My simple secret to make more time to read (free download!)

A free desktop and iphone wallpaper download to help readers and book lovers make more time to read.


Last night, Jarrett and I brushed our teeth, put on our pajamas, cozied into bed, and pulled out our phones. We sat there, side by side, looking straight at those little glowing screens, transfixed by what was inside.

Which for me, was maybe memes on Instagram. And for Jarrett, was probably MgoBlog. I’m not sure which is more intellectually embarrassing, but let’s just say that neither is a tour-de-force of critical thinking.

(What? You’re saying that reading about Michigan football is much better than memes, because at least it’s words and analysis? Pipe down, please, is what I say.)

Do you ever get in bed, ready to read a book, but end up on your phone instead? Or maybe you’re tired at the end of the workday and you end up watching TV instead of reading? Or you have an endless to-do list and making time to read somehow always gets pushed to the bottom of it?

I personally have never done those things, because my life is books and I always make time to read.

(Can you hear how hard I’m laughing? That is a rolling-on-the-floor hilarious lie.)

The truth is, I am hopelessly weak in the face of technology and distractions, and sometimes it’s really hard for me to make time to read. Maybe you, too?

secret to make time to read

But over the years, I’ve tried nearly every kind of experiment to try to become intentional and disciplined about making time to read, especially with setting boundaries between screen time and reading time. 

Here are 3 things I experimented with on my quest to make time to read:

  • I deleted Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram from my phone. (Sneaky, sad me now mostly checks them through the browser.)
  • I cancelled cable. (I don’t miss it. And that’s because: Netflix! Which sort of defeats the purpose here, right?)
  • I lived a whole year without Internet or a TV in my apartment. (I know this sounds like a crazy hermit thing, but it was surprisingly fun. I cooked! I took bubble baths! I doodled and played with watercolors! I read untold amounts of books! I could never do it again.)

Here’s the one simple thing I do to make time to read that actually works:

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7 easy tips for starting an amazing cookbook club

Easy and essentials tips on how to start an amazing cookbook club as the new way we entertain.


I have 12 books stacked and teetering on the windowsill by my desk at the NYC office. The stack is going to fall one of these days, but each time I come back from an editor lunch or author meeting where I’m given a book, I add to it.

That pile stares at me all day, and do you know what it’s saying?

Why aren’t you reading me? I look really interesting. Just look away from the computer and crack open a page. It’ll be fuuun.

These books can put on the peer pressure worse than 14 year old girls. And they’ve made it clear to me: they’re not happy that I’m ignoring them.

Do you have a stack of books pressuring you, too? Or maybe it’s your to-be-read list that’s giving you the side-eye?

Well, I have a solution for you, and I promise, it’s going to be even more fun than sitting at the cool kids’s table in the cafeteria

It’s…a book club!

Yes, not groundbreaking, but here’s the thing: it’s better to have your real friends peer pressuring you to read than a hunk of dead tree. And here’s the other thing: everything you thought you knew about book clubs isn’t true.

You don’t have to meet every month. You don’t have to fake that you read the book because life got away from you. You don’t even have to read beforehand–yes, silent book clubs are a thing.

how to get a cookbook deal

All you have to do is get some of your favorite people together, eat something great, pour some wine, and catch up about what you’re reading, what you’re not reading, what podcasts you’re addicted to, what book-to-screen shows or movies you love, and really, anything that’s going on in your life. Books are our portal into life, and here, they can be our excuse for hanging with the people who make us happy.

So when The Kitchn asked me to share my easy tips on how to start a cookbook club, I was all over it. Because a book club that also helps you finally cook through your cookbooks and eat something really spectacular is a beautiful thing. And almost all of the questions you need to ask before starting a cookbook club apply to starting any kind of book club.

What’s the right amount of people? How often should you meet? How do you choose the book? 

It’s not easy to wrap your mind around the logistics and to start a book club or cookbook club the right way, but let me walk you through the 7 questions you need to answer before starting a book club:

7 Easy Tips on How to Start Your Own Cookbook Club

how to start a cookbook club easy

Do you know what’s better than eating out with your friends? Cooking with your friends. And yet, it’s so easy to fall into a rut of solo weeknight cooking and prepped-ahead dinner parties on weekends. The solution? A cookbook club.

A cookbook club will get you back to the great national pastime of community cooking, and it will help you finally cook from all those cookbooks you’ve been hoarding. It’s also ridiculously fun, and you’ll learn endless tricks from watching how your friends make a recipe.

Your cookbook club can be a potluck, where everybody cooks ahead and then shares the spoils; it can be a day of cooking, where you shop in advance but show up ready to cook and eat as a group; or it can be a prep day, where you cook in bulk together and then send each other home with extra servings for stocking the freezer.

Whatever you choose, you’ll need to decide these seven things before you can get cooking:

1. Pick your cookbook club members.

Yes, you should pick your favorite friends, but also consider how much they like to cook and what they like to cook.

Mentally scroll through your favorite people and ask the following questions: Who is most adventurous? Who’s most knowledgeable? Who loves the same restaurants that I do? Who has dietary restrictions I can live with? Don’t rush this — you can’t have a great cookbook club without people who love food in the same way you do.

Next, decide how many friends to invite. Cooking club experts Polly Conner and Rachel Tiemeyer, authors of From Freezer to Table, recommend capping your club at six people. More than that becomes a literal case of too many cooks in the kitchen.

 

Click here to keep reading this piece on The Kitchn!

 

 

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What I’m Reading This Week

I Started a Dinner Club and It Changed My Life (Lindsay Ostrom of Pinch of Yum): Not sure you want to start a book club or a cookbook club? How about just a dinner club! This piece was so touching and inspired me and my friends to start our own regular dinner club, books optional.

How Much Money You Can Expect to Make From Your First Book Contract (Chad R. Allen): Chad’s the Editorial Director at Baker Books, and here he breaks down exactly how publishers calculate advances and how much money an author can earn from a book. And if you want to read more about advances, here’s my literary agent take on how advances for first-time authors and 6 figure advances work.

12 Books to Fix Your Personal Finances (Emma Nichols for Book Riot): I secretly, oddly love reading personal finance books, and I double down on the recommendation of Your Money or Your Life and up the ante with Money: Mastering the Game.

How to Get More Readers and Sell More Books (Kirsten Oliphant of CreateIf Writing): “Start with the basic platform that succeeds: you need an author website, an email list, and Facebook. Data tells you that these three things WORK. You can branch out to Instagram and Tumblr or wherever you love to hang out, but start with the places that bring you ROI- a return on your investment.”

You Need Fortune Bookies in Your Life (Me editorializing on an idea by the wonderful Heidi Fiedler): Have you seen Heidi’s Fortune Bookies?! They are cute little fabric fortune cookies that you tuck into books and which have a secret message hidden inside. How delighted would you be if you came across one at the bookstore? Heidi also has great resources on her site to teach you how to make your own, but you can also request a free box from her if you want to spread the magic.

fortune bookies heidi fiedler


What We’re Eating This Week

Well, my dinner club doesn’t meet until late October, I’m traveling to NYC and Philly this week, and dinner is dying in a fiery burst of sad.

Monday: But I am home one day this week! So it’s Italian chopped salad based on the one from Otto, because I honestly cannot stop. They will have to pry the salami from my cold, dead hands.

Tuesday: Out to eat with my Yaya, aka Who Can Complain Most About How Cold the AC is at Panera: All-Star Edition. I am so good at this game.

Wednesday: Well, for LUNCH, I’m going to be totally shameless and eat a giant bowl of pasta at the Barilla restaurant near our offices. For dinner: tears.

Thursday: Lunch will be someplace delicious for an editor meeting; dinner will be brimstone and fire.

Friday: Off to Philly, where my sister is 1,000% responsible for feeding us excellently and better BETTER not disappoint. Ahem. #bossylittlesister

Cheers!

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How to get a book deal with your blog

How to go from blog to book–the 3 things publishers and literary agents look for in bloggers!


“Can you give me a number I should aim for?”

I could hear the hopefulness in her voice, the resolution to get started. I shifted in my desk chair and moved the phone to my other ear. I hate this question.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I loved this blogger and her writing. I’d admired her work for a long time, and it had been so much fun to finally talk to her and hear the behind-the-scenes of her blog.

But there was just one tiny problem.

Her author platform wasn’t big enough yet for a book deal.

from blog to book deal

She was doing all the right things—writing consistently, sharing her work, getting to know her readers and other influencers in her space. But I knew publishers would want her stats to be higher for a book deal, and I knew she would need to have a bigger readership to make a book successful.

I squirmed and gently suggested that she wait a little longer to pursue a book deal.

I knew she had a book in her, and I could just see how beautiful and inspiring it would be. But I also know I’m not doing anyone a service if we put a book out too early in an author’s career, before they have thousands of loyal fans who are clamoring to buy it. It’s worth doing a book at the right time in your career.

But how do you know if your blog can get you a book deal? How can you gauge whether you have enough readers to support a book? What are the blog traffic and social media numbers to aim for?

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Why talent is a myth, and the 3 things you actually need to be a bestseller

Why writing talent is a myth, and the 3 things that can actually help you become a bestselling author.


I was scrolling through my Instagram feed on Monday when something stopped me:

“I’m afraid I’m not talented enough.”

It was a caption on a pretty photo of a journal, and it was by a young writer who wasn’t sure she should keep going.

I could almost picture the real scene. The paralysis and anxiety about opening her manuscript. The embarrassment and self-criticism over what she’d written already. The fear that it was all for nothing. The escape to social media so she wouldn’t have to face those hard feelings.

I know it all, because I’ve been there, too. Who wouldn’t rather watch panda videos instead of doing the hard work? (She says as she Googles for panda videos…)

But anyone who’s ever written anything, from a novel to a blog post to a pitch letter, has had those same sinking feelings.

What if we don’t have what it takes? What if we’re not talented?

This nagging fear crops up everywhere, and it makes us wonder if, no matter how much effort we put in, we’ll just never be any good. We say we want to write, but then life gets in the way. Yet if we’re honest with ourselves, what’s really keeping us from writing?

It’s us. Our own fear.

The fear that we’re not talented enough.

how to become a bestselling author

But here’s what I’ve come to realize, after nearly a decade of working with writers and successful authors: that person who seems “talented”? They just have more experience.

It may seem like talented is a natural state for some, but that’s because all we see is the output of today and not the inputs of their entire lives. It’s a totally bogus construct. Most likely, that person began paying attention to writing before you, or maybe, through luck and circumstance, they have more time each day to pay attention to writing. They’ve simply accrued more hours on their experience meter, or they’ve had higher quality inputs. They’re not innately “better” than you–I promise!

What do I mean by inputs? I know we’re not machines, but I’ve always found it helpful to think of the creative mind like a container, one which has both inputs and outputs.

The output—the quality of your work—can only be made with the inputs that already exist in the container. Inputs can be anything. A creative mind is like a sponge, and it sops up anything and everything it finds interesting, even if it has no immediate use for it.

Inputs can be:

  • Books
  • Magazines
  • Art
  • Music
  • TV shows
  • Advice
  • Classes
  • Research
  • Nature
  • Conversations

See? Anything. But the key is:

The more high-quality inputs you have, the higher-quality your output is.

If you started reading The New Yorker at 7, you will be a better writer than most people, simply because you’ve absorbed the cadences of good writing. If you’re reading US Weekly and corporate memos most days, your inputs are mucking up your mind, and you may have to unlearn some bad cadences and turns of phrase.

Since we can’t see most people’s inputs, we assume their superior output is coming from someplace else: their talent. Instead, it’s coming from their superior inputs.

Which, trust me, is great news: it means all you have to do to up your game is fill yourself with the best writing, reading, and other inputs you can.

But fears are like whack-a-mole. You finally stop worrying about whether you’re talented, and then you start worrying about whether you’re self-disciplined enough. Or smart enough. Or clever enough. Or literally [any adjective] enough. Instead, we need to unplug the game and go get a drink at the bar. Um, I mean…stop letting the moles run the show.

That’s what separates bestselling authors from struggling authors. They know that the fears will always be there, but they don’t let them run the show.

Instead, bestselling authors have 3 deep beliefs about themselves and the world that make them completely unstoppable.

That’s why I believe that part of the work of being a writer, blogger, or creative of any kind is character-building. Without methodically developing these 3 beliefs, just like you methodically develop your writing or photos, you can only go so far.

Here are the 3 beliefs that separate bestselling authors from the rest:

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