Discussion: Graphic Novels

Image courtesy of Mike Egan
Image courtesy of Mike Egan

Have you read any graphic novels this summer? How about this year? Have you ever read a graphic novel? I think that people tend to think that graphic novels are only for certain people. People might think that graphic novels are only for “nerds,” whatever that means. But I disagree!

I am here today to encourage you to check out a graphic novel. Just try one! I used to read a lot of graphic novels when I was younger, and then I stopped reading them for some reason. Recently, however, I’ve discovered a lot of interesting graphic novels and have been reading a lot of great stories as a result.

BoingBoing had a Summer Reading List of Graphic Novels just a little while ago, and I think they had some great recommendations. Their list includes Saga, which I definitely agree with. I’ve only read the first volume of Saga so far (there are 3 out right now), but it’s a story of cross-species romance and intergalactic conflict. It. Is. Amazing. Also on their list is Hyperbole and a Half, the graphic novel memoir of Allie Brosh, who runs a blog of the same name. I read it earlier this year and enjoyed it immensely! It had a good mix of comedy and tragedy, coupled with Allie Brosh’s signature art style.

To this list, I would like to add some recommendations of my own. My first recommendation is Sex Criminals. Sure, it sounds a bit scandalous–and maybe it is–but it’s a superb idea and has an awesome art style. Basically, two people find that they both have a unique ability–they stop time when they climax, but they remain aware and able to move around. What will they do in that quiet space? You’ll have to read it to find out!

Another great series that I’ve been reading is Manhattan Projects, which is an alternate universe re-imagining of what happened with the scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project. There are aliens, robots, and a whole lot of crazy corruption. If you’re ready for a story that’s really out there, I’d recommend this one.

Finally, I want to put in a good word for two oldies-but-goodies. Firstly, Fables, which has been going on for quite some time. It’s all about fairytale characters in modern day Manhattan. Secondly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Yes, there are Buffy graphic novels. They start with a “season 8” run of stories, which continues the seven-season television show. They are so much fun to read if you’re a Buffy fan.

I hope that these recommendations have inspired you to check out some graphic novels this summer, or any time this year!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Discuss: Awesome Literary Things

Photo credit: Robert Dawson Exterior, Willard Library, Evansville, Indiana, 2011.
Photo credit: Robert Dawson
Willard Library, Evansville, Indiana, 2011

Libraries

Last week we discussed your dream home library, but that can be a difficult thing to attain. You need money and space, and most of us don’t have either of those things on hand. But public libraries are always there for you. Libraries are amazing resources in your community and I think you should utilize them at every chance you get, especially in the summer! To me, the summers were always a time to get involved with libraries’ summer reading programs and stock up on books for weeks of exciting reading. Libraries can be meeting places, sources of adventure, ways to educate yourself, and so much more.

In honor of libraries, I want to link to this Flavorwire article that profiles many interesting libraries across America. There are some really amazing libraries on this list. There is the adorable Willard Library in Evansville, Indiana; there is the Queens Library bookmobile in New York that was in operation following Hurricane Sandy; and there is even a combination Super Bingo, Family Dollar, and Mockingbird Branch Library in Abilene, Texas. If anything, this list shows us how America is keeping the library alive in more and more creative ways.

But what about your library? What was your library like when you were growing up? What is the library that you now hold allegiance to? What role does the library play in your life?

I’ve always had small libraries in my life. Growing up, the public library was not too far from my house and sometimes we would bike there when the weather was nice. It didn’t matter that it was small because I was small, too, and I honestly had so much fun reading through the stacks at that library. After grade school, we moved and I had another small, cozy library to check out. Although it didn’t always have the books I wanted, the library was part of an expansive network and I could have plenty of books transferred in for me to read.

Let us know in the comments what libraries mean to you, and which library you love.

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Discuss: Awesome Literary Things

http://www.architectureartdesigns.com
http://www.architectureartdesigns.com

Your Dream Home Library

Continuing the trend of fun bookish things we’ve been discussing this summer, let’s take a look at awesome home libraries! It seems like readers these days are rabid about their love of reading. If you take great pride in reading and call yourself a book lover, then you probably want to show off your books! For now, I’m sure those Ikea shelves are serving you well. But you may be dreaming of the majestic home library that you’ll construct once you’re older.

At least, I know that I dream of that ideal home library. There are hidden doors that lead to libraries, there are uniquely configured shelves, there are home libraries that look just like bookstores, and there is the ever-tempting option of using sliding ladders like the Beast’s library. You might think that home libraries have one style — it’s a room full of bookshelves — but there are so many things you can do! This post at the architecture art design website shows you just how much you can customize your home library.

There are home libraries that look like something out of Downton Abbey, with gilded edges on the bookshelves and old-fashioned furniture. There are more rustic looking home libraries, that have wooden shelves and wood panelling along the walls. I like home libraries that incorporate some kind of reading nook into the library, like the picture here.

What are your dreams and plans for your eventual, awesome home library? Share your plans in the comments!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Discuss: Awesome Literary Things

http://scelnews.com
http://scelnews.com

Booksellers

Last week, the “Awesome Literary Thing” we focused on was bookstores. I think we can all agree that bookstores are awesome and that you should support more of them in your community if you want them to stick around. But what about the people behind those bookstores? What about the booksellers themselves?

Through BoingBoing, that great internet repository of awesome, I found a photo series by photographer named Steve Kenward. The series is called “Literally” and Steve has taken photographs of many booksellers among their books and inside their bookshops. On his website Steve says, “Independent bookshops are great places to spend time in. These portraits are some of the lovely people who can help you find something special. You really can’t beat the smell of fresh ink in a new hardback or the excitement on discovering a copy of that out of print classic. So next time you are passing a bookshop, pop in. You might be surprised what you find.”

I love the way Steve describes booksellers here, as “the lovely people who can help you find something special.” Yes, sometimes you go into a bookstore with a prepared list, all ready to find what you’re on a mission to find. But other times you come in less prepared, and you need a helping hand. These are the folks who can recommend, locate, and research for you.

These photos are fascinating because each one of these booksellers is completely surrounded by their wares. Steve has also collected each bookseller’s favorite book, which is a great way to get some insight into these folks.

I encourage you to check out the photo series, “Literally,” and do some reflecting on the booksellers that you’ve come into contact with on your book-hunting adventures.

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Discuss: Awesome Literary Things

http://superhypeblog.com
http://superhypeblog.com

That One Awesome Bookstore

If you’re reading this blog, I’m willing to bet that you have a favorite bookstore. That bookstore may be a cozy, independent place in your town or a Barnes & Noble that always has what you need on its shelves. Either way, that bookstore means something to you. It’s a special place where you go to discover new worlds, pick up the latest installment in your favorite book series, or just browse to spend some time around books.

I got to thinking about this topic when I saw a post on the New Yorker blog, in which cartoonist Bob Eckstein drew some famous New York bookstores. I loved looking through these and it made me think about the important bookstores in my own life.

Although it is a chain bookstore, I have called Half Price Books my home-away-from-home. The corner they have filled with bargain books is akin to nirvana for me. A Saturday spent at Half Price Books is a Saturday spent well.

Turning to the more indie side of things, though, I love Anderson’s Bookshop. I went there for the release of the seventh Harry Potter book and I got to see Rachel Maddow speak at an event that they held. Aside from being a really amazing bookstore, Anderson’s brings the authors and the events to the people, which can be so much fun.

I could happily spend hours in just about any bookstore, but these ones hold a special place in my heart. If I had any drawing talent, I would sketch little pictures of them to keep on my walls. As it is, I can only describe them for you in words.

Now it’s your turn! Share in the comments what your favorite bookstore is. Which bookstore holds a special place in your heart, and why?

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Discuss: Summer Reads

http://mollyaustin.com
http://mollyaustin.com

For me, summer has always been all about the reading I can get done while the weather is nice. Back when I was in school, summer meant so many more free hours to lose myself in stories. I miss those late nights and lazy afternoons, but summer is still a time when I look forward to reading new books and getting excited about stories. Sure, that may happen all year round now, but summer still has something special about it.

Of course, it can be fun to read on the road while you’re traveling, and then lounge around in a fabulous new locale reading the next book on your list. But not all of us can take that fabulous vacation. For those of us who are stuck at home this summer, Publisher’s Weekly has compiled a list of books to read when you’re not travleing this summer. Emma Straub, author of The Vacationers, has listed some of the books she is looking forward to reading this summer. I quite like this list and there are a few books here that I’m also interested in reading.

The first title mentioned on this list is In the Woods, by Tana French. I heard about this book about a year or so ago and I was intrigued. I found it at Half Price Books for very cheap, along with its sequel — The Likeness — and I have yet to read either of them. It’s been described as an eerie mystery, and I think that would be just the thing to read on a sweltering day when you’re stuck inside.

As a reader of the fantasy genre, I am also intrigued by Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link. It’s described as a collection of fantasy and light horror stories, which I think would be really interesting to read.

Going off the Publisher’s Weekly list for a moment now, what would you like to read this summer? Personally, I’m looking forward to reading some fantasy books, some mystery books, and some LGBT-related books this summer. On my list right now I have To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis, In the Woods by Tana French, and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz.

What are you itching to read this summer? Share your list in the comments!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Discuss: Awesome Literary Things

http://theworkingwardrobe.com
http://theworkingwardrobe.com

Book Soundtracks

Many of us enjoy pairing music with what we are reading or writing. Sure, there are some folks who enjoy reading in complete silence to only focus on the story in front of them. But I think a lot of us prefer to put in our earbuds and add a soundtrack of our own to the story we’re reading. I know of some people who, when beginning a new writing project, take great pains to create a soundtrack especially tailored to their story. They’ll cherry-pick their favorite songs from their favorite artists, which they think are best tailored to their story, and construct a soundtrack.

The topic of soundtracks came to my attention recently when I saw a Galley Cat blog post about book soundtracks. When I saw the post, I initially thought that it would be about what I’ve already mentioned — creating a soundtrack for your writing project. Instead, the post is about a software tool that allows you to add sound effects, ambient noise, and music to e-books that you’re reading. This is an interesting thought, but I think the homemade, DIY versions of book soundtracks are more interesting.

There are times when I’m writing a certain type of scene, and I find a song that gives exactly the right emotional resonance to what I’m writing. Sometimes I just set that song on “repeat” while I’m writing a scene so that I can keep myself in the right mindset. Other times, I’ll create a playlist of songs that I can cycle through as I’m writing. These songs might correspond to certain characters, or might simply match the tone of the piece and the world that I’m writing within.

How about you? Do you ever create soundtracks for your writing projects? Is it something you might be interested in? Share your thoughts in the comments!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Discuss: Awesome Literary Things

http://www.nprberlin.de/
http://www.nprberlin.de/

Writing Retreats

Even if you are not being paid for your writing, even if you don’t have a publishing deal with your name on it, even if you are just like me — someone typing away in her bedroom — I think that you would probably love a writing retreat. Typically, if you enjoy to write, you would like to be able to do it for many hours each day. There are many daily interruptions, however, that are simply a part of life. Many of us have to go to work, or take care of children, or just have other work that is not writing. So to have a retreat or fellowship that would allow us to write would be quite an amazing thing.

Well, folks. We have a definitive list of the best writing fellowships and retreats in the US. The tumblr blog of Open Road Media — a digital publisher and multimedia content company — has compiled this list. Fellowships are typically grants that allow you to study and work on your writing in a professional capacity. Retreats, on the other hand, offer you a place to stay and draw inspiration from while you work on a project. Either one, I think, would be a great boon to anyone’s career, and a great opportunity to get some real writing done.

There are some great opportunities listed here, and the best part is that this list is nowhere near exhaustive. If you do a Google search for either writing retreats or writing fellowships you come up with an almost endless supply of sites to check out.

What would your ideal writing retreat look like? Personally, I love the United States, but I think it would be amazing to have a writing retreat somewhere in the English countryside. I’ve always wanted to visit anyway, so why not do some writing while I’m there? I can just imagine a retreat in some great English manor, pretending to be either Jane Eyre or someone on Downtown Abbey, and working on a novel.

Where would you most like to have a writing retreat? Would you want other writers to be around, so you could all bounce ideas off each other? Describe your ideal writing retreat in the comments!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Discuss: Having a Day Job

http://www.nprberlin.de/
http://www.nprberlin.de/

As I’m sure you know, most people who try to make a living by writing tend to have a day job on the side. The reality of living a creative life is that you often have to supplement your creative work with something more menial or mind-numbing. Some of us may be lucky enough to have a job that revolves around words in some way, even if it does not consist of us writing and publishing our own work. But still, we are often unable to devote the majority of our days to writing itself.

Personally, I do have a day job. There was a time in college when I thought I could make a living simply by writing. But it soon became apparent that that was not a realistic option if I ever wanted to leave my parents home. So I, like many of you, “sold out” and got myself a day job to pay the bills. All of my writing progress is made during the evening and on weekends.

As I said, having a day job is often thought of as “selling out.” Or, at least, that’s what I thought. Recently I saw a quote from comedian Sara Benincasa on a website called Write For Your Life, which put a different light on the “day job.” The quote said, “Real artists have day jobs, and night jobs, and afternoon jobs. Real artists make things other than art, and then they make time to make art because art is screaming to get out from inside them. Screaming, or begging, or gently whispering.”

This was not an opinion that I heard of before. In general, I’ve always heard day jobs spoken of as annoyances that we have to go through because creative work doesn’t pay as much as we would like. If we didn’t have a day job, then we were thought of as “suffering” for our art rather than “selling out.” But, in this quote, Sara Benincasa makes having a day job necessary to the creative lifestyle. These jobs are a necessity to take us away from our art for a time so that, when we do return, we’re ready to create to our heart’s content.

I must say that I like this quote and this take on the whole idea of a “day job.” I may be biased because I have a day job myself, but this makes sense to me. Sometimes you need distance from the art you’re working on, you need to give your brain a rest, so that you can return fresh and ready to create again.

What do you think about this quote? Do you agree? Share your thoughts on the “day job” in the comments!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Discuss: Reading about Writing

http://www.nprberlin.de/
http://www.nprberlin.de/

If you want to learn more about being a writer, or about the craft of writing, there are numerous resources out there for you to reference. There are books, there are websites, and there are blog posts like this one. There are books that will tell you how to write a specific genre and books that will tell you how to write for certain audiences. There are books that will tell you how to edit, revise, submit, and self-publish your own work.

My point, I believe, in listing all of these writing resources, is that you could easily read yourself silly and never get any writing done. I think I’ve written about my opinions regarding certain writing resources before on this blog. Generally, I think writing books that model themselves after self-help books are of no use. You can spend days reading those books, highlighting pertinent passages, and taking notes. But all of that time is time you could have spent writing.

Another good point is that writing books tend to present the craft of writing as very cut-and-dry. As Jael McHenry says, in her article on Writer Unboxed, “So many of these books are about formula: if only you follow the framework, they say, you’ll have a book that’s not only universally loved by critics, but also embraced by readers everywhere. One word: HA. Frameworks are all well and good, but creative work can never be paint-by-numbers.”

I echo Jael McHenry: Ha! Writing cannot be done according to a formula or framework. And she’s right, many of those books present writing in that way. Personally I think that’s a flawed representation and following it will not help you become a better writer. In her post, McHenry also says that those who produce writing books exist to sell those writing books. So the books may not have your best interest at heart, honestly.

Instead of reading about writing, I would suggesting reading to write. The difference is in the materials — rather than reading about the craft and about how you “should” practice it, read the works of the greats. Read what you enjoy the most. Read what you think writing should be. Seeing what other authors have done before you is far more beneficial than reading about a formula, framework, or step-by-step for writing.

What do you think? Do you disagree with me completely? How do you feel about books about writing? Share in the comments!

— Jet Fuel Blog Edtior, Mary Egan