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“If you have to make a decision, picture yourself telling someone what you chose and then go with whichever option makes the better story.”

As a long-time follower of Leigh Kramer’s blog, I knew her first novel would be something special. She consistently displays acute interpersonal insight and seeks to understand different points of view. I was excited to meet the characters she created.

And A Storied Life delivered.

The family dynamics in this book ring so true that I felt like I was in the room with them. Through every heated or awkward conversation, with every guarded move, I felt the pressure and nerves Olivia was feeling. At the same time, I wanted to take her out for a cup of tea (or something stronger) just to give her a breather. It’s unusual for me to relate to a character on such a visceral level. I was on Olivia’s side from the beginning.

I want to buy this book for everyone who is at a crossroads in their life, trying to choose between the options before them. Leigh does a great job of showing the struggle of unpacking choices that led down a path where Olivia didn’t necessarily intend to go.

My favorite part of the book, though, is the exposition of the family’s experience with hospice care. As my own parents are aging, and we are nearing a time in upcoming years when similar decisions are going to have to be enacted, this story relieved so many of my fears without being trite or formulaic. It would be so easy to tie a neat bow on this topic, leaving it flat, and that didn’t happen here. Leigh dove straight in and revealed the raw and touchy edges.

A Storied Life is the creation of a talented writer who does not shy away from the hard work of getting below the surface of what seems to be happening with her characters to reveal their motivations and desires. It makes them come alive and sets the story apart from others in its genre.

 

I am honored to have received an advance reader copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Favorite thing about summer. FAVORITE.

Fresh peaches that practically burst when you touch them. Snow cones. Festivals and retreats and reunions. Lounging and reading. Air conditioning (because it’s already dabbling in triple digits here and Lord have mercy).

Ah, summer.

I don’t have to talk myself into fall and winter. I have made my peace with spring being my least favorite season, because allergies.

But the people looooove summer. And I just…don’t. But I also know how annoying it is to me when people complain about winter (just…shhhh. Let me enjoy the five minutes a year I’m not in a constant state of sweat and nausea in peace). Therefore, in the interest of not being the gnat swarm at everyone’s picnic, I decided to follow Joy the Baker’s lead and make a summer bucket list.

I know the purpose of a bucket list is typically accomplishment, and there’s an element of that in here. Mostly, though, this is a list of the things I’m looking forward to doing this summer.

  • Finishing Fishbowl. I’m super close to finishing my first rough draft of a full-length novel. Like…within-the-next-couple-of-weeks close. I’ve been playing with this manuscript for so long that I can’t imagine it being finished (well, the first step of finished, anyway). And it may expand in the editing process later, as I have pesky notes of a side view, and I’ll have to read it through to know if that’s a distraction or an important part of the story. But the bones will be written. So, so soon.
  • Road trip to Virginia to the writers’ retreat where I will be presenting my workshop. There are still spaces available, and you can read about it and register here.
  • Leave the house on purpose at least twice a week for fun. Not because I have work or errands or a meeting. Just to join civilization. It’s not something I need to do every day, but life is richer when I get out regularly. Summer is an easier time to do that.
  • 3rd annual Hemingway party. There may be dancing this year. There will definitely be alcohol and mixers and lots of food.
  • 24in48 reading challenge! July 21-22. Sign-ups are coming soon. I’ll keep you posted.
  • High school reunion in July.

I also need to settle into a better daily rhythm with the things I know that feed my soul. I started off well in January, but the goals have sort of fizzled. No, that’s an understatement. My resolutions tracking sheet (post forthcoming) is a desert. As most of the resolutions I set are activities designed to help me maintain balance and sanity, it makes sense that I have been scattered (tidy euphemism) as of late. I’ve been in survival mode for about three months. I know that there are other factors involved, so getting back to stability is not as simple as checking things off a daily to-do list, but the things on the list can help.

What are you doing this summer?

 

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Friday Five 4

It’s National Donut Day, so that tells you everything you need to know about how my ability to focus is going to go this afternoon. Here are some things from the intrawebs I loved this week.

  1. I think I want Reimagining the Ignatian Examen. Examen is part of my nightly ritual, and I am interested in Thibodeaux’s perspective on it.
  2. “That’s the thing with my important life moments, they always seem to emerge slowly, like a Polaroid picture. I suspect few people have instant-capture aha moments. Especially those of us ensconced in the nebulous realm of anxiety where discernible lines between normal and neurotic cease, at some point, to exist.” I love this excerpt by Sarah Wilson, and I think I’m going to like the book.
  3. “We ask for wild dreams, for places to be our fullest selves, for the courage to walk outside of our fears and expectations of who we are, moving always towards what lies ahead. We keep going even when we can’t quite see the road.” From Ask Relentlessly by Hilary Yancey.
  4. I love this idea! Jen Hatmaker’s recap of the ceremony where graduating seniors honored their teachers. I defy you to read some of the things they said and not get a little teary. Then write a note to your favorite teacher.
  5. Literary quotes celebrating friendship from Book Riot. My favorites –
    “I knew when I met you an adventure was going to happen.” —A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
    “Not a word passes between us, not because we have nothing to say, but because we don’t have to say anything.” —Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

I’m looking forward to a weekend at the farm with the folks. Hope your weekend is relaxing, too!

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Suzanne-Terry-Guest-Post-Pic-768x768

Most of the writers I meet describe their writing practice as either their hobby or their work (or a hybrid of the two). Today I’m over at Andi’s place talking about how to bridge the gap and make sure inspiration comes along. Hop over and give it a read!

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Friday Five 4

Welcome to Friday, everyone. You did it! You survived the week. Hopefully it wasn’t too difficult.

I love these things:

Hope the rest of your Friday goes smoothly and you enjoy your weekend!

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wire

“The reason we still are engaged with the show today is because it really expressed the most important role of art, which is the form where we reflect on what our values are, decide what they are and then act on them.” – Wendell Pierce, as quoted in All the Pieces Matter: The Inside Story of The Wire by Jonathan Abrams.

Die hard fans of The Wire will love this book. People who have never heard of the show might want to watch after reading it (although why anyone would read if if they hadn’t seen it is a mystery. And maybe they shouldn’t read too far, because spoilers). Then there are those of us who fall in the middle.

This book is a slow read. Abrams basically conducted a lot of interviews and then transcribed them, cleaned up the verbal fillers a little (which I appreciate), and pasted them into a manuscript. That’s the majority of the book. As a writer, I find this lazy. As a fan of the show and many of the actors on it, I found it interesting to hear their take on the show in their own words.

In a way, this format is a nod to The Wire itself. The show gives us a view of the cracks in society from a variety of angles and perspectives. The book gives us what the show meant (and still means) to the people involved in it who came from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives.

The saving grace of the book was that it showed how The Wire did what art is supposed to do: to challenge, to provoke, to activate. I knew the show’s writing was good, but I didn’t know how intricate the research process had been or how involved in the city the cast, crew, and production became while filming it. Abrams’s interviews give the reader a behind-the-scenes look that was intimate and unique, and I’m not sure that a more narrative style of writing would have pulled that off.

I received a copy of All the Pieces Matter from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

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“All sorrows are less with bread.” – Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

To prolong the celebration of Michelle’s birthday, we spent a morning at Quixote Bakery Cafe in Richland Hills. It took us a minute to find it. We were looking for a pink house, but there were several pink houses. The Facebook page has a picture with a bicycle on it, but I presumed the bicycle belonged to a patron. Turns out, it does not. It’s an adorable part of the outdoor decoration, and the cafe just gets cuter as you walk in.

As the name suggests, the decor is a visual ode to Don Quixote. There are many drawings on the wall (which you can purchase). There is paraphernalia that relates to various scenes in the book. The wi-fi password is a nod to Dulcinea. I was utterly charmed.

The menu is a pretty standard bakery menu, but the pastries are not standard bakery fare. They are fresh and delicious. We originally ordered two croissants but hastily returned for more and continued to gorge ourselves. I recommend doing the same (but only if you have time for a nap later). We finished with a cream puff and their creme brulee. Heaven.

And now the part you’ve all been waiting for. How is the coffee? I was prepared to receive a mediocre cup, because usually when a shop excels in one area (i.e., the delicious baked goods), something has to give somewhere else. Not so at Quixote. The first sip was the perfect complement to the chocolate croissant I was in the midst of devouring. They use locally roasted beans (Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters, if memory serves me correctly), so their coffee is as fresh as their food.

The owner and the staff are friendly and unrushed. They seemed to delight in taking the time to answer my questions. I think I even noticed a twinkle in his eye when he was describing the coffee. My people.

If you are near Glenview Drive in Richland Hills, stop in for a snack at Quixote. You won’t be sorry!

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