I was just wondering why I felt so wiped at the start of this new month. A quick look back at November tells me why: a number of interviews I’d done earlier were published in the same month; the M.E. documentary I’m in was released; I got published in The Spectator online; and I completed the first draft of an Advent book. I reckon I’m due a break now!
My Mum put me onto this amazing free app – Duo Lingo. It teaches you a language from scratch, with simple lessons where you imitate and repeat back what you hear. The boy and I have now finished the last of the Pip-Larsson books by Edith Unnerstad, and we were missing all of the characters. So we’ve started learning Swedish, and though I may not yet know enough to converse intelligently with my brilliant Swedish friend Rebecka, I can at least say with confidence “en flicka äter ett äpple” (‘a girl eats an apple’), which is sure to come in useful.
- Secret life of Bees – Sue Monk Kidd. This New York Times Bestseller is a story about a white girl who ends up finding a home in a house of three black sisters, in the context of the racist 1950s American South. This is what I call comfort reading – a book that takes you into a different world, where you can taste the honey of the bee-keeping family, and hear the buzz of bees. Well-written, nicely paced – a great, medium-short book to lose yourself in. Highly Recommended. Get it from Amazon.co.uk £6.29, Wordery £6.87, or Amazon.com $9.06.
- The Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron. (NB This is different to The Artist’s Rule, which is an excellent book). I was really looking forward to this, because so many writer friends had recommended it to me, but ultimately I was left disappointed by it. She writes about encouraging people to become more creative, but does so in a very authoritarian (and therefore non-creative) way, and her thesis is basically that you need to write morning pages (a certain number of words each day of whatever is on your mind to get the critical-editing-demons out of the way) before you do anything creative. EVERY DAY. OR IT WON’T WORK. DON’T ARGUE WITH ME. This doesn’t work for me: I have so little time and energy, that when I get a chance to write, I need to use those words on the projects I need to write. I much prefer the approach of Natalie Goldberg in inspiring writers, which is to couple interesting, short prompts with stunningly good writing and storytelling, with a friendly, chat with a friend tone. However, I think this book could be immensely helpful for blocked creatives, or people who don’t know whether they are creative or not, and indeed a friend who loves this book read it when she was in that position and it changed her life. So – if you’re not sure whether you’re creative, this may well help you discover more of who you are as an artist; if you’re already writing, buy Natalie Goldberg instead. Get it from Amazon.co.uk £10.49, Wordery £10.07, or Amazon.com $9.60.
Also reading and enjoying:
- Ed Cyzewski – Writing Without Crushing Your Soul just £1.99 or $3.01 on Kindle ;
- Nadia Bolz-Weber – Accidental Saints £12.99 or $15.48 hardcover;
- Kara Tippetts – The Hardest Peace £9.99 or $11.34;
- Donna Tartt – Goldfinch £6.74 or £10.77.
- Chuck – Jenny Rowbory has been on at me for years to get into Chuck. I thought I would hate it, but I was oh-so-wrong, and Jenny was oh-so-right. It’s a really heartwarming series, about an ordinary guy who finds himself working as a spy, and how the two hardened spies working with him come to love and protect him. Bad guys are defeated, good guys exchange witty banter and funny dialogue. What’s not to love?
- Dance Academy series – this is kinda a guilty pleasure – an Australian soap-type thing, set in a teenage dance academy. Acting is not exactly stellar but I enjoy watching them dance.
- The Good Wife – about a politician’s wife who goes back to practising law when her her husband is jailed for a sex scandal. It’s a lawyer drama, but the sort of Hollywood treatment where they solve cases by checking out people’s sprinkler systems at midnight rather than what lawyers actually do, which is hole themselves up in a room with a load of dusty caselaw. Great actors, and some nice slow-burn complex character development.
- The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – it took me about three episodes to get into it, and now I’m hooked (thank you for recommending it, Abby Norman!) It has a great, dry sense of comedy whilst still being kind to the characters. My favourite quotes so far:
“You don’t know what you look like? How do you know your self-worth?”
“The sign says Dr Grant.”“Yes but he pronounces it Franth”
“You got a tattoo?” (looks at Chinese symbol tattoo).“Yes! I saw it on a Chinese menu and just fell in love with it. It means ‘bean curd’.”
“Oo, it’s the Durnsville board of education! This year I get to pick the chapter that gets taken out of the science text book” (on small-town America)
“I knew someone like that – used to be a teacher then got disillusioned and wound up walking the streets, selling drugs… She’s a pharmaceutical rep now – that may have come out wrong.”
- Election – I was a little disappointed in this; found it a little disturbing in places, and the teacher character was really creepy.
- Dallas Buyers Club – really engrossing, well-acted film about AIDS, big Pharma, and unlikely heroes. Highly recommended.
- That’s Christmas to me – £6.38 from Amazon.co.uk or $7.83 from Amazon.com and
- PTXmas £9.15 from Amazon.co.uk, or $7.99 from Amazon.com
- The John Rutter Christmas Album. Also suddenly into Rutter for the first time in my life. I had only ever heard Rutter murdered by amateur choirs but this Christmas album by him, with a mixture of an interesting arrangement of carols and his own songs is wonderful. Get it for £8.16 from Amazon.co.uk or $12.39 from Amazon.com.
- John Rutter – Requiem and Magnificat. These works are beautiful, and this is my favourite recording of them. Get it for £8.99 from Amazon.co.uk or $9.99 from Amazon.com
“We wouldn’t bomb the suburbs of Brussels to eliminate the Isis cells stationed there. So why bomb Syrian towns when there are so many innocent people living there too?… And as all these bombs rain down, a continuous trail of bedraggled humanity is filing out of Syria to find refuge in Europe.“Cameron’s plan is to bomb their country by Christmas and then to bar those fleeing death from entering Europe to find safety. No room at the inn, he says.” – Giles Fraser
- Giles Fraser for The Guardian on the trouble with bombing Syria to fight Isis
Amazing story of finding gold in dark places by a mother whose son committed an atrocious crime – My Son the Mass Murderer – What did I miss?
Ed Cyzewski interviews Tara Owens on how writers care for their souls (40 minute podcast)
My husband Jon Marlow’s excellent sermon on how to accompany people through pain
- Patients harmed in ME clinics aren’t included in NHS evaluation of the therapy’s success. An ME patient reports.
- ME Action Net need your stories of Graded Exercise Therapy and M.E.
- Scientists call on Lancet to retract PACE trial study – A request that should not be ignored
- “I only have a bath once a week” – Close to collapse – failings in ME social care
- Miriam Tucker for NPR on new research funding
- Fascinating comparison of ME and MS patients’ responses to exercise:
“The MS patients entered the exercise feeling very fatigued, got worse after the exercise but then quickly rebounded with a day or two. The ME/CFS patients entered the exercise study feeling less fatigued but crashed severely after the exercise and did not rebound quickly. Exercise also triggered few changes in gene expression in the MS patients (they were similar to controls) but dramatic changes in the ME/CFS patients.” – Cort Johnson
On the blog
Sometimes articles are like buses – you wait for ages and then they all come out at once. Many interviews and articles I did earlier in the year came out in November – be sure to check out:
- Liberti – How to change the world in 10 easy-ish steps
- My 30 seconds or Less video for Enneavember – talking about creativity and connection
- Heather Caliri interviewed me talking about the gift of knowing a suffering God
- My interview with TWR’s Megan Lackie on faith and sickness – I was especially impressed by her questions, her observations and insights on faith and sickness – this really goes beneath the surface of the issue, and is well worth checking out. You can catch the podcast here. (She starts by discussing a book on sickness; I start c. 6 minutes in)
- This month I was also published in Magnet Magazine (Issue 108), talking about the Bible’s surprising definition of peace. I hadn’t come across this publication before, but I was really impressed by it. More than any Christian magazine I’ve read, it feels worshipful and a prayerful experience to read, interspersed with art and a variety of thought-provoking writers. If you haven’t come across it before, please do check it out.
I was excited to be quoted in an article in UK’s Christian Today by Claire Musters on the subject of chronic pain
From January I’m hoping that my pace will slow a little, and I will be able to get back to the rhythm of posting in my space more often. I’ve just announced that from 2016 I’ll be posting quarterly, rather than monthly, for The Mudroom, which is a wrench, because I love that space, but I can’t continue writing at the pace I’ve been doing.
A final request:
Have you read my book, Coming Back to God When You Feel Empty, yet? If not, please do – it’s a very short read and I trust it will be an encouraging one, too.
If you have read it, and you enjoyed it, please would you go RIGHT NOW and leave even a one-line review on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and/or Goodreads? Because of how Amazon is set up, reviews make all the difference in whether people buy a book or not, so if you have left even a super-short review it is a HUGE help to me. I was hoping to get 50 reviews on Amazon.co.uk by Christmas and, as you can see, I need considerable help in making that target!
I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer for her magnificent What I’m Into Linkup.
This post contains Amazon and Wordery affiliate links, which means if you click through to Amazon.co.uk Wordery.com or Amazon.com from this site and buy absolutely anything in the world, you help this site, at no extra cost to you. I received a free advanced copy of some of the books above in exchange for my honest review, which these all are.