writing, art, fiction, literature

Daily Writing Challenge: Day 1

Day 1 of my new challenge, and the first pages of my red writing notebook have already been filled!

writing, art, fiction, literature

I wrote rapidly, my head filled with a story (short, novella, novel, who knows?) about a defense lawyer defending a client she knew in middle school. I was up late, on my own, sitting in the quiet of my living room while my brain traveled far away. I have to say, I found it relaxing.

It’s true, my first section was rather short, but that’s not the point. The point is making progress!

reading, nature, literature, book

Daily Book Challenge: Reflection

I finished my month of reading! Though I didn’t quite make it to 30 – 26/30 again for 87% – I did rediscover reading as a beloved pastime. In addition, I was inspired to undertake my next challenge, which focuses on writing.

reading, literature, book

In the end, I feel like William  Styron when he says:

“A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading.”

For a full list of the books I finished, see below!


  1. The Christmas Letters – by Lee Smith
  2. The Reader – by Bernhard Schlink
  3. Ru – by Kim Thúy
  4. Bird Ambulance – by Arline Thomas
  5. Time and Tide in Acadia – by Christopher Camuto
  6. Small Change – by J. Belinda Yandell
  7. The Scent of Pine – by Lara Vapnyar
  8. Legend of the Free State of Jones  – by Rudy H. Leverett
  9. Selma, Lord, Selma – by Sheyann Webb and Rachel West Nelson, as told to Frank Sikora
  10. Sacajawea – by Harold P. Howard
  11. I Heard the Owl Call My Name – by Margaret Craven
  12.  The Last Days – by Charles Marsh
  13. Heaven is for Real – Todd Burpo
  14. The Pleasing Hour – Lily King
  15. Death in Venice – by Thomas Mann
  16. A Virtuous Woman – by Kaye Gibbons
  17. Demian – by Hermann Hesse
  18. Cry, the Beloved Country – by Alon Paton
  19. American Forests: A History of Resiliency and Recovery – by Douglas W. MacCleery
  20. A Christmas Memory, One Christmas, & The Thanksgiving Visitor – by Truman Capote
  21. ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ and Other Stories – by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  22. The Sea – by John Banville
  23. Monkey Hunting – by Cristina Garcia
  24. The Joy of Knitting – by Lisa R. Myers
  25. The House of First Street – by Julia Reed
  26. Quite a Year for Plums – by Bailey White
writing, literature, art

Daily Writing Challenge: Introduction

Given that my last challenge was reading, is it a surprise that I was inspired to begin a writing challenge?

I write a lot. I mean, a lot. I have 5+ weekly or bi-weekly blogs, in addition to monthly commitments. I’m working on sections for a birding guide to Northern New England, and pitch pieces on research sites and bird science. Fun! But not fiction.

In fact, I have a hard time remembering the last I completed a work of fiction, even a short one. It was probably in college, when I took a creative writing course and had to finish to pass the class.

Have I started fiction pieces? Yes! Dozens of times. I, like a million zillion other people in the world, have a partly finished novel and a short story or two hanging out in an anonymous Google doc. Shhhhh, don’t tell. It’s so cliche.

Anyways, in an effort to stick with a challenge, I am going to write a complete chapter or short story every day for 30 days. I even bought a snazzy red notebook to keep my drafts in, since I actually write fiction better on paper than a computer. Maybe at the end I’ll have a major hit on my hands! Or at least the feeling of accomplishment that I successfully finished something.

forest, trees, florida, nature

Daily Book Challenge: Day 30

Quite a Year for Plums

by Bailey White


I always love cosmic coincidences. For my last book of the challenge, I finished Quite a Year for Plums. As I read, I realized a lot of facets of the book were familiar.

They were in Florida, close enough to drive to some of the natural springs, surrounded by longleaf plantations full of the rare Red-cockaded Woodpeckers. Near Tallahassee, sort of. I had happened to pick up a novel about my area of Florida!

forest, trees, florida, nature

Plus, all the characters were interested in birding, my favorite pastime. This book was meant for me.

And so there you have it, 30 days, 30-ish books!

new orleans, french quarter, travel

Daily Book Challenge: Day 29

My New Orleans Story

by Julia Reed


I have a weakness for first person, non-fiction narratives. Travel stories? Love ’em. Autobiographies? Put them on my list. Random short story memories? Gotta have them. The more witty and sarcastic the writer, the better.

Considering these proclivities, I eagerly dove into Julia Reed’s My New Orleans Story. In fact, I visited New Orleans for the first time in October, so I could actually picture some of the streets she was describing.

katrina, hurricane, flooding, new orleans

The drama of the book comes when Hurricane Katrina and subsequent flooding devastates the city. I was around fifteen when Katrina made landfall in 2005, so my memories of the event are limited (especially because I lived in Maine). I don’t think I truly understood the chaos of the aftermath until I read Reed’s work.

In one chapter, she is describing her first foray back into New Orleans after the storm:

Dozens of cars parked along the way had been relieved of their tires and their gas tanks forced open, some with the siphoning hoses still hanging out; a police cruiser’s smashed passenger window had been taped over with a garbage bag. Ornate iron fences surrounded the charred remains of the once-lovely Lower Garden District houses; here and there a brick chimney or a metal fire stair rose up from the ashes…An elderly lady from the neighborhood, who died, as we would find out later, when she ventured out from her apartment just after the storm, was respectfully covered with a white sheet held down by bricks in a neat oval.

If this wasn’t a library book with a due date, I’d read it again!

yarn, knitting

Daily Book Challenge: Day 28

The Joy of Knitting

by Lisa R. Myers


Given the amount of fiction I’ve been reading lately, I took a step in the non-fiction direction with The Joy of Knitting. I do love to craft, and I always have at least one (usually several) knitting projects in the works.

yarn, knitting, craft

The book is a mix of musings, pattern descriptions, and tips, and I not only felt her love of knitting but was also inspired to take on new projects. As she writes on the very first page: “knitting is wonderful. It’s good for the soul. It can teach you things about yourself, and about other people – both those close to you and those on the other side of the world.”

Nice, right?

cuba, country, travel

Daily Book Challenge: Day 27

Monkey Hunting

by Cristina Garcia


Back in the swing of things with Monkey Hunting! I’ve read Cristina Garcia before with Dreaming in Cuban, and I loved Monkey Hunting just as much.

She explores the history of a family dynasty beginning with a Chinese immigrant to Cuba, who escapes life as a sugar plantation slave and builds a business and a family.

cuba, landscape, travel

Beyond all the research that went into this work, I’m also impressed that she wrote so convincingly from mostly male points-of-view. Though I write frequently, I’ve never written in the voice of a gender other than my own, and I imagine it would be difficult!

gulf, water, vacation, florida

Daily Book Challenge: Day 24-26

Welllllll  it looks like I have some more catching up to do, and not a whole lot of time to do it! My sister and mother were visiting, and while we went to the beach, boated, and explored the Gulf Coast, there wasn’t a whole lot of time for extra reading. Let’s see how many books I can read in the last few days!gulf, water, vacation, florida

book, reading, star, photography

Daily Book Challenge: Day 23

The Sea

by John Banville


I have to admit that this book was rather depressing as well. The story of a man who lost his wife, who then returns to a childhood haunt to reflect on more people who died. Still,
I loved the author’s stream of consciousness style and vivid descriptions. It certainly made me feel like I was there!

reading, office, work, books

I’ve been reading a lot in my office lately. I am involved with a summer carpool, and must wait 60-90 minutes after I finish work to actually leave. Though I get bored of my desk, at least it gives me the opportunity to flip through a few pages!

story, book, reading

Daily Book Challenge: Day 22

‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ and Other Stories

by Charlotte Perkins Gilman


I am becoming a bigger and bigger fan of short story collections. From the Capote book to the Gilman selection, I love reclining on the couch for short snippets of life before moving on with my day. I can take one in while waiting for a ride, after dinner, before bed, etc., without the need to immerse myself in a thick novel.

As Neil Gaiman says:

I think the short story is a very underrated art form. We know that novels deserve respect.

story, book, reading

Gilman’s short stories, written around the turn of the 20th century, center around women’s issues, “focusing on the inferior status accorded to women by society.” Definitely an author ahead of her time!