End Reading Shaming

End Reading Shaming

My current To Be Read pile

My parents had a simple philosophy when we were growing up: “reading is reading.” They never confined us to a specific section of the bookstore, and they never took a book out of our hands because it wasn’t “age-appropriate.” (Unlike several librarians I can name) Which is why I bypassed what would now be considered the Young Readers section by the age of 8, moving on the Fantasy & Science Fiction section. (Young Adult wasn’t a thing back then)

I’ve held to that philosophy throughout my life. Simply put, I read what piques my interest. I don’t care what section the book comes from. Why should I? I write speculative fiction. My worlds don’t exist in reality. My ideas come from anything and everything. As such, I explore EVERY possibility. That means reading every possibility.

People give me the strangest looks in the store.

I grew up watching Anime. As such, I love Manga. Some I read because I loved the Anime and want to compare the original comic. (If you’ve only ever made fun of Sailor Moon, you don’t know the beauty you’re missing out on) Some are hauntingly bewitching in their art and make me cry no matter how often I read them (Full Moon o Sagashite). Others I’ve become so obsessed with, I’ve started learning Japanese because I can’t stand the fact I have to wait AN ENTIRE YEAR between volumes (Skip-Beat – my sister’s to blame for getting me started on that one).

Japan has light novels, which combine gorgeous drawings with writing. Anime usually follow these creations. They’re shelved in the same section, and I have a host of those I follow. Typically, they’re released faster than Manga, so my wait time is shorter. Sword Art Online was my first obsession here, and I’ve followed the series through multiple story arcs.

But I’m not a teenager, so people stare.

I write in the YA genre. Logic says read what you write. Okay, fuck logic – there’s amazing YA out there. The majority of what I read these days is YA. I stalk certain authors (Cassandra Clare, Rin Chupeco, Sarah J. Maas, S.J. Kincaid, Merissa Meyer) through Amazon so I know when their books are hitting the shelves. While that section isn’t my first stop in the store, I do always end up there eventually. I take risks on new authors in the YA section – something I’m usually loathe to do in other sections. I can’t explain why other than to say the blurbs are more appealing and the cover art is better. (I don’t listen to book reviewers – sorry) The majority of authors I buy hardback books from are YA authors.

However, not a young adult, so people give me strange looks.

And don’t get me started on the alarmed looks when I hit up the Young Readers section. Let me explain something to the uneducated: a book is considered a “Young Reader” because of the age of the characters in the book. That’s it. Which is why His Dark Materials is shelved there, despite the fact the religious debate and concept of duality in human nature are WAY over the heads of most children Lyra’s age. I re-read my copy and marvel every time at nuances I’ve missed (and laugh hysterically that I had to hunt the book down in that section – it is in the YA section now).

Have you ever been over there? There are ENORMOUS books over there! There are amazing books in that section! Read the blurbs sometimes. The worlds an characters – they’re phenomenal! Artemis Fowl is one of the best antiheroes I’ve encountered in a long time! If you skip the section because it’s next to Dr. Seuss (and, seriously, why are you NOT reading Dr. Seuss?), you’re missing out. Brave the looks and walk your butt over there.

Stop reading shaming!

READING IS READING! Where you pick up a well-written book shouldn’t matter. Comics (totally love Spider-Gwen/Ghost Spider and Harley Quinn) your thing? Fine! (If you feel a need to call them Graphic Novels to make yourself feel elevated, whatever works for you) Children’s books? Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book is one of the best things I’ve ever read.

I don’t understand this need to put people in a box. Bookstores are OPEN. Libraries are OPEN. Stop shuttling people into sections like cattle. Let people explore and find new ideas, new authors. I put everything I read up on my Goodreads feed – I’m not ashamed! I’M A READER! I pull out anything and everything for my niece and nephew, exposing them to the best books that have crossed my paths. I want them to be readers, and I don’t want them to be afraid to explore.

If you’ve never left your “section” for fear of the LOOKS, try it. You’re missing out by confining yourself. Pick up a new book, a new author. You won’t regret it, I promise you.

Let There be Cake

Let There be Cake

Sampling of cake slices
Image by dydona from Pixabay

While there’s controversy behind the quote and the intended message behind it, Marie Antoinette was definitely onto something. When things are going haywire, and you feel like throwing in the towel, few things make you feel better quite like cake. (I’m not advocating eating cake to solve your problems, so don’t fuss at me) Guess what happens to be a part of most weddings?

CAKE!

Even in the insane, crazy times we’re currently living in, most bakeries are still in operation. That means wedding consultations (and, subsequently, wedding cakes) are still possible – a fun fact I learned this month. We put off trying to schedule our consultations until the state started reopening, assuming that consultations were impossible. Turns out, most of these bakeries were smart and found ways to adapt. Since take-out and pick-up have been staples for a lot of restaurants, they followed the same pattern. Pick up your chosen sampling flavors in the morning, and then you could have a phone consultation in the afternoon. Easy as pie…er, cake.

I’ll get to the cake in a minute. What I want to share is the amazing communion with a fellow artist. Now, I can barely get a boxed cake to work, and anything short of smearing frosting is beyond my capability. These bakers took our Pinterest images, pictures of our cake toppers, and our conversations about our wedding theme and ideas and came up with the most amazing designs. It was like watching magic unfold!

The excitement they had for everything, from colors to tiny details, was infectious (the good kind). For that short hour, we forgot what was going on. Forgot we were wearing masks (not everyone wanted phone consultations), forgot we had to ask about their plague policy, forgot everything else that was bothering us. We laughed, we smiled, we imagined our wedding day and what our cake was going to look like. Those awesome people took us out of the mess of the world and gave us a moment of joy.

There aren’t enough thanks for that!

Even the bakeries we elected not to choose (I mean, we only need one cake) – there’s just no way to express the appreciation for the solace granted. An hour’s peace? How do you reward that? It was beyond description. Artists, in every way you can think of to define the word.

And then there was the cake.

The CAKE!

If you aren’t getting married, find someone who is and beg to go to the tasting. Seriously – find a reason to go. I mean, obviously make sure they aren’t going to one star bakeries first, but then beg to go. (Why would you go to a poorly reviewed bakery, though? That’s madness) Now, I’ll admit, some cakes were better than others. But you get to eat cake – in the middle of the day! You’re ENCOURAGED to eat cake! With frosting!

Okay, so you have to share it with your significant other, but…CAKE! It was awesome. We’re having cupcakes along with the cake, so we chose bakeries specializing in cupcakes. That meant getting to split cupcakes between us rather than a piece of cake. So awesome! I mean, the sugar crash wasn’t so great, but I regret nothing. Especially from the bakery we settled on: Twisted Sisters.

Think it can’t get better?

A lot of these small bakeries (we’ve intentionally aimed for as many small businesses as possible) have perks. We’re now enrolled in their loyalty program, which means (once we’ve completely paid for everything) a lot of free cupcakes. How do you beat that?!

So, yeah, things are screwed up in the world right now. But this month I got a few hours to smile. I got a few hours to laugh. I got to eat some amazing cupcakes. And I cannot thank the people involved enough for granting me those hours of mirth, joy, and peace.

Maybe it was their job. Maybe it’s something they do for every couple.

To me, it meant the world.

Shoveling…Something

Shoveling…Something

Writers are often told to sit down and write something – anything – at all times. All writing is just “shoveling sand into the sandbox” so you have something to work with later. It’s a beautiful thought, and, in theory, it works great. It stops you from working too hard at finding the perfect turn of phrase, and it get can you around writer’s block.

In reality? It doesn’t always work.

Sometimes, you look down and realize that what you’re shoveling isn’t sand – and you are never going to build a sandcastle out of that mess. When there are extenuating outside circumstances intruding and overriding your brain, you get blocked in other ways. In that case, there does come a time to set the shovel down.

I mention this because I’m facing such a time myself. Pain has invaded my entire brain, and everything I put down is absolute crap – literally. There’s nothing redeeming about it, and simply throwing words down to get words down is more frustrating than helpful. Writing when you’re frustrated?

Bad idea!

All I’m going to end up doing is erasing everything later – waste of time. So what do you do in these situations? You read. You read your previous work. You read someone else’s work (don’t edit someone else’s work – that isn’t fair to them). You read cereal boxes. Just engage the creative part of your brain in another form.

And let the sandbox have a break – the sand will be there tomorrow.

We’re Awesome

We’re Awesome

"Smile and the world smiles with you"
Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

Writing is competitive. Whether we’re submitting a pitch for a magazine article, sending in an essay for a competition, or submitting our novel to an agent or publisher, we know that hundreds of thousands of other writers are doing the exact the same thing. When we sit down to draft that cover letter or proposal or scrutinize that final draft, we’re trying to make sure that we’re doing something that will stand out from everyone else and shine all the brighter.

Nothing wrong there!

After all, we want to win that competition, or secure the contract to write that article, or net that agent/get to sign a deal with that publisher! We’re aiming for the dream of being a published author, seeing our name in print. Along with all of the others out there that we encounter in our writing groups and workshops.

What sets us apart, though, from other careers, other vocations, is that even though we’re in competition with each other, we’re also the biggest fans of one another.

Read that again:

Writers care about and cheer each other on!

Madness, right? Yet we do!

We sit down in workshops, and while we pick each other’s works apart, we do so with the intent of making the work BETTER. We aren’t sitting down to belittle each other or tell the other person they’re a hack. We sit down and analyze words on a piece of paper to figure out how to make them shine. We offer suggestions and marvel at the ingenuity and imagination of one another. We lift each other up and offer encouragement. We puzzle out knots and, when necessary, we murder useless characters. We’re frank with each other, and we emerge better for every session.

We post about our accomplishments and cheer for everyone, regardless of how small or large. We “hold hands” when one of us is going through a rough patch. We boost one another during our slow times. We send laughs and jokes when we’re down. We form a net of support and reassurance that is always there – unwavering, constant.

It’s wonderful, and it’s refreshing because I haven’t always experienced this circle of acceptance and caring. In my previous career, it was a false smile carried over a sharp blade that could be buried in your back at any moment. No one actually cared about you – everyone was out for themselves. No one wanted you to succeed, and if they said they wanted you to learn, it was only so it would benefit them. It was gutting, and it ate at the soul.

And I will never do that again!

Writers genuinely care about other writers, and we like to see each other succeed. Sure, we feel a twinge when someone close to us lands that publishing deal and we don’t, but it spurs us on to try harder. The best part is, our writing friends don’t just spontaneously ditch us – they continue to haul us around and demand better from us.

Writers seek the best from each other, and they know what each of us are capable of giving. We all want one another to succeed, and we want the best from each other. I think that’s why we form the support network we do, and why it’s so empowering to belong to this group.

You’ll definitely not find another group that’s better out there.