january

I irrationally feel like this year is already flying by. I’m planning super fun trips and summer vacations and fall weddings (not mine). I am so excited to get to all these things, but I’m afraid that it will go too fast. January is already over!

The top-viewed posts in January were:

  1. 10 goals for 2013. So far, I’ve made progress on at least a few!
  2. company. Some of my favorite details around my apartment.
  3. new year, new polka dot blouse. An outfit post. I love this shirt.
  4. on writing (and editing). I talk about one of my favorite books on the craft.
  5. twin peaks. I’m still watching this show. It’s still weird and still beautiful.

It’s been pretty wintery around here lately, but #fatcat and I are trying to stay cheerful. Like with a good nap, a cup of tea, or stopping to view a brightly colored dinosaur while on a neighborhood walk. Some snapshots from the month (I’m on instagram as raenudson):

fatcat

airport

teapot

screen

dino

It was a good month! Now onto the next.

family book club

I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I come from a family of readers (for this, I am #thankful). I’ve never known a moment where reading wasn’t celebrated or encouraged, and believe me when I say I am grateful and know this isn’t the norm for everyone. Now that we are all adults (I’m the youngest), we keep reading and talking and sharing our stories.

So this may have been a long time coming, but we’ve recently started Family Book Club. We are picking one book each quarter, and rotating who gets to choose. Our first book was The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling (Kindle version here) purely by accident because several of us picked it up when it came out. Our discussions were loosely structured and a lot of fun. We decided to do one book each quarter, so one book for every three months.

This time, I get to pick the book. So whoever wants to participate (no pressure) will pick up Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (Kindle version here) and we’ll talk about it on the phone or in person or on video chat or in email around the end of March.

middlesex jeffrey eugenides

So, friends, would you like to read it too? Whoever wants to should pick up a copy and join the discussion! It will be casual, it will be fun, and I’d love to talk about it with you. You have until March 31. If you’ve already read it, feel free to join in as well! We’d love to have you. I’ll post some of our talking points on here, so get ready to comment away. You can follow my reading also on Goodreads and find me always on Twitter.

Also also, I’m reading Safe as Houses by Marie-Helene Bertino so I can participate in Word bookstore’s book club meeting this weekend on Feb. 2. If you’re in the area please come with me! I’ve heard great things about this book and can’t wait to get some book club experience under my belt.

(I bought these books on my own and am not being paid to write about them. But I am a part of the Amazon Affiliates program, so if you buy it through my links on Amazon, I’ll receive a little bit of money for it. I am not affiliated with Word; I’m just a fan.) 

on writing (and editing)

stephen king on writing

I’ve never understood the idea that you can’t write in books. Or bend pages, or have spines cracked or covers ripped or all the other things that can happen to books. I’ve also never gotten the argument that Kindle books “aren’t real books” or aren’t worth reading or are just so unfair to books they should be protested.

Sure, some books are collectibles. And books, like any other object you spend money on, shouldn’t be thrown around or not cared for responsibly.

But a book is ink on bound paper. What matters, the reason people defend this ink with all their might, is the story inside–the words (and worlds) between the covers. And if you dogear your favorite page, or underline a beautiful line, or read a book so many times the cover falls off, isn’t that really loving books? And isn’t judging someone for the way they consume those words against the entire idea of sharing stories–the idea that many people can read the same words and feel the same things and go somewhere new together?

So my position is this: read. Read any way you want, anywhere you want, draw in the margins, highlight long sentences, rip out a page to mail to your friend, listen to an audiobook, read on your phone or a computer or a new thing that hasn’t been invented, no matter how you do it just, my goodness, read.

I think, though I’ve never met him, that Stephen King would agree with me. In his book On Writing (Kindle version here), he says “books are a uniquely portable magic.” He says he listens to an audiobook in the car and brings another book with him wherever he goes. He reads because reading and writing are a part of him. He couldn’t separate them from himself if he tried. He is a writer.

I am an editor. I edit for a living, which basically means I read what people write and make it better. There’s a thousand different ways to do this, and the really good editors spend a lifetime getting really good. On Writing is my favorite book on writing and editing. It’s filled with truly practical advice (my favorite of which is “only God gets it right the first time and only a slob says, ‘Oh well, let it go, that’s what copyeditors are for'”).

Stories seem like magic sometimes, but writing and editing are mechanical skills just like any other. It takes practice to be good at them, and there are some rules you need to know and times you need to break them. On Writing lays them out beautifully, mixed in with some autobiographical stories from King. If you have any interesting in writing or reading, and even if you don’t, I’d highly recommend it.

page127 stephen king on writing

Some of my favorite guidelines from On Writing:

Write a lot. Delete all the boring parts. This should cut you down by a lot. The more you can cut, the better. The goal isn’t length, it’s clarity and solid writing. In On Writing, King says, “Mostly when I think of pacing, I go back to Elmore Leonard, who explained it so perfectly by saying he just left out the boring parts.”

Stop hedging. If you think something is great, don’t tell me why you think so, tell me why it is great. Be assertive in your writing. It’s scary, I know. What if other people don’t agree with your opinion? Well, if you’re assertive, I bet you can convince most. And the ones who disagree with you will disagree with your intelligent, sure writing and not a wishy-washy piece that couldn’t decide.

I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing…You probably do know what you’re talking about, and can safely energize your prose with active verbs. And you probably have told your story well enough to believe that when you use he said, the reader will know how he said it…Good writing is often about letting go of fear and affectation.

Trust your readers. You’re a reader, and I’m a reader, and I think we’re pretty smart. They will figure it out if you show them. You don’t have to tell them over and over. King puts it this way:

If I have to tell you, I lose. If, on the other hand, I can show you a silent, dirty-haired woman who compulsively gobbles cake and candy, then have you draw the conclusion that Annie is in the depressive part of a manic-depressive cycle, I win.

King also says the object of a story is “to make him/her forget, whenever possible, that he/she is reading a story at all.” Clean writing is a part of the magic. If a reader gets hung up on trying to understand a sentence or trips on “form” when you meant “from,” it interrupts your story, makes reading an effort, and does a disservice to both the reader and writer. Take pride in your work, and turn in clean copy.

Write simply, and in active voice. Avoid the passive tense and passive verbs: “I think timid writers like them for the same reason timid lovers like passive partners. The passive voice is safe.” I see a lot of passive voice in my line of work and I work to put it down flip it and reverse it. King’s example: “The meeting will be held at seven o’clock” versus “The meeting’s at seven.” It usually wont be this simple to detect, but 99% of the time active voice will make your writing better.

But most importantly, keep reading. “You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.”

I loved this book because it’s 300 wonderful pages on my work. I believe in what I do, and it was nice to get some back up by one of my favorite writers. I loved King’s personal stories, too. When he started writing, he sent his stories to any magazine taking submissions. He kept his rejection slips on a nail in his bedroom. Pretty soon, the nail filled up with slips, so he replaced it with a stake and kept on writing. He worked at a laundry and as a teacher, and he met his wife and started a family. And he kept writing. He battled alcoholism, and kept writing. He sold paperback rights to his first novel for $400,000, and kept writing. His perseverance and passion are contagious, and it’s great for readers and writers alike.

(I bought this book on my own and am not being paid to write about it. But I am a part of the Amazon Affiliates program, so if you buy it through my links, I’ll receive a little bit of money for it.) 

layers on layers

#fatcat and I are under two blankets on my couch right now. Maybe you don’t read the same Twitters that I do, but in case you haven’t heard, it’s cold in New York. And as much as I wanted to stay in and keep snuggling, I had to go to the grocery store today.

So I layered up.

cold weather gear

From the top down: I made the hat I’m wearing, and it’s the warmest one I have. I have on a tank top, my warmest sweater, a gray sweatshirt from American Apparel, a scarf from Target, and a jacket from JC Penney. Jeans are from Penney’s (I think) and under those are tights (Hue, from Macy’s). Then there are socks and boots, not pictured. On my hands are handwarmer/mitten combo, from Target.

And I was still a little cold. But not bad, really. Until my scarf started to blow off while I was holding my groceries and was one block from my house. That was a pretty long block.

How do you stay warm? I hope everyone has food in the house so they don’t have to go out tomorrow–I hear it’s going to snow. Luckily I have some hot cocoa and new books to keep me occupied!

(today I’m #thankful for shelter, and that #fatcat is safe and warm with me. I’m also #thankful for chick peas. I’ve been really into them lately.)

twin peaks

Have you seen Twin Peaks? I’m obsessed. I started watching it over the weekend, and eight episodes later I came up for air. The show follows the investigation of the death of Laura Palmer in the town of Twin Peaks, Wash. It’s super strange and super quirky and super gorgeous. The set and costume design are as distinct and lovely as the story and characters.

See?

twin peaks audreytwin peaks dr. jacobytwin peaks queen of diamondsThe colors are bold, the patterns are all over the map, and the style is carried throughout every scene I’ve seen so far. It makes me want to clash Hawaiian prints and stand in a severe, wood-paneled room while I talk about pie. But I have neither a Hawaiian-print shirt nor the ability to put wood panels in my apartment. So instead, I made some Polyvore collages with Twin Peaks in mind.

red and blackladylikehawaii

I am not sure who the killer is, but I am sure Twin Peaks will push my style to be bolder and, well, a little quirkier. So what do you think of the show!?

company

Now that I have the space, I love love love having people over. I’m #thankful for my friends who make the trek out to my part of Brooklyn because I really do love sharing my home with them. Last weekend I was lucky enough to convince TWO people to come spend an evening at my place, and we (or at least I) had a really wonderful time. I’m also having company this weekend and I’m thrilled to open my home to them and have a more comfortable place for people to stay. I cleaned last weekend when I had visitors, so I don’t have too much more cleaning to do for this weekend, which is another gift unto itself.

Unfortunately all of you can’t come over, but here are some of my favorite detail shapshots from around the house.

raes days bookshelfraes days ampersandraes days cubbyraes days art wall raes days jewelry holderraes days picture shuttersraes days kitchen

Thanks for taking a peek!

odd thomas talks to elvis; i screen print him

I’m reading Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz and loving it. Odd is a pretty normal guy–he works as a line cook, hangs out with his girlfriend, and can speak to the dead. Not that they talk back. But they do show him things, and he helps them when he can. Odd tries to use this gift to help the dead and the living, and in the first novel of the series he attempt to stop a huge tragedy from occurring in his town. I don’t know if he succeeds–I haven’t finished the book yet. But I’m having a great time getting there.

Odd is ghost friends with Elvis, who seems to make his own rules in death, as he did in life. Normally Odd’s interactions with spirits are people who died in his town. He doesn’t know of any ghost travelers–except Elvis, who has taken a liking to Pico Mundo even though there’s no evidence he visited when he was alive. He hangs out often, sometimes dancing, sometimes watching, and sometimes crying, but never singing (ghosts don’t talk, or sing, I suppose).

I’d like to think that Elvis and Odd are sort of friends, at least the kind of friends that spirits who don’t speak and living people who eat and breathe and yell can be. So I made a tribute to Elvis, and to Odd.

I recently took a class on screen printing and really enjoyed it. It’s fun, and once you start making prints it’s pretty addicting. (But be careful, otherwise you’ll have 30 copies of Elvis and nothing to do with them.) I still have an empty space on my wall, and I’ve been longing to fill it with another handmade artwork. And my family gave me a screen printing kit for Christmas, with ink and a screen and everything! The stars aligned.

I started with the idea of an image of Elvis singing and dancing. I found some images I liked, but I wasn’t sure how to get those images onto my larger canvas that would fill up the empty space on my wall. I’m ok at drawing, but drawing his entire body, hips swiveling, was a little advanced for my first at-home project and the first time I was using my new tools. So I simplified my idea and started sketching.

elvis sketches for screen printing

Once I had some elements I liked, I drew them on a larger scale on freezer paper, which is what I made my stencil from. I cut out the shapes, and then attached my stencil to my screen.

screen printing red ink

And then started! The first attempt was the worst.

first attempt at elvis screen printing

But that’s probably normal, right? The next few came out great! I like the imperfections and I love the color. These will go great on my wall.

elvis prints in red