What I've been reading lately

I’ve heard of some writers—I’ll be honest, I can’t remember their names at the moment, so this might be one of those “My best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who’s going with the girl who saw Ferris pass out at 31 Flavors last night. I guess it’s pretty serious” kind of things.

Wait, where was I? Oh, right. Some writers don’t like to read heavily when they’re deep in their own writing. Me, I don’t think I could function if I stopped reading for that long. I’ve been reading a lot of science fiction recently because, surprise, that’s also what I like writing a lot. Here are the three that have captivated me the most recently: Continue reading

#FridayReads: Willa Cather and an anniversary that almost slipped past me

My ÁntoniaMy Ántonia is the third Willa Cather novel I’ve read, including her other “prairie trilogy” (I’ve also seen it called “Great Plains trilogy”) novels O Pioneers! and Song of the Lark. I’ll confess I didn’t know much about the author herself until very recently (like, this morning). I don’t know why I was so incurious about her background and history, considering how much I’ve enjoyed the novels I’ve read. There’s a bleakness and at the same time an intensity of emotion in them, and I was interested to learn she wasn’t married and her closest relationships during her life were with other women. Continue reading

What I'm reading when I'm not writing

Here’s a funny thing: You know how last year I said my goal was to read books by not so many white people? I did okay on that goal, but this year, when I’m in Project Read My Own Damn Books mode, I seem to be doing better at making my reading list more equitable than I did in 2015. Out of the seven books I’ve read this year, four are by writers of color. At the moment I’m reading a book by Willa Cather, but the next two upcoming books are by writers of color.

I’m not trying to toot my horn here and say “oh, look how good I’m being.” Because ugh, that’s boring. What’s interesting to me is that maybe a year focusing on prying off my own blinders has helped me keep casting my reading net wider.

(Way to mix metaphors, Ricker. Are you sure you’re a writer?)

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Stories to listen to, stories to play, and stories to read

I’ve started teaching an introduction to writing the short story class at the community college, so lately stories have been on my mind—and on my screen, because there are just so many outlets for reading stories available online. One that I stumbled across recently is a website called Cast of Wonders, a young adult fiction podcast. For starters, check out one of their staff favorites, “Now Cydonia.” And since they’re podcasts, you can listen to them while folding the laundry, which is totally what I did.

One of my friends recently said he’d like to see me write a video game because he thinks I’d be good at it. I don’t know about that—I think I’d have to play more of them for starters—but I do know that I’m looking forward to this game: 18 quintillion planets in one video game, just waiting to be explored. (I think I need to get a PlayStation.)

My friend Jeff Howe has a story coming up in One Teen Story, “Making the Cut.” He talks about it here.

Lastly, this one’s not a short story, but it sums up how I feel on a lot of days. If you ever feel like you’re falling behind in life, maybe you’re right where you’re supposed to be, and no 15-point listicle will rush the process. That doesn’t mean you have to sit there passively and do nothing, but sometimes it can’t hurt to trust the process.

Friday Reads, or "Project Read My Own Damn Books"—Ella Minnow Pea

So far this year I’ve finished reading five books. I’m pretty pleased with that. I also know I can’t possibly keep up that pace. I’m teaching a class starting next Tuesday, I want to finish my work-in-progress by April 1, and I will need to try to pick up more freelance work in the next couple months if I’m not going to completely deplete my savings. (And I haven’t done my taxes yet. Oy.)

But! Moving on. I’m currently reading three books:

  • My Antonia by Willa Cather
  • You Should Pity Us Instead by Amy Gustine
  • THE QUEEN OF THE NIGHT by Alexander Chee

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Hump day happy, Midweek Refuel Edition

Lately I’ve felt like my tank is running kind of low, you know? Like everything I do is tired or worn out or not so fresh. So I’ve been refueling with stories, and not just the ones that I read on the page or on the screen. For the last couple years I’ve really not been watching much TV at all, but recently I binge-watched Don’t Trust the B— in Apt. 23 and am kind of hooked on Krysten Ritter, so when Netflix basically preloaded the first episode of Jessica Jones, I said why not? Yep, hooked again. It doesn’t hurt that David Tennant is also on it, even if he’s completely evil.

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#FridayReads: Jam on the Vine by LaShonda Katrice Barnett (and #GiveABook!)

Jam on the VineI’ll blame the fact that it’s the most wonderful time of the year for why I’m so slow to read things lately. As you may recall, my reading goal this year was to read more books by writers of color, and my current read is Jam on the Vine by LaShonda Katrice Barnett, which I picked up after hearing her at the Saints & Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans. I’m going again in 2016, and I always look forward to it, both for reconnecting with fellow writer friends and also finding out about new books like this one. As someone whose career started in journalism, I was especially interested in reading her debut novel:

Ivoe Williams, the precocious daughter of a Muslim cook and a metalsmith from central-east Texas, first ignites her lifelong obsession with journalism when she steals a newspaper from her mother’s white employer. Living in the poor, segregated quarter of Little Tunis, Ivoe immerses herself in printed matter as an escape from her dour surroundings. She earns a scholarship to the prestigious Willetson College in Austin, only to return overqualified to the menial labor offered by her hometown’s racially biased employers.

Ivoe eventually flees the Jim Crow South with her family and settles in Kansas City, where she and her former teacher and lover, Ona, found the first female-run African American newspaper, Jam! On the Vine. In the throes of the Red Summer—the 1919 outbreak of lynchings and race riots across the Midwest—Ivoe risks her freedom and her life to call attention to the atrocities of segregation in the American prison system.

I’m hoping that by posting this here, it’ll encourage me to finish reading it by next Friday so I can post about another book. I’d like to read at least one more before the end of the year. It seems that whenever I pick up this or something else to read, though, I’ve been thinking to myself, You know, you really should be writing. After the momentum of November, anything less feels like hopelessly slacking off, and I know that’s not true, to say nothing of the fact that writing without reading is like cooking without eating.

So, if I’ve got time for one more book before we kiss this year goodbye, which one would you recommend?

(Also, notice that #GiveABook hashtag at the top? That’s because every time you use it on the Twitter until December 24, Penguin Random House is donating a book to the literacy nonprofit First Book, up to 35,000 books. So, there’s that.)

This week in "OMG I have so many talented friends!"

So, Canada’s National Magazine Award nominees were announced this week. (This week? Maybe it was last week. Time is wibbly wobbly timey—well, you know.) And I’m not at all surprised to see that some of my writing friends are among those nominees this year. Kim McCullough is nominated for her piece “Night / Light” in Grain magazine. Kayla Czaga is nominated for her poetry “Song; Funny” in Arc Poetry Magazine. And—and!—andrea bennett is nominated for her piece “Water upon the Earth” in Maisonneuve. You all rock.

Check out the whole list of nominees here.

A Trip to Tubby & Coo's Mid-City Book Shop in New Orleans

(Or “I Solemnly Swear That I Am up to No Good”)

Whoa! Time flies when you’re having fun. It it’s it time’s fun when you’re having flies? Either way, time flies regardless, ago you might as well have fun.

Anyway, speaking of fun! Careful readers (all three of you; good morning! Can you tell I haven’t had enough coffee?) will recall that recently I went to New Orleans for the Saints & Sinners Literary Festival, an annual queer writing conference that’s a lot of fun and inspiration. More on that later, I hope, if I have–you guessed it–time. What I want to tell you about it’s a field trip I took with some friends on the last day off the conference to Tubby & Coo’s Mid-City Book Shop.

The dragon in their logo should tell you that this is no ordinary book shop.

The dragon in their logo should tell you that this is no ordinary book shop.

As you probably know, I’m a big fan of independent bookstores. This one is no exception. Owner Candice Detillier Huber has created a magical place here. It shows in the sandwich board outside the shop too:

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Let’s see what’s inside, shall we?

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