Dear writers and readers,
I have been reading nonstop since March. Nonfiction, fiction, poetry, essays, short stories, magazines, my kindle and the old-fashioned hard cover. I am slowly making my way through everything Ann Patchett has written–how did I miss her writing?
This reminds me of when I was a child. I began with comic books, the Archie’s being a favorite, and the deal with my parents was I had to read one before they would buy me another.
Then I had a library card and I devoured books. One after another.
While I went through my trashy paper book reading, Danielle Steel, period in my 20’s, I quickly outgrew that type of story.
I enjoyed Wuthering Heights, Pride & Prejudice, anything by Evelyn Waugh, Tale of Two Cities, before discovering southern writers like Flannery O’Connor and Tillie Olson, Jill McCorkle and Elizabeth Cox. I was hooked then on the short story, even writing a few (not bad, but not great either). Alice Munroe. Pam Houston.
Let’s not forget Hemingway, short stories I admired for their simplicity in use of language, their journalistic style.
When I discovered E.B. White’s essays, everything changed. I read these essays during the years I wrote a local column and op-ed for Metrowest Daily News in Framingham, MA. Edward Abbey came next.
I was ecstatic reading Joan Didion, reading her over and over trying to decipher how she did it. How did she do it?
Mary Oliver’s poetry and essays pulled my heart into a place where I knew I was not alone. I turn to her work still before I go to sleep.
At that point, I became addicted to nonfiction and the power of taking a global issue and making it personal.
This is where I remain today, convinced of the power of words and the potential to make people think, feel and consider. I love how as a writer I give voice to others. You in particular.
The privilege to pull a book from a shelf and recline on the sofa cannot be underrated, and I am grateful for the time and ability to read.
When I was a little girl, I was one of the kids behind a book while eating my cereal. I always had a book in my hand. I escaped and explored through the text on the page.
Without knowing it at the time, I was also learning about the craft of writing.
I was also learning about the power of words and how some words are more effective than others. Swap out a beautiful word in your favorite poem or prose with a word of your own choosing and see for yourself how that changes the mood.
With each new essay, poem or work of fiction, I’m not only led into an alternative world, I’m learning.
Many, many years ago, one writing instructor or another said, after being asked “How can I improve my writing?” with the simplest task of all: “Read.”
Fiction was not a part of my reading repertoire for a long time. I had determined I didn’t like it, spurning such work for nonfiction instead.
I wanted truth and the fiction I often had in my hands was lacking. Ahhh. What I didn’t stop to realize for some time was the simple fact that I had just been reading bad fiction. I don’t like stories where everything is neatly tied in a bow when I complete a book, instead I enjoy being left with questions, curiosity about what comes next. Thank goodness I’ve opened my heart again to the make-believe, though I know first-hand, that even most fiction is drawn from reality.
A few days ago, I acknowledged to my husband that I am a news junkie. I was a bit apologetic, but then remembered, this is not a bad thing. My brain has solid critical thinking skills and I now know when I’ve had enough. But the ability to read long tomes of historical accountings, the letters to the editor, and observe how a news anchor emphasizes his words, help me formulate the pulse of our country. Our world.
This pulse is not always one that provides pride or comfort, yet it is important to hear the reality.
Reading. Listening. Paying attention. What a gift this is.
Some of this post was excerpted from a recent Facebook Post.