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!

 

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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!

 

Favorite E-reads of the Month: July/August

Morning E-reads

I love Summer Vacation because it is a time when my life and body can move (or not) by its own rhythms. One of my favorite rhythms is waking up, making my “poor man’s mocha” and sitting down for an hour (okay, sometimes that’s “hours”) of e-reading. I learn a lot, and find a lot of inspiration in the practice.

So, why don’t I just do this all year round? Well, there is one thing I like even more than my morning routine, and that is sleeping as late as possible before getting up and going to work.

July/August E-reads

This month, as last month, I’ve got a great selection of online reading for you. So here they are, from the most to least recent:

A Little Weird? Prone to Depression? Blame Your Creative Brain” by Susan Biali, MD: This is from one of my favorite blogs–Psychology Today. I particularly liked it because it explains why creative people (like me…maybe like you?) might feel a little out of sync and experience the blues. The good news is…it’s because we’re creative. Or are we creative because we’re a little weird and sensitive?

Literate Lives E-Read: This Incandescent Llife6 Ways Reading Fiction Will Inspire You to Live Bigger” by Emily Morgan: This is from Emily’s blog This Incandescent Life. I love to read and encourage other’s to read, and so when I see someone pointing out reading’s awesome benefits, my brain does a little happy dance.

What Becomes of the Brokenhearted: Why Fiction Heals Like Nothing Else Can” by Kristen Lamb: The premise here it that fiction provides the kind of experience and perspective that can only be mirrored in real life, and brings emotional healing through the emotional experience of story rather than reason and logic. Again, yay reading!

Other Great Reads

More Awesome E-Reading to Come

Just two and a half more weeks and my long hours of summer e-reading will be at an end. But have not fear, my morning routine will remain the anchor of my weekends, and there will be many more awesome e-reads to come.

Your Turn

Have you read anything interesting online lately? Please share the title and link in the comment box below. Remember, the more we share with each other, the more great reading we can all enjoy!

New Reading Rotation

A Reading Rotation

As happens periodically, usually at least once per year, I get tired of my established reading rotation, and I revise it.

(So, why bother? Because I have found in the past that without some form of genre rotation, I get stuck in a rut reading the same kind of book over and over again, despite my wider range of interests. So, when I get tired of one rotation, I find it worth my while to reinvent the “beast”.)

This time, I felt like I was not getting to spend enough time in the genres I either write or love to read. So I revised.

Here is the New Rotation

How Does it Work?

The basic rotation is the column on the left and the top chunk in the middle. I read through this from the top down through the two columns and mark with the month and year each listing read.

Nightstand Book: If a book I’ve read in the rotation is a series, the rest of the series goes on my nightstand to pick from so I do not have to wait for a full rotation to read the next book in the series.

Other Fiction: This is a list of other fiction genres/categories (ex. Goudge is author Elizabeth Goudge, a long-time favorite. I just keep rotating through rereading her books.)

Mystery Rotation: This category allows me to rotate through my favorite mystery authors so I don’t have to wait for them to get their turn in the alphabetical rotation. (I have a lot of books in my favorite genres.) You will find the list of authors to rotate through in the right column.

Non-fiction: I both enjoy and need to read nonfiction (to expand my horizons, build my writing craft, and support the world-building for my fantasy writing). So, this is the list of non-fiction works I rotate through.

Byzantine

I know it looks rather crazy and complex, but it works for me. What really matters is not that I rotate through the genres but how much I read different types of books. This newest helps me read my favorite genres, while sticking to a desire to read other types of works as well.

Your Turn

How do you organize your reading time, or–not? What do you feel are the benefits of your method or non-method for organizing your life? I’d love to know! Just use the comment space below.

Favorite E-Reads of the Month: July 2017

It’s hard to believe that it’s already time to reflect on my e-reading this month. One of the things I love about summer is the increased time available to read the many blogs and newsletters I subscribe to, and to follow the trail of links to discover more on topics that interest me. Here is what I have enjoyed this month:

Media:

The Other Side of Anne of Green Gables  As an Anne of Green Gables fan, I was eager to watch the reboot of the franchise. As a grandmother, however, I was glad not to be watching with my granddaughter. While I enjoyed the miniseries, despite the missing pieces and added material, I would definite consider this an adult version of the popular tale, and when I read this article, I understood why; that was the intention of its creators. My only wish is that it would have been clearly labeled as such.

Writing

Are You a Writer or a Storyteller?  This was a really interesting and informative post about two major aspects of fiction writing. After reading, I realized, I started out as a writer first. Thank God for the complexity of writing assignments at Berkeley. I had to learn to outline, and it has served me well ever since!

SF/Fantasy World-building I am completing a major revision on my historical fantasy novel, The Swallow’s Spring, and have several novels in development that I am really excited about, so one of my great pleasures this month has been reading about world-building. Every article seems to prompt multiple ideas for existing or developing stories.

Reading 

In Case You Forgot, Reading is Important

Mental Health and Well-Being

Why Caring for Yourself Makes All the Difference

Social Sciences

Why Brilliant Girls Tend to Favor Non-STEM Careers

Your Turn

What have you read online that other Literate Lives followers might enjoy? Use the comment space below to include a title and a web address (and if you feel like it, a little blurb sharing why you liked it).