A Fresh New Year: The Literate Lifestyle I’m Looking Forward to this Month

Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate Lives: A Fresh New Year: The Literate Lifestyle I’m Looking Forward to this Month
One of the wonderful things about the holiday season is that it is—wonderful: a celebration of family and friendship, magic and awe, and contains feast days of many faiths, including mine, which commemorates the season for the birth of our Savior.

Another wonderful thing about the holiday season is that it goes away. It sweeps like a joyous madness from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day, and then it is gone until next November.

I don’t know about you, but I am looking forward to resuming normal life this January, and that includes a normal, for me, reading and writing life. (As you can see by the delay in this post, full “normal” has not yet been achieved.)

Here are some practices and links to articles I am looking forward to reading this month.

Pleasure Reading

Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate Lives: A Fresh New Year: The Literate Lifestyle I’m Looking Forward to this MonthDuring the holiday season I enjoy reading holiday novels, and now that it’s over, it is with pleasure I resume my regular reading rotation (after I finish reading the gift book,  The Fifth Heart by Dan Simmons, which my husband received for Christmas—I know, his book. Yeah, that’s another story.) What’s next?

  • a Celtic fantasy—whichever one is next in line on the shelfDebby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate Lives: A Fresh New Year: The Literate Lifestyle I’m Looking Forward to this Month
  • something from the Library—I’m thinking more of Rachel Caine’s Great Library Series.
  • a historical novel—I’m not sure which one I’ll pick next.

Online Reading

This month I am looking forward to reading saved posts on a variety of topics:



Bullet Journaling:

Writing Craft:


Rather than make a rash New Year’s resolution, I plan to use the month of January to reflect on:

  • my practices from the past year
  • changes I want to implement
  • and maybe craft a personal mission statement.

I look forward to reading the following posts to aid me in the process.

From Little Coffee Fox:

More Reflection Posts:


I also look forward to resuming the final editing of The Swallow’s Spring, my folkloric fantasy novel. Last August, before I came down with the sinus infection from #*%%, I was down to the last half of the last chapter to complete edits on and run through my writers’ group. Due to both illness—three solid months and then recuperation—and the resulting depression I did not trust myself to do my best work. And then, of course, the holidays…

When my husband, a teacher returns to work next week, I will, too. At last, I am looking forward to it.


For more great reading, check out the following applicable Pinterest Boards:

  • A Literate Lifestyle
  • Crafting Fiction
  • A New Year!
  • Celebrate Winter

Your Turn

  • How does the joyous, crazy holiday season impact your literate lifestyle?
  • What practices do you look forward to resuming this month?

Please share your thoughts in the comments box below. Let’s encourage one another!

With Summer Before Me…

With Summer Before Me... literatelives.wordpress.comI write this on the last Saturday of the school year. Just four more school days to go, and it will officially be summer. Hooray!

Excitement and Caution

I look ahead with both excitement and caution.

Why excitement? Because this is the beginning of a new writing life. I have resigned my teaching position and look forward to investing more time in crafting fiction and poetry.

And the reason for caution? I have been quite sick these last six months and therefore lost a lot of strength and stamina. I long to fling myself into projects around the house putting away messes that have accumulated during this difficult school year, and earlier. However, last summer when I was recovering from mononucleosis, I learned that it’s great to have goals and to work toward them, but I cannot hold myself to stiff deadlines when my health is so unpredictable. Last summer I ended up pretty depressed that I did not get enough done.

However, this year will be different because my “deadlines” can extend past September for the first time in five years.

What I am Looking Forward to This Summer

Sleeping in! I am still so very tired and often sleep twelve-hour nights when an alarm is not required. But, once I wake up I will be eager to either begin or resume:

  • daily reading (multiple topics, most blog or web-based) each morning as I enjoy my mocha
  • exercising to rebuild my strength and stamina
  • road tripping with my husband (He is an awesome travel partner!)
  • spending quality time with my delightful grandkids–over-nighters, lunch-dates accompanied by trips to the bookstore, crafting together….
  • finishing the final revision of The Swallow’s Spring, my folkloric fantasy novel
  • finishing revisions on my Mt. Rainier middle grade poetry book, Wandering Mt Rainier, and beginning the submission process
  • putting my guest/library/craft room back together (We packed everything, moved new things in, and made messes last summer but did not even come close to completing the job before school started last September.)

And in the Fall?

In addition to continuing any healthy practices developed in the summer and completing my summer goals, I plan to:

  • expand this blog
  • begin hunting for an agent to represent my fiction
  • write, research, write, revise, edit, and write some more!

Your Turn

What are your plans for the summer? What are your dreams for next fall? Please share using the comment box below. Let’s encourage one another!

Keep Writing

Keep Writing (Or Reading) Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate LivesWinter, which felt like it was going to last forever, is coming to an end. Leaf buds are swelling and apple and cherry trees are blooming. So how’s your writing life going?

I know. Odd question. What does a writing life have to do with spring?

For me, the constant lover of fresh starts, it represents renewal.

Renewal and the Writing Life

There are so many things in life that can derail the best of writing plans, but the good news is, they do not have to stay derailed.

A blog post I read this week has really renewed my writerly determination and positive outlook.

12 Tips for the Best Writing Life Ever

On The Write Conversation with Edie Melson, Melson listed 12 lifestyle tips for a successful writing life. Tips 1, 3, and 12 really resonated for me.

  • 1. Writing is a mind game—and our minds play tricks on us.
  • 3.  Take care of yourself physically.
  • 12. Keep writing no matter what.

The dreary days of winter are always a mind-challenge for me. Furthermore, this has been a year of health issues as well, and when ill or tired I find it a challenge to both work on my writing and maintain the proper mindset to work on my writing. Melson is right. Taking care of your mind and body is key to producing solid work. My default tends to be to neglect myself, however I recognize the wisdom of her words and will strive to take care of my body and mind in the months to come.

I found her final tip, though one I’ve encountered and valued in the past, even more inspiring. Keep going. Keep writing.

Here, I must extend my appreciation to you, my readers. Knowing I have built a relationship with you and have a responsibility to you has been a great spur to keep writing, at the very least, these weekly blog posts.

My love and gratitude goes out to my critique group as well. I once quipped, “Anyone can bring one page.” Since then, I do not dare show up without something to read. (I will be eternally grateful to them for many more reasons than this, but that is a topic for another post.)

Keep writing. Keep going. This will be one of my themes for this season in my life.

Renewed Commitment

Therefore, I commit to keep writing here, to you.

In addition, I will finish the revisions on The Swallow’s Spring, my novel that is 98% done already and then launch into the next phase of this novel’s life—the great agent quest!

Then I will move on to a number of other projects I’ve got waiting in my queue. It is very exciting to think of the work that awaits me.

Your Turn

How will you renew your writing life this spring?

Please share your plans in the comment box below. Let’s inspire each other!



Favorite E-Reads of the Month: July 2017

It’s hard to believe that it’s already time to reflect on my e-reading this month. One of the things I love about summer is the increased time available to read the many blogs and newsletters I subscribe to, and to follow the trail of links to discover more on topics that interest me. Here is what I have enjoyed this month:


The Other Side of Anne of Green Gables  As an Anne of Green Gables fan, I was eager to watch the reboot of the franchise. As a grandmother, however, I was glad not to be watching with my granddaughter. While I enjoyed the miniseries, despite the missing pieces and added material, I would definite consider this an adult version of the popular tale, and when I read this article, I understood why; that was the intention of its creators. My only wish is that it would have been clearly labeled as such.


Are You a Writer or a Storyteller?  This was a really interesting and informative post about two major aspects of fiction writing. After reading, I realized, I started out as a writer first. Thank God for the complexity of writing assignments at Berkeley. I had to learn to outline, and it has served me well ever since!

SF/Fantasy World-building I am completing a major revision on my historical fantasy novel, The Swallow’s Spring, and have several novels in development that I am really excited about, so one of my great pleasures this month has been reading about world-building. Every article seems to prompt multiple ideas for existing or developing stories.


In Case You Forgot, Reading is Important

Mental Health and Well-Being

Why Caring for Yourself Makes All the Difference

Social Sciences

Why Brilliant Girls Tend to Favor Non-STEM Careers

Your Turn

What have you read online that other Literate Lives followers might enjoy? Use the comment space below to include a title and a web address (and if you feel like it, a little blurb sharing why you liked it).

Best Books of January

What was Your Favorite Read During the Month of January?

Here we go, it’s the end of another month. So, what is the best book you read in January (either for yourself or with your child)? It could be fiction, nonfiction…any genre. What book did you really enjoy? Or, which one made a major impact on you?

Please use the comment space to share the title and author and to tell just a snippet about your book to whet our readers’ appetites. Is your child old enough to write? Invite him or her to write a recommendation for the blog.

The Kiss of DeceptionMy Reading Recommendation 

The book I would recommend from my January reading is The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson. I would recommend this novel for several reasons. First, like my own The Swallow’s Spring, its protagonist is a princess who does not want to marry as her parents have arranged for her to. Second, two of the secondary characters start out identified simply as “the prince” or “the assassin.” When these terms are used, you don’t know which male lead it is referring to. When these terms are not used, all you know are the male leads’ names. Therefore Pearson kept me wondering and hypothesizing about who is who. Third, it is one of only two books I finished reading this month. (The other was Thornspell by Helen Lowe–also a thoroughly enjoyable fantasy.)

Your Turn

What was the best book you read this month?

Pen Pals and Reading Buddies: Literate Lives 2017

pen-pals-reading-buddiesStarting a Blog is like Starting a Pen Pal Friendship…

That is how I began my second post here at Literate Lives.

As I was doing my blog-housekeeping last week, I was captivated by this post. “Yes,” I thought, ” Now art thou Romeo!” (translation: now you are acting like yourself! See Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet Act 2 Scene 4.) Therefore, as with my previous post, I wanted to start a new year with some excerpts and additions:

Pen Pals & Reading Buddies

I have decided starting a blog is like starting a pen pal friendship. You begin by explaining to each other who you are, and as your individual identities become established, you begin to write about ideas and events in your lives and the common interests you share.

So, who is this person (me, Debby Zigenis-Lowery) who is trying to reach out to readers, writers, parents, teachers, and anyone else who loves reading or writing?

I have been (and-oftentimes-still-am) a child, as well as a wife, mom, writer,  student, preschool teacher, librarian, and middle and high school English/Language Arts teacher. And through it all, I have always been a reader.

Books were the first things I ever chose to collect. They have been my friends, guides, encouragers, windows to other worlds, and companions in scary, sad,  and lonely times. I love books–the look of them, the feel of them, their typefaces, cover illustrations, page and line art. And I love the materials that go into making them—pencils, pens, paper—so many wonderful kinds!—computers, word processing software, fonts, dictionaries, reference books, 3×5 index cards, notebooks, and any slip of paper on which I can scribble a new idea.

What do I read? I am a fantasy loving Christian. I love fantasy stories intended for all kinds of readers– children, young adults, and actual adults. Other favorite genres include historical fiction and historical mysteries. (I love the Middle Ages!)

As you may have noticed, I included children’s and young adult fiction in my fantasy favorites. Why? Because I grew up loving fairy tales, and eventually found C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Lloyd Alexander. I now not only read fantasy fiction, I write it. I have had retold folktales, published in Cricket magazine, have written Set in Stone, a middle grade novel and The Swallow’s Spring, a coming of age novel (and am now seeking publishing homes for both of them), and am working on a new middle grade novel and a YA.

I am a teacher, member of SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) and two critique groups. In addition I am a member of SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and serve as the Pal Communicator for our Oregon region’s Ad-Com committee.

I am so looking forward to making new friends, as well as enjoying those I’ve long cherished, in the months ahead. So tell me about your reading, writing, and teaching interests. Who are your favorite authors? Your favorite genres? I hope Literate Lives will be a place you can come to enjoy, interact, and share.

August 2016: My Reading List

When I look at this list, I am embarrassed. It is barely a list, for August, when I, a teacher, am supposed to be enjoying the last weeks of summer! What was I doing?


What was I doing?

My overall goal for the summer was to revise my flagship novel, THE SWALLOW’S SPRING from tight, past tense, third person to present tense, first person. I had finally made sense of the feedback I have been getting and realized I needed to allow readers to get not just in Iseult’s head, but actually in her skin, in her life. At the beginning of August, I was only half-way through.

Also, I went to the Willamette Writers Summer Conference–three days of talking writing, information, talking writing, learning about connecting with our audiences, talking writing, taking copious notes in writing craft workshops, and, of course, talking writing. It was vastly informative, and awesome learning experience, and fun!

Therefore, I truly only read two books in August.

What I Read

6335178Lady Vernon and Her Daughters by Jane Rubino & Caitlen Rubino-Bradway

This was a very “Jane Austen” type of novel based on notes Austen actually made for a novel that never got written. It had a marvelously, Austen-like cast of quirky characters, and typical Austen-like near misses where characters you love don’t recognize their own feelings until it is almost too late. It was a delightful read.

16140922Altered by Gennifer Albin

This is book two of a trilogy. Book one, Crewel, I read in my school library. I enjoyed the first novel so much, I finally bought the sequel myself. (The library didn’t have it.) Altered follows Adelice, Jost, and Erik when she rips a hole in her own world–Arras–and descends to a very messed up earth, California in particular. Determined to rescue her sister, Adelice seeks a way to sneak back home, and we get to tag along with her  to a post apocalyptic Hearst Castle and Alcatraz Island (where she meets a very famous person familiar to most of us). Again, I really enjoyed this read. Too bad the sequel to this one, Unraveled, got checked out last school year and was never returned. Hmmm. Maybe I can get it through interlibrary loan!

Letter Writing Day: My Thoughts on Returning to the Classroom

My Back-to-School Letter to YouToday, September 1, is Letter Writing Day. In keeping with this, today’s post comes to you in the form of a letter.

Dear Friends,

As you read this, I will be attending my first day of the 2016-2017 school year. Although it will only be us teachers and administrators in the building, I am excited.

First of all, I am excited to get back to my little library. As the school year ended in June, I sent out several boxes of new books to get processed, and I have learned they are done and waiting for me beside my desk! We also ordered additional bookshelves. (Our original shelves were packed and overflowing, especially after all the students turned in their library books in June!) After having some disturbing dreams this summer in which architects and interior designers messed up my beloved library (while supposedly giving our building a cool new look), I am eager to get back and see it with my own eyes!

I am also eager to get back to our students. Some will be returning from last year, and it will be a pleasure to see them again. Others will be new. I experimented a bit at the end of the last school year and learned that for students who are only about 5 points away from passing the GED RLA test, refreshing/or teaching for the first time a set of punctuation skills–for example, the many and varied uses of commas, or capitalization rules, is all it takes to put them over the top. I will include more general writing convention lessons in my teaching this year.

 I also learned the reading speed students need to attain in order to be successful taking their GED tests. This fall, I will implement reading speed tests for all students as part of their entry pre-assessments (in addition to the sentence structure pre-assessment I already have them do). This will help me better identify and assist those students who have not yet reached the needed  reading level to be successful in taking their tests.

A hard part of giving up summer is giving up my extended fiction (and blog) writing time. However, as in years past, I will continue to write each workday before school starts, and on my Wednesday afternoons off. I have learned I can get a lot written in 20 and 30 minute intervals if I practice them consistently. I also pledge to continue blogging. I enjoy thinking about what might interest you, what might help you, and what you might bring you pleasure or inspiration. Please say a prayer for my fickle health. That is always the wild card in developing a fully literate lifestyle while working nearly full-time.

I also look forward to some solid reading time. It’s funny, I expected to get a lot of reading done this summer. I can stay up later at night with no pesky alarm clock at 6:00 A.M. I can pick up a book in the middle of the day. However, while my non-fiction reading has been as abundant as anticipated, my fiction reading has taken a hit. (I am such a workaholic! Very bad habit. Don’t let yourself fall into this trap.) So I am excited to return to our schools “Reboot” schedule. Every day, before work time starts, students are given 15 or more minutes to just quietly read or write (Ha-ha-ha–little do they know, they are building their languages arts skills while they transition between life outside our doors and life in the classroom!). And (this is the best) teachers are strongly encouraged to model this behavior for them! I can hardly wait!

So, while it is sad to say good-by to the freedoms of summer, a lot of good lies ahead in the upcoming school year, and I can enter it having achieved my summer writing goal–the revision of my historical fantasy novel, THE SWALLOW’S SPRING from close third person, past tense into first person, present tense. I am so excited by how much immediacy and intimacy the shift has given my prose.

I can also say summer 2016 has taught me a fabulous new skill–working in intervals. Midway through the summer I was only about one sixth of the way through my revisions, and I was so depressed. Therefore, after reading, serendipitously, some articles about optimal work/break strategies (here’s one), I decided to divide my time between writing/revising and housework/summer projects by working in 45 minute to 1 hour intervals on my writing, then spending 10-20 minutes on my other responsibilities. It worked! I am thrilled. By the time you read this, I’ll have one, last, sixth of the novel left to revise, and I shall finish it during Labor Day weekend. Hurray! Then, let the submitting begin.

I hope you, too, have had a good summer and have something to look forward to in the coming months,

Your reading & writing friend,

P.S. Learn more about Letter Writing Day here.

P.S.S. What have you appreciated about your summer? What are you looking forward to in the coming months?

Summer’s End: Accomplishments and Tasks Remaining

sun_in_shades.svg.hiIt is the last weekend of summer. School will begin Tuesday, as will a new routine. I entered summer with such plans, such goals, such enthusiastic intentions, and now, at the end of it, I look back.

Goals accomplished:

  • Spent a week with my mom
  • Traveled with my husband
  • Camped with my daughter, her husband, and my granddaughters
  • Reclaimed my living room (0nce, my son’s “man cave”)
  • Completely reorganized my office
  • Rid my office of moths (long frustrating story)
  • Finished the revisions on Set in Stone, my middle grade fantasy novel about a boy who returns from clearing a field to find his parents and neighbors all turned to stone.
  • Attended two writers conferences
  • Pitched The Swallow’s Spring (a retelling of the first part of the medieval romance of Tristan and Iseult) to four agents who all invited me to submit chapters and even a full manuscript!
  • Started a new non-fiction poetry-picture book inspired by the trip my husband and I took to Mt. Rainier.


  • Did not blog regularly
  • Did not even enter my reading on Goodreads
  • Did not get my five boxes of filing all filed or thrown away
  • Did not finish writing the whole new beginning section for my fantasy novel Crown of Blossom and Flame
  • Did not get my guest room/craft room reorganized

Whew! When I sat down to write this post I felt a little dejected. (That’s why I decided to start with accomplishments. I didn’t want readers to feel depressed right along with me!) Now, I feel guilty of appearing to be bragging, but I assure you that was not my intention.

The takeaway: Do you ever feel like you just haven’t accomplished much? Sit down and list the things you have actually done. You might find yourself as pleasantly surprized as I did.

Writing Conference Jitters

swallow+bird+vintage+image+graphicsfairy007dI will be attending two writing conferences this summer–The Willamette Writer’s Conference and the Oregon Christian Writers’ Conference. This is nothing new. I have attended both of them several times in the past.

However, this time, I truly believe The Swallow’s Spring, a historical fantasy novel based on the medieval romance of Tristan and Iseult, is done, and I just finished final revisions on Set in Stone , a middle grade fantasy novel, as well. I know it is time to try to sell them. My gut aches just typing the words.

Why? I’ve pitched them before. I’ve submitted them before. I’ve submitted and sold other stories before. So why such jitters this time?

I think it’s because I believe these novels are truly done. It is time to seriously try to sell them. That means, inevitably, as every writer knows, dealing with rejections and the busy work of sending the novels out somewhere else. Argh! I’d rather write something new.

However, if I don’t submit my novels after all the time I have spent working on them, the fact is I will have wasted a huge chunk of my life. I did not write them for the pleasure of writing, although believe me, the pleasure was intense and real. I wrote them to share. I wrote them for others to enjoy. So, I have to submit to the submission process or self publish, and since I’d rather keep writing new things then embark on the strange, new adventure of self-publishing, I really need to give traditional publishing a try.

Therefore, the jitters. However, I will “soldier on.” Say a little prayer for me, The Swallow’s Spring, and Set in Stone. And I’ll just keep telling myself that I know I will enjoy the conferences because I always love having the opportunity to learn something new.