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On Reading Challenges for 2011

Posted on January 13, 2011. Filed under: Blogs, Books, Musings | Tags: , , , , , |

I realize it’s pretty popular to host reading challenges now. People seem to get amped up and rush into them with the banners waving. I’ve also noticed there are a ridiculous variety of these challenges.

One in particular caught my attention and got me started thinking about the challenges in general. It’s by Historically Obsessed and is a Lauren Willig Reading Challenge. Of course, if you’ve read my blog, you’ve probably gotten a little sick of my admiration for Lauren Willig’s historical spy series, but I can’t really help that; she’s one of my favorite authors.

The challenge asks readers to take on reading all the books in her series in a year. Currently there are 7 books out and one more coming in the end of January. That makes eight books total to read in the series over the course of the year. That’s not half bad, and I’ve been thinking of rereading the books on my list, so I might give it a go if the last two books have come out in paperback by the end of the year.

I started looking up reading challenges, though, and I came across this blog, which tries to stay current with all novel and non-fiction reading challenges thrown out there on the blogosphere. As I started reading through just a handful of the challenges for the year, I was struck by how serious some people are about these challenges.

Now, for the record, I’ve given myself some challenges. I plan to read at least 50 books this year, interspersed with a smattering of new authors and genres to open my outlook a bit. I think that plus the Lauren Willig Reading Challenge are all good things and things I would normally have come up with on my own.

Then there are challenges like the Gilmore Girls Reading Challenge that takes a list of all books quoted, mentioned, or otherwise shown throughout all episodes and puts together a challenge for readers. Now it may be because I’m just not big into television and haven’t really caught onto a show that I wanted to watch since NCIS aired, but this strikes me a little much. The challenge files the books into categories and asks readers to pick a level, which determines how many titles from each category they will read during the year.

I like the idea of reading a variety of books, don’t get me wrong. But I think I’ll pick that out myself for now. I’ve actually already managed to branch into some books I never thought of reading before simply by picking them up from my pile and starting in on reading them. Perhaps these reading challenges are a good idea if you’re not into reading a variety of books or have gotten stuck reading a few authors and aren’t willing to branch out.

I decided last month I would try to branch out this year because I think it will make me a better author to be more well-rounded in my reading.

Does that mean I think I’m better than those of you doing reading challenges? Of course not! It just means that, for me, the reading challenges don’t seem like ones that I would enjoy. There are lots of titles on that Gilmore Girls list that I’ve put on the backburner and several that I’ve already read; so it’s not like I couldn’t join in the challenge. I’d just rather do my own challenge and read things that will both interest me and help me grow as a writer. And I’ll add that I want to do it in my own way.

If anything, I’d start a reading challenge to throw out all the other challenges and read a specified number of books within the year where you’re trying to challenge yourself to read outside your genre and author preferences. For me, the key is to read things I enjoy in between reading new genres and authors; that makes all the difference.

I hope this hasn’t come across as necessarily condescending. It’s just my thoughts for myself on reading challenges. I may yet join in the Lauren Willig one, but that’s one that I’ve been toying around with doing for a while now on my own. Joining the challenge has no real bearing on my doing it besides motivating me to post thoughtful reviews and commentary on the Historically Obsessed contest page.

Perhaps I should participate in a reading challenge this year simply to see what all the commotion is about. We’ll see.

What about you? Are you going to participate in any reading challenges? Which ones? Let me know what you think because I’m always curious!

Oh, and I’ll post another blog soon with my reviews on two of the books I finished this week: Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game and James Patterson’s Mary, Mary. So I hope you’ll look forward to those! Now I’m off to find another book to read to satiate my book lust!

Rae

P.S. I’m enjoying that challenging myself to do the reading has gotten me reading a few of those pesky books on my list that were sitting around my room looking lonely and unloved. Have you been doing the same?

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On Buttons, Badges, Or Whatever You Call Them

Posted on March 11, 2010. Filed under: Blogs, Musings | Tags: , , |

So I’ve been looking at all the beautiful buttons, badges, and other fun, linkable things on people’s blogs as I browse. Of course, there are a ton of various blogging groups you can join that will encourage you to put up a custom button from their website to link back to their page.

I’ll admit to a bit of jealousy. I want a badge for my own blog. And I don’t want one that’s necessarily to just plug my blog but to plug some sort of effort I’m doing that others could join in on. Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of button-making experience, and my creativity to that end is nil.

I asked a friend how to make buttons, and his response was that I should open a picture or other JPEG in Photoshop, add in whatever modifications (i.e. text) I want, resize to appropriate sizes, link and upload. Well, I have a few problems with that:

1. I have no idea how all the websites I’ve seen format their own buttons and badges. I have no HTML skills whatsoever and know next to nothing about link-backs and whatnot.

2. I can’t for the life of me understand how many pixels it takes to fill up a certain small amount of space (for example: my sidebars).

3. I’m just plain uncreative.

So I did the next best thing. I took a photo I did for a photography class in college, made a duplicate, and opened it up to be edited. I don’t have Photoshop, but I do have a Mac with a few programs that are somewhat useful for the Photoshop-deprived.

With one program, I changed the photo to a funky black and white version that I really find fun and interesting. I also resized it and re-saved it. Then I opened it in another Mac program, Preview, and resized it yet again and put in text. A little tinkering, a little saving, a little renaming, and PRESTO! Instant badge!

I still have no idea how to actually get it working, but for the record: I worked hard on this little guy. So, now, for your viewing pleasure: my Wednesday Edits badge.

He’s a little too big and unwieldy as he is now, so I may go back and resize him again to get him down to a manageable level, but I think he’s cute.

So once I have it more manageable, I’ll put up another post with my pretty badge. For the record, this one is strictly for my Wednesday Edits sessions, and if I get ambitious enough, I’ll actually write out a description of the post and offer up the badge for use by other ambitious self-editing authors.

What do you think? Good or bad or indifferent? It was fun to play around with my limited resources and see what I could come up with.

Oh, and by the way, this isn’t my Thursday post. It’s just an aside from the normal! So enjoy the extra post or ignore it as you will! I’ll return later with more fun and randomness for your reading pleasure.

-Rae-

P.S. My badge is currently linked back to the original place I’ve hosted it: my deviantART page. Feel free to click on the link and take a look at my page if you’re interested, and if not, that’s fine, too!

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Blog About It – Ed Wilson

Posted on March 4, 2010. Filed under: Blogs, Reviews | Tags: , , |

I don’t really have a theme for Thursdays. That’s okay. I’m going to do a blog review today because I’m enjoying reading some blogs, and perhaps I can find new blogs to read by searching out some of them. Before I do, though, I’m going to review some of my favorites that I’ve found through the month of February.

With no further ado, let me introduce, for your viewing pleasure, Ed Wilson. Find her in my blogroll or here, and you’ll be thrust into the wit, insight, and information she peppers in her posts. She is the author of the website “Her Name Is Ed Wilson.” In the interest of full disclosure, Ed also has a Twitter that she’s begun. If you find her posts interesting, you can follow her there. On Twitter, Ed goes by @SheisEdWilson, unless of course, I made some mistake in that name. (Sorry if I did, Ed!)

E.D. Wilson (but you can call her Ed) blogs about all things writing, reading, video gaming, opining, and other various topics. I’ve been reading her posts from early February on, and I’m really intrigued. Her voice is refreshing, full of humor, and worth listening to, in my humble opinion.

Living in the Southeast, she’s currently working in a family business and among the masses who are trying to grasp some form of employment. Though she’s making money, so she’s doing better than I am currently! A college grad, Ed has visions of one day becoming a published author and wowing her family and friends with her writerly credentials.

The author of There Are No Gods For Arthropods, Ed recently submitted her manuscript to Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Awards contest and made it through the first round of cuts. It’s all very exciting, and I’m rooting her on.

To give you an idea of what she writes, recent posts have featured the TV show Chuck, Dr. Seuss’s 106th birthday, and Craigslist. It’s a fairly eclectic mix that’s light-hearted and fun to read. And, unlike me, Ed’s posts don’t go on for days and days. 😀 (I admit; she has some longer posts, but they’re definitely worth the read!)

She announced today that she’ll be moving to a three-day-a-week posting schedule and plans to post on a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule. So if you’re looking for a new blog, I’d suggest trying out Ed’s posts. They’re fresh and intriguing, and she always asks great questions.

With that said, I’m not sure I did an adequate job on my first blog review, but it was fun, and I’ve been wanting to review some of my friends’ blogs since I think they’re awesome. Be looking forward to more reviews in the future! And, while I’m thinking about it, does anyone have any blogs they follow that are just amazing? Let me know; I’m on the lookout for new material, especially if the blog focuses more on writing about books, writing, editing, publishing, or things of that nature!

-Rae-

P.S. If I feature your blog in a review, don’t think I’m looking for a similar favor. I just want to get some good names out there for people to read. 😀

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