Hungry Writers and Smart Readers

This site is for writers and readers both. I can’t separate the two. Growing up, I was Summer Readingthe kind of kid who wrote in the attic and read in a hollowed-out hedge. The characters in books were as alive to me as my own – they’d have adventures together in my head. When I first saw the film of a favorite story, Peter Pan, I loved it, but was startled that what I saw on the screen didn’t match up with my vision. My Peter had more of an edge (and was rather hot). Writing and reading are a collaborative act. The writer takes the lead, but together we do more than apart. The minds of writers and readers connect through the act of reading to forge something new and unique.

Writers can anticipate this by reading our own work as a smart reader would. To allow our minds to visualize, our guts to react and our brains to question, even as we revise stories that we’ve worked on for months. If your stomach tightens, then that’s a good bet that the tension is working. If it doesn’t, then you need to consider what would increase the stakes. Continue to read other people’s work, both to learn more about writing and to train yourself in how to be a better reader of your own. Writers should hunger – to create characters that yearn to breathe, to tell stories that need telling, to reach readers that would care. To become a stronger writer with each sentence you lay down.

I see us all as hungry writers and smart readers, deserving of inspiration, celebration and support. I want this to be a place you can go to learn and be valued. A place for connecting through story, mind to mind, heart to heart.

Photo credit: “Summer Reading” by Sheila Sund via a Creative Commons License.

Olive Kitteridge

Strout, Elizabeth. Olive Kitteridge. Random House (New York: 2008).

A beautifully-written novel structured as a story cycle about characters in a small Maine town, some focusing on Olive, the titular character, a retired schoolteacher, and Olive Kitteridgeothers only touching on her, and yet Olive is a heavy presence throughout, difficult, complicated and unforgettable. She’s flawed, but has a ruthless honesty which makes her compelling. For writers: Although this story lacks a conventional plot, the constant tension within and between the characters keeps us turning the page. Whenever Olive is present, we’re never sure just how far she might go. This novel’s undeniable excellence, and its commercial success, provide an argument for the centrality of character and a fine demonstration of how the very specific can resonate on a universal level.

Memoirs of a Geisha

Golden, Arthur. Memoirs of a Geisha. Vintage Contemporaries, Vintage Books, a division of Random House, Inc. (New York: 1997).

Memoirs of a GeishaWritten as if it were a memoir, this novel about a girl sold out of her home to be trained as a geisha is well crafted, imaginative, full of tension, and by turns funny and sad to the point of tears. For writers: The first person voice rings true throughout, with even the metaphors confined to the exotic but narrow world of this girl. The attention to historical detail is remarkable. But what impressed me most was how, even with extended interiority, this author made me want to keep turning the page. The tension is increased by how deep we go, as her personal stakes become ours.