. While pulling out dusty, underused possessions, Becker noticed his son alone in the backyard. His son had wanted to play with him that morning, but alas, dad was too busy. “The juxtaposition of the two scenes dug deep into my heart, and I began to recognize the source of my discontent for the first time. … It was piled in my driveway.”
This moment is when Becker’s journey into minimalism began.
The whole point is this: “Our excessive possessions are not making us happy. Even worse, they are taking us away from the things that do. Once we let go of the things that don’t matter, we are free to pursue all the things that really do matter.”
Using both scientific studies and anectdotal stories, Becker tells us what our closets are telling us:
In America, we consume twice as many material goods as 50 years ago. Over the same period, the size of the average American home has nearly tripled and contains about 300,000 items. On average, our homes contain more televisions than PEOPLE! Home organization is now an $8 billion industry and still, one of out every 10 American households rents off-site storage, “the fastest-growing segment of the commercial real-estate industry over the past four decades.”
We Americans have a personal-debt problem, with the average household’s credit card debt over $15,000 and the average mortgage debt over $150,000.
Debt makes us very very unhappy.
Becker wants us to see our overstuffed homes for what they are: distractions from the source of true happiness like relationships, free time, financial freedom and less stress.
He acknowledges it’s not easy, particularly for families with children, pets, and a lifetime of momentos. It takes a hard look and family agreement to know how to realistically downsize. It can take months and even years to change our habits and actually own less. I’m finding this to be true.
I’ve kept my sun-bleached lifeguarding hair for TWENTY YEARS.
I made these crayfish claw earrings for my sister as a joke in high school or college. She kindly regifted them to me. I bravely tossed them. And now I’m actually sad because they’d make a great gag gift! See? That’s another reason we don’t throw away – sometimes we regret it!
A small white statue with a broken arm. It has sentimental value, but alas, it has sat at the back of my drawer for decades.
Do I really need a dusty tassle?
What this is and where did it come from?
Brynne has also caught the decluttering bug. Outside her bedroom I heard her say, “Paige! You can’t keep it! Does it SPARK JOY???!”
I purged most of our CDs and many many movies that I can stream from Spotify or Netflix.
I’ve still got drawers and file cabinets and rooms to go, but it feels SO SO good to have less stuff.
Read this book! (and no, I’m not getting anything out of this review.) Becker makes such a great case, I’m convinced that if we followed a path of minimalism (owning less stuff) we would reap the benefits Becker is seeing all over the minimalist world: greater joy, more contentment, increased generosity, more high-quality possessions, a better example to our children, less work for ourselves and others, less comparison, less distraction, and freedom to pursue what we were really put on this earth to do.
Though its not a religious book, Becker is a preacher (love that). He’s a seeker of happiness and enlightenment. He recounts the story of the rich man who asks Jesus what he can do to gain eternal life. Jesus says to sell all that he has, give it to the poor, and follow him. But when the young man “heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.”
I recently read in the New York Times, that it’s not possible to be an atheist: we all worship something. A good question for us all: What are we worshipping?
The More of Less was released on May 3 and after its first week, landed on many National Bestseller Lists:
USA Today Bestsellers List: #10 in Nonfiction; #2 in Self-Help