Going back to book basics

One of Alison Flood’s well-read books!

So it seems like every week there’s a new ‘app’ for books, a new platform to read them on or sell them on. E-reading technology is moving so fast that it’s pretty hard to keep up with things. And sometimes when I look around the room at all my bookshelves, I think that maybe I don’t want to keep up with things! That’s why I really loved this article by Alison Flood I found on The Guardian.

Yes, REAL books, with REAL pages, made on REAL printing presses still exist! And not only that, REAL people actually read them! Now this article’s author is pretty dang rough on her books. In fact, I know some people who think that treating your books the way she does is almost blasphemous.

There are some books in my collection that I treat like special jewels (especially hardcovers), others that I don’t care so much about, and those ones I’m happy to lend to people. And that got me to thinking about why we keep as many books on our shelves as we do? I mean, there are probably only one or two in my collection that I’m going to read again – so why do I keep the others? There are probably some books on those shelves that I didn’t really even like very much, but they’re still there!

I think it means that even though we can get a digital copy of pretty much any book out there instantly, with the touch of a button, there’s still something pretty darn special about reading a physical book. This quote in the comments section says it all: “Reading is sacred. Books aren’t. How would I find passages I’ve loved again if I didn’t turn down the pages? How could I relax into the plot if I was worried about breaking the spine? I say, lose yourself in your books! The more dilapidated they are when you’ve finished the more you’ve enjoyed yourself. A messed up book is better than any book review.”

So how do you treat YOUR books?

Write your story

healing_writingLast week I was talking about the ‘not so fun’ parts of writing. But that when it boils down to it, we keep at it because it’s something we feel we have to. And I came across an article from Time magazine last year that drives that home. In it, they talk about studies that show that not only can writing help people deal with psychological stresses, but with physical ones as well!

And it got me thinking about what got me started writing in the first place. My first book was An Elk in the House, literally about the elk we had in our house, Butter. I’d never even thought about writing a book before this, but there was something about Butter’s impact on our lives, and the whole experience that made me realize, I have a story to tell.

In fact, most people have a story inside them waiting to come out. Sure, not every story is meant to be broadcast to millions. In fact, as the article points out, sometimes it’s not even meant to be told to another person. But the very act of telling your story, even if it’s only for an audience of one, can be life-changing.

A lonely life…

 

lonely-writer-2Most times when people say “tortured artist” you think about visual artists, people like Vincent van Gogh, chopping ears off! But I think some people don’t realize that being a writer is just as torturous. You spend long hours by yourself, in front of a computer or paper, sometimes in total silence and without seeing or talking to anyone for ages. If you don’t have family around, sometimes you go for days without having a real conversation (talking to your plants doesn’t count!). It’s no wonder so many writers become famous for their drinking habits!

And that’s just the writing part – then there’s all the turmoil around publishing the book, getting it reviewed, and getting into the hands of readers. It can take a toll on you, that’s for sure. Now I’m lucky that I don’t ‘write for a living’, exactly. While it takes up a lot of my time, I don’t depend on it to pay my mortgage or feed my family. But I still feel a lot of the same pressures.

That’s why it’s nice to hear about gatherings like the one they’ve written about in Atlantic Monthly. Over 10,000 people in Washington got together to share their experiences living the writers life – the joys and the sorrows! Because sometimes on that very lonely journey you need a reminder that there are other people out there who know what it feels like.

A trip to Washington isn’t in the works for me, but that’s one of the great things about the internet nowadays. Living in a rural area like I do, it’s really hard for me to connect with other creative people, so I’m grateful for the virtual networks of writers and readers out there.

So if it’s such a difficult path, why do we do it? I guess it’s because at the end of the day, there’s nothing else we’d rather be doing! We live and breathe books, what could be better?

 

Spring Fever

spring-fever1At long last…it seems as though spring is on the horizon. We can (cautiously) begin putting away our down winter coats and emerge from hibernation. It’s amazing the effect the changing season has on all of us, even animals – there’s a reason they call it spring fever! Just looking around the farm you can see that all the creatures have a spring in their step. As the ground thaws we’re all getting over-stimulated by the sights and sounds reappearing before us.

And I’m no exception! It’s like as soon as the snow started to edge away my brain was flooded with new ideas and inspirations. And that’s when it becomes difficult to stay focussed. You see, I’m in the final stages of writing my latest book: editing. After several years of research and writing, you’d think the tough part was over – but you’d be wrong! Making changes to your book is actually one of the most difficult things you do as a writer, because your book is like your baby. And you’ve been in the labour process for a looooong time, so you want nothing more than to present it to the world! But you have to hold back – and that’s just no fun.

So while a million ideas are floating through my head on the spring breeze, I just have to keep reminding myself to keep my eyes on the prize. Because in the end, it’ll all be worth it to present to the world my new beautiful bouncing book!

Terror lurking with each curve of the pen

vintage-halloween-decor-ideaIt’s a big month for those who crave the creepiness of ghosties, ghoulies, and long-legged beasties! Without a doubt, fans of fear look forward to October more than any other time of the year. I’m sure most of you can guess from my last book that I do enjoy a little walk on the darker side of life.

Last year, around this time, I shared some tips for helping kids to get into the Halloween spirit by writing their own ghostly scary stories. Since I always love encouraging children to grow creatively, I thought I’d do the same again this time around!

First on the list is a short video from the History Channel on the origins of the holiday. It’s accompanied by some very different writing prompts, for a little older age group and it encourages them to write more in the non-fiction vein. Check it out here. 

The second site I found is for just about anyone who wants to indulge in some frightful fun, and it’s just great! Figment’s Fright ‘N Write has a great interactive site that provides you with three creepy images to incorporate into a story. And even better is the fact that you can send in your entries to their competition. You have until October 31st to enter and trust me, they’ve got some fabulous images to stir your dark imaginings.

Happy writing everyone, and I’d love to see what you create!

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”

1010101010That’s a quote from Pablo Picasso, but I read a great quote on twitter the other day (I visit it sometimes, but I’m not on there, yet!) that I wanted to share with you all.

” Writers get paid for what other people get scolded for: daydreaming. We’re supposed to wander.” –Richard Walter. I can’t find the original source for this, but it was too good to share, regardless of whether he said it!

It reminds me of what a privilege it is to be a writer. It’s true, really. We often hear a lot of talk these days about ‘gratitude’ and I’ve realized how very grateful I am to be able to share my thoughts and ideas with you all through the written word. But it also occurred to me that the opportunity for expression shouldn’t be considered a privilege, but a right.

I think we forget about how much the expression of all types of artists contributes to our every day life—it’s easy to take it for granted. People talk about cutting funding the arts when they forget how much of a role it plays in our lives every day. Look around your house, odds are you’ve put out some paintings, prints, or objects to decorate your home. Now why did you do that? Well, obviously because they’re pleasing to you and it makes you feel good to see them? Behind each of those objects is an artist.

Think about the music you tune into on the radio or on your ipod—tons of artists there!

And think about each and every name that goes on the credits of your favourite movie or television show. Yep, they’re all part of the arts industry!

And of course, think about that book you’re reading right now that gives you so much pleasure (hopefully!). Writers (even non-fiction writer) are all artists too!

So next time you hear somebody talk about how we need to cut funding for the arts, just remember how much artists do for you every day to make your world a more beautiful and wondrous place.

Summertime and the reading is easy…

summerreadingThis Friday is the 21st of June, and you know what that means? Summer will officially be here! While this year’s spring was a bit of a non-starter I, for one, am thrilled to see signs of summer on their way. Flowers in bloom, fruits starting to grow on the trees, and longer nights! The last thing in particular is one of my favourite parts of the season. Up here in Alberta we have beautifully long nights throughout the whole summer that are absolutely PERFECT for curling up on a deckchair and reading the night away.

There’s something about lazy summer days that just make reading the perfect activity to while away the hours. How can you stay cooped upside watching reruns when there’s glorious weather and great books to be enjoyed outdoors? I’ve already started scribbling out my wish list for summer reads.

I know a lot of you will be in the same frame of mind, and I’m curious to know what  you’ve got lined up for your deck reading? What genre suits your summer mood?