Tag Archives: Lynda Barry

Monthly Wrap-up: February 2015 Reads

February kind of flew by, didn’t it? It turned out to be a great reading month for me, though – I managed to finish 13 books! It breaks down to three audiobooks, two graphic novels, and eight print books. No ebooks! Which is a little surprising, although I did finish Stephen King’s IT in ebook format (because it was too suspenseful to finish in audio).

Here are my February 2015 reads, in the order I read them – and oh, can I just say here, I love love love my reading spreadsheets – never before have I had access to such information about my reading! Before I started keeping track this year, I would have been hard-pressed to tell you what I’d just finished reading the previous week, much less the format and the order of reading!


What Did You Eat Yesterday? by Fumi Yoshinaga (manga/graphic novel). This is definitely one for those who like graphic novels about food. It’s the story of Shiro and Kenji, a gay couple living in Tokyo and the food they eat. Lots of cooking on these pages, plus a recipe after each story. Do not read on an empty stomach, or you’ll find yourself raiding the fridge.

Blood Harvest by S.J. Bolton (Sharon Bolton) (print copy). This is the third book written by Bolton, but the first one of hers that I’ve read (although I think I may have previously read the first in her Lacey Flint series a while back). This was a suspenseful mystery, with a nice twist at the end. My favourite character was Harry, the vicar. I didn’t like the way the book ended, in the epilogue, but I really enjoyed the book as a whole.

Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson (print copy). The story of a truly epic detour that Amy, whose dad has recently died, takes with Roger, the son of an old friend of her mom’s, when they drive cross country to the new life her mother’s making for herself in Connecticut. This is not the type of book that normally finds its way into my TBR, and I don’t know what prompted me to put it there in the first place, but I’m very glad that I did. The depiction of Amy’s grief felt so very true to me.

“Good-byes didn’t seem as important to me as they once had – I’d found that when you’re never going to see someone again, it’s not the good-bye that matters. What matters is that you’re never going to be able to say anything else to them. And you’re left with an eternal unfinished conversation. (p. 118)

IT by Stephen King (audiobook) (I talk about it here). I started this one in January, but it got so intense near the end, I had to wait until I could get an ebook copy from my library to finish it.  I really liked the way King went from the present to the past so effortlessly, without giving the reader any jolts. An enjoyable read, although I still say – what was up with that scene with Bev and the boys? It was SO unnecessary.


Saga Vol 4 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (graphic novel). I really enjoyed this one, although I’m a little embarrassed to admit, I was talking with Tasha earlier today about the Saga series and totally forgot I’d read volume 4 already. (I told her I really had to get to it – haha!). I think mostly I had it confused with volume 5, which hasn’t been released yet. That’s my story, anyway, and yes, I’m sticking with it. My bad book memory should in no way reflect on the awesomeness of this series.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (audiobook). I will probably be in the minority here, but I enjoyed Fangirl mostly for the Simon and Baz segments (and I’m thrilled that Rowell is going to be releasing a book about Simon and Baz!). And it was lovely seeing Cath finally figure out how to be her own person who can stand apart from her twin Wren. The characters are also nicely developed – not just Cath and Wren, but Reagan, Cath’s roommate and Levi, Cath’s boyfriend. Where the story dragged a little for me was Cath and Levi’s relationship, once they were clearly together. But overall, I enjoyed this one.

The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami (print book). This was another good read – my first Murakami that wasn’t a short story, although I can’t call it my first full-length Murakami either, as it’s more of a novella. The illustrations really added to the very strange and quirky story. It was a fun read, and at the end, there are quite a few ways you can take the final paragraph. It does take some getting used to, this not being able to say with any certainty exactly what’s meant by that last paragraph. But that’s also part of the appeal, I think.

Sacrifice by S.J. Bolton (Sharon Bolton) (print book). I enjoyed Blood Harvest so much, I decided to check out Bolton’s debut novel. It definitely didn’t disappoint, coming as it does with twists galore. You do have to read it fully willing to suspend your disbelief, as the plot does get quite wild there at the end. It’s a page-turner, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself staying up late into the night to finish this one.


Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman (print copy). Trigger Warning is a collection of Gaiman’s short stories and poems. Very very lovely read, especially if you’re a Gaiman fan. I wrote more about it here so I won’t repeat myself now.

Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor by Lynda Barry (print copy). Yes, I finally did finish this one! And it took me a while not because it wasn’t good – it was very very good – but because I’d put it down on my desk and it got buried under a pile of papers. (I find it impossible to keep my desk tidy.) Since it’s nonfiction, I didn’t miss it the way I would a story I was in the middle of. But I’m glad I remembered to dig it out and finish it, because it was very very good (oh, did I say that already?). If you’re interested in creativity, imagination or drawing comics, this is a fun one to read.

Victims by Jonathan Kellerman (audiobook). Kellerman’s Alex Delaware series is basically a comfort series for me. For the longest while now, I only ever read these in audio, and I obviously don’t retain much of what I hear, as another blogger recently reviewed this book and I was all like “hey, you mean there’s an Alex Delaware novel I haven’t read?” because the plot did not sound familiar at all to me. So I borrowed this from the library, and started listening to it. And while I was listening to it, bits and pieces felt very familiar. It wasn’t until I was about halfway through that I realized I’d already read this one before. But despite this, I still couldn’t remember how it ended, so I just kept on going with it.

Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders (print copy). If E. Nesbit’s Five Children and It formed any part of your childhood reading, then you really must pick up this wonderful book by Kate Saunders. Saunders has taken the story of the five children (now six) and the Psammead ten years into the future, when England is at war with Germany. It is a lovely read, and it made me cry. I knew it would.


Awakening by S.J. Bolton (Sharon Bolton) (print copy). As you can see, I was somewhat enamoured of Ms. Bolton last month. Awakening is her second book, and another enjoyable read. It wasn’t quite as twist-worthy as Sacrifice and Blood Harvest but it was still a good read. I do enjoy the characters Bolton creates – in this case, particularly Clara, with that giant chip on her shoulder (and understandably so). And the larger than life Sean North! He was fun to read about.

So those are the books I read in February. Hopefully I will do as well in March! How did your reading go in February?

Putting a habit trigger to work: daily journaling

Have you heard of habit triggers? In addition to helping you get rid of bad habits, you’re supposed to be able to use them to get develop new, positive habits, too.

According to Leo Babauta,

Habits become automatic after we’ve created a bond between the trigger and the habit — the stronger the bond, the more ingrained the habit.

He then goes on to outline some common triggers, which include waking up, eating breakfast, your morning commute, your afternoon commute – really, anything that you do every day can become a habit trigger.

I have wanted to develop a consistent journaling habit for a very long time. The key term there is “consistent”. I have so many notebooks and journals lying around with a page or two filled, a sign of my many attempts to develop a journaling habit.


And why do I keep trying? Because I do feel that compulsion to write things down, as Joan Didion describes in her marvellous essay, “On Keeping a Notebook” (pdf):

The impulse to write things down is a peculiarly compulsive one, inexplicable to those who do not share it, useful only accidentally, only secondarily, in the way that any compulsion tries to justify itself. I suppose that it begins or does not begin in the cradle. Although I have felt compelled to write things down since I was five years old, I doubt that my daughter ever will, for she is a singularly blessed and accepting child, delighted with life exactly as life presents itself to her, unafraid to go to sleep and unafraid to wake up. Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearrangers of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss.

It’s just that I don’t feel that compulsion consistently. Hence all those aborted attempts at keeping a regular journal.

So I decided to try using a habit trigger. I have a morning ritual that’s quite indulgent – it includes meditation (good) and surfing around online (not so sure about this one). It’s not the most productive of rituals, but it’s definitely become my morning ritual.

Last week, I decided I’d add journaling into the mix. And to make things easier on myself, I also decided to use my Bullet Journal. I put all of the rest of my life in that journal anyway, so why not, right?

What I’ve been doing is writing in my Bullet Journal every morning. I write about what I’m thinking, ideas I have, what I’d like to get done. Then I do a very very short to-do list for the day. I love the idea of to-do lists but I’m very bad at them. Even though I only have between two to four items on my daily to-do list, often I only accomplish half of the items. Some days, only one.

How has it been working out? It’s only been a week, but it’s already starting to feel like a habit! So this habit trigger thing seems to work.

Once I have this new routine nailed down, I’d like to work on a nightly observation log a la Lynda Barry.  The only problem? I don’t have something I do consistently every night (other than going to bed and all the things associated with that – none of which feels conducive to sitting down and writing).

When I’m on deadline, I usually work until I am too tired to think straight. And when I’m not on deadline, I do a lot of puddling around, but nothing consistently. I was thinking maybe my night time ritual should be reading followed by an observation log. And the habit trigger could be … feeling tired? Hmmm. That doesn’t sound like it will work!

Photo credit

Snapshot: 12-30-2014

Time:  12:51 p.m.


My pajamas


Anticipation! It’s going to be an exciting new year, and I’ve been immersed in planning and preparation – activities which always motivate me.

Photo of the week:

Family Christmas


We had the Wong family Christmas at my sister’s place yesterday. My uncle Joe composed a song for us, and my mom scooted in beside her brother for a picture op. They are both in their late 70s, and are great role models for living life fully, regardless of your age.


Nothing yet. I’ll have to check the fridge for leftovers when I finish this post. I’m not much of a breakfast eater (unless someone else wants to make me bacon and eggs), so I usually eat my first meal quite late in the day.


A decaf Americano from Starbucks. Ward has taken to going to Starbucks in the morning, so he brings me back one. We bought the reusable Starbucks cups so we don’t have to feel guilty about having to toss the cup.


Syllabus by Lynda Barry


Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor, by Lynda Barry. It’s been on my wishlist ever since it came out a few months ago, and my sister gave it to me yesterday for Christmas. I love Lynda Barry’s previous book, What It Is, and I am loving Syllabus even more- it’s inspiring me to start keeping a proper notebook (one of my 2015 goals). Brainpickings featured the book here (I haven’t read the article yet because I didn’t want it to spoil the surprise of actually leafing through the physical book).


168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, by Laura Vanderkam, which I first heard about from Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness. I’m hoping it will help me see time from a new perspective, so I won’t always be feeling so time-crunched in the new year. I have a lot of goals, and I definitely need more time in order to follow-through on each one of them!


Nothing yet. I know, this is what I wrote in last week’s snapshot, too. But I’m gearing up to start on January 1.


Just a little bit, although I’ll have to start again in earnest tomorrow. On the weekend I had to submit blog topics for approval from a client, but that was it. I’m writing a business article and will need to follow up on some interview questions I sent out for it, and I have a humungous index that’s due the middle of next week, so I can’t really take any more time off after today. But – I still have all of today!


Nothing yet, but I have a ton of ideas for the new year. I’m signing up for Creative Every Day and hope to do much better with this challenge than the last time I signed up for it. I’ll be creating a new Tumblr to help keep me accountable.


I love cooperative board games! I gave my son Sean several different adult cooperative board games, and I’ve been enjoying playing them with him. I have my eye on Eldritch Horror now, another game that’s based on the Lovecraftian universe. And we’re planning on making Sunday nights our family game nights.

Looking forward to:

The new year! I am promising myself to stay motivated and productive in 2015, something which I definitely wasn’t in 2014, and I’m really excited about the changes I plan to make in my life.

The rest of today:

I’ll be going to the afternoon performance of the National Ballet of Canada’s Nutcracker. Ward got us standing room seats again. It will be the fourth time I’ve seen the performance. We only go in for Act 2 (it’s rough going on my back to stand for BOTH acts!) which is the act that Dylan’s in. We had wonderful seats on the Sunday before Christmas, so I’m not complaining about standing room – it gives us the chance to see him perform, without being too costly. I swear, I could watch him dancing over and over and never be bored of it!

For the Joy of It


I spent yesterday afternoon curled up on the sofa, reading Lynda Barry’s What It Is.

This past year, I’ve borrowed What It Is from the library three different times. Twice now, I had to return the book to the library unread, but third time’s a charm, don’t they say? I’m very glad, because this is a book I was meant to read.

I’ve spent a long time pursuing something magical that’s eluded me for most of my adult life; until I was well into my late teens, writing was something I did simply because, when I wrote, I slipped into another world. Time lost all meaning; I plied my art with utter absorption.

And then I grew up. I became an adult, and I misplaced my keys to that world.

I’ve been looking for those keys for so many years.  I’ve searched high and low. I’ve enlisted books on creativity for help. I’ve called what I’ve been searching for many things: the flow, process, the zone.

And yesterday, as I curled up with Lynda Barry’s What It Is, I found those keys again. I can feel them, right now, in my hot little hands.

What It Is

I was so excited as Barry began talking about her own childhood world of drawing and storytelling, of that state of absorption, where time is warped. She talked about that floating feeling of being both there and not there, and what she described was so familiar to me. So joyously familiar.

And then I turned the page, and she began talking about how she discovered her way back to that world.

It all boils down, of course, to simply writing for the joy of it – not for the accolades, not for money, not even for other people to read. And I’ve always known this intellectually, but knowing it and experiencing it are two very different things.

What Barry showed me was how to experience this again.

In that vital daydream state from which all of my writing flows, my stories always play out in my mind as moving images, a movie. But when I sit down to the physical act of writing, I forget to experience the images, and instead try to do everything with thoughts alone.

Thoughts can take me pretty far. From a single opening image, I have been able to use thought to propel me tens of thousands of words into a story. But it’s the experiencing of the images that I’ve been missing. It’s this experiencing that has the energy to take me through to the end of the story.

So now I have the keys again. I know now I can go back to writing for the joy of it, immersed in that floating feeling of both being here and not being here.