Day #1 of My Challenge to Read Every Novel that has won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction #MondayBlogs #Pulitzer #ReadingChallenge

I’m starting a new project today! Although I’m sure the project will not literally kill me, it is going to be a HUGE challenge. What, exactly, am I talking about? Well, I’ve decided to read every single one of the novels that has won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction since the inception of the prize in 1918. *Gulp*

Gen_pulitzerWhy am I doing this? Have I lost my freaking mind? Probably. To be totally honest, I feel as if my knowledge of American literature is lacking. I remember a class in law school about Henry Miller. I had absolutely no clue who he was! *Blushes* I can’t entirely blame the US educational system on my lack of knowledge. I only spent half of my high school years in the US, and I was obsessed with all things foreign at the time. (I always knew I would leave the US and live abroad.) I spent one year reading all the works of Shakespeare and another semester obsessed with Russian literature. Then came college, which I finished in three years. In order to accomplish that feat, while working full-time mind you, I didn’t have any time for electives. I plowed through the requirements to get a Bachelor’s degree in history. It’s not too surprising that the course work did not include any classes in American literature.

Now, the time has arrived for me to rectify this embarrassing lack of knowledge. After all, you can’t be a writer without being a reader. But why the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction? Honestly, I wanted to read the top 100 American novels, but the top 100 according to whom? There are tons and tons of lists. How to choose? There just wasn’t a way to choose the best list, so I went with a well-known and well-respected prize instead a.k.a. The Pulitzer.

Here’s the list of the novels I’ll be reading:

Year Novel Author
2018 Less Andrew Sean Greer
2017 The Underground Railroad Colson Whitehead
2016 The Sympathizer Viet Thang Nguyen
2015 All the Light We Cannot See Anthony Doeer
2014 The Goldfinch Donna Tartt
2013 The Orphan Master’s Son Adam Johnson
2012 No Award Given  
2011 A Visit From the Goon Squad Jennifer Egan
2010 Tinkers Paul Harding
2009 Olive Kitteridge Elizabeth Strout
2008 The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Junot Díaz
2007 The Road Cormac McCarthy
2006 March Geraldine Brooks
2005 Gilead Marilynne Robinson
2004 The Known World Edward P. Jones
2003 Middlesex Jeffrey Eugenides
2002 Empire Falls Richard Russo
2001 The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay Michael Chabon
2000 Interpreter of Maladies Jhumpa Lahiri
1999 The Hours Michael Cunningham
1998 American Pastoral Philip Roth
1997 Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer Steven Millhauser
1996 Independence Day Richard Ford
1995 The Stone Diaries Carol Shields
1994 The Shipping News E. Annie Proulx
1993 A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain Robert Olen Butler
1992 A Thousand Acres Jane Smiley
1991 Rabbit at Rest John Updike
1990 The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love Oscar Hijuelos
1989 Breathing Lessons Anne Tyler
1988 Beloved Toni Morrison
1987 A Summons to Memphis Peter Taylor
1986 Lonesome Dove Larry McMurtry
1985 Foreign Affairs Alison Lurie
1984 Ironweed William Kennedy
1983 The Color Purple Alice Walker
1982 Rabbit Is Rich John Updike
1981 A Confederacy of Dunces John Kennedy Toole
1980 The Executioner’s Song Norman Mailer
1979 The Stories of John Cheever John Cheever
1978 Elbow Room James Alan McPherson
1977 No award given  
1976 Humboldt’s Gift Saul Bellow
1975 The Killer Angels Michael Shaara
1974 No award given  
1973 The Optimist’s Daughter Eudora Welty
1972 Angle of Repose Wallace Stegner
1971 No award given  
1970 The Collected Stories of Jean Stafford Jean Stafford
1969 House Made of Dawn N. Scott Momaday
1968 The Confessions of Nat Turner William Styron
1967 The Fixer Bernard Malamud
1966 The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter Katherine Anne Porter
1965 The Keepers of the House Shirley Ann Grau
1964 No award given  
1963 The Reivers William Faulkner
1962 The Edge of Sadness Edwin O’Connor
1961 To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee
1960 Advise and Consent Allen Drury
1959 The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters Robert Lewis Taylor
1958 A Death in the Family James Agee
1957 No award given  
1956 Andersonville MacKinlay Kantor
1955 A Fable William Faulkner
1954 No award given  
1953 The Old Man and the Sea Ernest Hemingway
1952 The Caine Mutiny Herman Wouk
1951 The Town Conrad Richter
1950 The Way West A. B. Guthrie, Jr.
1949 Guard of Honor James Gould Cozzens
1948 Tales of the South Pacific James A. Michener
1947 All the King’s Men Robert Penn Warren
1946 no award given  
1945 A Bell for Adano John Hersey
1944 Journey in the Dark Martin Flavin
1943 Dragon’s Teeth Upton Sinclair
1942 In This Our Life Ellen Glasgow
1941 no award given  
1940 The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck
1939 The Yearling Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
1938 The Late George Apley John Phillips Marquand
1937 Gone with the Wind Margaret Mitchell
1936 Honey in the Horn Harold L. Davis
1935 Now in November Josephine Winslow Johnson
1934 Lamb in His Bosom Caroline Miller
1933 The Store Thomas Sigismund Stribling
1932 The Good Earth Pearl S. Buck
1931 Years of Grace Margaret Ayer Barnes
1930 Laughing Boy Oliver La Farge
1929 Scarlet Sister Mary Julia Peterkin
1928 The Bridge of San Luis Rey Thornton Wilder
1927 Early Autumn Louis Bromfield
1926 Arrowsmith Sinclair Lewis
1925 So Big Edna Ferber
1924 The Able McLaughlins Margaret Wilson
1923 One of Ours Willa Cather
1922 Alice Adams Booth Tarkington
1921 The Age of Innocence Edith Wharton
1920 No award given  
1919 The Magnificent Ambersons Booth Tarkington
1918 His Family Ernest Poole

Full disclosure: Please don’t expect me to finish one book a week. I’m not that crazy! But I will keep you up to date on my progress each Monday, so watch this space.

 

King’s Day ~ The Dutch excuse to have the party of all parties while decked out in orange #ExpatLife #ThisisHolland #KingsDay2018

Today, April 27th, is King Willem-Alexander’s birthday, which means it’s time for a party – obviously. The tradition of celebrating the monarch’s birthday in a country-wide celebration dates back to 1885 when a celebration for Crown Princess Wilhelmina’s fifth birthday was held on August 31st. After she ascended to the throne, the name was changed to Queen’s Day and thus began the tradition of celebrating the monarch’s birthday. Until 2013, the holiday has always been Queen’s Day as the Netherlands only had female monarchs in the 20th Century. (On a side note, Willem-Alexander has three daughters, so we will be going back to celebrating female monarchs after his reign.)

So, what do the Dutch do to celebrate the King’s birthday? The better question is what don’t they do? The first and most important thing is to dress in orange. The surname of the royal family, Van Oranje Nassau, happens to also correspond with the word for the color orange in Dutch – Oranje. (In case you’re wondering, the orange fruit in Dutch is a different word.) Everything is orange on King’s Day. Orange clothes. Orange hair. Orange face paint. Orange Streets. An orange pennant hung above the Dutch flag. Orange. Orange. Orange.

Now that we’ve established that everything is orange, what do people actually do on King’s Day? First and foremost, they sell junk, although I’m pretty sure they don’t actually use the word junk. On King’s Day, anyone and everyone can sell just about anything on the street. Seriously, nearly everything. The only things that are not allowed are alcohol (unless you have a permit) and spoiled food. Otherwise, it’s a free for all, although you do have to drink from plastic cups. I think I can handle that small sacrifice.

King's Day 2018.6

For those of us who don’t believe a party should be about shopping, there are plenty of other activities. The biggest attraction is musical entertainment. Although many partygoers head to Amsterdam where an outdoor concert draws 800,000 visitors, I avoid the city like the plague. The place is packed. Literally, you don’t walk down streets, you are jostled down them. My first year in the Netherlands, I insisted on going to Amsterdam. Big. Mistake. Gigantic. Huge. Mistake. By early afternoon, I was ready to go home, but we literally could not get anywhere. Not even on the side streets. Finally, I spotted a police officer (they’re easy to spot as the Dutch are the tallest people in the world). He was able to cut a path through the crowd and I was his tail. By the time we made it to the train station (luckily, the cop was going in the correct direction!), there was an entire parade of people following him. Never again.

Kings Day 2018 drukte

But there’s more! Fraternities and sororities make up all kinds of drunken games to raise money. There are carnival rides. Here in The Hague, we even have an entire carnival. Of course, there’s lots of food and beverage as well. Because there is no party without the obligatory orange beer, right?

King's Day 2018.10

And what’s a birthday celebration without gifts? It turns out that each year Dutch citizens leave thousands of gifts at the gates to the royal stables for the King. These gifts are catalogued and placed in the Royal Archives – a place that is not open to the public, but I was lucky enough to tour last year.

There’s tons more going on, but it’s time for me to head to the party. Proost!

King's Day 2018.11

When should you delete comments? Never? #WriterWednesday #AmWriting

It is an unfortunate fact of life that an artist’s work will be publicly criticized. Heck, sometimes the artist is personally criticized. Hopefully, the vast majority of the criticism received is positive or at least constructive. Naturally, that’s not always the case. Sometimes criticism is a blatant attack on the artist. Even worse is when a criticizer obviously did not read the work in question.

There have been many blogs and articles written about reviews on e-retailers and how to deal with those negative reviews. (I’ve even written one myself here.) I’m not going to discuss those types of issues here. Instead, I want to focus on comments on social media. Specifically, when is it okay to delete comments? Before I get into whether it’s a good idea to delete a comment or not, it’s important to know whether it’s even possible!

On Facebook and Instagram, you can delete comments without any administrative nonsense. See below. On the left is Facebook, on the right is Instagram. Easy Peasy.

deleting comments merge

Twitter doesn’t allow you to delete tweets from other users – which is how others ‘comment’ on your tweets. You can, however, report a tweet. Alternatively, you can also block or mute another person.

Deleting Comments

Now that we know how to delete or report comments on social media, the question remains: should we?

deleting comments 4

(c) Urban Dictionary

Initially, I was very hesitant to delete comments. I want readers to understand I’m a real person and not some polished version of myself. *Snorts at the idea of being polished* But then, I got my first ‘Mom comment’. Like most women of a certain age, my mother is a little confused about social media etiquette. All caps comments and comments ending with LOVE YOU MOM are the norm. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that. A bit embarrassing, but definitely ‘real’. I left that first comment, but the next comment from mom had nothing to do with my post, let alone with me as a writer. (It was a request to call Dad for Father’s Day.) I deleted that comment as my readers didn’t need to read that. (And yes, I called Dad.)

 

Are there other comments I delete? For sure! The tagline for my latest novel, Searching for Gertrude, is “How far would you go to find the woman you love?” I recently did a Facebook ad using this tagline. The first comment? “No woman is worth any effort.” It took me approximately 2 nanoseconds to decide to delete that comment. The comment had absolutely nothing to do with my novel or my author platform (and it pissed me off). Why should I keep it?

The final category of comments I delete is spam. I’m actually quite chuffed to receive spam on my posts. My social media accounts are worth spamming! In some perverse way that makes me feel like I’m doing something right.

What comments do you delete, if any?

 

What’s wrong with your (author) blog/website #MondayBlogs #AuthorMarketing #Marketing

At a recent networking event, I handed out my business card like candy thrown from a carnival parade (slight exaggeration as it is such a pain to carry a shovel with me everywhere). Naturally, I took all the business cards that were graciously handed to me as well. Instead of shoving those business cards in a drawer somewhere and forgetting about them, I decided to strengthen those in-person connections with social media. What did I discover? It wasn’t as easy to connect as I’d hoped.

Although most of the business cards had email addresses, I didn’t bother with those. I didn’t have a specific enquiry, I just wanted to connect for possible future enquiries (book review requests, author collaboration, etc.). Instead, I went to the websites listed on the cards and discovered several common problems with the websites. Here’s what I discovered wrong with most of those blogs:

social media linksNo Social Media Links If you have any sort of business in the 21st Century, you need to be on social media – not every single platform but at least one or two. And before you start to argue that being an author isn’t a business, let me just stop you. If you want to sell your books, you are most definitely in business.

Hidden Social Media Links The entire point of social media is to be visible. I don’t want to have to scroll through a menu to find your social media links, which are hidden somewhere on your blog. Personally, I think your social media links should be visible on every single page of your website/blog. I have mine on my main sidebar. My main sidebar is on the right-side of my blog, but you can put it anywhere you want – just put it somewhere!

Difficult Navigation Your menu should be placed in a visible location and be obvious. Personally, I’m not a fan of a menu that is only visible when you click upon it. I don’t always notice those three horizontal lines floating somewhere on the page. Maybe I’m just plain old, but it isn’t obvious to me that it’s a menu!

share blog postUnable to share blog posts There’s no point in having a blog – in my humble opinion – if others can’t share your posts. There’s nothing worse than reading an interesting post and wanting to share it but being unable to because there is no option to share or the sharing option doesn’t work.

Blog post share without your tag Sometimes it’s possible to share a blog post but the blog owner is not identified in the share. Make sure your handle is included! Having a tweet end with @wordpressdotcom instead of your twitter handle looks unprofessional.

Pop-ups I know there are tons of marketing advisors out there who insist that you include a pop-up for visitors to sign-up for your newsletter on your blog. I am not a fan. In fact, I think most people are fed up with pop-ups. Maybe this was a good gimmick a year or two ago, but it’s past it’s prime. We are inundated with pop-ups while online. I don’t even read them anymore. Click! Gone!

What other issues have you found on websites/blogs? Let me know.

 

 

Here comes the sun ~ The Dutch language and its obsession with weather #ExpatLife #ThisisHolland

A while ago, I read an article about all the different words the Dutch have for bad weather. Hint: There are tons. The Dutch love compound words, so they basically just add a descriptive word to weather and voilà – another descriptive word for crappy weather is born. For example, just add typhoid to weather and you have tyfusweer. In this way, there are no limits to the number of words for sucky weather!

How to survive the Dutch weather

But that makes it sound like the Dutch are a negative folk who spend their time complaining about the weather. Although the Dutch like to complain about the weather because although they may be freakishly tall, they are still just humans and humans love nothing better than to complain about the weather. BUT the Dutch also love to praise the weather if the occasion calls for it.

weer 1

This is NOT what the weather looked like last week when it was supposedly ‘tennisweer’

When a beam of sun breaks through, no matter how small, the Dutch rush outside and declare the weather lovely. It can be cold and windy. It doesn’t matter as long as there is a bit of sun. The terraces all have heaters (not very environmentally friendly, I know), blankets and wind barriers. Just last week I skipped my tennis lesson because it was windy and like 10 degrees Celsius out. Not exactly tennis weather in my opinion. I said something to that effect to my tennis team. They are still laughing at me because I didn’t realize how absolutely lovely it was outside. Um, what? Seriously?

 

 

 

So, how many words do the Dutch have for nice weather? I have no idea but here are a few to give you an idea.

Rokjesweer = skirt weather

Korterokjesweer = short skirt weather

Terrasjesweer = terrace weather

Kastelenweer = castle weather

Strandweer = beach weather

You get my drift. Think of something you can do in nice weather, add the word weather to it, and bada bing bada boom – a new word for nice weather in Dutch!

FYI: Today is definitely terrasjesweer.

weer 2

Actual picture taken in my neighboorhood.

Should you go to a book fair as an author? #AuthorToolboxBlogHop #AmWriting #WritersLife

london book fairAlthough everyone says you should ask the difficult question, the question of whether you should attend a book fair is not a difficult one. The answer is easy: yes or maybe YES! Before I get into the nitty gritty of why you should attend, let’s talk numbers because authors LOVE numbers. How much does it cost to actually attend a book fair? I recently attended the London Book Fair. As I live on the continent, my costs included hotel and train travel. That’s not entirely unusual, however, as you can’t count on an awesome fair like the London Book Fair happening around the corner. So, here are my numbers:

Train travel (Eurostar) = € 160

Hotel = € 117

Fair = € 52

These costs are not necessarily representative of your travel to a fair. First of all, I decided to attend LBF way late, which meant my train travel was quite expensive. Planning ahead can equal big savings. As I went overboard on train fare, I went with a much cheaper hotel. About the only good things I can say about the hotel are: it was close to the venue, safe and the price included breakfast. I also paid full price for the fair this year. Next year, I’ll be paying a reduced price as I joined the Alliance of Independent Authors and they offer a 50% discount on the fair entrance fee.

So, what are the benefits of attending the fair, which makes spending €329 worth it? There are tons of benefits, many of which I didn’t consider before attending.

Seminars. The primary reason I decided to go to the London Book Fair was the list of seminars. The Author HQ has a full day of seminars on all kinds of topics that are interesting to the indie author. Although some of the seminars were a bit basic, there were also tons of more in-depth talks that really got my juices flowing on how to improve my PR and marketing. I came home with a three-page to-do list!

calendar

Networking. Although this is one of the reasons I initially considered attending the fair, I didn’t expect to actually do much networking. After all, I am your typical introverted writer. But it’s impossible not to make connections when you are sitting next to someone for a few hours. And there were drinks!

Agent Meetings. At the London Book Fair, it’s possible to book a meeting with an agent for a small fee. Although I didn’t take advantage of this opportunity, I met plenty of writers who did and were happy with the outcome. I may do this in the future as it’s an awesome opportunity to have a one-on-one with an agent that I might otherwise never have.

Indie Author Support. Several organizations that support self-published or hybrid authors, such as the Alliance of Independent Authors and the Society of Authors, were on hand. In addition to doing seminars on self-publishing and marketing, they answered questions at their respective booths. This was a great opportunity to speak to fellow authors in person and perhaps ask those questions you wouldn’t otherwise dare to.

Publishers. Naturally, Amazon KDP and IngramSpark were at the fair, but there were also other self-publishing firms on hand. As I use CreateSpace, I took the opportunity to sit down with IngramSpark and discuss why they think I should change to their platform. I also talked to other self-publishing platforms to get a feel for the market. It was really refreshing to learn that many publishers were no longer negative about self-published authors. Instead, they were jumping into the market!

As a self-published author, the London Book Fair was a great opportunity for me. In addition to all the above advantages, it was also a chance to just be around others in the industry for a few days – something I miss as an author that works at home alone most of the time. I came home reinvigorated and ready to take on the world.

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This blog post is part of the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop. This is a monthly blog hop hosted by @raimeygallant. Make sure to stop by the other author blog posts in this month’s blog hop to fill up your author toolbox!

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My experience on the Eurostar ~ Worth a repeat? #Travel #Europe #Eurostar #MondayBlogs

eurostar 2Just as the United Kingdom pulls away from Europe, the train service to the UK from the Netherlands starts up. Typical. Hopefully, Brexit won’t have any effect on the brand-spanking-new Eurostar service from Amsterdam to the heart of London. Fingers crossed! Unfortunately, the new service isn’t entirely up and running as the Netherlands and the United Kingdom still need to come to an agreement regarding customs and security. This means that enroute to London, you have to change over in Brussels. More on that later. On the way back, it’s a direct ride straight from London St Pancras station to Brussels, Rotterdam, and Amsterdam.

london book fairI took the Eurostar from the Netherlands to London last week. My first mistake was booking from Amsterdam instead of Rotterdam. My second mistake was booking the first train leaving Amsterdam just after 6 a.m. The problem? I can’t get to Amsterdam at that time using public transportation. I spent thirty minutes searching the Eurostar website to find out if I could embark in Rotterdam instead. Finally, I gave up and called. It took the operator a few minutes to confirm that I could indeed jump on the train in Rotterdam. Phew!

All went well on my outgoing voyage until I arrived in Brussels. I thought Eurostar was exaggerating when they recommended arriving 45 minutes in advance of departure. They weren’t! By the time I scanned my ticket, went through security and then two passport controls, I only had a few minutes to board the train. I just sat down when the conductor announced the train would be leaving in a few minutes!

eurostar 3Having started my journey before 6 a.m., I was getting thirsty by the time the train departed Brussels. This is when I learned my first lesson of traveling with Eurostar. Always bring snacks and drinks! I waited nearly an hour in line to buy a drink. (On a side note, I also purchased an Oyster card which did save some time when I arrived in London.)

eurostar 4I was a bit worried about traveling in the Chunnel. After all, elevators scare me! Surely, being in a tunnel under the English Channel would totally freak me out. Not at all. I’d forgotten that trains continuously go through tunnels. The Chunnel was just longer than normal. If you ignored the darkness outside, it was no big deal. It didn’t hurt that you can get up and walk around the train while you’re traveling through the Chunnel.

Arriving at St Pancras Station in London is pretty great. In addition to being a railroad station, it hosts an underground station. I merely walked off the train, through the hallway (oh look! English language bookstores!), scanned my Oyster card and before I knew it, I was sitting on the tube heading to my hotel!

The return journey was even better. After the hustle and bustle of the Brussels station, I arrived early at St Pancras Station. It was nearly like taking a flight. I couldn’t ‘check-in’ until 45 minutes before departure. Once the gates opened, it went quite quickly. There were several lanes open so a bottleneck (think Brussels) was avoided. I even ended up with a few minutes to sit and catch my breath before boarding the train.

eurostar 1On a side note, make sure your phone has plenty of data left as the WIFI wasn’t working on any part of my journey. Also, there are plug-ins everywhere, so you’ll want to pack your charger in an accessible area. Mine was buried in my suitcase, but I always carry a powerbank.

So, will I book Eurostar again or will I go back to flying? Despite the pain of the changeover in Brussels and the longer actual journey time compared to flying (3 ½ hour train journey vs. a 70-minute flight), I will. The journey itself is much calmer than flying. No need to remain seated with your seatbelt buckled! There’s also no need to go to the airport an hour or two in advance. There’s no worry of how much my luggage weighs and no limit on liquids. Plus, you arrive smack dab in London. I’m looking forward to my next trip already!