11 January 2019

Reading, an Opinionated Overview

I remember the first book I took out of the not picture books side of the library. Not the title, but the fact it was a real book with more words than pictures. It was about a dog. When I held it in my hand, I was awed at the idea of whole different worlds were now available to me. I just had to pick them out. For an introverted child, that was heaven.

I think I read every book in the children's section by a certain young age, and with the blessings of the children's librarian, moved downstairs to the young adult and adult books. It helped that I went to the library with my mother every Friday afternoon after I got home from school, and took out 10 books, the library limit. Afterwards, we would go out to dinner at some cheap diner and talk, while in the back of my mind I would savor the idea of all those new adventures waiting.

Savoring is what reading is all about to me. Eyeball the cover, crack open the book, read the title page and its reverse (because I'm weird that way), ponder the dedications. Who were all these people? Writers had help? A deep breath before the rollercoaster like plunge into the story. Once in a while I was fooled by a prologue. I didn't develop an overwhelming hatred of them, more a resignation and impatience. I wanted the main story, and I wanted it right now! Good thing I'm not a mystery reader, right?

It wasn't until high school that I learned the joys of non-fiction. Histories, biographies, how things work books. Books about other countries. It all fascinated me even as I worked my way through the fiction on World War II, dipping into histories as seemed appropriate. Then on to the Vietnam War. I grew out of war stories into philosophy. My favorite art teacher, knowing my rabid reading habits, gave me a worn copy of Jean Paul Sartre's Being and Nothingness. He said, "We'll discuss it when you finish". Talk about being thrown into the deep end. Then came another philosophy book. And another. Lots of discussion. Thanks to him, I dual majored in philosophy in college. The places reading takes you shouldn't be underestimated.

I still have diverse interests and read voraciously. There is so much I want to know. I'm grateful for my e-reader. Yes, it's nice to have a real book to hold, and I like my non-fiction to be a physical book, but as many novels as I go through in a month, my house would be an episode of Hoarders with books. I've also noticed as I've grown older, I've come to a realization. I don't have to finish a book. I can close it and walk away. Or throw it at the wall and not read another word. I couldn't do that as a child. I felt obligated to read every word of the book until the end. Even if I hated it.

As my eyesight gets worse, I like e-readers more. I'm learning to like audiobooks. I use them to drive the long distances across Wyoming, but I notice I tend to grab books I've already read to listen to. Kind of like a reread, a comfort? Audio books don't distract me from driving, like they do for some people. I remember getting to my destination one time, and sitting in the car for another thirty minutes, just to hear the end of the book. Isn't that what it's all about? The magic, the need to hear the end, but not wanting the book to end? The same with a series. I'm down to the last two books in an author's series right now, and I've put off reading them. I don't want my trip into her world to end. Eventually, I'll dive in and read them. Then start looking for another series to turn my obsession on.

I want adventure, I want knowledge, and I want a peek into someone else's life. I want to experience the pleasures without the physical pains. I want to sink into a book like it's a bathtub full of exotic water, slip down to my nose and luxuriate. I want to transform, transcend, traverse. I want to pick up my first chapter book and start reading all over again.

Where does reading take you?

16 December 2018

Gyroscope Review - 2018 Year End Anthology


Groundhogs, Crones, & Other Poems.

Gyroscope Review's 2018 Year End Anthology is now available on Amazon

All 4 issues from 2018 in one convenient book.

374 pages of Poetic Goodness, just for you.

Let us know what you think - Leave a review on Amazon. 

Have a great Holiday Season!

10 November 2018

Insulated Writing

Blanket Fort

There is another side to being a writer that seldom gets talked about. Writing as a form of insulation. Mass shootings, government in a death spiral, racism run amok. All these things make keeping a clear head for writing your novel difficult, even when you attempt to avoid the news, as I do. But the churning is insipid, creeping in through  waiting room television, the radio in stores, from coworkers and strangers in line at the grocery.

What's a writer to do?

Plunge into the world of your novel and don't come up for air. Insulate yourself from the outside world by concentrating on your world and characters. (Although if you are writing something political and contemporary, you're pretty much screwed. Sorry. )

I safely insulated myself in the head of my protagonist, concentrating on what drove her and her various predicaments. All well and good, until I found out my insulation wasn't air tight. Or world tight. News from the outside crept into my character, until there were a few dark turns and talks I never intended. It leaves you wondering, did that really come from me? Should I be keeping my characters in cotton wool? Why won't the world leave me the hell alone, can't it see I'm busy creating?

I didn't want the outside world influencing my story. I want a blanket fort, with me inside, typing away. I want to be oblivious, so caught up in my fantasy world that coming back to reality would be a shock. I want to live elsewhere. Or elsewhen.

It doesn't work that way. The world doesn't care what I want. It insists I be more aware, open my eyes, look around, and oh, yeah, I need to tear away that insulation. Let some dirt in on my pristine novel. It will be better for it. And for me. I acquiesce, and throw my blanket fort back on the bed.

Bring it world. My protagonist has magic. And so do I.

14 October 2018

A Mental Mugging

I had the occasion to be in several waiting rooms the past week and found the same annoyance in all of them. Blaring televisions, usually spouting a certain unintelligent 'news' station. It's damn aggravating. And people are just riveted, staring at the black box on the wall, drool dripping down their chin. Well, I may have exaggerated the last part, but not by much. Vacant eyes and vacant gaze.

When did we start undervaluing the benefits of silence? Is internal contemplation so painful we have to fill every waking moment with noise?  Am I alone in preferring my wait time not be populated with background blather? The worst I do is read a book, check Instagram for pretty pictures, or do some navel gazing. And I'm trying to phase the book and phone out and just use the time for a little mindfulness practice.

Several people mentioned to me my place of work should have some background music in the office. Oh, hell no. First comes the inevitable fight over country or pop. (Nobody listens to the blues anymore.) I would hate the constant, insidious noise leaking into my brain. Worse if it was a radio station with its irritating commercials and shouty preaching. I pity retail workers, especially at holiday time. How many Rudolf's can one person take before they snap and stab a customer with a candy cane?

Silence. Consider cultivating some. Embrace it. Reflect. What would it hurt? You may learn something, or may just learn the lack of noise makes you very uneasy. All progress. Or you can be like me when you find yourself alone in the waiting room. Reach up and snap the television off. If you can't reach, unplug it.

There, I feel better already.