One Writer’s Journey

May 22, 2019

Reading Writers

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 3:39 am
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How many books do you read at the same time?  I used to be the kind of person who read one book, start to finish, before starting another.  Now, I generally have two books going at once – a print book and an audio book.  That said there are exceptions to the rule.

  • If I realize I need to get something read for book club.  Then I put aside the non book club book to finish the one I will need to be able to discuss.
  • If I have a stack of picture books or graphic novels to read.  Sometimes I will put aside the novel I am reading for a day and focus on these much shorter books.
  • If I am researching something.  Then I will read my research materials during the day and my “fun” book before bed.

How can I read several books at a time?  It helps when they are different types of books but I have found that often my print book and audio book overlap in some way.

I have to admit that when someone claims to be a writer but they are someone who doesn’t read, I am suspicious.  In my opinion, and this is not a humble opinion, you cannot write without being a reader.  In spite of this, I encounter “writers” who simply do not have time to read.  Others tell me that they won’t read because they do not like anything that is being published.

Reading is 100% essential so that you learn the parameters of your genre or type of book. It is also one of the best ways to study good writing craft.  What better way to know what works for the reader than to be a reader yourself?

Step 1.  Read.

Step 2.  Write and read.

Step 3. Rewrite and read.

Because reading is essential all along the writing journey.

–SueBE

 

 

April 29, 2019

Read Now, Read Forever: Children’s Book Week

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 3:18 am
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This is Children’s Book Week.  This years slogan – Read Now, Read Forever.

In my heart of hearts, I hope that they mean “read whatever now, read forever,” because getting my son to read actual books has been a 20 year slog.  When he was little, he loved to be read to.  I think we read every night until he was about 10.  I suspect that is when he realized that not everyone 4th grader had story time with Mom and Dad each night.

At one point, I asked him why he wanted us to read to him when he could read to himself.  He was afraid if he read himself, we would quit.  Not a chance!

I was a voracious reader from the moment that I sounded out my first word.  There’s a rather infamous family story about me yelling out from the bathtub, “Hey Mom, what does sh@t mean?”  Apparently I had sounded it off the sidewalk on the way home from kindergarten and wanted to trot out my new vocabulary.

Sidewalk, book, whatever.  My kiddo always prefered audio books to print and when it came time for print a graphic novel was much better than a novel.  I’m a huge audio book fan so that didn’t faze me.  We listen to them when we travel. I listen while I wash dishes.  Sometimes I get out my knitting just so I have an excuse to listen.  But I still love to read.

The kiddo towers over me now and is wrapping up his second year of college.  Cooking, history, and tech.  If he wants to know about it, he looks for a video.  Every now and again through the years a book has made the cut.  Wierd facts.  Fantasy activities and crafts.  Zombie survival.  How to make jerky.

But just last week, I walked through the living room and . . . what?  What the heck?  Stretched out on the sofa was the 20 year-old with a cat (not surprising) and a novel.

He’s always been a lover of media but only recently has he started to read fiction in print form.  Be still my heart.

The moral?  Patience.  Give them what they love be it video, audio, or graphic novel.  Encourage variety.  And when they pick up what you love?  Make sure you’re all the way around the corner and out of sight before you start the happy dance.

–SueBE

April 15, 2019

Read, Read, Read with Recommendations from Stephen King

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:36 am
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The stand

My favorite Stephen King novel.

If you are a writer, you need to be a reader.  Really, it is that simple. It is one of the best ways to learn how to write well.  You can study pacing, characterization, dialogue and more by reading.

By reading what you write, you know what is being published now.  You know what has been published.  And, again, you learn the techniques of your genre.

But you should also read things you don’t write.  Mysteries can teach you how to create suspicion surrounding a specific character.  Science fiction can help you learn how to incorporate science into your writing without your story becoming a physics lesson.  Fantasy is a lesson in world building.  Horror?  It is all about using suspense and setting the right tone.

Frankly, I’m always a little suspicious of writers who aren’t also readers. Or who read and then pan everyone else as if they write simply to show everyone else how it should be done.

When I find a recommended reading list from a top-notch author, I take notice.  So when I saw this post, “Stephen King Recommends,” on Off the Shelf, I clicked through and then started requesting books from the library.

I’m not big on gore but I love a book that can keep me on the edge of my seat.  Creepy, atmospheric horror makes me want to write fiction. And King is so enthusiastic about the books he recommends.  The best. A revelation. Brilliant.

Which books did I request?  Quiet Dell by Jane Anne Phillips. Case Histories by Kate Atkinson. Darktown by Thomas Mullen. Y: The Last Man by Brian Vaughan.  I’ll be reading some of them in print and listening to some as audiobooks.  I’m hoping I didn’t pick anything super creepy as an audiobook. That was a big mistake with Odd Thomas especially since I was home alone and I’m a night owl.

If any of you have read any of these books, I’d be interested in your take on them.

–SueBE

April 11, 2019

Book Mobiles and National Library Week

Yesterday, April 10, was National Book Mobile Day.  I discovered the book mobile when I was a 5th grader at Frostfield in the Ferguson-Florissant School District. Several smaller districts had been folded into our district and students were bussed hither and yon.  Fifth and sixth graders went to Frostfield.  It felt like it was miles and miles from home.  It was just under three miles.

I don’t remember the actual vehicle.  I suspect it was one of the white trailers.  What I do remember is climbing steep, narrow steps and coming out into a room that was bookshelves from one end to the other.  I’m sure the librarian told us which section held the books for young readers and I headed straight for the yellow spines of the Nancy Drew books.

When I found out that I couldn’t get one without permission, they were too old for me, I immediately fetched my teacher.  I suspect that the librarian was used to young readers who found reading difficult, but my teacher assured her that she could let me have anything I wanted.  Anything.

I’m still an enthusiastic library patron and I still check things out from the St. Louis County Library.  In fact, I keep a shelf here in my office just to hold my library books.  On that shelf, at any given moment, are novels, picture books, graphic novels, nonfiction, print and audio.  I have to admit that I haven’t read any Nancy Drew in a very long time but I’m contemplating a story idea that will require a refresher.

Thank you to the many librarians who have helped me out in various school libraries and in the county library.  You fed the love for books that I hope to pass on to young readers through my own books.

–SueBE

February 11, 2019

Loving What You Do: Reading Great Books

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:46 am
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Since this is Valentines week, I’ll be writing a series of posts about loving what you do, how to keep your writing energy high and your enthusiasm up.  Because, let’s face it, being creative takes a lot of energy.

One of the most important things you should do is read.

Read the types of books you want to write.  These books will show you what has already been written.  From them you will also see how writers create three-dimensional characters, exciting plots, living settings and more.  For me, this means reading good nonfiction. One of my favorite nonfiction titles in 2018 was Chester Nez and the Unbreakable CodeA Navajo Code Talker’s Story by Joseph Bruchac, pictures by Liz Amini-Holmes (Albert Whitman and Company).  It tells his childhood, his life at the Indian schools, being trained for the military, and how his culture helped him survive the horrors of the war and the memories after.

Read books you love.  I will  never write an “own voices” story as a marginalized author.  It’s just not in the cards.  But I love many of these books and reading books you love fuels your enthusiasm for books and for writing.  Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (Henry Holt) was one of those books for me.  I can’t write an authentic African experience, but I can appreciate a fiery female protagonist who has to overcome her own insecurities to fully be herself.  And I can write that kind of character even if she will occupy a complete different type of story.

Read widely.  Read books that were popular when you were a child, the books that encouraged you to love reading.  But also read what is popular today, because unless you are a teen the chances are that things have changed between then and now.

But read.  When a rewrite is being unbearable, briefly shelter in a great book.  Remind yourself just how much you love to read.  It makes the agony of writing worthwhile.

–SueBE

January 2, 2019

Reading into the New Year

For Christmas, my husband got a gift card from HalfPrice Books.  This local store features a wide variety of used books and we all love going there to look for something you won’t find at Barnes and Noble.

This time around I found a copy of Lion of the Valley by James Neal Primm.  Primm was a still a professor when I was at the University of Missouri – St. Louis although I never had him.  I had been looking for a copy of this history of St. Louis for years.  It is the first history complete with bibliography and footnotes as compared to earlier anecdotal histories.

As we checked out, the cashier gave us two calendars.  Not only are there coupons (woo-hoo) but each day lists authors born on that day.  Of course, I immediately turned to my birthday which I share with Barbara Tuchman. It’s a little embarrassing that I didn’t recognize the name of this two-time Pulitzer winner.  She won for The Guns of August which tells about the events leading up to and the first month in World War I and Stillwell and the American Experience in China a biography of General Joseph Stillwell.  I actually recognize the title of the latter book because of the Chinese history classes I took but I’ve never read this particular book.

The great thing about a calendar like this is that you find prompts for authors and books you never would have discovered on your own. Me?  I suspect I’ll be looking for many of these authors on audio so that I can experience them while I row and row and row some more. Yeah.  Someone made a resolution.

An awful lot of the books that I read are written for children and young adults, including my last book of 2018 which was The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M. T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin.  Personally, I like many of these books more than I do the books I read that are written for adults but this  preference has led to a debate with my walking buddy.  She’s an accountant who loves to read adult nonfiction.  She reads YA novels so that she knows what her daughter is reading but feels that many of these books are slight compared to adult novels.

I can’t disagree unless I do more reading.  Not exactly a horrible dilemma!

–SueBE

August 7, 2018

Audiobooks: Is Listening to a Book Cheating?

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:54 am
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Yesterday, I was poking around Jane Friedman’s blog and read Kristen Tsetsi’s post, “Resolving My Cheater Shame: Listening to Books Instead of Reading Them.” It was a different take for me.

I have absolutely never felt like I was cheating, probably because I don’t listen instead of reading.  I listen to some books and I read others.  There are books that I will listen to, usually adult nonfiction, that I would not read simply because it isn’t tightly written enough to keep me focused on the page.

That said, I do tend to feel odd calling it “reading.”  I catch myself distinguishing between books I listen to and books I read.

I read picture books and early readers.  I do not  listen to them even when audio is available.  The illustrations are just too great a part of the experience.

I listen to more adult books, nonfiction and mysteries, than I read.  I listen while I use my husband’s rower.  I listen while I do dishes and fold laundry.  I listen while I knit, crochet or bead.  Unless I’m learning a new pattern. Sometimes a tricky pattern requires my full attention.

My husband and I listen on car trips.  That’s a big deal for us.  He’s been using it as an opportunity to introduce me to authors he’s reading that I haven’t experienced yet.

Like Tsetsi, I feel bad sometimes when I can’t stand the voice actor and have to turn the book off.  Sometimes it is because the person reads in a monotone and there just isn’t any inflection.  Other times there is too much inflection and they are just over the top.  I gave up on one book last week, and I was almost 1/5 of the way through, because the female main character was a bad ass and the reader played her bad ass to the max and it was just too much bad assery.

Will I read this book in print?  Probably not. I had heard enough of the story to realize that, to me, it felt contrived.

Listening to a book is a different experience than reading it myself.  It is a great way for me to experience books in translation when I don’t know how to say people’s names and place names.  Do I feel like I’m cheating?  No. It isn’t reading but I am experiencing the story and the characters and the pacing.  Not reading, but different.

–SueBE

June 13, 2018

The Great American Read

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:20 am
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I wasn’t at home the night that The Great American Read premiered on PBS so I haven’t yet watched the two hour special.  It’s one of my goals for the upcoming week.  I’m going to watch it while on the treadmill.  But I did immediately go online and check the book list.  100 favorite American novels.  I wondered how many I would have already read.

The answer:  34.

I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised by the number of books for teens and tweens including Charlotte’s Web, Ready Player One and The Harry Potter books.  And the classics such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Don Quixote.  There were also modern titles, among them Gone Girl.  

Of course there were also a few books that made me shake my head.  But I’m not going to pan anyone here, so there.

Visit your local libraries and book stores now and you will find Great American Read displays.  You can also find the book list and other information, including how to vote, here.

If I understand correctly voting continues throughout the summer.  You can vote on the PBS site.  Or you can tweet your choices using the appropriate hash tags that can be found on the site.  Yes, this means that you can vote more than once which is kind of awesome.  I would hate to have to choose one book over 20 other favorites.  Serious readers will understand.

Why not use this as an excuse to revisit an old favorite or meet a new best friends?

–SueBE

 

March 16, 2018

Reading: Why Authors Need to Do It

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:32 am
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Lately I’ve been fiddling around with the prewriting I need to do for a cozy mystery.  Although I love cozies, most of the series that I enjoy have been established for a while so I’ve made a point to check out books from some newer series.

Last week I picked these books up at the library and have already read two. I noted that both POV characters were women of about 40. They are both divorced. Neither one of them has children at home. They both own or manage a shop.

Coincidence or trend?  Because these things could be trends if that’s “industry wisdom,” my term for what various people have decided readers want. We all know how that goes.  “Teen won’t read anything longer than X number of pages” became “Harry Potter has shown us that teens will read longer books.”

But it could also be that the people who gave me book recommendations have narrowly defined tastes. If that is the case, there could be much more variety out there.

The only way to find out is to read some more.  My reading list includes:

  • Avery Aames who wrote the Cheese Shop Mysteries.  Another shop!
  • Rett MacPherson wrote the Torie O’Shea mysteries which I dearly love.
  • Amanda Lee wrote the Embroidery Mysteries.  Hobby or shop?  I’ll have to see.

I also have a massive convoluted list that I printed off the cozy mystery blog. I’m going to have to pick through it because somehow they don’t all look like mysteries.  Ah, well.  The search is on!  It’s a good thing that I enjoy reading.

–SueBE

 

February 6, 2018

Love of Reading Month

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:04 am
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February is Love of Reading Month.  I’ve tried to discover who launched this but to no avail.  A Google search uncovered numerous schools doing literacy pushes through February.

Isn’t this a great idea?  What are you reading?

I have two books underway:

Waking Up White by Debby Irving.  It is a memoir about how a privileged white woman is finally able to see privilege and racism and other hurdles to equality.

Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton.  This is a YA fantasy in a world where magic is largely confined to the desert.  It feels historic but is a gritty fantasy that is two parts Arabian Nights and one part Wild West.

So far this year I’ve read 22 books:

  • Handel: Who Knew What He Licked by M.C. Anderson (early reader)
  • The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (MG novel)
  • King Baby by Kate Beaton (picture book)
  • Hot Pursuit by Susan Brockmann (novel)
  • Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitas by Monica Brown (picture book)
  • Hereville by Barry Deutch (graphic novel)
  • Stolen Words by Melanie Florence (picture book)
  • The Bad Ass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer (nonfiction)
  • The Bad Seed by Jory John (picture book)
  • The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd (novel)
  • Newton’s Rainbow by Kathryn Lasky (picture book)
  • Can I Touch Your Hair? by Irene Latham and Charles Waters (poetry, picture book)
  • Take a Picture of Me, James Van Der Zee by Andrea Loney (picture book)
  • Bitty Bot by Tim McCanna (picture book)
  • Watersong by Tim McCanna (picture book)
  • Greenglass House by Kate Milford (middle grade novel)
  • Cricket in a Thicket by Carol Murray (poetry, picture book)
  • A Different Pond by Bao Phi (picture book)
  • After the Fall by Dan Santat (picture book)
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Case of Ruth Bader Ginsburg vs. Inequality by Jonah Winter (picture book)
  • Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson (picture book)
  • This is the Rope by Jacqueline Woodson (picture book)

I’m not going to say that I read this much every month or that you should read this much in a month.  But if you are going to write, you need to read a lot.

And you should read a wide variety of work.  Even if you are a picture book author, read novelists. After all, you never know what will inspire you.

So what are your plans to celebrate Love of Reading Month?  Me, I have a book to read.

–SueBE

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