Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month


The month of November begins in seventeen days, with it bringing shorter daylight hours, colder temperatures, the promise of turkey and pumpkin pie, and of course, football. More important and potentially life-changing than all of these things, however, is National Novel Writing Month. Nanowrimo, as it is affectionately known, pits an author against the ultimate deadline; write 50,000 words in thirty days and call yourself an author.

afterworlds The protagonist of Scott Westerfeld’s new book Afterworlds is a Nanowrimo “winner.” Though the advance she receives for her book is enough to pay for college, she instead travels to New York City to complete her second novel and take the literary world by storm. One part contemporary realistic fiction, one part fantasy horror, and two parts meta-aware young adult novel, Afterworlds is a fun romp through the possibilities inherent in being an aspiring writer. Though I wouldn’t suggest dropping out of college to write YA, I do think you should read Afterworlds and use it to fuel your creative longings.

If you needed still more proof to sign up (which you shouldn’t), here is a list of my favorite novels produced during one (or more) Nanowrimo.  Read, and be inspired.


  1.        The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. This caramel confection of a novel spent seven weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and won an Alex Award from the American Library Association in 2012.
  2.        Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. If you loved Eleanor and Park (or Harry Potter!) this book should be next on your list. Similar to Afterworlds, Rowell melds clever meta-aware fan fiction into her story that straddles the line into the emerging New Adult genre.
  3.        Losing Faith by Denise Jaden. At times a meditation on grief, at times a harrowing story of suspense, Jaden’s novel tells the story of protagonist Brie’s search for answers when her sister, Faith, falls to her death.
  4.        Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen by Donna Gephart. Olivia Bean heads to Hollywood to be on Jeopardy!  Never trivial, readers will cheer for Olivia as she navigates not just her obsession with facts, but with growing up as well. You might also want to check out Gephart’s Death by Toilet Paper.
  5.        Wool by Hugh Howey. For those who need their apocalyptic dystopian fix, Howey gives you humanity forced underground, away from the dangerously toxic land above. One person dares break the most important rule; he asks to go outside.


I understand if you want to read these books in December.  November is for writing.  Join me and sign up now!

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Book, Movie, Food

n346955I’m writing today about a book I haven’t read and a movie I haven’t seen. But thing is, I’m excited for both. The Hundred-Foot Journey first caught my attention as a movie trailer filled with feuding restaurants in France, Michelin stars, and Indian cooking. Obviously, I was immediately intrigued. The basic plot, as described by IMBD: “The Kadam family leaves India for France where they open a restaurant directly across the road from Madame Mallory’s Michelin-starred eatery.” Sounds good to me! And when I discovered that this was a movie based on a book, I was even more excited. After hearing great reviews on both the film and the book, I knew I was going to be diving in to both.

See, I love reading about food. The descriptions of foods and their preparations–the smells and textures described in vivid detail–have always inspired me to get in to the kitchen to create the reality of the described experience. Reading about the origins of a dish, or the technique of a chef always makes me more reflective of my own food choices and preparation processes. So, I am excited to read this book. But I’m also excited to see this film.

See, I love watching people cook. I love seeing deft hands chopping, kneading, and grinding to manipulate ingredients. The vivid colors of foods, the distinct textures of ingredients, and the chef’s responses to smells and tastes make me want to recreate those experiences in my own kitchen. I love cooking shows (even Julia Child’s old black-and-white episodes!) because they remind me of why I love to cook. Films surrounding food offer both the excitement of a plot and the opportunity to gawk and drool over dishes that contribute to the story in meaningful and delicious ways.

The_Hundred_Foot_Journey_(film)_posterThe Hundred-Foot Journey gives me the chance to indulge in great food writing and great food on film. I can’t wait to dig in to both!

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Banned Books Week (one week late)

Last week, bookstores, schools, and libraries around the country celebrated Banned Books Week. Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the “freedom to read.” While the idea of censorship may seem antiquated, more than 11,300 books have been challenged in the United States since the first Banned Books Week in 1982. You can learn more about frequently challenged books on the American Library Association’s website. Some challenges to books are exasperating. Others are alarming.

Take, for instance, what happened in Arizona. In 2010, a state law was passed that resulted in the banning, not only of books, but of an entire school curriculum. The law stated,BBW_vert_banner2

“A school district or charter school in this state shall not include in its program of instruction any courses or classes that include any of the following:

1.  Promote the overthrow of the United States government.
2.  Promote resentment toward a race or class of people.
3.  Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.
4.  Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.”

Following this legislation, the Tucson Unified School District dismantled its widely praised Mexican-American Studies program. In dismantling the program, officials removed hundreds of curriculum materials from schools and classrooms. Among the removed materials were books, including Rethinking Columbus: The next 500 years, Critical race theory, and Shakespeare’s The Tempest.  In 2013, following years of community protests and national outcry, the school district voted to un-ban several of the removed books.

Challenges to what we read and, consequently, censorship of what we think, persist. The antidote? Go ahead. Read. Encourage others to do the same. Don’t let anyone stop you.

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Watch and learn

or just be entertained so much that you’re learning anyways!  Is that sneaky or what?  It is no surprise that video is used in many classrooms to enhance learning and discovery, as it is used in our own lives outside of the classroom to learn things for own edification – from investigating what goes into forging Mjolnir (swordsmiths still exist!) to learning more about the world of sleep and dreams and whether it is really just a biological process.

Video engages both our sense of sight and sound (and maybe even smell in the near future.  The Digital Olfaction Society is a real thing!) and stimulates interest and investment in a topic. When I was in school, videos weren’t shown often. When they were shown- it was a nice break from the lecture format.  It also made me think about the instructor’s intent in choosing to show a video and in what he had chosen to show.

With streaming video, it has become almost effortless to access video content on a variety of subjects, especially with many device options for playing them.  Wheelock offers many great, carefully-curated collections that you can watch because you want to teach something, learn something, or just watch anything because you’re in watch-anything kind of mood.

civilwarAcademic Video Online (highlighted last year here)
What it is:
20,000 videos on a variety of subjects.  On top of your usual Wheelock-y subjects, it includes fashion videos, Asian documentaries, business education videos, and silent films.
What to check out:  Videofashion Collections, Vol. 4, Ep. 28: Best of New York (2013), Civil War: The Cause

mediaeddinesMediaEd Streaming (highlighted last year here)
What it is:
  Documentaries that encourage viewers to think critically about the media and our consumption of it.
What to check out:  Pornland: How the Porn Industry Has Hijacked Our Sexuality. This was added to the collection only 2 weeks ago.  It is based on a book written by Wheelock professor, Gail Dines.

What it is: Early education & child development videos that makes children’s thought processes visible to viewers.
What to check out: The Special Education Assessment Playlist

understandingapaWheelock College Library YouTube Channel
What it is:  Library videos, featuring e-Learning & Reference Librarian, Maric Kramer, on how to find information that you need for your papers and assignments.
What to check out: Understanding APA Citations
What it is: 
Video tutorials on technology for education, audio and video production, business, print and web design, programming, photography, and 3D and animation.
What to check out:  Introduction to Graphic Design (you’d need to log into first)

Wheelock College YouTube Channel
What it is:
  Videos about Wheelock, what Wheelock does, and its mission to inspire a world of good.  When you’re buried in work, it’s nice to be reminded why you picked Wheelock in the first place and also, it’s weird and cool at the same time to see your professors and classmates on YouTube.  :)
What to check out: You Have to Be Tough to Serve

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Style by the Book – Daughter of Smoke and Bone

daughter smoke bone

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is the first in a trilogy written by Laini Taylor. The story introduces a world in which chimera and angels are trapped in a neverending war. Karou, a human teenage girl raised by chimera, struggles with her identity and mysterious past. She lives on earth, unaware of the feud that lurks just beyond in another world, running errands fetching teeth for her loving, but secretive chimera father. The story is unique and well-written with vibrant characters full of personality. As with many trilogies, the third book falls a little flat compared to the first two, but this series is still worth reading. For this Style by the Book, I decided to focus on Karou, and her best friend, Zusana. Feisty, loyal Zusana is easily my favorite character in the book.





Do you have a favorite book that you want to see featured on Style by the Book? Share your suggestions in the comments!

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