Last Thursday, writer Deanna Hershiser posed an interesting question at her blog, deanna hershiser: capturing a story’s glimmer.
“. . .I’d love to know why other people pick up and start a magazine article, an anthology chapter, or a book. If you’re not always thinking about writing them what context usually brings on your need to read, out in the real world?”
Deanna’s question made me laugh a little. You would laugh, too, if you could see my house. Instead of the proverbial trail of breadcrumbs, I leave a trail of books and magazines dribbled through the rooms, tables and countertops.
The living room sofa is reserved for Harpers, The New Yorker and Poet & Writer. Harper’s is gutted for its fiction stories. Same for The New Yorker, once I have perused the often funny, sometimes inscrutable, and occasionally cruel cartoons. Poets & Writers remains intact, with annotated sticky notes serving as tabs for pages I want to easily find again.
The dining table has a stack of books ready to retun to the nearby University of West Florida library. I can check out ten books at a time there, which I seem to have taken as a mandate. The library’s third floor is quiet, cool and lined with books by and about wonderful authors. Too often, I am in a rush when I go there, sometimes trailing a gaggle of grandchildren. One day, I would like to arrive when the doors open, take the compact elevator to the third floor, and spend the whole day in solitary pleasure, fondling books.
Each morning, I slip out from our bedroom early, trying not to awaken my sleeping husband. The guest bathroom where I brush my teeth always has an open book by the sink. This morning, it is a copy of a sweet book written by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. It is written as a series of letters between the various characters — a perfect format for reading a few every morning while tooth-brushing.
Most of the books I read these days are recommended by other writers or discovered in some other serendipitous way. In a tumble at my desk or beside the bed are Elizabeth George’s Write Away: One Novelist’s Approach to Fiction and the Writing Life (thank you, Richard Gilbert); Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paoli’s Tell It Slant; the various “best of” anthologies for essays, short stories and spiritual writing (thank you, Lisa Ohlen Harris); and The Portable MFA in Creative Writing by The New York Writers Group.
A good friend recently sent me a small gem of a book. It’s called The War of Art: Break through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, by Steven Pressfield (thank you, Denny Coates).
Ear buds are usually stuck in my ear before tuning out the lights. Selections for listening might include Stephen King’s very fine craft book, On Writing, Hemingway’s, A Moveable Feast, James Joyce’s Ulysses (which I just started and am surprised by how much I am enjoying), or an interesting podcast or two, either from NPR or Ted Talks.
Some books teach me, some inspire, some are pure mind candy and others stiffen my spine.
Thanks for asking the question, Deanna!