BookTubeAThon 2017 is Coming Up

I’ve been taking a purposeful break from the blog, but I wanted to pop back in to let you know that BookTubeAThon 2017 has been announced! The dates are July 24th through July 30th, and I will be participating for my third year in a row. If you want to join me, check out the BookTubeAThon channel on YouTube to get the updates. They haven’t announced the reading challenges yet, but those should be coming soon.

Good luck!



BookTubeAThon 2016 – Reading Challenges and My TBR

It’s that time of year again – BookTubeAThon!

BookTube is a community of people on Youtube who post videos about books and reading, and every summer this community has a seven day read-a-thon (this year from July 18th through July 24th). The primary goal is to read seven books in seven days, but there are mini-challenges about the types of books as well. This year’s challenges are:

1) Read a book with yellow on the cover

2) Read a book only after sunset

3) Read a book you discovered through Booktube

4) Read a book by one of your favorite authors

5) Read a book that is older than you

6) Read and watch a book-to-movie adaptation

And as always:

7) Read seven books

In addition to reading, there are also Instagram and video challenges people can participate in before and during BookTubeAThon, like making a video about your TBR (to be read) pile or posting a photo of something from the cover of the book you’re reading. I am going to attempt to participate in these this year, though I’m preemptively giving myself permission to skip any challenge if I’m running out of time.

Last year I made a spreadsheet to plan out my reading, because of course that’s something I would do. I’ve updated it for 2016 and you can see if here:

Tracking Spreadsheet

The very first challenge was to make a video of your TBR, which I did and you can watch below. For a quick summary, here’s what I’ll be reading:

1/ Read a book with yellow on the cover.

Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett

2/ Read a book only after sunset.

Market Ghost Stories by Mercedes Yeager

3/ Read a book you discovered through booktube.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

4/ Read a book by one of your favourite authors.

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

5/ Read a book that is older than you.

The Missing Piece by Shel Silverstein

6/ Read and watch a book-to-movie adaptation.

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

7/ Read seven books.

Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

Seven books in seven days can be a little intimidating,  but BookTubeAThon is not about success, it’s about effort. Even Ariel Bissett who hosts the challenge every year has never actually gotten through all seven of her books. However plenty of us have managed it, and it can be super fun. If you’re participating this year let me know in the comments, especially if you have an Instagram or Youtube channel I can follow.

Good luck and happy reading!

BookTubeAThon 2015 Wrap Up


During BookTubeAThon 2015 I read seven books over the course of seven days. SEVEN.

(For details on BookTubeAThon, including the list of challenges, click here)

Day One

On my first day I started the morning off with the audiobook version of The Martian by Andy Weir, a book I really wanted to read. After ten minutes I worried I’d made a huge mistake. I could tell the main character was supposed to be funny, and I didn’t find him very funny. I soldiered on.

At the end of the day I grabbed The Go-Giver, a business fairy tale by Bob Burg and John David Mann. It was the last book I acquired. It read like the stories my old boss used to tell me – tales of how attitude can determine fate. These stories are usually told by conservative old white men whose fate started out in a pretty good place, but they are useful even so. I liked my old boss, and I liked The Go-Giver. Just in case I wouldn’t be able to do it later in the week with another book, I read the whole thing without putting it down. It was 132 pages and took me less than two hours.

That night I opened up The Wizard of Seattle, a pulp fantasy romance novel whose author has the same initials as me. I thought it would be a great readathon book, a classic popcorn read. After two hours, I had only done 71 pages. My goal for the day had been 110. This wasn’t going to be easy.

Day Two

Realizing that Wizard was going to be a slow read, my first instinct was to take it to work. I was working out of a different office all week, an office far enough away to make afternoon traffic miserable. My plan was to take books with me all week, and after the work day was over I would just hang out at the office and read. Unfortunately one of the privileges you lose when you become a manager is that ability to openly read books with shirtless wizards on the cover, so I knew the romance novel had to stay at home. Instead I took Rob’s favorite book, The Man in the Ceiling by Jules Feiffer. I got through about 60 pages before I was too hungry not to go home for dinner, and I listened to more of The Martian in the car. At this point I was listening at 1.5 speed all the time, which made the tense moments just a bit more thrilling and the slow moments go by quickly. The main character was growing on me.

Day Three

My original plan for listening to the audiobook of The Martian had me listening to about 50 pages a day over the course of the entire week. By day three I was almost done, having read 139 pages on Wednesday alone.

After work I tried to follow some well-traveled readathon advice to change up my location. I took a blanket and headed down towards the water near my house. All week it had been gorgeous, but I managed to go outside during the one cloudy and windy day. It made it even easier to breeze through Terry Moore’s Strangers in Paradise, a graphic novel that I read without putting it down.

I managed a meager 54 pages of Wizard before I had to give up for the night.

Day Four

Do not, I repeat, do not listen to the last 40 pages of The Martian while driving on the freeway. It was so tense I had to keep reminding myself to take my foot off the gas. The book ended just as I was pulling into work for the day. During my lunch break I moved on to the audiobook for Wolf in White Van. It was hard to know what to pay attention to in the beginning of the book. Everything felt important, but maybe nothing was.

I edged a bit further forward in Man in the Ceiling. Instead of bothering with The Wizard of Seattle, I read all of my seventh book, a play called Little Murders. I read it without putting it down, even though I’d already satisfied that challenge twice. I didn’t even get off the couch. It’s a play after all, it can’t take longer to read than it does to perform.

Day Five

I drove to Hood Canal on Friday for a retreat weekend. I was carpooling which meant no audiobook in the car. I did manage to listen to a little bit getting ready for bed at the retreat center, and my tiny room provided a perfect, distraction-free place to get some reading done. The Wizard of Seattle was becoming more interesting, though I couldn’t pinpoint why. I suppose I was just getting closer to the end, and more questions were being answered than asked.

Day Six

On Saturday I finished The Man in the Ceiling. I hadn’t been very interested in it, but I fell in love with the last few pages. I could see why it was one of Rob’s favorite books.

I also finished The Wizard of Seattle on Saturday. I got pretty into it by the end, and about 20 minutes after I put it down I realized why I hadn’t been able to engage with they story for most of the book. There were zero stakes. Yes, there was the one big set of stakes that caused the main characters to go back in time, but for individual moments there was very little. They made a friend right away who helped them avoid suspicion in the city. They found the guy they were looking for fairly quickly. When little problems crept up, they were dealt with easily. Despite going to an island full of wizards who hate each other, there were only two wizard fights in the entire book, both of them short. Things generally went smoothly and according to plan. At the end the main characters made it to their time portal without trouble. I repeat: there was a time portal and they made it through without trouble. They had to be in a specific place at a specific time and make it back home before all of Atlantis was destroyed by some unknown disaster, and they encountered zero trouble. They didn’t even have to jog.

Day Seven

My last day was my easiest. All I had was 70 pages of audiobook, which I conquered easily as I unpacked my things from the retreat. Wolf in White Van ended suddenly but still had a sense of conclusion. It reminded me a bit of Pulp Fiction in that regard. If you’re interested, don’t be scared off by any descriptions you read. It’s really good and not nearly as weird as it sounds.


When I first made my stack of books to read, I was excited. As it sat next to my desk for a week, and I started to think I was crazy. Each book seemed to get bigger just sitting there, and I thought for sure I’d never make it. But I should have known better. I set myself a task with clear markers for failure and success. And I do not do well with failure.

Time Off

Yesterday I forgot to write for the first time in 89 days. There was no reason, no excuse, I just completely forgot about it and then went to bed.

I’ve got a lot going on right now, all of it good, but writing hasn’t been the creative joy that it normally is. I’ve put a lot of interesting things on my plate, and I’m sure to write about many of them eventually, but the burden of getting in my words every day is getting to me. So I’m letting that go.

I’m going to take some time off. I’m not sure how much, but I know that I’ll be back to writing every day by November at the latest (to participate in NaNoWriMo) and eventually to blogging (stay tuned for the exciting adventures of Rob and Katrina in Utah). I may surprise myself and find that I don’t need much time off at all, but I have to give myself permission to stop for awhile. That’s how it works when you’re an enneagram one: you have to give yourself permission, even when what you want is what’s best for you.


Close Call

This weekend I almost broke my writing streak – just three days away from hitting 500 days in a row. I went to Emerald City ComicCon with some friends, and didn’t get home until 9PM. I had some prep to do for Sunday School the next day, so that took priority. If I hadn’t gone back to my computer to check my Facebook one last time and reload a few pages, I might have forgotten completely and gone to bed without realizing I hadn’t written anything that day.

The streak is important to me and I’m glad I remembered in time. But more important is the habit that I’ve built. I know that even if I had broken my streak, I could pick up again the next day. I might be more willing to make excuses on hard nights when times are tough, but I would know how much I can suffer through and what it really means to say that I “didn’t have time to write today.” I’ve certainly had those days. I’ve had days where I was staffing youth conferences and had to wake up at 7AM, spend every moment of the day chaperoning kids or meeting with the staff, and then go to bed at 11PM after an hour of cleaning the church. I didn’t have time to write on those days. I still did it.

Recently I read about the ‘100 Times’ method to habit forming and productivity. When you’re about to make a choice you know isn’t the best, you ask, “What would happen if I made this same choice the next 100 times?” It’s easy to say you’re just going to miss this one workout, but you know you’d get really out of shape if you missed the next 100 workouts. Likewise, I know that I wouldn’t be failing as a writer if I genuinely forgot to write for just this one busy and unusual day, but I know what would happen if I ‘forgot’ for the next 100 days in a row. I would stop producing. I would stop practicing. I would stop writing.

I don’t want that. So at 12:06AM on Sunday morning I was still in front of my computer. And these were my 372 words for the day.

Take a Look, It’s in a Book

last-night-at-the-lobsterIn February of this year, something very embarrassing happened to me. I was browsing Reddit (despite having better things to do), when a question popped up on the writing subreddit: “How many books do you read a year?” It seemed like a simple enough question. I knew that I didn’t read much – hardly at all really. I’d wanted to start reading more as a way to improve my writing, so I thought it would be good to look at the responses and get an idea of how much my fellow authors were reading.


Excuse me?

Fifty to sixty books a year. Some claimed a bit more, a few claimed a bit less. But the answers were routinely hovering around one book a week. I was shocked. In 2013 I had read two books. Total. Even then, I ended up skimming a lot of the first one, and the second one was a very short book of very short stories (it was also brilliant and I highly recommend it: Sum by David Eagleman).

This was my wakeup call. While I knew it was possible that people were over-selling themselves, they could be doubling their results and still outpacing me twelve to one. It was unacceptable. I had always been a great reader – the top of my class. By junior high I was testing as “13+”, meaning beyond the standard 12 grades and past the point where they keep track. Thirteen Plus. I was so good at reading, I was off the chart. There was a plus sign to prove it.

9780440508830_p0_v1_s260x420Looking back, the problem started early. I was good at reading, yes, but I didn’t enjoy it. More specifically, I didn’t enjoy the books I had to read for school. I didn’t enjoy The Picture of Dorian Gray. I didn’t enjoy The Scarlet Letter or A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. There were a few hits of course. The Little Prince was worth it. The Good Earth was surprisingly engaging, as was A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. But those were anomalies. I didn’t like most of the books. More importantly, I loved television. I spent hours in front of the television, internalizing the five-act plot structure and studying the timing of commercial breaks. These days most people know that a half hour show is really just over 20 minutes, but that’s because we watch shows on Netflix. I learned it the hard way – with a stopwatch and an unhealthy fascination.

The point is, I didn’t like what I was forced to read, and I didn’t bother reading anything in my spare time since I preferred television to books. It got worse in college when I discovered passing a class was a matter of reading the material OR attending the lectures. You didn’t need to do both, and I’ve always had great attendance. Besides, in high school and college I crammed my schedule so full of activities that the idea of leisure reading was absurd. I read on vacation. That was it.

And now? Now I don’t even go on vacation, so I don’t read anything at all. At least, that’s where I was in February of 2014 when I got my wake up call. I needed to do something. And I needed to start immediately: twelve books in the next twelve months.

It wasn’t easy at first. There’s a pretty big gap between two and twelve. I wasn’t used to reading every day. I wasn’t used to reading in the day at all in fact. I had always tried to read before bed, which is probably why reading makes me so sleepy. I started reading more during the daylight hours. I would give myself the freedom to only read a few pages and stop as soon as I felt myself nodding off.

By the end of February I finished my first novel, and I had another book done not long after March. I stayed on track, and by the end of July I was at eight books. I had made up for my late start and even managed to get ahead.

FermatThen in September I hit a wall. I got stuck with a book that didn’t interest me, but for unrelated reasons I knew I had to finish. I tried starting a second book so I could alternate between the two, which didn’t work. I would get interrupted when I didn’t read a high-demand library book fast enough and had to return it for a few weeks. It was a rough couple months. I lost the cockiness I’d developed in July.

But I got a second wind and now I’m halfway through book seventeen. Even if it hadn’t been for my last minute participation in the Christmas BookTubeAThon, I still would have hit my goal and then some. I’m finally a reader again.

The problem with setting goals is that once I achieve them I instantly want to set higher ones. I’m already planning on doing the July BookTubeAThon, so twelve books shouldn’t be much of a challenge. How many should I shoot for in 2015? Eighteen? Twenty-four? Perhaps I’ll need to set more specific goals, like a certain number of novels (I read mostly non-fiction this year) or a minimum page count (some of the books were quite short). Or maybe I just need to get back to the reader I once was. Maybe I already know what the real goal should be, next year and every year for the rest of my life: 13+.

Screen Shot 2014-12-27 at 3.06.16 PM

I created a GoodReads account to track my goals and the books I want to read next. If you’d like to be my friend on GoodReads, look for NoodleDrive.

I Wrote Every Day for a Year, and This is What I Learned

In the heat of writing a novel last month, I skipped over a rather important milestone. I hit my 365th day of writing every day. For one year, not a day went by where I didn’t bring at least 250 words into the world.

After years of inconsistency, I finally found The Magic Spreadsheet, a shared Google Drive document that serves as a sort of game for writers. Every day you post your word count in the spreadsheet, and it awards you points based on how much you wrote. While you can get points for volume, you get more points for consistency. AKA, you’ll get more points writing 500 words every day for 10 days than you would writing 5000 words in a single day.

The point of The Magic Spreadsheet is to encourage writers to write every day. There’s a live leaderboard to show you where you stand among others on the sheet, but I rarely look at it. I mostly look at my own line, my own count. I started last year during NaNoWriMo, and learned a lot along the way. A few key points:

1) It’s not about time, it’s about priority

The daily minimum for The Magic Spreadsheet is 250 words, which really isn’t that much. It’s about three good paragraphs, and depending on how fast you write it could take less than ten minutes. Even on days where it doesn’t feel like you have a moment to spare, you can always find 10 minutes. Sometimes I woke up early if I knew I’d have something else going on in the evening. Sometimes I wrote during my lunch break at work, saving my words in a email draft. When I went on a young adult retreat weekend, I wrote while other people played board games. When I was staffing conferences and truly didn’t have a moment to myself the whole day, I stayed up late at night to write before bed.

It wasn’t about “finding time,” it was about deciding that this was something that had to be done. I don’t find time to floss or eat or go on Facebook or stare off blankly collecting my thoughts, yet I manage to do all three on a daily basis.

2) Even phoning it in can be useful

There were times when I put off writing until late at night, until the last possible minute. I questioned whether or not it was still worth it, since what I was producing was obviously terrible. I was so tired I would fall asleep mid-sentence. I wrote whole paragraphs about how tired I was and how hard it was to stay awake. I wrote about how painful writing was, and I wrote about how I worried it wasn’t worth it at this point.

But then came November, and I was deep into my novel. I wanted to write about how my hero was feeling drained and exhausted, and realized that all I had to do was re-create the same voice I had during all those sleepy rants. It was easy to write that scene, because I’d written it so many times before.

3) Writer’s block is for projects, not practice

Writer’s Block isn’t actually an inability to write anything, it’s the inability to write the thing that you vaguely wish you could write. You can have writer’s block on a scene or a story, but it’s not a factor when you’re talking about a daily writing practice. There will always be thoughts in your head. Write them down.

4) The easiest thing I can write is my own opinions

If you spend enough days writing your own silent monologue, you’re probably going to get pretty good at it. I’m starting to realize that non-fiction, explanatory prose is about the easiest thing in the world for me to write. This post, for example, was extremely easy to write.Scrivener

5) If you up the output, you have to up the organization

My Scrivener project for this blog is a mess. It’s absolutely atrocious. Scrivener is the (fantastic) software I use for writing, and it gives you the ability to quickly and easily organize your writing. And I’ve been using it as a glorified text editor. The Scrivener project for this blog is still no more than a list and some folders. It’s a long list too, full of somewhat arbitrary categories with zero distinction between the wheat and the chaff. I think my lack of organization was the primary reason I kept questioning whether or not writing every day was worth it. I was hiding my accomplishments in the mess.

6) People may think you’re weird

While on the whole everyone was very supportive, I got a few weird looks along the way. Aren’t you tired? Don’t you want to relax? Are you really leaving early for that? It wasn’t always said, sometimes just implied. In daily life we often hear about highly dedicated people, but we seldom know them and even less frequently become them. It helped when I heard a friend explain my writing to someone else as “a daily discipline.” It felt a little more reasonable, a little more sane. We’ve all tried daily disciplines and we all fail at most of them. This was one that managed to stick with me.


I think it was beneficial to just write, regardless of subject or purpose. Like playing scales on the violin, sometimes you simply need to practice your instrument.

The Magic Spreadsheet allows you to count editing time in lieu of actual words, a substitution I haven’t allowed myself yet. However as I sit staring at the 287,000 words I’ve written in the last year I can’t help but think it’s time to start sorting through the muck. Writing is rewriting, which means editing is writing. And so long as I work on my writing in some measurable way every day, I might just end up with something great.

NaNoWriMo Debrief

This is my second attempt to write a blog post about my 2014 NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Why? Because I haven’t written non-fiction in 30 days and it’s hard to suddenly switch back. I’m also out of practice with some key elements to good blogging, such as caring if what you write is any good and knowing when to stop.Winner-2014-Twitter-Profile

Oddly enough, my first NaNo was the easiest one, and it’s only gotten harder since then. Perhaps it’s because your first will always be the novel you’ve imagined the most, and therefore it will be the one you’re most prepared to write. That was certainly the case for me. My first year I started without much preparation, yet I already knew my protagonist, antagonist, love interest, several supporting characters, a few key settings, the basic plot outline, and what themes I wanted to explore. This year I knew months in advance I would write that superhero story I’ve been kicking around for years, yet when November 1st arrived I realized I wasn’t prepared at all.

I didn’t have a plot beyond a few basic ideas. I didn’t have an antagonist until halfway through the month. I had a few isolated scenes and a whole lot of placeholders. Placeholders like, “a scene where she first notices her powers,” and “she should kill someone in a way that is understandable but not really justified.” These are about as helpful as someone suggesting you should “put in something really cool.” Thanks. I’ll get right on that.

Yet through it all I managed to bash out 50,359 words in 30 days. A lot of them are very bad. Most of them will be thrown out before anyone sees a first draft of my yet untitled superhero book. But it’s a start. And it’s more of a start than I had 30 days ago. Most importantly, last night my boyfriend went to the store and bought me a box of celebratory Lucky Charms. So not only did I write a book, but today I had Lucky Charms for dinner. And it’s not even Christmas yet.

My First NaNoWriMo

At some point near the end of college I realized writing is what I wanted to do, and that I was better at it than any of the other things I considered doing. So it was decided. I would be a writer. I knew it would take time. Nobody starts a career as a full-time writer, just like no one starts as a full-time actor. I could wait. I could get other jobs in the meantime.

I called myself a writer though. Or rather, I told people I wanted to be a writer. I rarely said that I was a writer to anyone but myself. Perhaps this was because I knew deep down that I was missing a key component: I wasn’t writing. Oh sure I dabbled in a scene or two, but I wasn’t doing it often. I wasn’t doing it consistently. And I wasn’t producing anything to completion. Writers write, and I wasn’t writing.

nanowrimo-logoI had known about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) for some time, and I scoffed at it. Many people do. They look down on it because it encourages people, especially novices, to write as much as they can as fast as they can, even though a lot of it will be bad. That’s not real writing, I’d say. You can’t just put up an arbitrary goal and force terrible prose onto a page for the glory of pretending you’re a writer for a month. That’s idiotic.

I was a NaNoWriMo hater.

However I couldn’t think too poorly of NaNo because I had some good friends who did it every year. And they loved it. So while I still discounted it, I discounted it as a fun way for amateurs to bust out that one novel everyone has in them. Cross it off the bucket list. There was nothing wrong with that, I thought.

Haters gonna hate.

My friend Kristina is a vlogger and has a good-sized following online. She has done NaNo for years and one October I saw a video pop up on my news feed featuring her annual NaNo pep talk. I was mildly interested, so I watched it. She talked about her excitement, about getting ready, and casually mentioned that this would be her seventh year doing NaNo.


I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me before, but it hit me then like a ton of bricks. Kristina had six completed novels on her computer at home. My friend Kristina. SIX. I didn’t even have one. And unlike me, Kristina didn’t go around thinking about her fantastic writing career that was just around the corner, and looking down on people who only wanted to write one month a year.

Instead, she wrote six books.

It was a turning point for me. I did NaNo that year with four days notice, and I loved it. I began listening to podcasts about writing and going on writing forums. Everyone seemed to reiterate the same basic fact: what makes you a real writer is that you write. And now? I write.

This November marks the third year I’ll be participating in NaNoWriMo. If you’re even the least bit interested I encourage you to join me (my username is NoodleDrive if you want to be my buddy). Some people may get snarky when you tell them you’ve arbitrarily decided to write a novel, but give them time. They might wise up eventually.

Haters Gonna Hate

The Most Beautiful Template Website in the World

When I decided to switch from the free blogging platform to the more do-it-yourself, I approached it as a challenge to move up. This time I’d put more effort into layout and design. This time I’d make sure it didn’t look like ‘just another wordpress site.’ This time it would all be different. It would all be better.

However when it comes to design, I fall into that unhappy lot Ira Glass described in his now famous quote about beginners. I’m just good enough to recognize that I’m not very good at it. I don’t have any specific need to get better since website design is not my passion, but the unintended side effect is that I hate every design I create within 18 hours of its birth. When I was rebuilding this blog using, I went through version after version. I put together my own header images and spent time perfecting my skills with Paintbrush, the free paint program for Macs. And it was all terrible. I couldn’t stand any of it. I wanted to give up. Before me were hours of hating every site I ever made.

All I wanted to do was write.

That’s when I happened upon a great article on John Scalzi’s blog Whatever. I’ve never read any of John Scalzi’s books, but I know his name and something of his credentials. I knew he had an award-winning blog but I’d never seen it before.

And if John Scalzi can win a Hugo running the WordPress 2013 Default Theme, I think I can move forward with this blog no matter what it looks like.