I Am Worthy of a Creative Life

I Am Worthy of a Creative Life

After wrapping up a meeting downtown for the pre-production of After Oil, my webseries with Jessica Naftaly, I headed down to a new cafe on Main Street and grabbed myself an iced coffee.  While I was sitting out under the awning, I slipped out my copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic and decided that, right then and there, I was going to finish reading it.

It dawns on me as I’m writing this that Big Magic is the first book that I’ve been able to get through all summer.  I found myself nearing the end, and when I approached this quote, I felt I was about to cry:

Shai Cotten

Travel Won't Save You. You Will.

Travel Won't Save You. You Will.

I received a handful of gift cards for my 21st birthday, including one to Barnes and Nobles (my one true weakness).  So of course, I rushed out to the store to gift myself with yet more books to throw onto my "to be read pile".  I came home clutching Juliet Marillier's Flame of Sevenwaters (the last in her Sevenwaters saga) and Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic, which I had been dying to get my hands on for the last several months.

There's a painful irony there, however, considering that in my recent blog post, Depression Riding Shotgun, I called out Gilbert's best-selling book  Eat Pray Love as "a fucking myth".

I want to elaborate on that for a moment.

Shai Cotten

Must Reads To Cozy Up to This Winter

Like a lot of avid readers, I have a bit of a problem.  My eyes are bigger than my stomach, or in this case, my bookshelf, which was already over-spilling about a year ago.  And it certainly doesn't aid my cause that my part-time job is to sort and catalog books at my college's library, giving me tons of access to pretty much every novel, graphic novel, and comic I could dream of.

My "to-be-read" pile is through the roof, but I've been steadily trying to work my way through it in between all the work I've been putting into revising my novel, Ravage, for the umpteenth time. Between each draft, I try to give my manuscript a bit of distance, the way you might take a step back from a painting you've been working on for some hours, and there's no better way to get distance while revising than to get yourself some context - and read!

While these books might not feature high-stakes crimes, or mysterious secret vials sought after by covert organizations, the books I've been reading for the past couple months are all incredibly cozy, very apt for the snowy season, and beyond riveting.  So grab a cup of tea, and hunker down, because I promise these reads will get you through the winter.

Under Wildwood

This is the second book in the Wildwood series by author Colin Meloy and illustrator Carson Ellis, so if you haven't checked out the first book, I highly recommend it!  Under Wildwood was an especially good read for the season, taking place a couple of months after the events of the first book, in a snowed-down Portland in mid-February.  Life is pretty dull for Prue McKeel since she's returned home from her adventures in the Impassable Wilderness, and her only friend, Curtis, still remains within the Wilderness' hidden magic country - Wildwood.  But the danger isn't over for Prue yet, and she soon finds herself pulls herself pulled back into the thread of Wildwood's misadventures, to avert yet another crisis with her friend Curtis by her side.

My impression of the series thus far is Chronicles of Narnia meets the Spiderwick Chronicles  - and I ain't mad about it!  Wildwood has all the charm of C.S. Lewis' classic series, updated for a modern era, and all the heart of any of the great YA sagas to hit bookshelves.  It's a superb coming-of-age story for readers of all sizes, with delightful, charismatic characters, a silly sense of wit and humor, and some of the most beautiful watercolor illustrations I've ever seen.


I've been a big fan of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein ever since I read it in high school, but I got the chance to read it again for a college course the other month, and revisiting it has only made my heart grow fonder of it.  Even if you haven't seen the James Whale 1931 film adaption, or any of the newer ones to date, chances are you know the basics of the Frankenstein tale.  A crazy scientist goes about assembling a monster from dead body parts, only to bring it alive in his laboratory, from whence it escapes and wreaks havoc on the neighboring village.

That's what I thought too.

The truth is that Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is so much more nuisanced  and refreshing than that.  In the original story, Victor Frankenstein is a manic and obsessed man, who lets ambition blind him so, that he abandons the very thing he creates.  Every time I read Frankenstein, I always find it interesting just how unlikable of a character Victor Frankenstein is compared to his movie portrayals.  By far, it is the monster who is the sympathetic character, a creature who does not in fact communicate through intelligible grunts, but who gradually teaches himself to read and speak with incredible eloquence.  What makes the monster unsettling, contrary to the films, is not is deformity, but how very human-like he appears.  As far as classic literature goes - and the genre can be a little on the dry side -  I consider Frankenstein to be a very easy read.  If you're looking for a good, Gothic sci-fi, set in pristine, winter-y Swiss Alps, I highly recommend it.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here

Patrick Ness is by far one of my favorite authors of all time.  I've loved every single one of his books to date.  So when I heard he was coming out with a new one, I just had to pre-order it, and I was not disappointed!

I read it over the course of one weekend, because, as I've found with most of Ness' books, it was an incredibly quick and fluid read.  What makes this book brilliant is that its entire premise is a parody of the classic tropes in YA literature - the Mary Sues, the cheesy love triangles, and main protagonists who always manage to have an uncommon name like "Satchel" or "Finn" - inter-cut with the extraordinarily warming and down-to-earth story of the kids who didn't make that "YA" cut.  The novel's protagonist, Mikey, is just an average kid who wants to make it to graduation before another horde of zombies attacks, or the high school getting blown up.  But while the "Finns" and "Satchels" of their mountainous hometown duke it out with otherworldly forces, Mikey has to battle with his crippling OCD, a mother who has more of a fondness for politics than her own kids, and questions about his sexuality, relationships, and the real difference between infatuation and true love.

Whether or not you're familiar with YA tropes, this book will make you weep.  Chances are, you'll come away touched by the thought that it's not such a bad thing to lead an ordinary life after all.

That's three books down for me, and about another fifty-something to go!  Currently I'm working on Ernest Cline's Ready Player One.  But what are your winter favorites?  Got any suggestions?  Leave them in the comments down below!  Nothing gets you quite as motivated as a book by a good author, and a cup of warm tea!

Shai Cotten