Posts Tagged ‘reading’
Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there.
As you might know, my mother’s no longer with us. She died in 2003. That was 11 years ago? Wow. It doesn’t seem possible that she’s been gone so long.
Maybe that’s because I always carry her with me, courtesy of all the lessons she taught me over the years.
Before I was born, my mom taught English and math—to high school students. I can’t imagine. Seems like they’d be the worst age to handle, with all the raging hormones, overwrought teen drama and bad attitude. But she seemed to have liked it—and her students seemed to have fond memories of her, too. (I went to school with a lot of the kids of the kids she taught.)
Among her lessons:
1. Reading is fun.
I can’t count the number of times I saw my mom with a book. She was always reading, everything from classic Updike to Danielle Steel. It was the influence of her and my dad, another voracious reader, that got me reading at age 4. My parents read all the time and I wanted to be like them, so they taught me to sound it out.
2. Butter cookies rule.
There are two types of people in the world: Sugar cooke folks and butter cookie fans. Our family falls into the latter category. Mom’s butter cookie recipe, which she got from her mom (who apparently shared it with Kelly Ripa), is flaky, crisp and just sweet enough.
About Kelly Ripa: I’ll never forget Mom calling me, excited because Kelly made her family’s favorite Christmas cookies on her show—and it was mom’s recipe that she shared. I guess Grandma got it off a box of butter or something?
Every year, after Mom baked the cookies (which I now know is a pain in the butt, rolling out the dough and cutting the shapes), she’d frost them while my brother and I decorated with sprinkles, colored sugar and other fun toppings. (My fave was the tiny candies shaped like flowers.)
3. Live life—and attack problems—with humor.
This is probably the biggie. My mother had a great sense of humor. She was the mom who sat in the back of the band bus and told jokes, or sat around the Girl Scout campfire telling funny stories.
She laughed a lot, and was first to deflect sadness with a joke or smile. Er, actually my whole family is like that. I remember when Dad died, my brother, cousins and I broke from the funeral home for pizza, and laughed jokes and funny stories until our sides ached.
Laugh through the tears, I guess.
Wikipedia tells me it was Ella Wheeler Wilcox, a Wisconsinite, who wrote “laugh and the world laughs with you.”
Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone.
For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth
But has trouble enough of its own.
— From “The Way of the World,” a poem (1883)
That may well be—but my mother lived it.
I, for one, am glad, because I got my sense of humor from her. I’m quick to laugh and I crack jokes at what some people might call inappropriate times.
Every time a line in one of my books makes a reader laugh out loud, I hope she hears it and knows that she had a hand in making the world a happier place.
I remember plowing through the stacks of Harlequin and Silhouette books Mom would bring home from the library, secured with a rubber band. (Apparently, the library thought bundles were more appealing.) My couch potato self spent many a lazy Saturday devouring two or three category-length titles in one sitting.
As I got older, the romance reading continued. With each book I finished, so did the conviction that I needed to be writing romance. I’d close a book and think, “I could write that. I could write something better than that.”
Ah, the overconfidence of the uneducated. Turns out that writing one — a good one, at least — is much harder than it looked.
But once I started trying, I never looked back. I moved from Indiana to Arizona in 1999, and in 2001 won a radio station’s “dinner with a romance writer” contest. That’s when I met Rita Rainville, then a member of NARWA. I started attending the group’s meetings, joined RWA and discovered just how much I had to learn about writing romance.
Finally, in 2011, I snagged the coveted title of Golden Heart finalist … a sure sign I was mastering the craft. I was on the verge of the big payoff — publication. Still, it eluded me until this year.
Nowadays, it seems that I spend most of my free time writing romance instead of reading it. Whenever I get a few minutes not consumed by the dreaded day job, I feel the need to devote it to writing.
But August is National Read-A-Romance Month, not Write-A-Romance Month. That begs the question: “Why do I read romance?”
When I started reading them in middle school, I most likely read as a way to pass time. There’s not much to do in rural Indiana. I’m sure I also read for the sex ed. So much more fun — and informative — than health class. (Am I the only one who wondered what the guys were learning when they were sent to another room while we girls watched the same damn menstruation movie three years running?)
Of course, I could have passed time reading any kind of book. And did. I read a lot of Stephen King as a high school freshman. Then, my sophomore year, I discovered Anne Rice and devoured everything of hers I could get my hands on.
Still, I kept going back to romance. Those are the stories that draw me in and leave me satisfied. I’m not happy unless the characters get the ending they deserve. That’s one thing that drove me crazy when I read Gone Girl. The book was a real page-turner, but no one got what was coming to them in that book. (Link takes you to my weight-loss blog.)
Romance offers that happy ending. It allows the characters the happily-ever-after ending they need. I’d much rather see folks I’ve come to know and love get what they deserve.
Kristan Higgins, one of my favorite writers, put it much more succinctly in her post Monday. We read romance for the hope.
Most people in life don’t transform, don’t have a clearly delineated character arc that blossoms in the space of a few weeks or months as the outer goal is accomplished. That’s what makes a romance novel so gratifying, and uplifting…and hopeful. They did it. They’re our role models, and it doesn’t matter if they’re fictional, so long as they walk the walk of someone who was stuck, and afraid to try something different, and risked it all for love…and triumphed.
Do yourself a favor and read her entire post. It’s excellent — and just another reason to love Kristan.
I still remember the few minutes we chatted in the elevator at RWA Nationals in NYC in 2011. Me, a nervous first-time conference attendee, wearing my GH finalist ribbon and completely overwhelmed by the whole experience. Her, lovely and gracious and …
Okay, I mostly remember that we were staying on the same floor. I told her I loved her books. We commiserated over how the experts said rom-com is dead and declared we actually wrote funny contemporary romance … or something like that.
Long live the funny contemporary! And long live romance. May it continue to offer everything readers need.
A new theory has been simmering in my brain for the last few weeks. Want to hear it?
Of course you do. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be reading my blog, right?
Authors — and readers — have TBR piles. More likely than not, they’re towering TBR piles that threaten to topple over because we’re adding to them much faster than we take things away.
Or is that just me?
My theory is this: Pinterest boards are to recipes what TBR piles are to books.
I don’t remember exactly how long ago I joined Pinterest, but I can tell you that I’ve been pinning recipes like a champ ever since: I have about 575 recipes on 14 recipe-themed boards.
I started with a generic “Food ideas” board, soon realizing that I needed to break things down further if I ever expected to find anything. So now I have separate categories for low-carb recipes, breakfast ideas, smoothies, sweets, vegetarian chow, paleo eats, holiday favorites … pretty much any category you can think of. And I add to them every time I visit Pinterest.
In fact, when I hopped over to count how many recipes I’ve pinned, I found two more to add. You can check out my boards here, if you’re so inclined.
These recipe boards are a lot like my TBR pile — full of things I want to make/eat/read someday … in the distant future … if I ever find the time.
Maybe I should institute a new rule: Every time I finish a book, I have to try a new recipe — and vice versa. That’d give me a chance to make a dent in both stashes.
Are you a pinner? Do you have more ideas bookmarked than you can possibly get through?
With Sept. 30-Oct. 6 being Banned Books Week, I want to go on the record: People — of all ages — should be able to read what they want. Yes, even those poorly written “Fifty Shades” books, if that’s what keeps them turning the pages.
It’s not so important what they read, just as long as they’re reading. Of course I’d like them to read well-written, expertly crafted tales (like mine!). But what matters is that they’re engrossed in something that allows them to escape their reality, exposes them to new ideas or just plain entertains them and keeps them out of trouble.
Besides, even the classics have their critics — a reality that not only baffles me, but riles me up and honks me off. We write because we have stories we need to share. Who is someone else to say, “Your story offends me so no one should have the chance to read it”?
I’ve organized them into categories: Books I’ve read, books I want to read, books I have no interest in and ones I’ve never even heard of. (Thank goodness only a few of them ended up on that list!)
No matter where they fall on my list, try to imagine what our lives would be without them.
Read (many for a class, some for “fun,” when I had time for that kind of thing)
- The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
- To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
- Beloved, by Toni Morrison
- The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
- 1984, by George Orwell
- Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
- Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
- Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
- Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell (One of my all-time favorite books. I read it for the first time in 7th grade and for years wanted to live in a restored Ga. plantation house with my three cats, a tiger-striped one named Scarlett, a black one named Rhett and a white one named Ashley.)
- The Call of the Wild, by Jack London
- The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie
- A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
- A Separate Peace, by John Knowles
- An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser
Want to read (if I ever have time)
- The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
- Lolita, by Vladmir Nabokov
- Animal Farm, by George Orwell
- Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
- Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
- The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
- Lady Chatterley’s Lover, by D.H. Lawrence
- The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
- In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
- Sons and Lovers, by D.H. Lawrence
- Women in Love, by D.H. Lawrence
- Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller (Wasn’t there a “Seinfeld” episode featuring this one? George still had the book he checked out from his high school library …)
- Rabbit, Run, by John Updike (This book, along with other “Rabbit” books, graced my parents’ bookshelf in the living room when I was a kid, but — unlike some of Mom’s other books — I never stole it off the shelf to read it.)
Sorry, not interested
- The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck (Tried to read it in high school, but could not get through it)
- Ulysses, by James Joyce
- Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
- The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
- As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
- A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway
- Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey (I watched the movie because I read Brad Pitt said he loved it, and — despite my love for Brad Pitt, hated it)
- For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway
- All the King’s Men, by Robert Penn Warren
- The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien (Blasphemy, I know.)
- Sophie’s Choice, by William Styron
- Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
Never heard of it (showing my ignorance, I’m sure)
- Native Son, by Richard Wright
- Go Tell it on the Mountain, by James Baldwin
- Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
- Naked Lunch, by William S. Burroughs
- The Naked and the Dead, by Norman Mailer