Monday, November 25, 2013

#READATHON

I cannot believe that it's time again for Liza Weimer's annual Read-a-thon.

Here's the basic idea: Read and give. 

That's it. 

You pledge to donate based on the amount you read during the read-a-thon. You can pick an amount per page ( a penny a page, a dime a page, etc.) or an amount per book (a dollar a book, five dollars a book). 

Then, you spend the weekend of December 6th-8th reading and donate your pledged amount to the charity of your choice. 

It's hosted by Liza Weimer-- sign up at her blog. Liza's readathon was the inspiration for the I Dig Reading Challenge that I host year-round. 

You can tweet about it over the weekend with the hashtag #readathon, and Liza's hosting a twitter party on December 8th from 9-10 EST with prizes, etc. 

Are you planning on participating in the challenge?


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What's up, November?

What's up Wednesday 


What is up, my friends?  It has been much too long. 

The last two months with baby Alice seem at times like the blink of an eye and at other times like a million years of sleeplessness, tiredness, and also sweet moments with the older boys and lots and lots of laughing. I'm completely smitten with this baby and she is thankfully very sweet and likes to sleep. (She also likes to eat every two hours on the dot, around the clock, but that I can handle). 

It was only last fall when at book club (of course book club-- lots of wine was flowing!) I mentioned that my husband and I wanted to have another baby, but didn't think we could afford it. My book club mates, also imbibing, pointed out that if we always waited for things to be "perfect", especially financially, nothing would ever happen. 

Here I am a year later and so happy for that encouragement. Alice has already brought so much fun and joy into our family. She is super and I can't imagine our family without her. 

On to What's Up Wednesday!

 What's Up Wednesday is a weekly meme, started by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk, that helps readers and writers touch base with blog friends and let them know what's up. Join by visiting their blogs and signing in on the widget.

What I'm Reading
Nursing at all hours of the night and day, not to mention being couch bound for a couple of weeks due to extreme anemia, really gives you time to get some reading done. 

It has been two months of excellent reading. 

I finished Finnikin of the Rock by the masterful Marchetta. LOVED it. No surprise there. On to the next!

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Lovely and encouraging book for writers. I heard her first on one of my favorite all-time episodes of This American Life. She is so funny and delightful. 

SHIFT omnibus by Hugh Howey. The sequel to WOOL is every bit as good as the first. This is an indie worth reading.

Crazy River: Exploration and Folly in East Africa by Richard Grant. This travelougue is part history of the region (but fascinatingly written, not dry) and part adventure journal. If took me right back to my trip to Kenya last year. Grant is an excellent writer and his travels are worth exploring. I would recommend this to anyone traveling to East Africa for the first time. 

The Butler by Will Haygood. I haven't seen the movie, but I think I will enjoy it more. The Butler the book was more like a series of magazine articles. I wanted a lot more depth in the subject, which I think the movie provides (though it's usually the opposite!).

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. This book was well-written and really cool in concept, but it wasn't for me. Please understand I'm not disparaging the writing in any way-- this is just a preference thing. In this stage of my life I'm looking for a like-able main character and my favorite books tend to have a redemptive plot line. The music scene Egan depicts over time is pretty rad and the characters are fully realized and quirky (though I hate to use that word because it seems like I'm saying they're "wacky" and they're not-- they are unique and complex). 

Pastoralia by George Saunders. Now this book is wacky. This was a book club pick and I'm glad for the uniqueness of my book club. These short stories were downright off-the-wall, but interesting in their own way. For me, they were saved by the fact of being short stories-- so if I found one excruciating, it was over quickly. The motivational speaker with the analogy of people in your life who are "crapping in your oatmeal" {story: Winky} saved this book, but it was a tough read at times (for me), again because I love a like-able character and a redemptive storyline. These were often short stories about people caught in surreal yet crushing lives, with not a lot of like-ability to go around.  

Still working on A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn and Lies my Teacher Told Me
Uh, these make American Thanksgiving a little hard to stomach, but continue to fascinate. 

I'm also reading The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon and The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan, but as I just downloaded FAULT LINE by the LOVELY and TALENTED Christa Desir, these will have to take a back seat. 



What I'm Writing
I imagine it will surprise no one that the writing has taken a back seat these last few weeks. 

If you recall what I was working on this summer, I was able to complete edits on Mina Takes the Sky before Alice's arrival. I'm still awaiting feedback there. 

I was able to complete the tenure packet-- that was submitted about ten days after Alice's birth. I then went to Hartford for an interview with the committee in October. I think I made sense, considering I was working on no more than two hours of consecutive sleep for six weeks. Now I'm waiting to hear the verdict...

In other writing, I'm taking my trunked post-apocalyptic/dystopia and turning it into a graphic novel acted out by playmobil figures. Just for fun. This is not for commerce. It's not for profit. It's just for me. 
You can see the adventure unravel at my TUMBLR.

Finally, I've been making notes on changes to make to my first manuscript STUNG, and awaiting the time to implement those changes. 


What Inspires Me Right Now
That's simple. 

This  

and this.


P.S.: Here's something for your radar-- the Fourth Annual Holiday #readathon hosted by blogger Liza Weimer will be happening December 6-8th. #Read and #Give.


Put it on your calendar!

Now, What's up with you?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

What's Up Wednesday: baby Alice

This is what's up with me right now!


Alice Katharine
born September 5th
6 pounds, 1 ounce
19 1/2 inches long

The brothers are very excited.
She is very sweet.
I am very tired.

Probably won't do a lot of commenting today... but I will make up for it on subsequent Wednesdays.

Wishing you all the best of life, hope, and joy on this day.




Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What's up Wednesday and Ready. Set. Write! Update


I am sorry to have fallen out of the loop these last weeks, friends. I am still very much in the throes of finishing the things I need to finish before the baby arrives, which could be any time in the next month. 

Ahhh, it's overwhelming but by taking a break from blogging I have managed to get a lot done. 



 What's Up Wednesday is a weekly meme, started by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk, that helps readers and writers touch base with blog friends and let them know what's up. Join by visiting their blogs and signing in on the widget.

What I'm Reading
Still reading Lies my teacher told me. It's good, but it's not a page turner. I continue to work through it slowly. 

Also started Finnikin of the Rock by the masterful Marchetta, until my husband stole it right from under my nose! He's entranced and is almost done. I will get it back next. 

After seeing a cover story on author Hugh Howey in my college alum magazine and realizing we were in school together around the same time and hung out at the same places  (though I don't remember him), I decided to pick up WOOL. 
Wool is, if you don't know, a much-buzzed indie book that gained an enormous following and is now a huge bestseller. Oh my goodness! It's published serially and at the time I got the first installment for free from Amazon. I read it within an hour. 
I totally understand why people LOVE these books. I then ordered the omnibus (all the serialized bits of the first full book, WOOL). I am telling you, if you haven't read it yet-- do. 
It is a truly compelling story with thorough world building, fascinating characters, beautiful use of language and so much intrigue I can't tell what will happen next. I highly recommend it. 

Cold Hands, Warm Heart by Jill Wolfson. A story about a girl who needs a heart transplant, but really about a great deal more. I don't want to give too much away, but I loved the way the author wove together the stories and lives of so many people. I enjoyed it thoroughly.  

This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen. Not my favorite Dessen of all time, but I enjoyed it. She is a dependable, solid writer who I always enjoy. It's not that I didn't like the book-- it just wasn't my fave by her. I loved the kooky musician boyfriend, but Remy was tough to get behind at times. I think I'm too much of a sucker for a likable lead. But don't get me wrong, it's still Dessen (read: excellent).

The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella. Her madcap characters and the ridiculous situations they get themselves into always make me smile. She also tends to write really charming and swoon-worthy male leads. A good read.

Drop Dead Healthy by AJ Jacobs. In this book Jacobs spends over two years trying out various methods in a quest to become the healthiest man alive. Whether exploring noise pollution or caveman exercise routines, Jacobs' approach to health is interesting and multi-faceted. Jacobs is a genuinely funny writer, and I loved reading about all the health fads... though the take home message seems to be most of them don't work.  

Finally, still working through Goblet of Fire with the boys. Good times.

What I'm Writing/ Ready. Set. Write!
Update
Tenure packet (95% complete). I am editing the whole document, waiting for a few last letters to include and have some final organizing to do... then I hope to turn it in. 
Mina Takes the Sky (100% complete). Sent off for another round of feedback. 

Not even attempting to work on these last two right now. They're not on the back burner. They're not even in the kitchen. 
Thirst (9% complete). 
Stung (12% complete)

Where I was at last report:
Tenure packet (71% complete). I feel like I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. 
Mina Takes the Sky (9% complete)
Thirst (9% complete)
Stung (12% complete)

So, things are where they need to be... but the tenure packet feels at times like it will NEVER be complete. I think this last 5% may drag on for weeks. I'm now in the stage where I'm waiting for input and getting it on any kind of schedule is completely beyond my control. Mental health wise, it's not the greatest feeling, especially with the huge unknown of when the baby might arrive. 

But, I keep telling myself it's not "due" until mid-September, and it will all be sorted out by then. It has to be, no matter when the new baby appears. And I've been taking walks and doing some deep breathing. Let's hope it helps. 

What Inspires Me Right Now
We had an awesome birthday party for the boys this weekend, on the theme of SCIENCE. It was so flipping fun. We did some fun experiments, ate great food, and got to spend time with several friends we don't see enough. At the end of the night James said, "that was the best birthday party EVER!" which made me feel all kinds of wonderful. 

And now--  what's up with you?

Monday, July 29, 2013

YA Book club: The Westing Game

Hooray for the YA book club, brainchild of Tracey Neithercott.

This month's selection was The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. What a cool book. I loved the premise-- a huge mystery slash puzzle. Sixteen people are called in to hear the final Will of the millionaire Sam Westing. Someone is accused of being Westing's murderer, and the sixteen potential heirs must use clues to figure out just who is responsible.

I love a good mystery, and part of what mesmerizes me in a good mystery is having the author take you along for the ride but being able to TRUST the author to do it well. I hate when a mystery is poorly planned and the reader either figures it out too early or can tell that the author fudged the results. There is nothing worse, in my book.



Well, the Westing Game by Ellen Raskin passed my test with flying colors. It was an incredibly elaborate mystery that kept me guessing in the most enjoyable way. I did not figure it out early-- I didn't figure it out at all. The few things I could put together were only a small part of the bigger, more elaborate plot.

When the mystery finally culminated at the end it was TOTALLY satisfying, believable, and logical.

I can't recommend this book enough. If you haven't read The Westing Game check it out!

Check out Tracey's blog to find out what the other YA book club members thought of The Westing Game. Then join in-- everyone's welcome!

Have you read The Westing Game? What did you think?


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

What's up: Ready. Set. Create!

You can find a version of this post also at The Kindness Project.

This week I am participating in a creativity boot camp at my University.

Oh. My. Goodness.

It has been incredible.

Universities struggle to engender creativity among students, especially when so much of the educational system requires traditional tests, assessments, and the like. Yet, companies and employers say that they yearn for creative thinkers when they are trying to fill positions.

In this boot camp we've been learning about different schools of thoughts on creativity, what can help us and our students become more creative, and how to incorporate creative thinking and projects into courses and across the curriculum.

It has been so freaking fun! The folks taking part are enthusiastic, talented people creative in all kinds of different ways (not just artists of all sorts, but folks from administration, marketing, economics, mathematics, engineering, and linguistics). They are incredibly inspiring.

The leader is the talented Steven J. Tepper of Vanderbilt, who runs a center there on creativity, enterprise, and policy.

I'll give you the scoop and catch up on Ready. Set. Write! as well as What's Up Wednesday next week!

Until then, have a productive and CREATIVE week!


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

What's Up, Wednesday?

Hey Wednesday, what's up? 

Are you back again already? Where is this summer going?
It seems to be flying by!

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly meme, started by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk, that helps readers and writers touch base with blog friends and let them know what's up. Join by visiting their blogs and signing in on the widget.

What I'm Reading
It has been several weeks, so there's a lot to catch up on. I've been reading a lot of non-fiction!

I'm still working through Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen. Still dense with material and still fascinating!

Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink-- I received this as an ARC and have not been able to put it down. It's nonfiction, and about the purported cases of euthanasia that happened post-Katrina at Memorial hospital in New Orleans. It is an amazing read. It's one of those that's so good I can't decide who to share it with first! 

In thinking about how to re-write my bug-girl book STUNG, I've read two books on forensic entomology A Fly for the Prosecution by Lee Goff and Corpse by Jessica Snyder Sachs. I'll leave it at that. 

For the family read-aloud we finished Eva Ibottson's Which Witch-- we all loved it. Then we realized we'd never finished The Prisoner of Azkaban, so we finished that and started up on The Goblet of Fire. 

Finally, I read Looking for Alibrandi, by the admirable Melina Marchetta. I love everything she does, and this fab tale about an Aussie girl dealing with life, school, and family was no different. 

What I'm Writing
The boys are now in their second week of camp and having a blast. I have been sitting tight and methodically going through my tenure packet. It is unbelievably nit-picky work. I am basically arguing for, and presenting documentation to show, that I should keep my job. It's hard not feel like I'm on trial at times. 
I spent all of yesterday printing, organizing, and preparing this box. 

It holds a copy of every student evaluation I've ever had, everything I've published, and then documentation of all sorts of things like class projects, syllabi, student letters, colleague letters, reports, grants I've applied for, events I've managed, the list seems endless.  

But the work is paying off and I feel like it's coming along. Here are my R.S.W. stats.
Update
Tenure packet (71% complete). I feel like I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. 
Mina Takes the Sky (9% complete)
Thirst (9% complete)
Stung (12% complete)

Last update
Tenure packet (32% complete) 
Thirst (12% complete)
Stung (0% complete)

Notice anything different there? Yes, I have a new manuscript listed. And that's tied in to my super secret news. I've been querying MINA since the spring. In mid-April a couple of agents asked for fulls and partials. One in particular asked for a full, got back to me about it immediately, and asked if she could have an exclusive on it while she made notes and gave suggestions. A few other folks still had it at the time but I said I would not query it with anyone new. So, we've been going back and forth with it (edits and rewrites) since then. 

I am so thrilled to be getting feedback and input from someone who I feel really "gets" the story and wants to make it better. Having been down this road before, I'm not making any assumptions about where it will lead. I'm simply trying to appreciate the input and enjoy the advice. She is so helpful, thorough, and talented that I am just thrilled to have the input. I can say that after only three months I've had more rounds of revisions and FAR more feedback and comments than I ever had with the agent I worked with before for nine months.

On the fourth of July this lovely agent sent me some new feedback, and it has moved to the top of the Ready. Set. Write. queue. I'm hoping to kick that manuscript up a notch. I'll keep you posted on the results!

What Inspires Me Right Now
I have some friends who are great at supporting new artists-- their home is filled with cool and amazing work they've found on etsy and other places. Every time I visit, I see this in their bathroom and think, "I love that!" So I finally took my phone into the bathroom with me at took a photo to share. 

What to Focus On: Happy

Not everything is happy, but happy is what we should focus on. 

And now--  what's up with you?





Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Regrets: What's Up Wednesday

Regrets in the sense that I regret I didn't post last week and doubly regret that I can't post today!

I am swamped!

My boys are in camp now (this is day three) but I'm still crawling out from under a pile of work.

I've also gotten a super-secret assignment that has pushed its way to the top of my to-do list.

So... I thought it wise to wait one more week before participating in What's Up Wednesday and updating for Ready. Set. Write.

For all of you still cranking out that awesome work and slaying those goals-- YAAAAY!

I'm thinking of you and your hard work as I plug away at my own goals over here.

Happy Wednesday!

See you next week!


Friday, July 5, 2013

Intelligent Kindness: Choosing a charity that's worth your donation

I'm also posting this today at The Kindness Project.

It seems simple.

But it turns out to be complicated.

I'd like to think we live in the kind of world where good-intentioned people could donate money to a cause that's important to them and that money would actually go to the people in need.

Unfortunately, it doesn't take much of a google search to find that this is not the case.

A little investigating shows that not all charitable organizations are worth your hard-earned dime.

The Tampa Bay Times (TBT) and the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) have produced a series of stories on the worst charities in America. It made my stomach turn.

There's the family that has worked together on a network of Cancer charities, and have in the past raked in over 250 million dollars in funds, only to net out a mere $400,000 in payments to cancer patients.

The TBT and CIR wrote one story about charities that earn far more for corporate fundraising machines than they do for the people they claim to help.

A third story describes how a lack of regulation and low penalties keep offending charities in operation.

Another example of the muddy waters of donations and giving is Breast Cancer Action's Think Before you Pink campaign, which fights against "pinkwashing". Pinkwashing is when a group promotes a pink-ribbon campaign while also producing a product that is cancer-causing. Or when a group gives the impression that a portion of the sales of any pink-ribbon product will go to a cancer foundation, when this is not the case. Check out their website

So, what's a kind person to do?

Here's a quick guide to finding the BEST charities and avoiding the WORST.

First-- be wary of what you hear through "the grapevine". I know what you're thinking. You're rolling your eyes and saying, "Katharine, it's not 1999. I know that most of the emails forwards I get from Great Aunt Edna are rubbish."And I hear you--- but those kind of stories/urban legends are persistent. My go-to source for determining the veracity of any email forward is snopes.com. Here's a page they have that gets to the bottom of those pesky confusing forwards from Aunt Edna.

Now you're thinking-- "But wait, Katharine, you're telling me to not trust what I hear through the grapevine... but reading about this on a blog is kind of like hearing it 'through the grapevine'".

I agree.

Don't take my word for it. 

Here are some tools that can give you the information YOU need to decide what charity is right for you.

The Tampa Bay Times and Center for Investigative Reporting have several tools as a part of their series, including a database of the charities that have received disciplinary action from state regulators, and a page for reporting questionable charities.

My favorite tool is Charity Navigator. They provide consistent information about charitable organizations, including financial metrics, transparency, and accountability. The only problem I've ever run into on their site is that small, local groups aren't typically included.

Though I haven't used it myself, the Guidestar system allows charities to update their own information and thereby "share" it with the public.

Pro Publica has a non-profit page where you can explore the tax records of these groups.

In addition, the Better Business Bureau has created the Wise Giving Alliance which can lead to a seal of approval from the BBB for a charity. That being said, the charity has to OPT IN to the program and also PAYS for the seal (if and when they meet the requirements). That gives me a bit of an icky feeling, but I guess that's the way the Better Business Bureau works?

Use these tools to explore how to make the most of your donations!

What about you? Have you had especially great or horrid interactions with a charity or non-profit? What has been your experience?


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

What's Up Wednesday




First 
I want to apologize for visiting so few blogs last week. I was caught in meetings and thought I could squeeze it all in. I failed. I can't wait to check out all the bloggy goodness this week!

What's Up Wednesday
 is a weekly meme, started by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk, that helps readers and writers touch base with blog friends and let them know what's up. Join by visiting their blogs and signing in on the widget.

What I'm Reading
I finished In Search of Goliathus Hercules by Jennifer Angus. She created a fascinating world that I truly loved. It was right up my alley. I do have some residual guilt because Henri, the MC, believes it is wrong to kill insects and his evil nemesis is a bug killer. My bug-girl-book MC is an insect collector (like myself) who is a bit more comfortable with killing the occasional bug for science. C'est la vie. Or, c'est la mort, in this case. RIP bugs I have killed!

On a family camping trip I was able to read Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen and re-read (it has been 25 years at least) Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume. I feel like Sarah D is kind of the modern embodiment of the great Judy Blume, so I loved reading them back-to-back. I loved both books. What a treat. 

Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen will take all summer I think. It's dense but oh-so-good. Now I'm learning about Europeans "discovering" America. You can imagine how that goes, right? I knew the American Thanksgiving story was a pile o' crap, but I didn't realize all that happened before. Fascinating!

Which Witch? by Eva Ibbotson is still the family read-aloud. The competition for Arriman's marriage proposal is on... and it's not going very well. We're ALL loving it.


What I'm Writing
I have a post today at The Kindness Project about gratitude and forgiveness. Check it out. 

I will have a couple of slow weeks on the Ready. Set. Write! front. My two favorite little people are home from school and having LOTS of mom time before they start camp and I return to work. 

My handy-dandy excel sheet has exceeded my nerdiest expectations. 
I am using it to view my percent-completion on all three summer writing projects. 

Tenure packet (32% complete) YAAAAAY!
Thirst (12% complete)
Stung (0% complete)

That's up from last week's
Tenure packet (20%) 
Thirst (12%)
Stung (0%)

I feel good about it!

What Inspires Me Right Now
Our camping trip to Vermont this weekend was beyond beautiful. Loved being out in nature with the kids. 

And Now It's Your Turn!
What's up with you?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

What's Up Wednesday



What's Up Wednesday is a weekly meme, started by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk, that helps readers and writers touch base with blog friends and let them know what's up. Join by visiting their blogs and signing in on the widget.

What I'm Reading

I'm well into In Search of Goliathus Hercules by Jennifer Angus. I love Henri, the boy who speaks to insects, and his adventures. There's a mystery a-brewing... and I can't wait to see how she resolves it. 

I'm also still plugging away at Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen. He makes such an effort to support his points that the writing is dense (not in a bad way, in a way that's absolutely appropriate for a historian arguing about misinformation in history). I can tell I'll be pouring over this one for several weeks. 

I finished The Ghosts of Ashbury High by Jaclyn Moriarty over the weekend. Damn, what a fantastic book. I have loved everything I've read by Ms. Moriarty (and her sister's book What Alice Forgot was one of my favorites last year). I love the characters, her skill at writing from multiple POVs, and the way she adds layers to a story that make it leap from the page. 

Which Witch? by Eva Ibbotson is our current family read-aloud. I read so much and I'm often trying to incorporate MG books that I personally want to read into the family read-aloud for my 5 and 7 year olds. It is always surprising to me what does and doesn't click with the kids. In some cases it can simply be that the book (while I enjoy it or even love it as a personal read) just doesn't capture the boys' imaginations. Not so with this one. I started reading it Monday night to general grumbling as they did not like the last book I tried to read aloud. But after just a few pages both boys were enthralled. YAY!  


What I'm Writing
I created a chart to help me organize the work I'm doing this summer. I have a to-do list/schedule where I keep track of all the things I need to do-- divided up into sections on teaching, research, writing, art, and family... but sometimes it gets so long that it is overwhelming. 

Because I'm working on three projects for Ready. Set. Write! I wanted to:
     -balance the time I'm spending on different things
     -divide the work into manageable chunks
     -be able to visualize what I'm accomplishing  

With all of this in mind I made up this handy excel sheet that breaks down the work I'm planning into several steps. I can also count each cell and estimate my completion rate (so, for example, I'm 20% finished with the tenure packet, 12% on one re-write, and 0% on the other). 
A big part of organization is planning for me, because it helps me transform my ideas (often unrealistic) into a solid game plan. Like any game plan, it's all subject to change. :0)
That being said, this really helps me get things done without feeling like enormous projects are looming over me (which I find crippling). 

What Inspires Me Right Now
So many things. Friends who are resilient and amazing. Family that keeps me laughing and enjoying life. Being outside. And of course reading, working, and creating. 
 
And Now It's Your Turn!
What's up with you?