Tag Archive | reading

IWSG-February

Time for the monthly gathering of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. The first Wednesday of each month, we share our writing successes, failures, insecurities, goals, and offer each other support or advice. The blog hop is my favorite part of being a member of IWSG and I encourage anyone who writes to join.

Check us out here

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Let’s get the bad news out of the way. Last night, I was informed my poetry chapbook was not selected as a finalist for the Black River Chapbook Competition. My initial response was disappointment, followed by frustration. I felt this particular work was quite good and was sure any committee would feel the same way. Lucky for me, the negative emotions didn’t linger. I slept well, had pleasant dreams. Already, I am planning to submit the collection elsewhere. Onward, upward, forward.

I appreciate all the support, help, good wishes from my writing friends. They were a source of support and strength.

Let’s talk about something else.

The IWSG question for February is- How has being a writer changed your (my) experience as a reader?

I’m going to flip the question some- How has being a reader changed my experience as a writer. Reading is what fuels my writing. Hopefully, each book  I pick up offers a different way of approaching a topic, sentence structure, storytelling. Whenever I think there are no more new ideas, someone comes along and proves me wrong. Through reading I also discover ways not to tell stories, share ideas. Comparing various styles and approaches offers all sorts of interesting options.

An analogy-

When I first started playing the guitar, I had no desire to play other people’s music. I only wanted to learn basic skills, then create my own songs. This worked for me at the time, and gave me a strong motivation to practice as the song ideas in my head finally had an outlet (even if it was limited to a few notes and chords). However, not watching, listening, learning technique from other more talented and practiced musicians ultimately slowed my progress. When the early excitement and desire faded, I found it harder to learn new skills. My practice motivation waned, and when I finally was ready to watch, listen, learn, I found changing my habits difficult. That said, seeing how others approached the instrument has greatly improved my skills. I have found joy in playing the music of others and their work has inspired and influenced the way I create music now.

In my experience, writing works the same way. Sure, one can learn how to create sentences, and write simple stories or articles, even be satisfied with the results, but if that same person fails to learn from other writers, their craft will ultimately suffer.

I feel reading and writing are intimately connected, and struggle to understand writers who don’t read (multiple genres, subjects, non-fiction as well as fiction). For most of us, the reason we wanted to be a writer in the first place was someone else wrote stories or ideas which impacted us. We wanted to pick up a pen (computer, etc) and become part of that world, offering our own ideas, enter the conversation.

Just like being part of this blog hop, sharing, learning, growing, becoming better writers.

 

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Three Down

I’ve been doing quite well with my arbitrary goal of reading *more* than last year.

I am not the fastest reader on the planet, but I have been able to finish three books this month and am well into a 4th. If I am able to maintain this pace, that should triple my number from 2016.

It is all so very exciting.

I made a bold pick for book #1, choosing a novel from Catherine O’Flynn. Her first book, What was Lost, was sensational (and a little bit spooky). Her second effort, The News Where You Are, was not as groovy. I struggled to finish it, almost quitting on two or three occasions. I was betting on the hit or miss being a cycle in her writing, and I was correct.

Mr. Lynch’s Holiday was a great work of literary fiction about a recently widowed Irishman who lives in England deciding to take a vacation to reconnect with his son, who has found himself in Spain, residing in a sea-side community gone bust with a bunch of other ex-pats. Secrets are shared and revealed. Lives are altered. An all around good read.

The second book I attacked was The Secret Speech, by Tom Rob Smith. Number 2 in the Child 44 trilogy, this story unfolds around events surrounding a speech given by Nikita Khrushchev just after the death of Stalin through the Hungarian uprising of 1956. The crimes of the Stalinist regime are exposed and the members of the secret police become targets of vengeful criminals. Caught up in this chaos is Leo Demidov, former MGB officer, his wife and recently adopted daughters. As the secrets of Leo’s past are exposed, he will fight to preserve the lives of his family at any cost. I love the historical elements in this series, and the political intrigue, betrayal the tangible fear of Soviet era Russia drive the stories. A fun, fast read.

Third, I finished a mystery novel called Woman with Birthmark, By Hakan Nesser. Inspector Van Veeteren is back on the case, trying to solve a series of confusing and brutal murders. Each victim is shot twice in the chest and twice below the belt. The connections-each of these men served in a military training course together decades ago and each victim received phone calls where the caller would play an obscure pop song from the 1960’s. With several chapters written from the killer’s perspective, the real reason for the crimes is pretty easy to figure out, but the book is a fun read. I enjoy these sorts of crime novels, because the killer is rarely some monstrous uncontrollable evil, but someone realistic and understandable. Not every murderer is Jack the Ripper and not every mystery novel needs to be about the crime of the decade.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been reading. What are you reading this month? Anything exciting that I should check out?

 

 

Goals are for Suckers

What a grand Christmas season. I was able to spend time with family and friends, share a drink and conversation, eat good food and have some fun. Our annual Christmas Eve family party was well attended and everyone seemed to have a grand time. I enjoy this tradition a great deal. Many of the people I care most about assembling all in one place (my house) makes for an wonderful evening.

As soon as our party ended, almost to the moment, the snow began to fall. By morning, several inches covered the ground.

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Many people enjoy a White Christmas. For me, it is a mixed bag. I love the beauty of freshly fallen snow, and the silence that accompanies it is ideal for contemplation.

If only we had no where to go, no place to be, but driving is unavoidable for us on Christmas Day. The roads were treacherous and icy, and the temperature remained below freezing. Other on the streets, caught up in the euphoria of the season were not always attentive. Several times, we were almost run off the road by careless drivers.

We were lucky, avoided accidents, and arrived at our destinations unharmed. Gifts were exchanged. Love was shared. The end.

As for the coming year, my sincere hope is that it is somehow much better than 2016 (it has to be, right?). I’m going to do my part by actually setting goals for myself.I am not a pessimistic person, but New Year’s resolutions rub me wrong. They seem trite and coerced more than anything. Still, I need to find more focus this year, discover ways to progress and grow.

Most of my goals will remain private, but I feel like sharing one.

READ MORE!

I am sad to admit that I barely finished 15 books this past year. That is horrible. I must double that amount. I even have this lovely stack waiting for me.

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What about you? How was the holiday?  Goals?

 

 

Feeling Fine

Hey guys!  I’m back from my week long camping adventures in the land of the flesh eating flies, sore and dirty, but mostly intact. Sadly, I missed the IWSG posting day for July. I had planned to share a post before I left last Tuesday morning, but in the rush of packing the car, making sure we didn’t forget too many things, it slipped my mind. I will do better next month, I promise.

On with the show.

Last evening, I was able to participate in a TEDx event held at the Marmalade Branch of the Salt Lake City Public Library. A few months ago, the librarian hosting the event, who also happens to be a good friend of mine, asked if I’d be willing to offer my perspective on the topic- The Power of the Written Word.  I really did not feel I was the right person for the task, but it is difficult to say no to Azra.

The event included two prerecorded TED talks about the subject, followed by a short presentation by a guest speaker, me. Yep, just me.

In the weeks leading up to the presentation, I experienced a strange range of emotions from complete confidence to outright fear. I am passionate about writing, reading, and I sincerely believe that words have the power to alter the world, create meaning. Still, it was hard for me to feel qualified to stand in front of any crowd and offer my insights. I’m just a guy with a blog and some unpublished novels on his computer hard drive. Certainly someone, anyone else would be a better choice.

Working through what I wanted to say, there were many times I thought to contact Azra and tell her I was out, that I couldn’t do it. In fact, sitting in the library last night, watching the final seconds of the prerecorded talks, I had the same desire. Surely I could just lean over and whisper “Hey, Azra. Sorry, but I just can’t do this.” She’d understand, right?

I kept that thought to myself.

Azra stood and introduced me, saying very kind things. People offered some nice applause, and the moment had come.

Feeling like an absolute poser, I made my way to the front of the room, looked out over the faces in front of me, and as confidently as I could, gave my speech.

It went well enough, better than I expected, and in the end, I survived. Most of those in attendance even seemed to be interested. A few asked me some questions about writing and I gave some honest, even useful answers. I had fun and though I probably shouldn’t admit this, I’d do it again. Next time, I might even tell people in advance.

I’m still a poser, but a poser with passion for writing and a little more confidence under his belt.