A Few Of My Favorite Things: 2016

As you most likely know by now, I’m a feeling-based writer as well as a feeling-based media consumer. And perhaps because this was an election year filled with an abundance of strong feelings (both high and low), I became very protective (more so than usual) over the energy I gave books, TV shows, and movies. Books were set aside and the channel was changed if the creation didn’t have a feeling I desired to fall into–no matter how well it was written or acted or directed.

(Yes, I know I sound like the Californian I am. I’m okay with that.) 🙂

Gigi reading over my shoulder
Gigi reading over my shoulder

So in the interest of sharing, here are some creative works–new and not new–from other creators (because, obviously I enjoy my own creations or I wouldn’t create them in the first place!) that I enjoyed diving into this year:

The Shining by Stephen King (Yeah, I know what I just said above, but I thoroughly enjoyed diving into this book. It has a lovely simplicity to it, a strong core, and a rich atmosphere. Plus…I knew the ending so I wasn’t bowled over by the horror.)

Northern Lights by Nora Roberts (My mom and stepfather visited Alaska this year so I reread this book to get into the spirit of their excitement. I adore Nora’s books and count this among my favorites.)

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott (Ms. Abbott is a writer’s writer. This book is powerfully subtle, absorbing, and haunting.)

Brotherhood in Death by J.D. Robb (I can’t say what I want to about this book without ruining it. So I’ll just say…wow.)

Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben (I enjoyed that the female main character was flawed and imperfect, but not a cardboard cutout. She wasn’t always likable, and that’s great. Women don’t need to be perfect, nor put on pedestals, nor pander to or prevent the male hero’s journey in fiction. All of those things have been done. This book was a refreshing perspective.)

Live by Night by Dennis Lehane (I just started reading this book and am completely immersed in the world–prohibition in the 20’s–that Dennis Lehane created. A terrific storyteller.)

A Wish for Christmas (My talented friend Christie Will directed this holiday film and it has all the warm and fuzzy Christmastime feels. Christie’s adorable daughter even has a cameo.)

Longmire (I know, I know, I’m late to this game, but I enjoyed the nod to the Golden Era of Hollywood with the character-driven pacing, the attention to subtlety, and the allowance for thoughtful spaces between thoughtful plotting.)

Jessica Jones (Fabulous. And too scary for me to watch at night.)

Justified (My friend Dara came for her annual visit and we binge-watched the first season. She’d never seen the show so it was fun to enjoy it all over again with her. Plus…Raylan Givens.)

Sixteen Candles (A movie with the best final few minutes of all time. Plus…Jake Ryan.)

Chelsea (As I said to my stepsister this morning, what Chelsea Handler is doing for single, independent women is what George Clooney did for single, independent men. Also, I think what she is doing with her show, with her voice, is so important. She is a package of authenticity, honesty, curiosity, wisdom, and humor.)

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Runnin’ Down a Dream (I’ve already written about how much I *love* this documentary.)

Jimi Hendrix: Voodoo Child (In high school, I named our dalmatians Hendrix and Zeppelin. I love the music and the artists from the Hendrix and Led Zeppelin era, and this documentary was excellent–told in his words and focused more on the humanity, the heart, and the creativity, rather than the drugs, etc.)

Janis: Little Girl Blue (Sensing a pattern? Janis Joplin, what an amazing woman with a quest for expressing emotional honesty. Brave, brave, brave woman.)

Parks and Recreation (This show got me through post-election feelings. Strong character integrity, silly antics that remind me of my small town and my family–my mom is totally Leslie Knope–and a whole lot of heart.)

Apparently the themes of what I’ve enjoyed this year have been: strong characters–female and male–strong integrity, and a lot of heart. Well, to be fair, I always enjoy those qualities in people both real and imagined. 🙂

And here are a few things I’m looking forward to in 2017 (some new releases, some just waiting impatiently on my iPad for me to get to them):

Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

Come Sundown by Nora Roberts

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

Echoes in Death by JD Robb

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead 

The Trespasser by Tana French

The Ex by Alafair Burke

The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

In closing–I wish everyone a 2017 filled with stories that you can fall into and adore. May we be uplifted and remember that we’re all just humans on this planet doing the best we can. We’re all learning to fly (to quote Tom Petty). 🙂

xo Isla

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Creative Crushes: Tom Petty & Dave Grohl

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You know that feeling you get when you’re listening to something, watching something, reading something, and it gives you a sort of super boost? It just gets you going, and makes you feel that gritty gratitude that you’re alive and sharing in whatever was created to give you that boost in the first place? And then you take that feeling within yourself and let it boost your own vibe, your own life, your own creations? It helps you to feel a new, fun, exciting facet of yourself?

I call that a Creative Crush. If I were in a band, I would liken it to playing with other people to hear a new sound, feel a new dynamic, then crushing hard on that new feeling.

The idea that a person’s (or group’s) imagination takes nothingness– No Thingness–and creates something that resonates so deeply with people, is an amazing, magical marvel. Creating something from nothing takes many things including drive, discipline, and the ability to connect, listen, and express. And then you hope to hell that the thing you created makes someone smile or feel happiness, or allows them to sink into a story or song or show or movie that either gives them a fun reprieve from the everyday or reminds them of their own creative power, or both.

For me, I’m deeply affected by music, which means, oddly, that I don’t always seek it out. Mostly for the reason that I get a bit waylaid from my own creative spirit when listening to music so I tend to prefer creating in the sanctity of my own space, my own quiet, my Fortress of Solitude (where I may or may not pretend to be Super(wo)man). And adding to that oddity is the idea that live music (that I connect with) is so powerful for me, that I become the most boring concertgoer ever. I become so full of feeling, that I sit there mesmerized while everyone bounces, dances, and sings along around me.

So over the weekend, after completing the second draft of a new book, I set the work aside and spent 8 out of 24 hours in my Fortress of Solitude watching then re-watching the documentary on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers called Runnin’ Down A Dream on Netflix. (Which means I spent more time watching this documentary than sleeping. Something I didn’t realize until just this moment.) The documentary struck me in many ways–not only am I a fan of Tom Petty and the music and lyrics he writes and performs, I am now a huge fan of his creative vibe. I spent the weekend having a serious Creative Crush on Tom Petty.

Of course, it didn’t stop there. Then I found the footage from Saturday Night Live where Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performed the song Honey Bee with Dave Grohl on drums.

Oh. My. God.

This performance just oozes with creative energy. That same magnanimous creative energy that creates worlds and flowers and babies. You can feel it–it’s big and powerful and yet manages to be totally accessible–and the whole thing feels very much like fun. Palpable, ass-kicking fun.

So there you have it, my Creative Crushes of the weekend: Tom Petty and Dave Grohl.

Happy Monday, everyone. I hope you find your own Creative Crush to keep you inspired to create, to live, and give of whatever gift you’re here in the world to give this week (and beyond). If you want to share my current Creative Crush, the more the merrier:

xo Isla