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/)

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.

Read, read, read — It’s your job!

I’ve been editing. And I’m at a point where it’s a slow process. I feel like me and my novel are trying to outdo each other, and I’m trying to see what it’s hiding, and it’s waiting for me to do something…

Which leaves me sitting and staring and thinking, but I’m pretty sure I’m outwitting my novel, and I’m going to win and have it all fixed up, I’m certain of it!

In the midst of all this slowness, I’m reading. I read all the time, usually at bed time, but now I’m filling up day time hours reading as well. I’m not procrastinating with my writing, I’m just not rushing and making more of a muck with it.

I haven’t consciously been reading across genres, but now that I realize I have been I’ll try to make more of a point of doing so. Of exploring genres I would not normally gravitate towards. I’ve also been reading more than one novel at a time (which is something I never do, unless I’m reading non-fiction).

In the last short while I’ve read, or begun:

fantasy, Sharon Shin, the first in the Twelve Houses series (I really liked it – anything to do with magic and I’m pretty much hooked). I liked it so much that I’ve begun the second in the series!

chick-lit, Cecelia Ahern, The Time of my LIfe. (pure turn off brain time. I need it on occasion)

The Help. not sure what genre that is – can I just call it fiction? I love it so far, the voice is amazing.

Cathryn Grant’s, Madison novellas. These books have their own genre: suburban noir. Madison is quirky and great and really fun to read!

The First Five Pages: writing book. It’s been a while since I’ve a writing book, and I read pertinent sections. A little refresher.

I think I’ll have to begin exploring horror – something I haven’t done in years. And it’s also been ages since I’ve read pure sci-fi.

When I first starting writing not that many years ago the advice I heard over and over was read the genre you’re writing. Recently, I’ve noticed a shift, now we’re being told to read cross-genre.

Personally, I learn different things from the various genres. YA teaches me a lot about characterization. Thriller teaches me about pace and plotting, and also about withholding and dispensing info. Romance teaches me about relationships and persona authenticity. Historical fiction teaches me about scene-setting and description. Fantasy about detail. And on and on and on. And usually I’ll get a lot more than that out of each individual novel.

How about you: do you read cross genre? And does your reading affect your writing?

keeping up with myself.

Have you ever read something that made you re-consider all you thought you knew about writing?

Ok, maybe that’s a little too dramatic, a little too overwhelming to even consider, but what about reading a book that seems to break all the rules, and yet reads beautifully?

The book that got all this churning is Tiger’s Wife, by Tea Obreht.

I’ve read the reviews, and it seems some people don’t agree with me that Obreht’s book is great, but enough do that she’s won some awards and been nominated for others, and she’s certainly generated a buzz.

In reality, I think she mainly only broke one rule: her novel reads like short stories that were squeezed into one entity. The book consists of stories and various characters, and we move ominously (and often omnisciently)  in and out of them. I can see that it can be confusing and odd, but I left myself go with it and it grabbed me.

At one point reading Tiger’s Wife I thought to myself, this is how I would have written when I was in my early twenties if I had been writing then. This thought stopped me in my tracks. I realized that I was impressed with Obreht’s freedom of movement within her novel, and that in my twenties this freedom was innate in me. I scared by this thought: Was I being true to myself as a writer, or was I holding back, unknowingly following someone else’s standards?

Now, in my thirties, I’m more stuck in some sense, more fixed. And when I write, I follow rules. And I do think we all need to follow rules. It’s just that for each of us those rules need to be different, and evolving, and most likely different for each piece we work with.

I can’t write with the same movement I would have ten years ago. My movements now are big and vast, but they are taken with precision and aim. It doesn’t mean it’s better or worse, just different.

Part of writing is about writing who we are. Today. And this is the best freedom of all.