Longleaf Stories

full circle in the hundred acre wood

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.IMG_2726

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!

0 thoughts on “Deanna Hershiser’s Question of the Week

  1. deanna says:

    Mm, yummy books. Thanks for the peek into your reading world. I like the mind candy category. I tend to have books on a certain shelf ready to be read, and they never run out, somehow. But I read when I can’t be at the computer or while waiting for appointments and so on. Getting lost in something can be difficult but still does happen; so many good writers exist.
    I like the picture of you and a gaggle of grandkids in the quiet library hall. They’re getting the right idea about where to visit!


  2. Hi, Beth….love checking out what you are reading…a great way for me to find something different from my usual fare. I’m still working on the box of books you sent me and enjoying them as I switch back and forth between them and other books on my shelf. Thanks again.
    So I’m a little more than halfway thru Bloody River by English journalist Tim Butcher, all about his trip crossing the Congo in 2004, following in the footsteps of Henry Stanley of ‘Dr. Livingstone, I presume?’ fame. Actually pretty depressing, as so much of the country is regressing instead of progressing. Anyway, here I am, reading along on page 194 when I suddenly come upon ‘The Poisonwood Bible, an award-winning novel by an American author, Barbara Kingsolver’…! As I had never heard of her work until you sent me ‘Prodigal Summer’, you can imagine my surprise…^-^ (BTW, liked ‘Prodigal Summer’ muchly….introduced me to a part of the States I knew nothing about in a very personal manner. )


  3. A beautiful stack of books! I recognize some old favorites. The Maytrees I have read a couple of times. Astringent, but spooky good.
    I am rereading RFD, a farm memoir that was a bestseller in 1938. Very fun for the author’s high spirits, radical politics, and intellectualism clashing with Depression-era Chillicothe, Ohio.


  4. Beth Lowe says:

    Some new titles, at least to me. I just ordered Tell It Slant (I couldn’t resist with a title like that), and wrote a couple of others down, like the War of Art, for example. Stephen King’s On Writing is one of my favorites. I’m very affectionately inclined toward him and it, though I’m not much of a fan of his usual fare.
    I’m wondering if you ever finished Ulysses? That’s something I’ve not yet read. I’m currently reading some books by Hal Borland, a nature writer who wrote in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. He was beloved, but then pretty much forgotten about after his death. His books, though mostly out of print (not too hard to get used, though), are a joy, and I’m working on a blog post in which I’ll introduce him.
    Deanna’s blog is, indeed, a find.
    I do like this book blog of yours, Beth!


  5. Beth — I’m so glad you found Deanna’s blog. She is a fine writer and good friend. I’m with you on Stephen King: love On Writing, but not a big fan of his novels, except for Duma Key. I enjoyed the Florida angle, there. Tell It Slant has become a craft classic, and for good reason. I’ll look forward to your post on Hal Borlund. I’ve heard the name, but beyond that am unfamiliar with his work.


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