My 10 Most Popular Posts of 2017 and My Plan for 2018

I got a lot of new subscribers in 2017, which was nice. (I know you’re there, even if you’re not talking… come join the conversation!)

2017 was a year I tried to settle into a groove with blogging. In previous years, I tried to do daily (which was way too much) and other times when I had no schedule. In 2017, I tried to post on Tuesdays and Fridays. For 2018, I’m going to go back to a Monday/ Wednesday/ Friday format. Because of the interest in book challenges, I’m going to try to check in once a week with what I’m reading and my progress on various challenges. Starting next week, that will be on Mondays. (Happy New Year, BTW!)

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Most of the popular posts from this list are from 2017, but some are older (some much older). Without further ado, my top 10 from this year…

  1. 11 Best Non-Fiction Books About Mental Illness You have no idea how happy I am to see this at #1. People are becoming more interested in mental illness, and I think that’s a wonderful step toward conversation and destigmatizing what so many people struggle with.
  2. 10 Best Novels from Over 100 Years Ago This post is from 2011 and has consistently been one of my most popular posts. It’s a little sparse, back when I just made lists but didn’t consistently post pictures or say anything about the books. But… I guess that’s what Amazon is for?
  3. What Bullying Looks Like as An Adult Again, another post I’m happy to see as popular. We really, really need to stop telling children no to be bullies and then turn around and do it ourselves. Take a look to see the subtle ways you might be participating in bullying.
  4. Don’t Ban Eleanor & Park A post from 2016. I’m so against book banning. I think that any book that really speaks to someone is going to make someone else mad, and that’s okay. Kids need books like these. Eleanor & Park is a book I wish had been around when I was in high school
  5. Book Challenges 2018 A very recent post, but it just goes to show how interested in book challenges people are becoming. I’m going to try to be better about posting updates on my progress next year. Join me and feel free to update me on your progress too!
  6. Open Letter to the Writer Who Left My Writer’s Group You know, I almost didn’t write this post. I hate that I may have contributed to discouraging another writer. But it wasn’t done out of a spirit of meanness, and I think that it’s important to admit to my mistakes so I can become a better person. None of us are perfect. And even though the writer who this letter was intended for will probably never see it, maybe someone else who needs to see it will.
  7. 5 Things Not to Say to a Writer This post is from 2013, and I remember what made me write it. I was still working at crisis back then. We had some down time and were sitting around. I was working on a story and started bouncing ideas off my Arizona bestie, who is not a writer. He pretty much said everything on this list, and it made me crazy. When I showed him the blog post, he laughed.
  8. Promoting Kindness This post was inspired by all the vitriol I see (even among friends) over differing opinions regarding politics.
  9. 10 Best Fiction Books About Mental Illness I love that more people are trying to write characters with mental illnesses; I just prefer that people get it right. Exposure to fiction is known to increase empathy, so reading about characters with mental illness definitely can promote understanding and reduce fear of these disorders.
  10. The Pros and Cons of Writing in Coffee Shops Spoiler alert… it’s not my thing!

Doing a very scientific analysis, it seems that my most popular posts are lists of books and more personal type posts. I’ll try to keep that in mind as I’m brainstorming topics next year.

Are there any topics you’d like to see me write about? Any topics you’d like less of? I’m always open to suggestions, so feel free to comment on this (or any post) or email me at doreeweller@gmail.com.

Thanks for coming along for the ride that was 2017 for me! I’m hoping that 2018 will be even better.

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My Book Wishlist Solution

IMG_0181There are always books I want that I’m not going to buy or borrow right away. Sometimes (usually) it’s because I already have a million books stacked up, staring accusingly at me. Sometimes it’s because I’m trying to complete a goal, and the book I want doesn’t meet that goal. Sometimes it’s just because I’m out somewhere and someone whose opinion I value has recommended a book to me.

I tried keeping track of them in my head, but apparently there’s only so much room up there.

I used to just keep a list of books in the notes section of my phone. I listed title and maybe author (if I knew it).

The list quickly spiraled out of control. I ended up with a list I couldn’t keep track of, no rhyme or reason to it. If I went to a bookstore or the library, I didn’t have a good way of sorting the list.

I got a now defunct app for my phone. I never loved that app. It was cumbersome to use, having to do multiple button pushes to add a book. And I had to add a book in a different section from books that were already on my list. If there was a way to sort them, I never figured it out. They were just there in the order I added them. Then one day, I couldn’t use the app anymore, and my wishlist had disappeared.

I’ve tried using the library’s and Amazon’s wishlist functions, but I end up not liking them because I have to log into a website. I want something quick and at my fingertips.

I have a digital list of all the books I own. It’s lovely; I can just scan them in either via barcode or manually enter them. I just recently noticed that the Sort It! app has a wishlist function as well.

I tried it, and I think this is the solution for me. It shows pictures of the books and is easy to use. I can sort by author, title, or publication date. It’s easy to add or delete books from the list. If you’re looking for a way to keep track of books you own or want to own/ read, I highly recommend Sort It! (There’s also versions for DVDs, music, etc.)

How do you keep track of your reading wishlist?

Guest Post from While I Was Reading

Today’s post is a guest post from Ramona Mead over at While I Was Reading. She’s here to talk about her reading challenge for 2018.

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I’ve known the author of this blog since elementary school. We lived on the same street, and when a move in junior high took me to the other side of the school district, we lost touch. But thanks to the wonders of technology (ie Facebook) we reconnected several years ago and have rekindled our friendship, bonding over our shared passions for writing, reading, and having what others consider “too many” pets.

At the start of 2015, I followed the lead of another bookish pal, jumping into Book Riot‘s first annual Read Harder Challenge . It sounded easy enough for a nerd like me: read a book to fit into each of the 24 categories. Two books a month? Piece of cake.

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I approached my book shelves with my challenge list in one hand and a pencil in the other. I scanned through categories such as: a book that takes place in Asia, a book by an author from Africa, a book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture, and a book by or about someone who identifies as LGBTQ.

I came to a startling realization, my book shelves are not exactly diverse.

2017 is the third year I’ve participated in the challenge, and to be extra nerdy, I did a second one, the PopSugar 2017 challenge (including the advanced categories, of course!) The challenges have expanded my horizons as both a reader and a writer. They have pushed me far out of my reading comfort zone and busted many of the misconceptions I had about certain genres such as fantasy and romance, and YA writing.

As the years have gone on, I’ve become increasingly frustrated with Read Harder’s categories. This year I’ve found them to be painfully specific. I’ve had a hard time completing some of the categories as they’re written so I’ve put my own spin on them to be able to mark it off.

It was this frustration that led me to create my own reading challenge for 2018. I enjoy categories that are more personal to the reader.

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I’ve come up with 12 categories, because while Doree and I can finish a ridiculously large number of books in a year, this isn’t realistic for the majority of readers I know. I have a few friends who have been intrigued by my completion of challenges past but too intimidated by the large number of categories to give it a try.

All you have to do is read, no other participation is required. If you start and don’t finish, that’s okay. However if you do complete the challenge, you can email me your list to be entered to win a prize at the end of 2018!!

  • Read a book that takes place in one day.
  • Read a memoir or biography of a musician you like.
  • Read a collection of poetry.
  • Read an audio book with multiple narrators.
  • Read a self published book.
  • Read a book you received as a gift.
  • Read a book about a historical event you’re interested in (fiction or non).
  • Read a book written by an author from the state where you grew up.
  • Read a book recommended by one of your parents (in-laws count).
  • Read a book with your favorite food in the title.
  • Read a book with a child narrator.
  • Read a book you chose based on the cover.

If you wish to participate in the challenge, please let me know either by commenting on this post, contacting me via Facebook, or you can shoot me an email at grazona@live.com.

You can download a printable list of the challenge categories here.

I’ve created a Facebook Group and a Goodreads Group for participants to gather for discussion and brainstorming!

I am excited to have you all along with me on this new venture! Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with any questions, ideas, or suggestions.

Metaphors and Mad Science

Today’s blog is a guest post, presented by a friend from my critique group. 

Guest blog by Jeff Shaevel

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Writers are constantly working with metaphors. Sometimes they’re direct, as in the phrase ”a tsunami of information.” Sometimes they’re indirect, as in Harry Potter, when J. K. Rowling uses the character Buckbeak as a metaphor for another character (Sirius Black) because both were persecuted for crimes they didn’t commit. Metaphors are powerful tools for improving readers’ experience by comparing to the known (the force of a tidal wave) or to something easier to relate to (the mistreatment of a beloved animal).

There’s another place where metaphors are important: game design. There are many abstract games—such as checkers, Go or most card games—that have no metaphor. The pieces are pieces. The rules are actions to be performed. No effort is made to relate the activity to anything in our world.

Many games, however, are enhanced with metaphors that give context, and sometimes they help make better sense of arbitrary rules. Chess, for example, has a military metaphor, the battle between two armies tearing each other apart and attacking the enemy king. Furthermore, the knight is usually represented by a horse (or figure on horseback) to help remind the players that, like the animal from which the metaphor is drawn, the piece can jump over other pieces.

In designing a game, picking the right metaphors can make all the difference in how much fun players have or how engaged they are in the action. “Chutes and Ladders”—a Milton Bradly game adapted from an ancient Indian game of “Snakes and Ladders”—depicts images of children performing good deeds, which result in a reward of climbing a ladder to further progress, and images of bad deeds, which result in falling down a chute to lose progress. A trivial exercise in shifting tokens becomes a series of stories about the consequences of good and bad actions, and much more fun.

My other half recently created a dice game and it took some effort to find the right metaphors to make the game both entertaining and educational. The game is “Mad Science!” and uses dice with scientific symbols (like atoms, beakers, and test tubes). The objective is to roll the dice to make sets of matching symbols. The more items that match, the higher the score. You can keep rolling, but dice that don’t match go into a “waste pile” and if, over time, more symbols end up matching there than you’ve scored, your lab explodes and you lose points paying to clean it up!

The game could have been about regular numbered dice and matching numbers, but the metaphor of the “waste pile” both makes it easier to remember the rules and gives people the opportunity to talk about science, experiments and the risks of explosions.

There is a campaign to get the game published, by the way. Please check it out on Kickstarter and let us know what you think.

What metaphors have increased your reading (or gaming) enjoyment?

Can I Really Say I “Read” An Audiobook?

img_7913Up until the last few years, I never listened to audiobooks. There are a lot of reasons that don’t have anything to do with snobbery: I retain more when I read vs. listen, my mind wanders more when I listen, it’s harder to go back and re-read passages, I can’t highlight, etc.

But the bigger reason, for me, is that listening to audiobooks seemed kind of passive to me. I don’t love TV, primarily because I know that my brain isn’t doing much if I’m just consuming a show. I worried that audiobooks had that same passivity.

It’s silly, because if I think about it, listening to audiobooks is actually harder work for me than reading a book the traditional way. It requires me to direct my concentration in a way that’s much more automatic for me in traditional reading.

I decided to look it up, to see how audiobooks are consumed by the brain. Rather than wondering and worrying about it, I looked to the science. Here’s a good article on it, but the bottom line is that your brain sees them essentially the same way.

I’m not the only one asking this question. When I did an internet search about audiobooks vs. traditional reading, apparently many people struggle with this issue.

I keep a list of how many books I read each year, and two or three of them for the past two years have been audiobooks. I’ve actually struggled with whether or not to “count” them.

What’s the point of reading a book? For me, it’s about enjoyment. In some cases, it’s about learning. It’s also to synthesize information and be able to discuss it meaningfully with others. I can do all that with audiobooks.

I recently reread On Writing, by Stephen King. (Great book, incidentally, even if you’re not a writer.) He reads tons of books, and casually mentioned that he also reads audiobooks. If it’s good enough for Stephen King, it’s good enough for me. Once I gave myself permission to look at audiobooks as reading, I started seeing chunks in my day where I could be reading: doing yard work, in the car, cleaning up the kitchen… the list goes on.

Do you listen to audiobooks? Where do you stand on audiobooks vs. traditional books?

I’d Rather Believe the Best

It seems like every time we turn around, people are doing awful things to other people.  Terrorists set bombs and kill people.  Police harm people.  Racism happens.  Politicians lie and sling mud.  We see these things in the news, so it seems like this is how people are, that it’s the norm.

Some people put me down because I don’t watch/ read the news regularly.  I don’t keep abreast of current events.  When I try to speak on a subject, I’m accused of not knowing what I’m talking about.

Not watching/ reading the news is a deliberate choice.  Much of what’s reported by large news sites is the worst of the worst about humanity.  No wonder people are suspicious of others.  No wonder people don’t want to help their neighbors.

I saw a meme this morning about people saying that others should help homeless vets before bringing in refugees.  That allowing refugees into the US will also bring terrorists.  The problem with this line of thinking is that our government isn’t doing a lot to help homeless vets.  When we see photos and hear about the problems of homelessness with our veterans, it’s heartbreaking and overwhelming.  People don’t know where to start to help.

A church in Portland opened a small homeless shelter for vets and allows them to bring their dogs.

A program in West Virginia helps veterans pay rent so that they don’t become homeless.

Here’s a news article about a police officer who bought a homeless man shoes.

Here’s an article about a homeless man providing food to other homeless people. 

“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.”

-Edmund Burke

The other day, I was at a traffic light and was approached by a man who handed me a slip of paper saying that he was soliciting money for a homeless shelter.  It looks legit, and it has a website.  Whether or not it is legit, I usually give people $1 or $2.  Why do I do that?  They could be drug addicts.  They could be running a scam.  They could be whatever.

True.  But what if they’re not?  What if that $1 means they can get a meal or a bottle of water?  What if it means they have bus fare to get to a job interview?

I can afford that dollar.  I never give anything I can’t afford.  Not money, time, energy, love, etc.  So I won’t be upset if I find out it was used for something I don’t approve of.  Even if that person is going to use the money for alcohol or drugs, maybe my giving it to him or her prevents them from breaking into someone’s car later that night.  Maybe it prevents them from stealing a purse.  I don’t know.  I don’t have all the answers.  But I’d rather assume the best about people.

I don’t feel that it’s okay for you to complain unless you’re helping.  That doesn’t mean that you have to be doing big things.  You could give one person a pair of shoes or an apple.  It’s east to say “someone else” should do it.  They should; you’re right.  But they’re not.  And if you aren’t either, then you’re part of the problem.

This has become kind of a long post, and I have more to say, so I’m going to talk about the refugees tomorrow.

I’d love to have a discussion, so please, if you have thoughts on this, leave a comment.