Reading and Writing and Writing and Reading

One of my blog friends (R. Douglas) made a comment to me a few months ago, and it really stood out. He said that he often wishes to write for readers instead of writing for writers…

I began to think about that. When I write my blog, I know that most of my audience are fellow bloggers- other people who put their thoughts into words and hit publish. When I write my blog I know that I am writing to writers…I also know that there is instant feedback…

What would happen if I wrote my blog and disconnected the comment section?

How would that change my writing?

When I was working on my book, I found it hard to tell a story.

I found it hard to write for readers.

I like a lot of dialogue. I don’t like description. I don’t like a lot of deep prose paragraphs…I don’t like doing the things that appeal to readers…

However, in my blog, I write to you as I speak. I may not be as blunt as I am in real life…(trust me: I am blunt in real life and I can’t hide my emotions), but you are getting 100% me…

Aside from my poor grammar and lack of editing skills, I like writing for writers…

But how do I bridge the gap from writing for writers to writing for readers?

As I work on a memoir (yup- jumping on that bandwagon) I find that I can use the style that I have cultivated in my blog- I don’t have to rely on the traditional aspects of writing- I can rely on my ability to put words on paper in my unique (I hope) way…

But will readers want to read that?

Cause let’s face it: if I write a book I want it to be read…

And I can’t write a book with a comment section that I can reply back to…

But…as I have a comment section, right here, right now…

What do you think is the difference between writing for writers and writing for readers? Or do you think writing is writing and an audience is an audience?

What are the things in books that most appeal to you?

Help a sister out and give me your opinions…

Write it Down

Welcome to today’s version of “How A Book Inspired LA to write a Blog Post”

Today’s book: Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar.

While Akhtar considers this a novel, not a memoir, there are aspects of his real life in this book. Akhtar is a Pulitzer winning author so he has some literary street cred, so when he talks about his craft I listen.

Akhtar goes home at night and writes, with as much detail as he can muster, the events of his day. People, settings, feelings, situations….He will spend about two hours retelling his day.

Talk about a journal…

Is this the only thing besides actual talent that separates me from a Pulitzer? I just don’t take the time to write down the minutia (sometimes, not always) of my day?

Show of hands: How many of you journal? Brain dump? Morning pages? I can’t see you because I won’t Zoom, so tell me who you are.

How detailed do you get when you free write?

I do a brain dump in the morning. I tend to do a combo of things that I need to do that day and I probably obsess about one detail from the day before. There’s usually some reason I become fixated on something and eventually it probably becomes a blog. But I rarely write the whole thing- I did not talk about the smell of yesterday’s heat when I complained about it. I didn’t write down the body language of the guy I didn’t trust yesterday. I didn’t write down how I met someone for the first time and how he referred to me as Sister…

  1. Why didn’t I write these details down, when they are so clear in my mind?
  2. Should I be writing these details down?
  3. Is my lack of detailed notetaking the only thing that separates me from being a Pulitzer winner?
  4. Why have I become so obsessed with Pulitzer winners?

What do you think about writing down your day in detail?

Do you think you would benefit from it? Why or why not?

What do you think about free style journaling? Pro or con?

Write how you feel…

Showing and Telling

I like to fancy myself a reader and a writer.

I read everyday.

I write every day.

But it took me 54+ years of reading and writing to realize that there are really two types of writers: There are story tellers and there are wordsmiths.

What’s the difference?

Well…

Everything.

and Nothing.

Presently I am reading a book called “The Go Between”. The plotline is very thin…there is one main thing going on, and it took about a third of the way in for the plotline to emerge. But the writing…poetic and lyrical. The sentence structure varies. The descriptions are unique. The only way the author keeps you guessing is by not knowing what literary device is being used next. We all know what’s going to happen to the main character and the sub characters…The author L.P. Hartley is a wordsmith.

I recently read a book “The Wife Upstairs”. This book is all plot. While the author tries to give us an updated Jane Eyre, there is really nothing outstanding about the writing. The words bring you from point A to point B. There is nothing lyrical about the language. There is nothing profound about the dialogue. There is little nuance- it’s an outline with a few trite descriptions thrown in…However, there is a more intricate plot. If you’ve never read Jane Eyre, you might be in for some surprises along the way. Even if you have read it, you still might be in for a ride. The author, Rachel Hawkins, is a storyteller.

Is it better to be a wordsmith or a storyteller?

It really all depends.

Both types of authors are valuable in the writing landscape.

But wordsmiths, well, their books tend to win awards. Their books get praise in The New York Times Book Review. These books are more likely to become classics, or have a long shelf life. These are the types of books that some people buy and never read, but tell people they read them.

Story tellers are more likely to end up on bestseller lists and actually read. These are books that keep you intrigued with what is happening, not the way that it’s presented. These are the books that become movies or TV shows. These are the books fancy people swear they never read.

Which books do you tend to read most?

Do you love a good story? The unpredictable plot? The boy meets girl saga? Or do you long for brilliant use of words? Do you live for first person accounts of looking at a tree and talking about the color of the leaves?

Think of the books that you read: Are they telling a story, or are they just using language to create word pictures?

Pros and Cons of both?

Can you think of a book that excels in both story telling and language use? And don’t tell me Pride and Prejudice because that’s too easy (and some will argue it’s just a romance book and I don’t feel like refereeing that debate)

Discuss:

Give it One More Try

I loved the book Anxious People by Fredrik Backman. I also loved Midnight Library by Matt Haig.

But…

I didn’t love either of them when I started reading them. I didn’t understand what was happening, I wasn’t into the characters, etc.

For me, both of these books were worth the journey. If I knew people reading them, and those people thought they were iffy, I would tell them to stick it out one more chapter- it was worth it…

So the question is, how do you know when it’s time to give up on a book?

I am not one to quit on a book. I figure if I was intrigued enough to get the book, I owe the author the courtesy to see it through. The last book I didn’t finish was “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” and I’d say I tried to read that at least ten years ago. I completely understand why someone starts and does not finish a book. Time is way too valuable to partake in something you just don’t enjoy.

But how do you know at what point to quit a book?

Some books have a slow build: this is intentional. The author is laying out a framework and they’re trying not to rush. This is often the sign of a good writer. Pace is important in a book. That is the case in both the books that I mentioned. There is method to the writer’s madness as to what is revealed, when it’s revealed and how it’s revealed. There is a careful outline in play. To move too quickly would disrupt the balance…it would take away from the craft of writing.

How do you determine if the book is a slow build, or if it’s just a boring book?

So here’s the questions for today:

  1. What’s the last book you didn’t finish?
  2. Why didn’t you finish it?
  3. What makes you stop reading a book?
  4. How far do you get into a book before you put it away for good?
  5. Has there been a book that you were iffy about but ended up glad that you read it till the end?

Gratitude Saturday May 8

It’s my blogiversary!

Four years ago I started my blog!

Yay!

People often ask how I can write almost every day. The answer is simple: I love blogging. When I wake up I am excited to sit in front of my computer and pump out a few hundred words, even when I have no idea what I am going to write about, which, let’s face it, pretty much every day. I open my computer with a few scribbled notes that I probably wrote months before, or, like today, I just start writing and end up with long run on sentences. Who said I always have a plan?

Ha

I want to blog every day. I am excited to interact with everyone. If I’m not feeling it, I don’t write. Period. I pen a note that I’m taking a few days off (this gives me accountability in my head) and I chill until I get the urge to write again. If you don’t love sitting in front of some electronic device and blogging, you need to ask yourself why are you doing it. I once saw someone had named their blog something like “Why did I start this damn blog” and I wonder at that as a title- if your title says that you don’t want to blog, why are you doing it?

Blog because you love it. Any other reason is just not worth it. Unless of course it’s your job, but if it’s your job and you hate it, maybe you should consider another job maybe…

But anyway…

I am grateful for my blog

I am grateful for WordPress (most of the time anyway)

I am grateful for all those who choose to read me

I am grateful to all those who choose to randomly “like” my blog

I am grateful to those who choose to follow my blog

I am grateful for all those who comment!!!!

I am grateful for all the wonderful people who I have met on this journey! You inspire me!!

Thank you!

Lighten the Load

I love chick lit.

I make no apologies.

I do not plan on turning in my feminist card. If someone made me, I would gladly give up feminism in favor of chick lit.

I like a story of a plucky woman who has gone through some sort of adversity. I like how she screws up but all things come out at the end. I like a happy ending.

Now, this does not exclude me from reading other types of literature. I can do sad and depressing with the best of them. The books that fall under these categories are traditionally better for book clubs. What book club doesn’t like to bond over tears?

But back to chick lit…

There are two authors I’ve been reading for over 20 years. Let’s call them Jennifer Red and Jane Hotdog. In the beginning I loved these authors. I read everything they wrote as soon as it came out in paperback. Sometimes, I even sprung for the hardcover. I kept my copies of these books.

These authors spoke to me.

It was as if they were reading my mind.

And as the years went on, these authors changed up their books. They were no longer writing about plucky women making little errors, losing their way and then finding their way back. They began to write about deep subjects. Adultery. Depression. Drug abuse.

Fine.

Anyone can write about anything.

However…

In my opinion, maybe, just maybe, writing about these subjects wasn’t really great for these authors. Maybe these authors weren’t really cut out for heavier fiction. Maybe these heavier books weren’t quite as good as the other lighter fare. I no longer enjoy the works of these authors as much as I once did.

It takes a really good writer to write a good chick lit book. You have to make the characters real. You need to make the situations somewhat realistic. You need to have a good sense of humor. These are all skills…skills that should not be undervalued just because the book is not Booker Prize worthy…

Just like writing a weightier tome has its own individual skillset.

Writers of different genres are all talented: they are just talented in different ways.

We tend to undervalue light in favor of heavy.

I don’t know why. Can’t we have both, assuming they are done well?

I’d much rather have a well executed “light” book instead of a poorly executed “heavy” book…I want to read the best that any genre has to offer.

Food for thought:

  1. Do you think publishers/agents direct best selling authors to write things that are in vogue, even if it means changing genres?
  2. What genres do you prefer?
  3. Do you think chick lit is a waste of time?
  4. Have you ever had an author that you love disappoint you with their latest work?
  5. Anything else that I touched on in this post
  6. Do we undervalue light in favor of heavy

I made a comment yesterday that seemed to devalue reposting or reblogging an older post. Alas, this sentiment did not come out the way that I intended. I apologize to anyone that reposts or reblogs their work sometimes. Just because I don’t like doing it doesn’t mean that others shouldn’t. Keep on being you. Sorry for the inference!

LA

How Do I Write? Let Me Count the Words…

What inspires you?

Recently we talked about how my family always being underfoot has made it difficult for me to be creative, how I need solitude in order to tap into my muse. My muse is an introverted thing, and she needs to be alone in the house with music softly in the background and the scent of lemon wafting from the diffuser, and a cup of black tea with milk and sugar sitting on the side.

My muse took up residence somewhere else during COVID…

But anyway…

Turns out I need to be alone to actually put words on the paper…

But…

In order to be inspired…

in order to find things to write about…

I need to be out and about. I need people, places and things from which to get ideas. I am never going to get ideas from sitting in a room with my diffuser and a cup of tea. I mean, those things might make it into a work, but for the most part, how much can I write about them?

ok- expect a post about my desk sometime in July

I am a sensual person. I am inspired by the things that I can touch, taste, see, hear and smell. When you are a sensual person, you need to be interrupted. You need to be amongst the people. When you are a sensual person who is looking for those ideas, you need to be disrupted. You need some sort of controlled chaos.

Quiet to write.

Distraction to be inspired.

Look at the things that I choose to blog about. I do not get these ideas while sitting in my desk chair, smelling the lemon and drinking my tea. I might read a great comment, or be treated poorly by someone. Run out of toilet paper or talk to my sister. All these things get my brain working…makes me reach for my planner and pink pen and jot down the idea…At the time I write the note I may not know what my post will look like, but I know that I’ve hit on an idea that I can expand…

The toilet paper post of this week- do you know what my note was for that day?

things I did for my family that they didn’t realize

I wrote that note months ago because I knew that somewhere in those words was a blog post. As I sat down to write and thought about that note, the incident from the previous week popped into my mind…

Inspired by chaos and distraction…

Enough about me:

What inspires you?

Where do you get your ideas from?

How do you keep track of the things that you want to write about, paint, photograph, whatever your chosen medium is?

Do you just think of things, or do you need some sort of distraction to inspire you?

What activates your muse?

Discuss

Yelp

Do you write Yelp reviews?

I am not a believer in reviews.

I think that most people who write reviews have an agenda. Maybe it’s their own product. Maybe it’s a product of their best friend. Maybe its a product of their nemesis. Maybe someone is just a troll.

However you look at it, I take reviews with a grain of salt.

I also don’t believe 5 star or 1 star reviews. I think that nothing is so good to rate it perfect. I think that nothing is so bad to rate it 1.

Mainly…

I wrote my first ever Yelp review a few months ago. I had to open an account and everything.

What was the review about?

OK- here’s the story.

I was looking for a groomer so that my puppies nails could get trimmed. She wasn’t ready for a full groom, but I wanted to get her used to having her nails done, and she has black nails, so I didn’t want to try it myself the first time. I wanted a professional.

I have been trying to support small, local businesses this pandemic season, so I searched for groomers in my neighborhood (as opposed to the big name place I used to take my other dog)

I found one close by that said it did drop in nail trims.

Great.

Betty and I walked past it one day to check it out, and sure enough there was an “OPEN” sign in the window, as well as a sign that said “WALK IN NAIL TRIMS”. Right there in the window.

Perfect.

Betty and I didn’t go that day- we were just doing our research.

The next week Betty and I returned- this time armed with vaccination requirements and an excitement for a doggie manicure. The same OPEN and NAIL TRIM signs still prominently displayed.

I go to open the OPEN door. Locked.

I see a bell. I ring the bell.

Five minutes later very grumpy person comes out. Rudely yells at me. Screams that they don’t do walk in nail trims. I point to the sign. She slurs something at me.

Seriously.

You think I’m going to leave my dog with you ever?

So I went home and joined Yelp and wrote a review.

One star.

Which I don’t believe in on principle, but the rudeness…

Next day, the owner wrote a nasty reply to me.

I explained why I thought there was a problem and why I wrote the review.

Owner then tried to butter me up. Said all sorts of nice things. Asked me to change my review.

I explained some stuff, and I was not being nasty. I was just calling it as I saw it…

Then the vitriol. The nastiness she spew at me. Telling me about all the dogs and owners that love her and her services. How I was so wrong…

I didn’t reply. I don’t take to being nice to me because you want something. I don’t play to scare tactics.

I do know that I would never leave my dog with this person…

So here’s the thoughts for today:

Do you write reviews?

Do you believe reviews or do you take them with a grain of salt?

Was I justified in reviewing the person as I did?

Do you think I’ll ever write another Yelp review?

Are you annoyed that I used “grain of salt” twice in this post?

Gratitude Saturday April 17

Have you all noticed the new WordPress thing, the one where other posts by the blogger show up at the bottom of the screen, as well as posts along similar subject area? Tater and I were talking about this the other day, as he posted about it. I was telling him that one of my posts, the one about whether or not reading was better than other pursuits, was getting a lot of hits (well, lots of hits for me) I told him that last week I gained like a hundred new readers (again- abnormal for me). So I wondered what my blog about reading had linked up to.

A few days later, tater contacted me. He told me that my post about reading was at the top of the Discover page. That’s when the lightbulb went off. My post was at the top of the page designed to highlight a post or blogger and introduce them to others.

Fine.

Now the hits and the new readers totally made sense.

So I am grateful that my post was at the top of the page for a bit of time and I found some new readers and exposed my ideas to more people.

However…

You knew there was going to be some sort of angst along with this, didn’t you?

The past ten months, I have not been really writing blogs. I have been asking questions to get the conversation started. I thought we needed something to focus on that wasn’t necessarily what was featured on the news that day. I wanted us to come together and discuss ideas. This didn’t start out as my goal, but it seemed to work. People were joining the discussion. There was a roundtable of sorts where people presented their thoughts and reflections and I know I certainly learned a lot of things, and thought about things in different ways.

This has been fun. I’ve enjoyed posing these questions.

However…

This does not mean that these have been the best blogs that I’ve ever written. Far from it. These have been pieces that have gotten me through all the challenges that we have faced throughout the past year.

So, the piece that was at the top of the charts so to speak…The reading post was like a bubblegum pop song that makes it to the top of the charts. It was cute, it sparked reaction, but it was by no means representative of what I have done or could do as a writer.

I have so many blogs that I am proud of, so I am a little sad that one of those did not get the same recognition as this one did.

Part of me wants to scream to the new readers-

“This is not the best of me- let me show you the posts I think are good. Let me show you the posts that made me cry as I wrote them. Let me show you the posts that I still laugh about. Let me show you the posts that made me who I am…

See how something “good” can be a blessing and a curse?

My guess is, knowing myself, I am going to try to up my blogging game. I am going to try to write the Great American Post. I am probably going to check my blog for error and spell check…I’m going to try to appear smarter or better or just more…

But at this moment in time….

I am grateful for having a little bit of the spotlight..

I am grateful for 4000+ followers

I am grateful that I want to open up my computer and blog everyday

I am grateful that there is no blogging award acceptance speech…could you imagine what a train wreck that would be?

I Read…Therefore…

A few months ago Never Not Reading Posted asked if reading makes us better. Simply, is reading more valuable than say, watching TV. I thought this was a pretty interesting avenue to drive down so I thought I’d give it a whirl.

Do we think that people who read a lot are smarter? Better educated? Erudite?

Or are people who spend their time doing other things just as smart?

I can argue that reading words off a page is active…you are pushing your brain more because you are deciphering the letters and words and sentences to make sense of what’s in front of you. To read means that you are paying attention to not only reading the words but understanding the meaning.

Do you engage your brain the same way by watching TV? By listening to a podcast?

How do you describe readers? What words would you use?

How do you describe non readers? What words would you use?

Prepandemic, I read about 5 books a month. During pandemic we all know that my reading was off the charts. I read because I enjoy reading, but it was also one of the few outlets that I had to keep engaged. With the warmer weather and more things opening in New York, I definitely can see that I’m reading less- I only finished one book last week…But with all my reading, did I become “better” or was I just less bored? If I had watched TV that whole time instead of reading, would that have changed the person I am now? Would I be better or worse or would nothing change?

Ok- what are your thoughts on readers versus the rest of the world?

Never Not Reading is on hiatus right now, but if she does return to blogging I will supply her information.