A Short Story Challenge

Yes, I’ve joined another challenge. But this one isn’t about books. At least, not specifically about books. It’s about short stories. A thousand of them, to be exact. In a year. Well, we’ll see about that. For myself, I may end up making this a perpetual challenge to see how long it takes me to read 1,000 short stories, then seeing if I can shorten the length of time it takes me to read another 1,000 short stories.

This challenge was posed by writer Travis Richardson, and the Twitter hashtag is #1000storychallenge, so you can join in or at least follow along and see how we’re doing. I’m grateful for this challenge because I feel like I’ve strayed from my short story roots. I’ve been focused on novels the past several years, but once upon a time I wrote lots of short stories. I even submitted many of them, and some of them saw publication. I had a sort of natural storytelling flow of about 2,500 words. But now I try to write something to a submission guideline of 5,000 to 10,000 words, and I feel cramped and stifled. More often than not I give up and declare it the start of another novel. But I’m set for novel starts at the moment and would rather avoid starting more until I get one out into the world.

So yes, I would like to get back into the mode of writing short stories to the point that I always have at least one out for submission. The Missouri Review just announced their contest winners, so my current-submission count is officially zero. But reading short stories, besides helping me get back into that concise rhythm, gives me exposure to more markets to try. Considering what a long-shot my TMR contest entry was — I wonder if their staff had ever before had to read a steampunk machine of death story — this is something I desperately need.

More 2017 Reading Challenges

Okay, the first week of 2017 has already come and gone (and Betty White is still alive!) so it’s time to nail down my reading challenge goals for the year. dff0b868f44a5487f22365767ea081d0

The aforementioned Book Riot Read Harder Challenge and Award-Winning Science Fiction and Fantasy Challenge have both been updated for 2017.

Book Riot specifically states that double-dipping is acceptable for Read Harder, so I may do a little bit of that, but I will still try not to. The method I plan to use is to note all applicable categories when I finish/review the book, but I won’t officially declare the book for the category unless it doesn’t fit any other categories for that challenge. Needlessly complicated? Probably. That’s just how I roll.

For Shaunesay’s AWSFF Challenge, I am shooting for the Orion level (9 to 12 novels). (Shooting…stars….get it? ::sigh::) The categories only come into play for the bingo games, and Shaunesay is clear that not only may a book not count for more than one bingo square, it may not count for more than one bingo. I will definitely be giving bingo a try on the card that is a holdover from the 2016 challenge, but I doubt I will get very far on the Grand Master bingo cards. I’ve printed them out and will see how it goes, but I don’t hold out much hope for success there, as most of the GMs on the cards are not ones I’m already intending to read this year.

Speaking of bingo, there’s a Goodreads challenge group for 2017 Book Bingo. It has a lot of crossover to other challenges, and (unless the rules explicitly prohibit it) I always permit myself to count a book across multiple challenges, so this one should be relatively easy. So far I’ve finished two books for 2017, and I can fit both of them onto this board, which bodes well.

Another challenge with a game board is my local library’s GenreLand Challenge. It doesn’t have signups and prizes like the library’s summer challenge does, but it’s a nice low-pressure way to read eclectically throughout the year.

There’s another category-based challenge I’m doing since it also has a fair amount of crossover to other challenges. It’s from online book shop Better World Books, which is partially to blame for the fact that my library is measured in tons.

And I had better stop there, so I’ll wrap up with a quick reminder that the three (okay, maybe four if I make good on that threat to host a cat-cover challenge) reading challenges that I am hosting can be found in my new Goodreads group, Challenges from Exploding Steamboats. Invite all your Goodreads friends and frenemies!

 

My 2016 in Books

I finished 65 books in 2016, and the Goodreads site put together a nice little summary for me. As usual, I’m running behind on writing book reviews, but I’m certainly in much better shape than I have been some years. I’ll be giving priority to reviews for the Award-Winning Science Fiction & Fantasy Challenge so I can get those linked to Shaunesay’s challenge blog. I think I wound up with a whopping three qualifying reads for that challenge, falling short of my goal of five, but I will try it again this year.

I successfully completed two challenges in 2016. I read books for all 24 tasks of Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge, but I took advantage of the double-dipping option, so that does not reflect 24 separate books.

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Challenge completed on December 26th!

Though looking it over, I think I probably could have almost completed it without any double-dipping. Then over at Habitica‘s Legendary Book Club, I read 12 books, one for each month’s task in the Modest Reading Challenge. Sometime this week I need to check in over there and see if they have any new challenges I want to do, but it will need to wait until the houseguests have departed.

I did not fare quite so well on my Personal Reading Challenge or PopSugar’s Ultimate Reading Challenge. My 2016 PRC had 30 reading prompts, and I completed 27. Which isn’t too bad, I suppose. That comes out to 90%, which is definitely a passing grade. But it also allows for some double-dipping. I completed only 33 of PopSugar’s 41 challenge prompts, which comes to 80%, but I didn’t do any double-dipping on that one. Between the two challenges, I have 11 prompts unfulfilled, so I will be adding them to my 2017 PRC, which doubles it. Dang.

I haven’t yet chosen my top reads of 2016, but you can watch that link for developments over the next few days. The 2016 Stinker of the Year Award, however, goes to The Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss.

 

 

With My Eyes

I belong to an online salon, and one of its other members recently posed the following question: What’s your favorite way to read? He was not pleased when some of us answered that our preferred reading mode was with our eyeballs. I can’t speak for the others, but I wasn’t trying to be a smart-ass, honest.

It’s just that “way to read” is pretty vague, and I didn’t feel like analyzing all the options, so I went with a broad choice: with my eyes, as opposed to with my ears or with my fingers. I have tried several times to learn braille, as I have had vision problems since childhood and very nearly lost my vision in one eye a few years ago, but I thoroughly suck at it. I have come to appreciate audio-books, but listening is still something I have to work at. On the other hand, I’ve been reading with my eyeballs since I was three and am pretty much incapable of ignoring text, so “with my eyes” is the clear winner. I haven’t actually tried reading with my tongue or my nose, but I don’t anticipate that the results would be encouraging.

I do read e-books, and I have three Kindles if you count my phone (which also boasts at least two other e-reader apps), but in most situations I much prefer to have a dead-tree version. (Of those, I possess…well, let’s just call it more than three.) Even for travel, when mass is an issue.

Part of it is nostalgia, true. I love having tangible reminders of my favorite reading experiences and author events.

The smell of antique books takes me back to my grandparents’ home in St Joe. Grandpa had an estate sale addiction hobby and never failed to return with at least one box of books. Their two-story foyer/stairwell was lined floor-to-ceiling with shelves crammed full of books, and Grandpa always made sure I left with a fresh supply of reading material.

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One corner of the library after my parents moved out and put the house on the market.

 

My own childhood home also had a library, and I loved organizing my shelves (and everybody else’s), so it’s no surprise that I was also a student librarian in middle school. But my preference for “real” books also has a basis in practicality. I like to be able to flip back to earlier passages, scan ahead to see if a boring book picks up steam, scribble in the margins, puzzle over previous readers’ bookmark choices, build Christmas trees out of them…. IMG_20151225_170753 And don’t forget BookCrossing!

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Just one of the book buffets at the 10th Anniversary BookCrossing Convention in Washington, DC.

I’ll admit it, my inner smart-ass was tempted to answer with “hanging upside down from a railway bridge.” I can read just about anywhere, which my mother appreciated when I was a child. As long as she could stick me in a corner with a book, I’d stay out of trouble. And I’m the one who shows up at the 4th of July picnic with a flashlight and a book. In truth, though, I prefer sitting in my blue armchair next to the fireplace for reading. IMG_20150917_191801 I bought it specifically for that purpose. I was wandering through IKEA with no actual furniture-buying intent (I go primarily for the frozen Swedish pancakes), but I needed to sit for a bit (hey, IKEA can be physically taxing), and the chair I selected turned out to be perfect for reading.

Oh, who do I think I’m kidding? I was at IKEA to buy bookshelves.

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IKEA calls this a TV stand. ::smh::