an unexpected consequence of e-readers


I didn’t want an e-reader. I mean I really really really didn’t want an e-reader. I would read paper books only. And that was that.

Until I bought an iPad. Then I discovered how easy it is to read with a reader. And how wonderful it is to have books available all the time. Heck, my library even lends e-books! I discovered how comfortable it is to read curled up half hidden under the blankets with the lights off–reading in the dark!!! Who would have thought? My inner child was smiling in delight!

But I noticed something the other day when I was looking for my next book to read: I’ve become fussy. All of a sudden I can sample an endless supply of books without doing any work at all. I don’t have to go the bookstore or the library. I don’t have to spend hours looking at titles and reading the flaps and the first pages and decide if I want to bring something home or return it to the shelf. I don’t have google reviews and decide if I want to add the book to my cart.

I can read a few pages without any sort of commitment at all.

I noticed this, and I noticed that I would literally read a line or two sometimes and delete the sample. Sometimes a paragraph. Most of the time not even a page.

This wasn’t a conscious decision. And this is certainly not something I would have done before. Read one line and give up on the book? Never. And yet, here I am doing it.

As a writer, I questioned myself: What kept me reading past those first lines? And more importantly, why didn’t I keep reading?

The answer was that I wanted immediacy. I wanted to be brought into a situation right of the bat. If there was descriptive prose, it had to be linked to something or someone. It couldn’t be words for the sake of beauty alone. So, not only have I become a fussy reader, I’ve become an impatient one. I don’t want to sift through pages and paragraphs to get to the story, I want to be in it with the very first word.

The take away message here is this: Writers, if we thought those first lines were important, e-readers have made them even more so.

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.

Anyone reading the Mortal Instruments series, by Cassandra Clare?

city of glass

Yes – I’m a grownup (or so the numbers in my age tell me)! But, I have just started reading Book three in the Mortal Instruments YA series, and I am waiting for Jace and Clary to find out they are not brother and sister – this IS going to happen, right? right? (no – don’t tell me!)
I have read the three books (or, rather devoured) them back to back, and I just began this one yesterday.
Cassandra Clare has done a really good job in creating intriguing people that even an adult can love. She writes page-turners, and I think any writer can learn from that.

Looks like she’s writing a prequel now – must be an interesting back story all about Valentine, Luke, and Jocelyn.