The first book I ever loved was The Lorax by Dr. Suess. When I was in elementary school, we had library time once a week and we were allowed to check out any book we wanted. I insisted on having The Lorax over and over again, despite how many times the librarians and my teachers urged me to get something else. My week just wasn’t the same unless I had that book clutched against my chest and dissuasions like “it’s a baby book” or diversions to more challenging books were ignored or just fell without impact.
When I saw the question “What was the first book you ever loved?” I knew my answer without hesitating to ponder. I immediately ransacked my bookcase….only to find that I didn’t actually own a copy.
I suppose it should go without saying that I remedied that as quickly as possible. I found myself in Barnes and Nobles with a copy clutched to my chest, and feeling not unlike the younger, smaller version of myself. Happy. Fulfilled, I guess you could say. I was finally bringing it home and finally keeping it all for myself.
Like a little kid, I hunkered down and read through it slowly, greedily, savoring every single word, drinking in the details of each full-color illustration. Reading it still gave me chills as the Once-ler’s disregard for the beautiful world ate away at it, and it made me sad. I did discover, however, that my dismay at seeing trees chopped down to make way for more buildings, parking lots, roads, etc, is probably deeply hooked into this book, as are many of my hippy-ish tendencies when it comes to recycling and such. I find it a little amusing and pretty awe-inspiring to realize that a book had such a profound influence on my life that I’ve carried the lessons with me for over twenty-five years.
Now that I’ve re-read it, it sits on my bookshelf in a place of pride, right beside The Velveteen Rabbit. Right where it belongs.
In an effort to “add time” to my day and include more books to my routine, I’ve started using audiobooks to make effective use of my time and squeeze in as much reading as possible. I started back with The Passage by Justin Cronin because it was such a beefy volume. Plus, I had the credits racked up in my audible.com account and I was itching to see how much I could make this work with my personal reading challenge. The good news is that using audiobooks is giving me a good opportunity to make more effective use of my time. Now, I’m listening to a favorite (Stephen King’s It) without compromising my reading time I’d prefer to spend on other books (like the imposing Harlan Ellison anthology that has made my nightstand its new home). Instead of watching yet another episode of something stupid (like Spongebob Squarepants or iCarly) on tv while I fold laundry, clean my room, or do a dozen other menial things that require activity without brain power, I am enjoying taking in something that challenges me on an entirely different level.
The more I read, or the more I listen to stories, the more I realize I’m picking out the little things that make the story work, or the niggling little details that irk me. Yesterday, somewhere between folding jeans and putting them away, I re-wound the story to make sure I really heard multiple unnecessary adjectives creep into the work of The Master. 😉
For those who seek to refine their craft and push their abilities, I highly recommend using audiobooks to make the most of the time that’s available to you. They can be used to fill the holes in the day during the daily commute, during household chores when the tv would be the only available companion, or when doing the grocery shopping. Don’t underestimate the serenity that results from tuning out the world and indulging in a developmental pleasure like reading. This also gives me “free” time to read things that aren’t on the top of my reading list without sacrificing my goals. If nothing else, the extra time and the freedom to expand into unfamiliar territory that it allows me is worth what I spend a month on my subscription.
Audiobooks are available at most libraries, can be found at bookstores (though they are priced at roughly the same price as hardback books), used bookstores, online through various booksellers and media providers like iTunes or audible.com, and some e-readers also feature a text-to-speech on some books, allowing you to listen to texts in a (comically) robotic voice. I recommend trying the free or nearly free options first to see if you’ll benefit from ingesting your stories through your ears. I’ll take a moment to review my dealer of choice (audible.com) this weekend or early next week. Until then, happy reading!
Things are finally slowing down enough for me to be able to sit down and give everyone an update.
I am (finally) (mostly) over my pneumonia. I am back from the second business trip this month, this time to Las Vegas. This one wasn’t entirely work, but work enough to justify a few extra days living it up in Sin City.
I have been very good about getting ideas down and reading like a fiend, but I can’t profess I’ve taken as much time to transcribe other scribblings as I should. I am in the process of critiquing two pieces for an extremely patient friend, and finishing a draft of another story to send out to beta readers. I even poked the editor of the last submission I made to see when I’ll be getting my rejection. (By the end of the week, for those who are interested.)
Work is busy enough that what little “free” time I have is being spent clocking extra hours to get as much done on a travel-truncated schedule as possible. Believe me when I say this is lame to the utmost extreme and I somewhat resent the fact that it is sucking up my other professional life. Another (self-imposed) obstacle is taking on a second yoga class during the week. While it is something of a time-suck, it has merit enough in my health and sanity that I will continue to do as long as I can. I will make time elsewhere to make up for it. Like right now…writing in the gaming store between rounds.
Stolen moments are the most important moments writing.
So tonight, it’s back to work. I want to make the final edits to “Shift” and send it out. I also want to get at least one of the crits done. I guess I’ll have to head home soon to make that happen.
I just want another half-dozen hours in the day. Or a “Time Stop.” Or a clone. Not doing it all is just not acceptable. 🙂
I am making a conscious effort to work on my craft because being mediocre isn’t acceptable. There are stories, authors I admire and I want to be able to hold my work in that same regard. Granted, I know that it’s going to be a long, hard journey to get there, but I want to get there. I will get there and I’m ready to do the work for it.
I’ve been reading more. A lot more. I was reading regularly, but I’ve stepped it up to make sure I’m reading every single day and listening to audiobooks when doing the dishes or folding laundry, and even driving in the car. Not only am I reading stories (novels, short stories, etc), I’m reading craft books. Right now, I’m reading The Writer’s Digest Guide to Science Fiction and Fantasy which includes Orson Scott Card’s How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy. I don’t really write science fiction, though there is some included in my stories thus far, and I’m not really a fantasy writer either, though those elements filter into them. I picked up the book because of a recommendation and the reference in the back that touches on things from those genres that I’m not entirely comfortable with like ritual and magic. My goal is to make it sound credible without being cliché or cheesy, and I thought this would be a great resource to have. What was pleasantly surprising was that while Card’s examples were sf/f specific, the advice was general enough to apply to any fiction genre. I’m getting a lot from the book, but I’ve already decided that I’m going to re-read it and take notes this time. There’s a lot I can learn and a lot I need to learn. Because of his advice, I’ve been able to recognize why a couple of my stories have failed. I’m optimistic that I’ll be able to learn what to avoid and how to improve.
I already have the 25 Book Challenge, but that’s my bare minimum point and I’m going to look for more opportunities to improve my skills. Oddly enough, I’m enjoying finding those opportunities and look forward to the challenge they present. I’m considering Card’s book Characters and Viewpoint as my next undertaking based on a recommendation, and I have one on editing that I really need to dig into. I only wish there was more time in the day to read, or that I could read faster without losing comprehension. 🙂
Things around here have been a little crazy. Last week, I was headed to Toronto for work and in the process, got sick. (I don’t recommend struggling with luggage through an airport while tired and running a fever…it’s not exactly a good time.) “Sick” developed into pneumonia, and I’m just waiting for the rattlesnake in my chest to take a hike.
I am still here, just trying to catch up on work, on writing and figure out where the hell I left off with everything else so I can get back on track. I’m hoping that I’ll be back on schedule this weekend. That’s the goal, at least. Until then… happy writing. 🙂