The Value of Writing and Reading Fiction (And Maybe, Non-fiction, Too)

Last weekend I read a blog post that was so provocative, inspiring, and engaging, that I decided I couldn’t wait for a monthly round-up; I had to share it now.

5 Reasons Writing is Important to the World

In this post, on HelpingWritersBecomeAuthors.com, K.M. Weiland shares the experiences that made her a writer, the questions that had her doubting her career choice, the wisdom of others that provided answers to her questions, and the five reasons she is able to conclude “writing is important to the world.”

Don’t take my word for it. Go read the post now, and then come back.

Wasn’t That Inspiring!

I’m tempted to quote so much of what she said, but of course, you’ve already read it. Instead I’d like to comment and elaborate on her 5 conclusions and how they resonate for me.

5 Reasons I Agree Writing, and Thereby Reading, Stories, both Fiction and Non, is of Value for Us Personally and for Our World:

“1. Stories give us good truths.” They show us how the world works. They inspire us to be better and often show us how. Stories, both fictional and non, are therefore empowering.

“2. Stories give us bad truths.” Stories, again both fiction and non-fiction, can serve as warnings. They provide a training ground for discovering strategies and ways of being that work and ones that do not. Better yet, as a reader, you get to discover these things vicariously, rather than have to suffer the consequences of dangerous, foolish, or selfish/narrow-minded actions.

“3. Stories open our minds and teach us empathy.” Effective educators know that reading fiction and experiencing life through a character’s mind and heart, expands our and our students’ wealth of experience. They show us how other people’s feelings and thought processes work, as we experience them through character. Thus story, both fiction and non, helps develop empathy for others.

I love this Merriam Webster definition of empathy:

the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also :the capacity for this

In a world that seems to be growing smaller, more crowded, and more conflicted each day, empathy is an absolutely essential skill for living together in harmony.

“4. Stories offer us archetypal role models.” Weiland asks “if you’ve ever been in the midst of a difficult experience or faced by an overwhelming decision—and you were helped in remembering a character who endured something similar?” Have you? I know I have. At one very difficult time in my life inspiration provided by a fictional character helped buy my children 15 more years with an intact, functional nuclear family.

“5. Stories teach us to hope.” In our messy, messy world and our imperfect, challenging lives it can be tempting to just give up. But stories show us the effort to not just survive, but thrive is worthwhile. They remind us that light and hope remain in our world. While we cannot live lives of unadulterated bliss, times of joy, of love, of peace do exist, and if we make wise choices on our journeys, we will experience them and carry their memories within us along the way.

Your Turn

What do you feel is the value of reading and writing? In focusing on Weiland’s post, is there anything you think I missed? Please share in the comment space below. I love to hear from you!

 

Advertisements

Enchanting Openings: The Throme of the Erril of Sherill by Patricia A. McKillip

Enchanting Openings: The Throme of Erril of Sherill by Patricia McKillipLast night, I began reading Patricia A. McKillip’s The Throme of the Erril of Sherill and I went to bed enchanted.

Selecting a New Book

I had just finished an author biography the previous day, so it was time to select a new book. I consulted my reading list. Ah. Time for a fantasy. The first book I picked up was not The Throme of the Erril of Sherill. It was however, the next book behind the bookmark on my fantasy shelf. Delighted to be reading a fantasy, I sat down to enjoy.

Within five pages, I had decided this was not the book for me. So disappointing, but that did not mean I couldn’t read a fantasy. Back to the bookshelves I went, and McKillip’s The Throme of the Erril of Sherill was next in line. 

I have been enjoying Patricia McKillip’s books for more years than I am willing to confess. Suffice it to say, I started out with the Riddlemaster of Hed trilogy and went on from there. However, somewhere along the way I had bypassed The Throme of the Erril of Sherill.

Enchantment

Within the first three sentences, I knew this book would be a delight. McKillip begins:

               The Erril of Sherill wrote a Throme. It was a deep Throme, and a dark, haunting, lovely Throme, a wild, special, sweet Throme made of the treasure of words in his deep heart. He wrote it long ago, in another world, a vaguely singing, boundariless land that did not exist within the kingdom of Magnus Thrall, King of Everywhere. The King had Cnites to come and go for him, and churttels to plant and harvest for him, but no Cnite had ever looked up into the winking morning sky and seen Sherill, and no churttel had ever looked at the rich clods of earth between his boots and seen the Erril’s world. Yet the Erril, long, long, ago wrote a Throme of singular and unsurpassed beauty, somewhere in his own land called Sherill, and the dark Kind of Everywhere desired that Throme.

Analysis

At first, it may strike you as odd that this captivated me, considering its weird, undefined words (Throme, Sherill, Cnites, and churttels) and repetitions, and yet, it was the very first words and repetitions that enthralled me.

My first thought was, “Jabberwocky!” It reminded me of Lewis Carrol‘s famous nonsense poem. The most obvious connection was the made-up words, however that was not all.

Although written as prose, this first paragraph is quite poetic. How?

First, it’s in the use of internal rhyme, for example, “Erril of Sherril.”

Furthermore, Mckillip uses repetition in a poetic way: “It was a deep Throme, and a dark, haunting, lovely Throme, a wild, special, sweet Throme made of the treasure of words in his deep heart.”

McKillip also employs alliteration (my particular favorite!): “a wild, special, sweet Throme…” The “wild,” “special,” and “sweet” just whisper to me like someone telling me a fantastic secret.

Furthermore, she did all this with complete confidence and authority, trusting her readers to understand and join in the journey.

And of course, there was the content itself:

  • The mysterious, yet decidedly haunting and musical Throme
  • The ideas of a boundriless land and a land literally named Everywhere
  • The curious citizens of Everywhere, Cnites and churttles, who have never seen Sherill
  • And, of course, the “dark” King Magnus, who desires the Throme.

The stage is set for a magical adventure.

Anticipation

I only read Chapter One last night, because it was a work night, and I am still recovering from a cold and needed rest, but, WOW, I am looking forward to reading more tonight.

Your Turn

Have you ever read a novel or short story that cast its spell over you with the very first words? Please use the comment space below to share the title and author, and the reasons it instantly grabbed hold of you.

Thanks so much! I love hearing from you!

 

 

Favorite E-reads of the Month: August/September

The time has come to share some of my favorites e-reads from the past month. These are posts I have found thought-provoking, intriguing, or inspiring. Enjoy:

7 Reasons Why We Like Novels
by DiAnn Mills, The Write Conversation
“6. Healing takes place within the storyline. Subject matter that touches our personal pain addresses ways we can survive our past. By exploring behavior, we gain new insights.”

Friends, Countrymen, Take Up Your Words!
Writer Unboxed
“We must unite as writers to take back our noble, our good, our mighty ordinance. Love, truth, respect, understanding: these are the words that need declaration.”

Art as Therapy: Alain de Botton on the 7 Psychological Functions of Art
by Maria Papova, Brainpickings
“…art’s most intimate purpose: its ability to mediate our psychological shortcomings and assuage our anxieties about imperfection… far more than mere aesthetic indulgence, art is a tool — a tool that serves a rather complex yet straightforwardly important purpose in our existence.”

Priorities Series – Part 1: Brain Dump
She Makes Time
“this is my favorite priority sorting activity! The sky is the limit with what you can discover about yourself, your past, and your future.”

Introverts as Revolutionaries?
by Susan Cain, Psychology Today
“…a question that has long intrigued me: whether there’s something about the nature of shyness and/or introversion that inclines people to nonviolent modes of resistance.

How Much Do You Value Yourself? A Radical Prescription for Personal, and World, Peace
by Steven Stosny, PhD, Psychology Today
“High self-esteem tends to create a sense of entitlement. When the world does not meet their entitlement needs, many with high self-esteem feel wronged and may retaliate with manipulation, abuse, or violence.
“Self-value is more behavioral than emotional, more about how you act toward what you value, including yourself, than how you feel about yourself compared to others.”

Favorite E-reads of the Month: August & September: literatelives.wordpress.com

Source: Sehnsucht (c. 1900). Heinrich Vogeler / Wikimedia Commons

Longing for More
by Andy Tix, Ph.D., The Quest for the Good Life
“‘Sehnsucht’ is a popular German word with no simple English translation…. . C. S. Lewis often relied on this concept in his writings, defining it as ‘inconsolable longing’ for ‘we know not what.’ …Lewis suggested how Sehnsucht involves ‘thoughtful wishing.’ …Sehnsucht has to do with an intense desire for something beyond our human capacity to fulfill. It is a bittersweet feeling that seeks a slice of perfection at the same time that perfection remains elusive.”

I really enjoyed the way these articles celebrated things I value or enhanced my awareness of different ways of thinking, understanding and tackling life.

Your Turn

Have you read anything in the past few weeks that made a deep impression on you? Please share titles (and links if you read it on the web) in the comment section below.

Did you check out any of the links I have included? If so, please share your thoughts or a favorite quote.

I love hearing from you!

Papers, Papers, Papers

Papers, Papers, Papers, www.literatelives.wordpress.comIf you love the literate lifestyle, you probably end up dealing with lots of paper: notes about books you’d like to read, cool quotes, ideas for journaling, and if you’re a writer, ideas for articles and novels, and lists of names for places and characters, real or imagined.

This weekend, my basket of papers (more like snippets: pages ripped from notepads, index cards, business cards, pages torn from magazines, and even a restaurant place mat, … none of which really qualifies as a lovely, full sheet of paper), stored in a place best described as out of sight, out of mind, finally caught my attention and I actually organized it!

Amazing, Ha Ha!

Why?

Because I never intended to keep all those papers. What I really wanted was to capture and hold them until I could enter them into various data bases, etc. (which I never did).

Now, they are chopped to their smallest size and filed in mini files in a pretty basket beside my favorite chair. From here, I can easily grab one or two when I have a spare minute and enter it. Paperless future, or at least an increasingly paperless future, here I come!

A Sampling

So, what work lies ahead of me? Let’s take it in alphabetical order:

Notes to “Add” to existing files–ex. Scene Opening Requirements: opening hook, setting, viewpoint…and when done, a closing hook.

“Books” I would like to read–ex. The White Lion Chronicles by Christopher Hopper

“Journal” prompts and scribbles-ex. From “4 Steps to Turning a Writing Dream Into Reality,” which recommends writers refill their “well” by enriching other parts of their life. The note to self: “Journal a variety of ways you can refill your creative well.”

“Markets” (I do make an effort to sell my writing now and then–ex. Check out L2L2, Love 2 Read Love 2 Write Publishing

“Names” (I collect them so when I need a secondary character or place-name for a piece of fiction I can just pull an appropriate name from my collection)–ex. Danilo (male), Alyphalet (female), Christakis (setting)

“Novel” notes for my existing or future projects–ex. Possible title for Book III: Heaven and Hell… Multiple tie-ins: the idyll is heaven and the return is hell, the idyll is hell and the return is heaven, I chooses heaven and T chooses hell… (I really don’t think I like this as a title.)

“Poems,” or beginnings of poems–ex:

I come from
Beerocks and baklava
A red-headed, Greek speaking, Irish grandmother with a mysterious past,
And peasants,
Immigrants,
No royalty here…

“Quotes”–ex:

“A word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanged; it is the skin of a living thought and may vary greatly in color and content, according to the circumstance and time in which it is used”
~Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

“Websites” to check out–ex. AuthorTechTips.com

Your Turn

Do you collect odds and ends of paper? Using the comments box below, tell us, what kinds of paper piles grow in your home? Better yet, share a snippet from one of your “someday I’ll want this” notes. Maybe another reader will find it just as valuable as you do!

 

Best Books of August 2017

Best Books of August 2017

What did I do with my summer? Did I really only complete two books in August? Yikes!

Since the two books were really different and would appeal to different readers, I’m not going to force myself to choose one; I’ll discuss both!

Rooms by James Rubart

Rooms by James L. Rubart

The cover blurb reads: “What would you find if you wandered into the rooms of your own soul? One man is about to find out.”

This was a really unusual read for me because I rarely read contemporary novels, rarely read novels with male protagonists, and don’t often read paranormal novels, but I read this. Why? Rubart co-led the continuing class Heroes, Villains, & the Heart of Your Story: Building an Epic Book from Start to Finish at the Realm Makers Conference I attended at the end of July. I’d heard he was a fantastic writer, and I wanted to read something by him before the class started.

Rooms was an excellent choice. It was haunting, it was exciting, it had me constantly urging the protagonist to make the choices I wanted him to make. My treat for the day after the conference was to finish the book. I read all day, in my hotel room, in bed, by the window, by the pool, and back in bed again. I didn’t want to put it down, and was satisfied but sorry when I reached the end.

Newts Emerald by Garth NixNewt’s Emerald by Garth Nix

This YA novel is a fun mash-up of regency romance, fantasy, adventure, and mystery. Lady Truthful, nicknamed “Newt”, inherits her family’s treasure, the Newington Emerald, on her eighteenth birthday. No sooner does her father reveal the spectacular, and magical, gem, than the lights to out. When they come back on, the emerald is gone.

This novel is a fun and exciting romp as Newt, her cousins, an eccentric aunt, and a mysterious stranger join together to recover the valuable jewel.

Your Turn

Now, just because I made it easy and made the title “Best Books” plural all by myself, doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. What’s the best book you read in the last month? You can even cheat like I did and mention two! Just use the comment box below. I love hearing from you!

Did You Hear This? “We Must Love Each Other”

Literate Lives: Did You Hear ThisWho said this? Was it Gandhi? Martin Luther King? Mother Theresa? I could have sworn it was my pastor.

You probably will get the answer to this question wrong unless you watched the president’s speech in Phoenix last week. Since my husband went to bed early that night and I was doing some hand work, I asked him to leave the news on and so, just chanced my way into hearing the Tuesday night speech.

Donald Trump said, “We must love each other, show affection for each other, and unite together in condemnation of hatred, bigotry and violence. We must rediscover the bonds of love and loyalty that bring us together as Americans.”

Wow! Bigot-in-Chief? Really?

He also said:

Our movement is a movement built on love. It’s love for fellow citizens. It’s love for struggling Americans who’ve been left behind, and love for every American child who deserves a chance to have all of their dreams come true. From the inner cities to the rural outposts, from the Sun Belt to the Rust Belt, from east to west and north to south, our movement is built on the conviction that every American from every background is entitled to a government that puts their needs first.

We believe that every American has the right to live with dignity. Respect for America demands respect for all of its people. Loyalty to our nation requires loyalty to each other, We all share the same home, the same dreams, and the same hopes for a better future. A wound inflicted upon one member of our community is a wound inflicted upon us all…. When one part of America hurts, we all hurt. And when one American suffers an injustice, all of America suffers together.

We want every child to succeed, every community to prosper, and every struggling American to have a chance for a better life.

No citizen should ever fear for their safety, security in our society, and no child should ever be afraid to go outside and play or be with their parents and have a good time.

We have to heal our wounds and the wounds of our country. I love the people of our country, the people, all of the people….I didn’t say I love you because you’re black, or I love you because you’re white, or I love you because you’re from Japan, or you’re from China, or you’re from Kenya, or you’re from Scotland or Sweden. I love all the people of our country.

We must love each other, show affection for each other, and unite together in condemnation of hatred, bigotry and violence. We must rediscover the bonds of love and loyalty that bring us together as Americans

*Thank you Time Inc. for posting a transcript of this speech

Based on all the news coverage this week, I would never have dreamed he said these things. Yet he did. I heard each and every word.

Today’s post was inspired by a post on Writers Unboxed, “Friends, Countrymen, Take Up Your Words,” which says, “We must unite as writers to take back our noble, our good, our mighty ordinance. Love, truth, respect, understanding: these are the words that need declaration.”

I too have a call. Please, we need more journalists and less commentators. Our world is so crazy-busy, the average person does not have the time to dig up the facts on every local, national, and world event.

Please, journalists, remove any filters that keep you from hearing and seeing what you are reporting, whether you are a liberal, conservative, or somewhere in between. Give us the words and events, unvarnished and uninterpreted. Reject high drama and extremes, and provide us with the answers to those “news article questions” every kid learns in grammar school–Who? What? When? Where? Why?and  How? I can even grant that the “why” does call for some interpretation, but if your interpretation is to be useful, the who, what, when, where, and how must be covered accurately.

Let’s love one another. What a great idea! Whether we are brown, pink, beige, or black (I personally would describe myself as “chocolate chip cookie dough”) let’s choose to assume the best, rather than the worst about each other. Love speaks truth and listens. Love is what enables forgiveness and reconciliation to occur. Let us renew our love for one another as a nation.

 

Alack and Alas…A Change of Schedule

New Blog Schedule: Literate Lives

Alack and Alas…

It has been fun blogging twice per week through my recovery from mono and over the summer, however, like summer itself, this too must come to an end.

While I love blogging, sharing my life, my reading, my love of writing, and my encouragement for parents and educators, I will be returning to the class room as an educator and will therefore have less free time for blogging.

A Temporary New Schedule

Next week I will begin blogging once per week, and next week’s post will come out on Tuesday.

However…

I will only continue the Tuesday schedule if I do not hear from you.

Your Turn

On what day of the week would you prefer to see Literate Lives bounce into your inbox? Please voice your opinion using the comment box below. Based on your preferences, I will determine and begin blogging on your chosen day for posting.