My name is Jess Kovacs, a children and teens librarian and I am learning to read…again. A very dirty confession for a self professed bookworm and librarian but this is where we are.
Some of you who have been on this journey with me for a while know I’ve struggled with health issues consistently over the last 3 years. What you don’t know is that I’ve recently been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder II. We don’t know if it’s a side effect from everything else or if I’ve always had it (although I’m convinced I’ve always had it) but it’s here and present and taking over my life. If I was having trouble reading and focusing before, I have even more now. I can’t focus, my world is flat. Reading feels near impossible. But what do you do when reading is a huge part of your life and personality? Not only is it part of my job but being an ex-bookworm just isn’t suiting me. So I’m learning to read, again.
How am I learning to read again? One freaking step at a time.
Step one, don’t be afraid to pick up a book. It can be scary to pick up a book when you know that it’s going to be a struggle, the sheer size of a book may be daunting. But pick one up anyway. I’ve found that starting with an old favourite has helped overcome the daunting feeling. It feels like coming home.
Step two, limit the pressure on yourself. Find a way to be okay with just reading one sentence, then two, then a paragraph, and eventually a page. We’re not going chapter by chapter anymore. We’re going sentence by sentence. Limit the pressure and the next thing you know you’ll have read a page. And if you have to stop after a page, or two, then be okay with that. Which leads me to step three, celebrate every sentence read.
Learn to celebrate every single sentence! A book is written sentence by sentence, word by word so why should reading be any different. Each sentence is a little slice of decadence and deserves to be savoured. And while you are savouring those sentences, they will turn into pages which turn into chapters, which turn into a book. And not a book you rushed through just to move on to the next one but a well read book, which was thoroughly explored. And that my friends, is worth celebrating.
This is how I’m learning to read again. Not being afraid to pick up a book, limiting the pressure, and celebrating every sentence. So far I’ve made it through one old favourite and one new book so i’d say the system has been a success. Do I still get frustrated? Yes, absolutely! But that’s when I look back at each sentence, each page, each chapter I’ve read and remember to celebrate.
Other tips: Try reading in a new way, like give audiobooks a try! They have helped me rediscover the ability to lose myself in a story, something I had been sorely missing.
AKA, the one not about books but something I’ve been wanting to share for awhile.
I’ve never been a writer but I’ve always wanted to write. I just never actually tried, and I guess that’s pretty much my whole life story. Wanting to, dreaming big, and never bothering to try. This pattern had been my standard life practice up until very recently. No, this isn’t a story where the protagonist finally gets out of their comfort zone and fulfills their potential. I am certainly not an inspiration. It’s a story about someone who learned that reaching and falling is a whole hell of a lot better than being stuck and freaking scared. The short version is, I actually tried, failed hard, cried a lot then picked myself back up and unlike the previous version of myself, I tired again. The trying again bit, if you hadn’t figured it out, is the message here.
One of my favourite authors once said that every writer is an author, no matter if they are published or not. There is no title of aspiring author, if they write and create story then they ARE an author just by doing so. I thought that was an absolutely lovely concept and quickly shared it with all my friends calling themselves “aspiring authors”. They all embraced their new title and I was right there along with them until I realized I was missing an essential step. You kind of have to actually DO some writing to gain the title. I was actually just an aspiring writer. There had been no writing just the aspiration to write. I just didn’t have any drive or confidence, until I started the shittiest job I have ever had. Working in the collections department at an electrical company. Sounds strange, I know.
My days were spent stressed out and angry, with the customers, the company and myself. Don’t get me wrong, if you want to get paid well, have a wonderful pension/benefits plan and can handle a soul sucking day of squeezing money out of multiple desperate people then by all means, it’s a wonderful job. I’m not so much into the soul sucking and letting people down though. Which is why I spent my days, when not explaining to people that not paying your bill for two years causes a high balance, plotting up ways to get me out of that shit show. Plotting, that’s what i’m good at. Follow through? Not so much. In the end, plotting ways to become an instant millionaire never amounted to a million dollars. So I sank further into my now diagnosed bipolar depression, crying on the way to and from work, and doing my best to ruin all positive relationships. It was a really stellar time for everyone. I tried writing but when you are that far down the writing flow feels completely inaccessible.
If you’ve never experienced actual depression, it’s pretty hard to describe the place it takes you. I find myself constantly using the word heavy. Heavy heart isn’t just an expression my friends. It’s a suffocating yet slightly indescribable feeling, that can bring your whole life to a complete stop. Taking away your agency, taking away any sort of drive or feelings of worth. It was one morning in this headspace that I arrived at work, started setting up my station for the day and doing my usual bitching to my coworkers about how much I hated the job. One of my coworkers turned around and said “Then why don’t you quit already?” clearly tired of my constant complaining. That was all it took for me to have a life changing realization. That I was allowed to quit, that I was allowed to be the author of my own story. I had dreamed about quitting for over a year but never actually considered that I could. I had savings and was privileged enough to have time and multiple degrees, so why hadn’t I considered taking the time to try for something more? The answer is because I was fucking scared to try (and depressed but that’s a different story). Twenty-five years of being content not trying left me stuck. After a pause I answered “I don’t know” and went straight upstairs to talk to my boss. I quit without hesitation right then and there. I went back downstairs, looked at my coworkers and announced “I quit, i’m done next week”. My statement was followed with shock. Despite my constant (clearly annoying) complaining about how much this job was killing me, no one expected me to quit the job that paid $32/hour. Something that I still find myself justifying to people five years later. Sometimes i’m still justifying it to myself, seems I spent the next 10 months woefully unemployed and sinking into debt. My heart felt lighter though and that struggle seemed so much easier to handle than being stuck.
Let’s fast forward. A couple months into unemployment I decided to get around to that trying thing. I took a fairly recent heartbreak (I don’t know why I took that for inspiration, it’s not a genre I enjoy) and turned it into one of the worst short stories to ever exist. Then I spiralled. I had awards from the English Department, I was known as the reader, I worked for HarperCollins Canada. I was “The Book Girl” and it turned out I was a shitty writer. I was left feeling like Rory Gilmore in the Netflix revival. Spoiled, privileged, completely unaware of myself and just really really lost. So I reevaluated my goals. I spent time considering when I was last happy with a job. I loved HarperCollins but it was a little extra for my low energy personality. I knew the burn out rate would be high if I stayed in that career. I came to the conclusion that I was happiest working at the University Library during my undergrad at Guelph. With a new goal in mind, I started tailoring my resume and skills toward Library Science. It took me 8 months to even get an interview at a library after applying to over 25 positions. I even debated going back to school for a 2nd post graduate degree. I failed over and over and over, had informational interviews, made connections, put myself out there and I was still failing. Normally this is when I would have reached the “fuck it” point and given up but this time felt different. I made the decision to try. And even while struggling with Bipolar Disorder II, eventually I landed the perfect library job and did go back for another degree. I’m spectacularly happy in this job AND I have time to work on my writing on the side. Which is still mostly shitty but guess what? I’m now out of the aspiring author category. I’ve actually completed a novel and it’s all thanks to working my most hated job ever. Without that moment when I realized I was stuck for no reason, I wouldn’t have bothered to try. And trying, my friends…trying is what makes the world go round. Or just makes you leave the couch and shower.
Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.
How cancer fixed my toxic relationship with Bookstagram
Five years ago I had the pleasure of being introduced to the world of bookstagram while working at HarperCollins. I had dabbled in Instagram a bit before, occasionally posting photos of what I was reading but I had no idea there was a whole community on Instagram dedicated to books. Tumblr was where my book community lived at that time and I was slow to move away from spending 6 million hours on Tumblr every week.
In 2015, unemployed and trying to find a Librarian position, I finally started to embrace my publishing past and took on the world of bookstagram. It was a slow process for me, I started posting bookish content more often on my personal account before discovering that creating a separate account strictly based around bookstagram was the preferable option. Once I well and truly dove into bookstagram as Regularly Reads an undeniable spark was lit. I was addicted. I HAD to post everyday. I looked at people like @pollyandbooks (now @polly.florence) and @abookishloveaffair and marvelled at their success. I would beat myself up every time I lost followers or got less than a certain number of likes. I refreshed the app constantly tracking every analytic that I could. You could say that bookstagram and I had a fairly unhealthy relationship. Perhaps you would even call it toxic. I remember crying when I hadn’t hit 10k followers by the first year. I wasn’t even close (and I’m still not). What was supposed to be a fun hobby to keep me connected to the bookish world I loved so much had quickly become something entirely different.
In early 2017, now employed at the best library ever (I may be biased), I was still obsessed with my bookstagram success. My inability to grow my account had me doubting everything about myself. I had my self-worth so tied up in my success or failures on bookstagram. I wasn’t even enjoying bookstagram anymore, it felt like an obligation more so than a fun hobby. My book buying stopped correlating with my TBR (which was a business all of its own). I was spending money I didn’t have just to keep up with new releases I wasn’t even interested in. Bookstagram and I were seeking couples therapy. Then came my cancer diagnosis.
Honestly, I’m not even sure how I managed to operate at all during 2017 (and 2018)… let alone keep the pressure on myself to not only perform at work but also keep up with my bookstagram. But I did it, for a while. I started to miss posting a day here or there, then a whole week, then a whole month. I would just feel so terribly guilty and upset for letting “my followers” and myself down. And thanks to the algorithm changes, my lack of posts made me essentially disappear. I was devastated but I was going through cancer treatment, I couldn’t even work. So why should I be berating myself for not keeping up with a hobby when my whole life was busy being turned upside down? It turns out that denial really isn’t just a river in Egypt. In the middle of treatment I found myself having a full on breakdown and it wasn’t because cancer sucked (which it did), it was because I had lost over 100 followers while I took time off to receive treatment. Crazy right? At the time it totally didn’t feel like it. My friend sat me down and asked me one simple question, which she probably learned from Marie Kondo via Emily Gilmore. She asked “What brings you joy right now?”. I automatically listed off a few things, some of which were napping and not throwing up, none of which were bookstagram. So I made the obvious choice. Take a break, step away from the ‘gram and take care of me.
It’s over a year later and I’m still in recovery mode. I’m cancer free but I’m working on getting back to normal. Which has been interesting because my old normal doesn’t seem to fit anymore. As far as bookstagram and I go, we are still in recovery as well. I’m getting my bookish spark back, starting with enjoying scrolling through bookstagram again and supporting all my fellow bookstagrammers. I’ve made room for myself to read as I wish and what I wish, with no pacing obligations or pressure. I’m taking it one day at a time, participating as I feel, making my contributions to the community more worthwhile and finding my self-worth in other ways. Like allowing myself to enjoy the person I’ve become and being proud of what I’ve made it through. I feel so much more connected to the words I’m reading and the community I’m surrounded by, simply by allowing myself the space to do so. Bookstagram is amazing and a lucky (hardworking) few may make a career out of it but forgetting the real benefits of the community can be toxic. Your worth is not made up of followers and likes.
As for bookstagram and I, we are headed toward a full reconciliation and a potential happily ever after. Bookish love just might be in the air.
Recently I’ve been a little M.I.A. in the book community (find out why in my video below) but I’m FINALLY back on YouTube! I’m coming at you with a Fall Bookish T-shirt Haul! Not only am I talking about my favourite brands, I’m also doing a short try on so you can all compare sizing. I selected four bookish companies that I absolutely love, who have products that I use/ wear on the regular.
And best of all…there’s a GIVEAWAY in the video! Rio from Literary Emporium has kindly partnered with me to give away the t-shirt of the winners choice! Watch the video to find out all the details. I would NOT sleep on this giveaway my bookish friends. Literary Emporium has absolutely drool-worthy products!
Thanks for watching everyone and thank you for sticking with me through cancer and all the weird stuff that followed. Big love to all of you!
It was July 8th of the year 2000 and I had just got my hands on The Goblet of Fire. All 636 pages of it. It was summer and I had nothing but time. I read for nearly eight hours straight until I reached the final line “As Hagrid had said, what would come, would come . . . and he would have to meet it when it did”.
And that was how I always read; in one single sitting. I was the master of binge reading, sitting for hours at a time reading straight through a novel. It never occurred to me that you could put a book down once you started it.
I read novels this way all through University with no problem. Then I became a “real adult”. My reading time was suddenly limited to lunch breaks, an hour here or there before bed, and my blissful weekends. I was at a loss for how to go about reading. I couldn’t possibly just read a few chapters at a time, I’d lose the flow of the story. And what if I had to stop at a really good part or on a cliffhanger? I couldn’t be that person who took a month to finish a single novel, people would think I’m a slow reader *gasp*. My solution was to sacrifice sleep. Start a book at 8pm and finish between 12 and 2am. It was great for a while, I was still getting in about three books a week but my 2am bedtime and 7:30am wake up call got old really fast. Back at the drawing board, I’m sure the solution seemed obvious. Instead I went through two years of only reading one book a month, maybe two if I had a particularly relaxing weekend. But at least I finished them in one sitting… so I was following my reading ethos at least. My TBR pile grew and grew. At 9 o’clock every night when I was ready to settle in with a book, I would talk myself out of it because I didn’t have “time” to finish the book before bed.
Finally I tried the obvious solution; read a chapter or two at a time. This was easier said than done. It required me to completely change how I spent 27 years thinking about reading. My whole reading philosophy had to change.
I was skeptical of my ability to enjoy a novel while reading a bit at a time. What is life without instant reward? The first time I purposefully picked up a book on my lunch break I thought I would end up hating it. Instead I had a blissful hour in Scotland while reading The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley. Did I want to keep reading? Obviously, a change in mindset wasn’t going to be a complete miracle cure. However, I did enjoy my hour and didn’t become an absolute grumpus when my reading flow had to be interrupted. I experimented with this new reading style for the rest of the week, reading for an hour here or there, and by the end of the week I had read two books. Shock and amazement followed. I could live a productive adult life, get enough sleep, read a good number of books, and still enjoy my reading time? Whhhaaatttt. Game changer.
I successfully broke my binge reading cycle, with binges reserved for the occasional weekend or holiday. Not only does it give me more time to read for business and pleasure but I’ve also learned to enjoy my reading breaks. It’s a little bit like having a nice flirtation with a novel before you get to the climax and inevitable end. And who doesn’t like a little flirtation now and again?
Exhaling, the prince took him off guard as he lifted his eyebrow. “What I don’t understand is how the Faes have achieved such loyalty. What did they do?”
He chewed his bottom lip as he hopped over a fallen tree trunk. He looked to Marquis. “They were the dreamers in a time when culture, creativity, and equality were being butchered. The Academy was the foundation of that dream, for desolates, for the people with weaker abilities. For everyone. The people of Kiero followed Roque because they can’t fear him, they can only admire him. How brave he was for standing up to his father, for breaking free of his reign to start his own.”
Marquis chewed his lip. “It sounds like you have a different opinion of him.”
He threw out his hands. “I was born at the Academy. Raised in the Academy. Who am I to doubt the intentions of the Faes? They are practically family.”
Shrugging, Marquis cooed, “Sometimes it is the ones closest to us that betray us first.”
The expansive world building in this prequel had me all kinds of delighted! The descriptive writing only gets better and better. Renegade does a stellar job of filling in some blanks that people may have had questions about from the first book. Especially for those who may have felt Black Dawn was a bit rushed. Plus you will die to see sassy little Brokk! Trust me. The character development is on point.
I may even have loved Renegade more than Black Dawn. Which is saying a lot because Black Dawn was part of my heart, soul, and years of childhood dreams.
P.s. I may be bias because the author is my favourite human in the universe (and my blood) but I was also her first (and hardest) critic.
About the Author:
Mallory McCartney currently lives in Sarnia, Ontario with her husband and their three dachshunds Link, Lola and Leonard. When she isn’t working on her next novel or reading, she can be found day dreaming about fantasy worlds and hiking. Other favorite pastimes involve reorganizing perpetually overflowing bookshelves and seeking out new coffee and dessert shops.
Reading for pleasure sounds like a natural action for book lovers. If it’s not for school then of course you are reading for pleasure, especially if you are a book blogger…right? Not always. Unfortunately for us bookish people, we frequently fall in the trap where we read for our audience, for a blog post, a publisher or for “book cred” and forget to read for pleasure. It’s something that can happen without even realizing. Then suddenly a month has gone by, then two, and you are starting to stare bitterly at your TBR pile. So what do you do when reading becomes a business?
I was an intern at a major publisher and it was absolutely amazing, a book lovers dream, BUT I had a reading problem. I had stacks of ARCs to read and prepare work for. They were almost all books I would be happy to pick up in store anyway so I should have been thrilled. But I’d also lost control of my TBR and that can be a bigger problem than expected. It was no longer mine to pick and chose which book I read based on mood or season. I almost resented my book stacks by the end of the internship because I missed reading when and where I wanted to. These feelings were completely unexpected. I was overwhelmed and questioning if I even enjoyed books anymore. I thought I would have my Book Lovers badge taken away because I was so lucky to be in my position, surrounded by amazing books and future best sellers, and not loving every minute. And then my internship was over and I still couldn’t get passed my negative TBR feelings. It became important for me to take back my reading agency. Sounds dramatic, I know.
Here’s how I managed to bring the pleasure back into reading while also making reading my business as a blogger, bookstagrammer, and Librarian.
I learned how to skim *gasp* fiction in a productive manner. Pick and choose the books that draw you in, even if a blog post is required. If it doesn’t draw you in on that particular day but you have a deadline then skim it. I promise no one will revoke your reading rights. Unless you work for a literary magazine or are advertising a detailed review, no one is expecting a 5000 word detailed essay. They want fun quick points. Grab a favourite line or really fabulous scene in the novel and highlight that. Take note of the writing style and compare similar books. Make sure you hit the major plot points (or at least have read them) and be aware of problematic language. Readers will still get a genuine feel for the book, regardless of whether you read every nuanced word or not. Scandalous.
I’m not suggesting building a career on skimming books, i’m just suggesting that if reading is your job, learn when a book needs an in depth read and when you are in a position to skim. Sometimes even the act of taking the pressure off your reading will help remove the bitter feeling and you’ll find yourself falling into an in depth reading regardless of original intent. Your TBR will slowly start to shrink and that crushing feeling will dissipate. Then allow yourself time for your pleasure reading, even if it’s just a chapter or two a day. Don’t make a book you are dying to read wait just because your TBR is filled with business reading.
Reading may be my job but I don’t let that job over power the joy of reading. At the end of the day, life is too short to read books you don’t like.
Until next time,
P.s. Other tips from a professional reader: learn to say no (publishers will not cease to work with you because you said no once) and always be honest with your readers.
I have no idea why I suddenly (in the middle of thyroid cancer treatment) thought BookTube would be a wonderful idea. But I did, so i’m doing it.
It all started with the #TryAChapter Tag on BookTube.
I decided to experiment with the #TryAChapter tag and give it my own spin. Every Tuesday, when new releases hit the shelves, I’m going to go out and grab my favourite new release of the week (or the most recommended/ requested) and i’m going to read you guys an excerpt of the 1st chapter! Sometimes I find goodreads/ the book description just doesn’t give me enough of a feeling about if I should buy a book or not. I find reading the first chapter generally gives me a good idea of if i’ll be into it. So now you can have this luxury without leaving the house/ forced socializing with well meaning bookstore employees. As long as you don’t find my voice or reading style too irritating. Although the reading style can always improve. Unfortunately my voice is my voice and that’s all i’ve got.
This is the 1st video in my new series, cleverly titled “#TryAChapter Experiment Series”.
And because I’m super keen and my bookish energy has been rejuvenated, I’ve been filming other content as well. Like Book Hauls and TBR videos everyone hates to love.
Check out my BookTube Newbie video, where I answer a bunch of questions in the most concise way I know how. Which isn’t concise at all.
I know BookTube is really going to challenge me. Not only because I’m the type of person who has fluctuating energy levels (and commitment levels because of that) but also i’m fairly insecure about my physical appearance. So putting myself out there in Youtube land is a little scary. I just have to keep reminding myself that this is for me because i’m enjoying the process SO SO much and I needed a new bookish outlet. And if there’s anything i’m good at, it’s talking about books…or just talking in general. Ask anyone who knows me. So i’ve decided to take on the challenge and hopefully overcome my insecurities.
Here’s to a long BookTube “career” and many more videos of me being an awkward taco. But hopefully a charming awkward taco.
We had a lovely Twitter chat with @katharinemcgee last night, but if you missed it don’t worry the fun isn’t over yet! We have a really amazing #thethousandthfloor swag bag to giveaway to one lucky follower!
How to Enter:
Must be following @regularlyreads, @thewayfaringbookworm and @katharinemcgee
Repost the giveaway photo on either @regularlyreads Instagram or from @thewayfaringbookworm
You can earn additional entries by posting your own photos featuring The Thousandth Floor and using the tag #wayfaringreadsthethousandthfloor
Must be 18 years of age or have parental consent to disclose mailing address
Giveaway closes on Nov 13th at midnight EST with the winner announced in the following couple of days.
Open only to US and Canada
⭐️Swag bag includes: 1 autographed HC copy of The Thousandth Floor, a Thousandth Floor tank top and a Thousandth Floor inspired candle!
Victoria is so incredibly eloquent and confident in the way she speaks about the writing process, world building, character motivation and just life in general. I am continually in awe of her.
Also she drew Allegro in my book 🐱.
The way Victoria spoke about the inspiration for her books was really compelling. This Savage Song came from her need to explore the USAs cultural desensitization to really horrible acts of violence. Layers guys, lots of layers.
She spoke about how when writing, she starts with the world building because the world informs her characters and from there she can predict how they would react to the plot. Which was a really interesting perspective, one I had not considered before.
One of my favourite speaking points was on the characterization of her female characters. How she doesn’t go for “the self sacrificing saviour” heroine, her characters are self interested. They would burn the building down with people in it, if it served their best interests. If they happen to save the world while serving their own interests…well then that’s just a bonus. Maybe that’s why I love Delilah Bard so much, because I can relate better to her realness than I can to other YA heroines.
Victoria hilariously told us that Kate from This Savage Song is growing up to be Delilah Bard while she writes A Dark Duet. Which she mentioned is maybe problematic but she’s dealing with it.
How she spoke about music in This Savage Song and the magical otherworldly-ness she associates with music was really gorgeous. She was just talking about her lack of musical talent but she made it sound like poetry. Like I said, continuously in awe.
The countdown is on for The Conjuring of Light and Victoria warned that she dives straight into the madness.