IWSG - Insecure Writer's Support Group for January 2015
This is my twenty-first post for IWSG.
Have you ever found a really good quote while reading and then forgot to make a note of where you found it? Which book was it? And you can't seem to find it in any index either. Where is it? Which author could have used a quote like that?
This happened to me several months ago. And I've been rereading many of my favourite how-to-write-a-novel-books looking for this passage ever since. But luckily, the day before yesterday (21st December), I found the text that I was looking for, and can share it with you here:
In Lisa Cron's thought-provoking how-to-write book, Wired for Story (Reviewed on this blog here), she quotes om page 116, from author Eleanor Brown's novel, The Weird Sisters, to illustrate how much information you can fit into a character's inner thoughts, before she actually responds to a question:
She remembered one of her boyfriends asking, offhandedly, how many books she read in a year. "A few hundred," she said.
"How do you find the time?" he asked, gobsmacked.
She narrowed her eyes and considered the array of potential answers in front of her. Because I don't spend hours flipping through cable complaining there's nothing on? Because my entire Sunday is not eaten up with pre-game, in-game, and post-game talking heads? [---] Because when I am waiting in line, at the gym, on the train, eating lunch, I am not complaining about the wait/staring into space/admiring myself in available reflective surfaces? I am reading!
"I don't know," she said shrugging.
The theme of this my first IWSG-post for 2015 is the importance of reading fiction, not just for all of us wannabe-fiction-writers, but for everyone, regardless of age or calling in life.
I may never get my novel(s) finished, let alone published, distributed, and read by others. But the process of dreaming about writing has opened up a new world of reading for me. There are really good books out there to read and enjoy.
I am saying this because I have not always been an avid reader. When I was a young child, the thought of reading a whole novel seemed an insurmountable task. (How will I ever get to the end?)
As I've mentioned several times on these IWSG-posts, I am looking for a part time job or almost any kind of gainful work. During November and December, I took the advice of the employment office seriously and started sending out work applications left and right. And I actually got a job!
Well, it was only a temporary job as an extra substitute teacher in a local school, and it was only for three days. But still, I was part of a team of teachers trying to get teenagers to read a novel. For two whole days, I sat in a group room as sole teacher of a group of six thirteen-year-old pupils. Every child was given the same young adult-novel by a contemporary Swedish author to read, a novel that I had never even heard of. The story was about children their age. The idea was that by dividing the class into smaller groups, we teachers could read the beginning of this novel aloud and get them started. If we help them get interested in the story, maybe most of them will finish reading it over the Christmas break. So I was reading aloud for three hours.
The next day, I asked each student to read so that everyone had a chance to feel what it is like to read aloud for others. Most of them did a fine job. I started them off with a short passage, a couple of sentences each, and then asked them to read longer chunks of text, several paragraphs. After the morning lesson, they were so tired that they asked if I would read aloud for them the last hour, which I did.
Unfortunately, the teaching job only lasted three days. They needed someone to jump in before the end of term, because the person whom they really wanted to hire was obligated to work until a specific date.
It was interesting to work with children's reading and see how differently these thirteen-year-old pupils read. One girl read extremely well. Another girl fidgeted and disrupted the class so much that the other pupils asked me if she couldn't be moved to another group. And luckily for me, I was working with a teacher who understood the problem and was willing to move her. But her chit-chat-friend was left with us, and she did not want to read aloud. So when it was her turn, I said that she and I would read together in unison, which we did for two sentences. Then I remained silent and let her continue reading aloud alone for several paragraphs. She did it despite herself.
Hooray for the newbie-teacher! It was starting to feel like a great triumph for me until Miss Chit-Chat disappeared during a ten minute break and never returned to our reading group. So I am not in any position to brag about being an amazing teacher. I know I'm not. But teaching reading at this school has made me think about how important reading fiction is. Obviously, reading is a chore, if not a real pain, for some children, and a joy for others.
All of you wonderful readers and writers out there: Do you remember when you decided to be a reader of fiction?
I can say the exact date. It was 26th January 2007, when I decided to always have a paperback book with me whenever I go out and might have to wait somewhere, like at the dentist's or while waiting for the tram or bus.
What happened on that cold and snowy day in January 2007?
I found myself waiting at the Emergency Room, for my, then not yet three-year old daughter, Elisabet, to have a 4 cm (approximately 1½ inch) down-to-the-bone gash in her forehead patched together by a specialist children's plastic surgeon. From three o'clock in the afternoon until nine o'clock in the evening I held her, wiping blood, singing lullabies and dealing with questions from different categories of medical professionals until Elisabet finally was put under general anesthesia for the operative procedure to repair what looked like a bloody third eye in the middle of her forehead.
I had nowhere to go while my daughter had surgery. I waited in an empty waiting room. Then I was there with her when she woke up and was moved to the Intensive Care Unit for observation, and followed her to the Children's Ward where, in the small hours of the morning, I was offered a cot to sleep on next to her bed.
But I could not sleep. I had nothing with me. No money. No food. Nothing to write with. Nothing to pass the time. The cafeteria that served meals and the little gift shop that sold fruit, candy and snacks had closed hours ago. In front of the snack shop was a locked stand of paperback novels available for purchase, but not in the middle of the night, when I really needed a book. A really good book.
It was about three a.m. and Elisabet slept peacefully, while I could not sleep. There were other parents with their children in the same large ward room, including a mother who had a paperback detective novel with her. How clever, I thought. Instead of fuming over the events that lead up to Elisabet's accident, I could have spent the time reading a good page-turner. I had nothing else to do, other than to just be there for Elisabet. I had already been there twelve hours.
So, think about it, all of you wonderful writers of fiction. Your texts could offer distraction for someone who really needs to step into another world for a while. Reading can not only be a pleasure, it can be a comforting friend when reality is too sad, too boring or too incomprehensible to take in.A happy and productive new 2015 to you all!
Here are some recent photos of my daughter, Elisabet, ten and a half years old. (Yes, she's wearing eye-liner!)
This is the gingerbread house that Elisabet and I put together from a kit.
Elisabet decorated it with candy and icing to make it look like the witch's house in 'Hansel and Gretel'. It's gone now. We ate it all up.
Here is Elisabet holding our cat, Mathilda. Elisabet is wearing a knitted top with the phrase, 'Cats have more fun' on it.
Unfortunately, I forgot to take some pictures of Mathilda's daughter, Rosetta, who was visiting us for Christmas and New Year. The two cats were so cute together. They did not fight at all this time. They cuddled together on my bed looking like a furry heart. Silly me, I missed a darling shot!
This is an older picture of Rosetta sitting between her uncle and her father, even they are very sweet cats.
Hope Rosetta comes back to visit us again. We don't own her anymore. She lives with a very nice family in Söderköping, south of Norrköping.
In the last photo, a close-up picture, you can see a very pale white line in her forehead, it's the scar from 2007. The plastic surgeon did a very good job of patching her together. (Use the zoom tool to see. You will also see Elisabet's Christmas present from me - a time-turner like the one Hermione Granger had in the Harry Potter books and films!)
Alex J. Cavanaugh