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I'm a published author of short fiction for kids and adults. I have an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University. I'm a former content writer for Spirit and Truth publishing on their Living the Word series. I've also worked as a paid book reviewer and as a student editor for The Louisville Review literary magazine. I'm a wife and mom to two great kids, three dogs, and a cat. I love books, movies, gardening, kids, and animals.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Gothically Captivating Reading

Reading when you are young is like being taken on a journey down an unknown path. It is magical and mysterious and you are lost in a world that only you know about, while all around you people are doing other mundane things.

As a writer I feel this way when I start a new story. I have a seed of an idea that makes my fingers itch to get it down on paper. But as a writer who reads, this captivation sometimes alludes me. On a blog post I've started following another writer mentioned this in the comments. That reading to learn craft has taken away some of the initial wonder that follows starting a new book. I've heard this before. At a book signing for an author whose books I enjoy, at conferences from agents and editors, and on writing websites and blogs. I didn't have a name for what this was. But it saddened me a little. Did growing in my craft as a writer mean I was losing the joy of reading?

That would be a horrible sacrifice. And what would I do with all these books that I still haven't read? Good heavens, would my book fetish just be that... A frenzied need to collect stories I'd never be able to read or if I did start, never be able to finish!

Then I read a wonderful article in the Huffington Post that helped it all make sense. It helped me give a name to what I've learned to do as a writer who reads (clears throat) A LOT.

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The post was entitled 11 Lessons That 'Jane Eyre' Can Teach Every 21st Century Woman About How to Live Well by Zoe Triska. This article helped me make sense of what I was doing when I was reading. I was being an active reader. I was absorbing craft, learning to think critically about what I was reading, and consciously, but often subconsciously using this for my own writing. As I read through Ms. Triska's article defending one of her favorite books I realized my joy of reading hadn't lessened. Instead it had become MORE. I needed good writing that was invisible to me, the reader, to become swept away in a story. Something that I did instinctively as a child. If a story didn't captivate me I didn't worry about putting it down and moving on to something that did. As an adult I started conditioning myself not to do this. Either because I didn't want to give up on a book I'd paid good money for, or because the story was by a writer I'd always enjoyed before, but wasn't impressed by this time, the list could go on. I'd like to say this has made me more discerning in my book purchasing. I'm not sure if this is truly the case or not. I do hesitate to buy books more than in the past. So now I'm going to try not to feel guilty if I can't finish a book that doesn't hold my interest as much as it should. Maybe that will give me more time to re-read some of my perennial favorites, like JANE EYRE, which celebrated its anniversary last week.

What about you? Do you find yourself being an active reader? What are some of your all time favorite books that have swept you away and why?


  1. Hi Ann!
    Interesting post. I definitely agree that since I started writing, I read books differently. And sometimes it is annoying, because I notice all kinds of little flaws (like word repetition) that I probably wouldn't otherwise. But it hasn't made me like reading any less. And the nice thing is, when I do read a book that's flawlessly written I appreciate it even more because I know how much work went into getting it that way.
    Also, it's funny that you say that when you were younger you used to put down a book if you didn't like it and now you feel like you should finish it. For me it has been completely the opposite. I used to always feel like I needed to finish a book I started, or I would keep reading because I thought it might get better. But now I have read enough to know that if I am not liking a book after the first few chapters, it's probably not going to get any better. And since I only have a limited amount of time to read, I don't want to waste it on a book I'm not even enjoying. Life's too short to read bad books. :)

    Anyway, here is a list of some of my all time favorite books:

    Middle Grade:
    When You Reach Me
    Love, Aubrey
    One for the Murphy's
    Harry Potter

    The Time Traveler's Wife
    The Help
    Gone to Soldiers
    The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
    The Reader
    Gone with the Wind
    Those Who Save Us
    Memoirs of a Geisha

    1. Thanks, Jennifer. This is a great list. I've read a couple of the Middle Grade ones and have heard about most of the rest. As for the adults, I've read Gone with the Wind, but just seen the movies for some of the others. I'll have to go to my library and find some of these to read.

    2. Just curious, which of the MG books have you read (besides Harry Potter)? I think those top three are FABULOUS, and I'm really picky about books - there are actually very few I would say I love. Also, Time Traveler's Wife is amazing (everyone I have recommended it to has loved it) but the movie sucked, IMO.

    3. Hi Jennifer. I might have to check out The Time Travelers Wife sometime. I thought I had read Wonder, but I now realize it is on my to-read list on Goodreads. So I guess Harry Potter is the only one I've actually read. I have heard of the first three middle grade books on your list. But I haven't been able to find them all in the stores or at my library. I might have to talk to the children's librarian about getting copies of them for me. Or better yet, maybe I can get my daughter to request them. None of our friends there can resist her. ;)

    4. I would think your library would definitely have When You Reach Me (it's a Newberry winner) and Wonder (huge bestseller). Love, Aubrey maybe not - but it's out in paperback so you could always order it on Amazon and it should be pretty cheap. WYRM is out in paperback too. Also, I think your daughter would probably LOVE all of these (especially Wonder and Love, Aubrey) so you could share! :)

    5. Thanks, Jennifer. And you are right my library does have both When You Reach Me and Wonder. Sadly, they don't have Love, Aubrey, but I bet I could talk them into ordering a copy. I don't think I'll have an trouble getting my daughter to read any of these with me. Thanks again.

  2. That's a good question. The first book that comes to mind is Harry Potter--I was completely swept away by that book and the entire series actually. I also recently felt that way about Divergent and Insurgent. I know you know Gila Green--her book is also like that--I feel like she totally takes you on a ride and you have to stay captivated until you reach the end.

    1. I agree about the Harry Potter series. Love it! I could read those books again and again. I've recently gotten a free sample of Insurgent I believe. Is that the first or second in the series? I'll have to read it to see what I think. I do know Gila and I have her book. I just haven't gotten to it yet. But I fully intend to before the year is out and she's already agreed to do an interview with me on my blog. So stay tuned for that in the next couple of months. :)

  3. Thanks for mentioning my novel King of the Class. I remember getting a phone call after a writing workshop I gave and the caller said to me: you seem to work so hard when you read, don't you ever read for fun? I laughed. For me reading as a writer is fun! This was not something she could relate to, but I'm pleased to see there are others who do.

    1. This process of really thinking about my reading was illuminating and fun for me as well. Glad you enjoyed it. Can't wait to dive into your novel King of the Class very soon, especially after Margo's wonderful comments. :)