NEW WEBSITE

After several long and wonderful and eventful years, I’m officially laying this blog to rest and moving on to a flashier website with a better excuse to indulge my “OOH PRETTY PICTURE” tendencies.

Please head over to annawaggener.com with me and let me know what you think of the new digs! No worries, all of the blog posts from here have been archived on the new site.

And more good news: I hear commuting through the internet tubes makes for a wild ride!

Stop Online Piracy Act

All you need to know about SOPA.

While technically I’m soon to become a “content provider,” I say let’s save the internet.

This I Believe

parrotI’m still in the midst of traveling and mostly away from a computer (which feels both liberating and awful), so posts for the next week and a half will continue to be light. I’m still doing work to prepare for a retreat for first- and second-year students that I’m helping to put on in early February, however, and part of that includes combing through the backlogs of the “This I Believe” project. The essays are quite fascinating and I would definitely recommend looking at them. I came across one today that I couldn’t help but share! I’ll put up my own once I’ve had a chance to write it, but until then:

Poetry or Pie?
from Christine – Valley Cottage, New York

I was making apple pies yesterday, trying to remember who wrote the poem about making apple pie instead of writing a poem. I’m a poet. I could have been writing a poem myself, but the hundred-year-old apple tree in front of our house has suddenly given us a bounteous crop: oddly shaped apples with a tart, spicy flavor. Friends say an old tree putting out fruit so abundantly is trying to reproduce before it dies. I love our old tree, so I’ve been baking pie in its honor.

When I got my pies in the oven, I looked up the poem that had been niggling at me. It’s by the late Grace Paley, and it’s called “The Poet’s Occasional Alternative.” In it, Paley says friends who tasted the pie she baked were astonished she’d made only one — and notes they never said that about her poems. She says she chose pie-making because “I do not want to wait a week, a year, a generation for the right consumer to come along.”

Despite its chronic lack of “the right consumer,” I believe in poetry. Poetry’s a gift. Poets give to the world the way my ancient apple tree is so generously supplying me with apples; knowing we are going to die, we bloom and bear all the fruit we can. Poetry even reminds me of the oddball variety of apple I keep harvesting this year — eccentric and elegant at the same time, somehow ancient even when it has just dropped from the branch.

Grace Paley got to have her pie and eat it, too. She ended up with a poem. Yesterday, I did not write any poetry. I stood, as many other women who have lived here before me have stood, peeling apples from the old tree, slicing them and fitting them into pastry. The kitchen smelled of butter and nutmeg. And something central in me shifted. I may believe in poetry, but I’m beginning to believe in pie.

That’s good. There are plenty more apples on our tree. The ones I don’t get will fall on the ground, ferment and attract bees in their alcoholic decay. Bees have their own mortality issues at this time of year. You do not want to step on a mushy apple full of yellowjackets dealing with the advent of That Good Night. This I do not only believe; this I know.

There comes a time when we have to deal with the gifts we are offered on their own terms: an impossibly old and hollow apple tree in its final explosion of fruit or the telephone wire from eternity I pray I have the talent to create with enough work. Hmmm,eternity. Do people even have landlines there? Perhaps it’s best that I made pie today. I do believe in pie.

2011 in review

Welcome to 2012, everyone!

I’m mostly internet-less right now, so I thought I’d just quickly post this up!

Cheers,

Anna

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,800 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 47 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Resolved! Six Ideas for a Bookish New Year’s Resolution

fireworks
Fireworks over Minneapolis, MN
from targetfield.blogspot.com

As we head towards New Year’s Day, many may be pondering what kinds of resolutions are both flexible enough to fit their lifestyle and binding enough to require actual commitment. I’m coming to the rescue with six literary ideas that can be tailored just for you!

Tailoring is very important when it comes to New Year’s resolutions, and setting manageable goals is the first positive step towards achieving them. The specific applications after each tip below can guide you towards finding that balance; so swap in whatever ratios and numbers work best for you.

And remember: resolutions should be both fun and fulfilling; hopefully that’s a balance that at least one of these ideas will hit!

Read More
It’s a fact of life: sometimes reading for pleasure becomes an indulgence that gets pushed to the back burner. But books can provide a wonderful and relaxing escape in your day, and this is easiest to remember if you take a little extra time to remind yourself just how much you love them.
• Make a goal to read 50 books this year (or 25 or 200, depending on your usual habits)
• Read an hour a day, or during your public transit commute, or one chapter before bed.

Read New
Used books are wonderful in many ways, including on your pocketbook and on the environment, but buying the same book more than once doesn’t send any money back to the publishing house or the author.
• If you usually buy used, resolve to buy one new book for every two used.
• Every time you check a book out from the library and love it, research the author’s other offerings and try one out.

Read Debut
It’s scary to take a risk on a new author, but if you don’t they may never be able to publish another book (*cough*cough*). Take your time with that new title before you carry it to the check-out counter, but also consider what a great opportunity it is to invest in a new voice—and how much it will mean to that author, knowing that their book was chosen from a sea of so many beloved names.
• When putting in a pre-order for an upcoming book by an author you love, pre-order a debut that’s releasing around the same time.
• Keep an eye on what debuts your most beloved authors are recommending, or debuts being released from your favorite imprints, and buy at least six this year.

Read Local
In these troubling financial times, independent bookstores are folding at an alarming rate and small presses are feeling the burn as well. Keep in mind that where you spend your money can sometimes mean as much as what you spend it on.
• Every time you place a book order online, stop by a local bookstore and see what catches your attention.
• For every three books you buy from a large or mid-sized publishing house, buy at least one from an independent press.

Read Outside the Box
Whether you love political nonfiction or can’t get enough of post-colonial feminist lyric poetry, consider adding to your repertoire by moving outside of your comfort zone.
• For every two books that fit your meme, find one that doesn’t.
• When you enter a bookstore or library, ask the bookseller or librarian for their favorite book that season—and read it, even if it’s not something you normally would.

Spread the Love
Whether recommending a book to a friend or donating a box of them to a local charity, recycling a really good book means so much to the people who receive it. If the world ends in 2012, it’s time to build up your good karma! Make a commitment now to do so through books.
• Find a Little Free Library, or something similar, in your town and contribute all of your favorite reads for 2012—or at least one for every month.
• Over the course of the year, research five great books that would be perfect for five friends. Buy them the book and request that they pass it on once they finish.

Five Literary News Bits You May Not Have Known

lollipop(Another post borrowed from my internship!  I thought it might be fun to bring you all some fun facts as we head into mingling/small-talk/I-should-have-something-cool-to-say season.)
 
For example, did you know that….
 
  • . . . Oscar Wilde’s tomb is now encased in glass? The beloved author’s resting place in the famous Père Lachaise Cemetary gained popularity as a pilgrimage site in the 1990s, and until recently had been accumulating hundreds of lipstick-red kisses from admirers. Wilde’s decedents requested that visitors treat the gravestone with more respect, but were ignored time and again. As a result, they’ve cleaned the site and installed a barrier to protect their forefather’s grave. The glass wall has already begun to collect kisses of its own.
  • . . . a museum in Paris recently purchased a tiny 1.5″ x 2.5″ magazine for more than a million dollars? The magazine, handwritten by Charlotte Brontë at the age of fourteen, is only nineteen pages long but is considered to be “the most significant Brontë manuscript to come to light in decades.” The $1.1 million sale was devastating to the Brontë Parsonage Museum, which had collected $900,000 in an attempt to keep the manuscript in England.
  • . . . there’s a new publishing model inspired by TOMS shoes? PubSlush Press allows authors to upload ten pages of their work, plus a summary, and makes the pages available to all readers. Site visitors are allowed to essentially preorder unpublished works by these authors, but are only charged if the number of supporters for that work reaches at least two thousand orders. Once that happens, PubSlush will publish and distribute the book. Authors who receive the crowd-sourced go-ahead get a full slate of publishing help: editor, design team, and publicist, and for every book sold the nonprofit press also donates a book to a child in need.
  • . . . Amazon has reported sales of more than one million Kindles a week for three weeks running? Not to be outdone, Barnes and Noble is in talks to bring the B&N Nook to the U.K. early next year and Apple is rumored to be considering the development of an iPad mini.
  • . . . though the venerable Christopher Hitchens has left us, his publishers are planning to release his final memoir sometime next year? The new book, entitled Morality, will be based on a series of essays that Hitchens wrote for Vanity Fair. Though renowned for his cutting wit, Hitchens is also being remembered as the man who, just two months ago, was approached by an eight-year-old girl and asked what to read. Hitchens took fifteen minutes to sit down and speak with her. What made the cut? Shakespeare, Chaucer, and Hume, as well as Greek and Roman mythology.
 

I hope that everyone is enjoying the winter season, and staying cozy (fireplace or no!)

What to get for the reader who has everything

I just finished writing a blog post for my internship (they’re doing a series leading up to the holidays), and I thought that you all might find it useful/applicable. Enjoy!

broadside

Broadsides make great gifts!

I have a library in my apartment. It takes up three full-length shelves and represents the three years that I’ve spent in Minnesota as a college student and bibliophile. It is also a fraction of the size of my father’s library, which he gathered for decades and then shipped halfway around the world when my parents moved to Thailand. It also doesn’t include the closetful of books that I left with my grandmother upon departing for college, or the eight overflow boxes that I conned my best friend into fostering.

My family is lucky in that I have wide-ranging tastes, and even luckier that I keep a semi-updated wish list online, but I’ve gotten my fair share of comments along the lines of “You’re so hard to shop for!” to which I can only respond with a meek “…I’m sorry?” I could easily follow this with “…You know you don’t just have to buy me books, right?”

But I do love books and all things bookish. I also love being surprised, which means not only receiving things from a wish list that I reformatted myself a month before the holidays. To that end, here are some ideas for that hard-to-buy-for person in your life who loves books and likes to maintain a literary lifestyle:

1) A bookmark
This may not sound exciting, but a bookmark is perfect if you’re in the market for a small but thoughtful gift. Bookmarks are a necessary part of any reader’s life, and can be highly artistic: wooden, leather, or etched metal, just to name a few. Stop by a local boutique or imports store for some unique selections.

bookmark

Bookmarks don’t have to be plain.
This one is from 10,000 Villages

2) A broadside
Hand-set and printed, broadsides are a wonderful combination of art, history, and class. They look spectacular framed and can be as artsy or literary as you desire. I’ve seen reprinted passages from Pride and Prejudice, complete with gold accents, and I’ve seen high-color hipster-chic alternatives. Always beautiful, always classic, broadsides make wonderful gifts that will always stay special.

3) Reading accessories
Whether a cozy throw or pretty bookends, think outside the box when it comes to what makes a great reading experience. Also consider a lovely porcelain teapot, some fancy coffee, loose-leaf tea, hot cocoa products, or a bottle of wine. Add stemware or mugs to make it a gift basket!

4) A new book
It seems obvious, but sometimes this is easier said than done. If you know the recipient’s tastes, consider pre-ordering a book that is going to be released in the next few months. It’s unlikely that they’ll have pre-ordered the same book, and even if it seems like a let down to not be able to give them a physical gift right away, they’ll be even more delighted when the book catches them by surprise in March. It’s a gift that gives itself twice! Ideas one, two, or three could be added to this to provide something to hold onto at the time of opening.

Another tip: if you know their library, consider a service like justtherightbook.com, which can help you pick out a book they don’t already own. If they’re known as being indecisive, buy them a subscription so that an experienced bookseller can give them personalized recommendations!

bookstore

No matter how many books your recipient owns,
there are plenty more out there.

5) A special edition
Just because they own every book by their favorite author doesn’t mean that they own every edition. Whether it’s a new edition with lots of fun annotations, a copy from an older book’s first print-run, or a signed copy from the author (many authors will sign manuscripts that you mail, or at least mail you a bookplate upon request), show them that you took the time to hunt down a fresh presentation of their favorite book.

6) Something handmade
Though there are plenty of other places to look, a simple etsy search can yield hundreds of one-of-a-kind, utterly awesome ideas and handicrafts. Think of anything–jewelry, artwork, kitchen utensils, etc–and etsy probably has a talented artist to make it book-related. Click here to get started. Think about searching by book, author, genre, depending on how common your recipient’s interests might be.

Letterpress

YES.
From pandatreats

7) A subscription
It could be the book-picking subscription service I mentioned earlier, or a magazine subscription tailored to their interests, or membership in a book club that sends out books on a regular basis (public radio stations often host such clubs, with quarterly parties too!)

8) A class
We’re lucky to have The Loft Literary Center here in Minneapolis, and other cities have similar organizations that host literary classes and conferences. Though often based on the art of writing, you can also find cool classes on letterpress printing, illustrating, and publishing in general.

Letterpress

You too can give the gift of hunting for the correct letter.

9) An e-Reader
Though this may not be best for any paper die-hards, the e-Reader market continues to expand with various price-points and nifty features. Great for techies, travelers, or students whose backpacks are already too heavy.

10) A trip
America’s greatest book cities (New York, San Francisco, Minneapolis, to name a few) also happen to be great cities, period! This is just as true for all of the literary locales around the globe. While this particular gift is one of the most expensive, it can be tailored to your budget and combined tastes–spend some time in book stores, tour the house of a famous author, or visit locations that were used in, or that inspired, a favorite book or literary classic. The experience will make for great stories, pictures, and memories of your own for years to come.

Hopefully I helped unpack the potential of literary gift-giving, either for someone you love or for yourself (braving crowds or Google searches for others always merits a small reward). Happy reading!

Being Thankful

bastryFirst of all, a big thank you to everyone who has added Grim on Goodreads! You have no idea how humble it makes me to think that others would be interested in reading my work, especially so far in advance of the launch, and I could never spend Thanksgiving without considering each of you, and all of the others who have ever encouraged my writing.

I love the sentiment of Thanksgiving–this wonderful moment when millions of people are supposed to be grateful, together, for all of the things that have gone right in their lives. It’s a moment to thank family, coworkers, the nice check-out lady. It’s a day to realize that life is bigger than you, but that life hasn’t left you behind. Unfortunately for many of us, there aren’t always things to be thankful for, and it isn’t always easy to prove to yourself that life is good, that you are special, that things could be so much worse, so much harder. Because of the pressure cooker of the holidays and of families reuniting (or not), Thanksgiving Day can also be a twelve or eighteen-hour stretch of explosions, short tempers, or feelings of guilt and loss.

Thanksgiving doesn’t always come easily, but then, being grateful doesn’t always come easily either. But Thanksgiving, I think, is also about pause. It’s a day to look at the things beyond yourself and beyond what you’d normally be thankful for, and embrace the world as home. And no home is perfect.

But on this day, I’m grateful for gorgeous weather in the Twin Cities, and for an improving situation, perhaps, in Burma, and for the aid money from the US to Thailand, even if it is not enough, cannot be enough. I’m grateful for bareheaded trees that keep saying the cycle of life is just the same as it always was (trees are usually the steady voice in a room), and for any person who believes that they can change the world. I’m grateful for new inventions, even when the threaten old books, and for every time I hear my brother’s voice over a crackly phone line, even if I probably won’t see him for a while. And I’m grateful for knowing that somewhere, someone cares enough to read this blog post. And that even if they don’t, I cared enough to write it.

I’m grateful for learning from each other, and for teaching when I can. And I’m grateful for listening. To the tap winter-dripping in my bathtub, to the wind sneaking through the edges of my windows, and to friends who tell me that they love me, family who tells me I can do it, and colleagues who tell me when I need to slow down. And to you. I will always be here to listen to you.

Happy November

apple pieAKA happy NaNoWriMo to those of you following the dream! I’m not (Once more. I’m terrible.) because I have a current work-in-progress and that would be cheating, but I do hope to hit between 1,500 and 2,000 words a day, so (fingers crossed) I’ll be typing as fast as the rest of you. Easy-peasy (That is a complete and total lie).

A word of hope: the book that I submitted for the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards was penned during the whirlwind of NaNo.

A note of awesome: I RECEIVED COVER ART TODAY. But I’m not allowed the share just yet, so lips zipped on that for a few more weeks.

In the meantime, I’ve recently joined the GoodReads community and would love to have you add GRIM to your own account if you’re a user! Or just generally get some great book recommendations from you, so please drop me a line!

goodreadsI’ll try to put up a longer post this weekend–it’s been a hectic semester, but I know that I shouldn’t neglect you so much!

Avoidance Theory

oil lampReading Stats Recap:
Nonfiction: 23 (Suggested for further review: 0 (0%))
Fiction: 103 (Suggested for further review: 8 (7.76%))
Young Readers: 97 (Suggested for further review: 8 (8.24%))
Poetry: 17 (Suggested for further review: 3 (17.64%))
Total: 246 (Suggested for further review: 19 (7.72%))

Above is just a wrap-up of submissions read during my summer internship–which I finished up a week ago. Still feels odd to not be in that office three times a week. But now I have a new house to get used to! And so far it has been wonderful!

In other news, I’m writing this to try and convince myself that I’m still being productive, despite not being able to write right now. I hate it when I finish a scene and realize that I have no idea what comes next. Especially since I feel the next to fast-forward three days but it is waayyy too early in the book to skip so much time.

On the bright side, I’ve seen the PDF of what will become GRIM and I am so excited! It’s typeset and everything, and Scholastic has cleverly found a way to set certain scenes apart from one another by giving the pages a different look. That sounds horribly confusing, I’m sure, but just trust me, it makes sense in person.

But back to my current WiP. I spent so much energy researching during the summer, that my nerves in starting the book were working overtime. Before the piles and piles of research crippled me, I agreed to write for thirty minutes a day–and thirty minutes only–for the month of August. It was an experiment suggested by my project adviser and, guinea pig as I am, I plugged the minutes faithfully.

Moving into September, I reworked the entire opening, which might lead you to believe that the experiment was a failure. But really, I’m very grateful for the deadline that the project gave me–and I’m trying to impose a bit more of that deadline upon myself this semester. Half an hour was a bit too short, and it would take forever for me to finish this book (my self-imposed deadline is December for a first draft), but on some days it was just right, on others too much. The key, I think, is not letting myself avoid at least opening the MS once a day because I’m a)too tired b) don’t feel like it c) can’t think of anything.

I don’t have the time or gumption to do NaNo this year, which would in some ways solve many problems (and in other ways, cause way more), but I am going to try to average two pages a day. Even if I take a few days off, I should have something relatively complete to show for myself come December. I’d suggest this practice to anyone who is busy with many other things, but who really wants to write, be it poetry or a novel or a journal. At least open the thing. Skim it for a bit, if nothing else, to keep it fresh in your mind. And even if you can only squeeze out two words before you’re falling out of your chair asleep, get those words down. Don’t ever let yourself forget that this WiP exists, and that it should still be a priority, wherever it has to fall on the list due to other factors.

Fingers crossed? Ready, set, go.

PS: ALSO, The Scholastic A&W Awards are open to registration for this awards season! Get over there!

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