Two More Things To Say To Young Writers

Yesterday, Chuck Wendig wrote a post called Ten Things I’d Like To Say To Young Writers (the man likes his lists) and I think it’s good, solid advice. Me, I’d like to add two more things. Here goes:

Really study text that works.

Have a favorite short story? Retype it. A favorite novel? Type out that first chapter. There really is no substitute for retyping a whole mess of text–just reading it, even aloud, doesn’t bring the same focus. Then read it through with a yellow legal pad next to you and, every five pages, jot a line describing what happened.

How quickly does the book get to dialog? To the main characters? How quickly does the book describe what the main character is searching for, if it does at all? How much space on the page is given to description of people or places? How soon does the conflict start? Depending on the genre and the style of book, the answers can be quite different.

Best of all is to choose a successful book that is very like the one you hope to write. Study it. Try to get a feel for it, because:

Understanding how a piece of writing makes readers feel is the real prize

The universe is full of writers who crap on a keyboard and call it gold. Those people do not understand the way readers respond to their text; they know what’s in their head, they’re sure that’s what they put on the page, what’s wrong with readers/editors/agents/the world that they can’t see the awesome?

But, in fact, it can be very difficult to judge your own writing the way a reader will. We might hope the scene we just finished will be scary, or funny, or sad, but until we show it to complete strangers we’ll never really be sure.

What move people never say is that the ability to accurately understand the effect your own words will have on the reader is the first (and most difficult) step to becoming successful. So try to get a feel for your own books the way you do when you read the ones written by other people. Revisit stories you wrote the year before. Invite readers to tell you how they reacted to the story (but never what they think you should do.) Understanding those feelings are the way to mastery.

Mirrored from Twenty Palaces. You can comment here but not there.

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Poldark (1975): part 1 recap


As you probably have already guessed, I am rewatching and recapping  Poldark. This romantic saga follows Ross Poldark (Robin Ellis) as he loses his fiancée, the well-bred beauty, Elizabeth (Jill Townsend), to his cousin Francis (Clive Francis). Ross ends up marrying his servant, the unlikely-looking Demelza (Angharad Rees), but his passion for Elizabeth simmers on for years. Set in late 18th century Cornwall, the plot follows Ross Poldark’s attempts to make his derelict tin mines a success.

PART 1

Ross Poldark, limping and scarred, returns from the American war toCornwall after a daring escape from a French prison camp....

more HERE @ Fire & Air

The eye and the ear

http://windling.typepad.com/blog/2014/04/the-eye-and-the-ear.html

Wild daffodils

"Ancient man took in the world mainly by listening, and listening meant remembering. Thus humans both shaped and were shaped by the oral tradition. The passage of culture went from mouth to ear to mouth. The person who did not listen well, who was tone deaf to the universe, was soon dead. The finest rememberers and the most attuned listeners were valued: the poets, the storytellers, the shamans, the seers. In culture after culture, community after community, the carriers of the oral tradition were honored. For example, in ancient Ireland the ollahms, the poet-singers, were more highly thought of than the king. The king was only given importance in times of war....

"But the eye and ear are different listeners, are difference audiences. And the literary storyteller is one who must bring eye and ear into synchronization. But it is a subtle art. Just as the art of typography has been called 'the art invisible,' subliminal in the sense that it changes or manipulates the reader's perceptions without advertising its own presence, so, too, the art of storytelling in the printed book must persuade and capitvate. It must hold the reader as the spoken tale holds the listener, turning the body to stone but not the mind or heart."  - Jane Yolen (Touch Magic)

Tilly and the daffodils

"The difficulty for me in writing -- among the difficulties -- is to write language that can work quietly on a page for a reader who doesn’t hear anything. Now for that, one has to work very carefully with what is in between the words. What is not said. Which is measure, which is rhythm, and so on. So, it is what you don’t write that frequently gives what you do write its power." - Toni Morrison ("The Art of Fiction," The Paris Review)

Wild daffodils

"One method of revision that I find both loathsome and indespensible is reading my work aloud when I'm finished. There are things I can hear -- the repetition of words, a particularly flat sentence -- that I don't otherwise catch. My friend Jane Hamilton, who is a paragon of patience, has me read my novels to her once I finish. She'll lie across the sofa, eyes closed, listening, and from time to time she'll raise her hand. 'Bad metaphor,' she'll say, or 'You've already used the word inculcate.' She's never wrong."   - Ann Patchett ("The Getaway Car," This is the Story of a Happy Marriage)

Wild daffodils

"I've always tried out my material on my dogs first. You know, with Angel, he sits there and listens and I get the feeling he understands everything. But with Charley, I always felt he was just waiting to get a word in edgewise. Years ago, when my red setter chewed up the manuscript of Of Mice and Men, I said at the time that the dog must have been an excellent literary critic." - John Steinbeck (Journal of a Novel)

Wild daffodils

Daffodils on the kitchen tableAbove: Wild daffodils in the woods, and in a jar on the kitchen table.

Welcome to Show Business! #77

http://tsutpen.blogspot.com/2014/04/welcome-to-show-business-77.html

Original Caption:

Los Angeles -- Seven beautiful girls, models for famous posters and magazine advertisements, are shown as they arrived in Los Angeles, July 19th. They are to work with Eddie Cantor, in his annual song and dance carnival 'Roman Scandals' for Samuel Goldwyn. Left to right are Katherine Mauk, (Wrigley); Rosalie Fromson, (Pond's); Mary Lange, (Camels); Vivian Keefer; Barbara Pepper; Theo Phane and Lucille Ball, (Chesterfields). (1933)

"Bread and circuses"

Spoilery thoughts on Winter Soldier. I keep meaning to turn these into some sort of coherent post, but I haven't done that, and having a tab I can't close is annoying me, so here, have a bunch of paragraphs.

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS if you haven't seen the movie and don't want spoilers then CLOSE THE TAB this is your FINAL WARNING EJECT EJECT EJECT etc.

Did I mention SPOILERSCollapse )


You're welcome to comment on LJ, but I'd rather you leave a comment on the Dreamwidth version of this entry. The current comment count is comment count unavailable.

UNMADE SNIPPET

Originally published at Sarah Rees Brennan. You can comment here or there.

Long have I promised an Unmade snippet, and been bribed with kittens and readers’ tears and all the things I enjoy for one, which is much appreciated!

So here it is.

It is hiiiiighly spoilery for the end of Untold. I’m just warning you. It’s also a little… it’s a little bit… it’s not right is what I’m telling you. I’m not right.

Unmade Snippet--Jared PoVCollapse )

"Few and far between"

Fun things, Apr 15: took possession of the new apartment!
Apr 16: ate tasty Seder leftovers

The apartment remains amazing. I cannot wait to move in. Sooooooon.

After several days of my ear being very blocked and loud, I woke up at 5:40 a.m. today with mild vertigo. Blah blah details blahCollapse ) Nine days since the last bout. They're getting further apart and milder. Still lasting an obscenely long time, but I don't mind so much as long as I'm reasonably functional.

We're moving in ten days. X has a "what if R gets vertigo on moving day" plan all ready, which means I don't have to worry about it, so I am doing my best to think about anything else. Like culling and packing. Once I can move my head again.


You're welcome to comment on LJ, but I'd rather you leave a comment on the Dreamwidth version of this entry. The current comment count is comment count unavailable.

I will be totally, absolutely honest with you here. I wasn’t really expecting to like Mary Robinette Kowal‘s Shades of Milk and Honey [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy].

It’s nothing to do with Kowal or her writing. I’ve adored other things I’ve read by her. I’ve nominated and voted for some of her work for various awards. She’s a good writer. But this one just didn’t look or sound like my kind of book. The description, “Like Jane Austen wrote a fantasy novel” didn’t hit any of my buttons, and I’m afraid the cover art didn’t help. (The newer editions of this series have different and much improved artwork, in my opinion.)

I tend to prefer more action in my plots, more humor and fun in my fiction … which I’m sure comes as a tremendous shock to anyone who’s read my stuff. So it took me a while to pull this one off of Mount ToBeRead…

…at which point I devoured the story, finishing the book in three days, and sacrificing a bit of sleep in the process.

Here’s the publisher’s description:

…an intimate portrait of Jane Ellsworth, a woman ahead of her time in a world where the manipulation of glamour is considered an essential skill for a lady of quality. But despite the prevalence of magic in everyday life, other aspects of Dorchester’s society are not that different: Jane and her sister Melody’s lives still revolve around vying for the attentions of eligible men.

Jane resists this fate, and rightly so: while her skill with glamour is remarkable, it is her sister who is fair of face, and therefore wins the lion’s share of the attention. At the ripe old age of twenty-eight, Jane has resigned herself to being invisible forever. But when her family’s honor is threatened, she finds that she must push her skills to the limit in order to set things right—and, in the process, accidentally wanders into a love story of her own.

There are a few action-type scenes toward the end, but for the most part, this is a relatively quiet book. And I loved it. I loved the characters. I loved the relationships between them, and the way Jane’s insecurities crashed into those of her sister, and the conflicts that ensued. I loved the language, which was careful and formal without ever feeling stilted or stuffy.

The magic was particularly enjoyable. In a genre that includes Gandalf and Dumbledore, the glamours of Kowal’s world are relatively limited in scope: the manipulation of light and sound to craft illusions. It’s seen as a lady’s skill, like painting watercolors or playing a musical instrument. But Jane is very skilled and passionate about her art, and it draws you in until a scene about crafting an illusory birch grove is as thrilling as any battle between heroes and goblins.

Certain elements and twists in the story felt a little predictable, but I wasn’t reading for the plot twists. I was reading for the sheer enjoyment. And I was kicking myself for not reading it sooner.

You can read the first two chapters at Kowal’s website, and I strongly encourage you to do so.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Robot Uprisings, Cabbages, and Some Dolls

April is vanishing (it's terrifying!), and so I've fallen behind on news. Let's play catch-up before Reign tomorrow, when my entire brain will fill with lace bolero jackets and wild character swings and Megan Follows nibbling scenery with careless panache.

Last week, Robot Uprisings came out, co-edited by Daniel H. Wilson and John Joseph Adams, and it does what it says on the tin. My story is a road trip of questionable means entitled "Eighty Miles an Hour All the Way to Paradise," and I'm in the TOC in some fine company. [There's more information at the official site, including buying information and slightly spoilery author interviews. That link goes to mine, in which I was extremely honest about what I'd do in the event of an actual robot uprising, except I omitted "and cry a lot" from the final.]

My recaps of Turn continue! This week, the show taunted me by being even busier than last time but somehow doing even less, though I appreciate that the arson of Abe's crop allowed me to finally link to the Last Airbender "MY CABBAGES!" business, because that was looming and we all knew it. "Who By Fire" also includes a bunch of actors in the position of knowing they're too good for their material but determined to commit. I look forward to more episodes, only so my data points of "attempted political parallels," "dramatic character study," "adrift spy story," and "pulpy dark humor about pickled corpses" can start to smooth out into a more defined trend.

And lastly, a sale to The Doll Collection, edited by Ellen Datlow! My story's titled "Visit Lovely Cornwall on the Western Railway Line" (Spring 2014: A Fistful of Trochees), and it's also got an aces Table of Contents.

Captain America and Easter Snow Oh My

It is April 16th and there’s like 2 inches of new snow out there and I am NOT OVER IT OK.

However, I am still alive, contrary to the outrageous claims made by the date on my last blog post. I’m even nominated for a Nebula for Six-Gun Snow White and going to be Guest of Honor at Minicon in Minneapolis this weekend. Which means no Easter Egg dying for me this year, but panels for everyone!

Also I saw Captain America 2 last night and am mildly obsessed with reading the VERY FEW negative reviews because if it’s Marvel critics are now required to like it or face a personal visit from a hungover Iron Man, so that I can dissect how entirely I felt it went wrong when I loved the first one–really the only superhero movie of the current coolkids vibe that I liked on its own merits. I’m endlessly fascinated by stories that seem to almost work but blow the dismount in some way.

All the set pieces were there, albeit run through the guts of the same desaturation engine that video games seem to be churning merrily through at the moment. (Seriously, 4 color panels are starting to look downright lurid in comparison) But they were just set pieces, and not even superhero set pieces so much as Jason Bourne set pieces glitter-glued onto a We Stand With Snowden plot, which actually doesn’t play that well with a superhero universe where all solutions must be phraseable as personal mottos and tie into a movie that won’t be out til next year and also magic. Plus, don’t ever ever mention where all the money to build these evil systems comes from or any kind of class issues while trying to say something about contemporary politics, because the whole genre sort of winces at 1% issues and goes “Oooh! Look over there! Tony Stark is so cool!”, or show anyone but the 20 people allowed to live in a single-hero film/province of MarvelWorld so that there can be a PG 13 rating and we can ignore the massive civilian casualties which are actually inevitable during the pitched machine gun broad daylight super secret “spy” battles. Instead, Twitter stands in for the rest of planet Earth. Which leaves one with a feeling that you can always spot evil because it’s blowing things up, when the truth is the worst things happen without a sound, behind closed doors, with a handshake and a smile. And the Greatest Generation that Captain America provides such a nice clean altar for us to worship, far from being a bastion of wholesome morals, shook a lot of those hands before most of us were born.

The first film actually wanted to dissect some (SOME) of this stuff. The strange obsession with superheroes and simultaneous terror of dictators when it really just takes one bad day to flip one to the other, propaganda, the military using up bright and beautiful young men until they turn into monsters. But somehow Winter Soldier just really wants to be a mainstream spy thriller, and seems wholly uncomfortable with its speculative trimmings, and has in fact trimmed them down to little more than your average James Bond jaunt. Captain America is in the actual military doing straightforward pirate boarding missions. There was a sinister story to be told there about how militaristic and frightening superheroes actually are, but they didn’t want to tell it, along with about five other more interesting stories hiding between the lines. What they did want, as many interviews have attested, was to make “an old school 70s spy thriller.” Oooook.

I feel like there’s something going on there, that filmmakers want the geek money that comes with any superhero franchise at the moment, the longing to see these characters onscreen, but is still deeply ambivalent about the subject matter. Either because there is a desire among those for whom these films are passion projects to make what was once mocked as being childish Extra Serious and Adult, or because those for whom they are not want the money without having to dip their fingers into anything so unsavory and suspect as, like, color, or fun, or magic/tech/mutation that doesn’t stand in for the civil rights movement. Either way, every “geeky” intellectual property seems to be getting the artistic equivalent of Captain America’s transformation: something weaker and smaller and weirder with a good heart being pumped up with industrial chemicals until it looks like some higher-up’s idea of a real man.

And, you know, be sure to never let Black Widow have a story of her own outside of bending over center screen, booting up a Mac, and worrying about the real hero’s relationship status because, well, girl, am I right?

In other news, April 16. Snow. What.

Mirrored from cmv.com. Also appearing on @LJ and @DW. Read anywhere, comment anywhere.

The Thomases at Minicon!

Originally posted by rarelylynne at The Thomases at Minicon!

Look, it's a schedule for Minicon (4/18-4/20, Bloomington, MN)!

Fandom or Fandoms? Friday 4:30 pm Ver 3/4

Is SF Fandom one monolithiic thing or a collection of sub-fandoms? Is there a generational difference? "My fandoms are -"

Rachel Kronick (m)
Elise A. Matthesen
Michael Lee
Michael Damian Thomas
Neil Rest

Hands On Research, Friday 5:30 pm Krushenko's Ver 7/8

The best way to write about something is by attempting to do it, but the problem with doing research is that it can be easy to let the research take over the story. How do we balance the story with the fun factoids and tidbits we learn, while doing things we plan on incorporating into our novels? How does doing it ourselves lend authenticity and credibility to the story? We would like to have some editors on this panel as well as writers.

Aimee Kuzenski
Ctein
Deanna Sjolander
Blake Hausladen
CJ Mills
Lynne M. Thomas

SF Squeecast Live Recording!, Saturday 6:30 PM Ver 5/6

Guest of Honor Catherynne M. Valente, Elizabeth Bear, Michael Damian Thomas and Lynne M. Thomas bring the legendary SF Squeecast to Minicon

Rock & Roll in Speculative Fiction -- It's Hip to be Square, SUN 2:30 PM Krushenko's

When we think of fantasy or the future, we don't think of rock and roll. Starting in the 1950's, sf has combined the influences of hedonistic young whippersnappers with fantastic narratives. A discussion on the rebellious spirit of rock and its influence.

Greg L. Johnson (m)
Michael Damian Thomas
Lynne M. Thomas
Nate Bucklin
Neil Rest

The Thomases at Minicon!

Look, it's a schedule for Minicon (4/18-4/20, Bloomington, MN)!

Fandom or Fandoms? Friday 4:30 pm Ver 3/4

Is SF Fandom one monolithiic thing or a collection of sub-fandoms? Is there a generational difference? "My fandoms are -"

Rachel Kronick (m)
Elise A. Matthesen
Michael Lee
Michael Damian Thomas
Neil Rest

Hands On Research, Friday 5:30 pm Krushenko's Ver 7/8

The best way to write about something is by attempting to do it, but the problem with doing research is that it can be easy to let the research take over the story. How do we balance the story with the fun factoids and tidbits we learn, while doing things we plan on incorporating into our novels? How does doing it ourselves lend authenticity and credibility to the story? We would like to have some editors on this panel as well as writers.

Aimee Kuzenski
Ctein
Deanna Sjolander
Blake Hausladen
CJ Mills
Lynne M. Thomas

SF Squeecast Live Recording!, Saturday 6:30 PM Ver 5/6

Guest of Honor Catherynne M. Valente, Elizabeth Bear, Michael Damian Thomas and Lynne M. Thomas bring the legendary SF Squeecast to Minicon

Rock & Roll in Speculative Fiction -- It's Hip to be Square, SUN 2:30 PM Krushenko's

When we think of fantasy or the future, we don't think of rock and roll. Starting in the 1950's, sf has combined the influences of hedonistic young whippersnappers with fantastic narratives. A discussion on the rebellious spirit of rock and its influence.

Greg L. Johnson (m)
Michael Damian Thomas
Lynne M. Thomas
Nate Bucklin
Neil Rest

So much poetry news!

Min FamiI was delighted yesterday to receive my contributor copies of Min Fami: Arab Feminist Reflections on Identity, Space and Resistance, edited by Ghaida Moussa and Ghadeer Malek. I contributed two reprinted poems to the collection: "Pieces" and "Song for an Ancient City", which originally appeared in Stone Telling and Mythic Delirium respectively. I'm very much looking forward to reading the other contributions -- they range from poetry to essays to fiction to visual art.

Relatedly, I've also received my copies of Mythic Delirium 30, the final print instalment of the zine, providing a special retrospective of its 16-year run -- which also contains "Song for an Ancient City," accompanied by a photo I took in a Damascene cafe in 2008. I'm very happy Mike and Anita Allen chose to include it, and even happier that Brit Mandelo considers it in her Tor.com review of the issue:


El-Mohtar’s work here is rhythmic and lyrical, invested with a depth of affect that revolves around the poetic image of an ancient city’s dust as more precious and significant than jewels. The closing stanza, exploring the city as a woman who might be identical to the speaker, is simultaneously erotic and familial; it’s got echoes of the mythic genius loci. Solid stuff.


And rounding off this bouquet of poemic good news: "Turning the Leaves," written for Lynne M. Thomas on the eve of her departure from Apex magazine, has been nominated for a Rhysling award.

Now to finish this review of Najwan Darwish's Nothing More to Lose, implement story edits, and hang some laundry in this precious, precious sunlight.

Built by books

http://windling.typepad.com/blog/2014/04/reading.html

Fairy Garland illustrated by Edmund Dulac

In her 2012 novel How it All Began, Penelope Lively describes her central character, Charlotte Rainsford, in a manner that many of us can relate to:

Edmund Dulac"Forever, reading has been central, the necessary fix, the support system," writes Lively. "[Charlotte's] life has been informed by reading. She has read not just for distraction, sustenance, to pass the time, but she has read in a state of primal innocence, reading for enlightenment, for instruction, even. She has read to find out how sex works, how babies are born, she has read to discover what it is to be good, or bad; she has read to find out if things are the same for others as they are for her – then, discovering that frequently they are not, she has read to find out what it is that other people experience that she is missing.

"Specifically, she read bits of the Old Testament when she was ten because of all that stuff about issues of blood, and the things thou shalt not do with thy neighbour’s wife. All of this was confusing rather than enlightening. She got hold of a copy of Fanny Hill when she was eighteen, and was aghast, but also intrigued.

"She read Rosamond Lehmann when she was nineteen, because her heart had been broken. She saw that such suffering is perhaps routine, and, while not consoled, became more stoical.

"She read Saul Bellow, in her thirties, because she wanted to know how it is to be American. After reading, she wondered if she was any wiser, and read Updike, Roth, Mary McCarthy and Alison Lurie in further pursuit of Arthur Rackhamthe matter. She read to find out what it was like to be French or Russian in the nineteenth century, to be a rich New Yorker then, or a Midwestern pioneer. She read to discover how not to be Charlotte, how to escape the prison of her own mind, how to expand, and experience.

"Thus has reading wound in with living, each a complement to the other. Charlotte knows herself to ride upon a great sea of words, of language, of stories and situations and information, of knowledge, some of which she can summon up, much of which is half lost, but is in there somewhere, and has had an effect on who she is and how she thinks. She is as much a product of what she has read as of the way in which she has lived; she is like millions of others built by books, for whom books are an essential foodstuff, who could starve without."

''The Good Book'' by Katherine Cameron

“I need fiction, I am an addict," Francis Spufford declared in his poignant memoir, The Child That Books Built. "This is not a figure of speech. I don’t quite read a novel a day, but I certainly read some of a novel every day, and usually some of several. There is always a heap of opened paperbacks face down near the bed, always something current on the kitchen table to reach for over coffee when I wake up. Colonies of prose have formed in the bathroom and in the dimness of the upstairs landing, so that I don’t go without text even in the leftover spaces of the house where I spend least time….I can be happy with an essay or a history if it interlaces like a narrative, if its author uses fact or impression to make a story-like sense, but fiction is kind, fiction is the true stuff....I don’t give it up. It is entwined too deeply within my history, it has been forming the way I see for too long."

"Reading was my escape and my comfort, " Paul Aster concurs, "my consolation, my stimulant of choice: reading for the pure pleasure of it, for the beautiful stillness that surrounds you when you hear an author's words reverberating in your head.”

"When I got [my] library card, that was when my life began," says Rita Mae Brown, and I know just what she means.

Reading at the Desk by Carl Larsson

Thus I've been surprised (and a little alarmed) recently by conversations in several of the different spheres I inhabit in which smart, creative people admit that they haven't read many books (in some cases, any books) in a long while. My god, I keep thinking, if artistic and literary friends aren't reading, what hope for the rest of our culture?

Not reading is something I can't really fathom. I'm not boasting here; my reading habit is compulsive, like Spufford's, bordering on obsession, and I'd spend my last dollar on a book, not food. (I know this, because I occasionally did so in the difficult days of my youth.) I cannot imagine how I would survive were I confined to this one single life, this one problematic body, this one limited, fragile consciousness, instead of roaming the wide, wondrous world through the magic of ink and the alphabet. 

There's a famous scene (famous to bookish folks, anyway) in the American television show The Gilmore Girls in which teenaged Rory fills her backpack with books to read before catching the bus to school...explaining to her mother that she needs a pack big enough for all of them because each one -- Reading at the Breakfast Table by Carl Larssona novel, a biography, short stories, essays, etc. -- is necessary for different reading moods. Yes! My housemate found this hilarious, since it was the way I loaded my backpack too (in the days before e-books, of course). One of my great fears in life is being stuck somewhere with nothing to read. Oh, the horror!

"Writing is a form of therapy," said Graham Greene; "sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose, or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation." Greene's words can apply to reading too--

I was about to write: "since I don't know how people can cope without reading." But in fact I do know, for I once spent several months unable to read (or to write) while recovering from meningitis, which affected both my vision and my ability to concentrate on the linear unfolding of a text. Even audiobooks were too hard to follow; I was reduced to watching old episodes of Buffy and Angel: simple, visual, and familiar enough that I could waver in and out of the story. I recall saying over and over to friends: I just don't feel like me. Who am I, if I'm not reading or writing?  It was, I am very glad to say, a temporary experience -- but profoundly unsettling, and just plain profound. It is frightening, yes, but also enlightening when life strips away those things that we most depend on...and then gives them back again.

Reading on the Bench by Carl Larsson

Even stranger than hearing that literary friends are no longer reading (or read only online) is meeting aspiring writers who rarely read...and this happens much more often than you'd think. The key word is "aspiring," however -- for I can't recall a single one of the many successful writers I've edited over the years who wasn't also a passionate and voracious reader of books, of one sort or another. Such alien creatures must exist, somewhere, since all things are possible under the sun, but I don't know how I'd work with a non-bookish writer. What common language would be speak?

Of course, sometimes when a novelist is at work, he or she will avoid reading some books or authors in order to avoid certain kinds of influence (a rhythm of prose that interfere with one's own, for example) -- although this varies from writer to writer, and also between one stage of writing and another. For me, when I'm on a first or last draft, I tend to limit the amount of fiction I'm reading (making up for it with nonfiction instead) so that my narrative voice is not overlayed by another fiction writer's style...but for in-between drafts I can, and do, read pretty much anything. I'm not worried, then, about influence; on the contrary, I seek it out: learning this from one writer and that from another; inspired by good books, educated (on what to avoid) by bad ones; filling the well so that the internal Waters of Story will never run dry.

Arthur Rackham

"A great painting, or symphony, or play, doesn't diminish us," assures Madeleine L'Engle, "but enlarges us, and we, too, want to make our own cry of affirmation to the power of creation behind the universe. This surge of creativity has nothing to do with competition, or degree of talent. When I hear a superb pianist, I can't wait to get to my own piano, and I play about as well now as I did when I was ten. A great novel, rather than discouraging me, simply makes me want to write. This response on the part of any artist is the need to make incarnate the new awareness we have been granted through the genius of someone else."

 Cincinnati Public Library

"Read, read, read," advised William Faulkner. "Read everything -- trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You'll absorb it. Then write. If it's good, you'll find out. If it's not, throw it out of the window."

Holland House Library in London during the Blitz, 1940

James Baldwin was also a child "built by books," in New York City during the '20s and '30s. "You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read," he recalled.  "It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive."

"Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another's skin, another's voice, another's soul," says Joyce Carol Oates

Or as Betty Smith wrote in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1943): "The world was hers for the reading."

Reading in the garden at Weaver's Cottage, 2007; photograph by Alan Lee

Images above: "The Fairy Garland" and "Little Girl in a Book" by Edmund Dulac (1882-1953), a pen & ink drawing by Arthur Rackham (1867-1939), The Good Book" by Katherine Cameron (1874-1965), three paintings by Carl Larsson (1853-1919), "Making Clothes for Her Dolls" by Arthur Rackham, and three photgraphs: boys in front of the Public Library in Cincinatti, Ohio (exact date unknown), the Holland House Library in London during the Blitz (1940), and reading in the garden at Weaver's Cottage (2007, photograph by Alan Lee).

Related posts: Reading in the Woods, Libraries Great and Small, The Communion of Words, and In the Forest of Stories (Parts I, II, & III).

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