Of the Lunch Book Club

Book Trail

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Today I decided to spend my lunch on a little grass patch known around here as, The Village Green. A small lawn surrounded by the city, where a variety of outdoor events are held during the summer. My sole motivation was to try to lessen the extremity of the tan-line forming on my feet – courtesy of the Saltwater Sandals I wear practically every day. But I had a book, Jam by Yahtzee Croshaw that I’ve been intending to read for ages, and a cold soda – so I was content to sit in the sun.

When I first sat down I was alone on the patch of green.

About 10 minutes later I looked up and noticed two girls sitting on a bench across from me, silently reading side-by-side.

After a terrifying bee distracted me from my delightful book, I spotted towards the end of the row of benches that another girl had just sat down and pulled out a book.

Behind me, a man kicked off his sandals and was opening a book of his own.

As I sat on the grass, almost all the benches were becoming occupied by fellow readers. And a couple of people had joined me on the grass. The only noise was that of the cars driving by, and the soft chatter of two girls who were on a picnic date.

My new reading friends and I remained at The Village Green together for almost an hour, until one by one we got called back to work, or the sun was too intense to handle.

Just call us the Lunch Book Club, I hope we meet again.

Of My Habitual Bookshelf

Book shelf

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My books are organized alphabetically – by title. Many book lovers I know take the time to arrange their books by genre, then by authors last name, and lastly by title. I’m not a library, there’s no need for me to so intricately categorize my books. When I’m in a literature mood I don’t browse based off genre, I think of the book I want and find it with ease. It didn’t occur to me until tonight that my bookshelf might be functioning as a hindrance to my reading life.

For you see, I’m a creature of habit, as many are. I order the same coffee almost everyday (double, 12oz, vanilla, latte, hot). I always go to the same restaurants and when I do I order the same food (I know it’s good, if I’m feeling adventurous I’ll take a bite of someone else’s food, my choice is a guaranteed success). I watch the same style of movie or TV show. I walk the same trails with my friends. I even play the same songs on the piano. I’m highly predictable – makes it easy to buy presents for me.

Tonight I was in a reading mood, so naturally I went to my bookshelf. It’s remarkable how many of my books I’ve never even read a page of, and I’d say half of the one’s that I have read were never finished. In theory, my unread bookshelf should give me a lot of options when picking out a book. But as I stared at the titles I kept flicking my eyes towards my favorites. Skimming over the titles that I really should read, since I own them, and pausing upon books that I have read multiple times. It took a lot of restraint to not grab The Giver by Lois Lowry for the fourteenth time and choose a new book. Well, new to me anyways.

Thanks to my self-control (and trust me, it was mentally tiring) I picked up White Oleander by Janet Fitch, a book that I’ve been meaning to read for years – and no, I’ve never seen the movie. Starting tonight I shall read this book I’ve never read, and who knows, someday I might be able to say I’ve read every book I own. Nah, probably not, I’ll shoot for 50%.

Maybe when my lease is up, and I’m once again forced to relocate my library, I’ll try a new method of organizing. Force myself to say, “I should read a fantasy novel,” and sift through that section. Instead of, “I’m going to read Looking for Alaska (by John Green) or Me Talk Pretty One Day (by David Sedaris) …. again.” 

And perhaps it doesn’t matter. Odds are, no matter what I do, I’ll still fall into the same habitual tendencies.

Of My TV Obsession

Television

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For a person who loves books, calls herself a writer, and wants to go into mainstream publishing – I sure do watch a lot of TV.

I wish I read more. I really do. I love great prose, strong metaphors, witty language, and surprise endings. I have fellow creative writing friends who will exchange work with me, there’s great joy in being proud of my own and my friends creations. There’s an epic amount of books out there to read and I always devour the free books shelves at the Library. But, what I spend most of my personal entertainment time doing is watching TV.

I like TV. No – I love TV – it’s like a long epic movie where I get to fall in love with the characters. They become like friends or enemies that live in a box. I like bonding with people over shows, introducing people to new shows, discovering new ones, geeking out to Joss Whedon, I like the what happens next feeling from episode to episode.

In TV land I get emotional way easier than I do in real life. I’ll start crying during reality shows, when someone dies, when the new-found love is exciting and wonderful, when people get married, when men cry, when oppressed gay youth get bullied, and when someone is performing and their talent blows me away, pretty much at anything depending on mood.

Normally I’m not a weepy person, and let me clarify that I’m not bawling my eyes out while devouring cookie dough ice-cream, usually it’s nothing more than watery eyes, usually. I’m very good at keeping my emotions in check and ONLY displaying those to whom I select – my fave persons as it were. But I get really obsessed with certain shows, and what can I say, TV world seems to bring out my emotional side.

Of Piles and Piles of Books

Girl Reading in the Woods

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I need to read more. They say that the more you read, the better you write. I’ve always said that a cliché’s a cliché for a reason. Let’s get reading …

I have a pile of books by my bed on my Read Now Bitch list, and even more on my book shelf. Last week I got three new books from a free books shelf, and I have an ever-growing list of books I want to buy. Yet, I have no time to read these stories. I am partially into The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris, and so on, and so on, and so on.

Most books that I start I WILL finish. Even if I think the book is simply dreadful like Rose of No Man’s Land by Michelle Tea. Warning, spoilers: young girl named Trisha gets a job, loses job, meets a girl named Rose, Rose throws her gross tampon at a guy (I swear these girls never bathe or do anything remotely hygienic), they do a lot of drugs (a lot), drink a lot, steal, Trisha has sex with Rose, then gets a tattoo, Trisha figures out that she’s a lesbian, Rose says she’s straight, this angers Trisha, they part and go back home, Trisha’s sister lost her Real World Audition tapes, The End. The whole thing is written with intense teenage angst and bizarre dialogue formatting, but damn it, I finished the book.

Then there’s a couple that I have never made it past the first thirty – fifty pages. Some of those are considered classics: Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Other’s are books that looked interesting and were on either a best seller list or employee picks section: The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery.

Still, I need to read more. I need to finish every book I own no matter how nauseating it is. And if I can’t bear the sight of it after completing said book(s) I will donate it(them) to some other person who may in fact love the story. I am not so cocky as to say that my opinion is the best, but I do have high standards. Often I think it’s more fun talking about or buying a book than actually reading one.

However, when a book comes along that defies that norm, it’s something amazing. And my Books I’m Ecstatic Came Into My Life That I Need to Own and Lend to Everyone I Know is much longer than my hate list: Looking For Alaska by John Green, Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett, Can You Keep a Secret by Sophie Kinsella.

I could write lists of books I love, hate, and want for hours.

Of Writing Style and Reading Taste

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This is an expanded version of an assignment I had in my editing and publishing class to write a letter about my personal taste in writing and reading. Initially I tailored the assignment with a narrow focus with the intention of keeping the letter precise and semi-formal. But after listening to what my professor wrote and several of the other students in my class I felt inspired to rewrite the letter even though I knew it would never be graded because I wanted to:

Dear Professor:

 The first thing I’ll admit about my reading tastes and writing style is that I’m lazy. I’ll spend hours binge watching anything by Joss Whedon, or an old Gene Kelly musical before I finally say to myself, Sarah, stop procrastinating you have to write something. At that point I’ll sit down and pump out what I need within three hours that’s good enough for at least a B+ or A-. Or if I’m writing for fun I’ll spend hours talking aloud to myself making sure that my words flow with perfect elegance or sarcasm depending on the piece.

When asked about my tastes I can answer what I dislike much easier than what I enjoy. I’ve read more unbearable plotless fiction than any person ever should. I’m eagerly awaiting the end of the current apocalypse fad. I dislike when someone messes with my traditional or Whedon mythology, sorry Stephanie Meyer but vampires burn to ash in the sun, they simply don’t sparkle like fairies. I hate unnecessary wordiness, thus I hate Victorian literature. If Jane Austen’s books were to all of a sudden vanish into the clouds, I would not shed a single tear, in fact, I would probably dance with joy. I’m sick of snooty classic literature purists who are constantly trying to start a fight because I loathe their precious Pride and Prejudice, I think Mr. Darcy was a jerk with money, and that I find Austen’s writing style unbearably boring. If I’m being honest I haven’t read a lot of classic literature, but from what I’ve read I’ve rarely been impressed.

Being a twenty-two year old college student I naturally have adult tastes:  I love a book that will challenge or wow me intellectually, as well as a girly book that makes me laugh. Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella, for example, is a hilarious book marketed towards women and is surprisingly not cliché. A strong female, who is not a needy obnoxiously boy crazy human being, drives the plot with such surprises and quirks that the first time I read the novel I only put the book down once and only because I was laughing so hard that I could no longer see the printed words on the page. However, being that I was born and raised in a religious conservative household, I have come to find that some of the best books are ones that I can appreciate and my younger brother can also enjoy. These are books that when visiting family, I do not have to worry about my mother looking over my shoulder and seeing something that she wouldn’t approve of, such as curse words or sexual language. That’s why I long to go into young adult literature. Problem is that most of what I write isn’t like the young adult literature that I love to read. My writing reflects a part of me that I’ve never shown my family, and I dread the day that I have to decide between censoring myself, using a pen name, or letting the full truth come out for my family to see. I used to always censor my writing; I have the ability to switch how I communicate to match what the people around me deem appropriate. I recently decided that in order to write to the best of my abilities I had to be fully honest and not adjust how I write to please others; I use my blog to practice this.

When my little brother was three we learned that the reason he was not speaking was because he was deaf. By the time he was four he had a surgery to get a cochlear implant. Nowadays he still has a deaf boy lisp but he doesn’t need us to sign as he is able to speak and understand us just fine. I gained a whole new level of respect for the language I took for granted while watching him go to hours of speech therapy and commute an hour and a half daily to the most amazing deaf school to ever exist, Northwest School for Hearing Impaired Children. Naturally, because of what he had to overcome, it took him awhile to get into reading. When he was about eleven he was engrossed with the How to Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell. He loved it, so I read it, and I have to say it was dazzling. And the only thing it has in common with the movie is the names of the characters and title of the story, literally everything else is completely different. I made it my personal mission at that point to make sure he keeps reading, so I frequently introduce him to books that I loved when I was little, such as Holes by Louis Sachar. And he would in return share current books with me.  Doing this is what initially sparked my dream of publishing young adult literature.

While edgier books have their place and are also wonderful, I love a book that is brilliant enough to touch the souls of both old and young. My favorite book growing up, and to this day, was The Giver by Lois Lowry. A short novel about the dangers of ignorance in a controlled society and follows a young twelve-year-old boy who boldly made his own path, returning the memories of the past to his community. In terms of books that have influenced the masses, the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling is a prime example of what well written young adult can accomplish, and is arguably the book of my generation. While marketed for young adults it still has a plot and depth that adults of all ages have enjoyed over the years. And don’t even get me started on how amazing the character of Snape is, his purpose, intentions, boldness, contradictions, I could only dream of writing such an intense and interesting character.

I’m not a consistently tidy person, but when I sit down to read or write in my own home, I need order. My desk organized, my clothes put away, and most importantly my bed has to be made, throw pillows in place and all. Without my physical surroundings providing structure I find that my ability to focus or produce original work of quality falters. If I’m being honest, I would probably fall asleep regardless of how enticing the story was or how driving my creative flow was being. My unmade bed would call me into its untucked sheets. Without question that slumber would cause me to rise a few hours before my assignment was due in a raging panic. Once my bed is made I sit and wait for a vibe to take over for me. Everything I do is governed by vibes, this is how I decorate my apartment, how I decide what to wear, and it governs the tone of my piece. Recently I was doing a lot of blues dancing, which if you don’t know is a form of sexy ballroom, and watching even more Gilmore Girls. Those activities created a vibe within me that helped me write one of the best stories I’ve ever written. A sensual undertone, slow pacing, and witty dialogue drives the story of a young girl who rebels within a small community ultimately finding solace on a rare patch of grass in the desert.

My attachment to young adult literature stems from my guilty pleasures and the books that inspired me while growing up. I want my family to be able to enjoy the majority of what I publish whether they are ten or seventy. Of course, because of my own writing style and voice I’ll definitely have adult books not everyone will be able to read. Regardless, I want to publish the books that will inspire the future youth to love literature, in the ways that the books that I read inspired me. Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Sarah Luna