January Round Robin on Reading and Writing

Our topic from Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com/
this month is: What is your favorite time and place to read? How about writing time? Do you have to make time? Do you have a ritual or is your plan helter-skelter? I had a quilting teacher who followed the swiss cheese method to completing tasks: Make a hole here, and sometime later a hole there; keep repeating this until the whole thing is complete. What’s your method?


IBook pile_reading have to admit I’ve been reluctant to return to a schedule, following the holidays. It is always difficult to carve out time to write or to discipline myself to put my own writing first, ahead of my blogging obligations and editing projects. But after being on “vacation” I don’t want to return to “Reality.”

Reading: I’ve been a voracious reader since I was a kid. I’ve never been able to get enough of books and always have a stack or a list of TBR (To Be Read) books. I read while I eat, during commercials when I watch TV, when I’m in a doctor’s waiting room, and before I go to bed.

Writing: I belong to a great critique group, so that makes me accountable. I know I have to bring at least five pages to the Writing_in_Journalmeeting every week, so even if I wait until the last minute, I’m at least writing. I find I need a deadline to work—probably a learned response from my time as a newspaper reporter. I found I could write under pressure and now I seem to need it.

How about you, fellow readers and writers—what is your preference?


Check out the rest of our round robin group and see what their responses are:

A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Geeta Kakade http://geetakakade.blogspot.com/
Margaret Fieland http://www.margaretfieland.com/blog1/
Skye Taylor  http://www.skye-writer.com/
Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Connie Vines http://connievines.blogspot.com/
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Rita Karnopp  http://www.mizging@blogspot.com
Rachael Kosnski http://the-doodling-booktease.tumblr.com/
Helena Fairfax  http://helenafairfax.com/
Heidi M. Thomas https://heidiwriter.wordpress.com/
Ginger Simpson http://www.cowboykisses.blogspot.com/
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com/

Published in: on January 24, 2015 at 6:00 am  Comments (2)  
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The Book I Want to Read Part I

  author photoAmy Hale Auker writes and rides on a ranch in Arizona.  She is the author of Rightful Place, 2012 WILLA winner for creative non-fiction. Her first novel, Winter of Beauty, was released by Pen-L Publishing in October.  You can read a current essay of Amy’s in the January 2014 issue of Cowboys&Indians magazine, on newsstands now. http://www.amyhaleauker.com

by Amy Hale Auker

My current Amazon order looks something like this:  the new Ann Patchett memoir about her writing life, The Goldfinch, Paul Harding’s Tinkers, a novel by Lionel Shriver (she’s a woman!), an advance order for Anthony Doerr’s new book, and Howard Zinn’s history of the United States.

My father threw out the television when I was in the fourth grade, but my reading life began long before that.  In fact, I do not remember a time when I could not read and I stared with dismay as Jill and Ted single-syllabled their way through my kindergarten class taught by a recent college graduate.  My father made peace by promising her I would sit still through the lessons if I could read anything I chose.  Then he drove to the nearest big city bookstore, returning to our tiny country parsonage with a bag of books: Charlotte’s Web, the whole Laura Ingalls Wilder series, Five Little Peppers and How they Grew, Anne of Green Gables and many more.  I sat still during class—and lunch and recess and free play and art and any time someone would leave me alone, my brain firmly wrapped in a book.

As writers, we know our writing life is defined by our reading life.  But what defines our reading life?  For the most part, our reading life is informed by libraries.  And libraries are influenced by region and the reading demographic in that area.  Our personal shelves are often defined by season or inner journey with the fluff being donated to the Friends of the Library fundraiser each year.  The shifts in my reading life haven’t always been in a straight upward trajectory, but rather, wind around in loops.  Inspiration to stretch, to read the “hard” books, has often come from surprising places.

I read “The Glass Menagerie” because it was in one of my father’s high school literary anthologies, the same reason I read Poe.  I read The Complete Adventures of Sherlock Holmes twice during junior high when I was tired of Cherry Ames, Grace Livingston Hill, Nancy Drew, books about girls and horses, and Janette Oke.  I discovered Irving Stone when my mother caught me sneaking smutty romance novels, and once again my father made peace. He gave me The President’s Lady which was shelved next to The Agony and the Ecstasy, The Origin, and Lust for Life.  Imagine what would have happened if he had steered me toward John Irving!  I read Heart of Darkness because I was in Academic Decathlon my junior year in high school.

When my life became formulaic and prosaic, so did my reading life.  Too poor to buy books, I was dependent on small town libraries and country librarians.  But still, I devoured the written word.  While pregnant, I read every book on gestation and the birthing process. While nursing, I read about lactation and found out surprising things about humans in general.  When I began to homeschool my children, my reading life took many growth spurts, and I discovered the wonderful world of fantastical literature.  Arthur Ransome, J.K. Rowlings, Brian Jacques, and Jean Craighead George, to name only a tiny few, inspired me.  Of course, also during those years, I embraced simple, sweet, straightforward stories that could hold my brain still long enough for me to drift off into much-needed sleep.

The inspiration to read “hard” books came again the summer my son was fourteen.  He read “The Red Pony” that spring for part of his literature course.  In June we went to the big city library and he showed up at the circulation desk with a huge pile of books.  When I wearily asked him what was going on, he explained to me that he was going to “read every book that man wrote.”  And he did. I hope Steinbeck heard him from the grave. Because of that moment and a series of separate events, I began to, once again, read the hard books.

The last several years for me have been defined by both the reading and the writing.  My exposure to great writing now stands firmly on a foundation of years spent seeking out writers who get the job done, stands firmly on a foundation of my love for language and the poetic use of language.

My journey as a woman has been marked by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Leaning into the Wind, Ride the White Horse Home, the writings of Jean Shinoda Bolen and Maya Angelou, and the weeks I spent reading, The Mists of Avalon—twice.  The evolution of my faith has been marked by the discovery that there are more books of wisdom than the one I was taught from as a child.  My writing life has been influenced by possibly the same books on your shelf:  Cameron, Goldberg, Lamott, Dillard, Strunk and White, et al.

Over the past decade, my reading life got huge boosts from two people and two events.  My non-fiction editor and friend winter of beautyAndy Wilkinson pointed the way to great essayists:  E. B. White (which led to the poet Donald Hall, which led to both Rilke and Rumi), Verlyn Klinkenborg, Merrill Gilfillan, Terry Tempest Williams, and Dan Flores.  Andy directed me to Gretel Ehrlich and Robert Graves.  Hard books, hard reading, but well worth it, both because of their beauty and their aid in developing focus.  Andy gave me my own copy of Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Tao Te Ching.

Please join us tomorrow for the second installment of Amy’s reading and writing journey.

Published in: on December 19, 2013 at 6:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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32 Great Reasons to Read Good Book

by John Kremer

Here are 32 great reasons to read more books. Please share.Book pile_reading

To escape your normal life.

To travel to real destinations.

To explore new worlds.

To imagine more than you could on your own.

To understand something new.

To understand something old.

To connect with the author.

To connect with other readers.

Book and contentsTo dream a new life.

To compare dreams, realities, and in-between.

To laugh and enjoy.

To deepen your understanding and insight.

To know more than you could learn on your own.

To learn what you don’t know.

To learn what you do know.

To discover something extraordinary.

To meet incredible characters.

To build a larger vocabulary.

To cry after a great read.

To be entertained by a great story.

To relax with a great storyteller.

To stimulate thought.

To grow your spirit.

To find motivation to do more.

To go on a great adventure.

To learn how others live or have lived.

To expand your horizons.Giant notebook_pencil

To explore inner dimensions.

To educate yourself.

To inspire your own writing.

To learn how to change the world.

To discuss in a reading group.

To share a good book with your friends.

Published in: on May 3, 2013 at 6:03 am  Comments (7)  
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National Banned Books Week

I just discovered Chase’s Calendar of Events. Today is R.E.A.D. in America Day and for the next week it is Banned Books Week (Sept 25-Oct 2). See www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/banned/bannedbooksweek/index.cfm

Today is also National Book Festival, National Mall, Washington, DC. See www.loc.gov/bookfest/

And it is Nobel Prize-winning author William Faulkner’s birthday (1897-1962).

The List

Here are 10 books that have been banned and challenged all throughout the United States.

  1. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger—Ever since it was first published, The Catcher in the Rye has been targeted by censors all across the country. Back in 1960, a teacher was fired for assigning this book to her class. In 1963, parents in Ohio protested the book for being obscene. This continued for many years, and the book is still challenged to this day. Just last year, it was challenged in the Big Sky High School in Montana.
  2. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee—To Kill a Mockingbird has been challenged and banned in many schools across the country for containing profanity, racial slurs, rape, and other “trashy” behavior.
  3. Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck—Everyone from the KKK to a range of high schools has challenged this classic. The book contains racial slurs, profanity, and depressing themes.
  4. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark TwainRacial slurs are the biggest reason Huck Finn has been banned and taken out of numerous classrooms across the country. Even in schools where it hasn’t been officially banned, there are teachers who remove it from their classrooms just to prevent any controversy.
  5. The Harry Potter series, JK Rowling—According to the American Library Association, the Harry Potter series ranks as the most challenged books from the past decade. Christian parents all across the US want Harry Potter banned for its witchcraft themes.
  6. Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut—Not only has Slaughterhouse Five been challenged, banned, and removed from required reading in dozens of cities across the country, the book was actually burned in Drake, North Dakota in 1973.
  7. The Color Purple, Alice Walker—Why is The Color Purple constantly challenged? Let’s count the reasons: troubling race relations, human sexuality themes, questions about man’s relationship with God, inappropriate language, violence, drug abuse, and countless other reasons.
  8. Beloved, Toni Morrison—Charges for Beloved range from it being to violent to it depicting inappropriate topics of bestiality, sex, and racism. It was most recently pulled from an AP English class at Eastern High School in Louisville, Kentucky after parents complained about its content.
  9. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou—Coming in at #6 on the most challenged books of the last decade, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings has been a target of censors for the past 40 years. The book’s graphic depiction of racism and rape ensure it will always be challenged.
  10. Ulysses, James Joyce—Not only was Ulysses banned from the United States in 1918, it was also banned in Canada, England, and Ireland. Most recently, Ulysses made headlines again after a web comic version of it was temporarily rejected by Apple from its App store.

What is your favorite Banned book?

Published in: on September 26, 2010 at 2:23 am  Comments (4)  
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E-books, Vooks and Wovels

KindleTechnology is an awe-inspiring thing. We’ve all been hearing about the trend toward e-books for some time, especially with Amazon bringing out the Kindle and other manufacturers with their versions of electronic readers. Travelers like them because they can download multiple novels, and it’s less bulky than packing several books, and students can download large textbooks onto their Kindle.

Although e-books by themselves haven’t hit the best-seller lists yet, this seems to be the wave of the future. I’ve believed for some time that if our youngest generation reads at all, it probably will be in some electronic form. After all, now you can read books on your iPhone.

Paul Gillan, author of Secrets of Social Media Marketing, writes that teens today spend 60 percent less time watching TV and spend that time on-line (on MySpace, Twitter, FaceBook and YouTube via computer or cell phone).

Now there is something called the “Wovel,” a serialized novel that is iphonewritten for easy reading on the cell phone. According to Writer Magazine, these are all the rage in Japan (a poll indicates 86 percent of Japanese high-schoolers read cell phone novels) and now U.S. websites like Quillpill and Textnovel have popped up. These sites allow people to post serialized novels in 140-word increments (think Twitter).

And, Publishers Lunch just had a post about the “Vook,” a video book form, which embeds original video clips within a browser-based version of a digital book.

This is all very exciting in the fast-changing publishing world. But, can the feel and smell and permanence of a “real” book ever be replaced?

Moira Allen, editor of Writing-World.com e-zine sums it up very well, in my opinion: “To be permanent, something must be physical.  That, I think, is why we writers (and readers) are still drawn to “real” books — by which I mean a construct of paper and ink that can be held in the hand.  It’s not just that many of us still prefer to curl up on the sofa, or a deck chair, or by the fire, or even in the pool, with a “real” book.  It’s partly the knowledge that even when we put that book down, it lives on.  It will endure.  It can be handed on, perhaps to a friend or relative, perhaps via a used book store, or even a library sale.”

She ends by writing: “Perhaps this is the ultimate answer to the apparently endless debate over ink vs. electrons, and the possibly silly question, “which will win?” Perhaps, in fact, it’s not a competition and never was.  Perhaps, instead, it is a remarkable partnership.  The printed page gives our words endurance; the electronic page gives them wings.  Why would we want one to triumph over the other, when, as authors, we gain so much from having both?”

How many of you read books electronically?

Published in: on October 6, 2009 at 6:08 am  Comments (1)  
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