My Reading Process: Organizing My Reading Life

Market Research

By day I am an elementary school librarian and in the wee hours of the morning, I work on my children’s writing. Luckily these two fields feed each other in many ways. I often find that market research helps me in both careers. I write for the age group that I teach.

Both librarians and children’s book writers ask me how I keep track of what I read, how do I know what to read, and then how do I keep it organized in a way that I can refer to it later.

I’m going to walk you through my process that has taken me years to figure out what will really work for me. You may have a totally different process. This is a sneak peek into mine.

Email

I have a separate email that I use for subscribing to blogs, email newsletters, and store coupons. You know when you go to a store or when you order online and they ask you for an email address? I don’t give them my main email address. I use one email address for personal correspondence and queries and another email address for the subscription stuff. This insures that my personal stuff doesn’t get buried in the spam. It also allows me to only check the subscription email when I’m ready to.

How do I know about new books coming out?

Blogs

The blogs I’m listing are only ones I follow for finding out what new books are coming out. I follow a lot of other bloggers for writing advice and business related information. This list is probably not all inclusive, but when I listed the ones I read this week, and they are the ones that I typically read in a given week.

These blogs have lots of great book lists, but I can’t figure out how to follow by email. (If you figure out the email thing, let me know. I’d love to have these come into my inbox on a regular basis). However, I do like to read these:

Amazon

Follow your favorite authors and illustrators. Are there people who you consistently read? Whose work you always admire? Follow all of them on Amazon.  Amazon sends me emails when their forthcoming books go up on Amazon.

Newsletters

In addition to the ones listed below, I also sign up for publishers newsletters and author newsletters. However, the ones listed below are the ones where I get the majority of my reading lists.

Your local indie bookstore newsletters are also really important. My local bookstores One More Page Books, Hooray For Books, and Politics & Prose do a ton of children’s events. They also send out great newsletters full of good reading suggestions. Sign up for your indie bookstores newsletters. Even when I lived a few hours away, I still signed up for indie newsletters because they give such good reading suggestions.

Twitter, Instagram, Facebook

I follow authors, illustrators, publishers, agents, librarians, educators, and so many more. When people put up pictures of their books, I go look them up.

Print Resources

I still dearly love getting print magazines in the mail. I have subscriptions to these and I dog ear the pages, rip out pages, and make my bigger lists from reading these magazines. I typically do this every few months, not weekly like I do with email.

Planning Ahead for Reading

Many times when I read about a book, it hasn’t come out yet. I had to develop a system that allowed me to write down the title and come back to it at its publication date.

Bullet Journal

I know a lot of people use Good Reads or Wish Lists on Amazon. After a lot of trial and error, I use my bullet journal. At the beginning the year, when I set up the front pages for my bullet journal, I set up 13 pages for writing down when books are coming out. I use one page per month. There are 13 pages because September gets two pages. A lot of books come out in September. As I find out about books in blog posts or newsletters, I write them down on the correct month of release. Sometimes, it’s unclear from the blog post of their pub date, so I look it up on Amazon.

Each month, I reserve books at my local public library. Of course they don’t have everything I want to read, but by the end of the month or the beginning of the next month, I’m able to get most of what I want to read. I check it off as I place it on hold. If it isn’t checked off, my local library doesn’t have it yet.

Keeping Track of Reading

As I read books, I keep track of them in my bullet journal. I have one spread that is for Middle Grade, YA, Craft Books, Nonfiction, Adult Fiction. I might take a few notes about them, but usually I just write down the title.

For picture books, I take much more copious notes. I jot down the title, the author, the publisher and year it was published. I take notes on the content or what I liked (or didn’t like) about it. Then I have a column for whether I’m going to buy it for my library or not. This extensive reference helps me when I go to order books for my library. It also helps me tremendously with comp title research for my picture books.

 

I love doing things electronically, and I have lots of excel spreadsheets at school for different lists teachers frequently request. However, for my at-home personal reading, this has worked well. Because I index my bullet journals, things aren’t too difficult to find. If I find books that would make good comp titles for a specific book I’m writing, I move them over to an electronic pitch sheet I keep on each book.

 

How about you? How do you keep track of your reading? What blogs do you follow that I’ve missed? Leave a comment to let me know.

How to Survive a Move with Your Creativity Intact

It’s no secret that we moved this year. I’ve moved a lot in my life, having grown up in Thailand and Malaysia, and moving multiple times in my adult life. But this one was different. This time I said good bye to a place I’d lived in longer than any place else in my life. And this time I had kids.

Before the move, I had a great writing routine.

Then we put our house on the market, and I started job hunting. We sold our house, and moved into my parents’ condo. Then we had to find a new house and I had to make decisions about my new job. I had a summer full of temporariness. We moved into our new house, but I still had commitments for the summer to keep, so we were back and forth across the state all summer.

I’m now a few months on the other side of the move, several months into my new job, my kids are settled, and I am back in a good writing routine.

Looking back on the transition makes me absolutely exhausted.

One of my biggest fears was not being able to hang onto my creative life in the midst of it all. I definitely don’t think I excelled at it, but there were some things that keep me afloat during a stressful time.

Postpone Goals

I had big plans to revise a novel in March-May of 2015. That was right in the thick of my house selling, me getting job offers and having to make decisions, and us buying a house.

For me, I have to be in a book, really in it, almost every single day when I’m drafting and revising a novel-length project. I just know that’s how I work best. Otherwise, I spend a lot of time trying to remember where I last left off.

When all of the major decisions hit at once, I abandoned that novel-revising goal, and I told my writing friends I abandoned it. You know what happened? They wholeheartedly supported my decision and they helped validate that decision. They helped me give myself permission to take a break from it.

I picked it back up in November and December of 2015. And that time away was actually so helpful. I ended up cutting characters, cutting chapters, rewriting big chunks of it. I’m still working on it, but I am sure that it’s a better revision that I could’ve done in the spring.

Morning Pages

I realized during all of those times I was trying to separate one decision from the other one, I needed to write. I process things both verbally and through writing them down. So, as my husband and I talked over our choices, I also wrote down pros and cons and my feelings, those intangible things that still played into my decisions.

Once we moved, I had a thousand things on my mind. I had my to-do lists and I also had my emotions, and my children’s emotions, and the emotions of reuniting our family after living apart for nine months.

Moving takes up a lot of headspace. I wasn’t coming up with the most stellar writing at this time and I was having trouble focusing on the writing at hand because I had all of this junk in my mind. I also had new job stress and the kids’ new situation stress.

I brought the morning pages back out. There were some mornings that all I could do was morning pages. But it was okay because it helped me free up some of that creative energy.

Eventually, I was able to do more than just morning pages.

Stay Organized

My life was upside down for many months—basically from February-August. I used a bullet journal to help keep all of my to-do lists organized. It helped me keep all of my writing goals and my life transition mess organized. For more information on how I do bullet journaling, read this.

Small Victories Matter

Last year I wrote about my Book of Stars. This year, I incorporated it into my bullet journal.

Bullet Journal: Book of Stars page

Bullet Journal: Book of Stars page

When August rolled around, and I was feeling pretty depressed about all of the goals that had derailed, I flipped through my “book of stars” pages for each month. When I saw the books that I had read and book that was published and the speech that I delivered and so much more, I began to get out of my funk.

No, I didn’t accomplish all of my goals in 2015, but dang it, I did a lot!

Revise Your Goals

For me, I had to pare things down to what was really, really important. My day job hours changed, my commute increased, and I wanted to make sure that our family time was intact. That meant, I had to be strict about my writing hours and really keep them to the morning only.

That meant, some things had to give. I blogged less. I tried not to be scattered in a million different directions. I tried to be focused on what I really, really wanted to do.

Embrace Setbacks

As you’ll see in my post tomorrow, I’m excited about all that DID accomplish. I did way more than I gave myself credit for. However, one of my big, disappointing setbacks was not being able to draft a new novel.

However, I am embracing it. I realize that this got put on the back burner NOT because of procrastination, but because I made a conscious decision to hold onto my sanity and put that goal off for a few more months.

It’s on my list for 2016. Am I disappointed? Yes. Do I regret it? No.

I’m a type A, driven person. Sometimes it’s harder for me to say NO to myself than to push myself.

So, I think this setback was, in fact, a victory. I learned to recognize when I’d taken on too much and that I needed to re-evaluate.

tables

Trust me, the move wasn’t perfect. The transition to my new schedule required some adjusting. But I’m happy to say I found my way back to my writing.

What life transitions have derailed your writing? How did YOU find your way back?

Bullet Journaling: A Peek Into My Process

I’ve been bullet journaling for about a year now. I wrote a post over at the GROG about the method to my madness. If you are gearing up for the new year, this might be something you want to try. Click here to go to the post.

Bullet Journal: Book of Stars page

Bullet Journal: Book of Stars page