Sitting at my doctor’s office – because this year is the year I’m finally taking care of myself – I spied this quote from one of the magazines in the waiting room.
Benedict…gotta love him!
Even the most laid back and egalitarian among us can be insufferable snobs when it comes to coffee, music, cars, beer, or any other pet obsession where things have to be just so. What are you snobbish about?
He was a judge, a councilman,
He taught me how much
the written word
that good books read
helped one’s spirit grow,
excellent books devoured
only strengthened what
the soul already knows.
But when he tore that
Harlequin romance paperback
he told me that among great books,
there would be trash, too,
that none of them would enhance
a brain that continued
to always grow,
so read only the best, he said,
that’s all you need to know.
But if grandfather
were still alive today
would he like what he’d see?
What would he say
of the Kindles and the iPads
with their trashy books within?
Would he gnash his teeth
knowing I’ve gone past
when he’d find out that among
the hundreds of books in my e-readers –
even the best,
there’s a trashy tale hidden here
and there, tucked in
with all the rest,
of whips and chains
and sex and gore
He’s probably rolling in his grave
right now –
for there’s even more.
500 years from now, an archaeologist accidentally stumbles on the ruins of your home, long buried underground. What will she learn about early-21st-century humans by going through (what remains of) your stuff?
I have way too much stuff,
more than can fit in this little cottage.
Too many books, more than I can ever read –
of stories, there is no shortage
and if someone might one day dig in
should they really be that interested
they’d find nothing but dust where paper had once been
belonging to one so terribly afflicted
for the love of words, and of wondrous tales
if only they’d been passed on and on
for paper, it crumbles into dust and nothing more
just dust, and then it’s gone.
There’s this false sense of security that lulls a would-be writer when she posts her work on a site like Wattpad and read all the praise pouring in. One writer friend told me that it was “instant gratification” to read all those comments as soon as you click ‘Publish’ and that it was addicting. It makes you want to keep on writing not really for the sake of writing to perfect your craft, but to keep hearing that praise pouring in.
Problem is – the praise isn’t from your peers, fellow writers or editors who know the essentials of a good story.
And so after almost 4 months of writing and now currently rewriting my novel, I decided to send the first 2500 words to an editor and author – just me being the type of girl who ‘runs with scissors and never thinks before she says something.’ The woman’s well-respected in the business and people actually were proud to have “bricks flung” at them (in the form of critiques, of course) and admitted that while the critique was harsh and took months to receive, it was what their novels really needed. No false sense of security there.
I didn’t know what to expect really. What I did know, the moment I clicked Send, was that my first chapter was the weakest of all 46 chapters in the 140K word novel. But maybe I needed the validation. Maybe I needed a brick or two flung at me after all the praise I’d been hearing from readers via comments and private messages. Or maybe I just needed a professional editor to look at it and tell me it was crap so I’d know what to do to make it not so much like crap.
Three hours later, I got my reply. As I read her email, she first told me that she wasn’t flinging bricks at me – yet. She also told me what I already knew about that first chapter.
Unfortunately I had mis-identified the genre I was writing by putting down ROMANCE instead of WOMEN’S LIT. So her critique had more to do with the romance genre, one of which included the advice to read a 100 books for every one book I wanted to write, or read a How To Write a Romance Novel type of book – that is, IF I was writing a romance.
“If this is “women’s fiction” rather than “romance” … then this is fine, but it’s still riddled with the telling, not showing problems.
“Decide if your book is a romance or women’s fiction, then start it at the latest point possible when something more interesting is going on for the [protagonist] than being in the throes of grief for her friend. I question even using that as a plot device.”
This critique was definitely what I needed to know just how weak my first chapter was. It also told me that I had a long way to go. I have heard of people writing novels in 3 to 4 months, then have it published by the 5th month. Is it polished? I don’t know, though sometimes I buy then and wonder I wasted my money. But I shouldn’t be worrying about those authors, that they’re published and I’m not. I should worry about me, and the type of work I want to produce.
I need to move that story forward, find my voice in women’s lit (the genre I prefer most to read) and keep on editing till I know that that first chapter is the best I can send out. Then, and only then – after she asks me to send the full manuscript – do I wait for the bricks to be flung my way…
I can’t remember when I first heard those words
spoken again and again, at the end of a blurb
about a book I couldn’t wait to read
for just as Mister Burton said,
I shouldn’t take his word for it,
And so I read and read and read some more
I read till the lights went out and the candles
wore, till the lace curtains caught fire
from one left lit, I read and read
that’s all there was to it
And then one day the words began to flow –
all my own, my own little world,
like flower after flower,
for the words that I’d read sprang seeds to create more
though this time, I wanted the words inside me
to soar, from the tips of my fingers to the ends of the earth
I read and I wrote, for all I was worth
I would have kept on reading even when there was no one
to tell me so, but for a man on the telly sharing new books
and stories I had yet to know,
he awoke the scribe that lived deep within
and now every child everywhere will have the same chance
I’d been given.
It’s a love affair that’s never ended
it’s been going on for far too long
something many people will never understand
always believing that something’s wrong
with me falling in love
with people I barely know,
just words on a page come to life,
though they often come
and then they go
though some of them stay for far longer
than even I anticipate
some of them live ever on
long after their sad fate
some of them make me smile
and some of them leave me sad,
some of them make me so angry
so good at being bad
And then there are those, a chosen few
who live on in my dreams
they set free the stories hiding inside my head
creeping, slipping between the seams
they keep me appearing normal
to someone who will never understand
keeps me ever sane –
keeps me from being damned
A trio of University of Toronto scholars, led by psychologist Maja Djikic, report that people who have just read a short story have less need for what psychologists call “cognitive closure.” Compared with peers who have just read an essay, they expressed more comfort with disorder and uncertainty—attitudes that allow for both sophisticated thinking and greater creativity.
“Exposure to literature,” the researchers write in the Creativity Research Journal, “may offer a (way for people) to become more likely to open their minds.”
On a completely (un)related note, I found this wonderful campaign on my Tumblr feed last night and couldn’t agree more about the pictures. In my case though, I think there would be a mermaid dripping wet (from the ocean – quiet those dirty minds!) and about to turn to foam (the un-Disney version, of course) and a little match girl who finally gets to curl up under the covers.
And I’d have to find enough room under my bed for Alice, the Mad Hatter and of course the Cheshire Cat. And like he says, “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
But at least we’ll all be well-read…
What about you? Who would we find with you as your curl up with your favorite book before going to bed?