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5 Books That Have Changed My Life

17 June, 2016
woman reading a book

Just recently, I watched this short interview with Neil Gaiman on 3 books that changed his life. What a great thing to share with others – books that have changed your life! So, I thought I’d share a few books that have changed mine. I couldn’t narrow it down to just three, so I have a list of five. Here goes:

  1. Miss Rumphius – A beautiful picture book, this has been one of my favorites since I was very young. I have always wanted the same three things as the main character: to travel the world, to live by the sea, and to do something to make the world more beautiful. Everyone has a gift to give the world; this book made me see just how important sharing those gifts can be.
  2. The Harry Potter series – When I was younger, one of my friends got me into the fanfiction community for Harry Potter. We joined multiple writing-based role-playing games online and got to know other people who were both fans of Harry Potter and enjoyed writing. It’s an experience that I thoroughly enjoyed and also an experience that led to lifelong friendships. It also led me back to my love of writing fiction and kept me writing even when I didn’t feel like it.
  3. Traveling with Pomegranates – Traveling with Pomegranates is a memoir written by a mother and daughter about their relationship, writing, and traveling together. It gave me a lot of inspiration for writing, but also helped to inspire a trip for myself and my own mother this coming fall. We’re going to do a heritage trip to the Campania region of Italy, where my mother’s ancestors are from. We are spending two weeks touring Naples, Capri, Pompeii, Positano, the Amalfi Coast, and the mountainous area of Avellino. I’m so excited to take a trip that will help me to explore the world and explore myself and to be able to share that with my mom.
  4. Eat, Pray, Love – Along the same lines as Traveling with Pomegranates, Eat, Pray, Love inspired me when I needed to fulfill a bit of wanderlust. Not only did it teach me about different cultures, but really taught me that self-love and self-care must come first. Not only did I need to take care of and fill the needs of my body, but my soul, as well. Sometimes we get so caught up in taking care of immediate or urgent needs that we forget to fully nourish ourselves. This book opened my eyes to new ways to do that.
  5. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo – I read this book last summer and wrote a whole blog post about it because it had such a profound effect on how I keep my home. A few of the biggest takeaways were that you shouldn’t keep anything if it’s not of use to you right now or if it doesn’t bring you joy – if it’s not serving a positive purpose, purge it; make sure everything has a place and make sure that place makes it easy to put the thing where it belongs; discard everything you can first, then find storage for what you’re keeping later – don’t get distracted by storage options. I got some great results when I first decluttered last summer, but I’m looking forward to doing even more with the Konmari method when I move into my new apartment later this month.

These five books have definitely helped shape how I live my life. What books have had a profound effect on your life?

Blog Stories

A 5k Day

14 November, 2011

No, I’m not talking about a run or a walk, but rather a word sprint. I spent most of my weekend writing. I sat with a computer on my lap and typed. And typed. And typed. When I got stuck, I skipped ahead in the story. I brainstormed with friends. I typed some more. Before I knew it an hour had passed. I had word wars with other writers (who can type the most words in 15 minutes? 30 minutes?) and took my characters from Greece to Italy. I gave my main character a reason to be pissed. And heartbroken. And by the end of all that, by the end of the day on Sunday, I had written over 7,000 words this weekend and over 5,000 words in one day. It felt phenomenal. And I felt totally exhausted. It was totally worth it. I had one of the best days in recent memory, holed up in my room, drinking a peppermint mocha, with no one but my characters and a few online friends for company. And it was heavenly.

If you ask me why I like to write, I’ll tell you: writing is therapy. There is a lot going on in my personal life and the best way to deal with reality is to use writing as an outlet, whether it be journaling or writing fiction, poetry or prose. You are what you read (or write) and an experience like this changes you. Writing helps to work out thoughts and figure out answers; it heals heartbreak; it builds character. Much like exercise, writing helps stretch you, challenge you. And at the end of the day, you come out stronger. You feel more yourself because of what you have put into your writing.

*image credit: Annie Rosse

Blog Stories

Eccentricities

7 November, 2011

NaNoWriMo is a wonderful adventure. And it sucks. It’s a fantastic writing exercise and a terrible thing for my social life. During the month of November, I tend to drink way too much caffeine, get way too little sleep, hide away from my friends (unless, of course, they are also writing for NaNoWriMo and we end up at Write-Ins together). I spend too much money on coffee and on food, eat too much junk, and neglect to get dressed on Saturday until I’ve finished my word count for the day.

I carry a flash drive with me everywhere, am constantly looking at my word count and refreshing my score on the NaNoWriMo boards, and I compulsively save after each paragraph. When I come to a stopping point, I save the draft on my flash drive, on Dropbox, on my computer’s hard drive and back-up drive, and e-mail it to myself via Gmail.

But, aside from the eccentricities, NaNoWriMo makes me grow as a person. I had no idea I was capable of writing this many words this fast. I’m actually on par with where I should be at this part of the month, something that’s never happened before. It’s quite an empowering experience to be able to come up with an entire story with just a few prompts and your own imagination.

This story has already taken twists and turns I didn’t expect and I’m sure there are more to come. It’s really a beautiful thing to acquaint yourself with characters and just let them talk to you. Here’s hoping mine keep talking!

*image credit: andy teo

Stories

The Fates (an excerpt)

1 November, 2011

Athena could not be fooled by her father, however. She stood tall and, as she had done many times before, swore to herself that she would never let a man be her undoing. She was not as weak as Hera. In fact, she was stronger, cleverer, and faster than any god, and more dangerous.

She did not need sex to feel powerful and she did not need love to get respect. She was admired and revered and worshipped far and wide and all she needed she got from her followers. Her wrath was her glory and her wit was her guide. Her wisdom made her a force to be reckoned with. Athena did not need the love of one man to make her happy; she had multitudes of worshippers who made her swell with pride.

Making her way around to the fountain, Athena filled her cup and drank to Dionysus as she passed. Everything seemed to be going rather swimmingly, especially for a party honoring Dionysus, but that did not last long. Although, the disruption wasn’t quite what Athena expected.

It was not a complete surprise when the Fates showed up, but when they climbed atop the table, Athena knew something was off. Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos spoke with one voice that boomed over all of Mount Olympus.

“We are the Fates, the ones who hold your future in our hands. We spun the thread of life on our spindle, we measured the thread of life, and we cut the thread of life, which determines the outcome of all souls.

We are here tonight to inform you of your own destinies.

Because you have abused your power, playing with the lives of mortals for your own gain and entertainment, it is decided that you will suffer the consequences. You will be sentenced to life as humans. You will be given life, you will live life, and you will die. And then you will be given life again. You will live out the rest of your days in the form of those you sought to control for your own amusement.”

Stories

You Are What You Read (Or Write) or A Love Letter To NaNoWriMo

1 November, 2009

Every year on November 1st, I take out my laptop and open a completely new document and begin to write a novel. Throughout the month, I sneak writing in while getting ready for work, on the Metro commute, during my lunch hour, at cafes with friends, and in bed late into the night. I use my novel as an excuse to shut the world out and create something, to tell a story that hasn’t been told yet but which yearns to be heard.

Every year in November, I take part in a ritual called National Novel Writer’s Month. NaNoWriMo, as it is affectionately called by those who participate, is the pushing of anything and everything unnecessary out of the way in favor of writing a 50,000-word novel in just 30 days. NaNoWriMo, however, is about more than just the act of sitting and typing at a keyboard, it’s about the audacity to create something that no one has ever created before; it’s about making your own story a priority; it’s about telling truths that otherwise are never told for fear of not measuring up in length or beauty to someone else’s tales. In short, NaNoWriMo is an exercise in the human condition, in the preservation of ideals, an act of oral history and collective consciousness.

It’s all very exciting, this grand writing adventure, but it is not without it’s pitfalls and gaping holes and terrible faults. NaNoWriMo forces the novelist to make some potentially unhealthy decisions (for instance, should I stay up and drink more caffeine and write all hours of the night or get sleep so that I will be awake for work/school/insert activity here?), push friends and family away with cranky retorts and excuses such as “I must make my word count for the day,” “Not now, I’m writing a novel,” and “Mommy needs to finish this chapter first.”

What most people never realize until they have finished an undertaking like NaNoWriMo is that, just by attempting the feat, the experience inherently changes you. Of course, I’m a completely different person than I was before I started writing novels five years ago, but the wonder is that my writing has changed me. I have written spirituality-centered fiction, mystery, literary fiction, and will be writing in the fantasy and horror genres this year. I have expanded my horizons in terms of what I read based on the books others recommended during NaNoWriMo and have incorporated aspects of these real-life characters into my writing.

In the exercise of writing fiction, as in journaling, painting, or meditating, I have found a strength I didn’t know I had. After all, if I can write 33,000 words in one month (my personal best), what else can I do that I didn’t think was possible? I have looked at characters I created and found parts of myself in them or the best traits of my best friends rolled together with the worst flaws of people I know to be bad influences on me. And most importantly, I have learned how to shut out the bad, to learn from the good, and what exactly the difference is between fiction and reality.

And so, I leave you with these words of wisdom, from the great author Neil Gaiman:

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”