Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Zoning Out by Jodi Moore

This month, we’re offering random recommendations. Mine? Try something new.


Well, duh, you might respond. Isn’t that what a recommendation is?


To which I answer, ‘kind of’. Think about it. If you go into a bookstore and ask for a suggestion, odds are the salesperson will ask you what you like and then make their recommendation based upon your specific preferences.


I’m talking about something truly new. Something out of your comfort zone. Perhaps something you’ve never considered – or even avoided.


I’ve always been a beach person. The ocean was my happy place, where the scent of the sea air, the sound of the pounding waves, the rush of the frigid water sloshing around my toes and the lingering taste of salt on my tongue put me in a meditative trance. I zoned out. It rejuvenated me.


The pandemic took that away.


On the other hand, I’ve never been a woodsy person, particularly because of the bugs. Truth? I avoided it because of the bugs. But there’s a nature trail on one side of our development and one day, I wandered in. Just a little. I saw birds. And butterflies. And sunlight through the trees. The next day, I wandered in a little bit more. I brought my camera. I saw more. Rabbits. Squirrels. A deer drinking from the rushing stream.






Before I knew it, I had walked the entire trail. It put me in a meditative trance. I zoned out. It rejuvenated me.


Sometimes, the best thing you can do for yourself is the thing you’ve been avoiding.



Saturday, April 10, 2021

Random Recommendation: Do Something You Aren't Good At (And Maybe Don't Even Like) by Sydney Salter

Confession: Poetry has always made me feel dumb. Words all twisted with secret meanings that I never quite felt comfortable about understanding. I remember my high school English teacher reading the line "big as a house" and saying, "of course she's pregnant." And I was like, WHAAAT?!? Didn't see that coming! 

I considered poetry the frenemy of my English major throughout college. Ever-present. Never fully embraced. Super annoying.

After a year of pandemic weirdness, I am compelled to do things that get me out of my comfort zone, if not out of my house just yet. I am doing crossword puzzles, which I also dislike, and also make me feel dumb--teasing me with their playful little clues (and utter lack of knowledge about baseball players).

Now I am regularly writing and reading poetry. A real life actual poet friend recommended books by Ted Kooser and Mary Oliver. I am reading the books, writing poems, and reading poems every night before bed, which turns out to be better than looking at my phone before sleeping. I feel slightly accountable to my poet friend to give it a good go.

I have written a lot of bad poetry. Too many poems about rats for some reason. I have also started to write a few poems that are okay. I still couldn't confidently tell you the difference between a dactyl and a trochee. But I think I get spondee. I am revising the poems I write to make them better. That's the trick to taking any kind of writing seriously, isn't it? Revision, revision, revision.

Poems and crosswords seem to have something in common, I'm learning, in the way they each use figurative language, make words fun (I'm getting there). 

I'm not sure how this experiment is affecting my novel writing, but I think it's been good to remember that practice turns things that make us feel dumb, or things that we dislike, into things we can actually do. And competence is usually enjoyable. 

Happy National Poetry Month! 

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

You Asked for Random? You Got It (Mary Strand)

This month at YA Outside the Lines we’re supposed to offer random recommendations, mostly to give us (the bloggers) a wide-open topic to write about, perhaps because someone knew I haven’t even begun to work on taxes and don’t have time to think right now, let alone blog. (Thank you.)

By the way, I think our recommendations are maybe supposed to be book related, but I’m good with the word random.

Last month I highlighted six girls or young women I admired, so this month I’ll double that and offer 12 random recommendations, partly because it’s a random thing to do.

1. Do your taxes way before the absolute deadline. <ha ha ha ha ha!>

2. You’ve probably seen the movie Crazy Rich Asians (and if you haven’t, you should, if only to see Awkwafina, who is HILARIOUS), but I just read the book, and IT IS SO GOOD. Now I’ll watch the movie again.


3. Candles. They smell good even if you never light them. I never light them, and my daughter thinks this is crazy of me, and that’s good, too.

4. When you’re traveling (ONCE AGAIN!), put sheets of Bounce in your suitcase so your clothes smell great. I also put them in my convertible when I store it in the winter, and it has the added bonus of keeping mice out.


5. Zoom writing groups. Ohmygod, this is Changing My Life!! We generally have one or two daily sessions (usually two hours at a time), five days a week, and you can log in for whichever sessions you want. If we want, we list our goals for the session, and then everyone mutes. You just sit there and work for two hours while people can see you but not say anything, and it seems creepy, but you SERIOUSLY get stuff done. I usually work on my novels during these sessions, but sometimes I write songs, and the group thinks it’s hilarious to watch me rocking out on guitar when they can’t hear anything.

6. The movie Pirate Radio. HIGHLY recommend. And the ending is probably my favorite happy ending in the history of happy endings.


7. Live music.  Any way you can possibly get it, but preferably outdoors.

8. Clinique Smart Night dry combo moisturizer. My daughter (age 20) is leap years ahead of me in all things beauty and beauty products. (If it weren’t for our strawberry-blond hair, I would suspect she was switched at birth.)  I admit it’s expensive (which is not like me), but I feel and see the results. Put it on at bedtime, but especially under your eyes. Your face and my daughter will thank you.


9. Huge blackberries. They’re much sweeter than smaller ones, and blackberries are one of the healthiest fruits you can eat, so you don’t even realize you’re being good.

10. Mask and vaccinate! At this point most of us have tons of masks, but I got a pack of 50 purple disposable ones just for working out. (They usually last for about three workouts.) They’re easier to breathe in because you don’t inhale the mask when you breathe in, and it’s purple, so it matches my bike shoes, and if matching doesn’t matter to you ... well, YOU’RE WRONG.  (heh heh.)


11. 5-minute sleep meditations. We got a Peloton bike a couple of months ago, and it’s great, but what has turned into THE best thing about Peloton is their app, because it offers tons of five-minute classes, and my favorite are the five-minute meditations (especially by Anna Greenberg) that help you fall asleep. I’ve often had trouble falling asleep, because my mind starts going a million miles an hour the moment I lie down, and now I’m out cold almost the moment the 5-minute meditation ends. Note: I happen to do Peloton, but there must be other 5-minute sleep meditations out there. I know I also said this about my Zoom writing group, but this has changed my life.

12. Ben & Jerry’s snackable dough. Because God loves you and wants you to be happy. Or, if God isn’t present in your life, because I’m here rooting for you, too.


Mary Strand is the author of Pride, Prejudice, and Push-Up Bras and three other novels in the Bennet Sisters YA series. You can find out more about her at marystrand.com.