Writing has made me a more critical reader. My latest library book lost me as a reader because of technical issues. Besides some rather drab characters and a meandering plot, the POV shifted so often I was starting to feel the main action of the story was my ability to leap about between character’s heads. I won’t tell you what the book is because I don’t want to bash another writer. I can tell you that the main reason I picked it up was author recognition.
Besides being irritating, it raised all kinds of questions. How is a well known published writer allowed to commit these major editorial sins? Where is her editor? Does this bother anybody besides me?
Point of view is challenging. It was a difficult concept for me to grasp and flipping between character’s heads is easier than channel surfing. It’s so easy to do without being aware of it, but my handy dandy desktop Self-Editing for Fiction Writers helps guide me through these muddy waters.
I also find it useful to read books, like the annoying one mentioned, which ignore this important element because it makes me aware of how much I don’t want to inflict these mental gymnastics on my readers.
As a writer, it took me a while to understand which point of view I was even writing in, but once I did, it raised my POV consciousness. For me, writing a fantasy seen through the eyes of a cat, means I must ‘become the cat’.
As a reader, I don’t have the patience to stay with a book that forces me to guess who’s thinking what. I returned the book to the library. Now I need something good to read!
I haven’t read Tom Sawyer since, well…a really long time ago, but I’m reading it again now. The impetus for dusting off my copy is a community-wide reading affair based on The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Our twin cities of Yuba City and Marysville are participating in the national Big Read project, which provides grants to communities to help inspire people to pick up a book, to fall in love with reading.
Our local arts council chose Mark Twain’s classic ‘bad boy’ book, in which Twain reminds adults that children are not angels, but fellow human beings, and perhaps all the more lovable for their imperfections and bad grooming. To get people familiar with the story, The Yuba Sutter Arts Council is having a Kick Off this Sunday (Jan. 31st) with ongoing readings of some of the more famous episodes.
There will be Aunt Polly’s Pie-Eating Contest, banjo playing with songs of the Tom Sawyer era. Free copies of the book, including a young reader’s version will be available, as well as the Teacher’s and Reader’s Guide for educators. There’s crafts, a pirate’s cove and a treasure chest for kids. Then folks can pose with our life-size cutout of Mark Twain, play hopscotch and marbles.
A truly old-fashioned community affair!
And that’s just the Kick Off! For six weeks, schools, libraries and book clubs will be reading and discussing the book. The will be storytimes, scrapbooking projects and a women’s history tea where the women in Mark Twain’s life have agreed to make a reappearance.
It’s a unique project, trying to get a whole community all focused on the same book and using elements within the story for such a wide variety of activities. Since I love reading and would love to see it’s revival, I have become even more passionate about this project in a town where the only two bookstores are going out of business. B. Dalton in the Mall and the lovely used bookstore, Amicus Books are both closing their doors.
According to the NEA report (2008), reading is on the rise again reversing two decades of downward trends. This is good news, but I’m not sure how we will revive reading without bookstores and with libraries strained with budget cuts.
But I’m forever an optimist. One of America’s greatest treasures is our ability to be innovate. There must be more ways to strengthen the connection between kids and reading.
I’m hoping our Big Read project will be the start for our community.
What are your thoughts? What can we do to help revive the love of reading?
We learn we are not alone in our struggle to make sense of this world. We learn that everyone throughout time struggles with various aspects of hope and despair, good and evil, love and hate, along with all the varying degrees of our emotional makeup as humans. Stories are what we share of our ourselves that make us human.
As readers, we applaud or scorn various books and viewpoints. As writers, we have the job of examining the depths of human consciousness and experience to try and make an entertaining or inspiring story. Readers and writers become intrinsically connected by this sharing.
Reading a good book makes us a little bigger than we were before. We’ve entered a new world, met new people and vicariously experienced their lives. A well turned out phrase can imprint an image or idea within us, changing our essence in subtle ways we are not even aware of.
I’m thinking of Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine. Until I read it, I rarely thought of dandelions as anything more than weeds (or wild herbs to be generous). But there’s another perspective on just about everything isn’t there? Bradbury’s grandfather saw the flowers as the perfect choice for making his summer wine. Those ‘golden flowers that flooded the world, dripped off lawns onto brick streets, tapped softly at crystal cellar windows and agitated themselves so that on all sides lay the dazzle and glitter of molten sun.’
I could have spent my whole life thinking of dandelions as undesirable and needing of eradication and I’m sure I’d be just fine. But reading this book about Bradbury’s childhood, so rich in description and high value instilled in small ‘insignificant’ things sends ripples of change throughout my consciousness.
As a reader, once I absorb a good book, it becomes part of who I am.
What books stand out in your mind as having a great influence on how you think…and for writers, how you write.
So, knowing he’s the hero of my story, my hidden partner has suddenly decided he wants some of the limelight. Being a subtle cat, he didn’t make a lot of noise about this desire of his. Instead, he left me the following note in my ‘Suggestion Box’.
“I’d like people to know I’m more than just a furry paperweight. Have you told them I am a Reader cat? You could share something about my favorite books with your readers? They might find this interesting. Marco”
I didn’t have the heart to tell him I hadn’t got around to writing a post specifically about him. Up ’til now he’s only appeared in the form of my muse. But Marco definitely deserves a blog post of his own. Not only does he fulfill that warm, fuzzy pet need and the higher calling of a muse, but Marco is also one of the endangered species of cats who can read.
You read that right and there’s others out there. Your cat might be a reader too, but you might not be aware of it. Cats will wait until everyone is asleep before cracking a book, since they hate it when everyone makes a big deal out of it. They embarrass easily, so if you do catch them, just pretend like you don’t notice or that it is normal. If you’ve encountered books scattered out on the floor when you get up in the morning, now you know how it happened. Whatever you do, don’t try to make your cat put the books back on the shelves. They will absolutely balk at this and probably never pick up a book again.
I like to keep my cat happy, so I will post things that he leaves in the Suggestion Box from time to time. A recent read on Marco’s bookshelf is The Palace of Laughter, by John Berkeley. I picked this one out myself, but he finished it before me. (He has loads more reading time.) Marco liked this book, but not quite as well as I did. I found Palace of Laughter well written with a great cast of characters and just the right touch of the wicked evil.
The story begins when the Circus Oscuro comes to town in the dead of night. Miles, an orphan boy who lives in a barrel, is the only one who sees their mysterious arrival. When Little, a tiny circus performer who is actually a 400 year old winged girl, escapes from the sinister circus, the duo sets off to rescue two friends from an even more sinister sideshow called ‘The Palace of Laughter’.
With characters named Lady Partridge, the Great Cortado, The Null and Baltinglass of Araby what’s not to love? Marcos’ favorite characters were Lady Partridge and Miles. We agreed on that much. We tried to work out a compatible book rating system, but they don’t quite mesh. (Marco’s ratings are from one to four paws. Mine is on a scale of 1-5 stars.)
Marco rated The Palace of Laughter is: three paws. He would have given it four, except he said there were no cats in the story. I mentioned the tiger, but he said it wasn’t the same. I didn’t argue with him, but I gave the book a big 5 star rating. I would highly recommend for any younger reader.
Thankfully, Mr. Berkeley kept on writing. Palace of Laughter is part of the “Wednesday triology”. The next one is titled The Tiger’s Egg which we will review soon.
Do you suspect your cat reads? Please share your story.