Monday, January 31, 2011

On Expanding One's Reading Horizons -- Or, I'll Only Read That If You Make Me

I am known for horning my way into book clubs...well, the same book club actually. When I moved to Durango, CO, in 2003, I heard my staff talking about their book club. To make things really awkward, I asked if I could join. How do you tell your new boss "no"? Not my finest moment, but the Mountain Sistahs welcomed me with open arms.

Somewhere along the way I decided I was too busy with work to have outside interests. Can you see the warning sign that I didn't? So, I quit.
After a number of years, I wised up, established better work boundaries, stopped saying yes to every request to volunteer, and carved out time for me. Then last summer, I saw a member of the Sistahs getting her hair done at my stylist's shop. Once again, I "invited" myself back into the group. Actually, I asked Jackie to ask the rest of the group if they'd accept me back.. And they did!

Last Wednesday was book-picking time again! I was so excited...until I realized how much interest there was in non-fiction titles. I wanted fiction! Non-fiction always felt like school-work or an obligation. Fiction transported me to other worlds. Fiction was fun!
Some members sensed my panic and assured me it's usually an even mix. I have to admit that some of the non-fiction picks in the past ended up being some of my favorite books (The Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, and From the Land of Green Ghosts by Pascal Khoo Thwe). The book club forces me (gently) to expand my reading horizons and read books I'd not otherwise buy or check out from the library.

My contribution to the reading list was The Sky is Everywhere, a young adult novel by Jandy Nelson. If my group can agree to read young adult, then I sure as heck can read some non-fiction. you gravitate to fiction or non-fiction?
Have you been pleasantly surprised by a book that was outside your typical reading tastes?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

To Buy (Or Not to Buy) a Book -- That's a Loaded Question

I've blogged, tweeted and Facebooked about a great web site called Authors (published and not) load page 99 of their book onto the site and readers comment on whether they'd turn the page and if they'd be inclined to buy the book.

I'm excited that page 99 from This Side of Crazy earned a "Page Turner" designation! Seventy-three percent would turn the page (the average in the general fiction genre is 48 percent).

This is all well and good -- except that opinions are subjective. One commenter compared the writing to To Kill a Mockingbird while another called it a bit overdramatic. I still think it's useful for authors to get this type of feedback, so I encourage you to bounce around the site and read a few page 99s. They're anonymous, sorted by genre.

Since the basic premise of the web site is that reading page 99 of a book can convince someone to buy (or not buy) a book, I wonder what compels you to make a book purchase?
  • Interesting title?
  • Cover design?
  • First couple of pages?
  • Inside flap or back cover description?
  • Recommendation from a friend?
  • Book review in newspaper or magazine?
  • Something else?

Would love to hear your thoughts!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Gleeful Journeys

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m in Texas visiting family. My niece, Haley, received the first season of Glee on DVD. Watching the series has become a family activity. Everyone (including my 20-year-old nephew) loves it. Each time we hear the closing music we want more! Anyway, back on topic. What’s on my mind today is the season one finale where the Glee club goes to regionals to compete.

They know they’re underdogs but try to stay confident. Then, their competition shows up one day in the auditorium, does a number and completely destroys the confidence of Glee club members.

Mr. Schuester, the Glee club sponsor, suggests a medley of Journey songs as their regionals routine to remind them that winning isn’t what’s important – it’s the journey, the experiences we have and share along the way. One of the songs was “Don’t Stop Believing.”

I know this applies to my writing life. There’s no end point – a prize – that will make me a real author. I’m an author today. The journey is going to include a lot of ups and downs. Does that mean I can’t be ecstatic that an agent asked to see my full manuscript this week? I’d miss out on so much if I lived in expectation of the day when it won’t be “hard” anymore. It will always be hard.

My new writer friend has an agent (hurray!). She’s completed three manuscripts (triple hurray). Yet, she received three rejections from publishers this week. She’s still a success in my eyes. After a cupcake or two, I know she’s feeling better and that her journey continues. After all, she’s a writer. What can she do but keep writing?

What’s your journey?