Day 1 of The Dysfunctional Writer’s 7 Day Book Giveaway

The Dysfunctional Writer’s 7 Day Book Giveaway!

Day 1

conversation with a fat girl

Conversations With a Fat Girl by Liza Palmer

This is a gently used and very much enjoyed paperback.

From Amazon:

Everyone seems to be getting on with their lives except Maggie. At 26, she’s still serving coffee at The Beanery Coffee House, while her friends are getting married, having babies, and having real careers. Even Olivia, Maggie’s best friend from childhood, is getting married to the doctor with whom she lives. Maggie’s roommate? Her dog Solo (his name says it all). The man in Maggie’s life? Well there isn’t one, except the guy she has a crush on, Domenic, who works with her at the coffee shop as a bus boy.Maggie and Olivia have been best friends since they were in grade school. Both fatties, they befriended each other when no one else would. Now grown-up, Maggie is still shopping in the “women’s section” while Olivia went and had gastric-bypass surgery in search of the elusive size 2, the holy grail for girls everywhere. So now Olivia’s thin and blonde and getting married, and Maggie’s the fat bridesmaid. Ain’t life grand? In this wonderful debut novel that is sure to remind readers of Jennifer Weiner’s Good In Bed, Liza Orr is both witty and wise, giving voice to women everywhere who wish for just once that they could forget about their weight.

I truly enjoyed this book. It’s a story about a woman’s battle with body image, depression, self-esteem, and letting go of the things we outgrow in life. 

To enter the giveaway for this item:

Comment on this post. That’s it. The winner will be chosen out of the people who have commented by the end of the day on January 6 (Central Standard Time).

Sometime on January 7, with help from my husband, I will choose one commenter at random as the winner and provide them with my contact information. The winner will be responsible for contacting me by email with shipping information, and I will ship the book within the following day or two.

Day 2 of The Book Giveaway→

A Letter From a Writer’s Depression to Her Husband on New Year’s Eve

Dear Husband,

I wanted to say I’m sorry for taking your wife away from you. I thought it might help if you knew that I never gave her a choice. I mean, I couldn’t really. It’s my nature to just take what I want. I wanted her, and I took her.

If it helps, I’ll tell you a few secrets. Whenever she looks at you, she gets an overwhelming feeling of love and happiness. I mean, she literally feels a warmth in her chest, and she even still gets butterflies in her stomach. I can’t take that away from her. Trust me. I’ve tried. The point is, she loves you so much…

… loves you so much that it makes her feel even worse than she already does when she realizes I’m affecting you too. She realizes that she isn’t easy to get along with a lot of the time. She knows she snaps and gets angry a lot easier and more often than she should. She especially recognizes the fact that she takes things out on you that she wouldn’t take out on anyone else. It’s only because she’s more comfortable with you than she is with anyone… even herself… especially herself.

I just thought you’d want to know that I’m not here for you. I’m here to feed on her happiness and her life. When she considered going out with you tonight for New Year’s Eve, it terrified her to even think about being around all those people and having to force a smile when she knew she’d be fighting the urge to run the whole time. At the same time, she really wanted to do it for you. She hates that you’re tied to me like she is. She feels like she’s cheating you out of being able to have a happy wife who’s fun and goes places and does things with her husband. She hates what she’s done to you more than she hates what I’ve done to her.

She’s terrified she’s going to lose you someday. You do everything you can to make her smile and laugh, and you do a really good job. Even I can’t stop her from being happy around you most of the time. But deep deep down, she’s really scared. You’re the one thing in her life that’s holding her together, and she knows that you’re bound to get sick of me someday. For what it’s worth, I hope that doesn’t happen.

I’m not here, specifically, to hurt her, but I don’t know how to do anything else. She tries really hard to suppress me. For you. More than anything, for you. I give her a break every now and then, but I know it’s hard. So I just wanted to say I’m sorry if I stole the woman you married. She was great. She still is though, you know? She’s still in there, and she loves you more than life itself.

So please be patient. You’ve been so wonderful. You let her get angry, and you let her get sad. You hold her when she’s upset, and you make her get out of bed when I’ve convinced her it’s the only place to be. She’d be a mess if it wasn’t for you.

One day me and her are going to learn how to live together. We’re working on it. And when we do, she’s going to need you to spend time and have fun with again. She loves you so much. Don’t ever forget it.

My Most Sincere Apologies,

Your Wife’s Depression

My Literary Resolutions for 2015

While I almost never actually go through with resolutions, I think that, writing-wise, I could always benefit from resolving to do better. So all things considered, these are my literary resolutions for 2015.

1. I have a horrible tendency to only write when I have a lot of free time and the conditions are perfect… like when no one is home or everyone’s asleep, I’m in a productive mood, and I have several hours to spare, I will get everything together and sit down to do this super complicated chore.  But in reality, writing isn’t a chore, and it isn’t always complicated.  I want to get better at being able to write in small pieces. Just boot up the computer or get out the notepad and write.

2. Which leads me to number two. I want to TRY to write more by hand. I have carpal tunnel, and while typing is bad for it, handwriting seems worse. By the time I get through one page, my hand is completely numb. However, my Dr told me about some wrist stretches, and I’m going to give them a shot. While handwriting takes longer than typing, I believe it’ll help me be more concise in my writing and to learn that I don’t always have to go back and change that same word or phrase fifteen times to get it just right. Sometimes the first word that comes to mind is best.

What about you? Any New Year Resolutions literary or otherwise?

Did Someone Say Book Giveaway?

I Definitely Said Book Giveaway!

Alright, in the spirit of the holidays which are almost completely over (that part doesn’t matter), I’ve been thinking about doing some book giveaways. I will post a book each day for a week and give a deadline (probably a week or two) for comments. Each person who comments on the post will be entered to win the book. Sound good? Free books always sound good.

I will start tomorrow, but in the meantime… Tell me, what genres/authors/period books are your favorite? I have a massive library to choose from here. Help me out!

Book Giveaway Links

Day 1       Day 2      Day 3      Day 4      Day 5      Day 6      Day 7

Top Ten Books of 2014 (Part Two)

Making top book lists is always so hard for me. I read a lot, and it seems like almost every time I finish a book, I feel like it was the best book I’d read in a long time (not every time, just almost). But, these ten are the ones that stood out to me the most, the ones that stood up in my mind and yelled, “pick me” when I sat down to make my list. They weren’t all written in 2014, but that’s when I read them. So, anyway… Here goes the first five. I’ll post the last five tomorrow.

Note: The summaries contain some minor plot information about the stories but do not give away the endings or any major plot points. Still, if you’re the type who doesn’t even like to read the back of a book before you dive in, they might be considered spoilers.

My Top Ten Books of 2014 (Part One)

Yes Please Amy Poehler

6. Yes Please by Amy Poehler (2014)

I will admit, I’m not the biggest Saturday Night Live fan out there. It’s not that I dislike it. It just isn’t my cup of tea, but I’d read several “top books of 2014” lists prior to even considering writing my own, and Yes Please was at the top of several of the lists. I figured there must be a reason, so I tried it out for myself. I definitely wasn’t disappointed.

I’ve read some truly snooze-inducing autobiographies in the past, but this book isn’t just 300+ pages of a narcissist’s musings. It’s actually fabulous for several different reasons. While you do get a chance to get to know things about Amy like what her childhood was like and exactly how the birth of her children went down, she also manages to turn her 352 pages into a journey of love, learning, and inspiration.

Mostly, she addresses body image and self-respect, but she also touches on living with anxiety. Without resorting to the didacticism of preaching cliche statements like “Love yourself,” “You’re beautiful,” and “We’re all unique,” she addresses the ugly truths behind the real self-esteem issues that lead to depression and even suicide in millions. She calls out the “demon” of self-hate and doubt that lives inside everyone, telling them they aren’t good enough or they’re fat and not pretty. By learning how she deals with her own demon and realizing that even someone as beautiful and successful as Amy Poehler has the same thoughts as all of us, she gets her point across very well.

And it’s impossible to forget the fact that Poehler is one of the most dynamic comedians of our generation. This makes her inspirational, honest, and righteous autobiography as entertaining as it is healing. I definitely recommend.

The Circle by Dave Eggers

7. The Circle by Dave Eggers (2014)

The Circle by Dave Eggers is a novel that grabs you by the lapels and demands attention. While it is considered somewhat of a utopian novel, there are several concerns raised within the pages of this captivating story.

Mae Holland lands a job with the super tech company, The Circle, and she feels like she’s on top of the world. The sprawling campus, complete with pools, tennis courts, movie theaters, concerts, fitness classes, dorms, and anything the employees could possibly need, seems like it might be too good to be true.

Mae is quickly overwhelmed with the social media obligations related to the job. Staying connected online 24 hours a day and attending functions in order to participate in the “community” leaves no time for Mae’s life outside of The Circle. With an ailing father and a personality that appreciates some occasional alone time, Mae finds herself faced with a decision. Walk away or completely immerse herself in the public life of The Circle.

Entertaining from cover to cover, The Circle begs the question, how much is too much? Where does the line between public and private lie? And are we treading on dangerous ground?

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

8. Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King (2014)

I have to admit, I am a die-hard Stephen King fan. I’ve read all his novels minus maybe two, and the minute a new one comes out, I snatch it up. Stephen King was actually the first author who got me into reading. My dad had a collection when I was younger, and Pet Sematary was my first full-novel read. That being said, I might be a little biased.

Mr. Mercedes was no where near my favorite Stephen King book. Actually, it’s a part of King’s crime series, and I prefer his more supernatural books. However, King is still and always will be the master of suspense and horror in my eyes.

The book starts off when a man drives a stolen Mercedes into a group of unemployed, down-on-their-luck people who have gathered and are waiting overnight to apply at a job fair. Ramming the crowd of people, backing up and plowing into them a second time, the maniac manages to kill eight people (including a baby) and injure fifteen. The killer gets away.

The novel is a race against time before the maniac with a taste for blood can strike again. A retired cop, still haunted by the crime, received a letter from the killer, and then begins the heart-stopping, bone-chilling race to stop him before more people end up dead.

King is a master of words and metaphor. His style is my secret love, and Mr. Mercedes doesn’t disappoint.

The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka

9. The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka (2012)

The Buddha in the Attic is the winner of the Pen Faulkner fiction award, which is no surprise at all. This novel is a chilling reminder of some of the darker days in America when equality only existed among the rich and the white.

Otsuka writes a novel about the “picture brides,” a group of Japanese women brought to San Fransisco nearly a century ago to be the brides of men whose identities were embellished more than just a bit. The story chronicles the women’s trip across the world, their new lives as wives to strangers, bearing children, burying children, and living in a world where they were looked down on and appreciated by few. The story of their journey is spellbindingly beautiful, capturing their loves, fears, loyalties, and the lengths they will go for one another. Keep a tissue handy.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

10. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (2014)

I have this strange aversion to the books that everyone’s talking about. The more buzz it gets, the less interested I am. I’m not sure why I feel this way. Maybe it’s because I was disappointed so many times by TwilightThe Hunger Games, 50 Shades of Grey, etc. Not that those books were lacking in story… But being a literature junkie, I tend to appreciate the literary aspect of a work above the story. If I can’t find a sentence that makes me stop and think, “wow, that’s just amazing,” no matter what it’s referencing, I’m just not that interested. I’ll admit, 50 Shades entertained me, but it didn’t “wow” me.

That being said, I was a bit apprehensive about buying this book. I figured it’d just be a sappy, tearjerker about a kid with cancer with all of it’s value being in the emotional response. But, what can I say? I have no self-control. I always wonder “what if”… What if I’m missing something? What if it’s not that trite junk that I’m expecting it to be? Well, I’m truly glad I questioned myself about The Fault in Our Stars.

I can’t say the actual story was the greatest thing I’ve ever read. Yes it was engaging. Yes it was sad. Yes it was inspirational. Yes it was sweet. It also had many suspension of disbelief issues, some cliche characters, and a few parts thrown in simply for the value of sadness. BUT the writing.

The writing was genius. I absolutely loved it. If you read Part One of my 2014 book list, you’ll know of my habit of highlighting anything that I find clever, smart, and basically anything that makes me think, “Man, I wish I’d written that.” This book is almost completely pink and green. I’ve gone back several times since just to scan the highlighted parts. Green is a master of metaphor and manipulating the English language into something beautiful. For that, The Fault in Our Stars was simply amazing, and I look forward to reading his other books as well. If you have any recommendations, please comment and let me know.

Check out Part One of this list HERE

You don’t need empathy to support a depressed person

A very insightful look at supporting a loved one who’s battling depression. It isn’t always the most comfortable experience to be around someone who is so dramatically affected by something you can’t relate to, but that’s not important. The important part is just to be there. They don’t need your medically sound advice or your own stories relating to the same feelings. They just need you.

Under Reconstruction

When a friend was hospitalized for appendicitis, people flocked to visit him at the hospital. When I was clinically depressed, some who knew it avoided me like the plague. But I completely understand — it’s natural for us to be afraid of the unfamiliar, including unfamiliar illnesses. And when it comes to depression, people are wary not because they are afraid it might be contagious (hey, many don’t even recognize it as an illness!), but because they are afraid of saying the “wrong” thing.

A friend once apologized to me, “I’m sorry I haven’t been reaching out to you or being there for you. I’m not like J — I wish I were, but I’m not. But know that I’ve been praying for you, okay?”

At the time, I smiled and told him not to worry about it. I read between the lines and I read his facial expressions — I…

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Top Ten Books of 2014 (Part One)

Making top book lists is always so hard for me. I read a lot, and it seems like almost every time I finish a book, I feel like it was the best book I’d read in a long time (not every time, just almost). But, these ten are the ones that stood out to me the most, the ones that stood up in my mind and yelled, “pick me” when I sat down to make my list. They weren’t all written in 2014, but that’s when I read them. So, anyway… Here goes the first five. I’ll post the last five tomorrow.

Note: The summaries contain some minor plot information about the stories but do not give away the endings or any major plot points. Still, if you’re the type who doesn’t even like to read the back of a book before you dive in, they might be considered spoilers.

My Top Ten Books of 2014 (Part One)

I am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe

1. I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe (2004)

An innocent and starry-eyed Charlotte Simmons earns a scholarship to Dupont, a prestigious college hours away from her small, sheltered hometown. When the semester begins, she quickly realizes that she’s a long way from the home she wanted so badly to escape, but it doesn’t take long for her to begin questioning those feelings.

She doesn’t have anything in common with her schoolmates. Her roommate, Beverly, is a rich snob who stays drunk all the time. Adam, who is much closer to Charlotte’s intellectual level, pursues her to the point of coming on too strong. She makes an impression on Jojo, the school basketball star. Finally, in a callow effort to climb the social ladder, she becomes involved with Hoyt, a frat boy who only wants one thing.

This novel is about a naive girl who begins college with a passion for advancing her intellect and being successful, but she winds up with an entirely different agenda. Her previous passions go by the wayside as her focus shifts to gaining the popularity she’s willing to sacrifice her identity to obtain.

The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner

2. The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner (2013)

I’m gonna just go ahead and say that I just now realized how much this book has in common with I Am Charlotte Simmons. The protagonist, Reno, is a naive artist from, you guessed it, Reno. She has big hopes and dreams of moving to New York and making it big with her art, but when she arrives, things aren’t what she expected. She doesn’t fit in.

Eventually, she becomes romantically involved with a guy named Sandro Valera and falls in with his group of friends. After she returns from a trip to the Salt Flats to try her hand at capturing speed on film, it begins to seem like things have changed. She accompanies Sandro to visit his family in Italy, and things become a bit more clear soon after that.

I think what I liked so much about this book was the writing style. I have this habit of reading with a highlighter nearby. Every time I come across a line that makes me think, “God, I wish I had written that. That was clever,” I highlight it. Let’s just say, my copy of The Flamethrowers is heavily highlighted. It’s no wonder it was a National Book Award Finalist.

The Round House by Louise Erdrich

3. The Round House by Louise Erdrich (2012)

Louise Erdrich is known for writing books about Native Americans and life on Indian reservations. The Round House is about a boy named Joe who’s a member of the Ojibwe tribe. A brutal assault on his mother hits Joe and his family hard, and he is forced to grow up quickly.

All attempts to prosecute the man who hurt Joe’s mom end in failure due to confusion about whether the assault happened on reservation land or outside the limits. This uncertainty makes it impossible to prosecute the man who they suspect hurt her. Joe is forced to take matters into his own hands. Erdrich laces her novels with social commentary on the injustice of these outdated laws that allow hundreds of perpetrators to escape justice every year for crimes committed on Indian reservations.

Erdrich won the National Book Award for Fiction with this novel, and it’s easy to see why. The coming of age tale is heart-wrenching, funny, suspenseful, and beautifully written. The cast of characters is so complex and interesting, I found it hard to put the book down.

Where'd you go Bernadette by Maria Semple

4. Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple (2013)

Bernadette is an ex-architect who’s become an agoraphobic recluse but still manages to remain a delightfully entertaining mom. Her daughter, Bee, is very intelligent and wise beyond her years. As a reward for doing well on her report card, Bee asks to take a trip to Antarctica with her mom and her Microsoft-genius father, and that’s when the hilarity ensues.

Bernadette, who can’t stand the other moms from Bee’s school, gets herself into a little trouble when an act of revenge gets out of hand. At the same time, she realizes the virtual assistant she’s hired over the internet isn’t what he seems. When things start to go south, Bernadette runs out of options.

The entire book is constructed of emails, newsletters, text messages… a literal paper trail that follows Bernadette’s trajectory. When she comes up missing, all of these pieces of evidence are gathered in an effort to track her down.

I really related to this novel. What I loved most was the humor. It was genuinely funny, but at the same time, I could completely relate to the anxiety I saw in Bernadette’s character.

Maus by Art Spiegelman

5. Maus – Parts One and Two by Art Spiegelman (1986, 1992)

This choice is quite a bit different from the rest of the novels on my list. It began as an assignment for my Contemporary Literature class–one of the two graphic novels we read. It was actually the first graphic novel I’d ever read, and while it took a little while to get used to the format and to learn to pay attention to the pictures as well as read the text, the story was a truly fascinating one. In fact, Maus won the Pulitzer Prize in 1992 along with several other awards over the years, and The Museum of Modern Art featured an exhibition on the making of the graphic novel in 1991-92.

Maus is an interpretation of the real-life experiences of Art’s father, Vladek, who narrowly survived the Holocaust. In a stroke of genius, Spiegelman portrayed the Jews in his graphic masterpiece as mice and the Germans as cats.

The non-traditional format and the unique portrayal of the characters does nothing to mute the gut-wrenching emotional experience of the Spiegelman story. In fact, you quickly realize it wasn’t just Vladek’s experience. Millions of people went through that hell, and this novel is a respectful and tasteful dedication to the lives lost as well as the one’s who survived.

Check out Part Two if this list HERE