Claire-Dee Lim

writer, teacher, traveler, and lazy gardener

Category: Books (page 3 of 3)

Kim Masson: Shares Craigslist Adventures at Reading in NYC

This month is about giving shout outs to creative New Yorker friends.

Kim Masson, writer, environmental activist and native New Yorker, has recently released her debut novel, Craig’s List Chronicles: byte-size tales. She’ll be giving a reading and signing books Wednesday, May 25th @ 6:30 pm at Margaret Thatcher Projects!

Intrigued by the plaintive, hopeful and often bizarre nature of the Missed Connections ads on Craigslist, Kim wrote a fictitious one just to see if anyone would respond. What ensued became the inspiration for her novel: loads of people emailed, claiming to have seen her faux character on the subway.

“I was shocked when people took my Missed Connection ad seriously,” says Kim. “Especially when it involved a zebra mesh tank top and a gal in a wheelchair wearing golden ballet slippers. It’s amazing what some people are willing to believe.”

After meeting her future husband from a job posting on Craigslist, Kim says,

“That’s when I knew I needed to write a book chronicling all of my strange Craigslist experiences. Some of my encounters were so weird and profound; I had to get them on the page. Craig’s List Chronicles: byte-size tales was born shortly afterwards.”

Told via emails, letters to Craig and classified postings, this keenly observant and funny novel follows the adventures of Kelly Brixi as she searches for love and meaning in the Big Apple right after Y2K. If you’re in the area, check out Kim’s reading and be prepared to laugh out loud.

The book is available now on Amazon.

Creativity: What It Takes to Be Like Mozart

If you’re looking for ways to expand your creativity then you must check out these two books about the creative process. inGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity by Stanford professor Tina Seelig and The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life by renowned choreographer Twyla Tharp. These books are the backbone of the class I’m teaching this spring about the subject. And they are great! Both offer valuable insights into developing your creativity. I’ll give you a hint: reframing how you see the world inspires you to form new ideas. Oh, and that other thing. Hard work!

Tharp offers ways to build habitual routines into your life; reflective exercises to explore your passions and help you come to grips with pesky, inhibiting fears; and tools to organize your creative juices so they’re available as needed. She also posits that there are no creative geniuses. She uses Mozart as an example. While he was naturally inclined toward music at a young age, his father nurtured his abilities with a comprehensive education that included philosophy as well as music. By the time Mozart was in his twenties, he already had dozens of symphonies under his frock coat. According to Tharp, his musical gifts weren’t divine, which is how creative geniuses are often perceived. They have extreme concentration, focus and determination to get things right, however they define that for themselves.

PrinceYou can say the same about Prince, a modern-day Mozart. He’s been on my mind because of his recent death. His musical precociousness was evident, and arguably, his obsessive focus, enabled him to create masterful music. Maybe that all consuming passion to relentlessly create is where the divide between the Mozarts and Princes of the world and us mere mortals really lies.

As a professional writer, who has to be creative on demand, I can attest that creativity involves so much more than waiting for the muse to strike. It requires opening up my mental faucet so that all ideas—the good, the bad and the meh—can be explored. I know that putting in the effort to refine, rewrite and give shape to a project will result in something I can be proud of. I believe this effort, discipline, work, or whatever you wish to call it, allows one’s creativity to bloom into its fullest expression.

Check out Tina Seelig’s fascinating model for building your creativity and see if it resonates with you.





Narrators: They Can Make or Break a Story

Audiobooks are God’s gift to multitaskers. The slogan “When your hands are busy and your mind is free” couldn’t be more apt. I listen to them frequently when cooking, gardening and while photo editing. For the past several years, listening to an audiobook has become my go-to sleeping aid. I pop in my earphones, the narration begins and a few minutes later I’m snoozing away. I’m sure my hearing is suffering a bit, and I often wake with cords wrapped around my neck, but I’ve come to rely, if not look forward to, having someone “read” me a bedtime story.

Sometimes a narrator is ill suited to the task. I’ve found mediocre ones can sink a terrific story. I ditch that audiobook fast. An exceptional narrator can add vocal shadings and emphasis, elevating a story to new, enjoyable heights.

Here are some of my favorites:

Juliet StevensonBritish actress Juliet Stevenson (Truly Madly Deeply, Bend It Like Beckham) is such a narrator. She reads Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things. The story itself is epic, wondrous and rich with characters and botanical details. What Stevenson adds is simply incredible. She can do English, Dutch and American accents. She even speaks Tahitian! Her reading is filled with emotion, subtlety and humor. Pairing Stevenson with this historical novel was a sublime choice. I now must listen to everything she’s narrated.

British actor Nathaniel Parker known for playing the lead in the Inspector Lynley Mysteries is hugely entertaining in Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl series. Like Stevenson he can do all the regional English accents, Scottish, Irish, Russian, and more. He can deftly turn a phrase, has wicked comic timing and performs with gusto. He narrates all the books except for a middle one in the series. I assumed he wasn’t available at the time because he was off “chasing murderers” with DS Havers on the Moors. He returned for the final book and all was right in my Artemis-Fowl-listening universe.

Authors don’t usually make great narrators but Bill Bryson is an exception. His continental accent formed by living in the U.K. and the U.S. adds to the “fish out of water” theme prevalent in many of his books. While his writing and observations are already wry, his sly verbal articulation contributes to the humor. Some of my favorites are At Home: A Short History of the Private Life, In a Sunburned Country and A Walk in the Woods.

I just have to mention Jim Dale. Another British narrator … detecting a theme here? He’s renowned and beloved for narrating the Harry Potter books. Like all great narrators, he’s expressive, versatile and has the ability to give a performance that can create a lump in your throat and make you giggle with joy.

Lastly, there’s actor/narrator David Pittu. I think my opinion of Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch would’ve been less favorable if I had read it. Like others, my patience tested, I would’ve skimmed through big chunks of the novel’s 783 pages. However, the audiobook was a different experience.  Pittu made the story come alive. Especially the character Boris—Tartt’s Russian Artful Dodger. When Boris exited the book for a time, my interest waned. But when the character returned along with Pittu’s spirited reading of Boris, I kept with it. I came to really appreciate and admire the novel. Here’s an example of how a good narrator can actually mitigate some of a book’s flaws.

Happy reading … or should I say, listening!

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