“What have you been writing lately?” a friend asked.
Embarrassed to say, “Nothing much,” I replied, “This and that.”
Before she had a chance to inquire further, I shared that I’d been reading a lot. “Good readers make good writers, you know. Just ask Stephen King.”
I love the way King lays it on the line for those who say they want to write but that really, they just don’t have time to read. In his words, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”
Frankly, after finishing the first edition of the family history, Our Lighted Seasons, I needed a break, a little respite from the daily revising, rereading, editing, and formatting. I learned a lot from that experience, the most important being that I don’t have “the right stuff” to be a professional writer. I don’t have the discipline or desire to write every day. Sour grapes? No, the absolute truth.
So….I’ve been reading a variety of essays, stories, and books and have learned much that I didn’t know this time last month.
The people in my writing group continue to provide rich material for me to read and ponder. I’m amazed at how their minds can create so many different stories, all with well-developed characters, realistic scenes, interesting plots, and believable dialogue. I read about a home inhabited by a ghost, strangers that turn up on a homeowner’s front porch after an ice storm and ensuing power outage, and travelers who inhabit the dreams of a runner in mysterious and perhaps even mystical ways.
And then there are the articles, essays, and stories, many from textbooks, old and new, including A Writer’s Reader.
- From Frederick Douglas, I learned what a huge mistake people make when they think singing slaves are happy ones. Quite the contrary, “Every tone was a testimony against slavery and a prayer to God for deliverance from chains.”
- Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find” left me with questions, just like the first time or two I read it. That misfit….
- And then there’s Fitzgerald’s journal entry aboaut family quarrels: “Family quarrels are bitter things. They don’t go according to any rules. They’re not like aches or wounds; they’re more like splits in the skin that won’t heal because there’s not enough material.”
- And this line from Annie Dillard’s “Strangers to Darkness” is Marvelous with a capital M: ““I walked home in a shivering daze, uphill and down.”
A friend gave me a book about soul friends titled Anam Cara by by John O’Donohue, and last week, I settled in a comfy chair and read/studied it. I enjoyed it all, and here are a couple of favorite sentences. “The world rests in the night. Trees, mountains, fields, and faces are released from the prison of shape and the burden of exposure. Each thing creeps back into its own nature within the shelter of the dark…. When you attend to the way the dawn comes, you learn how light can coax the dark.” Isn’t that beautiful?
After seeing Phillip Newell’s Listening for the Heartbeat of God mentioned in an article, I had to order it from Amazon right away. Thought-provoking and inspirational, Newell suggests that we look for God within creation and recognize the world as the place of revelation. Towards the beginning, Newell mentions the lights of the skies, the sun and moon and stars, as the spiritual coming through the physical. I love that!
I read a writer friend’s new book, Mama Sadie, and highly recommend it. I happily reviewed Brenda’s five-star book on Amazon. It was uplifting, “real,” and suspenseful.
“The plot is strong, the characters are well-drawn, and the tension is high. It’s a serious story, yet Remmes manages to insert humor and pieces of everyday life that keep the book grounded. Who will win in the end? That question keeps the reader turning the pages to learn the fate of this town.”
And finally, I’ve been reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin for a month, a solid month—maybe more. It’s so hard, y’all—the subject matter and the way it breaks my heart. Why and how could people treat one another so abysmally and think it was/is A-okay? I read about twenty pages a night and then give it a rest.
Maybe I’ll get back to writing tomorrow. Tonight I’m reading a little something and watching a movie. What about you?