Imagination doesn't just mean making things up. It means thinking things through, solving [problems] or hoping to do so, and being just distant enough to be able to laugh at things that are normally painful. [Some people] would call this escapism, but they would be be entirely wrong. I would call fantasy the most serious, and the most useful branch of writing there is.
--Diana Wynne Jones

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

100+ Book Challenge

This year I want to read more. Every year I want to read more. So a few weeks ago when I came across this challenge to read 100 books in a year, it seemed just right. Granted, most of the books I read aren't exactly Henry James (thank goodness), or I'd never meet that 100 goal. I try to read a lot of middle-grade and young-adult books, since that's what I write. I do draw the line at chapter books. Picture books seem like cheating. Still, 100 seems like a good number to push for.

If you want to join the challenge with me, click on that little 100+ book challenge logo-thingy on the sidebar. Or on this blog post title. That should work, too.

My other reading goals:

1.  Include at least one grown-up book a month that has nothing to do with the how-to's of writing craft whatsoever--something that would be considered Literature with a capital L.

You'll notice right now, if you check out the sidebar again, that book is a Henry James.

I happen to hate Henry James.  

The Golden Bowl is 500 pages. 500 pages of pain. I consider it self-discipline. Mental exercise. An attempt to finally understand why my sister-in-law loves him. I may not live through it. I figured out his average sentence is approximately half a page long, and so complicated you forget what he said at the beginning by the time you get to the end.

Just to clear this up: I know I started Golden Bowl before 2010, but I'm speed-reading the beginning a second time so it will count.

Enough about James. What does he have to do with anything, anyway?

2. Go to my book group every month. I have the most amazing book group in the world. It's made up of a bunch of women who are all brilliant and intimidating and hard-core readers, and I feel really stupid every time I go, but the discussions are fabulous and enlightening and insightful and I think I'll stop using adjectives right now.

3.  Read something every single day. As Stephen King says, you can't write great stuff unless you're reading great stuff all the time. My old creative writing teacher, minimalist author Daryl Spencer, used to say it this way: if you want to be a fiction writer, read fiction every day, write fiction every day, and after ten years you might be good enough to get published. If you're lucky. Maybe.

That was his class: we read minimalist short stories and we wrote minimalist short stories and occasionally talked about the evils of purple prose. Just for the record, I write terrible minimalist short stories. That's why I quit writing fiction for about twenty years.  I'm just glad I rediscovered fiction-writing in a new incarnation.

But I digress.

The whole post sort of digresses. Where was it going? I have no idea. Books. Read a lot of books.

Read 100 books, actually. By the end of 2010. Or just read more than you did last year.

And if you happen to love Henry James, please tell my why. I honestly want to know your reasons.

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