Monthly Archives: April 2015

“Popular” Writing versus “Good” Writing

 

angry crowd

The success of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ got me to thinking about popular writing versus good writing. Not that they can’t be one in the same, of course. Often they are. It’s just that, well…often they’re not.

Now, I haven’t read the book, so I can’t give an opinion on it. A lot of people I know have, however. Read it, that is. Not one of them liked it. As a matter of fact, several couldn’t get through it. These are people who, in my humble opinion have some pretty good tastes in literature. And most professional book critics seem to have torn it apart.

And with ‘Fifty Shades,’ not only has it become a runaway best seller, they went and made it into a flick which is doing very well in the theaters. On top of that, there’s a sequel planned, I understand. The writer of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is obviously very rich at the moment and probably isn’t caring very much about what the critics think. And why should she (Or is it a “he”) care, anyway. She’s giving the public what they want and they’re eating it up. And copy-cats have sprung up. One is called ‘Fifty Shades of Blue.’ The author is I.B. Naughty. Ya’ gotta love that one!

So, as a new writer, I can’t help but wonder how much I really need to work to try and turn out a successful book. I can’t help wondering if I’m trying too hard. Maybe I didn’t need to take three years to write ‘Jenny.’ Maybe I could have slapped a few hard core sex scenes in there and not worried so much about the story. If that’s what the public wants, why not give it to them? After all, there’s nothing wrong with sex. Right? It’s good. I’m not a Puritan, I’m all for it

But how would I feel about it, even if the book sold well? Roll around in my money and not care whether or not I’m considered a “serious” author? Or guilty that I had sold out? Hmmm…money would buy a lot of pretty things. And my wife really wants a house on the beach… (Sigh!).

There’s always a pen name, of course. Yeah…that would work. I.B. Naughty seems to have been taken. But I’m sure I can come up with something. How about Hugh R. Hornee? That’s not bad. I could write as Hugh and watch the money pour in while I satisfy the literary part of me by writing my “serious” book. I’m weak, though. I’m afraid that if I did that and started to see thousands of dollars rolling in from Hornee’s work I’d kick the “serious” work to the curb. Hell, if Hugh R. Hornee’s novels just bought me a yacht, screw Joe Bucemi and his high-falootin ways!

But, what if you can’t have it both ways? What if it was time to make a deal with the Devil? He gives you two options. You can write a trashy book that critics are practically laughing over, but sells a million copies and gets you a multi-million dollar movie deal. Or you can write one that is generally regarded as one of the most beautifully written pieces of literature ever seen by human eyes. The trouble is, hardly anyone will read it and you will barely make enough money on it to pay your electric bill. Ironically, it will become popular ten years after you’re dead.

Hmmm…again. Would I start to think of all those pretty words, or all those pretty things and that house on the beach? I would have to make sure my wife wasn’t in the room while I was making my decision. I know which one she would pick.

 

 

Monogamy vs. Polygamy, What works for you?

Polygamy

 

There are three types of people in this world – monogamists, polygamists and those others. (No, no, not bigamy. Sheesh. Non-literary people, those who do not read OR write. They do exist.)

I have seen these terms used in regards to a reader for years.

The monogamist reader who reads only one book at a time, from beginning to end, giving each book its undivided attention.

The polygamist reader who can juggle their book reading as though they have a spotlight in the literary circus – right after the fire breathing typewriters of course. These readers can read a multitude of books at a time, never getting the stories confused with one another.

When I received the  picture above recently, I started thinking about how the terms also work for writers as well.

You have the monogamy group – a person who writes only on one project at a time from start to finish. They do not stray onto other projects for fear of losing focus or voice.

Then you have the polygamy group – a person who has the ability to work on multiple stories/projects at any given time. They can wake up one day writing out a much anticipated fight scene only to end the next day in the head of the niece with a crazy talking dead aunt. Ahem. Not mentioning any names here. Cough. Amanda. 

Personally, I am a mix of both worlds.

As far as when I write, I am a  tried and true monogamist. I do not have the talent to really jump stories or my voices tend to be weaker. No, not the voices in my head, but the voice of the story itself. But then when I read, I break all of the monogamy rules. Currently I am reading four different book, and love three of them! (You can see what I am reading here.)

So what type of people are you? Let me know in the comments.

Till next time,

~AJP

Just Keep Writing

Like that adorable fish, Dory, in Pixar’s Finding Nemo, sometimes when things get hard I will remind myself sometimes to “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming…” You may laugh but I’m entirely serious. 🙂 I love her little reminder to just keep going.

As a writer sometimes I need my own version of Dory’s “Just keep swimming”. I have to tell myself to Just Keep Writing.

I have the tendency, and I’m certain I am not alone on this one, to edit my work as I go.  I did a lot of this when I first started writing. I wrote three fourths of a novel, then decided I didn’t like the perspective I’d chosen. So, I went back through the whole thing and changed perspective. As a note, if at all possible, don’t ever put yourself in that position.  It’s miserable to catch all the first person perspective and switch to third. But this was my first attempt at a novel and was really just an adventure in learning what not to do. 🙂

Fortunately, I’ve learned since my earlier work to push forward instead of going back to edit. I have a novel essentially finished that I wrote following the Just Keep Writing advice. I did not spend a lot of time writing and re-writing and re-writing some more the same beginning chapters. Instead I wrote the earlier chapters (that need work) then left them and moved on to the later chapters. I now have the bones of the book and can go back now and focus on editing.  I haven’t tackled this fully, but when I set aside the time, my focus can be on improving, rather than just getting it on the page, as I was with the first draft.

But it’s not just when we try to edit as we write that we need the Just Keep Writing reminder. It’s when we get stuck, or feel we are stuck. It’s when we are not happy with what we are writing. It’s when we don’t feel like writing at all.  It’s when we are discouraged with feedback we got on a piece that is critiqued. It’s when we feel like we have nothing in the world worth sharing with the world. It’s when we are just tired and don’t feel like it. It’s when whatever it is that is holding us back from getting the words on the page tries to prevent us from moving forward.

We have to just keep writing. 🙂

Have a happy writing week!

~CJS

 

Tools of the Trade

In any job, you have certain tools that are required to be able to do your job properly. Writing is no different. In general, writing requires some sort of writing implement consisting of either a computer with word processing software or ye olde pen and paper. Of course, it also helps to have a fairly decent understanding of the language you are writing in, and a good vocabulary helps as well as basic grammar. Then, of course you need an idea. But is that all you need?

Within the last year, I have met all kinds of writers: pansters, plotters, plotting pansters, natural storytellers, experienced authors, etc. But the one thing that stands out among everyone I’ve met is that the successful writers have empathy. You can write the most gorgeous scene to ever be written, but if your characters are lacking in emotion, you will be lacking in readers. If you can’t understand what it’s like being your character, then no one will be drawn in to your book to find out more. They won’t care enough about your characters to want to learn about them.

It sounds odd to have empathy for imaginary people who only live in your head but think about it. When you go to a movie that catches you up in it, what has drawn you? What is it that hooked you in the first place? What made you care enough to involve yourself emotionally? What about your favorite book? My guess is there was at least one character that grabbed you and held on. You got involved with an imaginary character. Why? Because you were able to empathize with them. And that is because the writer got inside that character and was able to understand him/her and write from their point of view.

As you know, CJ Stuart and I have been doing challenges ths month. We’re both doing the Blogging A to Z Challenge, and I’ve been doing a poetry challenge. Yesterday, the poetry challenge required me to write a persona poem. This is a poem written from a different perspective than my own. There were some really good ones. The best told a story from a fountain pen’s point of view. My blog friend, Lizzi Rogers, wrote from a statue’s perspective. And I wrote from an old woman’s view. (I have included my poem at the end of this post.)

All of us had to be able to consider what it was like to see through another’s eyes, even if those “eyes” happened to be inanimate objects. What makes a story compelling isn’t just a good plot. You also have to have believable characters who get you emotionally involved with them. Mark Twain said, “write what you know.” He was talking about emotions. It isn’t enough to create an imaginary world people want to live in. You must also create people that others want to empathize with. We all want to know that others are going through the same things we do. We want someone to cheer for.

This week I challenge you to write with empathy. See the world from a different perspective than your own. Go out and think about what someone else might be experiencing and try to understand life from their point of view. Or maybe, see things from a new angle. I wonder what the tree in my backyard is thinking…

Have a great Monday!

Jesi

Advice from Atropos*

By Jesi Scott

 

Look at me.

Look at me and dread the day you

look like me,

skin creasing, folding in on itself,

hair greying, thinning, turning white

as age gnaws on my bones.

 

With age comes wisdom,

or so they say.

Let me tell you what I have learned

in this lifetime.

Life is hard and unfair;

it is ugly and messy and so full of disappointment.

It leaves you scarred, your body marked,

and, sometimes your soul, for all eternity.

 

You will cry and beat your fists in rage;

it’s how we come into this world,

and how some of us go out, still fighting

the current that draws us inexorably

toward the waterfall without a paddle;

we all go over, willing or not.

 

But there are moments…

Oh, such moments!

Such sweet, pleasurable, blood-racing,

breath-holding, firework moments…

the touch of someone’s hand on

your’s, the sound of a baby’s first laugh,

the scent of fresh spring rain,

the silk of his or her lips on your lips.

Oh, how I will miss the simple

pleasure of a kiss.

 

So, look at me.

Look at me and remember these days of your youth,

for they will not come again.

Remember the hard days, and the good;

relish every heart-stopping, goose-pimple, champagne-bubble moment,

because these are what get us through,

and make life worth living.

 

*Atropos is one of the three Greek goddesses known as Fate. She represents one of the three ages of woman known as The Crone.

Damsels Who Can’t Be Bothered to be Distressed

(This is a reblog of a post by my friend Cedar Sanderson. Over the last few weeks, there has been a lot of discussion about this year’s Hugo nominees, accusations that certain people hijacked the nominees by — gasp — telling people they could vote and recommending titles they might want to consider nominating. Part of the backwash to this has been, among other things, accusations that these dastardly upstarts — read wrong thinking authors and fans — are misogynists and (I kid you not) white Mormon males. So Cedar put together, with help from a lot of other folks, a partial list of books with kick-ass female main characters. It’s a great list — and I’m honored to have two of my characters listed.)

Death before Whining!

This started out as a spark off Tom Knighton’s post at According to Hoyt the other day. He wrote: “I don’t recall exactly who, but one of the better known authors of our genre once claimed that all people like me wanted in our books was, “Manly men doing manly things in manly ways.” Obviously, this was a snide way to say that I and people like me have no interest in female characters.”

Huh… LOL… ROFLOL!!!

Oh, now that I can breathe again (and need to sweep the floor. Ugh, dog hair!). I’ve known for a while that certain people have their noses so far in the air that it hinders their ability to see where they are going. Since it also seems to impede their ability to read, I have no fear that they will find this list and be scandalized. You see, I asked a question right after sharing Tom’s post. I asked it in two places that would be considered the ‘heart of darkness’ by those who claim we are misogynists. The Conservative Libertarian Fiction Alliance, and of course,Sarah’s Diner (’cause they think she’s a white Mormon male. I rest my case about where their noses are). What follows is a partial list of the day’s long conversation that was generated, mostly people who were enthusiastically sharing their favorites and recommending more. This isn’t something that took effort on my part, folks, I didn’t have to poke or prod. I stole the tagline from Baen, from their guidelines for the Fantasy Contest, because it amused me. It seems to have sparked a reaction from the people I was asking, too.

If this list isn’t enough for you, head over to the original post for something like 500+ comments, many recommending more good books. I’d pull them out, but frankly, like many of the women on this list, I haven’t got time. Places to go, things to do… The list is presented to you in no particular order. It is by no means complete. Please feel free to make other suggestions (or highlight some of these) in the comments. One thing folks around here do, we don’t tell people not to read something because it’s not ‘rightthink’ or it was written by a wrong person. We say ‘hey that was good! and you might like this one, too!’

You will note I have not discriminated. Male or female, the author’s gender, sex, or pigmentation matters not at all. These are characters who inspire their readers, we don’t care about the author. The story is the point.

Hopefully this will give you some strong women who aren’t afraid to take names and get the job done, without whining and resting on their laurels simply because they were born female. Women to Ride the River with.

ride the river

  1. Kendra from Freehold by Mike Williamson
  2. Modesty Blaise by Peter O’Donnell
  3. Princess Cimorene in Patricia Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles
  4. Seawolf and Shewolf by John Ringo
  5. Cally O’Neal by John Ringo
  6. Marion Alston and Swindapa by SM Stirling
  7. Kyri Vantage, Ariane, Madeline and Helen by Ryk Spoor (Balance Sword series, Arenaverse, Boundaryverse)
  8. Jirel of Jory by C.L. Moore
  9. Menolly by Anne McCaffrey
  10. April series by Mackey Chandler
  11. Moreta by Anne McCaffrey
  12. Friday by Robert A Heinlein
  13. Podkayne of Mars by RAH
  14. Wyoming Knott in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by RAH
  15. To Sail Beyond the Sunset by RAH
  16. Dorothy in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum
  17. Faye in the Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia
  18. Susan and Lucy (and others) in the Chronicles of Narnia
  19. Telzy Amerberdon, Trigger Argee, and most especially the Witches of Karres by James Schmitz
  20. Mackensie “Mac” Santos from Nocturnal Origins by Amanda S Green
  21. Ashlyn Shaw by Sam Schall
  22. Eowyn from Lord of the Rings by Tolkein
  23. Meg from A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline LÉngle
  24. Moire from the Sequoyah Trilogy by Sabrina Chase
  25. Kendra from Fablehaven
  26. Raederle from the Riddle Master Trilogy by Patricia McKillip
  27. Paks from Deeds of Paksennarion by Elizabeth Moon
  28. Enchantress from the Stars by Sylvia Enghald
  29. Athena from Darkship Thieves by Sarah Hoyt
  30. Kyrie from the Shifter series by Sarah Hoyt
  31. Cordelia and Kareen, from Cordelia’s Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold
  32. Ekaterin, from Komarr by Lois McMaster Bujold
  33. Blood Red by Mercedes Lackey
  34. Mary Russell, series by Maurie R King
  35. Isabella from Dragontamer’s Daughters by Kenton Kilgore
  36. Amy Lynn, by Jack July
  37. Sabriel, Lyrial, and Abhorsen by Garth Nix
  38. Remnant Population by Elizabeth Moon
  39. The Ship who Sang by Anne McCaffrey
  40. Carla Punch from the Punch series by Erin Lale
  41. The Shield, Sword, and Crown Trilogy by Hilari Bell
  42. Barb Everson from Princess of Wands and Janea from Queen of Wands by John Ringo
  43. Kahlan and Cara by Terry Goodkind
  44. Belladonna Traycroft from the Pixie for Hire series by Cedar Sanderson
  45. Julie Shackleford from Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia
  46. Karrin Murphy from the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
  47. Kitai from Codex Alera by Jim Butcher
  48. Eve Dallas from JD Robb’s in Death series
  49. Mara Jade by Timothy Zahn
  50. Kathryn Dance series by Jeffrey Deaver
  51. Manana Shushurin from the Pius Trilogy by Declan Finn
  52. Honor Harrington by David Weber
  53. Bast from Council Wars series by John Ringo
  54. Tanya Desjani of the Lost Fleet Series
  55. Neeta Lyffe by Karina Fabian
  56. Fisher from Simon R Green’s Hawk and Fisher shorts
  57. Tinker from the Elfhome series by Wen Spencer
  58. Sarah Prine fron the Western Series by Nancy Turner
  59. Echo Sackett from Ride the River by Loius L’Amour
  60. A Fairy Tale by Shanna Swendson
  61. Alicia DeVries, In Fury Born by David Weber
  62.  Linn from Vulcan’s Kittens by Cedar Sanderson

Open House

In a couple of my blogs I’ve written about story ideas. Sometimes, I get the inspiration from paintings, as I wrote a couple of weeks ago, but mostly I get ideas from real life experiences. There is one event that, although I have not used it yet, continues to stick with me. It is one of those experiences we all have that remains lurking in the back of our minds for months or even years. In this case, it was an open house I conducted just last year.

An open house is when a home seller, either through a realtor or by themselves, opens up their home for an afternoon for prospective buyers to parade through and give it a look-over. I’m sure you have all seen an “open house” sign in front of a home at some point. Anyway, as a real estate investor, I occasionally use this exercise when placing a property on the market. Actually, it has proven to be a rather effective tool by consolidating at least several individual showings into just a few hours.

One of the drawbacks to conducting an open house, however, is that anybody in the neighborhood or off the street may stop in, whether they are a serious buyer or not. Sometimes, neighbor families of up to four or five will stop in just out of sheer curiosity. This is what I like to cynically call, “real estate tourism.” Of course, these are not true prospects and, in a practical sense, a waste of time for sellers when the bottom line of the real estate business is all about “the numbers.”

With the cold, hard numbers in mind, one open house showing I specifically remember was early last summer when an elderly woman, perhaps in her 70s or 80s, stopped in with a friend. The woman, Edie, was interested only in seeing the house since we had cleaned it up. And actually, she and I talked mostly about everything but the house. She talked about her family and about when she was young, during World War Two.

Yes, when thinking about “the numbers,” as I mentioned, she was wasting our time. But, aside from being so friendly and kind-hearted, she actually was interesting.

However, what sticks in mind the most about Edie was her Alzheimer’s disease, which had her repeating her stories three or four times. In the beginning, it seemed rather sweet, but to this day, even a year later, I wonder how she handles it and hope, as I get older, that I don’t have to find out firsthand what it is like to forget that I already told “that story.” I wonder if she ever figures out that she tells the same stories and does the same things two, three or four times over again. At the time, she didn’t seem to grasp that she was repeating her stories, but what I still wonder most is if she gets frustrated by it all.

Then, a week or two later, as you might have expected, Edie stopped by to tour the house again. She was so curious and enthusiastic about seeing the home “for the first time” since we had cleaned it up.

It really hit my heart both times to watch Edie go through this. Her friend seemed to take it all in stride, though, probably because Alzheimer’s is a fact of life that, thus far, is out of our mortal control.

While this experience may or may not influence any of my stories or other fictional writings, it is obvious it has had an effect and, having written this, probably something I’ll remember for quite a while.

 

Let It Go!

 

LET IT GO

Sorry, I’ve probably stuck the song from ‘Frozen’ into your head, now. But that’s not what this is about. It’s about how hard it is to hit the enter button when you’re done with that story or book. Well, it is for me, anyway.

It took me about three weeks after telling my writer’s group that I was done with my novel, to finally post it for them to read. I checked it, double checked it, triple checked it and…okay, you get the picture. It had to be right. Spelling and punctuation. And did I spell that character’s name the same way every time I used it? I had to check, again. And now that I was reading it once more, I wasn’t so sure that I liked that conversation between two of the main players in the book. Maybe I should change that, I thought. And I wonder if I should rethink that ending…

Oh man! That can go on forever if you let it. And I was about to let it. I had already been writing that thing for three years. Enough, already! Let it go!

I’m sure there are plenty of writers, out there, who finish the piece and kick it out the door. Five minutes later they are already working on the next one. That just takes more confidence then I have, at the present moment. Maybe I’ll be there, someday. I’ll write “The End,” and off it will go. “If people don’t like the ending, the hell with ‘em,” I’ll say as I spit into my spittoon and wipe my mouth with the back of my hand. Then I’ll confidently begin to bang out the next book.

But right now I can give myself a headache agonizing over it all. Is this the correct word to use? Maybe I should change that character’s name. Should that scene happen inside the house or outside? Nothing is too minor to worry about. It causes me to take a long time to finish anything. And, admittedly, sometimes not finish. I’m too much of a perfectionist.

And it doesn’t have to be perfect. Not right away, anyway. It just has to be finished. Working out the bugs is what the beta readers are for. And, of course, editors. I know all this and yet it’s just that, as I’m writing, I’m aware of the fact that the words I’m typing are what people will judge me on. Those words will be who I am. They are all that the reader will know about me. I’ll be judged a genius or a complete dumbass according to the words on those pages. Maybe that’s what a lot of us are afraid of. Maybe that’s why a lot of people who want to write, don’t. They are scared that people will think they are dumbasses. It takes a little courage to put yourself out there.

But, I’m doing it. My finger may be trembling as I press the enter button, but I press it. Yes, I do it after checking, double checking, triple checking, etc…Hopefully, with time, I’ll just hit that button with confidence and let it go.

(Cue Music…)

P.S.

I don’t really spit and I actually don’t own a spittoon.

“Nobody goes to libraries anymore.”

One of my favorite movies as a kid was The Pagemaster with Macaulay Culkin. It was about a boy who found himself taking shelter from a storm inside a very empty library except for the lone librarian. The boy ended up having to overcome these different obstacles and adventures before he was able to return back to normal.

The idea of getting lost in a library only to have to live out the stories fascinated me. Along with the fact that I could never quite understand why such a grand library was so deserted. (The library in this movie was beyond cool looking.) With all of those books to be read, the idea that no one was fighting over getting to read as many as possible always baffled me.

Now fast forward 21 years and I find myself dealing with a similar feeling.

“Nobody goes to libraries anymore.”

These words struck me as odd when I heard them while watching a TV show with my husband the other night. I had to rewind the scene to make sure I heard the dialogue correctly. Sure enough,I heard correctly. My husband laughed a little and muttered that they obviously hadn’t met me.

Touché husband, touché,

It was Monday night and already I had been to the library twice this week. Just earlier that evening I had taken my son and a neighbor’s daughter (ND) so that they could pick up a stack of books for after test reading this week.

When we arrived, I let the kids loose to find what they wanted. At first I noticed that ND was kind of wandering around, looking for something but she had a scrunched up face about her. She had wanted to search for a specific book, but the one of the catalog computers was out of service and the other was occupied. She hadn’t ever been out of the “children” section before so when I took her to a different machine in the “main” part of the library, her face was in awe. It was incredible. She was down right giddy.

“Oh, I like mysteries!” she said. And after further conversation, I determined that what she was looking for was the horror genre, not mystery. We quickly found the book she had been looking for and then I steered her towards R.L. Stine’s collection (safely back in the children’s section) where she went home with his first two Goosebumps series.  (Thank God, I wasn’t sure how her mother would have felt had I let her come home with a stack of Stephen King novels.)

In a matter of minutes, these two had their arms loaded down with books. It was hilarious, partly because at this moment they were competing on who could check out the most books. The other part was because I kept waiting for one of them to drop their stack – I am the mom who likes to point and laugh…

UnFortunately, no books tumbled to the ground, we managed to check out with 40 books between the three of us (some of these books were designated for the two younger siblings that were unable to tag along), and I had the pure joy of experiencing someone else’s excitement over books.

This leaves me with the question… why does Hollywood think that libraries are dead?

Do they think we aren’t reading? Surely they are smarter than that.

Is it because ebooks have come up in the world full force, and that is great, but guess what? Any given library has an exceptional ebook collection.

There are more published writers in today’s world than ever before so this can’t be the reason.

Today’s library isn’t just for old dusty books anymore (were they ever?), and it is not just a place for someone to use the computers for free (Monday night, the computers were almost all vacant, thank you very much.)

The library is a community for the community. It is a place for all, it doesn’t care what your race is, your gender, your age, your likes, dislikes. No matter who you are, there is something at the library for you.

Just please, do not bend the pages.

Do you have a favorite library? Is there a special library that you hope to visit one day? I’d like to visit all of them…

Happy reading,

~AJP

(Too bad I didn’t think of this post last week during National Library Week…)

 

Reading and Writing (No Arithmetic)

 

image

Lately I’ve been so busy with work and with my very limited amount of writing that I have spent far less time reading than I would like. I am really missing it.  Reading offers so much to me for sheer escapism and reading pleasure, but also because what we read can be such an inspiration for our writing and a practical lesson in how to write well.  Or, depending on the book, how *not* to write! 😉

Stephen King says so well in his great autobiographical writing book, On Writing:

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others, read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”

While I simply enjoy reading and always have, I totally get the idea of reading to be a better writer. When I read now, I always read with an idea in mind about what I like about what the writer is doing, and what I don’t think works that well. I can’t help but see those details.  That’s not to say I don’t get completely wrapped up in the story sometimes and forget to pick up on any details, because I do that a lot, too. But those are learning moments as well.  I can ask myself what made me get lost in the story or why was it so compelling.  I may not be able to tell you details but I can tell you an overall impression.

I go through spells where I read obsessively. Sometimes it’s because I find something I especially like to read and sometimes just because of the circumstances at the time. But for lots of reasons, the largest being just an insane work life right now, I have cut my reading down significantly the last few months.  In the last few weeks, though, I’ve been having a serious craving to read more.

I like the quote at the beginning from J.K. Rowling because I am an escapist reader. I like to read stories that let me escape my own reality and explore someone else’s.  I will read stories that have a lot of conflict or horror, but they aren’t my first preference because I don’t like to spend a lot of time in a stressful world.  If it serves the story well and the writing is good, I’ll still enjoy the book, but I like to enjoy the world I visit.

I recently read an article I found on Twitter – 32 Books You’d Like to Read Again For The First Time and was thrilled to see most of my choices represented. I’ve read a lot of the books they have on the list and am tempted to check out some of the others that I haven’t. Two of the selections were very popular series so were not at all surprising. The number one selection was the Harry Potter series, which I love and wholeheartedly agree would be a great one to read again for the first time. Another was the Hunger Games trilogy. I would love to read both of those series again for the first time again because they are just so good. I’ve re-read them several times, but to read them again for the first time would be a real treat. Many classics were also listed that are also favorites of mine, like To Kill a Mockingbird and The Great Gatsby. Both might feel like the first time again since it’s been so long.  But one book I didn’t expect to see on the list is one I would definitely include on my list – The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay. I’ve read this book so many times and can I just tell you the movie based on the book is a total disappointment if you’ve read it.  Read the book, don’t watch the movie.  The Perks of Being a Wallflower on the other hand (also on the list), is a great movie, so I’d recommend giving both a shot.

So I need to find something new to read. I have quite a lot on my ever growing To Be Read list, and have more than a few sitting unread on my bedside table and on my Kindle. I’ll keep you posted if I find a new one that I especially enjoy. But whether I end up with great new find or not, I will be happy to be reading. 🙂

Do you read a lot? Wish you could read more? What are you reading now? Are there books you’d like to read again for the first time? What are they?  Do leave a comment and let us know.

Thanks for *reading* and have a great week!

~CJS

Warning! This Post Contains Opinions

More and more recently the term “trigger warning” has been coming up in conversations I have, articles I read, and the news. Most of these are centered on colleges petitoning for “trigger warnings” to be put on books that might potentially contain disturbing themes or ideas or situations.

Seriously? When did we decide to stop thinking for ourselves? When did we, as a culture, begin to become emotional infants? Does this mean we are going to have to put a trigger warning on Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn? And what about Moby Dick? Are we now becoming so politically correct that classic stories have to come with warnings?

The student government at the University of California in Santa Barbara seems to think so. Last year they petitioned to have trigger warnings put on books to warn of possible distressing material. A short list of books they cited as needing trigger warnings included:

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

The Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare

“A draft trigger warning policy from Oberlin, quoted in Inside Higher Education, used Achebe’s acclaimed text as an example of a work which might require a warning, saying the novel was “a triumph of literature that everyone in the world should read. However, it may trigger readers who have experienced racism, colonialism, religious persecution, violence, suicide, and more.” ~ Cited from www.theguardian.com. Read the full article here.

I’m sorry. The last time I looked I didn’t need anyone to hold my hand or pat my back saying ‘there there, it’s okay, it’s just a story.’ I have never needed to go talk to a therapist because Stephen King scared the crap out of me. Ok, so maybe Stephen King’s books need warnings. But, really, we all know he’s going to scare us silly so isn’t that the only warning we need?

For writers, what does this mean? Am I going to have to begin being sensitive to what I can write about because it might disturb someone? I can tell you right now that I am never going to be the kind of writer who does that. I write what is in me to write. If you can’t handle that, then don’t read my stories or poems. Put as many trigger warnings as you want to on my work but it’s not going to stop me from writing about the hard stuff, the ugly stuff, the stuff that makes you upset. I won’t apologize for it either. We are adults. We don’t need trigger warnings on books. Stand up, act like a mature adult, and use the grey matter in your head that you were born with. Because as far as I’m concerned, putting warnings on books is today’s version of book burning and book banning.

When I saw that Neil Gaiman had put together another short story collection and titled it Trigger Warning, I knew I had to read it. The one thing I love about Mr. Gaiman’s short story collections are his introductions. They are worth reading. The one in Trigger Warning is no different. I love what he has to say about ‘trigger warnings’. In short, he says “we are mature, we decide what we read or do not read.”

He goes on to explain that “what we read as adults should be read with no warnings or alerts beyond enter at your own risk.” I understand that there are people who have problems and issues and that certain things can bring on certain anxieties. But when did we have to start putting warnings on books? To me it has always been common sense. There is a title and a picture on covers of books and usually a summary on the back or on the inside flap of a book cover. That summary should be enough to tell you “hey, this contains material that might bother you.” If you choose to read the book, it is your personal responsibility for dealing with the ideas, themes, emotions that the story may reveal to you. Do we seriously have to begin putting warnings on books?

Life does not come with trigger warnings. The only way we know where our comfort zones are is by stepping out of them, by encountering situations that force us to think outside our normal parameters. The best and safest way to do this is by reading books that “might” distress us. Books that force us to deal with ugly emotions and feelings, that make us uncomfortable, help us to deal with those situations in the safety of our own homes. No one ever has to know that we had to go change our underwear because of Stephen King. And if we need therapy because of it, then that’s our little secret. You also learn that if you don’t like having the crap scared out of you then don’t read Stephen King again. No warning needed.

“There. Consider yourself warned. There are so many little triggers out there, being squeezed in the darkness…Now all we have to worry about is all the other books, and, of course, life, which is huge and complicated and will not warn you before it hurts you.” ~Neil Gaiman, Trigger Warning.