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!

 

Ten years

Dear Reader,

According to my blog, I’ve been at this for ten years. I just wanted to make a note of that, I guess.

In other news, I’m writing the new Civil War book very slowly. The Boy has been helping by reading my pages out loud so I can hear awkward phrasing or when I obsess about colorizing everything (his green hers, her pink dress, etc). It’s a slow process, but since I’m building confidence after not writing for a year, it’s worth it.

In still other news, I’ve changed all my digital touch points to say I write young adult Victorian fiction. Took me a while to get it figured out, but I think this works best. Huzzah!

Best,
Belinda

Take a Library Tour

columbusMetroLibraryI love libraries with a passion that some say borders on the abnormal. When I visit a new city, there are two things I must do:

  1. Visit whatever water exhibit available (fountains, lakes, etc).
  2. Visit the local library.

The first is something my father instilled in me. He grew up in a water area and feels at home where water is prominent. The second again is something my father began, back when wifi wasn’t prevalent and he needed email access.

Enter the local library. The amazing thing about local libraries is that they say more about a town than you would imagine. Is the library in an historic house? Then books are seen as something to be treasured, but perhaps only to be seen, not used. Is the library in a modern building, with a lot of light and computers? The city perhaps feels that knowledge is power.

These are, of course, my biased opinions based on what little I know about budgets, architecture, and book culture. But the fact remains that you can learn a lot about a city by going to the local library. Better yet, chat with the librarian and get some interesting facts about the town.

Columbus, Ohio, where I am located, has over 30 libraries. Many belong to the Columbus Metropolitan system, and others are specific to the suburbs in the area. When preparing for my book launch party back in 2010, I hit six of the libraries and was stunned by how different they were. It was fascinating to see how the interior layout of the building changed the mood; how the configuration of the books brought certain people together and kept others apart.

Take a library tour of your city, if you’re blessed to be in a city that has more than one library. It was a blast for me to spend a day driving around town, popping into a library to leave some fliers and wander around the building. It lifted my spirits and made me feel good about where I’m living, as a reader and an author.

Try it sometime. You just might like it. But you don’t have to take my word for it.

Best,
Belinda

How to Continue Following Worderella via Email or RSS

Oh dear, oh my! It seems my beloved Feedburner is being killed. This the internet service that allows those of you who read this blog to do so via RSS and email.

To ensure all 107 of you subscribed via Feedburner continue to get my updates, you can do the following:

Please make sure those are the accurate links that you click by checking against the text versions. Feedburner is being really weird right now.

Thanks to Edwardian Promenade for notifying her audience (including me) about this!

In other news, I just finished reading a fantastic teen historical fiction book over the weekend. What have you been reading?

Best,
Belinda