Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Reading for Writing
Ah, yes, somedays the road of life can be a sticky situation!
When I was teaching, I urged my students to read the books that had voices they wanted to write in themselves. When they wanted to write fantasy, I urged them to set their mood with Madeleine L’Engle or J.K. Rowling or even AVI for example. I followed my own advice, reading Anne Morrow Lindbergh when I wanted to write diary memoirs and Willa Cather when I wanted to capture the prairie settings. I actually dabbled in several favorite genres, but lately my reading has jumped all over the place, not settling on anything that provokes writing. I seem to be like a piano that is out of tune. I still hit the notes but the tone quality is poor.
In an interview published in the October issue of The Writer, author Thomas Lynch says the following: I write because I read, and I think it’s part of the same conversation. I returned to read his quote several times, thinking how many times I have heard that writers must be prolific readers, how writing and reading go hand in hand. I certainly have done my part by reading, reading, reading.
When I read that Louis L’ Amour started keeping a journal of all he read when he was a young man and filled crates full of these journals, I decided to do the same. I started in 1999 while I was teaching and many of my entries are YA novels that I could encourage my young readers to tackle and enjoy. Gradually, these titles gave way to my personal writing interests, to book club lists, and my own peculiar choices.
Out of curiosity, I checked my journal list to see just what the last ten books I read this summer were and to see if I could find a pattern. The list:
Wildflowers of Terezin…Christian fiction
Mennonite in a Little Black Dress…funny and sometimes off color memoir
The Teacher Who Couldn’t Read…memoir
My Life if France…Julia Child, memoir
The Whole World Over…novel
Flannery: A life of Flannery O’Conner…biography
Writing the West…Dusty Richards, writing
Whatever It Takes…biography of educator in Harlem and a book club choice
What have you been reading and do you read for voice and mood just before writing?