Friday Links: Books as Writing Teachers

Happy Friday! Apologies for the lack of links last week. I was in San Diego for the RWA National Conference, and though I intended to post, my schedule kind of ran away with itself (and with me). It was a wonderful conference, so I only feel a little bad. But I’m back with an assortment of things to keep you reading and writing through the upcoming weekend, especially if — like me — you’re facing triple-digit temperatures for the duration. But I will say that if you feel the need to take a movie break along the way, I highly recommend the new Star Trek movie, which I saw last night and was terrific. I suspect I’ll be sneaking in a repeat viewing.

Now on to this week’s Friday Links. There’s a particular emphasis this week on improving your writing through reading widely and well. Wishing you all a lovely weekend filled with fun and inspiration, and hopefully some progress on your current WIP. Enjoy!

24 in 48 Readathon – My favorite readathon is taking place this weekend. For those of you who aren’t familiar, the idea is to read for 24 hours out of 48 between Saturday and Sunday. It’s low pressure, with people reading however much they can, with a bunch of fun social media activities and friendly sharing of book recs. There’s still time to sign up!

Do Writers Need to Be Alone to Thrive? – An interesting look at the benefits of solitude for a writing career.

What Our Editors Look for on an Opening Page – Some great insider tips from the folks at Penguin Random House.

15 Literary Magazines for New & Unpublished Writers – A list of markets for writers looking to break into publication.

Welcome to the Last Bookstore – A great short documentary featuring Josh Spencer, who owns and operates the iconic bookstore in downtown Los Angeles.

7 YA Books that Are as Good as a Writing Class – I’m not sure I’d go quite that far, but these titles will definitely illustrate some wonderful writing techniques if you read them closely, plus give you good insight into the recent YA market.

On the Journals of Famous Writers – Interesting look at the differences in writers’ journals and what can be gained by reading them.

 

Friday Links

Happy Friday! Are you ready for the weekend? I certainly am. This week has been… trying, in many respects. Not bad, just the sort of week that keeps you scrambling to keep up.

Unsurprisingly, a host of additional things have popped up on my radar for the weekend, which also happens to be the weekend of the 24 in 48 Readathon, so I suspect I’m going to be burning the midnight oil no matter what I do. But there are worse things than staying up late to read, and I certainly have a sizable stack of books  lined up for my reading hours.

Meanwhile, I have links! This week went very quickly and there were fewer things jumping out at me than usual, but I hope you find the assortment enjoyable anyway. Wishing you some excellent reading and writing time, and a wonderful weekend overall.

Kelly Sue DeConnick Is the Future of Women in Comics – Whether or not you’re a comics reader, this is a fabulous profile of a kick-ass woman and inspirational to anyone who has an interest in working creatively. I highly recommend.

Paper Chasing – On book collecting vs. book reading. Interesting, no matter what format you use when accumulating reading material.

Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2015 Book PreviewThe Millions posts a bi-annual list of the most anticipated books for the coming half year (by their reckoning). Even if it doesn’t cover your own most anticipated titles, it’s a great resource for checking out what’s coming down the pike.

The Writers Who Invented Languages – A look at authors such as J.R.R. Tolkien and George R.R. Martin who have created original languages for their characters.

Writing Excuses: Why Can’t I Just Jump to the Ending? – A really important lesson on writing the middle of the book. Part of the Writing Excuses year-long podcast workshop on writing your book from start to finish, but it works perfectly as a stand-alone look at what can be the most problematic part of a story.

Summer Binge Reading

Half the planet is in summer reading mode, even if summer won’t officially begin for a few more days. But summer reading means different things to different people. Some think about light beach reads enjoyed in the sunshine, others seek to catch up on the hefty titles they couldn’t spare the attention for during the winter months, and still other readers care less about what they’re reading and more about binging on books in general.

For those of you intent on cruising through a bunch of your TBR pile, I have wonderful news: not one, but two readathons on the horizon.

What’s a readathon you ask? It’s pretty much what you think it is. Organizers set their own rules for each specific event, but the basics remain the same. A time period is set, and readers dedicate themselves to reading as much as they can between the start time and the finish time. Some events challenge you to read for twenty-four hours straight. Others ask you to set goals for what percent of the time period you will spend with your nose in a book. But all readathons allow you to schedule a book binge with a clear conscience, because while that readathon is taking place, you’re supposed to be reading.

Regular readers of this blog might recall that I became a readathon convert last fall with the 24 in 48 Readathon in November. I spend so much of my reading time focused on client work or submissions that it’s not always easy to get around to those published books lining my shelves and piling up next to my bed. I love the idea of setting aside a weekend with the expressed purpose of reading for myself. And I am definitely overdue for a bit of personal reading time.

So if you’re feeling the need to read, check out one or both of these upcoming readathon events. I’m already signed up for 24 in 48 in July.

The Tenth Annual 48-Hour Book Challenge

This challenge runs from Friday, June 19th, through Sunday, June 21st. You choose when to start and finish within that three-day time frame, but you much pick a 48-hour window — Friday at noon to Sunday at noon, for example. Within your chosen 48 hours, you decide how many reading hours you want to shoot for, and the Mother Reader blog, host for this event, is providing prizes for top readers in various time frames. And even if you don’t win, you’ll get tons of reading done! Complete rules and instructions are up at the site. This sounds like a fun challenge and I only wish I could take the time to participate this weekend.

24 in 48 Readathon

This challenge runs from 12:00 a.m. on Saturday, July 11th, until 11:59pm on Sunday, July 12th. The premise is simple: read for 24 hours total, spread out however you wish, during the 48 hours of the challenge. This leaves plenty of time for things like sleeping and stretching and grabbing a bite to eat. I participated in last November’s challenge and had a great time. Rachel Manwill, the force behind the challenge, sets up fun check-in tasks and prizes throughout the weekend, and everyone is great about sharing what they’re reading and how they’re progressing on social media. As I said above, I’m already on board for this one.

 

 

A Readathon Recap

A couple of weeks back, I blogged about the difficulty of finding sufficient time to read, to really sit down and get lost in a book for hours on end the way you might have as a kid, or as an adult on a lazy, beach vacation. Opportunities for more than a snatched half hour seem minimal, between work and family and all the other things populating our lives. And so, this past weekend, November 15-16, I participated in the 24 in 48 Readathon, the goal of which was to spend 24 hours reading over a 48-hour period.

I’ll admit I wasn’t sure I’d be able to pull it off. Normally I spend part of my weekend working, so it took a bit of midnight oil over the week to get to a place where I felt I could take the time off, and ultimately I did sneak a couple of work tasks in on Saturday afternoon. As a result, I read for about 22 hours instead of 24, but I’m certainly not going to complain.

So how did I do it? First, I decided that despite living in California, I was going to do the challenge “live” on east coast time, since the organizers of the event were in New York. That way I could participate in all the challenges they set up and be more or less in sync with them as they blogged, Tweeted, etc. Also, that meant that I’d finish the challenge at 9pm Sunday my time, rather than midnight, and actually get to bed at a decent time (at least theoretically). Then I gave myself permission to ignore chores. Dishes got rinsed and shoved in the dishwasher, but beyond that I ordered take out instead of cooking, left the Sunday paper sitting outside my door all day, and so on.

Friday night I settled on the couch with a stack of pre-picked books on the coffee table, a glass of iced tea, my laptop (for Tweeting updates and checking challenges), and a notebook for tracking time started and stopped. Then I got down to reading.

Over the course of the weekend, I’m pleased to say I read three complete books, half of a fourth, a short story, and several essays. My “big read” was Tana French’s IN THE WOODS, the first title in her Dublin Murder Squad series, which I’ve had on the TBR list for ages and I knew, based on the recommendations of so many people, I would love. It’s not a hugely long book, but over 400 pages in trade, with smallish print, so I read it in chunks and broke it up with some nonfiction as the weekend progressed. In that way, I also read Peter Ackroyd’s LONDON UNDER: THE SECRET HISTORY BENEATH THE STREETS, a fairly short history of the city’s underpinnings, including relics from Roman times, the water and sewer systems, the building of the Underground, and the tunnels where the government lurked during WWII; and Peter Mendelsund’s WHAT WE SEE WHEN WE READ, which is all about how the words on the page translate to images in our mind, and includes some fabulous graphics and illustrations. My partial read was NEVER LET ME GO by Kazuo Ishiguro, which I look forward to finishing, but of course, having returned to the real, non-readathon world, I have not picked up since Sunday night. I also read the title short story in BOBCAT AND OTHER STORIES by Rebecca Lee, and the first several essays in Roxane Gay’s BAD FEMINIST.

The result of my reading binge? I feel human again. Like my truest self. I’ve always loved to read, and this weekend just served to remind me how important it is to my general well-being and happiness that I get some time periodically to read books purely for pleasure, of my own choosing, with absolutely no relation to the books I read for work purposes. It didn’t hurt that I knew a bunch of like-minded folk were busily reading at the same time, all over the globe, coming together periodically to announce they’d finished another book, or to take funny photos for the readathon challenges.

If you’re interested in the details of the readathon, do check out the Tumblr or check the #24in48 tag on Twitter. And I’ll leave you with my contribution to one of the weekend challenges — Spine Poetry. The idea was to choose several books and stack them so their titles read one after another became a short poem.

SpinePoetry