Category Archives: books

Used Books or New?

Sometimes, in all of my spare time, I read and write about books. I’ve been hearing many people in the book world say that we need to support authors by buying new books, because they don’t get a cut of used book sales. Is this really right or fair?

As a person concerned about sustainable living, I gravitate toward used books. For environmental sustainability, I want to limit my consumption of resources. For my own economic sustainability, I need and want to spend less. And if I buy from a local, independent seller of used books, that’s good for the local economy, too.

On the other hand, I do agree that authors deserve to be compensated for their work. Will that cease to happen if I buy used books? No. Someone’s got to buy them new before I can buy them used, right? And many of the books that I buy used are books that I might not buy otherwise.

When I want something badly enough, and I can’t easily find it used, I do go ahead and buy a new book — especially if I’ve already read a library copy. For instance I heard about The Resilient Gardener by Carol Deppe, and first I checked it out of the library and read it. I quickly found that it was one of the best gardening books I had read, and that it was something I would refer to time and again, so I ordered a new copy with an Amazon gift card (I earn and save these up sometimes).

So if you can afford to support authors by buying new books, and feel good about doing so, I’d say go for it! But please don’t tell us that this is what everyone should do. It’s not the right thing for every person.

NOTE: Yes, I put an affiliate link in there for you. You can send a little cash my way if you buy through that link. You’ll also be supporting Powell’s Books AND the author. Or, go forth and find a used copy — it’s your choice, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Growth – Good or Cancerous?

I tried to read Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth, but couldn’t get into it, and I don’t think I really agree with all of his philosophy anyway. However, the following passage caught my eye before I stopped reading. It’s about our growth-based economy:

The unchecked striving for more, for endless growth, is a dysfunction and a disease. It is the same dysfunction the cancerous cell manifests, whose only goal is to multiply itself, unaware that it is bringing about its own destruction by destroying the organism of which it is a part.

What I Did On My Winter Vacation

No, I did NOT do what that guy in the picture is doing!  Almost two weeks ago I wrote about balancing everything I wanted to do during winter break. I’m going back to work tomorrow, so it’s time to take stock.

Cookie-baking: I wanted molasses cookies, because I had some delicious, buttery ones at an earlier holiday gathering. But rather than asking for the recipe, I searched for one online: “thin buttery molasses cookies”. Apparently there is something called “thin molasses cookies,” but they’re intended to be thin and candy-like. When I mixed up the batter, I didn’t like the consistency (mostly butter, sugar and molasses and very runny), so I added more flour.  When I baked them, they were first thin and chewy (didn’t puff up at all), and then thin and crunchy when they cooled. I had a lot of batter left, so I decided to add an egg, some baking soda, and a splash of vinegar to see what would happen. They pretty much turned out the same; just slightly less crunchy in the middle.  I didn’t like them, but the family ate them all.

Calling the optometrist’s office: Um. I still never did that.

Teaching the kid to read: That would be my four-year-old. No, I never intended to have her reading in two weeks. We did work on phonics and play games and read out loud a lot. She’s progressing nicely.

Losing weight: Ha ha. Yeah. I had good intentions of at least getting exercise, and did exercise on a few days out of the two weeks, but not enough. Why? We did have a lot of cold and/or rainy weather, but I’m pretty sure that’s not the only reason.

Spending time with family: Yes, definitely.We played games, read books, and watched movies together. We spent time with extended family members as well.  Last night we shrieked with laughter just from rolling a ball around the room. This was easily the most successful item on my list.

Writing: This went quite well, too. This is only the fourth entry I’ve put up on this blog in two weeks, which is low, but I also managed five pieces on ParkroseGateway.com and one on Six Boxes of Books. Best of all, I did some soul-searching and goal-setting.

I took advantage of Charlotte Rains Dixon‘s offer of a free 15-minute coaching session, in order to clarify where I want to go as a writer.  And in preparation, I did a lot of thinking about that, and came up with several things I haven’t been liking about my writing life. First, I haven’t been doing enough writing. But why? Sure, life gets in the way — but I think it’s also because writing is a dilemma for me. The dilemma is over what I should be doing – should I be writing list articles aimed at parenting magazines to make money, or cheap online articles for money, or blogging, or just whatever I want to write? We can certainly use money, so if I’m using my time not making money (as well as not cleaning house, spending time with family, etc.), I feel guilty.

Well, I’ve decided I want no more of that. I’m going to work hard on things I feel passionate about, whether it’s blogging or writing articles for magazines or trying some fiction.  My goals right now are simple: daily journaling (even if brief) and daily blogging (on at least one of my several blogs; it won’t always be this one). I’ll also be trying my hand at personal essays, with the goal of getting one published.

Reading good books: I read ten books I hadn’t read before, plus re-read The Dark Is Rising, The Grey King and Silver on the Tree by Susan Cooper (it’s a seasonal thing).  This resulted in too many late nights, but was both enjoyable and worthwhile.

Keeping up with social networks: I felt like I often spent less time horsing around online than usual, but was able to keep up just fine. Yesterday I took an entire day off from the internet, and my life did not fall apart!

Lastly, did I do all of this on a schedule, as I originally suggested I might? Not really. I did make a list of things I wanted or needed to do, and divided them into morning, afternoon, and evening tasks. For instance, I put writing in the morning, because once I’m fully awake that’s usually when I have the most energy. But I didn’t always follow that plan; just used it as a guideline.

Overall, I feel good about how I spent winter break. I felt a great deal of joy and optimism (no mean feat, as I’ve been struggling with depression all fall), and although I didn’t do everything I wanted to, I did do the things that were most important to me: reading, writing, and spending time with family.  I feel good about the writing goals I’ve set for the year, and about life in general.

Five Books

I don’t do many of these list memes, but I liked this one. Wendy (she’s my sister) started this one. And she didn’t make up any silly rules about tagging people, which is refreshing. Making lists is hard for me, though. Why this one, and not that one?

Five Books I Know Better Than I Know Myself

  • Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery
  • The Other Side of the Sun by Madeleine L’Engle
  • The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper
  • Betsy In Spite of Herself by Maud Hart Lovelace

Five Books I Wish I Could Read Again For the First Time

(besides the ones above?!?)

  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn
  • Laura by Donald Zochert
  • A Severed Wasp by Madeleine L’Engle
  • Red Thunder by John Varley

Five Books I Look Forward To Knowing More Intimately

(hard because I don’t find these so often any more)

  • Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
  • A Man Without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
  • Welcome To the Monkey House by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer’s Life by Pamela Smith Hill
  • the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling (no, I’m not intimate with these yet)

Hungry Monkey – Read It!

hungry-monkey1I never, ever videotape shows any more (yes, we still have a VCR, and no, we don’t have a DVR). On Tuesday, I’m making an exception, because Matthew Amster-Burton, author of Hungry Monkey (and my brother-in-law) will be appearing on CBS’s The Early Show with my niece, Iris.

What’s Hungry Monkey?  Originally, Matthew told me he was writing a cookbook, but Hungry Monkey is much more. It’s a memoir of exploring food with a child, recipes included. Oh, and I’m in it. Page 190.

…my sister-in-law Kathleen, a working mom with three adorable girls…

Thanks, Matthew. :-)

I also had the privilege of testing some of the recipes in the book before publication. My favorite? Super-easy and delicious Penne With Brussels Sprouts and Bacon (page 89).  This is the best way to cook Brussels sprouts ever, and quick enough for a weeknight.

I promise, you will love the food.  But I also giggled through the whole book.

Solids are messy and complicated. I’m thirty-three years old and I still dribble them on my shirt several times a week.

And it resonated with my own experience. You see, Matthew doesn’t believe in special foods for babies and children.  Well, except for breastmilk and formula (although he admits to tasting it).  The book begins with Iris’s adventures in breastfeeding, and progresses to the baby food stage and beyond.

The First Rule of Baby Food is that there’s no such thing as baby food.

Matthew and Laurie (my sister) mostly shared whatever they were eating with Iris, cut into small pieces or mashed.  Parents and would-be parents, this is the way to go! It’s easy, nutritious (well, depending on your diet), and it’s what your kid really wants anyway. Haven’t you seen them reaching for your food?

That said, Matthew did apparently take to preparing foods that both he and Iris could enjoy for lunch (he’s the at-home parent during the day), like Baby Creamed Spinach and Baby Chicken and Mushrooms.

And then in chapter 3, he admits to sometimes using canned chili and frozen foods!  Gasp!  Matthew, Laurie and Iris live in the real world, too!  I’m so relieved.

If you have kids and love food, this is the book you’ve been waiting for. Or that you didn’t know you were waiting for.

Matthew and Iris will be appearing on CBS’s The Early Show this Tuesday, May 19 (check your local listings; it’s on from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 am. Pacific).  Matthew is also visiting several West Coast cities to read from Hungry Monkey and sign books (mine is charmingly autographed by both Matthew and Iris).  Portlanders, he’ll be at Annie Bloom’s on June 2 at 7:30 p.m. (and on AM Northwest that morning).  You can also get more of Matthew and Iris on his blog, Roots and Grubs.

Mindfulness and Getting Things Done

I’m not doing anything right now.  Sure, it’s Sunday.  It’s a good idea to get some rest and relaxation on the weekends.  But at the same time, I’m fully aware of how many things I ought to be doing.

So why don’t I just do them?  Well, I know I won’t be able to get all of them done satisfactorily, which is so depressing that I just don’t even bother to start.  Also, some of them are unpleasant, so I just don’t want to.  So I’m depressed because I’m so freakin’ lazy, too.

What to do?  I finally finished reading The Mindful Way through Depression today (it was on my to do list, and it was do-able).  Here’s what the book had to say:

It is not so much making “to do” lists that is the problem. The problem is our sense of impending doom if we don’t get through the list.

OK.  So don’t take the list too seriously. Don’t feel like you have to do everything in one day.  Good advice, but easier said than done.  I can’t just turn off the part of my brain that feels guilty about not getting things done.

The book also says that we should practice living in Being mode instead of Doing mode. However, as you may have noticed, the world pretty much runs on Doing mode.  If I don’t pay my bills, utility companies and creditors will not care that I was embracing Being mode.  If I don’t find the extra paperwork that the State of Oregon wants to prove that we were both working and paying for child care, we’re going to end up owing the state money.  If I don’t clean the kitchen…well, you get the picture.

That said, I guess doing things in Being mode doesn’t mean they will never get done — assuming I do something more than hang around on the computer all day.

I’ve also recently been doing Getting Things Done (GTD).  GTD involves collecting all of the things you need to do (in a list, file, etc), and developing a regular review system to make sure that nothing gets forgotten.  This is supposed to allow you to relax, because your “stuff” is all in a safe system where it won’t get forgotten, and you don’t have to keep thinking about all the things you have to do.

Ha. Once again, easier said than done.  I got a system set up, but somehow the daily processing and weekly reviews rarely get done.  And that list of Next Actions is pretty much getting ignored.

Why is all of this happening?  Well, every time I think about getting close to that list, I panic.  I can feel it in my body.  All of my muscles tense up, my stomach starts to turn, my head starts to ache, and I want nothing more than to run away, or maybe to curl up in a little ball under a table.  Why is that happening?  I don’t know.  I just know that it does.

I’m missing something here.  I can feel it.  The mindfulness philosophy says that I should gently and lovingly acknowledge the negative feelings and move on.  It’s the moving on that I haven’t got yet, though.

The Winner of the Writer Mama Two-Year Anniversary Giveway

trophy_1In case you missed it, yesterday’s post was a contest.  Guest blogger and author Christina Katz posted about why one should write a book, and she asked readers to comment on why they wanted to write a book.  All commenters on that post were eligible for a drawing.

The winner, by random drawing, is Erin Goodman of exhale, return to center!  Erin has won a signed, numbered copy of Writer Mama: How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids by Christina Katz.  Congratulations, Erin!

Today’s Guest: Christina Katz, The Writer Mama

Last spring, I invested part of my tax refund in a class called Writing and Publishing the Short Stuff (especially for moms), because I am a mom, and I wanted to get published. The instructor was Christina Katz (who continues to teach this class).

Before the class was even over I’d sold my first piece and become a published writer. Christina’s writer-mamawisdom has been invaluable, so I’m very pleased to have her guest post on TechnoEarthMama as part of The Writer Mama Two-Year Anniversary Blog Tour. Christina has been posting on various blogs about becoming a book author. Today is part 18; you can find links to the other parts of the blog tour at The Writer Mama Riffs blog. Don’t forget to check at the end of this post for details on how to win a signed copy of Writer Mama! I’ll be drawing and announcing a winner tomorrow.

And now….

The Writer Mama Two-Year Anniversary Blog Tour Giveaway!

Post #18: Reasons to Write A Book

Let’s cover the upside of writing a book. I realize that yesterday’s post on things that can go wrong might have been a little discouraging. The good news is I’ve not yet covered all the positive reasons to write a traditionally published book.

These are the reasons that make your book-writing marathon worthwhile. Here are ten things to remember while you are working harder than you ever imagined possible on your first book:

1. You will establish yourself as an expert and build your credibility. Hopefully you already have before you start writing (as I discuss in detail in my second book, Get Known Before the Book Deal).

2. You will get paid to dive deeper into and expand on the expertise you already have. Think of your hours of research and exploration as a paid internship (but save that advance money because you are going to need it for book promotion!).

3. You will learn what it takes (and that you have what it takes) to write a book-length manuscript. This is very empowering in and of itself.

4. As I’ve mentioned repeatedly, writing a book will invite you to collaborate with a wide, diverse group of teammates. It will test your level of commitment, your follow-through, your organizational skills, and your ability to stay cool under extended deadline pressure.

5. You will learn how to be more generous. If there is one thing all authors must learn and learn quickly is the importance of the word FREE. Therefore, you will also have to learn your limitations and when you really need to say, “No thanks, I really need to pass this time.”

6. You will learn how to cultivate a community of readers and be a leader in that community. You will have the opportunity to create your own culture and be a thought leader in that culture and the world. You will become visible and known to folks all over the world.

7. You will get to experience all the hard work involved in book writing, production, sales and promotion process and this experience will transform the way you perceive yourself and therefore how others view you.

8. Writing a book is extremely humbling. Putting yourself out in the world means making yourself vulnerable and learning how to tolerate criticism and the occasional blast of negativity. You will definitely develop a thicker skin in the process.

9. You will learn a ton about the writing, selling, marketing, and promotion of books from your experiences writing, selling, marketing and promoting your book.

10. Your professional rates will increase. Of course, rate increases are contingent on audience and timing more than anything. But generally speaking, being a published author comes with a certain amount of cachet, so it’s quite likely that you can charge more for your time than you did before writing a book.

Today’s Book Drawing: To enter to win a signed, numbered copy of Writer Mama, answer the following question in this blog’s comments:

Why do you wish to write a book? These are certainly not the only reasons. The possibilities are limitless. Please share yours!

Thanks for participating! Only US residents, or folks with a US mailing address can participate in the drawing. Please only enter once per day.

Where will the drawing be tomorrow? Visit http://thewritermama.wordpress.com to continue reading the rest of the Writer Mama story throughout March 2009!

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Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids by Christina Katz (Writer’s Digest Books 2007)
Kids change your life, but they don’t necessarily have to end your career. Stay-at-home moms will love this handy guide to rearing a successful writing career while raising their children. The busy mom’s guide to writing life, this book gives stay-at-moms the encouragement and advice they need including everything from getting started and finding ideas to actually finding time to do the work – something not easy to do with the pitter-patter of little feet. With advice on how to network and form a a business, this nurturing guide covers everything a writer mama needs to succeed at her second job.

Christina Katz is also the author of the newly released Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Grow an Author Platform (Writer’s Digest Books 2008).