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Writing Vignettes

Rachel Saylor

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I’ve heard someone say before that no matter how hard you try to keep yourself out of your fiction writing, you will always inevitably leave small bread crumbs of who you are throughout. A simple thought a character has that you SO would have, an activity a group of friends does in the story that you love or have always wanted to do, details you find important but that maybe readers would never have thought to think of. These tidbits of myself that show up in my fiction are at times such a sweet surprise, while others make me pause and I wonder if I should take it out for fear of being “too seen.”

There are deeper darker parts of all of us we don’t have on display in the front window, but damn if some of those parts of us aren’t pure beauty and the world would benefit to see more of it.

Which leads me to writing vignettes… vignette means: a brief evocative description, account, or episode. And I’ve been writing lots of these, specifically about me during the ages of 16-18. It’s an age-range where I had some of my worst moments but also some of my best when I came into my own skin. The process of writing these, reliving some of the hardest experiences I’ve faced is emotionally exhausting as well as liberating. It’s a theraputic process and one I think most anyone could benefit from doing.

While I’m waiting for feedback from beta readers for my novel Late Bloomer, it has been really good for me to write something so completely different. I hope to turn these vignettes into a full collection to put out into the world. The idea of being so vulnerable and open about the dark moments of my life (in the not too distant past) wouldn’t even have been a real thought in my mind, but one of the driving forces behind my personality is authenticity and what better way to be so fully authentic?

With age, the idea of being vulnerable can make warning sirens go off in a lot of our heads. The past has proven people hurt me, use the information against me, ignore me! No, no. Better to gaurd myself from any of the pain that comes with vulnerability. Sure, these things are true, but I also find it so exhausting hiding from the parts of me that make me, well, me. If anything, we should learn to let the misspoken, hurtful, thoughtless words roll off our backs more easily, but not compromise to be our true authentic selves.

I hope you can take one step, tell or write even one story down you might normally shy away from and feel liberated when you do so.

Beta Readers Process

Rachel Saylor

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The first half of this year has been dedicated to finishing my first draft of my latest novel, Late Bloomer.

Late Bloomer and is about an optimistic, quirky almost 30-year-old newly transplanted in Phoenix who is dying to lose her virginity. From online dating and set-ups from friends, it’s filled with humorous and cringe-worthy dates on her mission to become an “adult” and be in a real relationship for the first time. In the spirit of Bridget Jones Diary, everything seems to go wrong for Christine, but her positive outlook on life almost never stops her from putting one foot in front of the other.

The story came to me while laying on the couch thinking about a friend of mine who has referred to herself as a late bloomer. As I talked about the book idea with more ladies, I was surprised to hear so many women related to this notion of feeling "behind" the rest of their friends. So I got busy writing the story of Christine and her humor-filled antics.

The first version of the book is in the hands of beta readers and feedback is coming through. I can’t wait to gather all of their thoughts and structure my next dive into edits. This step, although exciting, is also the most stress-inducing part for me. Organizing the ideas/thoughts/feedback, finding the trends, deciding on the biggest and best feedback to use in the editing process and weeding out the parts that don’t work can at times make my brain hurt. With that said, it is such a critical moment in a book’s evolution and I am so freaking grateful to have amazing beta readers who’ve given me killer feedback.

The rest of my summer I’ll be working away on my first big round of edits.
I hope your summer is treating you well and has been all things adventurous and blissful!

Cheers,
Rachel

Top Books Read in 2018

Rachel Saylor

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1. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: Young Adult Fiction

The Hate U Give is a must read for every American. It is such a poignant story, especially for the current state of this country. Although being able to understand what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes is rather difficult without having actually done so, Angie Thomas takes you on a journey of facing the realities, in modern times, of growing up black in America.

This is not just a coming of age story, it is a narrative about social injustice, prejudice and the segregation and misunderstanding of cultural differences within America. It doesn’t matter how old a reader is, this book should be read by all.

2. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens: Historical Fiction

Delia Owens’ imagery is breathtaking in this novel. I happen to love that it takes place on the coast of North Carolina, for obvious reasons, but it is also a landscape and world I am unfamiliar with even though it is the state I grew up in.

It is a riveting growing up tale and murder mystery. The story jumps from the protagonist’s past childhood lived in poverty and isolation, as well as her present (in the late ‘60s). It explores the beauty of even the least desired landscapes and encourages the reader to find beauty in every aspect of nature. Sometimes you have to look a little closer or deeper to find it, but it exists there. The novel also explores the ways in which our pasts can define our futures.

3. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert: Non-Fiction, Personal Development

Elizabeth Gilbert describes ideas as ethereal sentiences that we can attract if we are dutifully working on our creative endeavors. She also believes ideas can leave just as quickly as they come and find another willing mind if you aren’t ready, too busy, or aren’t willing to put in the time and effort for it. Gilbert’s engaging and humorous anecdotes of how big magic has taken place in her life and others around her make you want to not only believe in it but experience it for yourself.

Such a good take on the creative process and how to embrace or pivot in the ups and downs that are always present.

4. Deep Work by Cal Newport: Non-Fiction, Personal Development, Business

There were so many times while reading this that I exclaimed, “Yes!” and, “I love this!”

In our modern day technology-filled world where every email, comment, like or message vies for our time on top of our own lack of dedicated schedule and willpower to focus, it can be damn hard to produce even an hour of hyper-focused work in a day. Throughout Deep Work, Cal Newport points out where we are falling short in our ability to focus and exactly how we can remedy this in our life so that we can create our best work yet.

Newport gives easy-to-follow pragmatic tips and strategies to live a life of deep work. If you are tired of ending the day feeling glum about not accomplishing much that is meaningful, or look at the end of the quarter or year and realize you spent more time on tasks that didn’t bring you big results and breakthroughs and are ready to tap into your best work yet, this book will give you the steps and the accountability you need. If you are willing to sacrifice the distracting stimuli and live out Newport’s suggestions, it could revolutionize not only the way you work but also how you approach your life in general.

5. Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman: Fiction Contemporary, LGBTQ

Call Me By Your Name is a story about discovering your first love and the sorrow and joy that accompanies it. It’s about feeling vulnerable when first exploring sex while you are still awkward and unsure of your footing, yet eager and ecstatic to have such a strong connection with someone. It also shows the beauty of having a deep, intimate connection with your parents. How a relationship with them in which you can discuss vast topics and feel free to be open and honest with them brings about the possibility of loving acceptance without conditions. It will make you want to kiss your mom and dad on the cheek or pull them into a hug more often with passion, sending vibrations of your love for them through your touch.

6. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood: Fiction Dystopia, Classics, Sci-Fi

With the Hulu adaptation coming out, this book has come to the forefront of pop-culture. It is frighteningly realistic and conceivable. It turns out, every aspect of the book was inspired by real political and cultural instances in the ’70s and ’80s. Margaret Atwood drew from the turn of Reagan’s conservative leadership in the U.S. as well as the introduction of televangelism. She drew inspiration from Argentina in the late ‘70s when around 500 children in the lower class “disappeared” and were later placed in certain leader’s homes. The list goes on and they are interesting to look into.

The Handmaid’s Tale will make you value what you have in life, inspect every inch of your love’s body and tendencies, remind yourself to not take everything for granted in your privileged day-to-day, to stand up and fight for women, the LGBTQ community, minorities and any oppressed groups of people, and for you women readers - to proudly carry your womanhood.

7. The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman: Fiction Fantasy, Magical Realism

If you’re into magic, tincture making, or are a fan of Harry Potter, you’ll love this book. I hadn’t realized the connection between this book and the predecessor book which was made into a movie Practical Magic, which I love.

It’s an entrancing story that will stick with you long after the last page is read. This is a book I foresee reading over and over again.

8. Mercy for Animals by Nathan Runkle: Non-Fiction Vegan, Animals

Nathan Runkle is a compelling storyteller and captivated my attention from the beginning. Not only does he pull on heartstrings with visual descriptions, but he also is informative in the way he explains current laws state to state as well as federally as it pertains to farm animals welfare.

This book and hearing Nathan talk in person have truly changed the way I approach food and my understanding of the animal agriculture industry. It is easy to overlook what is really happening on the farms that provide most of the grocery stores with the meat and dairy products we purchase. We live in a day in age where we are desensitized to the inner-makings of the food we put into our bodies because it is conveniently out of our reach and does not require that we do the research ourselves.

I urge you to educate yourself and decide for yourself if you agree with the practices farms use and if you want to support such practices.

If eating less meat or going vegetarian or vegan have been an interest to you, but you just haven’t been able to push yourself to do it, I highly recommend you read this book. It will help you make the decision.

9. Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner: Historical Fiction Literature, Classics

Gave me goosebumps. Almost cried. What a sorrowful yet hopeful novel.

It is like the clashing of Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier — with a west rather than east setting — and all of the proprieties of a Jane Austen novel that are fought to be upheld.

The story follows a proper woman in the 18th century who is an accomplished artist. She moves out west to follow her new husband whom she barely knows before agreeing to marry. It is told from the perspective of her grandson in the 1970s. He, an older man with a recently amputated leg, spends his days devouring his grandmother’s correspondences throughout her life to piece together her tale. Throughout his explorations, he is hard on his grandmother’s thoughts and actions specifically relating to how she viewed and treated her husband, his beloved grandfather. He searches and discovers why she behaved as she did, why she thought the way she did, and gleans some understanding of his own circumstances from it.

Wallace Stegner’s descriptions are captivating, the development of his characters robust, and he paints the wild west with hopelessly devoted pioneers craving success from the new world they plan to build. It gave me an appreciation for the life I have out here in the west now because of such pioneers.

10. One Day in December by Josie Silver: Fiction Chick-lit, Romance, Contemporary, Christmas

This literally took me one day in December to read. It’s a light page-turning Chick-literature novel.

The protagonist, while traveling home in London after a long, unfulfilling day at work, on the top of a double-decker bus, makes an electrifying connection with a man outside of the bus stop. The bus drives away before either of them do anything about it, and she spends over a year looking for him in every tube, bus, and bar she’s in. Then one day, she finally finds him, only he’s her best friend’s new boyfriend.

Such a great, relatable cozy read.

*BONUS!*

I HAD to include this last book because I went crazy over it. You may not know yet, but I’m a huge Young Adult fan—especially those sweet romantic ones :)

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Jenny Han has easily become one of my new favorite YA novelists. The way she depicts teenagers is authentic and realistic.

In To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, you can’t help but relate to and love all of her characters. It’s such a quick read and way too much fun. It’ll make you feel like a schoolgirl again. I’m pretty sure I squealed out loud several times while reading this.

Happy Reading!

Rachel