My First Readathon

I thrive on challenges with set deadlines.  So when my friend Marcie told me she was participating in Dewey’s 24 hour readathon this Saturday, October 21st, I wanted in!  I love to read, yet never feel like I have enough time to get to all the books on my shelves, on my nightstand, piled on my office floor (you get the picture.)  I have a few family things to attend to this Saturday, but no work obligations.  So I am determined to make this readathon work.  Here’s my plan of action:

  • Do ALL the laundry I typically do on Saturday on Friday and Sunday.
  • Take breaks only to eat, exercise, and run the necessary errand
  • Get a good night’s sleep on Friday so I am not a drowsy reader
  • Get my kids involved in the readathon too

This last bullet point is crucial because if my kids don’t read, I can’t read.  I have offered them reward incentives for every 25 pages read during the day on Saturday. I hope this encourages their own love of reading.  They are excited about the challenge (and hopefully their excitement lasts!)

While exploring the internet, I discovered that readathons take place all the time.  Want to try one yourself?  Dewey’s 24 hour readathon takes place twice a year in October and April.  Also, Molly’s Book Nook has organized a helpful list of readathons being hosted all year long.  Take a look and join me in this fun, productive challenge!

P.S. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I will NOT be reading for a full 24 hours.  I would be worthless on Sunday if I did.  But Dewey is not strict about this.  You can participate and just read as much as you can.

My Summer Priority–write, write, write

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Photo credit Ralph

People often don’t realize how hard those of us in an academic community work during the year. The enviable focus is on our summers “off”—which assumes a career of leisure in higher education. I am actually on a twelve-month contract, though, so I will go in to the office every day this June and July. But, with the students gone, the pace is slow, the surroundings deliciously quiet, and I can focus on goals and priorities that I rarely get to August through May.

June and July equal hope in my world. I start looking forward to these summer months in December, start planning what I will do with this time in January, make my reservations and pay my deposits by February. All this planning is what gets me through the incredibly hectic winter and spring that lies ahead.

This summer writing is my priority. Here’s a glimpse of my plan-of-action:

  • Online Classes: I’ve been considering taking some online writing classes as a convenient and fairly inexpensive way to challenge myself, get feedback, and generate new work. There are lots of places to take online writing classes. I’ve explored the Gotham Writer’s Workshops, The Loft, and Creative Nonfiction’s classes. I decided to sign up for Creative Nonfiction’s Summer Bootcamp because I like how they structured the class as well as the fact that it would require me to write and submit daily assignments. I am also taking a class on blogging (The Clumsy Blogger’s Workshop) that I discovered through the RevGalBlogPals community. I hope to learn more about utilizing the blog medium through this course and instill a good habit of writing and posting weekly. Remember that quote from John McPhee? “Writing teaches writing.”
  • Writing Conference: Every summer since moving to Illinois I have enjoyed a week at the Iowa Summer Writer’s Festival in Iowa City. This summer, though, a new conference caught my attention and I decided to sign up for it instead. This July I’ll be attending Beyond Walls: Spiritual Writing at Kenyon. Kenyon College is known for its great writing program, which is what led me to explore what their summer institute offered. And when I found out that they were offering this week-long conference on spiritual writing with my favorite poet Marie Howe as one of the teachers—I was so there! I’m also really excited to meet Amy Frykholm from The Christian Century and Rabbi Rachel Barenblat, The Velveteen Rabbi, who will also be teaching that week.
  • Reading for Writing: I cannot wait to dive into my books! I always have lots of books I want to read, but never enough time. So I try to be strategic and read books that serve a good purpose for me. I’m interested in reading different styles of writing—styles I might want to tackle myself some day. So here’s an incomplete list of the books I hope to read this summer and why:
  • Practice saying “No”: I used to think that I had to say, “Yes!” to every opportunity or else those opportunities would no longer keep coming.  Now, I know better.  Now, I know myself and my priorities better so I can discern whether or not an opportunity is worth acting upon.  Thomas Merton once said that the imagination should be allowed a certain amount of time to browse around.  June and July is this “browsing around” time for me and I plan on protecting it by saying “No” to any opportunity that doesn’t fit with this priority.  This way, come August, I can start saying “Yes” again.

Simile Love

Sim•Ÿi•Ÿle

Noun

A figure of speech involving the comparison of one thing with another thing of a different kind, used to make a description more emphatic or vivid (e.g., as brave as a lion, crazy like a fox).

I’ve fallen in love with the simile. A friend suggested I use one in an article I was writing. I had so much fun trying to comeo'connor1 up with the perfect simile that I have been hunting them down in everything I read. This summer I’ve been immersing myself in the stories of Flannery O’Connor who—hands down—is the QUEEN of similes! Just for fun–here are a few of my favorites:

  • His heart began to grip him like a little ape clutching the bars of its cage.
  • Rayber felt as if he were fighting his way out of a net.
  • His khaki trousers reached just to his hipbones and his stomach hung over them like a sack of meal swaying under his shirt.
  • Behind them the line of woods gaped like a dark open mouth.
  • She could hear the wind move through the treetops like a long satisfied insuck of breath.
  • The graduates in their heavy robes looked as if the last beads of ignorance were being sweated out of them.
  • He heard the words drag out. He felt them pull out of his mouth like freight cars, jangling, backing up on each other, grating to a halt, sliding, clinching back, jarring, and then suddenly stopping as roughly as they had begun.