Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky #BookReview

Book: Making Ideas Happen : Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality by Scott Belsky
Genre: Nonficton
Publisher: Portfolio / Penguin Group
Publication date: 2010
Pages: 242

Source: Library

Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky

The beginning part is most helpful, unless you’re leading a team of creatives — in which case, you need this book!

Summary: For creative people, ideas are the easy part — implementation is the real challenge. Making Ideas Happen traces how to organize one’s self, team, and organization for action. This is the missing user manual for Edison’s famous quote, “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

Thoughts: I’m posting this on March 4th because today is a great day to “march forth” on our goals. :-)

Belle Wong, aka Ms. Bookish, recommended this book to me while she was reading it. Then, she came back to warn me that, after the first section, it’s more about organizations than individuals. Like Belle, I work from home so my working interaction with others is limited, but, hey!, every person reading these words is a potential co-creator (especially if you comment), so I took the advice very broadly and read the whole book, after all.

As Belle predicted, the first part of Making Ideas Happen was the most useful. In some ways, it builds on and critiques the geeky cult book, Getting Things Done by David Allen. I bought the hardback first edition of GTD in 2001, and it’s still on my shelf, so you know how long I’ve been grappling with this issue. Some parts of GTD entered my life and made things so much better — my In Box and Tickler are close at hand, even as I type these words. Others never did take hold they way I thought they should.

In particular, arranging my action lists by context only worked well for errands and agendas. When my actions got separated from my projects, I lost motivation to do them. The method in Making Ideas Happen keeps things much more firmly tied to projects and that’s working better for me.

I’ve had my organization system working quite well since the beginning of the year, using Trello as my new tool. If you can imagine organizing your life using white boards and post-it notes, Trello might work for you, too.

Two months into my new organizational scheme, I was aware of some pitfalls. Primarily, some of my to-dos looked like action steps, but they were really small projects or wishes or resolutions. At any rate, they weren’t getting completed. With the help of Making Ideas Happen, I re-worked things using the concept of Actions, Backburner Items, and References. Voila! My system is no longer clogged with things that aren’t truly actionable.

Appeal: Making Ideas Happen will have the broadest functionality for people working within creative organizations. But, as author Scott Belsky points out, even the most individual projects require the help of others to make it in the world, so the final two sections are relevant to the solo practitioner as well.

Nonfiction 2015Challenges: Making Ideas Happen is my fourth nonfiction book of 2015. Thanks, Introverted Reader, for hosting this challenge again.

Reviews: MizB of Should Be Reading also got the most out of the first part of this book rather than the later chapters: Making Ideas Happen.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

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March into March #ReadersWorkouts

Readers' workouts

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Welcome to Readers’ Workouts, the weekly event where book lovers share workout stories, goals, successes, and challenges.

I met two out of three of my February goals – 1200 minutes and eight strength-training sessions. My third goal was 21 days with at least 8000 steps, but I only managed 16. For March, I’ll increase the minutes by 100 (it’s a longer month, after all). I’ll try again with eight strength-training sessions and 21 days of 8000 steps or more. I’m off to a good start!

For Readers’ Workouts, talk about your fitness activities on your blog (feel free to grab the logo) and link to your post below or join us in the comments! Be sure to visit the other participants to see how we all did.



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Interview: Janel Gradowski #WeekendCooking

Chicken Soup and Homicide by Janel GradowskiEarlier this week, I reviewed Chicken Soup & Homicide by Janel Gradowski on Monday — its book birthday. Today, the author stopped by for a Weekend Cooking interview. This is our second interview. The first one was after publication of her first book, Pies & Peril. In our previous interview, we discussed cooking and research, so I thought that this time I would ask about Janel’s writing process.

I love the names of the businesses in Kellerton, Michigan. How do you go about creating an entire fictional town, especially those amazing restaurants and other foodie havens?

I love to travel, so Kellerton is a sort of mashup of many small towns that I have been to mixed with places I have seen on television shows. I love watching travel/adventure TV shows almost as much as cooking shows. When my family travels we often try to eat at unique local places, instead of national chains, so I have accumulated a lot of dining experiences over the years.

When I am preparing to write a new book I have a lot of fun coming up with new businesses. Of course I have a lot of food-related ones, like Riverbend Café and The Breakfast Spot, but I have tried to recreate what would be, for me, a perfect downtown district with everything from high-end salons to book stores. I have a series “bible” and a map of the downtown area so I can keep things straight as I write new books.

Your characters have such great jobs, many of them food-related. How do you go about populating a fictional town? 

Honestly, many times the characters just come to me. As a writer I file away bits and pieces of people I see or talk to as I’m going about life. I really should get one of those T-shirts that warns people that I’m a writer and they may end up in my next book!

During the initial plotting stage for a book I’ll jot down notes on new characters. When I decide on characteristics they get their own page in my series bible. I also use Pinterest where I have a private board populated with people who look like the characters as well as the character descriptions. As I’m writing I can just pop onto Pinterest to see who I’m writing about. I also have a set of tiny index cards on a binder ring that I use to record all character names in alphabetical order. Names are the hardest thing for me to come up with. I tend to want to use very similar sounding ones, so I have to make a point to check names so readers won’t get confused. In fact, I made name changes in Chicken Soup & Homicide after I turned it in to my publisher.

Are there more adventures with Amy and her friends to come? 

Yes! I just finished writing Book #3. I don’t have a title yet, but I can tell you it will be out in early June. A Culinary Competition short story will also be coming out in a multi-author collection this summer. Then Book #4 in the series will be out Fall/Winter 2015. I have big plans for Amy, Carla and everybody in Kellerton, Michigan!

new Weekend Cooking logoThanks for stopping by, Janel!

Janel Gradowski is a participant of Weekend Cooking. Check out Beth Fish Reads for this week’s round-up of cooking posts.

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Boat to Greenwich #BriFri #Photos

British Isles Friday logoWelcome to British Isles Friday! British Isles Friday is a weekly event for sharing all things British — reviews, photos, opinions, trip reports, guides, links, resources, personal stories, interviews, and research posts. Join us each Friday to link your British-themed content and to see what others have to share. The link list is at the bottom of this post. Pour a cup of tea or lift a pint and join our link party!

We had a fun time at last week’s link party when I reported walking in Benjamin Franklin’s footsteps in London, Becky and Heather contributed book reviews, and Molly reflected on her plans to visit London. I loved the tea & books gift basket that Georgie Lee shared.


From our very earliest days of planning our trip to England, we knew that we wanted to take a boat from London to Greenwich, replicating the journey of John Harrison as described in Longtitude by Dava Sobel. When John Harrison began building the most accurate watch to date, in order to solve the longitude problem, he needed moral and financial support. He turned to the Astronomer Royal, Edmond Halley (who predicted the cyclical return of Halley’s Comet). To reach the Astronomer Royal, an 18th-century person traveled, by boat, from London to Greenwich. That’s the experience we wanted and got — although many of our views on the journey were much different from what John Harrison saw.

Westminster Bridge, London

View of the Westminster Bridge from inside our tour boat. This bridge was built during John Harrison’s lifetime, but not before his initial trip to meet Edmond Halley.

St. Paul's Cathedral and the Millennium Footbridge

John Harrison would have passed St. Paul’s Cathedral, but not with the Millennium Bridge in the foreground.

The Tower of London

John Harrison would recognize this building, the Tower of London, much as he saw it in 1730.

More photos from this journey and earlier days of our England trip are up on my Flickr photostream.

Next week, I’ll post photos from our visit to Greenwich, including attending a lecture by the current Astronomer Royal!



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February Review-a-thon

Write On Review-a-Thon

Time for this month’s review-a-thon hosted by Brianna at The Book Vixen. I have a goal to get to the point where I’m writing my book reviews within a day or two of finishing the book. If I ever reach that goal, I won’t need review-a-thons any more. But, until then, the review-a-thon is my best tool to get there.

Here are the outstanding books that I want to write reviews for on Friday and Saturday:

Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky Scheduled for March 4

Fluency by Jennifer Foehner Wells

Do the Work! by Steven Pressfield Scheduled for March 19

Now You See Me by S.J. Bolton Scheduled for March 5

I may also finish one or both of Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin and Night Sky by Suzanne Brockmann and Melanie Brockmann in time to work on those reviews.

I have plans for both Friday and Saturday, but I’m hoping to get in a few hours of review work on both days.

Will you be joining us? Sign up at The Book Vixen!

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To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis #BookReview

Book: To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
Genre: Novel
Publisher: Bantam
Publication date: 1998
Pages: 493

Source: Library

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis

Time-travel makes this historical fiction and science fiction rolled into one.

Summary: What happens if an item from the Victorian past gets transported to the future? Nothing good to the space-time continuum is the fear in To Say Nothing of the Dog. Bad timing. Because in the present-day (2057, that is), Lady Schrapnell is employing all the historian time-travelers in her quest to rebuild the Coventry Cathedral exactly as it was before being destroyed in World War II. In fact, she has overused the services of our narrator, Ned Henry, to the point that he has developed an advanced case of time-lag and desperately needs a rest.

Killing two birds with one stone, Mr. Dunworthy sends Ned back to Victorian times to handle the space-time continuum problem while putting him out of reach of Lady Schrapnell. Unfortunately, due to the advanced time-lag, Ned isn’t clear what his mission is — only that he finds himself dressed for punting on the Thames and, as luck would have it, in the company of a young man who needs a paying partner to rent a boat. To say nothing of the dog.

Thoughts: To Say Nothing of the Dog is in the same world as Doomsday Book, but it doesn’t read like a sequel. Mr. Dunworthy is a point-of-view character in the first book, but a minor one in this second book. The moods are very different, too. Both books are humorous, but Doomsday Book had a very serious streak, dealing with a modern-day influenza epidemic and the medieval plague at the same time. There are serious issues about time and history in To Say Nothing of the Dog, but they provide an intellectual, rather than emotional, pull on the reader.

The end result, then, is that To Say Nothing of the Dog is pure fun –a romp in Victorian villages along the Thames with festivals and valuable fish and fair maidens who may, or may not, need rescuing. The time travel gives us a quick look at the medieval past, a few dramatic moments during World War II, and a touch of the future Oxford.

Appeal: Like Doomsday Book, this book will appeal to both historical fiction and science fiction fans. There’s a touch of romance, too!

2015 Chunkster ChallengeChallenges: To Say Nothing of the Dog is my 2nd chunkster of 2015. I’m doing very well on my goal of four books this year with 450 pages or more.

To Say Nothing of the Dog also works as my third book for the What’s in a Name Challenge — the title has ‘ing’ in it. I already got my animal, but it would have worked for that category, too!

And, it’s the first of three books I intend for the Reading England challenge, to read books set in three different counties in England. This will be my book for Oxfordshire.

I’ll link this review at British Isles Friday this week, too.

Reviews: The summary at Things Mean a Lot is more detailed than mine but without spoiling the plot (not easy with this book) and wonderfully describes the philosophical puzzle at the heart of To Say Nothing of the Dog.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

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Sad News for a #ReadersWorkout Participant

Readers' workouts

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Welcome to Readers’ Workouts, the weekly event where book lovers share workout stories, goals, successes, and challenges.

Vicki, a regular Readers’ Workout participant and the blogger behind I’d Rather Be Reading at the Beach and Foodies Read 2015, lost her husband last month. She announced his death on this post, so book bloggers have been writing their condolences there.

For Readers’ Workouts, talk about your fitness activities on your blog (feel free to grab the logo) and link to your post below or join us in the comments! Be sure to visit the other participants to see how we all did.



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Chicken Soup & Homicide by Janel Gradowski #BookReview

Book: Chicken Soup & Homicide by Janel Gradowski
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Gemma Halliday Publishing
Publication date: 2015

Source: e-ARC provided by author

Chicken Soup and Homicide by Janel GradowskiSummary: Chicken Soup & Homicide  is the second book in the series that began with Pies & Peril. Our heroine, competitive cook Amy Ridley, has a killer recipe for the Chicken Soup Showdown. But before any one gets a taste, a real killer turns the backstage area into a crime scene. Amy is the lucky contestant who opens the refrigerator only to have a dead body fall out. The situation gets worse when Amy’s best friend Carla is named the prime suspect in the case.

Thoughts: Revisiting Amy, in her small Michigan town, was fun in the winter time because we get cozy dishes like chicken soup, gourmet nut butter and jam sandwiches, and chocolate-chunk scones. Alongside the warm dishes, we get a heavy cold dose of murder, a victim with many enemies and no friends, and a detective who is even less likable than the guy who got himself killed. Clearly, Amy is the only person who can get herself and her friends off the detective’s suspect list by finding the killer on her own. After all, she successfully solved the crime in Pies & Peril.

Foodies Read 2015 ButtonAppeal: A cozy mystery for food-lovers!

Challenges: Chicken Soup & Homicide is my first book for this year’s Foodie’s Read Challenge.

Reviews: Today is the book birthday for Chicken Soup & Homicide. Check out the blog tour that begins today for more reviews, interviews, and other events. Author Janel Gradowski is also throwing a party that includes a giveaway.

Check back on Saturday when I’ll have an interview with the author as my Weekend Cooking post!

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The End of Overeating by David Kessler #SketchNote #WeekendCooking

Since I’m re-losing weight after a rather disastrous 2014, I thought I’d go back to some of the books that helped me the first time around. Employing a new tool makes a rehash more fun, so here’s my first ever Sketchnote:

Visual review of the book The End of Overeating by David Kessler

Click on the image for a larger format

If you’re new to Sketchnoting, check out the Sketchnote Army. It’s mostly used by people to capture conference sessions, but I’m not nearly quick enough to do that (yet). Books seem like a good way to practice without having to worry about speed.


Book Review: The End of Overeating by David A. KesslerIf you’re new to Dr. Kessler and his book The End of Overeating, check out the interview that he did on Science Friday. More recently, he re-worked The End of Overeating as a book for teens that I liked even better for those of us who don’t need a lot of scientific studies to be convinced that the modern food system is broken: Your Food is Fooling You.

Do you believe your brain has been rewired by a food industry run amok? How are you fighting back?

What do you think of sketchnotes as a way of conveying information about a book? I’m trying to decide if I want to make more….


new Weekend Cooking logoWeekend Cooking is the weekly round-up of posts with recipes, photos, and food advice hosted at Beth Fish Reads.

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Benjamin Franklin House & St. James’s Park, London #BriFri

British Isles Friday logoWelcome to British Isles Friday! British Isles Friday is a weekly event for sharing all things British — reviews, photos, opinions, trip reports, guides, links, resources, personal stories, interviews, and research posts. Join us each Friday to link your British-themed content and to see what others have to share. The link list is at the bottom of this post. Pour a cup of tea or lift a pint and join our link party!


After a walk along the Thames, lunch on the site of the Grecian Coffeehouse, and a visit to Twinings tea shop, we visited the Benjamin Franklin House in London. This is the only house in the world where Benjamin Franklin lived that still exists today.

Benjamin Franklin House, London

Rather than a museum, the Benjamin Franklin House is presented as a kind of performance art.

We didn’t learn much since we read about Benjamin Franklin’s time in London in Walter Isaacson’s biography. But, it was cool to be in rooms where Franklin lived, drank tea, wrote letters, experimented, designed, plotted, and operated what many call the first American embassy.

A couple of weeks ago, we got a kick out of the Secrets of the Dead episode that investigated bones from Benjamin Franklin’s time discovered in the basement of this house. The full episode is available on-line, if you missed it. We knew the story from our visit, but the dramatization added life to a story of early medicine, grave-robbing, and life in 18th century London.

After our visit to Benjamin Franklin House, we took another walk to a place that also likely experienced Franklin’s footsteps. St. James’s Park has been open to the public since the days of Charles II and is the nearest green space to the Benjamin Franklin House.

St. James's Park, London

Neither the London Eye or the building housing the Foreign and Commonwealth Office would have been part of Benjamin Franklin’s view from St. James’s Park.

On the way back from the park, we walked along the Palace at Westminster and managed to catch the tower that houses Big Ben at a moment of beautiful light.

Elizabeth Tower, that houses Big Ben, Palace of Westminster

This tower is such an iconic piece of London that it’s hard to believe that Benjamin Franklin never saw it. The Palace of Westminster where Franklin spoke before Parliament burned down in 1834. What we see today is a Victorian building in Gothic style.

Our supper that night came from a street-side stall selling wraps. The plaque on the side of the building said that Rudyard Kipling once lived there. You find history everywhere in London!

More photos from this day and previous ones of our trip are available on my Flickr photostream.



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