Get In The Club–No, This Kind Of Club

I lived in Dallas—shout-out to all my Texas writers! I miss Texas.

My writing life flourished there because my support team kept me focused and motivated. I even attended a weekly critique group. I’m still building that writerly support where I live now. It takes time. I’ve only been in DC for a little over a year.

But I’ve found a group, one that helps my writing more than they know.

How I joined was a bit of a coincidence, a friend of a friend sort of invitation. Honestly I didn’t know what to expect. Sure, I read books like most people watch TV, keeping up with several novels at a time, but sitting around talking about them in a casual sense…um, well… I was the blank slate when it came to this sort of thing.

I’m talking about joining a book club. A writer in a book club—how perfect?!

Each time we meet and dissect discuss a book, I get an education. Mostly on how the novel failed miserably or why it’s loved. I mean unable-to-put-novel-down kind of love.

For a writer it’s all pretty enlightening. Especially since their perspective is fresh, unbiased, simple-honest. None of them are writers—just readers. Hungry readers.

download.gifcatreading

And I love hungry readers.

Their advice is so helpful as I apply it to my writing. So here it is: Book Club Happiness and Helpful Tips for Writers.

  1. Question. Readers like books that keep them turning the pages. Sounds like a no-brainer, but this is the true art. How does one write to keep them reading? I noted all the books that we finished quickly. Each book had a big, intriguing question. The author would write around this topic, not really answering the question until way later. And the question has to be compelling enough that you cannot leave the story alone until it’s answered.
  1. Friends. Books are enjoyed best with friends. Obviously books have become just, if not, more social than the authors that wrote them. I can’t count the number of books I’ve read because they had a following. I only read the Hunger Games because all of my campus students were going completely nuts about it. I just wanted to see what had them so excited.Often times it’s the reader’s curiosity and wanting to belong, that makes them pick up a book. In this book club, word-of-mouth is the number one way we select books. Usually it’s a visit to Goodreads, selecting what’s popular (I’m the exception, I always select books by indie authors that none of them have heard of). So, new authors have to find the right group to build their audience. There’s an audience for every book, but finding them–that’s the real work.
  1. Escapism. I’m not sure if it’s the constant drama in the (bad) news, but we are constantly looking for an escape. Something to keep our mind off the world. Our world at times. So it’s not a surprise that we get excited about summer blockbusters, television shows, and book releases. All present opportunities to escape. Even if it’s just for a few hours, from our to-do-list, homework, or life’s problems, these breaks are so necessary. Readers want to get lost in your novel, to completely forget that they were cooking dinner or waiting for the bus. This goes along with knowing your audience and what’s an ‘escape’ for them. Personally, I’ve known too many friends crushed by cancer that reading, The Fault In Our Stars, is a no-go. I have no doubt it’s amazing but it wouldn’t be much of an escape for me. Thank you—but no thanks, John Green. 😉

If you’re working on a novel or enjoying writing, I highly recommend joining a book club. Remember, everything we do as writers is useful research–yep, even a Book Club. Happy Friday!! 🙂

 

Gif Credit: http://cheezburger.com/5206018048

The Most Important Work of A Writer

I volunteer at my son’s elementary school.  Eighty-five percent of his classmates are learning English, along with this rigorous Kindergarten curriculum. And yes, it is actually a hard workload for a five-year-old: book reports, addition and substation, spelling tests.

I’m not sure about you, but my first schooling experience pretty much consisted of naps, magical story-times, and snacks.

Helping these kids with English, led me to think deeper about my writing. I wondered if my writing would translate—the way I intended it—in other languages.  Although hundreds of books are translated, thinking about my novel in a different language never crossed my mind. I imagine an author would need a ton of guidance to make sure the translation is as close to the original as possible.

writing

As writers, we can tend to spend an exhausting amount of time looking for the perfect word to capture a scene or emotion. But how important is this to the story? Especially if it has potential to reach worldwide status.  I’m sure the writing style changes a bit during the translation process. But there is one thing that never changes.

Many writers ask, “What’s more important, the writing or the story?” I ran across a statement on Tumblr that gets us closer to the answer. A student sat in a presentation given by  Brian Doyle and here’s what they posted:

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting an amazing author, and an even better man named Brian Doyle. There are a few authors named Brian Doyle, but this one is the author from New York who wrote “Mink River” and “The Plover.” He talked about his own life and how he writes and what his process is, and it was all very standard for an author visiting a group of college students, but then he said something that really caught my attention. He said this:

“I don’t call myself a writer or an author. I call myself a story catcher. I don’t come up with stories, I live them and I take them and I keep them in my pocket until I need to tell them. I do this because stories are important. They are what we all live for. Stories are all anyone can know about anyone else. And so I challenge you to find the story that matters. Because behind everything there is a deeper story. When 9/11 happened everyone wrote about the brave firemen who rushed back into the buildings even though there was no chance that they could save everyone. Everyone wanted to write the story about the terror and the fear and the loss of an icon. But behind all the fire and tire and white ash is a more important story. Everyone tells the big story. No one tells the story about the family that sets four places at the dinner table, and has to put one plate back. I challenge you to find the important story. Find the story that really matters.”

The Story wins! 

Sky, fog, and clouds on a textured vintage paper background with grunge stains.

It’s been proven for centuries that stories are all we have, they confess the human experience. From The Great Gatsby, The Kite Runner,  Alice in Wonderland, all translated in several languages. But why? Because these stories captured a generation and continue to do so today.

I don’t know any teenagers reading original Shakespearian language for fun, but most enjoy stories from that era. We love them—like Disney, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, MacBeth, are here to stay.

So, the most important work of a writer is this: write in a way to help readers listen to the real story. It’s the story–even over time—that doesn’t change, but can change the world. And in the end, that’s all that matters.

 

Sources:

blog.writeathome.com 

http://modern-major-cannibal.tumblr.com/tagged/Brian-Doyle

letswritetogether.wikispaces.com

The Non-Writer writes

I have this issue when it comes to writing. My brain is different. As a kid, I was removed from class and placed with an academic therapist because I couldn’t read. The letters clumped together just didn’t make sense. I’d get confused seeing my classmates breeze through reading assignments because I couldn’t. I hated reading, especially out loud. Reading is simple, but as a kid, I made it sound impossible. Eventually, my teacher stopped calling on me to read, and I didn’t mind one bit!  I loved school for the social aspect, but when it came to the work, I struggled.

My reading comprehension was poor so it took forever for me to complete anything. English—I don’t have fond memories of that class. All the red marks on my paper convinced me that I irritated my teacher. Her frustration was all over my paper.  I felt dumb because I just couldn’t get my thoughts in order. And all the grammar rules intimidated me because I couldn’t experience them. How does one experience a comma or semicolon? It was information that I couldn’t connect to anything so I’d forget.

Later,  I learned I was dyslexic and it was a huge relief. Now my childhood totally makes sense—everything, my difficulties reading, my horrible spelling, misusing words, and my inability to figure out new words. Really, the list could go on. Having a dyslexic brain is cool most of the time. I can credit my creativity and love of seeing things differently to it, on the flip side, having this challenge really sucks as a writer. I feel like it’s having Asperger’s in the literary world. People with Asperger’s syndrome have difficulties picking up on social cues. I have difficulties with communication–I can’t pick up on the no-brainers of language sometimes. On my about page I mentioned that I would nearly hyperventilate when I had to write a paper in college. Now it’s easy to image why.

They only thing that has increased my literacy are good stories. Like I said, I hated reading until about eighth grade. Then I saw Anne of Green Gables, discovered a character I really loved, and decided to read the books. After that, I was hooked on reading because I naturally like people. And I learned that I could spend time with all kinds of folks by just reading a book.

Now to writing, it was the love of characters that started me on this journey. Simply, if it weren’t for people I wouldn’t write.  As a student affairs practitioner at Virginia Tech, I worked with some incredible students. I knew there’d be only one way for me to tell their story. So three years ago, I bought a laptop and started writing it. And it’s about that time I share.:)

Even though we can feel alone with our limitations, we are never alone.

So encouraging! Here are celebrities with dyslexia that inspire me.

gatsby

jim carery steven speils bella-thorne-beauty-red-lips-lead

Changing as a Reader because of…

Technology. Let me explain.

One of the students that I work with is singing here, and seriously it’s among the top 10 best renditions of the Star Spangled Banner. After listening to more of her music, I got to thinking about all the talented souls out there. Most of which I can find by just tapping an app on my phone. Technology is moving so fast and we are changing with it. I know I’ve been affected, for sure. From the way I communicate to what I find entertaining. Is it still true that 55% of communication is through body language? Social media’s making me reevaluate this fact. But I’m just going to share how technology has changed me as a reader.

I saw Les Miserables last year and loved it so much I dragged my husband out to see it with me. I bribed him with the whole Hugh Jackman’s in it sells strategy. Anyway, I couldn’t wait to read the book; I knew it was good. The movie showed great promise for a remarkable read.

Well…so, I thought. Nothing against the novel, I don’t bash books or anyone’s work–ever. But reading Les Miserables taught me something about myself. By the time I got to page 20, I was done. Unless I’m reading a science fiction or fantasy book where I’m introduced to a world that I can’t Google, I have very little patience for overly descriptive writing. As a kid, I enjoyed this style, probably because I grew up in a small college town where anything different was amazing. But now, I just don’t want to take the time—even if the writing is exquisite. Time is something I value–because once it’s gone–that’s it–it’s gone.

I know I’m not alone—the proof is technology. Isn’t that the appeal? Technology has allowed us to connect easily, get to places faster, and find answers to just about anything. If I’m reading a contemporary novel I tend to bore easily if it’s too descriptive. I mean, what picture is the author creating that I haven’t seen? With the help of the internet there are very few images that are foreign to me (However with science fiction and fantasy, being overly descriptive is helpful).:)

As of late, I’ve considered the way technology has changed my taste as a reader. Being pulled into the story right away is what keeps me reading. It’s what all those literary agents talk about when they say, “hook.” It’s so true and I don’t always like that because there are probably wonderful books that aren’t given a chance because the reader wasn’t hooked by the first page. Trust me, I talk to college students all the time and they said that’s how they decided on a book. But who can blame them? With the little time everyone feels they have and all the options available when it comes to entertainment, why should they bother reading a book that doesn’t grab them immediately?

I wonder about the books that are classics. Ten years from now, will it stand out at all as technology advances? It reminds me of watching old movies, the ones that my grandmother loved. I find myself struggling to get through them now because it feels slow. I stare at the screen anxious for something to happen–a flash, a crash an explosion–something.  Maybe we’re past the times where writers can work on books for a decade. As technology evolves and the entertainment options increase, I fear that someone’s book can become irrelevant before publication. Oh boy! I hope not. No matter the technology, a good story will always be just that…a good story.

Has technology changed your reading interests?  With so many options for entertainment, how do you make sure that your work stands out?