Tag Archives: readers

Long lists and generous hearts

Once upon a time, I learned that writers are supposed to have Google alerts on their names. Being the dutiful sort, I set one up. The internet, in a brief moment of mercy, decided not to make the alert work. Sure, an occasional email to let me know I’ve posted a blog, but aside from that, nothing. I’m a happy castaway on a very peaceful island when it comes to knowing where my name pops up online.

However, occasionally things manage to break through. This morning, for example, a kind soul tweeted to let me know that The King’s Huntsman is on the Million Writers Award’s long list of notable stories of 2012. That’s a lovely thing to wake up to. The full list can be found here. Huntsman’s keeping some great company.

While on the whole award subject, I also had a Pushcart nomination this year for She Walked Out The Door. The whole Pushcart process is shrouded in deep mystery–I only knew about the nomination because I received an email from an editor at The Sun, and I only knew the story didn’t go any further because eventually the names of some selected works showed up online and I could assume the notification date had passed.

I’m fairly relaxed about the whole awards thing. Nice work if you can get it, and the nominee lists always provide interesting reading material, but it’s low on my list of things to lose sleep over. What I do appreciate, in a very real way, are the people who have nominated my stories, or just told me that they mean something to them. Million Writers, Pushcart, the readers who added one of my stories to their own recommended reading lists, the ones who’ve sent me emails or stopped by here to say thanks–holy carp, folks, your faith and generosity rocks my soul.

I do, of course, have my core audience. But when I sit down to write these days, it’s no longer just Big Eyes and Guitar Dude out there waiting for me. The front row has expanded. The chairs may not match, but I hope they’re all comfortable. Let me know if they’re not.

Thank you.

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Portrait of the reader as an older woman

Okay, enough existential angst for the week. Let’s talk about something more interesting.

(And what’s really interesting, and more than a little weird, is that everywhere I go this week the number 42 keeps turning up. It also happens to be my age this year, and, as everyone should know, the answer to life, the universe, and everything. Why 42? What does it mean!? But that’s just a little aside.)

What kind of reader are you? Forget all about this writing business for a moment. It may well be that there are writers who are born fully formed, and who write their masterpieces never having read a complete book in their lives, but I kind of doubt it. I was a reader long before I was a writer.

As a reader, I dabble in a little of everything. There are categories I don’t choose to read in, but I’m also willing to give most anything a try. I’m drawn to character over plot, and to complicated characters more than simply appealing ones. Bittersweet endings interest me more than straight-up happily ever after, because I can buy the happy much more easily if it comes with the sad.

I read on paper when reading for pleasure. I do not own an ereader. If I lived somewhere where downloading a book didn’t require either the patience of a saint or a trip in the car, then I might be more likely to go with electronics, but I don’t. I’m also comforted by the shape and feel of physical books. I relate to them differently than I do to words on a screen. Part of that may also be a function of using a computer to write. A document on a screen feels like work rather than fun.

As the occupant of a very small house, I may need to rethink that idea at some point. In the meantime, I sleep with piles of books by my bed, and by the couch, and anywhere else I might relax.

I read more fiction than nonfiction. I read more adult fiction than children’s or YA. If I’m working on a novel, I avoid reading in the same genre because it muddies the waters for me. My eyes are tired much of the time, so my love of small paperbacks has diminished. If I like an author, I’ll try their stuff across any genre they choose to write in. I reread everything I love, and also some things I only like. I rarely read things when they’re first released, and I almost never look at reviews until after I’ve read something.

Oh, and I have a headlamp for reading at night.

Who are you as a reader?


Nothing but questions

I have about fifteen different things I should be doing this morning. Instead, I’ve been thinking about who I write for, and how it’s changed over time, and whether I approve of that change, and how it’s been shaping what I write. About who I want to be when I grow up as a writer.

For me, writing started as an escape, as solace. These days it’s sometimes that, but often something else entirely. I’ve been sitting at a crossroads for a while, and I have yet to choose a direction.

Why do we write the things we do? What stories do we choose to tell, and why those and not others?

How do you know where you want to go as a writer?


Unsolicited advice

This is not one of those writing blogs full of advice. I am not a writer, or a person, prone to unsolicited advising. I find it enough of a challenge to negotiate my own way through the world.

But… If I were to offer advice, it would be this. Find those things to write that make you feel alive, and dare yourself to write them. Find your tribe of readers (tribe, think caves and gathering around the fire, think small close circle of people who will always read what you write, who can give you what the anonymous millions will not). Read beyond your comfort zone, read those writers who challenge you to be better by the way they put words on the page, by the ideas they ask you to consider, and rise to the challenge.

That’s it, in a nutshell.