Look To the Western Sky

A blog about single life as a parent & the dreams of a writer by Margo L. Dill

Tag: Reading

Catch a Dream by Wendy Brown-Baez (A Review of a GREAT Novel)

I was excited to read Wendy Brown-Baez’s novel, Catch a Dream, when I read the synopsis that it was about a woman on a healing journey in Israel.  Someone very dear to me is from Israel, and this blog (and my life) is often about self-care and healing, so I thought this book fit into my life at just the right time. And I was not wrong! I loved Catch a Dream, and I think you will too, if you enjoy well-written women’s fiction with complex characters and an interesting setting.

Here’s a quick synopsis (by the way, I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review AND as part of WOW! Women On Writing’s blog tour):

A woman’s healing journey begins in a country embroiled in relentless turmoil. In Israel, the first Intifada has just begun. Palestinian frustration for a homeland erupts in strikes, demonstrations and suicide bombings; and Israel responds with tear gas, arrests, and house demolitions. Lily Ambrosia and Rainbow Dove arrive in Haifa with their children on a pilgrimage to sow seeds of peace. Lily’s fascination with Jewish culture inspires her to dream she can plant roots in the Holy Land. She falls in love with the land itself, with its people, and with Levi, a charming enigma, dangerous but irresistible. Eventually she is fully immersed in Israeli life, earning her way as a nanny, hanging out in cafes with friends, and attending Yom Kippur in the synagogue. Her son rebels against the lifestyle she has chosen, and war with Syria looms on the horizon. Will she be able to stay? What does she have to give up and what will she be able to keep?

What I really enjoyed about this book besides the setting of Israel was two things:

  1. The love story between Lily and Levi
  2. Lily’s struggle, determination, and strength at being a single parent (even though she does have help!)

I’m sure these two plot lines resonated with me because of where I am in my life–dating after divorce and raising my daughter as a single parent (and I also have a lot of help and support). Because Wendy’s writing is beautiful and honest, the book is easy to read, and I flew through it. It’s also not too long–only 181 pages with book club questions in the back. (One last thing, the main character does suffer a traumatic event (which I don’t want to put a spoiler here), but I always think it’s important to let readers know to ask about this, in case certain things trigger them. )

Any reader who enjoys women’s fiction, stories about life-changing events and other cultures, and well-written prose will love Catch a Dream. Check it out! 

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Congratulations to These Reading Challenge Winners and the Amazon Gift Card Winner

I’m happy to announce these 6 people finished the Pre-Summer Reading Challenge!

  1. Kathryn S.
  2. Sara L.
  3. Sue B.
  4. Sophie L.
  5. Sebastian L.
  6. Katie B.

And the winner of the $20 Amazon Gift Card, which will be awarded on June 15, 2018 is….(pretend drumroll here)…

Sara L.

(The winner was chosen randomly using random.org.)

Besides being entered to win the gift card, each person will receive this digital badge:

 

They also receive a 25 percent off coupon for editing services.

Thank you to everyone who checked out the reading challenge and who decided to sign up. And thank you to those who finished! I know it’s not easy to read every day, especially at the end of the school year, and then to also keep track and turn in your sheet. Congratulations again to Sara L. for winning the Amazon gift card–it will be coming by email on June 15, 2018.

What’s a good book you are reading this summer?

I’m currently finishing up a great book–Catch a Dream by Wendy Brown-Baez, which I will be reviewing tomorrow AND was lucky enough to host a great guest post on motherhood that you can check out here.

 

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Reading Challenge Update

How is the reading challenge going for those of you participating? Katie and I are doing pretty well. I think since April 30, we have each only missed one day of reading.

I have been reading 3 books: Codependency and Shame, Anxious for Nothing, and a novel–Catch a Dream.

Katie has been reading a whole bunch of books, of course, from Magic Treehouse to Splat the Cat. Together, we finished a book, Abby in Wonderland, in a series she likes,  where the main character Abby goes into different fairy tales to try to save Maryrose who is trapped by an evil fairy.

I hope you’re enjoying finding the time to read each day. Remember, if you do read 21 days for 20 minutes before Memorial Day weekend, you are entered to win a $20 Amazon gift card! Plus, hopefully, you will have developed a love of reading and a habit for it, too.

Remember, you can earn extra bonus entries into the reading challenge by:

  • Post a photo of yourself on Facebook or Instagram! Take a screenshot and email it to me or tag me in the post.
  • Write a review for any book on Amazon.com. Comment on this page with what book you chose: http://margoldill.com/pre-summer-reading-challenge. (This one is actually worth two entries!)
  • Here’s one more way to earn an extra entry into the contest: Comment below this post and include the title of a book you or your family members are reading during the challenge!

Also,I should point out, if you don’t finish the challenge, you can still earn these entries into the contest for the gift card by doing the above 3 things! Because what is actually important here is reading and supporting authors. 🙂

Any questions? Let me know.

Happy reading!

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Join the 21-Day Pre-Summer Reading Challenge for Adults and Kids

Most libraries have a summer reading challenge–St. Louis County has a great one each year. Katie and I have participated for several years, and we plan to again this year. Most of them work like this: Read a certain number of minutes or a certain number of books and  earn prizes throughout the summer, accumulating in a bigger prize at the end of the summer.

I thought it would be fun to do a 21-Day Pre-Summer Reading Challenge for kids and/or adults (or both!) during the busy springtime when weather is warmer, sports seasons are in full swing, days are longer, and school is busy. It’s still important to read, right?

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. —Richard Steele

A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read. —Mark Twain

Let us read and let us dance—two amusements that will never do any harm to the world. —Voltaire

More great reading quotes...here.

What is the 21-Day Pre-Summer Reading Challenge? 

Between April 30 and May 25 (the beginning of Memorial Day Weekend),  you need to read 21 days for 20 minutes each day (of course, you can read every day if you want!). You can read anything! It can be books to your kids; it can be a novel or self-help book; it can be a magazine; it can be a blog you’ve been meaning to check out. Anybody of any age can participate, by the way!

What it can’t be is Facebook posts or tweets or something similar…if you’re not sure, email me at margolynndill (at) gmail.com!

How do you sign up? 

Go to the sign-up form on this page here.

How much does it cost to participate?

Participation is free!

How do I keep track of what I read or my child reads?

You can download a record sheet at the link above for any member of your family who wants to participate! You record daily readings on this sheet.

What do I get if myself or my child completes the reading challenge for 21 total days before May 25?

  1. Each person who completes the reading challenge, and turns in their record sheet by May 30, 2018, will be entered to win a $20 Amazon gift card. One gift card will be awarded on June 15,2018 to one person who completed the challenge and turned in their sheet. A bonus entry if you read every single day of the challenge (April 30 to May 25) for 20 minutes! (Plus, there are more ways to receive EXTRA entries–please see the record sheet on this page!)  
  2. Each person who completes the reading challenge will be acknowledged on this blog!
  3. You will receive a digital badge, which you can post on your blog or social media account.
  4. You will receive a 25 percent off coupon for any of my Editor 911 services. This does NOT expire and can be used for any member of your family.
  5. If you or your family have any service, charity, event, anything family-friendly to promote, and you finish the challenge, you can do so on my FB page and/or this blog.
  6. Hopefully, you will also receive a good reading habit that will last throughout the summer and even further!

So what are you waiting for? Go here now and sign up for the reading challenge today! 

 

 

 

 

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Making a Commitment to Morning Pages

I’m doing it. I’m making a commitment right here and now, to anyone reading this, that I’m writing Morning Pages every single morning!

What are Morning Pages? If you have read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, then you’re familiar with Morning Pages. OR if you have ever been to just about any writing conference or creativity workshop, you have probably heard about them. If not, Morning Pages are:

 Three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. *There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages*– they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.  (From Julia Cameron’s website/book)

I started today (and actually wound up with FOUR pages). Day one down. I’ve had a creativity block for a while now–although every once in a while I am inspired to write something like this post, “A Letter to a Narcissist” I wrote this week. So, today during Morning Pages, I came up with a first sentence for a short story. No idea where that will lead me, but since then, I’ve been thinking about this line and who could say it and what the conflict for the story could be.

I did a Google search for “morning pages”, and I happened upon Chris Winfield’s site. His tagline is “take back your life.” He has a free ebook (in exchange for your email address) titled How to Save 23.3 Hours Each Week. His site is all about working smarter, not harder. But he also has this amazing page about Morning Pages, which you can check out here. He starts the post by saying he never thought he’d have time in the morning to write three pages by hand, but he made a commitment to do it; and since then, he says that some of these amazing things have happened in his life:

  • I’ve come up with ideas that changed my businesses
  • I’ve worked through issues that were bothering me and seemed overwhelming
  • I’ve been better in tune with my intuition and listening to my heart
  • They have shown me what’s most important in my life and helped me to focus on that
  • and more….(check out the link above to see what else he says)

Pretty amazing, right?

So I’m making the commitment. I also recently made the commitment to read something for enjoyment EVERY SINGLE DAY. Now I read a lot. I read a lot of online articles, blog posts, unfinished manuscripts, emails, kids’ books (to my daughter), and articles about agriculture. But I haven’t been reading for myself. My creativity and writing have suffered because of this. So, since last Sunday, 11/12/2017, I said: “Enough is enough.” Katie and I went to the library. I found a novel written by an author my friend suggested. And I’m happy to say that I have read at least one chapter every day.

Surely, all these positive steps–reading and Morning Pages–will continue to feed my creativity and renew my spirit, and soon that first line I wrote during my Morning Pages will turn into something more.

By the way, for some people, journaling (which is what Morning Pages is) can give you results in your life. If you have never checked out Mari L. McCarthy’s Create Write Now site, then you should. Start with this post I did on her book–all the links you will need to find out her amazing story are in that post here

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Harry Potter Fans: Many of Us Need to Calm Ourselves Down (re-post)

This post originally appeared on WOW! Women On Writing. It’s a great blog/resource for writers here: http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com

downloadOne of my dreams came true when J. K. Rowling co-authored the play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and someone in the publishing world wanted to make money and decided to print and sell it as a book. I did not stand in line at midnight to buy it, but it is one of the only hard-cover books I’ve bought in a long time. Before I had a chance to read it, (I was finishing up another lovely book, Me Before You), I read a lot of negative tweets and Facebook posts about the story. And I’ll admit I was disappointed. I was hesitant to read the book because I didn’t want my excitement to go away.

But I did read it, and I loved it. Yes, it is a play and it is harder to read than one of the seven tomes all us Harry Potter fans love so much. But I thought it was an excellent story–it brought in all the beloved characters–even the dead ones, and one of the most heartbreaking plot events in all seven books, Cedric Diggory’s death. Also while reading, I kept thinking: I really want to see this as a play. How will they do all this magic on stage? This will be so cool!

Then those negative social media messages really started to bother me. I put a post on my own Facebook page about how I guessed I was in the minority, but I was not afraid to state that I really liked Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Shockingly, I discovered I was not alone. Several of my smartest friends (wink, wink) also loved the book and were obviously not afraid to share this fact on someone else’s Facebook wall (i.e., mine).

So this post is not for those of you who loved the book, although please put in the comments that you did or why you did, if you would be so kind. But it is for those of you who didn’t like it and feel the need to spew everywhere your negativity. I feel you need to CALM DOWN. I mean, you are entitled to your opinion, even if it’s wrong. Here’s an example of a tweet, which is negative, but on the tame side:

Look, why are you fighting this? We all know J.K. (Jo above) Rowling is a genius. Her novels brought back a passion for reading children’s and YA books. We also all know that if she writes book 9 or releases the next segment of the Harry Potter story as a series of haiku, written in Sanskrit, we are still going to buy and devour it, and shed more tears over Snape and Dumbledore. I mean, have you, personally, ever written an eight-book series worth more money than you could spend in your lifetime? I didn’t think so. Please CALM DOWN.

Take a deep breath, write your tweet/review/Facebook post in a nicer way, such as: I just finished HP8. Okay, I didn’t love it, but I did like _______________________. (Fill in the blank with something you liked.) There you go, I bet if you’re a true Harry Potter fan, you can find one thing in the play that you liked.

I’m not trying to make you feel guilty. I’m just trying to convince you that as readers and writers, we owe it to other authors to perhaps offer constructive criticism, but to be respectful of the talent and time it takes to create these masterpieces, and show each other a little more love.

As for me, you’ll find me passing on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child to my family members. My mom currently has it.

Margo L. Dill is a children’s author, editor, blogger, and teacher, living in St. Louis, MO. You can find out more about her and her books by visiting her blog at http://www.margoldill.com, where she is currently musing over the meltdowns of Kindergarten. She also teaches a novel writing class for WOW! in the WOW! classroom.

Last chance to enter the new blog contest: http://margoldill.com/share-your-sayings-with-me-1st-official-new-blog-contest/

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How I Finally Finished a Book by a Shameful Writer (re-post)

This post originally appeared on WOW! Women On Writing on September 3, 2016 at this link.  WOW! Women On Writing is a great site for writers, full of helpful articles, online classes and a quarterly flash fiction contest.

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” 

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

Both of those quotes are by the great Stephen King, whether you like him or not, read his books or don’t, he gives practical and sage advice to writers. I’ve had the time to read. I’ve started countless wonderful books by amazing authors, but I haven’t been able to get through them for one reason or another–mostly due to my divorce, maybe due to exhaustion from anemia (which I just discovered I had) and single parenthood. But I hadn’t finished a book in ages. It’s embarrassing. I am a writer after all, and I wasn’t reading.

I had this conversation with my neighbor one day–she loves to read. She handed me the book Me Before You, and said, “This is a great book. You will get through this. It’s a movie right now.” (I’ll admit I’m so out of touch with movies for adults that I didn’t even know this!) That night, I started it. JoJo Moyes is a very good writer. She drew me in with her quirky main character, Louisa Clark, and the surly hero, Will Traynor. But as I started reading along, and got to maybe page 100, my usual pattern took over. I was reading maybe 1 or 2 pages a night before I fell asleep or thought of a reason to check Facebook. I was sure I knew what was going to happen, and I felt disappointed, and didn’t really want to read just another love story.

But one night when I read my obligatory pages (to not feel like a total heel), there was a conversation between Lou and her sister Treena that was so well-written, I fell back in love with the book. Then I read some of the back material about why JoJo wrote the book, and I told myself: give it a chance. One day this past week, I was in bed with a cold, and I read 166 pages to finish this book. When I finished, I was so in love with the story and the ending that I rented the movie On Demand, which I have literally never done before in my life.
And I’ll have you know since then, I’ve already started two more books–a self-help book, where the author wants you to read one exercise a week, and the new Harry Potter play–on page 45 already!

So what happened? I found a good writer. I found a good writer that brought me into her story world and made me fall in love with these two characters even though things might not have ended the way I would have written the story. She made me think about life. She made me think about love. She made me think about what is really important, and she gave me back my belief that love is possible even under the worst circumstances. I know that sounds like a lot for one book, but that’s the thing about books–they really do change the world.

So even though I titled this post–by a shameful writer, I’m not as shameful about reading as I was a week ago, and I’m praying this continues because I think I’m on the road to a writing/reading recovery. I feel myself taking baby steps and it feels good.

Margo L. Dill is a writer, editor, and teacher, living in St. Louis, MO. You can find out more about her and her books at http://www.margoldill.com and her writing class in the WOW! classroom here. 

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