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Posts Tagged ‘what we read’

Does your writing influence your reading, or vice versa?

Today is Day 5 of the 5-Week Author Blog Challenge, for which all of my posts will be focused on writing, publishing, and book marketing. It’s interesting how my new book has influenced my reading, though I’m sure my reading has influenced the book, too! I hope you’ll stick around through all 35 posts. And if you want to take part, come on in – the water is great! You can register here.

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Day 5 writing prompt:

There’s a Stephen King quote that says: “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” How do the things you read impact your writing? What do you love to read? What do you avoid reading at all costs? How would your writing change if you read more of the things you typically avoid?

toilet reading

This picture used to be me, all the time. Now that reading is so readily available at every turn (Want to know when Nineteen Eighty-Four was released while on a cross-country driving trip? Check the Google!), I’m one of the few people I know who can walk out of the house without my smartphone and not drive 10 miles back to get it. I think all the social media and blogging distractions are doing a disservice to my reading actual books. I like ebooks well enough (I have a Kindle), but I generally skim them, as opposed to sitting down to read them. Which you would correctly deduce to mean that I don’t read a lot of fiction ebooks.

I enjoy fiction quite a bit (see yesterday’s post about some favorites), but over the years have been drawn more to nonfiction of all types. If it’s interesting and well written, I may give it a chance, even if I don’t finish the whole book. Like Bill Soroka (another ABC participant), I usually tend to have many books going at one time. But one always wins, and I wind up reading more of it and finishing it first. I keep books in the bathroom, on my night stand, in the car, in my handbag, near the couch, on my desk … almost anyplace I spend a concerted amount of time.

Right now, I’m reading How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes, The Sufi Book of Life, The Red Tent, and Broody New Englander, by fellow Phoenix author Ken Weene, among others.

I’m not much of a sci-fi or paranormal fan, and I steer well away from horror – same with the movies. I enjoy my tranquil existence and have no need to inject that kind of ick into it, even if it’s fictional ick. Guess I get enough of that following politics. That’s not to say I never read sci-fi or paranormal, on occasion. Sometimes a change from my own status quo is refreshing.

Stan and Isis in Liverpool

Stan and Isis in Liverpool

I’ve never been a big fan of travel writing, but now that I’m writing about a guy who travels around the world, I’m reading a lot of travel books and blogs. As with every genre, some are better (and more useful) than others. I would describe Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World as part travelogue, part social commentary, and part fiction.

I tend to avoid overly religious books and highly technical or scientific works. I think I’m getting better at reading outside my comfort zone, though. You never know where the next idea or tidbit to enhance a blog post, story, novel, or screenplay will come from. Not to mention that you cannot help but become a better writer by reading good writing across all genres. As I listen to a rap song (not my favorite genre) on a contemporary alternative radio station I happen to like quite a bit, I’m reminded that this must also be true of musicians, visual artists, chefs, and other artists of all stripes. Studying outside our niche arenas is important if we want to grow as artists, and doing so makes all of our work stronger.

Tune in tomorrow when I’ll be describing my writing process. Maybe I should come up with one by then! Kidding… I promise to impress you, even if it’s with smoke and mirrors.

And for the record, I’d love your feedback on my Author Blog Challenge posts! And, of course, would really love to have you support all of the bloggers in the Challenge. Find their links here.

Here’s to reading everything you can get your hands on!

Laura

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14 reasons I love books…

What better time to celebrate our love for books than Valentine’s Day?

Here’s a collection of gorgeous book images, with a little about how I came to be a book person, why I read, what I read, and how I read. Please share your own similar stories in the Comments section below.

Book-Love 10

I taught myself to read at about age 4 because I wanted to be able to read the comics in the Sunday paper to myself. I had my dad read me the same Golden Books again and again so I could memorize the words.

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Book-Love 3

I was in second grade when my dad took me to the library for my first “research project” on the Great White Shark. He taught me how to use the card catalogue so I could find my own way around the library later. It worked. I seldom needed help again.

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Book-Love 1

My favorite thing about elementary school was the chance to order new books through the Scholastic Book Club leaflet. The longest days of the school year were the days between handing in my form with my dad’s check, and the day that magical brown box showed up on the teacher’s desk so she could distribute our books.

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Book-Love 2

Summers were spent reading 40, 50, as many as 100 books as part of the library’s Summer Reading Program. Encyclopedia Brown. Nancy Drew. Madeleine L’Engle. Laura Ingalls Wilder. I read them all…

“You have to write the book that wants to be written.
And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups,
then you write it for children.”
– Madeleine L’Engle

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Book-Love 6

I met my best friend in a summer program at ASU between eighth grade and our freshman year in high school. The classes we took together included an etymology class and a sentence-combining seminar. My writing improved vastly that summer! I went from an average of 6 words per sentence to an average of 21 words per sentence. Thirty-some years later, I still find the information and processes I learned in those classes helpful.

Jane lived in a small Southern Arizona town; I lived in Phoenix. This was before the Internet. So we wrote letters – the old-fashioned kind with ink and paper. Jane’s letters were long, funny missives in purple ink, most of which I still have.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When I began at the University of Arizona, each freshman was required to take a Library Skills course. Again, this was pre-Internet. The course was supposed to take up to 21 hours to complete. I did mine inside of 3 hours – and I remember being very grateful to my dad at the time.

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Book-Love 5

I’m not a person who can read just one book at a time. At any given moment, I’ve got a book in the bathroom, one in my shoulder bag, and at least one on my nightstand. That doesn’t even take into account the Kindle.

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Book-Love 7

I read all kinds of things – fiction and nonfiction. Love stories, historical novels, literary fiction. Spiritual books, marketing and business books, political books, personal growth books. Our reading taste is one place my husband and I diverge. He reads music biographies and autobiographies, as well as horror/thrillers from Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and the like.

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Book-Love 8

Did anyone ever finish The Thorn Birds? When I read it, I got within about 50 pages of the end of Colleen McCollough’s 692-page tome before simply losing interest. I didn’t intend to abandon the book; it just happened. But then I began asking all my friends who’d read it/were reading it, and no one finished the thing. The first book I ever quit on purpose was Pat Conroy’s Beach Music. Having really enjoyed Prince of Tides, I had high expectations for this book. It was boring and tedious from the start. I kept thinking it would get better, but by page 120, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. It was a big deal to give myself permission to quit reading a book. So glad I finally got over that issue.

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Book-Love 13

I love libraries and bookstores because I love the touch and feel of books. I love knowing that people spent hours researching and writing them. I love the thought that I might be one of hundreds of people to read a single library book. I love the concept of BookCrossing.

It’s really astonishing to think that all our communication, all the English-language books and letters, are derived from 26 little symbols:
a – b – c – d – e – f – g – h – i – j – k – l – m – n – o – p – q – r – s – t – u – v – w – x – y -z.

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Book-Love 9

I love that books can take us places, create visions, share knowledge, engage ideas – in short, call us to a higher purpose. Certainly not every book serves those roles, but they are, to be sure, the books toward which I gravitate. And in my work with self-publishing authors, my goal is to work with socially conscious authors and would-be authors.

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Book-Love 11

Chick lit is my guilty pleasure – along with romantic comedies, when it comes to movies. But good stories with well-drawn characters. Remember, I’m not afraid to drop a book like a hot tamale if it’s not worthy of my time. I bought 50 Shades of Grey out of curiosity. Didn’t make it past the first gawdawful chapter. One massively underrated book is Helen Fielding’s (Bridget Jones) first novel, Cause Celeb.

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Book-Love 12

This weekend my sister, husband, and I will attend the 58th annual VNSA Book Sale in Phoenix, where we’ll surely by a couple dozen more books. We had a yard sale in the fall which allowed us to clear out space in our floor-to-ceiling bookcases, so now there’s at least a little room for the newcomers!

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Book-Love 14

While I fully appreciate the ease, necessity, practicality, and inevitability of ebooks, printed books will always be first, and forever, in my heart.

Happy Valentine’s Day to the readers, writers, authors, and book lovers among us!

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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What we read is a microcosm of who we are

For the next 25 days, we’ll be taking a little detour from the traditional marketing posts you’ve come to know and love on the Marcie Brock blog as I lead by example and follow my own writing prompts for the Author Blog Challenge. There’s still time to register. Join today and qualify for drawings for daily giveaways for every day that you post.

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Day 4 writing prompt:

How do the things you read impact your writing? What do you love to read? What do you avoid reading at all costs? How would your writing change if you read more of the things you typically avoid?

I have long believed that what we read cannot help but impact what – and how – we write. As writers, everything probably influences us, to some degree or another. Our relationships. Our environments. Our childhoods, histories, and life stories. Our spirituality. Our education. Our hobbies, friends, and political persuasions. But those influences generally can be inferred from the microcosm of what we read. Dark. Grandiloquent. Optimistic. Humorous. Caustic. It’s the words others use that implant themselves into our subconscious and influence the words we ourselves choose to use.

The Law of Attraction tells us that what we focus on expands – and there is perhaps no stronger way to focus on an idea than by reading about it, unless it is to record our own thoughts and feelings. What we read is a marker of who we are: our tastes, personality, preferences, aspirations. Those who read fantasy desire a means to escape. Those who read weighty textbooks or how-to tomes desire specific knowledge. Those who read spiritual and self-help books seek personal evolution. Not that reading any one genre stereotypes or pigeonholes the reader, but it does offer a peak at what makes them tick.

It’s been so interesting to read some of the responses to this prompt – because when I wrote it, I of course had my own thoughts and prejudices in mind. I love sex – and sex scenes don’t offend me in the least. I love politics and will read almost any political writing, barring that from the furthest fringes – although I do lean toward writers who generally embody my own personal beliefs. I enjoy certain spiritual and self-help books. Many business topics. And well-written fiction.

Reading fiction for me is like watching a film. I will suspend all disbelief for a well-told story with highly developed characters. I can even excuse certain lapses in polish for a really good story. If there are holes, however, that give me time to notice clichés, poor grammar, character inconsistencies, or obvious and plodding plot lines, I’m likely to stop reading – and never give that writer another chance.

Interestingly, though I’ll watch crime dramas on TV, I am less drawn to them in literary form. One writer in particular … drives … me … nuts. Patricia Cornwell. I know she has legions of fans and as a result gets paid very well – but I just don’t get it. The first of her books that I read seemed simply to end once she’d met her word quota. No tying up loose ends. No conclusion to speak of. I was ready to be done forever, but a friend convinced me to give her one more try. Surely I’d like this book. WRONG! The self-important former coroner can take all her books and fans and money and go jump in a lake. I was right the first time; she didn’t deserve the second chance.

Because I’m basically a lazy reader, the things I tend to avoid are scientific writings, whether they be books, journals, websites, or blogs. As a creative writing major, I took astronomy to meet my science requirements. The thing is, some aspects of science are fascinating. But my free time is so precious that if I’ve got to sit and look up a handful of words on every page or plod through a paragraph two or three times to be sure I’ve understood it before I can move on, I’m just not likely to make the time for it.

My son’s father was not a reader of any note at all. How I never once managed to beat him at Scrabble over the course of a 10-year relationship, I’ll never know. He read gaming magazines, MacWorld, Sports Illustrated. And Tolkien. He adored The Hobbit. Gave me a gilded hardcover copy as a gift when we broke up, which I passed along to our son because I could never wrap my head around Westron and the inhabitants of Middle Earth. I signed up for a 200-level Intro to Fantasy Literature class in college and dropped it after the first week. Though I admire fantasy and sci-fi writers tremendously, they are not genres I am drawn to.

Because I so seldom breach my tried-and-true favorite genres, I developed a habit when I travel of choosing a magazine I would not normally read. Smithsonian. National Geographic. Psychology Today. Popular Science. It’s not often, but at least I occasionally dip my toe in the left-brain world I normally steer carefully around. Reading such things gives my brain a chance to stretch, exercising muscles in my mind that would surely atrophy if I never worked them out. It helps me see the world through a different lens, and in doing so, to bring a more objective perspective to my writing.

I don’t recommend that anyone punish themselves by forcing down books or authors or genres that simply do not resonate. But unless you are one of those Renaissance readers who greedily digests all writing with equal appetite, there is probably some area you’ve shied away from that could provide new vistas you may never have imagined, if only you’d give it a try every once in a while.

Happy reading … and writing –

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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In honor of our 1-year anniversary (May 2, 2012), we’re hosting the Author Blog Challenge! It starts June 2 and is open to published authors, authors-in-progress, and would-be authors. Come check us out and register today!

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