September Update & Goals Check-In

Update - 9 - September

This post is going up a little late this month. Mostly because I was completely unmotivated to write it until today, but also because I have kind of a lot going on at the moment.

I’ve moved! I’m still settling into my new home, but I promise to share pictures of my space once my bed arrives. Until then I’m sleeping on an air mattress, which is not ideal, but still better than I thought it would be.

Grad school is going well so far! I’m only two weeks in, but I’m loving my classes and the professors are great. There aren’t a huge number of opportunities to socialize, but I’m working on that. I’ve signed up to be a fiction reader for the graduate-student-run literary journal on campus, Redivider, and I’m hoping to get some opportunities to gain more copyediting experience as well.

There has been nothing but radio silence on the actual paying job front. I don’t understand why companies can’t at the very least have an automatic e-mail sent to anyone they throw into the ‘no’ pile. No answer is just plain rude. Even places that I’ve been able to go into in person and talk to a manager about hiring opportunities just redirect me to online applications that are then met with silence. Thank goodness it’s autumn again. Most retail places are looking to hire for the holidays now, so I should be able to get a position at someplace like Target or Macy’s. I’m sending out those applications today or Sunday.

Right before my nannying job ended, I wrote a cool post about the top 10 board books I read as a nanny. Did your childhood favorite make the list?

Tomorrow, I am attending Boston Teen Author Festival (BTAF) at the Cambridge Public Library and Cambridge Rindge and Latin School! Over 40 YA authors will be there, and while I’m pretty sure I haven’t read any of their books, I can’t wait to learn more about their work and get excited to read it! Best of all, the event is totally free!! I am most excited to meet Lindsay Cummings and Sasha Alsberg. Lindsay and Sasha have written a space opera called Zenith that is due out in January, and I preordered it months ago. Sasha is also one of the reasons I am where I am today. If I had never watched her videos about Emerson and their publishing program, I wouldn’t have looked into graduate school here, and I would probably still be living in New Jersey and trying to get a job in Public Relations while I attempted to write my book and actually working in retail. Instead, I’m chasing my dreams in a city I adore. So thank you, Sasha, and welcome back to Boston! Lindsay is also one of the reasons The Alchemists of Loom by Elise Kova was on my TBR that day I walked into B&N to find Elise doing a signing. She was so nice and gave some really amazing advice about writing and publishing that further convinced me that working in publishing is what I want to do with my life. So thank you, Lindsay, for sort-of introducing me to Elise. Once I get a job I can’t wait to pick up the sequel in the Loom saga, The Dragons of Nova! I was thrilled to participate in the cover reveal for this book!

Next week I’m seeing Patti Smith at an event for Harvard Bookstore, and I am so so excited. After reading her book M Train this summer (twice!) I am psyched to hear her speak and to pick up a copy of her new book, Devotion, which is supposedly about writing. You might only know her for her Springsteen-co-written hit “Because the Night”, or because of her marriage to Fred Sonic Smith, but believe me, her writing is something downright magical.

When I’m not working on homework, filling out job applications, or making multiple trips to the store to buy apartment necessities, I’ve been reading voraciously and re-reading my WIP. It’s amazing how many things I didn’t need during undergrad that I need now (like a teakettle). I haven’t read my manuscript in its entirety since I wrote it last November. Reading it again is like greeting an old friend. It’s a relief to know that I still love it and that the story is still solidly in my head as well as my heart.

I know I’ve been pretty terrible so far with the Friday Files posts, but I think they’ll pick up soon. I just needed to take a beat and figure out how to incorporate them into my life. Expect one on time management next week that should help explain my process. In the meantime, if you haven’t read my first Friday Files post, check it out here. It’s all about building a grown-up wardrobe without breaking the bank.

That’s what’s going on with me this month. Let’s check and see how I did on my goals in August.

August Goals:

Walk over 40 miles: My total for August was 43.45!

Read 8 Books:
River Secrets
Someone to Hold
Forest Born
The Diviners
Carry On
Fall of a Kingdom
A Man Called Ove
The Wind-up Bird Chronicle

What I’ve actually read: A lot of romances.
River Secrets
A Knight to Remember
Getting Out of Hand
Forest Born
Knocking Boots
The Princess Saves Herself in This One
Fahrenheit 451
The Diviners

Review 7 Books:
River Secrets
Forest Born
Someone to Love (Review available in 2018)
Carry On
Fall of a Kingdom
Getting Rid of Bradley
The Wind-up Bird Chronicle

The Diviners (Review Available in 2018)

Secure an Apartment: CHECK!!

Secure a Job: Search in progress.

 

September Goals:

Walk over 50 Miles: As of yesterday, I’ve passed the 50-mile mark!

Read 5 Books:
Fall of a Kingdom
Over Sea, Under Stone
Rise of a Hero
Voyager
The Dark is Rising

What I’ve actually read:
Fall of a Kingdom
Someone to Hold

In Other Lands
Over Sea, Under Stone

Review 6 Books:
Fall of a Kingdom
Someone to Hold (Review Available in 2018)
In Other Lands
Over Sea, Under Stone
Rise of a Hero
Fahrenheit 451

 

Get a job: Apparently, I am not the only graduate student struggling with this. Thankfully the holiday season is fast approaching and all of the retail stores are hiring. Who would have thought that two years out of college I would still be struggling to find a job? Not me. I’m also looking into how I can work as a virtual assistant or freelance copyeditor (once my copyediting class is over). I think this whole financial situation will get a lot easier if I can learn to diversify my income and pull from many places rather than one.

 

How are you doing on your goals? Are you still struggling to find a job? Do you have any advice about diversifying your income? Let me know in the comments, or shoot me an email at Amanda@highlightsandhotchocolate.com.

Until next time,

Amanda

TOTY – 25: Responsiblity

 

 

IMG_3085
A+ self-confidence here, letting you know that this photo is 100% makeup and filter free. Wheeee!

 

It’s July! Which makes it my birth month, the anniversary of this blog (starting its FOURTH year!!) and also time for a new theme of the year, or as I like to call it, TOTY. If you’ve never read one of my TOTY posts before, allow me to explain. Every year around my birthday, I like to select a broad theme for the next year of my life, to help guide my decision making for the next 365 days. I’ve focused on things like experience, health, and writing. You can find links to all of my previous TOTYs at the bottom of this post.

It’s been one heck of a year. Being 24 was one of those strange in-between years like 19 and 20, where you’re not really sure what the objective is except to survive. I’m turning 25 today, which to 12-year-old me seemed impossibly old, but to be honest I still feel fairly young. Turning 24 helped me to take a little control of my life. I wasn’t so much in my early 20s anymore, and people stopped expecting me to go out and party with them every night, which definitely allowed me to come into my own skin a little more. Now that I’m turning 25 and officially in my mid-twenties, I feel completely free of that party-hard culture that tried to suck me in during college, and people have stopped looking at me strangely when I talk about career opportunities like the important things they are. I’m extremely happy to be out of that age where people say ‘oh, you have plenty of time! Just concentrate on having fun!’ instead of taking my job inquiries seriously.

The last year started off by helping two of my friends plan their respective weddings, both of which were at the end of August/beginning of September, on back-to-back weekends. Cue tons of crazy drama, none of which is mine to share but I was somehow a part of anyway. Let me just say: WEDDING PLANNING IS HARD! Thank goodness I had both of them to bounce ideas off of for each other. I was able to fill in the holes in both plans based on what each was doing to make sure all of the bases were covered, down to vases on the reception tables for the bridesmaid bouquets. At the end of October, I made the huge decision to leave my part-time retail job of 10 months in Allentown, Pennsylvania to become a nanny for my then seven-month-old cousin in Boston, Massachusetts. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made, though I do still miss my amazing coworkers.

One of my goals for last year was to write every day. While that didn’t happen, I did do quite a bit of writing, and I’ve definitely adjusted mentally so that writing is at the forefront of my mind 90% of the time. I participated in National Novel Writing Month, and you can find my weekly updates from November here. Besides NaNoWriMo, I’ve worked hard to locate some of my favorite coffee shops in the city where I can work besides my room, and it’s helped immensely.

Another goal was to apply to graduate school, which I was intensely nervous about. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t get in right away because of my lack of writing experience aside from this blog, and I would need to reapply a few times before I got accepted in another year or two. BUT I WAS WRONG! I have been accepted to the Publishing and Writing Master’s Degree Program at Emerson College here in Boston, Massachusetts where I will be starting in September! I think because I didn’t expect to get in right away, this all still doesn’t quite feel real. I have to pinch myself a few times a day just to remind myself it’s all happening. Just thinking about it makes me tear up from joy. *as I start to tear up*

My last goal was to apply to full-time jobs. This one has been a little complicated because I took the nannying job in October, and I’ve been pretty happy doing it. I cannot, however, continue doing it once I start graduate school for logistical reasons. So I am back to square one, but with a lot more writing under my belt than I had last year. I’m ideally looking for an Editorial Assistant or Copy Editor position, but I would take something like an administrative job if need be.

Last year around this time, I was contemplating my current nannying position and the general idea of Boston. I had only been here twice, both briefly, and yet the city enthralled me. I’ve now lived here almost nine months, and if possible love this place even more. Sometimes I take a train to a random part of the city and then walk back to my aunt and uncle’s place, just to explore. I guess what I’m saying is, not only do I have to remind myself that I got into grad school but I also have to remind myself that I live here and that I get to go on living here, not leave when a semester or internship ends. It’s an amazing feeling: a mix of freedom and adventure, the world an open book in front of me.

 

This feeling is fueling my theme for the next year: RESPONSIBILITY
I need to continue working things like time management skills, becoming financially literate, and getting better at cooking and baking. General skills all adults should have. Looking towards a future that includes moving out on my own, it would irresponsible of me not to learn these basic skills. So, how do I plan to achieve these things?

To become more financially literate, I’m going to start reading about it. From finance and money management blogs to Finance for Dummies, I’m going to try to read something every day for the next year to help me better manage my money and understand the finance industry (ie, stocks, bonds, bank account types). I also started a spreadsheet to track my spending in January 2017, and starting January 2018 I’ll be able to make fairly strict budgets to help me get the most out of my time in grad school and still pay off my debt in a reasonable amount of time.

To become a better cook, I’m rounding up family recipes to practice. I want to combine these into a cookbook that I can refer back to anytime I need a meal idea, which should take the pressure off of making a full meal for dinner when I live on my own. I’ll probably be moving out of my aunt and uncle’s house and into my own apartment this Fall, so knowing how to make more than Mac and Cheese and Chicken Parm should be pretty helpful.

Fridays this year will consist of a mix of lifestyle posts. Finance posts will share secrets to money management I’ve picked up, and share some cool blog posts to help you with your own money skills. Food posts will share my favorite family recipes.  In addition, Fashion posts will chronicle my building of an adult wardrobe appropriate for all aspects of life, Fitness posts will share snapshots and thoughts on how to get back in shape your way, Focus posts will share study and writing tips to help you get the most work done in your spare time, Family and Friends posts will teach you how to deal with your family as a new adult, and Faith posts will share ways to incorporate your faith into your everyday life. Obviously, I won’t have a chance to share on all of these topics every month, since there are seven of them and only four or five Fridays per month. My plan is to mix it up a little, and we’ll see what we get.

If this all sounds like a lot to do on top of grad school, finding a new job, writing book reviews, and continuing work on my novel(s), that’s because it is. But I’m excited to share this journey with all of you! I feel that at the age of 25, these are the things I should know how to do. I’ll be on my own next year for a lot of grown up things (like healthcare), and I think that makes it important now more than ever that I know how to take care of myself in any kind of situation.

 

What are some things you want to work on this year?

 

 

Check out some of my previous TOTYs:
TOTY: 22 – Why Soul Searching is not my Theme of the Year
TOTY: 23 – Wellness and Becoming My Best Self
TOTY: 24 – Me Doing Me

 

Camp NaNoWriMo – July 2017 Intro

 

Kermit-Writing
Source: Pinterest

 

That’s right! I’m working on a new novel! Camp NaNoWriMo starts today, and I’ve decided to push The Everest Chronicles off to the side a bit to work on something new.

Last November, during NaNoWriMo proper, I had a dream that turned into 13 handwritten pages of something, which I then tucked away so I could focus on the project I was trying to work on at the time. I’m not going to reveal a whole lot about what occurred in the dream because that would give away the entire plot of the book. In fact, I’m going to keep this project fairly secret. Seriously. I shared the dream notes with one of my sisters back in November, and I just told one of my writing buddy friends about it last week. No one else knows anything about anything. I will say though, that it is a Regency Romance, and that for citing purposes I’ll be referring to it as Aunt Bea’s Pearls.

I’d like to write 25,000 words towards it this month. I’m only doing half the normal goal because I have a hundred other things to write this month, what with my birthday and the TOTY (Theme-Of-The-Year) going live among other cool projects for the blog. I’m excited! It should be a fairly intense month of writing, trying to balance fiction and blog posts while still getting my reading done for book reviews, but I think I’m up to it.

And honestly, I need something to distract myself until September when Grad School starts because I am B-O-R-E-D and my job search is going nowhere fast.

 

My writing buddy, and one of my oldest friends, Shannon is going to be doing Camp NaNoWriMo with me, so I am very excited to get started. I’ve been doing writing exercises for the last week trying to stretch my brain into shape so I can use my imagination to it’s fullest potential. Fun times.

You can expect writing updates just like last November here on the blog in the coming weeks. I’m planning to post them on Saturdays this time around if that works for you guys.

Until next week, good luck and happy writing!

~Amanda

Film Review – Midnight in Paris

Midnight-In-Paris-IMDB

Source: IMDB

I have wanted to watch this movie since it was released in 2011. Paris? Check. Artists, writers, and time travel to some of the most iconic times to be alive? Check. Great cast? Check! It just had so much to recommend it.

I should probably tell you that aside from Antz, which I hated, this is the first Woody Allen film I’ve ever seen. I swear that Annie Hall is on my list, but I haven’t gotten to it yet. I finally watched Midnight in Paris at the beginning of this month, and I was not disappointed. The imagery is beautiful, the premise and plot are very well done, and the intermingling of the present day with the past was just fantastic.

Owen Wilson’s character, Gil, is a screenwriter turned struggling author. He dreams of moving to Paris and renting out an attic like Hemingway and Fitzgerald did in the 20’s. In effect, he is living Fitzgerald’s life in reverse, since Fitzgerald was an author and became a screenwriter. Gil’s fiancé, Inez, played by Rachel McAdams, comes from a wealthy family and dreams of living a lavish lifestyle in California. She thinks Gil would do well if he would just concentrate on what he’s good at – writing and rewriting scripts for big blockbusters.

Gil and Inez travel to Paris with Inez’s parents, who are in the country on business. At dinner one evening they run into Paul, Inez’s close friend and biggest crush from college, and his fiancé Carol. Paul is in Paris to give a lecture series at the Sorbonne and invites the couple to accompany them on various sight-seeing expeditions. After each trip, Gil decides to walk home rather than cram into a taxi, and each time he walks home he comes across a Peugeot Type 176 (a car from the 1920’s) that picks him up and takes him to famous places in 1920’s Paris. Along the way, he meets the likes of Hemingway, the Fitzgeralds, Gertrude Stein, and Picasso among others.

In between trips to the 20’s, Gil makes progress with his novel and in his life, and the film ends with his decisions being made and feeling a sense of accomplishment and happiness he hasn’t had in years.

I would highly recommend this film to anyone who enjoys movies about writers and time travel and love, but most of all stories of self-discovery.

 

Highlights and Hot Chocolate Rating: 5 Stars

March Update – 2017 Goals Check-In

March Update

Maybe it’s the weather, the last dregs of winter that hang on until you want to scream or spend your meager savings and fly somewhere tropical, but this time of year always makes me want to sit down and assess things in my life. What do I want to accomplish this year? Where do I want my blog to go? Am I making my brand work for me? What can I do to make my content better?

The results of all my brainstorming usually end up getting published in my annual Theme of The Year post in July, but it all starts spinning around in my head now – in March!

This year, I’m tossing around a few big ideas for the blog including consolidating (and possibly rebranding!) as well as tons of post ideas on a variety of topics. I can’t wait to share everything with you!

I’m also processing some very big news that I recently received: I got accepted into graduate school! I will now officially be attending Emerson College in Boston this Autumn to get my MA in Publishing and Writing! Of course, this means I have to figure out how to pay for it all, and where I’m going to live, afford textbooks, etc. I suddenly have a lot on my plate, but I’m not going to let it slow me down. I’m taking it all in baby steps: planning for school, working on my book(s), making this space the best it can be… there is a lot to get done before September, and I’m excited to dive in!

I’ll write a more in depth grad school/life update after I attend accepted graduate students day next month, but until then let’s take a look at how I’m doing with my goal tracking.

TOTY 24 Goals:
Write Every Day: 
The writer’s block is real, but I’ve been re-reading my favorite series from my childhood and it’s really jumpstarting my imagination again. Some of these are the books that inspired me to write The Everest Chronicles! It is also almost spring, and that always gives me the urge to write contemporary, so I’ll be diving back into a contemporary mystery series I started writing last year that I’ve tentatively titled The Catchachatchamunga Diaries (try saying that 10 times fast!)

Apply to Full-Time Jobs: I have a full-time babysitting gig, but with grad school expenses I may need a full-time salaried job in order to pay tuition and maybe get an apartment closer to campus.

Apply to Grad School: Complete! As you read in this month’s intro, I just got accepted to Emerson College! WOO HOO!!! I won’t find out any scholarship/fellowship information until later this week, but I am so incredibly excited to have been accepted into this program!

2017 Goals:
Stick to My Budget: This has really been more like building a budget and assessing how I spend, but so far it’s going better than I expected.

Pay Lots of Student Loans: My bank account is saddened by this, but it’s really not so bad.

Build Savings Account: I’m getting there! I know most of what I’ve saved is going to end up going towards a security deposit and/or tuition payments, but it’s comforting to see the money sitting in there right now, haha!

Spend Less Than $500 on Books This Year: I’ve managed to get all the books on my read/review list for the year and stay under $300, so I feel like I’m doing okay. I’ve also taken advantage of sales and sale sites to save money, which has been helpful. #FirstWorldProblems

Only Buy New Clothes Seasonally: I’m trying to come up with a list of what I might need to replace or add to my wardrobe for the spring/summer before I do my shopping either the end of this month or the beginning of next before everything is sold out. I hate that I have to do my summer shopping when it’s still snowing.

Get 8+ hours of sleep/Go to bed by 10 pm: It’s been more like six-seven hours with all the reading I’ve been doing, but not terrible.

Only Watch Three Movies/Five Episodes Per Week: With the season finale of BBC’s Victoria behind us (SO GOOD YOU GUYS), and having finished The Crown at the end of February, I have now moved on to Stranger Things. I can’t say it’s amazing yet, but that could be because I’m watching it alone and therefore have no one to theorize with. There’s also not a lot of explanation, and I’m doubting that anything is going to be resolved by season end (I’m only three episodes in out of eight total). Next, I’m planning to watch The Last Kingdom.

Finish Craft Projects: I am now more than halfway finished with all three of my projects. That’s as much as I can say. I’ve been reading a lot and neglecting everything else.

Post Regularly: Ha. As usual, I have big plans and then they never see the light of day. I’d be a great content planner for anyone except myself. I’m going to keep hacking away at this goal though because I think I’m starting to break through!

Keep Up With Book Reviews: If only I had Wi-Fi in my room. We’re getting a booster this month, but as it stands now I am writing to you from the kitchen island, which I’ve taken over for the day so I can write a few reviews and pay my taxes. Fun stuff. (update 3 days later: we moved the Wi-Fi box and now I have a download speed of 89 and upload speed of 13. For comparison, last week’s speed readings were 0.39 for downloads and 0.04 for uploads.) Everything is ridiculous.

Plan Monthly Post Schedules: Still not keeping to them, but at least I glance at them every now and then.

Read 50+ Books: I’m at 13 for the year so far, which is slightly ahead of schedule now. Yay! But I have two books to finish by the end of the month that I’m no longer excited about, so that stinks.

Get In Shape: I did get some running in two weeks ago when it got up to 70 F, but it’s been snowy and frigid since then. I’m trying to fit in some yoga and pilates to make for being cooped up.

Walk 40+ Miles Per Month: I walked over 50 miles last month! WOO HOO!

Finish Everest Draft: Not even close.

Write 20,000 Words Per Month: I wrote three sentences last week, and I’m hoping to write a good chunk today.

Run a 5K in under 30 Minutes: Too cold and snowy to run with a baby, so I can’t get anywhere near this goal yet.

March Goals:

Walk 40+ Miles: I’m close to 28 miles already and it’s the 20th. Not too bad considering I spent a whole weekend in bed sick.

Run 12 Miles: If it ever warms up outside, sure.

Learn Stretching Exercises: YouTube is a cool place.

Do Yoga 8 Times This Month: I debating whether or not to get a subscription to One0Eight.com. I love Yoga Girl and everything they’re doing at Island Yoga, but I’m not sure if it’s a financial thing I can do at the moment. It’s $14/month for yoga, meditation, and nutritional content.

Read 7+ Books: (* indicates finished)
*The Last of August by Brittany Cavallaro
*Uprooted by Naomi Novik
*The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
Fallout by Gwenda Bond
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
Pretty Happy by Kate Hudson

Write 4+ Book Reviews:
The Last of August by Brittany Cavallaro
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Fallout by Gwenda Bond
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Get more involved at church by going to an event: I attended a very nice dessert potluck at the beginning of the month, and there’s a group of us going to the Museum of Science. Yay for making friends!

Write 20,000 Words of Everest: This is meant to be the same 20,000 words discussed before, and yes, I am failing hard.

Find a Hair Salon: I have a lead on one that I need to check out, but I’m also going home to New Jersey because I need to make a visit to my Dermatologist, so I think I’m putting off the hair salon decision for anther month and just having my stylist back home do a touch up while I’m there.

DO NOT BUY BOOKS: This is a given.

 

 

So, those are my goals. What are some of your goals right now? Are you working for a promotion? Getting ready to graduate college or high school? Working towards a summer beach body? Join the discussion in the comments!

 

 

Until next time,

Amanda

 

Life Log February 25th, 2017 – Meeting Elise Kova

Today is one of those days that I hope I remember forever, and it all started by sleeping in for the first time in a month.

The original plan was to get up at 6:30 and do some early morning writing at one of my two favorites Starbucks locations in the city, but when my alarm went off I decided to sleep in instead. I got up around 11:30 and ate some lunch before heading out into the city to explore, as I have most weekends since I moved here in October. I’m always discovering new things.

My first stop was Coolidge Corner, where I wanted to scope out Brookline Booksmith before I attend the V.E. Schwab signing there on Monday (Update: It was CROWDED, but awesome, and Victoria is pretty great). It’s always good to know where you’re going, folks. After I found it and browsed for a bit, I decided to follow Beacon Street back towards  Boston Common and see what else was in the area. In as little as 10 minutes I was overwhelmed with my love for this city. Everything, even the deserted parts of the streets and the little half-hidden parks and personal gardens make me smile. I felt like standing the middle of the road, twirling, crying, and screaming about how much Boston means to me, but I didn’t because there was traffic and quite a few people around. I did smile and skip through the drizzle that started soon after though, and that was almost as fun.

When the rain started to get harder and the wind began blowing it into my eyes I ducked into the nearest Starbucks, which happened to be at Kenmore Square near Boston University, and settled in to wait out the downpour. Can I just say that the baristas there are super sweet? I was sitting at the counter, working on a map for The Everest Chronicles and sipping my hot cocoa (Starbucks Cocoa is the best), and listening to them chat. One of them was new, and while she had a handle on everything, she was one of those employees that knows exactly the right questions to ask those who’ve worked there longer, like “it’s this syrup, 4 squirts, right?” not “how do I make that again?” She was just fantastic, and her eyeliner was on point. The guy sitting next to me apparently also works there, but he wasn’t on duty and was instead actively studying for midterms. Still, their convos were hysterical to listen to, and they even included me in them occasionally, which was kind of them. Everyone there was just nice, and it made the time fly until the rain stopped.

I emerged back into the sunshine and crossed the street to a Barnes & Noble I had spotted just before I’d reached Starbucks. As I walked through the door I noticed one of those events signs they always have up. The book pictured on the poster was The Alchemists of Loom by Elise Kova, and it said she would be there at 3 pm on February 25th. I looked at my phone, and wouldn’t you know it, it was 3:15, on the 25th.

loom-the-alchemists-of-loom-elise-kova

If you’ve never heard of The Alchemists of Loom, fear not. I hadn’t heard of it either until last month, but three authors/BookTubers I follow on social media: Sasha Alsberg from A Book Utopia, Lindsay Cummings, and Regan from Peruse Project on YouTube, have since been raving about it. Lindsay blurbed it, and Sasha and Regan are reading it for their virtual book club this month. It’s been very high on my radar, and therefore I got very excited when I saw the poster. I walked back to the sci-fi/fantasy section and bought the book, and then asked the cashier where the event was. He cheerfully told me it was upstairs, and off I went.

I walked in to find a group of about 10 people sitting in chairs, listening to Elise explain the publishing process. She talked about editing, querying, and the writing process in general. When I asked her, she said that she started writing in 6th grade, when the teacher assigned the class a 5-page story, due at the end of the year. Everyone groaned because in 6th grade five pages sounds like a life sentence, but Elise immediately decided to write a chapter book. Her teacher tried to dissuade her, but Elise was determined. The book ended up being novella length, and while she says it was truly terrible, she did suggest that she might share a few pages with her newsletter subscribers one day.

One mom asked if Kova had any advice for young writers, especially those in high school. I found out later that her daughter and a friend were sitting across the aisle from me, 9th graders. “Write a lot, and often,” Elise said. “Read. And get on Twitter. There are a ton of authors on Twitter to engage with and ask questions of.”

After everyone’s questions were answered, Kova signed her books and chatted with all of the attendees. When it was my turn, I admitted that I hadn’t read the book yet, but I’d heard so much about it from Sasha and Lindsay (and Regan!) that I couldn’t wait to read it. I also told her that I loved what she had to share about publishing, and how I was applying to a graduate publishing program and writing my own stuff. She was extremely nice, and warm, and simply lovely to talk to. She signed my copy of The Alchemists of Loom, personalizing it with ‘To Amanda, You’re perfect! ~Elise Kova’, which made me smile and do an inner little cheer because she’s really just so nice and the fact that she thought I was nice was very cool!

As I left the BU Barnes & Noble, it was still beautifully sunny outside and the cool breeze left by the rainstorm made the city feel like paradise. I continued my exploration for another hour or so before heading home, where I’m currently writing to you from while I eat my Kraft Mac & Cheese. I’ve only now realized that I forgot to grab any of the swag from the Kova event, and also that I didn’t ask to take a picture with her, but since it was my first time at a book/author event, I guess it’s okay that I didn’t do any of that. I was too excited to remember. Maybe next time!

I’m about to dive into the first episode of Stranger Things, and then I’m going to read some more of the book I’ve been carrying around with me all day, A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab. I’m hoping to be knee deep in the final installment, A Conjuring of Light, by the time I meet her at the book tour event on Monday. As soon as I’m done with that book, however, you can bet that I’ll be devouring The Alchemists of Loom. Stay tuned to Highlights and Hot Chocolate in the coming months for a review. I just have to find somewhere in my posting schedule to fit it in!

I wish you all a good evening, a good book, and a comfy place to read. ❤

I hope you’ve enjoyed this new type of post on my blog, a sort of written version of a vlog (because I don’t have a decent camera or editing software to actually make one of those). I don’t know yet if I’ll keep doing them, so let me know what you think in the comments. While you’re down there writing things, what was your first book/author event? I’m interested to hear everyone’s experiences!

Until next time,

Amanda

January/February Update – 2017 Goals Check-In

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Hello!!

It’s been nearly two months, hasn’t it? I’ve been wishing I could hibernate until spring comes, but with the snow piling ever higher I know that’s not going to happen anytime soon. Boston is still pretty fantastic, especially now that I’ve re-located the Starbucks I wrote so well in back in November. I may have visited every Starbucks in the city over the last 10 weeks in the course of my search. Which is actually quite a feat considering. #SorryNotSorry

So, snow: Check. Starbucks: Check. I saw Hidden Figures recently and oh my goodness is it amazing. And wonderful. And just positively breathtaking. It’s radical. I loved it. I also made it to the Museum of Fine Art in January to see the Impressionist exhibit and actually cried when I saw all the Monets and Renoirs. My mother loves impressionist artwork, especially by those two, and seeing them in person was magical. I am physically tearing up thinking about it. I also bought a postcard size of Renoir’s Grand Canal and have tacked it up to my storyboard. The colors are so amazing, the water even now seems to ripple in a light wind. Beautiful.

I also made it to the Museum of Fine Art in January to see the Impressionist exhibit and actually cried when I saw all the Monets and Renoirs. My mother loves impressionist artwork, especially by those two, and seeing them in person was magical. I am physically tearing up thinking about it. I also bought a postcard size of Renoir’s Grand Canal and have tacked it up to my storyboard. The colors are so amazing, the water even now seems to ripple in a light wind. Beautiful.

This weekend I am traveling up to the University of Maine, Orono (which I’ve just found out I’ve been spelling wrong for years. I thought it was Orohno, which I found amusing.), for their home meet for Woodsmen’s Team. If you’ve never seen lumberjack sports, you are in for a treat! Despite the deep snow, it promises to be exciting. And cold, as usual. Also, my parents are visiting, so yay, family!

Hopefully, I’ll have time to write individual and more lengthy posts about those three excursions, but I can’t guarantee it right now. Okay, enough chitchat. Onto the goals check-in! I suddenly have a lot of them. Que trying to organize my life.

TOTY 24 Goals:
Write Every Day:
Nope. But I did write over 2000 words on Saturday between camping out at the library and writing at Starbucks. So that’s pretty good! December was plain nuts with holidays and visiting family, and January was consumed by my Grad School application and severe writer’s block.

I finally realized that my last chapter and a half from NaNoWriMo went off a cliff because I hadn’t written enough background for the side characters to have personalities. Oops. So Saturday I wrote character backgrounds. Fun times.

Apply to Full Time Jobs: #BabysittingLife

Apply to Grad School: You guys, I did it! I got everything, including essays, references, resumes, and transcripts in before the scholarship/fellowship deadline. And now the waiting begins. *Breathes Deeply*

2017 Goals:
Stick to My Budget: meh. Not terrible, but not great. If you follow Curio Street Reads you’ll notice I have a weakness for books.

Pay Lots of Student Loans: Not so much of a party in my bank account. But I’m getting there. Yay monthly payment plans!

Build Savings Account: Actual party in my bank account.

Spend Less Than $500 on Books This Year: Yes, this is a real, albeit first-world, problem. If only people would actually get me books for my birthday/Christmas… JK, I would still have this problem, I’d just also have MORE BOOKS! Rather than attempt to curtail my book buying habit, I’ve decided to try to buy from sites like Thrift Books and Book Depository, and occasionally Amazon (Okay, there’s actually a lot of Amazon. I have prime specifically for this reason.), rather than Barnes and Noble (to which I have a membership because duh.). LET’S JUST AGREE I HAVE A READING/BOOK BUYING ADDICTION, OKAY? Also, I need more bookshelves. And don’t even get me started on all the independent bookstores in Boston that I haven’t located yet. They exist. There’s one I pass on my way to church. I’ve started going to early church just so I’m out of the area before that store opens. My life is a struggle.

Only Buy New Clothes Seasonally: This is agony because I recently discovered I have Primark and Madewell in Boston, but so far I’m doing okay.

Get 8+ hours of sleep/Go to bed by 10 pm: HAHAHAHAHA self you are silly. There are books to read and Netflix shows like The Crown and Stranger Things to watch. Not to mention they’ve done a spectacular job of keeping my favorite cheesy rom-com, A Christmas Kiss (which I own btw, but that’s not relevant), in the streaming library for days like today when I’m all exhausted because hormones.

Only Watch Three Movies/Five Episodes Per Week: Because the struggle is real. I watched five episodes of The Crown this week and it’s only Wednesday. I want to start Stranger Things but this goal is helping me stop myself. I have writing to do. And reading. Yeah. Reading. And writing.

Finish Craft Projects: I have three projects (Crochet, Latch-Hook, Embroidery) that I started over a year ago (some over 10 years ago) that I never finished. They will be done by the end of the year. Period.

Post Regularly: Oops.

Keep Up With Book Reviews: At this point not posting my weekly book review makes me feel like my life is falling apart. Maybe someday this part of the blog will feel the love too. But not just yet.

Plan Monthly Post Schedules: Did that. Didn’t write the posts. Am sad.

Read 50+ Books: I think I’m a book behind to reach 52. But guys, Elantris (Review out 4/25) was long. SO worth it, but the first 300 pages were slow for me. Argh.

Get In Shape: I’ve been trying to explore the city every weekend, but it’s hard to do anything with all this snow.

Walk 40+ Miles Per Month: So far, so good! Pretty happy about this one.

Finish Everest Draft: I Think I Can, I Think I Can. Ideally, I’ll be done by July, though if I have to keep stopping to write character and country background, it might be November. I just sent the first three chapters to three friends who read some of the very rough versions I wrote originally (think grades 7-10), and am letting them edit/comment/proof those for flow, etc. We’ll see what they think. In the meantime, I want to focus on chapters 4-6 and worldbuilding now that everyone is in roughly the same place.

Write 20,000 Words Per Month: Not in January. We’ll see if I can even hit 10,000 in February.  The child is teething.

Run a 5K in under 30 Minutes: If I ever see the ground again, maybe I’ll actually start running and this goal will be feasible.

January Goals:
Submit Grad School Application: YES!

Order New Computer: After SIX years on the same Dell laptop, I am happy to say I am now the proud owner of a new HP Pavillion laptop (and it’s RED!). You have no idea how exited I am, or how happy my back is to be carrying only 5lbs now, instead of 10lbs. *tears of joy* Also, the storage space is positively luxurious by comparison. MY PRECIOUS.

Read 3+ Books: (* indicates finished)
*Grace, Not Perfection by Emily Ley,
*Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson,
and Elantris by Brandon Sanderson, which I didn’t finish until February.

Write 4+ Book Reviews: (* indicates finished)
*Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling (Screenplay),
*Stone Heart by Luanne Rice,
*Grace, Not Perfction by Emily Ley,
*The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss,
and  *Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson.

Re-Outline Everest: That’s right, I re-outlined and added a whole new thread to the story because I had a huge dead spot in the second half, and now we’ll see where this takes me. It’s going to be a lot of fun to write at least!

February Goals:
Read 7+ Books: (* indicates finished)
*Elantris by Brandon Sanderson,
*Nancy Drew and the Curse of the Arctic Star by Carolyn Keene
*Sandry’s Book by Tamora Pierce,
Daja’s Book by Tamora Pierce,
Tris’ Book by Tamora Pierce,
Briar’s Book by Tamora Pierce,
A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé and translated from French into English by Alison Anderson,
The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald,
A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab,
and *Farewell Speeches by Barack and Michelle Obama.

Write 4+ Book Reviews: (* indicates finished)
*Nancy Drew and the Curse of the Arctic Star by Carolyn Keene (Review out 2/7),
*The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss (Review out 2/14),
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab (Review out 2/21),
A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé (Review out 2/28),
*Sandry’s Book by Tamora Pierce (Review out 4/18),
and Cinder by Marissa Meyer (Review out in 2018).

Write 20,000 Words of Everest: We’ll see! Currently: 2513. HA!

Run 12 Miles: Not in this snow, I won’t. I’ll let the people training for the Boston Marathon have the icy roads to themselves, thanks.

 

 

So, that’s me. Plodding along and clearly not hibernating. Oh well, try again next year.

Until Next Time,

Amanda