2017 MMD Reading Challenge Update

This week I updated my chart for the 2017 Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge. With the year almost halfway over, I’ve read 10 books (well, maybe a couple more, but they either didn’t fit the challenge or were a second for a particular category). Honestly, this list is probably only interesting to me, but here you go anyway.

The Color Code:

Red = a book chosen for the category. I don’t have it yet. Subject to change.

Blue = a book chosen for the category that I own or have checked out from the library.

Green = what I’m currently reading.

Black = This category is complete! 

Reading for Growth

Category Book 1 Book 2
Newbery Award Winner or Honor Book The Graveyard Book, Gaiman  
Translated Book The Sound of Things Falling, Juan G. Vasquez  
Poetry, Play or Essay Collection The Impossible Will Take A Little While  
More than 600 Pages    
Any Genre: Current Event Theme Strangers Drowning, Larissa MacFarquhar  
Immigrant Story Girl in Translation, Jean Kwok  
Published Before 1960 Pale Horse, Pale Rider, Katherine Anne Porter The Awakening, Kate Chopin
3 Books by the same Author Trigger Warning, Neil Gaiman Anansi Boys
#ownvoices or #diversebooks author This is Where it Ends, Marieke Nijkamp  
Unreliable narrator or ambiguous ending Brief Life of Oscar Wao  
Nominated for award in 2017 check shopping list on amazon for …. 2017 Pen America Literary finalists
Pulitzer Prize or National Book Award Winner Gilead, Marilynne Robinson All the Light We Cannot See*

Reading for Fun

Chose for the cover Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo, A. Schumer  
Set somewhere I’ve never been    
I’ve already read it The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood  
Book about books or reading Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader, Anne Fadiman  
Genre I Usually avoid What Women Fear, Angie Smith  
I’m Dying to Read it Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead  
Backlist of Favorite New Author    
Recommended by Someone with great taste All the Light We Cannot See, A. Doerr  
Excited to buy or borrow but hadn’t read Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance  
Topic or Subject I already Love Blessings, Anna Quindlan (Audio)  
Juicy Memoir Not My Father’s Son, Alan Cumming Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo*

2017 Book Challenge

Happy New Year!!

Wanted to get that out of the way. 2016 is now good and gone, and I’ve eaten my black eyed peas for good luck, so I’m ready for whatever 2017 wants to throw at me. By the way, my family never ate the greens so I don’t either though I did buy some collard greens. Kyle said he wanted some but then he didn’t come home for dinner so they are still hanging out in the veggie drawer. Maybe tonight?

booksOn to the book challenge. This year, I am choosing the 2017 Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge, a choose-your-own bookish adventure. The modern Mrs. Darcy is a real woman named Anne, and I chose her challenge because I follow her blog, her challenge seemed to fit with my reading goals and I didn’t feel like researching other reading challenges though there are plenty to be had.

This challenge has two paths and readers can choose to do one or both, or, as Roland likes to say, we all have free will and can mix and match and read whatever we damn well please. Yep, that’s him. I’m going to try the deluxe challenge and do both paths and we’ll see how it goes.

The two paths? 1) A stretch yourself in 2017 Reading for Growth path and 2) a put the oomph back in your reading life Reading for Fun path.

There are 12 categories on each path, and you can click on the Challenge link above or wait until I reveal them one by one, but here’s a taste. The Growth path encourages choices of a book in translation, a book of any genre that addresses current event or a more than 600 page book. The fun path includes books like something you chose for the cover, a juicy memoir and a book set somewhere you’ve never been.

I’ve scribbled a few books down in some of the categories, but they are totally subject to change. It will depend on what’s laying around the house and what is available at the library because I would like to not buy any new books if at all possible (unless they’re a great deal for my kindle because then all bets are off).

I’m starting with a Pulitzer Prize winner (in the growth category): Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, the 2005 winner.



Wrapping Up the Lists — Book Edition

Earlier this year I challenged myself to read all the books that I had not already read on the Goodreads List of 50 Books That Everyone Should Read at Least Once. I am happy to report that I accomplished the goal, and I’m wrapping this challenge up, ready to head on to the next one. The most succinct way I can think to do this is in Superlative fashion drawing from all 50 books on the list. Books with an * were from the list of 18 I read this year.


*The Book Thief, *Fahrenheit 451, *The Picture of Dorian Gray, Night, The Alchemist, The Help, The Great Gatsby, The Hunger Games

Least Favorites:

*Brave New World, *The Giving Tree, *The Secret Garden

Most Disturbing:

*1984, *Lord of the Flies, Gone with the Wind (by today’s standards)

Couldn’t Get Through:

*Crime and Punishment

Full disclosure in that many of the 32 on the list previously read were read in another lifetime, aka as high school or college, so many years ago that to truly give an opinion of them I would have to read them again. Alas, there are so many books in the world that I have no desire to re-read any of those right now. Maybe someday.

My 2017 reading challenge will involve books of my own choosing. More on this later.

Happy Holidays!

10 Lessons of NaNoWriMo

dad-3You can’t participate in NaNoWriMo without learning a thing or two about writing and about yourself. This was my first time participating, though last year I did participate in a challenge to write a blog post every day in November. Kind of a NaNoWriMo super light because those two things are nothing alike.

So what did I learn?

  1. It is possible to write 50,000 words in 25 days. Not an overachiever here, but I was busy on 11/6 and it was so early in the process I did not grasp the significance of missing the daily target of 1667 words. I was out of town for three days and unable to squeeze in writing time, and I finished on the 29th.
  2. I am neither planner, someone who plans their entire novel and perhaps “fills in the blanks” or a pantster, someone who starts on November 1 with nothing planned and writes by the seat of their pants. I am a plantster. I did some planning and quite a lot of writing by the seat of my pants.
  3. Reading the book No Plot, No Problem by Chris Baty, founder of this crazy writing experiment was extremely beneficial.
  4. As the days wore on it became easier and easier to let go of my inner critic and write.
  5. My writing improved over the course of the month.
  6. Sometimes my characters refused to tell me what happened next.
  7. I don’t work full time. I can’t imagine trying to do this and work.
  8. I can write on road trips, also known as how I was able to get my word count in over the Thanksgiving holiday without appearing to be anti-social.
  9. There is some shockingly bad writing that happened in the middle of the month and I’m okay with that (see #4 and #6).
  10. I found it easier to write a 50,000 word novel than a short story.

AND a bonus lesson: I want to do it again!

I wrote a novel!

I haven’t been around the blog much (or really any) at all because as it turns out I can’t blog and write an entire 50,000 word novel in 30 days. It’s one or the other. As of about 3:30 p.m. EST I finished the novel. I’ll be back tomorrow to report on the experience, because it was definitely an experience.


So Novel

It’s November 1. Time to start writing the novel along with all the other Nanowrimo folks. I’m all set. You can see my word counter over there on the right. It’s set on zero at the moment, but give me a day or two. Besides, I’m writing this post on Monday afternoon, and schedule its publishing so I can concentrate my energies on the other thing.

According to advice I:

  • am banishing my inner critic/editor
  • will try to get ahead of my word count in week 1 (I’ll be out of town for part of week 2 so this may be particularly important)
  • will not worry if I have the perfect first sentence (but I do)

I’ll try to post here now and then, maybe with some sentences or paragraphs of the story. Or maybe not depending on how my inner editor is feeling about sharing.

My working title? Sure, I’ll share that… The Grace Gallery

Picture Day

schoolpictureElbows on the table, leaning over her bowl of Cheerios, Miller Glenn Madison smiled at the prospect of having a successful picture day this year. For her first seven picture days, MG, as she was known to her best friends, approached the day with trepidation because she knew her school picture would turn out awful. Last year’s was particularly hideous with her mouth full of braces and stringy hair. And there was the damn sweater. Now with straight teeth and a hairstyle chosen after watching hours of how-to youtube videos gave her a reason to be hopeful.

Armed with more tips for a successful picture day from an article she ripped out of the Seventeen magazine at the orthodontist’s office, she bounced upstairs after breakfast, ready to transform herself.

She crossed the threshold into her room, stopped cold, screamed and yelled, “NOOOOOO! I will not wear Gramma’s monogram sweater this year! I. WILL. NOT!

That brought Mom running to her room with Gramma close behind. Mom calmly spoke. “Miller Glenn, you know that ever since you were big enough you wore that sweater. It means so much to Gramma.”

Gramma continued that sentiment, “Yes, dear. My mother, your great-grandmother, made that for me, and I wore it in all my school photographs.”

Tears flowing, MG protested, “I know. But that sweater does not even have MY initials. I’ve checked, Gramma. Your last name initial is supposed to be in the middle. This says MGM for Mary Miller Griffin and my monogram is supposed to say MMG. Other kids know and they made fun of me last year.”

“Well, darling,” Gramma said, “the letters are the same. That’s what bonds us.”

Looking at her mother, MG cried, “Mom! I can’t wear that sweater! I’ve… I’ve… ”

Taking in a big breath, “I wear a bra now, Mom. That sweater will be too tight! Plus, I have already picked out the perfect dress that makes my eyes look so blue. And, and, and … just get out of my room! I have to do my hair.”

The two older women backed out of the room and Mom said, as she softly closed the door, “I know you’ll do the right thing.”

Her confidence shattered, MG got herself ready for school and reluctantly pulled the short sleeve crew neck over her pretty, blue floral sundress. Turning this way and that as she looked in her full-length mirror, she knew she was in for another horrible school picture. Even her hair refused to cooperate.

Mom and Gramma stayed out of sight, and watched through the kitchen window as MG ran to the school bus. Gramma smiled, but Mom was alarmed at how right her daughter had been to balk at the sweater this year.

Because they were the oldest, the 8th graders got to have their pictures taken first. They gathered for the group photo, and MG strategically stood on the 3rd row so she wouldn’t be seen. Later, lining up for the individual pictures, she crossed her arms over her chest, trying to make herself as small as possible.

Cold sweat trickled from her prickly armpits when she felt a tap on her shoulder. Caught off guard, she blushed a hot pink when she saw the boy she had a crush on. Paul, the cutest boy in 8th grade, looked at her chest and out of nowhere poked her in the middle of the monogram, right between her breasts.

“Hey! Those aren’t your initials,” he said as he continued to poke.

Caught off guard, she turned back around, trying not to cry, when the photographer stuck his head out of the room. “Next.”


“Miller Glenn Madison,” MG whispered.

“Miller Glenn.” He checked her off the list, and looked up. “Are you ok?”

Shaking her head, MG sat on the stool with the school backdrop behind her and smiled a wobbly smile. At least her teeth were straight. She started to hop off the stool and stopped, catching a glimpse of her skirt and remembering this year was going to be different. Peeling off the sweater, she said, “Wait, can you take one shot without the sweater. My grandmother made me wear this and I hate it.”

The photographer nodded. A man who truly loved working with the children and wanted to get the best out of them, he was relieved that it was just the sweater upsetting her. He had no idea what had just happened. He took a few more shots and she slid off the stool with a good feeling bubbling deep inside her belly. Maybe the flash bulb was magic. She put the sweater back on, and winked to the photographer as she walked out.

No boy had ever done what Paul had done and now that she had regrouped during her photo session, she wanted to teach him a lesson. Summoning every ounce of bravery in her 13 year old body, she stood waiting for his session to finish. As he walked out of the classroom, she stepped in front of him and blocked his way.


He stopped, startled, and she continued, grabbing him by his index finger and drawing it as seductively as she knew how toward her monogram.

In what she thought was a sexy voice, she said, “Paul, I really, really….”

After a pause as long as she could stand, MG tensed and bent his finger back hard. “… hated it! Don’t ever do anything like to me or any other girl again. Your name really isn’t Paul either. It’s Prick!”

She flipped her hair as she turned, head held high, with that bubbly power surging through her body. She didn’t even care if his finger was broken, but kept on walking as she heard him whining on the floor. Taking off the sweater once more, more than anything she wanted to drop it in the nearest trash can, but knew that would hurt Gramma too much. She even knew that she would have to put it back on one more time so her grandmother would know she had worn it, but it would be the last time.

As she walked into the kitchen after school, Gramma said, “Sweetheart! You wore the sweater. Thank you. Next year, I will find something else for you to wear for your picture because I can see this is a little snug. Come give me a big hug.”

MG obliged, hugging the older woman tightly. Then she stepped back and said, “Gramma. I love you so much, and I want to make you happy, but next year, and all the next years, I’m going to pick out my own outfit.”

And before Gramma could say anything, MG walked out of the kitchen and up the stairs to do her homework.

I am currently participating in a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) on writing. This one, How Writers Write Fiction 2016: Storied Women is offered by the University of Iowa. “Picture Day” is my submission for the first assignment.