November + Novels =

Seven books and 55,000 words. All in all, November has been a great month for the written word.

I loved all the books I read this month, and I loved all their variety. I read fantasy and travel writing and… whatever Tipping The Velvet would be classified as. Romance? Drama? Historical Fiction? Pure sapphic awesomeness? Let’s just call it “A Must-Read.”

Aside from short stories, news articles, and the occasional clickbait post about 5 things my cat secretly hates about me, the following list is everything I read over the past month:

  • The Amulet of Samarkand, by Jonathan Stroud
  • The Golem’s Eye, also by Jonathan Stroud
  • Ptolemy’s Gate, by Vladimir Nabokov. …I’m kidding, it’s totally by Jonathan Stroud.
  • The Best of American Travel Writing 2015 
  • Fitting In: Historical Accounts of Paranormal Subcultures
  • Tipping The Velvet, by Sarah Waters
  • Wild by Cheryl Strayed (aka Starved, for those who have read it)

Also featuring my kitty Aspen peeking out from behind the book-pile. That uncultured little gremlin didn’t read a single book this month.

The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud has been important to me for a long time—it was the series that concretely made me want to be a writer, whether I knew it or not at the time. I read it for the first time in middle school, and then promptly again for the second time because I couldn’t stand to be done with it. From that point on my imagination was Bartimaesque. Everything I created was populated by quick-talking sarcastic losers (sorry Bart, the books catch you at a low point). One of the first stories I wrote in college followed the same trend.

Basically, I’ve carried these books with me for over 10 years. If you haven’t read them, forget the rest of this blog post and hustle to your local library. I’ll wait.

As well as reading some travel-writing as reference and inspiration for my own NaNoWriMo (more on that in a minute), I also finished my second Sarah Water’s book. I find it funny that I first stumbled across the author known for her lesbian protagonists through The Little Stranger, one of her only books written about a man. And I still loved it! My interests just can’t be pigeonholed, huh? (Though honestly, if The Little Stranger had featured lesbians, it probably would have been my favorite book of all time. Haunted house + gay women? Come on, that’s so me!)

Tipping The Velvet was everything I could have wanted, and beautifully written to boot. One of my favorite quotes:

I found my fingers once again upon my breast-bone, probing and chafing, searching for the thickening organ behind it. This time, however, it seemed to me that I found it. There was a darkness, a heaviness, a stillness at the very center of me, that I had not known was growing there, but which gave me, now, a kind of comfort. My breast felt tight and sore—but I didn’t writhe, or sweat, beneath the pain of it, rather, I crossed my arms over my ribs, and embraced my dark and thickened heart like a lover.

Now that is some kick-ass writing.

Lastly, I finished reading the rest of Fitting In; though technically I suppose I didn’t finish it per se, since I skipped my own story. Do you have a hard time reading your own work after it’s been published? It almost feels voyeuristic to me. But the rest of the stories were dynamite, and I can only hope that other readers weren’t as opposed to reading my work as I was.

But of course, reading wasn’t all I did in November. Like so many of my fellows, I squared up to face the sweetheart and the bogeyman of writers everywhere:


This month I made a last minute decision. Where for every year previous—and in fact, for almost the entirety of my existence as a writer—I have written fiction for NaNoWriMo, in the eleventh hour of Halloween I realized that the time was nigh to change things up. I was going to write a memoir. 

Honestly, even that word grosses me out a little. It’s so pretentious. A person in their early twenties needs a memoir about as much as an elephant needs a bicycle. I remember this one kid in my department in college who told me he was working on one; I mentally scoffed and wondered what could possibly have happened in his twenty years of life to fill an entire book?

Well, can’t speak for my college acquaintance, but as a general rule I was wrong. Maybe some 20-somethings haven’t lived enough to fill the pages of a memoir, but certainly others have. Life moves at different paces for everyone. And here I am, three years later, sitting down in front of a memoir of my own. Does the fact that it’s a travel memoir make it any better?

No matter how my college-self would feel about it, I can honestly say that writing about my road-trip to the Arctic Circle has been one of the hardest projects I’ve undertaken in a long time. I’ve never written nonfiction before, and the process is so different from everything I know. No longer can I throw in a plot twist to keep things interesting. No longer can I whip up a love interest to move the subplot along (if only, right?). No longer can I just do whatever I want and hope it turned out. I already knew how this story ended; the key was to figure out what the story was really about in the first place.

It’s been hard, but I think of the same thing that gave me comfort on the trip itself: I made it this far. In the next few days I hope to finish up the rough draft, and from there the real horror-show begins. Aka, editing it.

Is there some kind of corresponding challenge in December for editing the monster of a draft we all cooked up for NaNoWriMo? There should be. We can call it NaNoCryMo. Zing!

Did you do NaNoWriMo? Read anything good last month? Let me know!


7 thoughts on “November + Novels =

  1. I’ve owned Tipping the Velvet for ages, but I clearly need to actually get around to reading it! Congrats and good work on winning NaNo this year! Also, lol NaNoCryMo

  2. I gave NaNo a shot. I didn’t finish, but I got almost 21,000 words written! Learned a few important lessons about my writing style, and my daily life, along the way. So it wasn’t a loss.
    I’ve read so much over the past few months, it’s hard to remember what was read in November and what was earlier. Let’s see…I re-read ‘Engravings of Wraith’, a couple of very long non-fiction pieces on colonizing other planets, some ‘new weird’ fiction I picked up on Amazon and started ‘G is For Grafton’. Oh! And I tried to read the second book in the Rama series, but I couldn’t do it without the first. Of course some chucklehead has stolen it from my local library!

    1. Congrats on your wordcount! 21,000 is an awesome accomplishment. Honestly, I think learning from the experience of NaNoWriMo is more important than winning it in the first place. That way you can carry on the lessons into the other 11 months 🙂
      Nonfiction on colonizing other planets sounds fascinating, and I always love new weird fiction. Ugh, that’s always the worst when someone’s already checked out the book you want! Better get ready to pounce on it as soon as they take it back.

  3. I’m amazed that you were able to read so much AND write 55,000 words of memoir. My reading narrows down to almost nothing during NaNoWriMos. I’m hugely impressed with your memoir project. I hope to someday do enough interesting things to warrant one of those!

    1. I often find that reading helps inspire me to write more; although I have to admit I’ve hardly read anything at all so far in December. Maybe I used up all my reading energy last month 🙂

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