*Afterthought #73 – Diverse Reading

 

so_many_books_so_little_time_book_lover_mug-rbea615033e65472aa410e89e12f61101_x7j1l_8byvr_324The only downside to working at Lopez Bookshop is that at the end of each shift I feel a bit blue—and overwhelmed—about all the books I want to read and haven’t gotten to yet. And knowing that the next week, there will be another stack of New Arrivals calling out to me. There’s a reason the truism “So Many Books, So Little Time” emblazons t-shirts, tote bags, and coffee mugs.

With limited time for “pleasure” reading, I have to settle on just a few titles every month or so. I recently joined a book club for the first time, and that takes care of one selection. Recently I started following the blog Reading Diversely by Lopez Island native Emma Ewert (now transplanted to Montana). In her blog’s introduction, avid reader Emma notes that last year her reading habits started to shift, “…consciously choosing to read books written by women, or people of color, people from other non-European countries, or people from other typically marginalized groups.”

Despite the reality that male writers are published in far greater numbers than women writers, and that white authors dominate the literary world, Emma created an enormous book list of diverse authors she’s read since she began this challenge in April 2017.

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It might take me the rest of my life to read all of the books on Emma’s shelf as of today, not to mention all the other fine titles she’ll undoubtedly continue to add. But I’m grateful to have her recommendations to help with the tough choice of what to read next.

tear in soulI have a suggestion for all of you, and for Emma, that meets her list of criteria for diverse reading. As soon as I finish this post, I’ll return to a book I’ve just begun (and can hardly put down)—A Tear in the Soul by Australian author Amanda Webster. The memoir relates Amanda’s personal journey to uncover her own racism, and that of generations of Australians, toward Aboriginals, and to move toward reconciliation and friendship.

What diverse reading have you done lately?

 

*Afterthoughts are my blog version of a practice followed in some Quaker meetings. After meeting for worship ends, people continue in silence for a few more minutes during which they’re invited to share thoughts or reflect on the morning’s worship. I’ve adopted the form here for last-day-of-the-month brief reflections on headlines, quotes, books, previous posts, maybe even bumper stickers.

*Afterthought #71 – Noticing

Lately I’ve been thinking about noticing, and especially about how often I travel past a tree, a house, a wetland, a shop and fail to notice the color of the leaves, the presence of a porch, the kinds of fowl, or whether there’s an OPEN or CLOSED sign. I’ve become more aware of how much I miss with my inattentiveness through two very different books: The Book of Noticing by Katherine Hauswirth and Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers.

Book-of-Noticing-Final-sm2Hauswirth takes us along on her walks, inviting us to notice “salamanders, scents, science, spirituality, slugs, and more” with lyrical language and astonishing detail. My own excursions become more observant when they’re preceded by reading one of the essays in this collection.

right footEggers (and illustrator Shawn Harris) made me attend to something I’ve never paid attention to, the Statue of Liberty’s right foot. Eggers notes, she’s not actually “standing” at all. He describes the statue’s main features, from crown to gown —and points out that her right heel is not planted but lifted, suggesting, “…she is walking! This 150 foot woman is on the go!” After all, he writes, she’s an immigrant too, and, he suggests, she’s stepping out into the harbor to give new arrivals from Italy and Norway, Cambodia and Estonia, Syrians, Liberians, and all who have or will come an eager welcome.

What might catch your attention in this coming year that you haven’t noticed before?

 

*Afterthoughts are my blog version of a practice followed in some Quaker meetings. After meeting for worship ends, people continue in silence for a few more minutes during which they’re invited to share thoughts or reflect on the morning’s worship. I’ve adopted the form here for last-day-of-the-month brief reflections on headlines, quotes, books, previous posts, maybe even bumper stickers.

Three More Ways Blogging Helps

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Writer and teacher Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew started 2017 with her blog post Six Ways Blogging Helps You Be a Better Writer – And Person. She described precisely the unexpected benefits of blogging that I’ve found since I was convinced to blog nearly seven years ago.

6Here’s Elizabeth’s top-six list, with my reflections on how it matches my own blogging experience.

  1. Blogs put a writer in conversation with real people. Not many readers comment on my posts, but it’s a medium that easily allows for an exchange between writer and audience.
  2. I have more patience for the slow work of writing. I agree with Elizabeth’s suggestion that, “This might seem like a paradox.” My three book-length projects required three to twenty years to complete, and I typically spend weeks to months crafting essays. Those are long stretches to remain in the “not-yet-finished” state; creating two or three posts monthly helps me persist with the longer works.
  3. Deadlines are great. My deadlines are soft; no one chastises me if I don’t meet my goal to post mid-month, end-of-the-month, and an Afterthought the last day of each month. But they’re strong enough to keep me thinking, reflecting, and writing, even when I resist.
  4. Regularity means major productivity! Nothing, not even my MFA program, has helped me generate as much new work in addition to my major writing projects.
  5. Frequency teaches us about listening. Again, Elizabeth speaks my mind. “The writing leads the way. Over the years I’ve come to have great faith in this process.”
  6. Blogs are a bellwether of what works. When readers convey in some way that my post has made them think, or that they agree—or disagree, that’s useful feedback about themes and topics I’m writing about.

Now, 257 posts later (258 counting this one), I can add three more ways that blogging has bettered me as a writer and a person.3

7.  My blog is a way to promote the work of other writers I admire. Re-blogs of others’ blog posts or links to authors’ writing (like Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew) can lead my readers to discovery of someone they might not have read before.

8.  wavesI can combine photos (such as this one of the wintry wind on the bay near my home) and other visuals with my writing.

9.  Blogging allows me to experiment with different writing forms— interviews, book reviews, and poetry. I still struggle with the trial-and-error nature of any creative pursuit, including writing. But I know that risking “failure” helps me challenge the notion of perfection, strengthens me to rack up the hours of practice, and usually results in the thrill of “aha” moments.

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That brings me to nine ways that blogging makes me, and my writing, better. Thanks, Elizabeth, for the boost to keep me at it throughout 2017.

Re-Blog “Writing is Art”

Earlier this month I reviewed  Spry Literary Magazine’s ABCs of Creative Nonfiction series. Now I’m sharing a thought-provoking post by writer and teacher Debbie Hagan about essay-writing. Hagan is also book reviews editor for Brevity Magazine, and she skillfully discussed a new essay anthology I might need to add to my library:  I’ll Tell You Mine: Thirty Years of Essays from the Iowa Nonfiction Writing Program (University of Chicago Press, 2016) and how it motivated her to create a class for art students on revision and to think of writing as art. Whether you’re a writer, artist, or reader, I think you’ll find Hagan’s post interesting (just click on the link below).

via Today’s Lesson: Writing Is Art — BREVITY’s Nonfiction Blog