Books, Fiction, Horror, Musings, Reading, Reflections

How I read from there to here!

Recently, I’ve been thinking of all the books I’ve read in my life … not that I can actually remember them all—or even a third. Specifically, I’ve thought of different categories of books and when I read them. While waiting for my first son to be born I read the likes of Updike, Angelou, and Bradbury. By the time my second son was born, less than two years after the first, I used my reading time mostly to escape with Holt, du Maurier, and Clark.

They looked like angels.

Fast forward a few years and two more sons. As I recall, at that time, my tastes in reading seemed to fall mainly in two categories: horror and humor. Hello, King and Bombeck. This probably makes perfect sense to any mothers reading this.

By that time, I was also heavily involved in the church and that’s when non-fiction began to outweigh fiction. For the next 20+ years, I read far less fiction. Oddly—or maybe not—my fiction choices during that time were almost exclusively horror. I ended that period with two large bookcases, one filled with religious books and the other with King, Straub, Rice, Harris, and non-fiction books on the supernatural.

They might kill me for this one, circa 1993!

Then, my sons were grown and I rediscovered fiction. I eased in with Auel, Binchy, Gabaldon and then, I discovered my true love—Southern fiction—in the likes of Tyler, Reynolds, Smith, Walker.  When one future daughter-in-law recommended I widen my reading scope, I discovered books most of you had probably read when they were on the bestsellers list: Marquez, Russo, Hijuelos, Proulx, McCullers, and short story collections by O’Connor and Munro. The floodgates open, it seems now I discover a new favorite fiction author every week.

How about you? Has your adult reading path meandered or or been straight and sure?

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Craft, Fiction, Questions, Read, Short story, Tuesday Topic, Writing

Armed and bewildered …

During the second year of my marriage, I lived in Germany courtesy of the U.S. Army. We lived off-base, though, on the third floor of a German couple’s home. I do not speak German. I regularly encountered people who didn’t speak English. (Imagine that!) I dwelled in a fairly constant state of bewilderment … and fear that I would miss or misinterpret something. Now, I have the same feelings for a completely different reason.

Bad Hersfeld, my how you've grown!

Recently, Cynthia Newberry Martin blogged a five-part series on Reading Like a Writer. She ended by taking apart Alice Munro’s short story Dimensions. I read the story, but for the most part, I left the dissection up to Cynthia. She answered the question posed on the mechanics of the story and then, offered some excellent insights. Since she didn’t propose we deeply analyze the story, it’s not so much that I couldn’t answer most of the questions she posed for myself. It’s just that this kind of reading is a foreign land to me. I don’t really understand the language.

I’m used to reading fiction for escape. That’s not to say I never learn as I read. But as I read, I’m concerned with what the writing says to me, not whether that’s what the author meant for me to hear. Yet, as a writer, I often take a novel I enjoyed reading and study the writing for particular aspects. So, theoretically, I could take a story apart. But my mind rebels at the thought. With fingers in its ears, it sings la-la-la-la-la.

However, this is my year of living dangerously, so with a few other writers, I will attempt a similar exercise with a short story by Flannery O’Connor titled “A Good Man is Hard to Find.”

Cover me, I’m going in.

Advice, Editing, Fiction, Motivation, My Books, Novel, Poetry, Query, Read, Revision, Tips, Writing

Wrapping up November

Please excuse that my last post has been up for almost four full days. I’ve been busy. Congratulations to those of you who met your NaNoWriMo goals. It’s no surprise that I did not make my NaHoCleMo goal. As I soon realized that 5,000 minutes was akin to setting happycleanthe NaNoWriMo goal to 100,000 words, I knew I wouldn’t. But I did clean and organize three major storage closets and my garage, so I feel pretty good about that. And I’ve reluctantly admitted that my husband was right: I wouldn’t have to sacrifice all that many minutes of my daily writing time  to keep on top of the housework. What can I say? I’ve been a spoiled obsessive.

Besides, it’s true that sometimes the best thing you can do to become inspired is step away from the keyboard now and then. This past month, I sketched out five new story ideas; edited one completed story and worked on another; wrote, or started, three new poems; wrote a brief synopsis and have almost finished a longer one; and tweaked the opening paragraphs of The Brevity of Roses to set the tone better. And speaking of that novel—you know, the one I’ve declared finished three times already—well, it’s getting another facial. That’s indirectly connected to NaHoCleMo too.

When I took my lunch and tea breaks from cleaning, I read insthfclmead of getting online. I read about equal amounts of non-fiction and short stories. I’m slowly making my way through Alice Munro’s Hateship,  Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage right now. Before that I had tried to read a novel, which I will not name, and proclaimed myself a better writer than that published author. Then I started Munro’s book, which had me lamenting that my writing is indeed garbage and I might as well just face the fact that I’ll never be published. But last week I opened a file of an early draft of my novel and realized how far it’s come since then. So, I pulled out a printed copy of my manuscript and started working my way through it, strengthening, clarifying, and enhancing my prose.

I admit that two writing tips I’ve been reluctant to follow, I now find invaluable:

  • Let your work sit for a while before you edit.
  • Edit on a printed copy.

By the way, if you’re good at punctuation, I have a sticky passage I could use some help on. Any takers?





Now, your turn. Tell me, what are you working on? How’s it going?

Important stuff: I’m using new software to publish this post, so I’d like to know if anyone has trouble with the display.