Etsy Finds: Reader and Writer Gifts

Check out these reader and writer gifts at Bright Bird Press on Etsy

I’ve been a busy bird over on Etsy (and Amazon, but we’ll get to that another day), creating reader and writer shirt, mug, and bag/tote gifts as well as restocking my fiction writer and reader journals! I’m super excited to partner with Printful for the shirts, bags, and mugs that are now available at Bright Bird Press. When you make an order, it’s created and shipped directly to you. As always, my newsletter subscribers get 15% off store purchases.

I’ll remind you in October about the writer gifts in particular. It’s my busiest Etsy month of the year as everyone prepares for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). In fact, people have started referring to October as Preptober! Quick reminder that the novel planner notebooks come in a range of prices based on the journal variations. Some have monthly trackers, some have spiral binding, and some are saddlestitch binding.

Let me know how things are going by tagging me on Instagram @worderella!

Searching for a book I read as a teen

Have you ever been in the situation where all you can remember about a book is pieces of the plot, parts of what the cover looked like, maybe a word or two of the title? That’s been me a lot recently as I regress to re-reading books I enjoyed during my formative fiction years (ages 12 – 17). Don’t get me wrong, I’m still reading new-to-me books, but there is something comforting about reading books you know you enjoyed so much that they haunt you later in life.

Now, I consider myself a pretty good hunter when it comes to information seeking on the internet, but this one really stumped me. Here is what I could remember about this book:

  • It was young adult fantasy when I read it between 1997 – 2003
  • The cover featured a brunette with a braid, and there was a lot of green
  • Or maybe the title had “Emerald Moon” in it
  • It was about a magical girl who was matched with a male magical partner who was older and of higher socioeconomic status
  • At some point, this man gets turned into a talking dog, and it’s hilarious
  • In this book, all magical pairs are male-female, but romance between them is highly discouraged due to lessons learned in the past
  • The ruling class are all magic users and grouped by jewels like emerald, diamond, ruby

Clearly, the more I wracked my brain, the more details I was able to remember… except the title or the author. I tried searching “emerald moon green cover YA fantasy” and various combinations into Google, Goodreads, Amazon, and eBay to no avail.

But then I found this amazing group on Goodreads called What’s the Name of that Book??? I was careful to follow the rules, and tried searching my combination of words, but again, I couldn’t find the book. So I created my own posting with many of the details I listed above.

Then on a whim, I searched the group with just “emerald” and found the thread below… where it turns out someone was actually looking for a different book, but one of the respondents suggested the book I was seeking!

Screenshot of the unrelated post that gave me the title

So it turns out the book I was looking for is called Emerald House Rising by Peg Kerr. It was published in 1997, and I did in fact remember many of the details correctly. I’m a sucker for nostalgia so I found the edition from my childhood on eBay. But after more internet searching, I also found out Ms. Kerr only ever wrote another book after Emerald before stopping to raise a family.

Screenshot of my original post on Goodreads

I learned through Wikipedia that unfortunately her husband died of cancer in 2018, and that she had a LiveJournal account until 2017 when they switched the servers to Russia. She now blogs on Dreamwidth, and it has been fascinating for me to revisit an author like this. Back in 2000, it never would have occurred to me to seek out an author’s website or journal, I just wandered the library stacks and picked up books based on what the cover looked like.

I’m happy to share that Ms. Kerr has the rights for both her books now, and is republishing them for eBook and print. I’m interested to follow her work, much like M. Louisa Locke, I think Ms. Kerr has an opportunity for a second career creating the fiction she loves.

Have you hunted for a childhood favorite book? To what lengths did you search, and what did you discover?

Making a space for writing

Something that struck me while reading Stephen King’s On Writing is that he emphasizes life supports the art of writing, the art of writing doesn’t support life. His anecdotal story talks about how he had a room saved for writing with a T-Rex sized mahogany desk in the center, but over time, with the family and kids, he got rid of the desk, bought a family set of furniture, and shoved smaller desk under the eaves in the corner of the room.

Now, even when I had my own two-bedroom apartment, where I could save an entire room for my writing and guests, I realized… I hated it. I felt cut off from my space, the room didn’t have the best light, the reasons were endless. I moved my desk to my living room behind my sofa and felt much happier.

We’ve been going through a similar transformation that Stephen King described at my house. We spend most of our time upstairs, whereas downstairs my husband has his hobby room, I have my hobby nook, and then there’s a second living space. My hobby nook faces the living space, which I like because it gives me the best light, I can watch the little ones (furry and human), and I can feel the energy of the house.

With lock down, however, I’ve completely let the space become a wasteland of papers, books, taxes, Etsy inventory, my violin, my camera equipment, etc. It’s a location of stress, not concentration. I’ve turned my attention to tidying because of the impending winter months… we need a second space we can all retreat to recharge without having to leave the house.

Photo of my Etsy fulfillment sideboard
Buy your next novel planner at BrightBirdPress.com

First, I got a sideboard to contain all my Etsy inventory and shipping materials. This was key, because with each order of a novel planning notebook, book tracker, gestational diabetes tracker, or newborn log, I was bouncing all over the space to print the receipt, grab the envelope and tissue paper, another corner to get the actual purchased item… You can see how that got hectic quickly.

Next, I hope to consolidate all my photography and music content in an area, finally leaving the remaining space for writing. It’s a shame that I have an 1860s writing desk and never use it! My goal is to clear the space so I can get back to it by the new year.

Are you making a space for your hobbies? How has your home changed since the pandemic?

Finding Comfort in Tracking my Reading

I’m sure you’re as tired as I am of hearing about all the “uncertainty” in the world today. Let’s face it, the world has always been uncertain. Excluding the flabbergasting impact the pandemic has had on the total unpreparedness of the United States, 2020 is different only because there is more visibility on issues that already existed. Not to be a total downer here, but these issues aren’t going to go away in 2021 unless we all choose to do something about it.

All that said, I’ve been looking for things that bring a feeling of stability and predictability, such as revisiting favorite books from my personal library. Even if these are re-reads, I keep track of them in my reading journal.

Why keep a reading journal?

I have kept a reading journal since 2006. There’s something oddly comforting about looking over the years at the types of books I read. Some years, it’s clear I was doing research for a new novel. Some years, I was pushing my reader horizons by picking up a lot of fantasy or literary fiction. And some years, like this one, I revisited favorites either to dissect the narrative, or just to have something at hand that I knew I’d enjoy.

My journal follows a light version of bullet journal techniques, meaning I include a:

  • Key to indicate my opinion of the book
  • Index to locate each year (some years span multiple pages/spreads)

Journal key

Photo of my reading journal's "key"

In my reading journal’s key, I have special symbols for the following reading statuses:

  • Started or in-progress
  • “Meh” as in, it was OK but I’d probably not read it again
  • Disliked or hated
  • Liked
  • Quit
  • Loved
  • Try again, as in migrate this title to next year’s list because I didn’t get to it by the new year

And then I have two symbols for the format of the book, because I noticed that I started reading eBooks out of nowhere in 2011, with 2015 being the first year where I read more eBooks than print books.

  • Print book
  • eBook

Noticing reading trends

Photo of my 2006 reading list

This year, I’m back to only reading print books because I’ve been full-time work from home due to the pandemic. I have more than enough screen time with the job and doing DIY home improvement research on my phone, I just have no interest in reading books on my phone or tablet.

I wish I had started this journal back in high school instead of halfway through college. I’ve been seeking out books I liked at the time but didn’t have the money to buy, such as The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. Some books I purchased in college, such as the Abhorsen series by Garth Nix, and some I’m now collecting through eBay to avoid spending too much money.

Photo of my 2020 reading list

Of course, I also have been relying on the local library for newer books, but the new books have been such a hit-or-miss that I’ve given up on new fiction for a while. If you’re concerned about the virus transmitting on shared materials like library books, check out the REALM project from OCLC, which is a study tracking how long the coronavirus lives on such items.

What is something you’ve done recently for comfort?

Some friends keep a daily journal, just jotting notes about what happened that day. Some are keeping a specific gratitude journal. For me, it’s my reading and writing journals. Anything to keep me off another screen! I’m even considering going back to writing on legal pads since the thought of opening a word processor makes my skin crawl.

Best,
Belinda

You Should Watch “Pressing On: The Letterpress Film”

This past weekend I had the pleasure of watching Pressing On: The Letterpress Film. This was the result of a Kickstarter campaign and it is a lovely work! I’m a big DIYer and Maker in general, so this film was right up my alley regarding doing something slow and methodical with your hands to get a sense of accomplishment… while also collecting and sharing the history of letterpress.

It’s truly a lovely film and worth your time if you can get access to it. I seriously want a mini letterpress now in my home because of this film. I love paper, and have too many paper journals already.

Anyway, go see this film! I know I’ll be waiting for the DVD distribution!

Also, a lovely review for The Last April was written this past weekend by Emma Lucas, a book blogger and Instagrammer. I’ve included some snippets for fun:

CAN’T PUT IT DOWN RATING: 4/5
….It was educational, intriguing, and explained history to me through the eyes of Gretchen. The thoughts and feelings of both sides are exquisitely communicated through the use of dialogue and of newspaper articles, the issues surrounding ‘fake news’ (as often seen today!) were still prevalent all those years ago, with newspaper bias and genuine reporting mistakes, which led to wide struck panic and confusion and something that we can all understand.

….Overall, I would highly recommend this book, both to adults and young adults a like, for those with an interest in war fiction, of historical fiction or as an educational tool to learn. I would strongly suggest the book to any teachers who may be looking to educate students in an engaging way through story telling. Kroll’s writing is crisp and very easy to understand, and when I begrudgingly had to put the book down, it was very easy to pick it back up again.

Adults may find that the story is lacking in terms of gore, details on deaths etc, however as this is set for a younger audience this is more than understandable and did not in anyway impede my enjoyment of the book.

However, although the story is set in the past, unfortunately uncertain political times are a general constant somewhere in the world. The novella raises themes of hope, fear, and looking toward the future during these times, so will always have relevance.

I love following Emma’s book reviews because she always chooses a tea to correlate with her reading.

She suggests you read The Last April with Taylor’s of Harrogate Sour Cherry tea, because it’s “punchy as Gretchen’s attitude with a slight bitterness of Aunt Klegg, with the sweetness of Karl. Perfect accompaniment to this read!”

Camp Chase Soldier Statue Toppled

Is it is surreal that I wrote a story about a Confederate soldier released from Columbus, Ohio’s Camp Chase prison camp given current events. I learned just now on Facebook that the cemetery I visited back in June, with mixed feelings I might add, had its soldier statue toppled.

What’s ironic about the Camp Chase cemetery and the existence of this statue at all is that it was raised by Union officer William H. Knauss, who led the first memorial and later wrote a book about the prison. His intent was to honor these Confederate prison fatalities as Americans, not Confederates, as labeled on the arch. Since Columbus has the largest Confederate cemetery outside of the former Confederate States of America, one might take a cynical view to Knauss’s efforts.

Was he just trying to make money? Did he want the fame and glory of a book tour? It doesn’t seem like it… he raised money to renovate the cemetery, to put walls around it, and to invite those with Union and Confederate leanings to remember that which made the United States a singular rather than plural noun.

That said, glorifying a piece of the past is quite dangerous. If there are statues depicting Confederate officers, then there should also be statues depicting the slavery they fought to protect. And not the minstrel song and dance slaves, but those which depict liberation. If the point is to “remember our history,” then let’s remember history holistically.

It’s a semantic quibble to argue whether the American Civil War was about slavery or states’ rights. The Confederate government went to war with the Federal government for their right to determine whether slavery was legal or not, which does, in essence, make the war about slavery.

Lest we forget, a number of the statues toppled so far were built during the heydey of Jim Crow laws and the anti-Civil Rights era to act as reminders that people died to keep slavery around, and that there are generations of families who might, if pushed, do so again.

It is time we reevaluate how we pay homage and how we hope future generations interpret such symbols of homage.

Keeping it Light Today with Some Instagram Fun!

Last month I scrounged together new resources for the website just before leaving for my honeymoon. That was a pretty hectic time! This month, I’d like to keep it simple and share some of my favorite Instagram posts from the #authorlifemonth challenge and my usual #amwriting posts…

In January, I had my tonsils out. That was definitely a challenge overcome.

This is the music I listen to sometimes while working on the novella.

I love new journals. So much so, I have more journals than shoes, I think…

My writer’s group is pretty amazing when it comes to feedback!

I chatted about writing my novella’s disclaimer, and how it can be fun.

If you’re on Instagram follow me and I’ll follow back! I’m having a lot of fun there. I wish I’d signed up sooner!

5 New Resources on Worderella.com

Thanks to chatting with my educator friends, I am realizing that the young adult fiction from when I was a young adult… is more like middle grade or children’s historical fiction these days.

This was kind of a breakthrough for me. I’ve been browsing books by Laurie Halse Anderson, Margaret Peterson Haddix, and Amy Timberlake to really help me understand this publication space. I’ve been busy running around the my Worderella.com website refocusing content.

It’s still a work in progress, but I did want to highlight that I’ve added five resources to help readers and educators when they visit my website…

1. Children’s Titles

Young Reader Picture Book

My heart loves to write for children, and I do have a picture book published under another name. I’ve brought the title over to this website, knowing that I plan to publish more books under my Kroll name.

The story is called Beatrice Learns to Dance, and it’s a lovely little story about a robot determined to learn how to dance her way. It’s meant for young readers… 3 – 5 years with a parent, or 5 – 7 on their own.

2. Discussion Guides

For readers who need help connecting to a story, I’ve added a couple of discussion guides per each publication. The questions are meant to help developing readers connect deeper with the content. If you have good questions, let me know and I’ll add them to the list!

3. Bibliographies

I do a fair amount of research to inform my Victorian fiction for teens. Rather than leaving all that research in the back of the book, I wanted to highlight the bilbiographies on the website. This is something I’ve meant to do for years, but never got around to it. Once I started my design exploration of other children’s historical fiction author websites and realized this can be common (especially since students are often asked to do a small project in conjunction with their reading), I was sold.

4. Suggested Reading

And lastly, I’ve always wanted to list other books kids and teens should read if they like my books. Some of the books on my suggested reading list are ones that inspired me when I was young, some are my books, and some are books I’ve found thanks to my educator friends.

Have more suggestions? Let me know in the comments!

5. Author Visits

P1060926I love to chat about reading, writing, and publishing with students. They ask some really great, insightful questions! I’ve visited my elementary school a couple of times since becoming a published author. I’ve also visited the classrooms of my educator friends, and I’m in talks to partner with next year’s class so I can get some brutally honest beta-readers for my work-in-progress.

Since my daytime job is fairly demanding, I can only visit schools in the Central Ohio area. If you have an educator friend looking for a guest speaker, let me know!