Posts Tagged 'reading'

I’m not dead…

Just on hiatus.

I have neglected to admit my true status for way too long. At first, sometime around BEA, I thought I would be away from this blog for a week or two, at most.

Then, after a blessed computer-free holiday weekend of relaxation and reading, I was certain I would be posting those drafts that were “almost finished” any day.

Then, I received a massive Diana Palmer research project to complete between early June and my long-awaited July 4th vacation. Mix that with last week’s in-house seminar and a mostly all-day luncheon with the lovely ladies (and a few gents) at the Long Island Romance Writers annual shindig, and I was very close to admitting I had hit my limit.

Then, I went out and bought The Passage.

I swore I wasn’t going to start it. I was going to save that behemoth book for my vacation.

Um, that didn’t work out so well.

Now, not only do I have work to do and a vacation to plan, but I have an intensely wonderful book I don’t want to stop reading. I had to deliberately leave it at home today just so I would have my lunch hour to write this post. Justin Cronin‘s book has grabbed me and refused to let go, and if it is within a few feet of me I will pick it up and read as much of it as I can. I’m only 130 pages into the 770-page story, and I’m already wishing it wouldn’t end. Yes, it is that good.

So, today I am forced to face the truth.

It’s going to be a while before I get back to this blog. Because it is summer and I’d rather be swimming and reading The Passage.

For the near future, you can find me on Twitter and Facebook—because it is easier to write (aka, edit) a sentence or two than it is to write (edit) a blog post. I’ll also be on my other blog, a little, because my mom would kill me if there were no regular updates about her grandkid, and on Goodreads so I can list all the books I plan to read while I’m at the park, the pool, the playground and the beach.

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How to write well, inspired by Richard Bausch and Shania Twain

Can good writing be taught?

I don’t think so.

But I do think good writing can be learned.

Just like singing.

A couple of weeks ago, I read an essay in The Atlantic’s fiction supplement about the silliness of how-to manuals for writing while I watched Shania Twain mentor American Idol contestants.

Not surprisingly, the essay got me thinking. Very surprisingly, so did Shania Twain.

Richard Bausch said,

If you really want to learn how to write [then] read…One doesn’t write out of some intellectual plan or strategy; one writes from a kind of beautiful necessity born of the reading of thousands of good stories…

Shania said something to the effect of, “To make it, you can’t just be a great voice, you have to feel it.”

Let’s ignore for a moment how the market rewards timely topics and strong platforms. Those who are great writers, great storytellers, are more than marketing.

And learning to write, like learning to sing, begins with more than talent and desire, more than “a great voice.” It begins with “feeling it.” It begins with a deep, consuming love for the source material.

So, the first and most important step to becoming a good writer is immersion.

Wallow in stories and language, in song and melody. Luxuriate. Find what you love, what you hate, what bores you to tears. Read it all and keep reading. I agree with Bausch. Writers never really move on from this step. Reading is the foundation for writing. Reading is writing’s raison d’être.

Second, practice.

Write to sound just like those who swept you away with their tales, or phrasing, or high notes. Write to sound nothing like them. Write everything, from recipes to essays, novellas to poems. Realize that craft and artistry take hours, days and years of practice.

Third, hone your voice.

Make each word and rhythm and story your own. Riff a little. Or a lot.

Fourth, embrace your constructive critics.

They will tell you what you need to hear, even when it hurts. Peers, judges, readers, editors…even, maybe, one or two really good books about reading and writing. Listen to the advice that resonates, drop the rest of it. Then go back to the first three steps.

Finally, perform.

Let yourself feel it. Read it back. Does the rhythm and the story flow? Does it make your audience feel it, too? Put your writing into a reader’s hands and see what happens.

Most likely, a writer’s reward won’t be money or fame. The reward will be knowing your writing is part of the backbone, the foundation. Your work is there, in a reader’s library, along with Shakespeare, waiting to sweep someone away.

More library love

I am such a soft touch.

My husband can tell you. I cry when the confetti comes down on the winner of American Idol, and I cry when someone wins a car on The Price is Right. I cry at the end of The Muppet Movie when Kermit sings the reprise to “Rainbow Connection.” It’s something about happiness and love and people having their dreams fulfilled.

And because I love libraries, and their stories, so much, Heather McCormack’s post about the publisher-library connection struck me as sweet and wonderful and made me tear up.

Libraries, as Heather says, are an integral part of the “reading ecosystem,”

a gorgeous little loop that leads to innumerable sales and circs that no one’s bothered to measure.

Library patrons are book buyers. They feed the cycle with their passion for stories, knowledge and information. Heather, in talking about one particular patron, says

This is just one story, but I bet you know five people who know five people who have used a library, then shopped in a bookstore, then gone back to a library before returning to a bricks-and-mortar or Amazon. And so on and so forth it goes…

And if you like sharing library memories, don’t miss the continuation of library week over at The New Sleekness with posts from Shayera Tingri and Kassia Krozser.

If you have other library links, please share them!

My first library

coleman
The building that once housed Coleman Library.

I love library stories.

In the same way that I love birth stories and love stories.

So I was delighted to see Kate Rados’ little post about libraries, with an accompanying cute picture.

I commented–about my memories of yummy musty book smells and the wonderful sound of the card-stamping machine–but then couldn’t get the library thing out of my head.

So I looked up images of my first library, Coleman, which was funded by the Callaway Foundation.

The library wasn’t public. It was, actually, overtly racist–a fact I didn’t fully understand until I was in high school. (As a private library they could keep out anyone they wanted, they said, even in the 1980s.)

But before I knew about race and segregation, when I was just learning to read, this library was the most magical place I had ever known.

As if to prove its magical abilities, one afternoon as my grandfather and I walked outside, rain came down on one side of the building while the sun shone on the other. The library was the dividing line of the universe.

All the knowledge in the world, good and bad, up for grabs.

I loved that place.

If you have a library story, head over to Kate’s post and share it in the comments.

[Update, 4/29/10: I changed shined to shone, yo. Because when re-reading I knew something wasn’t right.]

Do you love reading or do you love books?

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I listened to a fascinating report by “On the Media” about the status and future of book publishing.

Colin Robinson, of OR Books, claimed that now was a terrible time to be a reader:

…there is a huge overproduction of titles….if you give people a choice between a hundred things, that’s a real choice. If you give them a choice between half a million things, it’s no choice at all.

But Michael Cader, of Publishers Marketplace, argued the exact opposite:

For a reader, it’s boom times. There are more options. There’s price competition, there’s format competition. There’s new ways to read. You can get things delivered faster. They’re accessible online. There’s more voices, there’s more communities to serve you. So for readers, it’s terrific.

Is it possible for them both to be right?

As a reader, I want my books to be entertaining, enlightening and/or well-written. With traditionally published books, there is no guarantee that I will love a book. But there is an implied promise of quality, since the publisher invested time and money in the product. Hopefully, they will want each book to be good enough that I will come back for more. There may be no such promises with self-published titles, and more books in a crowded marketplace might very well make it harder to find the ones I will enjoy.

Maybe. But I’m not fully convinced.

There are always more books I’d like to read than ones I will have time to read. And I’m not one to plunk down large sums of money for the pleasure of one single story. I visit the library, the used bookstore, and read online. I find the price competition of a crowded market appealing.

Also, I like choosing for myself what makes a good read. Take this example. When the author of a blog I like put her self-published book up for sale, I bought it. I knew from reading the blog that I would enjoy her writing. In this case, my interest and my RSS feed made pretty good filters.

But then Brooke Gladstone moved on to this question: Do you love reading or do you love books?

Picking one or the other is almost like a mother admitting she has a favorite child.

If I think about browsing a bookstore, or the many books that litter my small apartment, or the smell of old pages mixed with a summer breeze coming through the window…I’m tempted to fall on the side of books.

But then I manage to be honest with myself. I do nearly half my reading online or on my laptop. I gobble up stories in various formats, some of which look nothing like books. I borrow more books than I buy, and I add very few books to my keeper shelf. In practice, I’m format-agnostic.

I like physical books because they are convenient.

But my love is reading.

So give me print books and digital books. Traditionally published books and self-published books. E-books and video books and enriched books.

I’ll take content in as many ways as I can get it, as long as the story is good.


DISCLAIMER

I work as an editor at Harlequin, but the posts on this site are all mine and don’t represent my employer's positions, strategies or opinions.
my book shelf:
Stacy Boyd's book recommendations, favorite quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)
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