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

May Update – 2017 Goals Check-In

Update - 5 - May

Long time no see, everyone! It’s been a bit chaotic around here for the past eight weeks or so while I was working on the new layout and format. There was no monthly update in April due to the site being down for rebranding, and I was surprised by how muddled my life became when I didn’t have you all to check-in with. It’s definitely time to reinstate the monthly updates!

April, as you know, was full of website building and logo designing. I honestly had planned to wait until July for the official re-launch, but I got really excited and carried away into web design, and before I knew it I was at the point where I needed to take the site down to do the actual redesign. Curio Street Reads has now been rolled into The Curio Street Blog, and they’ve been rebranded as Highlights and Hot Chocolate. I’ve been keeping up with the weekly book reviews, but I’ve also been debating a little with how best not to back myself into a corner. The focus of this site is writing and literature, but it’s not necessarily a ‘book blog’. I’d call it more of a lifestyle blog with an emphasis on writing, editing, and reading. This self-definition allows me to play around with other things, like film/TV reviews, recipes, and D.I.Y. bits if an idea strikes me. And that’s what makes blogging exciting: I’m the boss. I get to decide how, when, and what gets published.

May has been quite interesting so far. I signed up for NetGalley, an online book review site that connects beta readers with publishing companies. So far I’ve been approved for four ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies), and reviews for those will be coming soon! It’s all thanks to you guys that I’m able to get these advanced editions because availability is all based on audience size, so THANK YOU! Y’all are amazing.

In other life news, I spent last weekend in Maine celebrating my sister’s college graduation. It’s been an amazing four years watching her excel in classes and Timbersports competitions, and I’m almost sad it’s over. But I am so SO excited to see where life takes her next, and I am incredibly proud of everything she’s already accomplished. She’s definitely more prepared for the real world than I was at graduation. The idea of job hunting scared me to death, but she’s right up there in the fray, chipping away at the mountain of possibilities, looking for a piece big enough to suit her. I know it won’t be too long before she lands somewhere fantastic.

While I’m definitely tired from all the driving this past weekend, I’m not letting it get me down. I signed up for a free 10-day trial of oneOeight, a yoga and wellness site based in Aruba, and I’m diving into meditations and some basic yoga to boost my energy levels. I was on the fence about this program back in March, but I’ve been doing a lot of research on it, and I think it’s worth the $14/mo. Many of the yogis are among my favorites, and I am definitely someone who needs guided practices. Besides oneOeight, I’ve also been tuning into Yoga With Adriene, who’s based out of Austin, Texas and has some of THE BEST beginner yoga lessons. Both websites are amazing, and I’m not really sure what I would do without them.

Writing has been interesting. My cousin, whom I watch during the day, is just over one-year-old now, and he’s decided he only needs one nap a day. Great for him. Bad for my writing. With what time I’ve had, I’ve mostly been stewing on the next scene I need to write and realizing that I don’t know my secondary characters well enough to write it. My story tends to be very involved, especially for me, though I’m sure 90% of what I’m writing will get cut from the final copy. I’m the sort of person who needs to have an entire family history back to the beginning of time for everyone. Even the characters who have no names have names, you just don’t need to know what they are for the purposes of the specific story I’m telling. So I’ve been working on some of my more prominent secondary characters, those who make prolonged appearances and need to have coherent personalities. I’ve finished four of the six people I need in order to write this next scene so far, and I think that’s pretty good. Writing backstories also tends to color in bits and pieces of country history and helps cement my world together, which always makes me feel like my work is worthwhile, even if it often seems like I’m procrastinating on the actual scene writing.

 

I think that’s all for now, so let’s take a look at how I’m doing on the goals side of things.

 

 

TOTY 24 Goals:
Write Every Day: 
I’m definitely not writing every single day, but I’m definitely brainstorming every day, and that’s a huge step in the right direction.

Apply to Full-Time Jobs: As my little one-year-old cousin prepares to head to daycare this summer, I am beginning my search for a full-time salary job that will allow me to get a place of my own and save copious amounts of money for graduate school.

Apply to Grad School: ACCEPTED INTO THE EMERSON COLLEGE M.A. PROGRAM FOR WRITING AND PUBLISHING, BEGINNING SEPTEMBER 2017.

2017 Goals:

Stick to My Budget: This is still going much better than expected. I’m saving but not feeling like I had to cut off my arm to do so.

Pay Lots of Student Loans: Also going well! I might be able to pay off $5,000 worth by the end of the year.

Build Savings Account: My little savings account is growing! I’m pretty proud of myself, even if it’s still a relatively small amount.

Spend Less Than $500 on Books This Year: This is still a struggle, but I think I might just succeed.

Only Buy New Clothes Seasonally: CHECK!

Get 8+ hours of sleep/Go to bed by 10 pm: HA.

Only Watch Three Movies/Five Episodes Per Week: I’ve been doing so much reading that I have completely neglected my TV watching. I only watched one more episode of Stranger Things, and while I’m not really excited about it yet (maybe because I’m pretty sure I know where it’s going?), it’s still relatively interesting without being too creepy. I was also watching Chesapeake Shores, but it was only on Netflix for a month and I didn’t get to finish it. At the end of March, I speed-watched six seasons of Bones because they were being taken off of Netflix the week after the series finale aired on Fox, but I was only able to do that because I’ve watched 85% of the episodes already and just needed a refresher on the larger story arcs. Lat but not least, I discovered a show that was originally on SciFi/SyFy called Wynonna Earp and it is WICKED GOOD. I mean that. There are wicked demons from Hell. Seriously. Wyatt Earp’s family is cursed to have to kill the same people over and over again and only the heir that kills them all can break the curse. It’s a modern western/police drama and the cast and storyline are beyond diverse and it’s just amazing. Once I finish Stranger Things and Wynonna Earp, I’ll finally move on to The Last Kingdom, which there are now two seasons of. If I don’t watch Girlboss first.

Finish Craft Projects: I haven’t made any progress at all over the last eight weeks. I’m disappointed in myself.

Post Regularly: Getting a little better at this!

Keep Up With Book Reviews: So far, so good!

Plan Monthly Post Schedules: Also going pretty well!

Read 50+ Books: I’m currently sitting at 24 books, but I’m looking to hit 30 before the next update goes live!

Get In Shape: Now that it’s finally warming up outside, I might stand a chance at completing this one!

Walk 40+ Miles Per Month: April = 50.7 Miles. So far this month I’m right around 30 miles, and we’re only halfway through! I’m doing a lot of driving over the next couple weekends though, so it’s all going to come down to weekday walks instead of weekend exploring.

Finish Everest Draft: Not even close.

Write 20,000 Words Per Month: My ‘much smaller’ goal for this month is 4,000 words of manuscript, but that’s only going to happen if I finish these character backstories. Someday I’m probably going to release all the histories in some sort of character dictionary. I can’t wait to see people’s heads roll with the amount of information I have on every living thing in this universe. It makes me happy to know that someday I’ll get to see the awe on their faces. There’s definitely more history than manuscript at the moment, and no matter how much of the manuscript I write, I think it’s going to stay that way.

Run a 5K in under 30 Minutes: Someday.

April/May Goals:

Walk 40+ Miles Each Month: YES and ALMOST YES!

 

Run: Nope.

Yoga: I’m supplementing this with Meditation, and so far, so good!

Read Lots of Books: (* indicates finished)
April:
*Disenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella by Megan Morrison
*Double Down by Gwenda Bond
*Searching For Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede
*The Alchemists of Loom by Elise Kova
*Cotillion by Georgette Heyer

May:
*Triple Threat by Gwenda Bond
*The Singer of All Songs by Kate Constable
*The Magnificent Flying Baron Estate by Eric Bower
The Waterless Sea by Kate Constable
The Tenth Power by Kate Constable
Pretty Happy by Kate Hudson
Molly Bell and the Wishing Well by Bridget Geraghty
A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

Write 5+ Book Reviews in May:
*Double Down
*Cotillion
*The Singer of All Songs
Triple Threat
The Magnificent Flying Baron Estate
Pretty Happy
A Conjuring of Light

Write 8,000 Words of Everest: My brain just keeps up a refrain of ‘Backgrounds first. Backgrounds first. Backgrounds first.’ It’s exhausting.

 

 

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

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

 

January/February Update – 2017 Goals Check-In

jan%2ffeb-update

 

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

December Update – 2016 Goals Check-In

december-update

 

Hello hello and welcome back to another update! Let’s jump right in.

Thanksgiving was wonderful, and having already given up on NaNoWriMo the day before, I was able to really relax and enjoy myself and the family that surrounded me. Black Friday in my house is Baking Friday, and my mom and I and whoever we are able to recruit, tackle our annual Christmas Cookies: Spritz, Sugar and Spice, Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Chocolate Chip, Russian Tea Cakes, Razzleberries, and more.

At the beginning of the week, I was lucky enough to be able to help out at my Alma Mater, which hosts a telethon every year for Big Brothers Big Sisters. You know, those things you flip past on community TV stations where local musicians, magicians, acting and dance schools perform their hearts out and a group of people tell you how important something is and conduct interviews while in the background people answer telephones to take donations? That. I love that. When I attended the school, I got involved initially for the extra credit, but quickly fell in love with the live broadcasting. Mostly because of the people involved, but going back to help out every year is one of my favorite things. When I lived in the area the past two years, I went back in the weeks leading up to the program because I was executive producing. Not being in the area this year meant I couldn’t do that, but I was able to be a floor director for the day, which was almost as much fun, and much less stressful.

I was also able to stop by and see my lovely ex-coworkers, which was really nice since usually I don’t get the chance to go back to places I’ve worked after I’ve left. Not for bad reasons, but I usually only leave jobs when I move. This time, however, I continue to have friends who live in that area, so I have multiple excuses to drive the hour down there when I’m at my parents and I don’t have to feel bad about using all of that gas because I’m combining the visits into one.

December has been moving along pretty smoothly. I’m only waiting on one more package to arrive, and I have three pictures frames that I need to buy before I’m completely done with my holiday shopping. thank goodness I did my shopping when I did, because I just got a call from the bank that my card needed to be shut off because of some company having a data breach (not my bank having the breach, thank goodness), so now I can’t do anymore shopping until my new card arrives, which won’t be for another week or so. Luckily I have cash for gas to get from MA to NJ for the holidays. This does mean that I can’t go out exploring the city’s Christmas displays though, which I wanted to a post about, because I can’t get any more money out of my account to use for subway tickets, which makes me sad. At the same time though, it’s saving me money, so I really shouldn’t be complaining.

That’s enough of that, let’s take a look at how I’m doing on my goals so far.

 

TOTY 24 Goals:
Write Every Day – Except for the book reviews I’ve done in the last month,  I haven’t written a thing. Well, that’s not really true. I made a brief foray into the distant recesses of my book series to hammer out some more plot ideas for my NaNo project from last year, but that was it. Really!

Apply to Full-Time Jobs – COMPLETED!

Apply to Grad School – I think I’m psyching myself out when it comes to this. I can’t even bring myself to pull up the essay requirements or contact my references to ask for letters. I really need to just buckle down and get it done. If I don’t get in, at least I will have tried. If I don’t try, then I fail by default, and I will never forgive myself if I do not try. This is something I really, really want to do, but I don’t know… I almost feel… unworthy? is that the word I’m looking for? I’ve never known what I wanted to do, and I’ve never been the best of the best at anything. I used to think that my calling in life would appear as something that only I could do, but I just don’t believe that anymore. I follow at least 15 travel bloggers on various platforms. If there was one person meant to do it, why would the others even bother? Clearly, someone out there is always going to be better than you. that’s the whole point. It drives you to be your best, rather than half-assing it because you know the people will come anyway. It’s supposed to be a bit of a struggle. If it was easy, it wouldn’t be interesting. Am I giving myself a pep-talk right here and now? Maybe. This whole grad school thing, even though it’s going to cost even more money, and take even more time when I could be working in the field already, is something I need to do for myself. I ‘m not the kind of person who can jump into a business field completely blind. I need to know how the industry works before I can go in and rock the socks off of any potential bosses. Publishing is the only idea that I’ve come back to again and again as a potential job. I’m really blabbering on and on about this, so maybe I should just make a separate post about why I want to go into publishing because this is going to take a while to explain.

 

December Goals:
Read 6 books: So far I’m at three! and working my way through at least two more that will be done by the end of the month. These are part fun reads, and also some prep for reviews coming out next month/year. So far I read Life and Death by Stephenie Meyer, which is the gender swapped retelling of Twilight in honor of that book’s 10th anniversary. I also read Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling, which I read in a day and it was phenomenal. I also saw the actual movie twice so far, and it’s something I just want to watch over and over again because I keep noticing new things! Last night I finished a romance, There’s Something in the Heir by Jenny Gardiner, which is the first book in her It’s Reigning Men series, and I am a sucker for punderful romance titles. You just know they’re going to be sweet and cheesy.

Write 5 reviews: I reviewed Life and Death as well as Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay, but Life and Death is just chilling in my reserve pile because I have many other things coming your way first!

Write 6 posts: I’m having some trouble downloading my photos from the phone to my PC, as my computer is probably about 6 years old now and I’m quite literally running out of storage space. I desperately need to buy an external hard drive (or, you know, just by a new computer). So I haven’t finished any of the posts I had planned about exploring the city, and those may all have to wait for the new year when I can put some cash towards one of the two solutions. Which of course also means this is the only post I’ve written all month. I have a few more ideas for end-of-the-year stuff, but it remains to be seen how much media I can fit on my computer in order to create something I like.

Write 10,000 words of the Everest Chronicles: Yeah… I’m definitely going to need this break to extend into January. My brain just can’t handle anything when Christmas is on my plate. I’ve been reading as much as humanly possible since I bailed on NaNoWriMo. I think I’ve read six books so far, and I’m in the middle of three more, but on the way out my reading slump I temporarily DNF’d (Did Not Finish) at least two others that I can think of. I love books.

Connect Blog(s) to a Facebook page: This is something I’d really like to be able to do, to have a single, combined feed, so you don’t have to jump back and forth between the two sites to find everything, because after a while that becomes tedious to say the least. Additionally, Facebook makes sharing things significantly easier, which would really up my exposure, which would be nice. I think.

Walk 20 miles: I set this goal at 2/3 of last month because of all the snow and ice and the like that are preventing me for putting my cousin in a stroller and hitting the trails. Still, I’m at about 17 miles thus far, and it’s only halfway through the month. A lot of this is due to the sheer number of stairs in my aunt and uncle’s house (we call it the stairmaster because all we do is walk up and down stairs all day), but anything that helps with fitness during the dead of winter is fine by me.

 

Books to read this month:
Unbroken – Laura Hillenbrand
Grace, Not Perfection – Emily Ley
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand – Helen Simonson
Landline – Rainbow Rowell
Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert

October Update – 2016 Goals Check-in

october-update

 

This month felt like a solid decade.  I meant to write this post like I did the others, around the middle of the month, but I found I was just too emotional to do it justice. Packing for the move, finishing my last couple weeks at the bridal shop, prepping for NaNoWriMo, there was a lot more going on than I was ready for.

The month started out with me realizing that I actually was moving. I’d been discussing the idea with my aunt and uncle for so long that it seemed like it would never happen. Being a pro at packing because I’ve basically lived out of a suitcase for the last 10 months when I was staying with Big Red, I kept feeling like I was missing things, but for the most part I wasn’t. The only things I forgot in the move were soap, my razor, tape for my posters, my yoga mat, and my desk chair that didn’t fit in my car anyway. Otherwise, my entire life fit in my little blue Prius. It’s a weird feeling when you realize that your life can fit in your car. Very scary and yet freeing as well. I plan to go out and purchase a bookcase for my room since I brought about 25 books with me, plus all of my writing notebooks. I know. I brought books with me. But I only brought the ones I plan on reading before I visit my parents again since I really don’t have space here to store all of my books. It hurts, not having all of my books in one place. #BookishProblems

I attended homecoming at my alma mater, East Stroudsburg University in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, on the 15th. My friends Jordan, Connor, and I revived our radio show The SoundWave for the day, which was fantastic. Then we wandered around campus and grabbed a bite to eat downtown. It’s one of the best feelings, returning to a place that brought you so much joy and taught you so much about life. ESU and WESS 90.3 FM are a couple of those places for me.

Hanging out with my local friends one last time before I made the move was hard. I know I’ll see them during holidays and everything, but with everyone basically out of college now and working, it’s difficult to make time to see each other, especially during this time of year. I’m so thankful they were all able to take the time out of their busy schedules to see me before I moved.

The hardest part of making this move was leaving the bridal shop. The last 10 months there have taught me an extraordinary amount of things. My customer service skills have increased tenfold. My understanding of logistics and conversion rates, and sales in general, has improved astronomically. I now know the difference between the colors Guava, Punch, and Coral, Blush, Bellini, and Petal, Pool, Malibu, Spa, Oasis, and Capri, and Portobello, Mystic, Mercury, and Pewter, something I never thought would be relevant to my life, but now seems indispensable. The ladies I worked with showed me new points of view to just about every aspect of life, and I made some friends there that I will never find the likes of anywhere else. I truly hope I never lose touch with them. Working at that bridal shop has been one of the best choices I’ve ever made, and I will never, ever, regret it.

Still, making this move, I think, was the right choice too. I’ve always been one to explore new things and love new experiences, and so far I’m loving my new city. Boston feels pretty homey. My arrival here wasn’t full of hoopla or craziness. Walking the streets, even for the first time, feels like greeting an old friend I haven’t seen in years. Yesterday I overheard two girls talking about their new favorite word, ken, which comes from Gaelic and means to know. I’ve always liked that word, and I find that I like it when other people have really crazy intelligent conversations just walking down the street. Living near Harvard has its perks. I passed a group of stay-at-home-parents the other day, and two stay-at-home-dads at the back of the pack were discussing toxicology. How neat is that?

ithink-imgoingtolikeithere

Source: MemeGenerator

 

Let’s take a look at how I did on my goals. I’m sure it’s atrocious.

TOTY 24 Goals:
Write Every Day – This didn’t happen, again. But I’m getting better! I actually had a dream Thursday night that turned into 3,000 words of a new story, so there’s that. Unfortunately, I spent the majority of the month packing all my stuff and working, so I didn’t have a lot of  free time to locate my notebook and get some writing done. I did, however, do a lot of organizing of my background material for my novel. This will hopefully help me not get distracted when I attempt NaNoWriMo next month.

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, which is a project that people sign up for, where the goal is to write 50,000 words of a story during the month of November. why November, nobody knows, especially since we have Thanksgiving in there and everything. It’s exhausting. I attempted it last year when Iw s taking a break from my main storyline and working on a spin-off, but I only got 4-5,000 words into it because I kept getting lost in my background information. This year I’m hoping to tackle a full draft of my main story, so it’s going to be an interesting ride!

Apply to Full Time Jobs – I think I’ve succeeded for the year with this one! As I mentioned before, I’ve moved to Boston, MA to nanny full time for my baby cousin. He turned 7 months old on Saturday! I’m beyond excited, and so far I’m enjoying myself. I’m only a week in, and while my muscles are tired and I’m actually really, really exhausted, I absolutely love it. And I’m getting more writing done than ever before because nap times are a wonderful thing. So, check getting a full time off the list for this year!

Apply to Grad School – I’m going to the graduate open house at Emerson this weekend! But I haven’t done any GRE prepping yet beyond buying a GRE prep book…

If I like the school on Saturday, I’ll start prepping on Monday. I know it’s going to be hard. Supposedly the math portion goes up through Calculus?? 😦  but I’ll survive. I do still have to look into where/when the test is being offered in/around Boston, and I’ll need to contact professors to ask for recommendation letters, but there’s no point in jumping the gun if I end up not liking the school, is there?

 

October Goals:
Read 7 books – Ha. Ha. Ha. With all the packing, I finished Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix at the beginning of the month, attempted reading A Passage to Shambhala and gave up after 2 weeks and getting nowhere after 400 pages, and I just finished Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which I read this week during, you guessed it, nap time. So that brings the total up to two? and a half? maybe one and a half? It all depends on whether you count Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix as this month or last month because of when I read the majority of it vs. when I finished it.

Exercise – Does walking 4 miles round trip to visit a bookstore yesterday count?  I hit 10,000 steps for the first time in ages. It seriously only used to happen when I went to NYC like once a year.

Write 5 posts – I wrote my moving info post on October 1st, and I haven’t posted since. Oops! Well, here is number two, and my NaNoWriMo prep post should be up tomorrow. So that makes three! Next month you’ll mostly be getting my weekly NaNo updates, as well as a post or two about exploring my new city, and of course the monthly update, so you can look forward to 6-8 posts next month at minimum because let’s be honest, I’m probably going to gush about Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them when it hits theaters in two weeks as well.

Write 10,000 words – Well, if we count the dream I had that turned into ~3000 words of a new story, I wrote a total of 5,519 words this month. which isn’t bad, but it’s nothing close the the 50,000 that I’ve signed up to write next month as part of NaNoWriMo. And a lot of it went towards that new story, which doesn’t help me in the long run with working on my main novel.

Move to Boston – Now this, I succeeded at. I’m currently writing from my desk in my new room. It’s in the attic, so I think I’m going to call this place the Aerie. It feels fitting. My desk chair only arrived yesterday, so I’m very excited. I’m headed to Target tomorrow to buy a bulletin board. I thought I could live without one, but my desk is kind of small and I am in desperate need of space for NaNoWriMo notes, so to the store I go!

Write 14 book reviews – This one was heavily dependent on me reading all seven books on my TBR list, and since that included the last three big Harry Potter books, A Passage to Shambhala, and Moby Dick, I’m not really that surprised that I got nowhere near this goal. I have written 5 reviews so far, and I’m halfway through a sixth. I’m hoping to finish the sixth and complete another one tomorrow before the month ends, bringing my total up to seven. Also, in case you were wondering, Moby Dick has been tabled until further notice, because I can only have one massive and boring book in my TBR pile at a time, and A Passage to Shambhala has usurped that position.

November TBR:
Will Definitely Be Reading:
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (the screenplay, which I have on pre-order)

Might Be Reading:
A Passage to Shambhala (~300 pages left to go!) – Jon Baird and Kevin Costner
Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert
You Are A Badass – Jen Sincero
Thrive – Arianna Huffington
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – Marie Kondo
Present Over Perfect – Shauna Niequist
Manage Your Day-To-Day – Jocelyn K. Glei

September Update – 2016 Goals Check-in

september-update-2016

 

It feels like it was yesterday that I was writing last month’s update. Boy, did that month fly by; I went up to Boston to babysit my cousin, I was in not one, but TWO of my best friends’ weddings and four more couples I love got married that month as well (I didn’t attend them all. I’m not that magical). It was a very long month. and yet, suddenly we’re halfway through September! I’ve been a literal zombie for the past week, recovery from my trips while trying to get back to work as usual. At least I haven’t gotten sick yet (fingers crossed that I won’t!).

This month isn’t too busy, but it is full of planning for the next year. So many exciting things are happening! I’ll tell you all about them soon, but first, let’s check in on my goals for the year.

TOTY 24 Goals:
Write Every Day – This is day three! I wrote a book review each of the last two days, and I’m hoping to write another two over the next couple days, while I finish this post and hopefully get some time in on my novel during my day off on Friday. I tried to write last week, but my brain was so dead that only nonsense came out of it. It was painful.

Apply to Full Time Jobs – I HAVE NEWS!!! My aunt and uncle and I have been discussing a potential opportunity for me for nearly a year now, but I didn’t want to rely on it because it always seemed like it wasn’t going to happen anytime soon. They had a baby in March, and up until now, my uncle has been a SAHD (Stay-At-Home-Dad). He’s due to start a new job in November though, and that’s where I come in. I’ll be taking care of my cousin for them all day while they are at work. For all intents and purposes, I’m a live-in nanny. If that isn’t a dream job at some point in the life of someone who is maternally inclined, I don’t know what is.

If all of that wasn’t exciting enough, they live in Boston! Which means I’m MOVING there. Like, I get to live in this city that I’ve been mildly obsessed with for ages. Which brings me to Goal number three for the year –

Apply to Grad School – My top grad school at the moment is Emerson College and their Masters in Writing and Publishing program. Being that Emerson is in Boston, I’ll finally being going on a tour of campus and trying to meet some of the professors to determine if it’s definitely where I want to go.

Also, this Friday I’m sitting down to plan out my studying strategies for the GRE. Woop Woop!

September Goals:
This month I decided to let y’all in on a secret. I don’t just have yearly goals! I also make up a set of goals for the month, which filters into my daily to-do list(s). This month I want to:

Read 5 books – So far I’ve only finished two, but I’m nearly halfway through my third, so it’s looking good!

Study for the GRE – As I mentioned earlier, this starts on Friday!

Walk 5 miles, 4 times – I originally had this read “walk 5 miles, once a week”, but after the double weddings I was down for the count. Hopefully, I can walk one of my 5-mile stints on Friday!

Ab workout, 4 times – Another one that read once a week and has since been amended.

Write 3 posts for TCSB – This is the first! I’ll probably fill you guys in on more details about Boston, and I’m visiting a Renaissance Faire on the 24th that should be pretty interesting as well!

Write 4 book reviews – Two down and two to go! Wicked Charms by Janet Evanovich and The Escape by Mary Balogh are up on CSR now!

Write 10,000 words towards your novel(s) – That’s right, I’m writing a book (or is it ~SeRiEs~?). I’ve been writing it for over 10 years actually. Very few people have read any of it, and those who have, haven’t read it in so long that they probably wouldn’t recognize it today. For one, the characters started out as 11 or 13-year-olds, and they’ve since evolved into 20-somethings. Not like they aged in the book, more like as I aged I found it harder and harder to write young characters. The universe(s) the book(s) take place in has expanded exponentially, to the point where I keep trying to populate parts of it and ending up with literally hundreds of characters. And I love every one of them so much that they all have a background and purpose and a future… And you wondered why I’ve been working on this for 10+ years. My goal for the year (TOTY 24, not 2016) with writing every day is to get at least half of my rough draft of the first book finished. Hoping to dive into this some more this month.

 

I think that’s all for now ,you guys! I hope you enjoyed this update, and I can’t wait to share more with you about my move to Boston, and my grad school apps, and my adventures in writing!

 

Until Next Time,

Amanda