Ten Books That Made an Impact

Facebook has all sorts of challenges going on. This one I accepted from my cousin, Melissa, who challenged me to list ten books that made an impact on me. Though they are not necessarily my favorites, somehow they have all stayed with me – in humor or horror or just pure emotion. Here they are, in no particular order:

Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore

I know it’s a poem, but I’m talking about my book, the one that has materialized every year at Christmastime since I was a kid (actually it’s probably more than fifty years old). It has a shiny red surface, gently worn, and all those familiar verses and old-time swirly pictures that look like they were painted on. That book exudes warmth and anticipation.

Harry Potter  and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

What I remember the most is sitting on the couch with my two children, reading them the entire series out loud, with a British accent. We loved all seven of the books, but this is the one that started them all. J.K. Rowling made up a whole new world for us, with magic and muggles and qudditch. There was Diagon Alley and Hogwart’s, platform 9 1/2 and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans (including dirt, grass, vomit and earwax). It was a magical time.

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

A masterpiece, really. A rare book, so descriptive and so beautifully written about a way of life – India in all its turmoil – that at the time was so foreign to me. Both haunting and touching, some of the scenes are still so vivid to me.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

The writing just blew me away.

City of Joy by Dominique Lapierre

I read this book the first time I went to India. I remember the author describing the smells, the street scenes, and the noises, and I didn’t have to imagine it – I was living it.

Bridget Jone’s Diary by Helen Fielding

This book made me laugh. It’s funny, it’s quirky, it’s loveable. I think I identify with Bridget, as well Fielding’s writing style.

Pet Sematary by Stephen King

This was the first of many Stephen King books that I read as a teenager. So creepy…so real. Maybe too real, cause after reading a slew of his books I had to stop. I couldn’t be alone in the house or look down the drain in the bathroom without my imagination getting the better of me! And don’t even get me started about topiaries – I just want to cut them all down.

The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo by Stieg Larsson

Love this character, Lisbeth Salander. She’s vulnerable, she’s strong, she’s a little crazy. But who wouldn’t be after all she’s gone through? Couldn’t put this series down – loved it.

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irvine

Another quirky character and some laugh out loud moments. Let’s just say the nativity scene at Christmas has never been the same for me.

Sunshine by Norma Klein

Before Terms of Endearment and The Fault in Our Stars there was this book. A very touching story about a young Mom dying of cancer.

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Ten Things I’ve Learned (So Far) About Writing a Book

DSC_00401) Getting Started is The Hardest Part

Once I decided to write my book I had to figure out how to do it. A friend suggested reading The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It’s a twelve-week program, “a course in discovering and recovering your creative self.” I needed that because I’d never done anything creative in my life. The book helped me figure out a good writing routine, gain confidence as a writer and find my creative self.

2) Surround Yourself With Positive People

There are naysayers and there are supporters. It’s easy to tell the difference. One group makes you feel like you are wasting your time and not doing anything important. The other group makes you feel energized; they boost your confidence and take a genuine interest in what you are writing. Write these people’s names down. They are your go to people when you want to toss your work into the garbage.

3) Find a Routine, But Be Flexible

The Artist’s Way can help you get into a writing routine. Starting small is a good idea, maybe ten or twenty minutes a day. Find a good time and place to write. For me, it’s first thing in the morning when I have lots of energy. I write at home, wherever I feel comfortable, usually a quiet room with natural light and warmth. But understand that routines change with circumstances. Maybe you have kids, or you work shifts; you go on vacation, or there’s a tragedy in the family. Life happens and routines get messed up. Be aware and be flexible, but don’t give up.

4) Writing is Work

Writing is exhilarating, fun and creative, but it is also a lot of work. It takes a lot of time to write a book. No one just sits down and writes a book from beginning to end and thinks they are finished. That’s just the first draft. Now you must go back and read it and delete the crap and begin the revision. Repeat. Writing is hard work but it’s thrilling to see your book take form.

5) Procrastination is Real

Oh, yeah. There is so much to do. So many T.V. shows to watch, emails to write and Facebook statuses to update. There’s cleaning and cooking and kids to look after. There are books to be read. Okay, so turn off the T.V. Limit the surfing and even, dare I say it, the reading. Now get organized, know what your day looks like and schedule in your writing. Write. Stop procrastinating.

6) Procrastination is a Myth

On the other hand, if all you’re doing is writing, and you’re sick of it or even feeling a little depressed, it’s time for a change. Go for a walk, do something else that makes you feel creative. Go out with friends. Spend some quality time with your family. Don’t feel guilty about not writing. Even writers have to eat, shop for groceries and pay the bills once in a while. It’s not always procrastination. Live a little.

7) Reading Helps A Lot

Tolkien, Rowling, Shakespeare. Who inspires you? Reading improves one’s vocabulary, helps us write better dialogue, and shows us the many ways stories can be told. Recently, I read The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. That book inspired me in so many ways. Not just to write, but to write well.

8) It is Important to Write Well

The first draft is all about getting ideas onto paper. You don’t have to write well. Each draft after that, you must edit, revise, and rewrite until it is polished. You can’t send anything to an agent or publisher that isn’t your very best. Read it out loud. Take some writing classes. Join a writing group (in person or online) and have other writers critique your work. You need constructive criticism from people in the writing world.

9) Social Networking Can Suck the Life Out of You

Some people call social networking procrastinating, and for good reason. It can be addicting and time-consuming and take you away from your writing. It can seriously suck the life out of you.

How do I know? Well, so far, I’m on Facebook and Twitter, and I have my website and my blog. I started them all at once and I found it pretty overwhelming. I think a better idea is to pick one and start with that. Once you’re comfortable, add another, and so on. Set aside a reasonable amount of time each day to do your social networking. Don’t let it consume your writing time.

10) Finishing is as Important as Starting

I admire anyone who has written a book, from start to finish.

And here lies the most asked question: “When will you be finished the book?”

And there is nothing I can say but, “When the creative process is finished and I am satisfied.”