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That’s not what we usually see, is it? More often we find articles about engendering the love of reading in kids.

So I was pretty impressed to find in the September 2017 issue of Family Circle an article about the importance of reading for pleasure. I assume that many of you reading this blog, as writers, are already immersed in a regular reading habit, but this short article with “how-to” tips addresses how we, as women, are pulled in so many directions that we often let reading slide. And it’s true; an inordinate involvement with our phones, TV, internet – not to mention the real-life issues of our families and work – can leave us feeling we have no time to read.

But a Yale linguistics professor, Kenneth Pugh, mentions the importance of reading for pleasure as highly important for our emotional health as well as strengthening our creativity. Tips on how to get back into reading include never leaving home without a book; literally penciling in time in our daily schedule for reading; swapping a chunk of our TV addiction for reading time; keeping a book on our nightstand, etc.

For anyone not sure of how to get back into reading, the article suggested as number one – your local librarian. Librarians are a fantastic source of knowledge of the books on their shelves and with a few questions, can have you in a book you love in no time. A good local bookseller can do the same. In addition, they recommended the New York Times Best Seller list, Goodreads.com, or 2017 Popsugar Reading Challenge. What I loved most about seeing this article is that Family Circle is a magazine with a huge circulation of about 17, 560 readers that reaches a very mainstream audience.

Reading – and reading for pleasure – is important. I find myself concerned about all these moms glued to their phones. What kind of inspiration is that for their children? I’m hoping that a family-oriented magazine like this one will inspire more than a few women to reconsider their habits and pick up a book – for themselves, and also to read to their kids.

 

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applebars-squaresdone-small2It’s no revelation to say that routine can be a real buzzkill. And that can be true in any area of our lives. And yet, many of us are confined by the strictures of work, family, chores, etc. A fair amount of our scheduled days is necessarily and simply unavoidably routinized.

But what about some of that other time? I have been noticing lately how much of certain nights is all packaged up ever-so-neatly around the TV. Very American, yes? Truly I am not all that into TV the way I realize a lot of people are, but still … I have my favorites that I like to catch. However, I will find myself parked there, watching something relatively inane that has been sandwiched in between some things I really like. Why am I watching it?

I decided to take a harder look at what I’m watching and … decided to skip a bunch of it. Dumping the telly for a good book. Yeah, I remember that. Sunday afternoon I came home from a picnic with the plan of baking something – had all the ingredients already on the counter and everything. (Ergo the photos you see.) But I wasn’t feeling it, so did some other things, yet was still aware of he clock ticking. Who starts baking after 7 p.m. with work looming on Monday? Well, I guess that was me.

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The dry and other basic ingredients are gathered; the butter and egg at room temperature. Ready to start.

And that’s what made me think of/remember the importance of mixing it up. Even on the small stuff. Was there really anything so pressing on TV? Did I feel like watching the Netflix movie that was waiting? No and no. Why not go ahead and bake even if it’s getting late? Who cares how long it takes? (It was cooled off by 10:00 p.m. – Double Apple Bars. Yum.)

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The apples are pared and cubed. There are 2 cups of apples to about 1-1/2 cups of batter. Very apple-y.
I gave my favorite Macouns a try in this recipe.

We all get so comfortable doing what we’re used to. I’m at the point where I really need to mix it up more – need to feel inspired, have fun, try some new things, go back to some old ones I haven’t done in a while. I don’t know that I’ve actually been bored, but I do know that I have, in too many ways, succumbed to routines. How about you?

I just got a funny image of Bugs Bunny. “What’s up, doc?” he always said. What’s up? Well, I don’t know – what say we go find out.

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They taste like apple pie in a bar – moist, spicy and full of apple flavor. The pecans are yummy as an addition.

 

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“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings.”

― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Statue-ChildReading

With the annual New Jersey Society of Children’s Books Writers and illustrators (NJ SCBWI) June Conference on the horizon one has to think – there is something so amazing about so many individuals all streaming into one location from all over the country for a single purpose – to share, to learn and to grow in the one thing that unites us all – children’s books. We meet old friends and make some new, share and see amazing illustration, and have the opportunity to sit in workshops and at lunch tables, not just with our peers, but with editors and agents from some of the finest publishing companies and agencies in the U.S. Cheers to us all!

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This past weekend was the wonderful, huge, annual library sale that I go to every year, and below you see my haul.

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What? You don’t see any books? That’s because I never got there. Being under the weather for a few days, plus it was raining non-stop, I knew my best bet was to stay home and feel better. I missed the excitement of just being around the thousands of books, and certainly the traditional follow-up lunch with my friend in which we go over our multitude of finds, but in the end, I am hardly bookless.

I still have books from last year’s venture; friends share books all the time; I have bookshelves stuffed with selections I’ve yet to read or would happily read again; and … the local library is in a decent walking distance from my home. I am living in a very book-rich world.

AllTheLight-ADoerr2Not to mention, I am still living in the world of Anthony Doerr, Pulitzer Prize winning author of  All the Light We Cannot See. Yesterday, before I closed-up shop for the day on my work, I read a bit online about him and his other books, and watched a video of how he came to write this phenomenal book. I also looked at photographs of Saint Malo, the walled city on the coast of Brittany, bombed practically beyond recognition at the end of World War II, and an important location for much of the story. Doerr wanted to write a different tale about the war, and much like the outstanding author of The Book Thief, Markus Zusak, he certainly has done that. I am at times brought to tears at the beauty of Doerr’s use of words, and am moved by the story he tells.

As I approach the end of the book, I am deeply saddened by what has happened to one of the characters, but am holding out hope for the others. Soon I will be returning this novel to my local library, never knowing if my next book will be in the stacks, sitting in the $1.00 shelves at the front desk, or waiting for me here at home. I don’t own a kindle, and don’t read online. I thoroughly enjoy the weight of a book in my hands, the smell of paper and ink, the turning of the pages, and the placing of a bookmark where I’ll begin again as soon as I’m able.

We who love to read are a lucky lot, are we not?

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One of the (many) wonders of books is that they sometimes arrive at just the right time. Perhaps it’s not exactly a magical book but it’s the one that’s juuuust right for where we are and what we need to read right now.

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For example, a dear friend of mine came upon a book not long ago and was just over the moon about it. She got me so excited that I went immediately to my local library and borrowed it. I began to read. I was not excited or over the moon as I’d hoped; in fact, I was occasionally disenchanted by the author’s style, which was quite different from what I’d read of hers previously but seemed to me to be trying a little too hard to be hip and cool. I continued reading, sometimes really enjoying it, and while I felt it got better towards the end, it never made me jump up and down.

So I returned the book to the library, and talked about the book with my wonderful librarian, who is also familiar with the author, and she said she’d give it a try. Her response was that she liked it. Not crazy about it, but what had bothered me did not bother her, and she would read some more. And there you have it. Kind of like Goldilocks and the three bears, I thought.

For one of us it just wasn’t the right fit; for another it was enjoyable, but not fabulous; but for the original reader it was exactly the right size and the perfect book for her right now. And that’s what makes books so wonderful. Certain books come into our hands, into our lives, and they are exactly what we want – and/or need – to read at that moment in time. I’ve certainly encountered books like that – haven’t you? The story, or the information, is so meaningful right then that it just couldn’t be any better.

Sometimes it takes a while for that book to appear in our hands, but we always know it when it arrives. For those of us who write, or at least for me, it is my dream to write that book for children that will be exactly what they want – or need – at that moment in time. Even if it’s only one child, I’ll be happy.

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Summer’s a great time to read – it doesn’t matter if you’re on the front porch or in the A/C, if it’s in the cool morning or squeezing it in for a half-hour before you turn out the light – it just seems that time must be made to read. So what are you reading? And how do you decide what to read?

OneCrazySummer-RWGarcia2I find that friends often have great suggestions, especially if they’re involved in children’s books, too. One friend, getting her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, comes up with great suggestions because she’s reading like a fiend while getting her degree, as does another who does constant research for her own writing in picture books. Of course, I always come across fabulous finds at our huge annual county book sale, but let’s not forget one other source …

Our humble librarians. The local librarian in my little town is a wealth of information, and by now, she also knows me well enough to make some wonderful suggestions as well, especially in KidLit. Awhile back, she had mentioned how much she enjoyed the first middle-grade book of a trilogy by Rita Williams-Garcia, One Crazy Summer. It’s about 3 girls who live in Brooklyn traveling out to Oakland, CA to meet their mother who left them 7 years earlier. I hadn’t realized initially that this is historical fiction, and the story takes place when the p.s.BeEleven-RGWilliams2Black Panthers were active in CA, as was their mother. It’s a fascinating tale that takes place when I was well aware of all the goings-on at that time, the assassination of President Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr, Bobby Kennedy, the Vietnam war, etc. But what really brought the story to life is Garcia’s three main characters, Delphine, Vonetta and Fern. They are so real; it’s no wonder Ms. Garcia-Williams won so many awards, including a Newbery Honor Award.

So endearing and engrossing are these sisters, that I brought back the first book, and walked right out with the second, p.s. Be Eleven, advice given to Delphine by her mother at the end of each letter she sends her, (Delphine being the oldest.) The author doesn’t shy away from big topics and now the girls, back in Brooklyn, are trying to understand what’s happened to Uncle Darnell who’s returned from Vietnam, not the Uncle D. they knew just 15 months ago. Family plays a big part in these stories and Big Ma, raised in the South, has her own ideas about raising the girls, as does Pa, but then the girls must also deal with him introducing a new lady friend and getting married. It’s real life, and all shared through the eyes of these three wonderfully drawn young  girls.

I’ve just put in a request to get the third book in the trilogy, Gone Crazy in Alabama, through inter-library loan, but meanwhile, have jumped into an adult novel, recommended by yet another friend and avid reader, Defending Jacob.

It’s summer – are you reading?

 

 

 

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ChildrenReadingTintSometimes I have to stop and realize how incredibly fortunate I am to be living now, and to have grown up in a time and place where reading was always encouraged, and books always available. The two events I wrote about in the previous post are only possible for me because of these factors.

I am so grateful that, as a child, I was read to often and from when I was very young, that our mom read us a bedtime story each night before we went to sleep. Each week she took my brother and me to the library in town, a beautiful 1780’s Dutch stone house, where, after careful browsing, we emerged victorious with stacks of books in our arms. Once at home, we dove into our treasures. We had bookcases in our rooms, and it was a common sight to see our parents reading in the evening, long after the TV had become a living room fixture.

It’s easy to forget what an abundance of riches this truly is. We search the internet, e-mail, write and visit blogs and social media, and read books in a variety of 3-dimensional and electronic media with nary a thought. But that is not, and has not been, the case for many people in this world.

RichardWrightAwhile back, a fellow blogger shared this sentiment and gave me a link to a story by an author whose name I had not heard since I was in high school, Richrad Wright. He grew up in the deep South and in 1944, when he was 36, wrote the book Black Boy.  A particular chapter is titled The Library Card, and in first person relates Wright’s discovery of the vast reading material and knowledge to be had and to which he had no access because of his color. The books he longed to read only became available surreptitiously through the use of one trusted white man’s library card, and this depended upon Wright’s maintaining his attitude of ignorance and subservience to those around him.

For me, The Library Card eloquently makes the point of how blessed we are to be free to read, to learn, and to explore at will. There are people all around the world, including right here in our own country, predominantly children and women, who do not have access to books, nor can they, nor in some places, are they allowed or encouraged, to read.

There are plenty of ways we can bring books and reading to those who need and would benefit, but it has to start with this – the realization of how wonderful a gift we already have and frequently take for granted … a light that shines into the darkness, a transport to other worlds, an endless source of inspiration. Lucky, lucky us.

See you at the book sale.

 

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Have you ever experienced periods of time in which you wanted to read … well, everything in sight? Yet at the same time, you couldn’t find exactly the book you wanted to read? It’s a special and odd kind of frustration.

BooksToBeRead-2

Here is but one bookshelf of books all waiting to be devoured … but I can’t make a choice. These are largely from the library’s annual book sale, but a couple are purchased or from a friend, and I really do want to read every single one, but I can’t choose.

BooksToBeRead2-2But wait – there’s more! Like one of those TV infomercials in which you can get twice as many items for the same price if you’ll just order NOW, there are more books waiting to be read! Some of these are middle grade, some YA and some adult … some from my friends’ book swap … and all are calling to me as well. (And we don’t want to know, there is another small group on top of another bookcase.) Plus I’m still in the middle of another fabulous book, Paradise by Toni Morrison. So what’s with the restlessness? Are you experiencing this, too?

I’m thinking it might be the holidays – schedules are completely off for work, rest, entertainment, visiting … and distractions, wonderful as they are … are at a yearly high. Sometimes we just have too many choices. But if fabulous books that cost me little or nothing are what I have too many of, well … it sure could be worse.

Things are settling back into some semblance of a routine and the evenings have become particularly chilly. Seems like the right time to cozy up with a hot cup of cocoa and open up a good book. That and the sound of so many fabulous authors calling my name is becoming deafening.

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When I woke up the other morning and looked at the book on my night stand, I remembered I had read it the night before. But I was having a hard time remembering exactly what I had read. I had that sinking feeling that I was going to be re-reading a bunch of pages again. Sound familiar?

Sometimes in our busy lives, that most precious of times – reading time – gets put off to the very end of the day when we have the least energy. We’re so tired that even a good book can put us to sleep. What’s worse than realizing that we have  no clue as to what we read the night before?

This happens not just to me but to other women I know, as well. It’s rather discouraging. And the book I’m in now – which is fabulous – will not be the first book I start again from the beginning because I know I’ve missed too much from late night reading.

Yesterday, I thought of a solution. What if women friends, (OK – it could be guy friends, too), opened their homes – when they were out and busy with errands for a while – to other friends who needed a couple hours just to read? Outrageous, right? For example, I’m going to be gone for half a day. I give my friend my key, leave fixings for coffee or tea on the counter, maybe a snack, and she comes in with her book and actually reads! Chances are excellent that this is what will happen, because who feels obliged to clean anyone else’s house, answer their phone, or run their laundry? No one! It’s clear, guilt-free sailing!

Yes, we’re talking stolen hours … maybe once a week, or even at odd intervals … for the sheer joy of reading uninterrupted. Who wouldn’t do that for a friend?

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