DIY MFA: Write with Focus, Read with Purpose, Build Your Community
DIY MFA: Write with Focus, Read with Purpose, Build Your Community by Gabriela Pereira

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you’ve been following me very long on the interwebs, you will probably know that I am HUGE supporter and collaborator with DIY MFA. Gabriela’s vision of making writing accessible for everyone who wants to write makes me so very happy. If you don’t already know about DIY MFA, please take a moment to check it out, sign up for her email list, and get ready to take your writing life by the horns.

DIY MFA boils down the MFA experience into three components: Write with Focus, Read with Purpose, Build Your Community. And her website, her book, her podcast, her newsletter, everything points the way to being the best, most prolific writer you can dare to be.

This book captures the heart of the DIY MFA mission and delivers it in a brilliant package. The amount of solid writing advice and actionable information in this book is almost overwhelming! Gabriela crams all her most powerful creative advice between the covers here and delivers a solid, continually reference-able resource to help you up your writing game, no matter what your goals are.

I am a firm believer and stalwart follower of the DIY MFA philosophy. I love the empowerment and encouragement that the DIY MFA community offers. If you aren’t familiar with DIY MFA yet, you NEED to buy this book. It truly is the most perfect and succinct introduction to the life-changing and writing-life-transformational experience you never knew you needed.

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Finish Your Book in Three Drafts: How to Write a Book, Revise a Book, and Complete a Book While You Still Love It
Finish Your Book in Three Drafts: How to Write a Book, Revise a Book, and Complete a Book While You Still Love It by Stuart Horwitz

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m not gonna lie, when Stuart Horwitz approached me with a request to participate in the editing of his newest book, I may have squealed with unadulterated glee like the little fan-girl I am. I have been through this book a few times now and each time I find a new nugget of wisdom that I want to diligently squirrel away to reference during future projects. I already reference Book Architecture all the time in my work as a freelance editor. Now I’ll be adding Finish Your Book in Three Drafts: How to Write a Book, Revise a Book, and Complete a Book While You Still Love It to my “essentials” shelf.

Stuart’s break down of the process of building your manuscript is empowering; it’s freeing. You’re not bound to creating an outline or to following a linear path when you’re writing anymore. The tools he shares in this book (series grid, theme target, punch list) can help you make sense of the writing you have already done and be intentional about where and how you build and layer the significant moments as you continue to craft your manuscript.

And, bonus, Stuart’s book, Finish Your Book in Three Drafts, shows you how to know when you’re done, how to give yourself permission to put down the pen on a project.

The storytelling element of this particular volume makes it different from other books I’ve read on writing, outlining, and crafting your manuscript. Stuart’s pith and wit made the subject matter all the more enjoyable.

I highly recommend this book (and his other titles) to anyone who wants to develop their writing process, who wants to look at their craft differently, and who wants to finish their manuscript while they still love it.

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This Raging Light This Raging Light by Estelle Laure
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lucille’s mom skipped out on her and her kid sister, and her dad disappeared after a nervous breakdown months earlier, throwing Lucille’s normal seventeen-year-old life into chaos.

I feel very privileged to have read an arc of this book before publication. Like I’ve been let in on some awesome secret. Estelle Laure hit the feels spot pretty early on in this book and I loved her characters the rest of the way through. Fiercely. Like, if things weren’t working out I was going to come in there and help make sure they were ok.

My only problem is, I felt like the world was too idealistic. I know horrible things happen, and no seventeen-year-old should be left to be parent to her kid sister, much less have to deal with the financial strain of keeping a roof over their heads. But the kindness of relative strangers makes me skeptical. I would wish for a world in which this kind of generosity exists, but I don’t know that I believe in it.

In fiction, in the context of reading the story, we should be willing and able to suspend our disbelief to take in what happens as inevitable. Of course people step in to help. It’s the only possible way that this story could turn out without being utterly heart-wrenching. Except that I didn’t get there. I still expected the “man” to step in. And when that didn’t happen, I thought “well that’s a nice story…” It’s not that I want characters (or RL people!) to suffer. It’s just that suffering is inevitable. And when fiction conveniently sidesteps it, or dials it back from the worst that could happen, I (and lots of other readers) notice.

Laure’s style, the voice of Lucille in this book, was raw and consuming. I felt the feels and I thought the thoughts that were in her head, the head of a seventeen-year-old. More than once I wanted to write down passages so I could read them over again, they were so delicious.

In all, This Raging Light is a well-crafted read that I would recommend to others.

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I greatly enjoyed Seraphina. Dragons, half-dragons, and an entirely new world to settle into and become familiar with–who could ask for more? So I was thrilled when the sequel came out, so excited to be part of that world again and to see how Seraphina grew and became herself by the end.

Some of the reviews for Shadow Scale indicated that the narrative would be disappointing, and so I was a little nervous going into the reading that I might come out of it feeling that something was missing. What I experienced, though, was exactly the opposite.

I loved this book, the dragon-lore, the scope and breadth of the plot (from gathering the ityasaari to the war between neighboring kingdoms), and most especially the high and low places that Seraphina’s character walks through to come into herself fully and freely.

What I wanted, to see Seraphina become strong and independent, worthy of love and of loving, was exactly what Rachel Hartman delivered. Her last line “I walked myself into the world” perfectly encapsulates the journey that Seraphina traveled from those first pages until the end. For me, the story was always about that.

Thank you again, Ms. Hartman, for sharing Seraphina with us.

I just finished reading Book Architecture yesterday, and I am excited to incorporate series grids into my personal and professional editing processes. I appreciated the format of the book, how each element was broken down and given a “real life” example. I immediately began noticing series everywhere.

I recommend this book for people who want to break out of the “traditional” plot formula, or who have already and are now wondering how to make sense of their manuscript. Series, and tracking series in a grid, can help you identify the important elements of your narrative, and can help you organize those elements for maximum emotional and/or intellectual impact.

I’ll be going back to read Blueprint Your Bestseller: Organize and Revise Any Manuscript with the Book Architecture Method

Free to FallFree to Fall by Lauren Miller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Loved it! Absolutely loved this book. Lauren Miller kept me reading, wondering what was coming next. I figured out a few of the “mysteries” based on clues she’d seeded into the narrative, but that just made it more fun for me to read, honestly. I had a silly fan girl moment at one point, when Miller wove Field of Dreams–my favorite movie–into the story. Seriously squealed with delight.

The inspirational message behind the whole book really speaks to me, an adult who hasn’t quite decided to grow up yet… listen to that still small voice–to the Doubt as Miller describes it–the one that everyone tells you not to trust when really the Doubt would never steer you wrong. Ray in Field of Dreams listened and people thought he was crazy, but it was the right thing to do… Rory listens, and it’s the hardest thing she’s ever done, but again, it was the right thing to do! I need to be reminded of that more, to listen to the voice in my head, to not be afraid to follow my intuition, to chase after my passions.

I highly recommend this book.

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What To Do When It's Your Turn
What To Do When It’s Your Turn by Seth Godin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I participated in the Your Turn Challenge, a week-long daily blogging challenge, last week before I read What To Do When It’s Your Turn(and it’s always your turn). Whether or not Seth intended it, the conclusions I came to in answer to or response to the prompts and questions asked of us during the challenge are straight out of this book.

Mr. Seth Godin, I think you may have written this book for me. Here are a few of the lines that spoke directly to my psyche, my heart, my self:

“Liberate yourself from the need to be right.

Not everything has to be okay.

Change hurts. Do it anyway.

Embrace the fear of freedom, deciding to determine your own path, this is the work of a grownup, of someone who can identify what truly matters.

Do what you should do. Your mood will follow.”

It’s hard to tell if this is a self-help book, a business development book, or something completely new.

Whatever it is, it spoke to me in ways I needed to hear today. So thank you for that, Mr. Godin.

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The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers by Betsy Lerner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There were some really good nuggets in this book, advice for editors and writers alike. I appreciated Lerner’s candor and insight overall. I felt like the book sort of imploded at the end, though, and then fizzled out. I’m not sure I feel so doom and gloom about the state of the publishing industry as she does. Yes the old world is dying, fading, reorganizing, but that marks the beginning of something new, exciting, vibrant to come. These are the birthing pains as story-telling and sharing reincarnates again. I’m glad to be part of it.

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Ruin and Rising
Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A great ending to a highly imaginative trilogy. I appreciated the complexity of the characters and the depth of emotion in the relationships while at the same time frantically flipping pages to find out what was going to happen next!

Bardugo captured my imagination with her faux-Russian culture and landscape and created a world that inspired awe and fear all at once. I am so glad I finally got to read this book! I’ve been waiting impatiently ever since I finished “Siege and Storm”.

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The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line
The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m a huge fan of the Veronica Mars TV series, so when I heard that Rob Thomas had written a book, I knew I had to read it. I wasn’t sure entirely what to expect. Thomas wrote an amazing TV show, but I was worried that his prose might fall a little flat, or that the characters would not live up to the actors who portrayed them.

In an uncharacteristic move for me, I decided to listen to the audio book (read by Kristen Bell) instead of reading the novel. Let me tell you, that was probably the BEST thing I could have done after deciding to read this novel. Kristen Bell, who plays Veronica on the TV show, added SO much to the narrative voice. It really was Veronica telling the story. I loved it!

The book picks up where the Kickstarter movie left off, which is good, because I had many unanswered questions after the movie. I look forward to finding out more about my favorite characters as this mystery series unfolds.

Thomas’s writing was spot on like the TV show. I laughed out loud many times at the dry wit, gasped with pleasure at the appearance of my favorite characters from the show, and teared up at sentimental moments with Keith Mars (Veronica’s dad). The story kept me guessing, figuring out “whodunit” along with Veronica was part of the fun, and I never felt like I was jerked around by the author trying to tie up loose ends.

This book was a pleasure I cannot WAIT to repeat, so hurry up and publish the next book in the series, Mr. Thomas!

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