Blogging, Reading, Uncategorized

How to fall in love with a reader: Part One

a picture of me with my niece
Did you fall in love with this reader yet? This is a picture of me with one of my nieces at my sister’s recent bridal shower. My niece is a reader too, but she’s too young for you. I’m the short one.

The other day, I read this blog post that mentioned a New York Times essay discussing a “36-question interview devised to make strangers fall in love.” The author of the blog post revised the questionnaire with the intent of making specific people – readers – well, if not fall in love, at least “have an interesting conversation about books.” In this post, the first in a three-part series, I will answer that blogger’s questions. Continue reading “How to fall in love with a reader: Part One”

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Education, Reading

School is making me feel stupid

The life writing course I signed up for this semester isn’t what I expected. I was looking for a “book club” class where I could sit around and discuss books with my classmates. I didn’t realize the course would focus so heavily on pedagogy (a word I can’t even pronounce) or that my classmates – even the undergraduates – would be using so many big words that no one ever used in my graduate writing program. This course is really pointing out the gaps in my education.

You see, I got my undergraduate degree in business, not English. I took several writing courses as an undergrad, but I did not study literary criticism to the degree that so many of my classmates seem to have. OK, I admit it. I didn’t study literary criticism at all. And there are so many books – the “canon” – they all seem to have read that I haven’t.

I don’t know about you, but when I imagine a potential audience for my novels, this guy is not who I have in mind.  Continue reading “School is making me feel stupid”

Finance, Memoir, Reading

Books are full of treasures

A dollar bill bookmark I found in a library book
I found this hundred dollar bill bookmark in a library book last night.

I love it when people leave surprises in library books. Last night, I opened a recently checked-out library book and found this cute little hundred dollar bill bookmark that someone had left in its middle. Did someone leave it there on accident, or was it a gift? I wonder how many treasures I have accidentally left in my library books when I’ve returned them?

Once in a while, I will purposely leave a real dollar bill in a book before I return it. Imagine the look on the next reader’s face when she finds money in her library book! I think that moment of excitement you feel when you find money, even if it’s only a dollar, is worth so much more than the dollar itself. I don’t mind investing in someone else’s moment of happiness once in a while. Continue reading “Books are full of treasures”

Reading

These are the libraries of my life

Encyclopedias
We always had a full set of World Book Encyclopedias in my childhood home. | Encyclopedias (Photo credit: Rishabh Mishra (possible248))

One of the greatest tragedies of my childhood was not having access to a public library. I grew up in a rural area in south-central Illinois. The closest town, which boasted a population of around 350 people, didn’t have a library. The closest public library was about a twenty to twenty-five minute drive. Since we didn’t live in town, we weren’t entitled to a free library card. My parents didn’t think the library membership was worth the $50 a year considering how little we would get to made the trip.

My parents always made sure we had books to read. We had a full set of encyclopedias. I’ve been told my father used to read to me from the encyclopedia when I was a baby. As I grew older, whenever I would ask my dad a question about the world, he would say, “Let’s look it up.” He would make me figure out for myself which book would have the answer I was looking for, and then he would make me find the correct entry so I would learn how to find answers on my own. Then we would read it together and talk about it. My dad taught me to look for answers and think for myself. Continue reading “These are the libraries of my life”

Novel Writing, Reading

How to ensure your novel is what’s read next

Goodreads Avatar
Determining what to read next can be far more complicated than simply grabbing a book off the shelf. | Goodreads Avatar (Photo credit: minifig)

I have a complicated system for deciding what book I want to read next. First, I constantly keep my eyes peeled for books I might want to read. For example, this morning I read a blog post interview with self-publishing author Aimee Kuzinski. She caught my attention when she mentioned that the hardest part of writing her latest novel, Eye of the Storm, was realizing during the editing phase that she had a major plot hole that needed to be fixed. The fact that she took the time to go ahead and plug that hole rather than rushing her book to publication made me want to read her book.

I should probably mention that the premise of Kuzinski’s novel sounded promising as well. Seriously, what is wrong with me that the writer’s effort to produce a quality product is more likely to catch my attention than her story telling? Maybe I need to work on that. But I digress. Continue reading “How to ensure your novel is what’s read next”

Reading, Social Media

Why is young adult dystopia classified as “Romance?”

The Hunger Games (film)
Do you consider The Hunger Games a romance novel? | The Hunger Games (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have been a member of GoodReads for two years but have only recently started using the app on my phone. A few weeks ago, I began adding books I have read to my profile. A lot of them have been dystopian novels, as I have been reading a lot of that genre as part of my research for my own novel projects. When I went to check out my recommendations to determine what to read next, I was surprised to find that GoodReads was mostly recommending that I read romance novels.

I don’t get it. It’s been a while since I have read any romance novels, and I hadn’t added any to my “read” shelf. Why would this app suggest I mostly read romance novels if I hadn’t indicated that I had any interest in them?

It’s not that I never read romance. Don’t tell anyone, but I have a secret stash of Harlequins in my bedroom closet. I pull one out whenever I am in need of a quick escape that requires little to no thinking. I suppose the fact that I haven’t read one recently says good things about my current life. At my worst, I would lay in bed and read an entire romance novel in one night. But I won’t get into my dysfunctional ex-marriage here today. Continue reading “Why is young adult dystopia classified as “Romance?””

Book Reviews, Reading

This is why I don’t buy books

Portrait of a Byzantine empress, possibly Theo...
Portrait of a Byzantine empress, possibly Theodora. 6th century a.D. In the Museum of Ancient Art in the Castello sforzesco in Milan, Italy. Picture by Giovanni Dall’Orto, january 6 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love books as much as the next writer. But I’m poor, so I typically opt to borrow them from the library rather than purchasing them. The book I bought at Barnes & Noble the other day reminded me why I shouldn’t bother purchasing books at all.

I picked up a historical novel about the Byzantine empress, Theodora that looked like it might be a good read. I do think it could have been an intriguing story, but the writing was terrible. (I’m not going to tell you the name of the novel because I don’t really believe in writing bad reviews. I’d like to be a published author someday and know I’d rather do without internet trolls raving on about how horrible my work is.)

Although the author is a historian who seems to know her facts, her novel is an excellent example of how poor writing can take a true story and render it completely unbelievable. Her attempt to create language that is authentic to the time is feeble at best. The constant use of clichés and modern colloquialisms kept dragging me out of the story as I had to continually remind myself what time period I was reading about.   Continue reading “This is why I don’t buy books”

Blogging, Reading

Blogs you should follow, if you’re so inclined

Reader of novels
This is me, reading your blog. Only replace the book with a smartphone. (Ha Ha, just kidding. The pickin’s are slim on Zemanta these days. Seriously, what is going on this picture?) | Reader of novels (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hopefully none of you are depending on me for regular blog content this semester. But just in case you are, let me share a few of my favorite blogs with you… something to keep you busy until after I graduate in May. Hopefully after that, I’ll have more time for blogging. I don’t want either of my subscribers to get bored. I’m talking to you, Ryan. You and that other guy. I don’t know his name. Continue reading “Blogs you should follow, if you’re so inclined”

Essays, Reading, Writing Prompts

Writer’s observation: Reading is FUNdamental

Out to lunch signMy latest writer’s observation assignment was to go to a crowded environment to people-watch and capture the atmosphere of the place. Here’s my attempt:

Hard benches line hall, buzz of machinery – maybe the heat system? – behind locked doors, one woman alone at the end of the bench by the door, checks her Facebook on her phone. Spotted, filthy gray carpet.

Woman gets phone call, talks loud. “Yeah, everything is all about him, it always i Continue reading “Writer’s observation: Reading is FUNdamental”

Book Reviews, Reading

For the love of the discomforting novel

Cover of "Catching Fire (The Second Book ...
Cover via Amazon

I like to read a book that makes me feel uncomfortable. For example, I found the chapters of The Hunger Games that covered the actual games themselves to be absolutely excruciating. So, when I found out a couple of chapters into Catching Fire that Katniss was going to have to go to the Games again, I was mortified.

But they can’t make her go to the Games again, I thought.

I can’t go through this again, I thought.

They can’t do this to US. Continue reading “For the love of the discomforting novel”