All Writers must be Readers

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It may seem obvious, but it is often pointed out nonetheless. If you are serious about writing, you must also be serious about reading. Simple.
Only it isn’t so simple, really. Often we are so busy trying to write, that there seems little time to spend reading other people’s masterpieces.

We need to make time.

For a slow reader such as myself, it can feel doubly difficult.
I’m a busy woman. I work. I run a household of four humans and three cats. How can I set aside time to read when I can barely snatch a few minutes to myself to write most days?

By being creative.

On days when my husband and/or daughter aren’t available to give me lifts [which is quite a lot of the time] I have to get two busses to and from work. Since one only runs every half-hour I have to allow a lot of time for traveling. So I make sure I have a book to read at the bus stops. I can’t read on a moving bus – it gives me motion sickness – and I’d hate to risk missing my stop. Still, I have an iPad, so I download e-audio books from the library and listen to them as I travel.
I have a book beside my bed, and try to snatch at least a few pages before I go to sleep.
I carry a book in my handbag [the criteria for choosing a new handbag is ‘will it fit an average sized paperback?’] and pull it out whenever I have to queue anywhere, or wait in the doctors, dentist, or hospital etc.

I always have between two and five books ‘on the go’ at any given time.

I sign up for Children’s Book Day at the library – an annual work thing that is sadly coming to an end this year. This requires me to read six picture books, five junior books and four teen titles. These are set texts, so I get to read material I may not otherwise look at twice.
I also run a Chatterbooks group at the library where I work, for 8-12 year olds. We read a book a month for that.
I sign up to the Goodreads annual Reading challenge.
I did this in 2013, though I didn’t start in January, and read about 42 books.
This year – 2014 – I read 80! With a whole day to spare!
Okay, so some of them were the prescribed picture books – plus a couple I read by choice – but, even so, anyone who knows me will know that this is quite an achievement.
Check out my reading list for 2014 here
https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/5568843?read_at=2014&utm_source=twitter.com&view=covers
or here

Which of these books have you read?
What did you think of them?

Of course, I’ve actually read more than these 80 titles this year when I come to think about it.
I’ve read some amazing fan fiction over at LiveJournal, ff.net and AO3 [not to mention some pretty bad stuff and one or two good stories over at wattpad]. I’ve beta read some fiction by friends and fellow writers I’ve ‘met’ online. I’ve read articles online. I’ve read blogs from like minded fans and writers.
When I really analyze it, I’ve managed to read a whole heck of a lot.

I’m pretty proud of myself right now.

How about you?
Are you reading as much as you think you should – or maybe, without even realizing it – are you reading even more?

The Purrr-fect Interogation

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This message has been endorsed by my three kittehs!

Words With A View

This world is a beautiful yet treacherous place, in the midst of all the chaos, companionship makes everything worthwhile, and a gem of a friend is amongst the greatest blessing you could hope to acquire on your journey through the perilous pathways of this planet. But how do you know whom to pick as your amiable amigo? If only there was some kind of scientific experiment that could help us to deduce whether this particular humanoid will bring forth smiles or sorrows, but unfortunately its not that easy, although, there is one question which can help me, personally, determine if the specimen is worth pursuing or not.. based on a simple inquiry.. Do you love cats? if followed by an enthusiastic answer.. “OMG! I DO!!!” ……is enough to ensure a start of a new bond for me 🙂 Mark Twain preferred this method as well.. so it must be pretty effective.

When-a-man-loves  Maria Saif Daily…

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My Hero

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In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “My Hero.”

More correctly, my heroine.
This person has been a role model to me since I first came across her during my years at college – many moons ago.
Her name was Jill Kinmont Boothe. She was a skier back in the 1950s, slated to become an Olympic champion until she had an accident that turned her into a quadriplegic. My college movie club showed her biopic ‘Window to the Sky’ [called ‘The Other Side of the Mountain’ in the USA] and I was very moved by it. So much so that I tracked down the written biography, which tends to be more accurate and less saccharin than the film version. I joined a Yahoo online fan club. I referred to her accident as a ‘kiss with history’ in one of my Quantum Leap fan fiction stories. [High Hopes] I even wrote to her through the fan club for permission to include her story. I didn’t get a personal reply, but another fan took my request to her directly, and she didn’t say no, so I dedicated the story to her. She only passed away a couple of years ago in 2012 – aged 75 – which is remarkable considering she was initially given a life expectancy of months.
But there is more to my interest than a fangirl sort of hero worship.
Jill overcame tragedy and went on to become a teacher, specifically to underprivileged Native American children. She was also a talented artist, something I could only ever aspire to be – I can’t draw a convincing stick man and I have full use of all my limbs!
Her story is inspirational, and all through my life whenever the going gets tough I remember how much she achieved and it humbles me.
I strongly recommend anyone who is caught up in self-pity to check out the two films of her life, or better yet the book, for a healthy dose of perspective.
Beyond that, I strongly recommend everyone to learn all they can about this remarkable woman.

These days, the word ‘hero’ is applied to too many people far too casually. It has been dreadfully devalued. A footballer is called a hero for scoring a goal. NO, I don’t think so. A hero is someone who does something extraordinary – not just ordinary people doing everyday jobs, even doing them well. Firemen are heroes, lifeboatmen are heroes, people risking their lives for others.
A hero is someone who shows courage in adversity or acts altruistically – Jill did both, so she will forever be my hero.

Rejection #6

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This pitch was sent on 2nd October, so it had been 11 weeks, far longer than the average. I was starting to wonder whether I should just assume they weren’t interested, or whether I should contact them for confirmation.

The email came today. This one said:

Thank your for giving us the opportunity to consider your work. Your submission has been read with interest, but I’m sorry to say that we do not feel we can offer to represent you in the marketing of it.

Please do not be disheartened by this reply. We have to think extremely carefully before taking on a new client, and in every case there are many factors contributing to our decision. Regrettably we are unable to offer a personal response to your work, but you certainly shouldn’t assume because we’ve turned your submission down that we saw no merit in it. This is often a long way from the truth.

If you’re in need of feedback you might consider trying The Writers’ Workshop or Cornerstones, both well-regarded services. For specific help in finding an agent, Agent Hunter may be of use.

We wish you every success with your writing in 2015 and beyond.

It is obviously a generic response, but kindly worded.

I now have only one pitch awaiting a response, and this one is even more overdue. However, since the encouraging wording of the previous reply, I have been concentrating on editing and fine tuning according to their advice. I have decided to look very carefully at all the stories before I submit further.

I think I am doing quite well with most of them – I can see that they benefit from being ‘tightened up’ – but I’m having trouble with the original. The comment was that it wasn’t enough of a story in its own right, merely an introduction to how Sweetpea came to live with Ginny. But I firmly believe that how Sweetpea came to live with Ginny IS in essence the story. And to be perfectly honest – if uncharacteristically immodest – it is more of a story than some of the picture books I’ve come across in the library where I work. I’m willing to listen to advice and respect the voice of experience, but there comes a point where I don’t want to sacrifice the original charm – which was so well received by the children on whom I tested it – for something that feels contrived and awkward. So I’m battling with it and with myself, and so far not coming up with a winning solution.

I know that writing is hard – and editing harder still – but I’m not yet ready to give up. I can only hope that I’ll be inspired to find the right balance.

Challenge result

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Well, the results are in, and I didn’t place in the writing challenge.
I can accept this, there were some very strong entries. The only thing that niggles is that I hope I failed on the strength – or rather weakness – of my entry, not for any perceived failure to adhere to the conditions of entry.
I was told that I would get a private message as an entrant, that I should reply to with my two required votes. I didn’t get a private message, so I voted by replying to a general message. The two stories I voted for were placed 2nd and 3rd, but of course I have no way to know if my individual votes were received and counted.
I did email to ask about the voting process, but didn’t receive a reply.
I am naturally disappointed not to have been in the top three, but I am far more disappointed by the failure of communication, which has soured the experience for me.

Addendum:

Curiously, five minutes after I posted this, I finally received a response to the email I sent on Wednesday lunchtime last week asking for a copy of the terms and conditions and instructions for voting. The T&C was attached, but it just said ‘a private message’ would be sent today prompting me to vote. It still hasn’t arrived, and since the results are in, it is too little too late.
SIGH