Jennifer Neri's Blog

Back of every creation, supporting it like an arch, is faith. Enthusiasm is nothing: it comes and goes. But if one believes, then miracles occur. Henry Miller


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Anytime, anywhere, anyplace, read!

According to my mom I was reading at two years-old. Now that I’ve had three children, I’m not sure I believe her. But one thing I’m quite certain about is that I was holding a book in my hands most of the time. When I began reading them is up for debate!

I read to my first child all the time. To my second as well. To my third…not as much. It’s something I try to squeeze in, but don’t often succeed at. Just the word squeeze makes me flinch. Reading shouldn’t be squeezed in, it should be enjoyed, treasured.

There are a million reasons why I don’t read as much to my third child. [My older children take music lessons and we practice everyday. They are both athletic, my son is on a competitive swim team, my daughter is a gymnast. Um, I forgot about the daily homework, which in an immersion program is very heavy. And then there's the daily household duties. So my poor little two-year old gets left to entertain himself much more than his sibling ever had to. This is not a bad thing, he's much more independent in some ways (in others not at all!), and he's become very good at getting into things he's not supposed to.]

But there will always be reasons.

Fostering a love of literature in my children is very important to me. I think it’s one of the greatest gifts we can give our children. I’m a writer after all, it’s my greatest passion. But the kids don’t see my process, and they are too young to understand it. All they see is mommy on the computer.

The other day I heard myself thinking, well, it’s okay that I don’t read to my toddler so often, he’ll either like books or he won’t.

Yesterday when it was just me and my eldest in the car he said: “I love reading. I love books. I have to read everyday. I can’t fall asleep if I don’t read.”

“Me too,” I said.

“Even when my eyes are so tired I can’t see properly, I’ll read,” he said.

“Me too,” I said, and laughed. I know that feeling so well, of struggling to keep my eyes open just to turn the page, and then another, and another.

“You fell asleep next to me every night for five years watching me read,” I continued. (yes it took that long before he was able to put himself to sleep. First child–what can I say?)

And that’s when it struck me. Sure, my two-year old may naturally gravitate towards books, but it’s my job as his mom to show him how important they are. How they are an integral part of our daily lives. We learn by example, and this is one example I don’t want to bypass.

If bedtime comes upon us too quickly, I’ll read after school, before diner, after diner. It doesn’t matter when a book is read. So long as it’s read.

 

How about you:

Do/did you read to your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, or any other little ones in your life?

And how important is reading to you? Is it something you do daily, or sporadically?

(*image taken from children’s colouring website: http://coloringtown.com/children-coloring-pages/)


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I want to go in there

It’s been an interesting summer so far having my three kids at home full-time.

The dynamic has been very different; my two-year old is showing his personality, making a bid for dominance, leaving my older two quite uncertain how to battle him without too much personal loss (ie. mommy rushing in to his rescue ’cause he’s only two and not five and stop fighting with him like you do with each other!!)

One of the ways I’ve come to make peace is by assigning one of the older ones to read him a book.

It’s been fun because the toddlers interest is expanding from board books to story books. The three of them huddle together and peer into the book, still arguing (of course!) about who gets to hold it or turn the pages, but eventually they settle down and fall into the story.

I naturally gravitate to them from whatever I’m doing (which is invariable preparing some kind of food for their bottomless stomachs–seriously, where do is all go??). I love watching them read, the expression, the body language, the rapture. It’s quite honestly one of my favourite things to do. That, and I love listening to the story itself, especially told through either of my older children, because they tell the story differently, and it reveals so much about them.

My toddler has begun pointing to pages that he likes and saying “I want to go in there.”

I’ve raised three kids and none of them ever said such a thing before. I think it’s wonderful that my toddler has the capacity to express his desire to enter story world.

My answer to him is always this: Close your eyes, and you can be there in your imagination. Occasionally he does close his eyes and I see a vast array of expressions pass over his face.

I love living with kids (well, when I don’t want to kill them) because they are a constant reminder of how much wonder there is around us. We adults have so much to learn from them.

When I write I have that exact sense my toddler expresses of going into the story. Without that I’m not sure I would ever be able to produce something worth reading. Without that I would gain no pleasure from writing. And as I edit myself to death, I needed that reminder to stay in the story in the same way I do writing a draft.

Story is the foundation of life, without it we would be mechanical. It’s what makes us learn and grow and change. It’s what makes experience. And seeing my toddler respond in this way has brought story back to its most fundamental form for me.


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Confession

This morning I had the opportunity to write again. It was the first time in four weeks. Four weeks of sick kids, being sick myself, my husband getting it too (a rare occurrence), of sleepless nights and days, of doctors, and clinics, and antibiotics.

When I was a kid I remember being sick for 2, maybe 3 days. A really bad one was a full week. When did they become month-long events??

(Luckily, I had downloaded Linda Cassidy Lewis’s debut novel, The Brevity of Roses to my iPhone to read during all this. I encourage you to read it. She has delivered engrossing characters that struggle with life, love, and acceptance of self and circumstance. Although the characters are all adults, I almost feel it’s a coming of age story, because the MC struggles so much to come to his own. Plus, Linda’s prose is beautiful and elegant. I’m almost at the end of the novel, and although I’ve read it scattered in time due to my own circumstance, the characters remain in my thoughts.)

When my mom (aka, my knight in shining armor) this morning told me I could go write, I stopped still. I didn’t know what to do. I had buried the writing so deep inside me I wasn’t certain I wanted to pull it out again.

I analyzed: baby woke me about 12 times last night. We both are still drippy, but oh so much better. Yet, we have swimming lessons, one hour diving lesson, both kids have piano practice. I have violin practice. Dinner. Math and reading with the eldest. And the baby to appease during all of it. Write?? She must be nuts! How will I write and have energy to do everything else?

So, I sat down and watched a few minutes of a PVRd sitcom (happy endings), baby clambering all over me, and decided, yes I must go write, whether I want to or not. And, really truly, I did not want to.

I had decided I was a writer. So, that means pushing through moments when I don’t want to write.  Because, nothing is eternally blissful, right? Sometimes it sucks and is difficult.

I had no idea how to come back. I ordered my latte and chocolatine, took out my journal, wrote exactly that: How to come back?

Well, to my surprise and delight, deciding to do it was enough. (This time.)  I came back right away. I refreshed myself in my journal, reminded myself where I was by jotting down a few phrases, read without interruption the scene I was at, and dug in.

It was great!! Wonderful! Energizing!

So, I’m back. I have no idea what’s coming, but today I wrote and I feel restored.


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oh, the weather outside is frightful, but it’s so delightful

Do you ever have so much on your mind that you don’t know what to blog about? Well, that’s been me lately. I feel like there’s a snow storm in my mind and I’m waiting for it to settle so that I can see the landscape. I love these moments of creative introspect, because they tend result in growth.

I’ve been reading On Writing, by Stephen King, but I’m not quite finished so I’ll save that post for another day. I just had to let you know that it’s set my gears knocking (I’m certain he would be most disappointed by this uninventive comparison, but hey, it’s all I that comes to mind right now.)

I have one child developing his french writing skills and learning to write expanded stories, another child learning to read, and a baby exploring sounds and speaking his first words, all making me remark on the wonder of language and my love of literature.

My eldest child is 7 years old and experienced “school yard” (’cause it’s not really in the school yard) angst for the first time, leading me to think of characterization, but the snow storm is at its apex over in this court.

December is a month of holidays. Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza. And in my family also a month full of birthdays. As always, life brings me to my writing, and my writing brings me to life. I haven’t fictionalized holidays and birthdays. I’ve been thinking about that, particularly the potential Halloween holds.

A little challenge to self: Write a short that’s set during Christmas. It’s only a setting after all not, not a situation. That will have to be developed. (I’ve just decided this now as I write – see what happens when you write a post on the fly? But I accept the challenge, and I’ll post it once the story reveals itself to me. It’s good to write outside the comfort zone sometimes. Any other takers?)

And, just the other day I was listening to an explanation of Brahms’s mind frame when he composed a particular piece (sorry, I don’t remember which.) He was mourning a failed engagement, and you could really feel the hope and anticipation in the musisc, followed by the disappointment and sorrow. This led me to think about my own writing situations.

I had always thought that I wrote quite apart from my real life. In one sense I do, my settings and scenarios are certainly not my life, but my situations, I realized, are often parallel.

When writing my first novel, I had recently given birth, and my grandmother (whom I was very close to) passed. Story situation: Man trying to scientifically prolong life. Yes, it’s a speculative fiction novel, but clearly contrived by my emotions. And here I thought I was writing free of my emotions, occasionally even to get away from them.

 

 

 

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