[THE WRITER'S LIFE] Read and Write
Written by
Cindy Eastman
October 2017
Written by
Cindy Eastman
October 2017

A quote showed up on my Facebook feed recently that got me thinking about my reading habits. Which have become pretty much nonexistent over the last few years. It’s ironic that the drop off in my reading coincided with the editing and publishing of my first book. Since the book was published, my former reading time has been occupied by my new job: book promoter. (We won’t talk about how my obsession with Twitter has impacted my reading time. Because I’m reading, aren’t I?)

Anyway...here’s the quote:

I know I have to read more, and that it makes me a better writer, but it can be difficult to find (make) the time for it. In addition to being my own promoter, I maintain a writing life by being involved in writing activities outside my writing time. This includes holding writing retreats, pretending I meet my deadlines with this blog, submitting to other online publications, meeting with my writing group and staying involved with events that promote authors, reading and writing. For example, I am joining other local authors at our town library for a panel on writing and publishing this month for Indie Author Day.

Another pursuit I engage in is to serve on the advisory board of our state Center for the Book.  Each state has an affiliate established by the Library of Congress Center for the Book. Their mission is to promote books and libraries, literacy and reading, and poetry and literature. Our state Center for the book recently revived the CT Book Awards and as a member of the board, I had the opportunity to read many of over 100 books submitted for consideration.

It was daunting, especially given my rusty reading skills. I didn’t have to read all of them, of course, but I wanted to show my commitment to the program so I dove in. I started with reading in bed before I went to sleep. Bad idea: I got past maybe one page every time I tried that method. And I’d still have to go back and reread. I read in my living room and in my office. I sat on my back porch with wine and coffee--but not at the same time. Eventually, I began to pick up my old rhythm; I’m a fast reader, so sometimes I have to remember to slow myself down so I don’t miss things. But it’s an easy and familiar relationship, the one I have with reading books. I felt like I had reconnected with an old friend.

But the books! I had stacks of books I would have never picked up in a library or bookstore. Thick historical novels, slim little romances, slick modern lit and mysteries all with covers I judged to be self, traditional or hybrid produced. I plowed through my stack with the determination of an addict to stay on the wagon. Certainly, there were some books that just didn’t capture my interest, but most of them actually did.

It’s not that I was surprised by the revelation that I enjoyed so many of the books, but more that I was reminded. Of course I liked them...they were well written stories with interesting plots and engaging characters. Reading for the awards program was a little like when I first published with She Writes Press. In an effort to be supportive of my author-sisters, I was going to read all of the other authors’ books! It was a little ambitious, even for a fast reader like me. But, I had the same experience then, too. I read memoir and self-help and even an urban fantasy romance that blew me away the writing was so good. (LG O’Connor...you won’t be sorry.)

To be an effective writer, I have to read outside my reading comfort zone. It’s like introducing yourself to everyone at a party and not just stick with the friends you came with. You never know what kind of fascinating person you might meet; an interesting story, a handy new connection. So much more is open to you when you expand outside the familiar. It’s the same with a book. The ideas and viewpoints that reading a new book can give you are immeasurable; even being exposed to a new author’s writing style can influence one’s understanding of their own self-expression.

Hopefully, my recent experience will keep my reading practice on course and my reading choices diverse. I still have a growing TBR pile for my She Writes Press sisters in addition to the books I usually choose (Agent Pendergast anyone?). Choosing outside one’s reading comfort zone is as easy as walking down a different aisle at the bookstore. Or start with the SWP Author page on the She Writes Press site. Not every attempt at changing up your book selections will be a success, but I bet, for most of you, you’ll end up surprising yourself.

Let me know. 

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