Posts Categorized: Book Talk

Sunday Serenade with Kate of The Parchment Girl

April 10, 2016 Book Talk 4


Sunday Serenade Kate

The first time I learned of this week’s book blogger was not through her blog.

Rather, the first time I read something Kate had written, it was on Book Riot. I followed her links from there back to The Parchment Girl, and I’ve been a follower ever since.

Once I decided to bring back Sunday Serenade I knew I had to share Kate’s Ultimate Blogging Series. She has created a tremendous resource for new and veteran book bloggers – I know I’m learning lots from the series, and I’ve been blogging over six years!

Tell us about your Ultimate Blogging Series. What has surprised you most in writing the series?

The Ultimate Guide to Book Blogging is a twenty-week series in which I lay out pretty much everything I’ve learned in the last 5+ years of book blogging. I’m covering blogging basics like finding a web host and choosing a domain name, creating content and using scheduling tools, networking and making the most of social media, as well as topics that are more specific to book bloggers like writing book reviews, interviewing authors, requesting review copies, and more.

I think what has surprised me the most about this series is just how much fun I’ve had writing it. I think it’s been good for my creativity to temporarily switch gears and blog about something different.

Name 3 tools you cannot make do without (anything from Starbucks to WordPress plugins to everything in between).

The first thing that comes to mind is my beloved MacBook Pro. Blogging involves running a lot of apps at once, saving tons of large image files, and generally pushing a computer’s capabilities to the max. Upgrading to the Pro is the best thing I ever did. It’s an absolute workhorse.

This is sort of a three-for-one, but I would say the combination of WordPress (self-hosted) + the Genesis Framework + the Foodie Pro theme by Shay Bocks. When it comes to blogging platforms, WordPress is bar-none in my opinion. The Genesis Framework makes all of the behind-the-scenes stuff (adding snippets of code, editing themes, etc.) so much easier, and the Foodie Pro theme is the most customizable Genesis child theme I know of. It took me four years of trying out different designs, frameworks, and themes before this particular combination made my little corner of the web truly feel like home. Plus, I finally have total control over my own webspace, which is a great feeling.

There are so many tools that I feel are essential, but if I had to pick just one more, I would say Evernote. I use Evernote to keep track of everything from blog post ideas to Instagram tags I frequently use. The interface makes it super easy to organize my thoughts and ideas.

Between writing for Book Riot and your own blog, I would imagine life can be quite busy and stressful. How do you keep all of your projects organized, plus stay on task?

That’s a great question because it’s taken me a long time and a lot of experimenting with my schedule to reach the point where I am able to blog consistently. My situation is unique in that I have a chronic illness which, among other things, causes me to get tired and burn out really fast, so optimizing my time is super important. The two things that are key for me are accepting my limitations and prioritizing my daily tasks. Pushing myself too hard may result in a temporary upswing in productivity, but every action has an equal and opposite reaction, so instead of blogging in spurts I try to pace myself and be consistent. I make a list of tasks for the following day every night before I go to bed. I always write blog posts first thing in the morning when my mental energy is highest and save simpler tasks like scheduling tweets or making Pinterest graphics for later. This helps me use my limited energy in the most efficient way possible.

What advice do you have for book bloggers who want to branch out. . .create . . .innovate?

I think creativity and innovation happen when you strike a balance between seeking inspiration from others and being true to yourself. During my first couple of years as a book blogger it seemed like the community was dominated by bubbly personalities talking mostly about fiction (often YA or romance) and I felt a little out of place with my propensity for nonfiction and more analytical style. I was (and am still) inspired and learned a lot by observing those bloggers, but it wasn’t until I was able to fully embrace my authentic voice that the ideas really started to flow.

[Tweet “Learn more about the Ultimate Blogging Series specifically for book bloggers with @parchmentgirl37”]

As Kate mentioned above she tends to focus on nonfiction books, making her blog my go-to for good non-fiction recommendations. She has also mastered the art of sharing all kinds of bookish goodness and resources with her readers. Truly an innovator amongst bloggers and a current must-read in my book 😉

Find Kate through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest





So Which Nobel Won?

April 5, 2016 Book Talk 5



A few days ago I invited you to help me choose which Nobel authors’ book I should read for the April Challenge. With 66.7% of the vote, Orhan Pamuk’s The Museum of Innocence is the winner!

Tied for second place was My Son’s Story and Zinky Boys, with an honorable mention for Voices From Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich. I’m excited to start The Museum of Innocence and have already reserved it at the library.

With the reading challenge I’ll be checking in here each week to update you on my progress 🙂 I’ve got an entire month to finish one book/one challenge. I can do this! You’re support this past week has been so encouraging and motivating! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

the museum of innocenceMore on The Museum of Innocence and the Where in the World will Your Nobel Take You April Challenge:

When someone says “Nobel Prize winner for literature,” what comes to mind? Is it a positive or negative reaction? Why do you think you have this reaction?

Honestly? What comes to mind is an activist ~ Someone working tirelessly to change a social ill. This is a positive reaction.

The negative reaction is in the 2nd half of what comes to mind: difficult reading. Something especially dense and literary – definitely not escapist reading.

What book did you choose? Who is the author / when did they win the Nobel Prize / nationality? Where does this story take place?

I’m so thankful YOU chose the book! Orhan Pamuk won the Nobel in 2006. Born in Istanbul, Turkey Pamuk has spent the majority of his life in the same area. I had no idea that Pamuk was so influential so I’m pretty excited to read his work.  According to the 2015 Global Thought Leaders Index, Pamuk ranks number 4 as the most influential world voice.

In 2008 The Museum of Innocence was published and in 2012 Pamuk opened his own museum ‘The Innocence of Objects.’

This novel is “about a man’s lifelong infatuation with a young woman and his attempt to build a museum housing the objects associated with his love.” I find the concept to be fascinating – how many of us hold onto mementos of our love affairs? To house those in actual museum is a fascinating idea to me.

Why did you pick this particular book?

haha! I didn’t pick it – you did! Although I did narrow down the list from hundreds to just five! I added this particular book for the reason stated above – the idea of creating a museum for our mementos is one I’d love to explore in depth.

What other authors / books did you also consider for this challenge?

In the introductory post I outline the top five books I’ve narrowed down the challenge to ~ I will confess that I’m really wanting to read Svetlana Alexievich’s work. She won the Nobel in 2015. Her book Voice From Chernobyl sounds devastating, yet also a book we should all read. At some point I do plan to read Zinky Boys. My dad was a career Marine, served in Vietnam and devoted his life to our country. Zinky Boys sounds like one of those novels that will help me to understand war and its effects on young men like my dad.

In researching books and authors for this challenge I realized I’ve only read a handful of the Nobel authors, most notably, Pablo Nerudo. Ironically, I’ve got a book of his poetry on my nightstand before I even knew of this challenge!

Let’s Discuss!

What about you? Do you tend to gravitate towards books and authors that have won awards, like the Nobel or the Pulitzer, or do you avoid those at all costs?



Sunday Serenade with Jamie of The Shoppe

April 3, 2016 Book Talk 6

Sunday Serenade


As promised during Spring Bloggiesta, I’ve brought back the Sunday Serenade ~where innovators in the bookish blogging world are highlighted and ‘serenaded.’  Beginning with a book blogger close to my heart, Jamie of Books and Beverages.  Together we have served on the Inspys Advisory Board for three years {if memory serves me correctly 😉 }  Not only a lovely lady, Jamie is a prolific blogger and idea-creator.  Between running TWO successful blogs, featuring the Inklings & their works on her blog, starting a podcast about the Inklings and creating a bookish line of products for her latest project – The Shoppe it’s a wonder Jamie has time for her full-time job!

keychainA couple of my favorite items from The Shoppe are the Book Blogger Planner and the keychain with the famous Tolkien quote “Not all who wander are lost.”  {Starting with my oldest daughter several years ago, I’ve given each of my children a unique & inspiring quote on a keychain. I gave this keychain to my youngest and only son. To say it is appropriate for him would be such an understatement!}

So thrilled to share with you my good friend and fellow book blogger: Jamie from Books and Beverages!

Thanks so much for featuring The Shoppe Stacy! I’m so happy to join in, especially since I love your blog and working with you on all the bookish awesomeness!

Very happy to have you join us, Jamie!  Tell us about The Shoppe and how it came to be.

It seems like ideas just kind of pop up in my life. I didn’t really plan on opening a store when I started looking for a better planner, but as life often takes different turns than expected, that’s what happened!

I was searching for a planner for my blogging, but didn’t find anything specifically geared toward book bloggers. I found myself having to create my checklist and so I looked into getting one custom made. As the process moved forward, I thought it would be great to offer this to my fellow book bloggers. Thus bringing about The Shoppe!

Then I thought it would be fun to offer more than planners and I started chatting with designers and Etsy shop owners and it just took off. I love it and can’t wait to expand the collections!


Most everyone wants to monetize their blog, but I see that you plan to donate a portion of the proceeds earned to several charities. How did that decision come about? Which charities do you support with proceeds from The Shoppe?

To go way back :), it came from my parents. They are truly some of the most generous people I know on the planet and have inspired me in so many ways, especially my faith. I want to follow Jesus’ example of loving people and my parent’s ways in all the work I do. When I started The Shoppe, I thought it would be awesome to donate to places that are helping all over the world and working with all kinds of people. Here’s the organizations I donate to:

World Vision’s work with refugees (Find out more here)
Exile International and their amazing work with rescued child soldiers in Central and East Africa. (Find out more here)
Compassion’s work with students and education (Find out more here)
Children’s Hunger Fund work to help kids in America and around the globe with supplies they need to go to school. (Find out more here)
Mocha Club’s Action Project. (Find out more here)

It’s one small step I can do to make the world a better place and I’m all for that :).


You are very impressive lady, Jamie! How did you come up with the items to include in The Shoppe? Do you have a favorite must-have item?

After the book blogger planner came about, I knew I wanted to have something related to the Inklings because I have what you call a “minor” obsession with all things C.S. Lewis and Tolkien. I connected with a designer, shared some of my favorite quotes from the books (and even a couple from the movies) and let her work her magic.

Since I have a background in photography and love playing around on photoshop, I thought having postcards (and later prints) of some of my favorite bookish quotes would be fun, so I worked on those. The other items were from Etsy connections and I loved getting to work with them!

As far as favorites? Can I say all of them? 🙂 I love my planner, I definitely have an iPad case, the keychains turned out so awesome and the magnetic bookmarks are lifesavers because I lose bookmarks ALL the time!

[Tweet “Behind the screen with innovative book blogger, Jamie, of #BBTheShoppe”]

You’ve accomplished so much in the past year. What do you envision next for The Shoppe?

I would definitely love The Shoppe to continue to grow and to connect with even more fellow readers. I recently started an Instagram account specifically for the blog and Shoppe because I love chatting books and meeting new people!

I have a new item coming real soon (should be in the next week) that I’m super excited for! It’ll celebrate books, but also beverages. That’s all I’ll say for now, but seriously, cannot wait.

I also plan on a new collection featuring the lovely Ms. Austen. I have some of my favorite quotes collected and am working on creating the vision. I can’t wait because who doesn’t love Jane?! Also, if you have some quote suggestions, I’d love to hear them!


Thanks again so much and thanks for reading! Here’s where you can find me around the web!

See why I think Jamie is such a wonder! Giving, gracious and humble, that’s Jamie. I can also attest to the products in the Books and Beverages Shoppe – the usefulness, beauty and timelessness are of top quality design and manufacturing. Plus Jamie’s a sweetheart to work with! If you’ve never visited Books and Beverages, the blog, I can promise you that you’ll either learn a new interesting fact about The Inklings or add more books to your TBR piles!



Reading Challenge and a Request for Help!

March 29, 2016 Book Talk 14


Have you ever run into someone at the store or while out and about that you really wanted to avoid? Especially since you said you’d participate in something and then completely failed to finish or keep up? Well have I got a story to share with you.

During my six years of blogging I’ve been resistant to joining many reading challenges. Every time I have joined a challenge, inevitably, I fail miserably….take for example, traveling the world in books. I kind-of, sort-of, started with it but then forgot to keep up and now feel so embarrassed every time I read one of Tanya’s posts at Mom’s Small Victories.  She was so encouraging…then I dropped off the face of the earth.  Now it’s like the virtual version of crossing the street to avoid someone because you totally messed up on something and don’t want to have to face them…..please say you know what I’m talking about!  and if you come across this confession, Tanya, then please accept this very public apology 🙂

With all that said, I’m attempting to turn a new leaf, and I need your help.

My friend Aloi at Guiltless Reading is pairing up with Tanya at Mom’s Small Victories {yup, same one}; along with Becca at I’m Lost in Books, Savvy Working Gal and Lucy at Fictional 100 to host a quick reading challenge. This one incorporates Read the Nobels and Travel the World in Books. Bam! Two challenges in one! Woohoo! and all over the course of one month! double woohoo! I don’t have any long-term tracking to keep up with and with my memory that’s a good thing!

So, where do you come in?

stay on me.

ask me in the comments how I’m keeping up with the April challenge.

call me out on Twitter or Facebook

email me; send me an owl or messenger pigeon….anything to remind me to complete. the. challenge. I’m determined this time. I’m pumped up. I’m ready. Cue the Olympic theme!

[Tweet “Help TNL choose a book!”]

One other way I need your help is in choosing a book. I’ve narrowed the list of 100+ authors and their work down to five books. Please help me decide which to read by either leaving a comment or completing the survey in the sidebar. I really and truly appreciate your help!

Nobels selected:

the museum of innocenceThe Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk (Nobel Laureate 2006) It is 1975, a perfect spring in Istanbul. Kemal and Sibel, children of two prominent families, are about to become engaged. But when Kemal encounters Füsun, a beautiful shopgirl and a distant relation, he becomes enthralled. And once they violate the code of virginity, a rift begins to open between Kemal and the world of the Westernized Istanbul bourgeoisie. In his pursuit of Füsun over the next eight years, Kemal becomes a compulsive collector of objects that chronicle his lovelorn progress—amassing a museum that is both a map of a society and of his heart. 


kim by rudyard kiplingKim by Rudyard Kipling (Nobel Laureate 1907) Kim, orphaned son of an Irish soldier and a poor white mother, and the lama, an old ascetic priest, are on a quest. Kim was born and raised in India and plays with the slum children as he lives on the streets, but he is white, a sahib, and wants to play the Great Game of Imperialism; while the priest must find redemption from the Wheel of Things. Kim celebrates their friendship and their journeys in a beautiful but hostile environment, capturing the opulence of the exotic landscape and the uneasy presence of the British Raj. Filled with rich description and vivid characters, this beguiling coming of age story is considered Kipling’s masterpiece.


the garlic balladsThe Garlic Ballads by Mo Yan (Nobel Laureate 2012) The farmers of Paradise County have been leading a hardscrabble life unchanged for generations. The Communist government has encouraged them to plant garlic, but selling the crop is not as simple as they believed. Warehouses fill up, taxes skyrocket, and government officials maltreat even those who have traveled for days to sell their harvest. A surplus on the garlic market ensues, and the farmers watch in horror as their crops wither and rot in the fields. Families are destroyed by the random imprisonment of young and old for supposed crimes against the state. The prisoners languish in horrifying conditions in their cells, with only their strength of character and thoughts of their loved ones to save them from madness. Meanwhile, a blind minstrel incites the masses to take the law into their own hands, and a riot of apocalyptic proportions follows with savage and unforgettable consequences.


my son's storyMy Son’s Story by Nadine Gordimer (Nobel Laureate 1991) When Will skips school to slip off to a movie theater near Johannesburg, he is shocked to see his father. An ordinary mishap, but his father is no ordinary man. He is a “colored” and revered anti-apartheid hero, and his female companion is a white activist fiercely dedicated to the cause. As Will struggles with confusion and bitterness, My Son’s Story unravels the consequences of one man’s infidelity as a new South Africa violently emerges from the apartheid.


Zinky BoysZinky Boys: Soviet Voices from the Afghanistan War by Svetlana Alexievich (Nobel Laureate 2015):  Creating controversy and outrage when it was first published in the USSR―it was called by reviewers there a “slanderous piece of fantasy” and part of a “hysterical chorus of malign attacks”―Zinky Boys presents the candid and affecting testimony of the officers and grunts, nurses and prostitutes, mothers, sons, and daughters who describe the war and its lasting effects. What emerges is a story that is shocking in its brutality and revelatory in its similarities to the American experience in Vietnam. The Soviet dead were shipped back in sealed zinc coffins (hence the term “Zinky Boys”), while the state denied the very existence of the conflict. 


Thanks so much for your help Lovely Readers. You are the best! I’ll let you know on April 1st which book won!



Literary Mastermind Groups and the Next Steps for Bookish Mastermind Groups

March 21, 2016 Bloggiesta, Book Talk 2

start a mastermind group


You’ve joined a bookish mastermind group so now what?

The group is yours to make of it what you will. And as with anything, you’ll get what you put into it. Think of all that these famous groups accomplished {not that your goals need be as lofty as theirs, but who knows?}:

The Inklings consisted of several successful authors and poets including C.S. Lewis, JRR Tolkien, Charles Williams, and Owen Barfield. We may never have had the privilege of reading The Chronicles of Narnia or Lord of the Rings had it not been for these men meeting and philosophizing!

The Lost Generation made up of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, Gertrude Stein and more. The moniker was given to the group by Gertrude Stein and used by Hemingway in The Sun Also Rises. Though the group did not meet consistently their influence on each other is apparent.

Algonquin Round Table consisted of Dorothy Parker, Harpo Marx, Robert Benchley and other New York critics, reporters, and writers. Meeting daily for lunch over a ten year period helped to solidify the individual members in their respective careers. Known for their practical jokes and biting wit they affectionately called their group ‘The Vicious Circle.’

The Nine Old Men of Disney animators. Considered Disney legends these nine animators created several beloved movies from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to one of my personal all-time favorites The Rescuers. What these men accomplished in their mastermind group is the thing legends are made of.

The Braintrust of Pixar Films. This group of animators created beloved movie Toy Story and most recently Inside Out. Popularizing the use of storyboarding this group has accomplished much. They epitomize the effort and work of mastermind groups without falling into just another social group.

The Bloomsbury Group with Virginia and Leonard Woolf, E.M. Forster, Lytton Strachey, and John Maynard Keynes and several others.  They frequently met between about 1907 and 1930 at the houses of Clive and Vanessa Bell and of Vanessa’s brother and sister, Adrian and Virginia Stephen (later Virginia Woolf) in the Bloomsbury district of London.  They frequently discussed aesthetic and philosophical questions and were strongly influenced by G.E. Moore’s Principia Ethica (1903).

[Tweet “A few famous mastermind groups to emulate for #bloggiesta”]

I imagine the faces that sat around the table in these groups could not have imagined all they would accomplish thanks in part to their discussions. The same holds true for our groups – the expectation is NOT that you will join a mastermind group and automatically become a world-renowned blogger; the intent is to join a group and become the best version of yourself as a blogger that you can be, and while doing so, that you in turn, help those in your group.

For this Bloggiesta challenge, you have 4 assignments.

  1. Complete the worksheet you received in the welcome email prior to ‘meeting’ your group.
  2. Contact your fellow group members within 3 days of receiving welcome email.
  3. Share your goals with each other and establish a method of communication + initial meeting time.
  4. Go forth and prosper.

What do you think of bookish mastermind groups? Have you joined one yet?

Any literary circles I should add to the list above?