I have been hopping all over the place, as far as books go this year. It seems one book leads to another leads to another leads to another. Between hearing about them on Instagram and Twitter, I have also been picking up titles through my reading of non-fiction titles. A lot of books are name-dropped in memoir and non-fiction, apparently. It’s been great to get all of these suggestions while reading.
It would be really difficult to pick a favourite in what I’ve read thus far this year. Last year had a CLEAR FAVOURITE in Nina Simone’s Gum by Warren Ellis.
I know I love a book when I immediately start selling it to other readers. I mentioned that book to whoever would listen. I bought a copy for my daughter before I even got to the end. I needed to have someone to talk to about it. So wondrous!
This year, so far, I have so many faves…I can’t narrow it down. A WAITER IN PARIS, APPARENTLY THERE WERE COMPLAINTS, REMEMBERINGS, REACHING NINETY, PURPLE HIBISCUS, SPECIAL DELUXE, MISSING FROM THE VILLAGE, JUST KIDS, TO BE A GAY MAN. I’d recommend all of these titles. It’s been a good year so far!
I can’t wait to see what avenues I wander down next. I have a list of candidates, thanks to the usual sources!
I really enjoyed reading an excerpt from my latest young adult novel, Book of Dreams. There was a great supportive crowd of listeners there to hear the 5 authors read from their latest novels.
It was also amazing to see my fellow writers. We all realized how much we’ve been missing literary events and each other. Until just prior to the pandemic, the writing community in the area was vital and vibrant. In fact, it was a creative lifeline for a great many writers…myself included. I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I was once again around my people last night.
The other four author/readers, as they appeared last night…
All of these four readers did tremendous jobs! You could tell by the hushed leaned-forward attitudes of all those in attendance, that they held a captive audience. Such great readings!
Here’s some purchase links for those authors in attendance and participating in the reading:
In the audience last night was Girl Mans Up author M-E Girard! It was M-E who brought up the need of community that we have been missing since the writing community of Durham Region (WCDR) events slowed down in the pandemic years. We all mourned the loss of our creative community gatherings and opened a discussion for getting back together and reigniting that spark.
M-E has a new book coming out in just a couple of months! On the heels of the highly successful Girl Mans Up, look for their highly anticipated sophomore novel THEN EVERYTHING HAPPENS AT ONCE…coming January 31st, 2023!
Click the image below:
All in all, it was a fun night! It was good to be back in the literary lane for a bit! Hopefully we’ll get together for some writing in the future. It would be great to get back to some of that creative energy that came about from being around the WCDR crowd!
This writer just spent most of their year READING. Don’t come here and tell me that reading is not a part of the writing process, because I promise if you do I will slap you. But also, I should have found at least some time to devote to writing during this manic year of reading. It was definitely a year of reading dangerously…
But I do feel the return of writing. It’s there. About to burst forth from the shadows. And just in time. I’m way overdue on the deadline for my next contracted novel. I just… somewhere in the back of my mind I knew how important the heavy reading was this year. I was getting reacquainted with words, if that makes any sense. The dry-spell was a refueling time. I needed to read all of these books in order to get back into writing.
My Goodreads Challenge for 2022 was set at an impossible (for me) goal of 30 books.
Today, I just closed the cover on book number seventy-five for 2022. Looking back at my choices, I can really see how much Paris was in my thoughts this year. Having returned from my favourite city in October, 2021, I was ready to devour any and all books I could find based on, set in, about all things Paris. I began with two books I picked up at Shakespeare & Company prior to leaving the city of light.
But I also had a strong drive this year to read memoir. I jumped from musicians to actors to comedians to everyday people with a life story to tell. I’ve always been a huge fan of memoir. I’ve even dabbled in short memoir pieces in my writing life. I’ve had memoir appear in Globe & Mail, and I also recorded memoir that aired on CBC Radio 1. I really fall hard for memoir as a reader.
The books below are my 2022 reads. The first one pictured was my last read and the last one pictured was my first read of 2022. I’m reeling at the moment, realizing how many of the anxieties and fears I share with serial memoirist Augusten Burroughs. Wow…it was shocking and eye-opening. I’m not the only catatrophist in the world, constantly imagining the worst case scenario and taking situations to dire endings in my imagination at every turn. A passage in Lust & Wonder about his worry of losing his dogs if they were unleashed could have literally be written by me. I know this scenario has played out in my mind time and time again. Spooky!
Anyway, for what it’s worth…I read SO many books so far this year. I consider this an amazing accomplishment. I always hated the speed with which I read. I see other people reading two or three or more books in the time it takes me to read just one.
This year, I needed to lose myself in reading. I knew there was something going on with my writer side… I needed some kind of refueling that wasn’t happening with a forced doubling down on writing. I knew I had to surround myself with words. And that is exactly what I did. I even threw in a couple Natalie Goldbergs, as she helped me in my writing life so many times over the years. Such a great year for reading!
When I first discovered Matthew Quick, I was at an interesting crossroads in my own writing journey. I had written a couple novels for adults and I was pondering writing for the young adult market. For some reason, I got it in my head that I couldn’t do both. One could either be an adult author OR a young adult author. I don’t know why I thought this, but I did. I’ve made it a point throughout my writing journey to always remind myself that THERE ARE NO RULES. There are guidelines, there is good advice and there is bad advice…but there are no steadfast rules. Writing is what you want it to be.
And yet, here I was…trying to make this decision. And while on the fence, I really sweated about it. I loved the darker issues I could explore writing contemporary adult novels, but I also loved the idea of exploring dark issues in a teenager setting…the coming of age in the high school environment novel. I was weighing the pros and cons of the two markets, because, as I said, I thought it had to be EITHER OR.
Enter Matthew Quick. No…I’m not going to be so bold as to call him my savior, or anything as nutty as that. I’m just gonna say that he reminded me of my own first rule of the Writer Club. The first rule of Writer Club is that there are no rules in Writer Club. He didn’t do this right away, mind you. At the time, I was mass-consuming YA novels…as part of my research in the market. Well, that’s what I was telling myself. Truth be told, I LOVE reading YA. But I was reading solely YA to get a feel for the landscape of the market. I was dissecting books for themes, formula, what-have-you.
I picked up BOY21 for several reasons. Because it seemed to have strong male and female ‘leads’. Because it was sportscentric. Because the blurb really caught my fancy. Sometimes, I’ll admit right here and now, I am sold by a cover. Or, at least, I am gripped by the cover and moved to learn more about a book. BOY21 had an awesome cover. Anyway, I picked it up and I read it. And I fell in love with it.
You know when you discover a novelist and then check out there other books and get excited because you get to spend more time with them? Well, immediately after I finished BOY21 I searched to find out what other Matthew Quick offerings there were on tap at the Kindle store.
HOLD THE PHONE!
The Silver Linings Playbook. Can it be? A contemporary ADULT novel?! Oh my God! He writes for adults AND young adults! YES!
Okay, so Matthew Quick may not be the first author in the history of authorship to do this. But he was the author I discovered doing it when I needed the permission to do it myself. When I needed to realize that it could actually be done. And not only was he writing for both markets, but it would seem he wrote quirky characters. I wrote quirky characters, too. I immediately purchased The Silver Linings Playbook. And I devoured it. And I thought it was a masterpiece!
Click on the book covers to read my reviews of these two Matthew Quick novels:
I later went through Quick’s full catalogue and loved all his books. I eagerly await his forthcoming THE GOOD LUCK OF RIGHT NOW! I have it pre-ordered. And on February 11th, when I wake up, it will have been magically delivered to my Kindle! I know what I’ll be reading that day!
Click on the book cover below to read the synopsis of Quick’s latest offering:
Okay, so on the surface this post may seem like a commercial for Matthew Quick’s books. But I swear to you, the whole purpose of the post is to tell writers to keep reminding themselves of the fluidity of the rules they should live by. When you find yourself questioning whether or not you can do something, DO IT. Try it, anyway. Don’t listen to people who say do this, don’t do that. I was very close to saying goodbye to one of the markets in question, even though I loved both! It was through my discovery of Matthew Quick’s novels that I found the permission to carry on carrying on. Because I saw that he accomplished writing for both adults and young adults, I knew that I could take the same path. And I did. And I for one am extremely grateful for Matthew Quick.
But seriously, check out his books. You’ll love them! (-:
Ten years ago. That was when I did my first reading at a microphone. I was a complete and utter mess. Walking to the mic was equivalent to the walk to the gallows. Even thinking about speaking into the mic had me hoping and praying for a lightning bolt to take me from this mortal coil. And yet, there I was, walking up to the mic and preparing to read words that I myself actually wrote. The horror!
I neglected to mention that when I get myself into these pickles, it’s usually all or nothing. It’s a BIG BAD PICKLE! My first turn at the mic was actually in a recording studio at CBC Radio. Yep! Someone who hyperventilates at the mere imagining of sharing his words was stepping into a recording booth to–are you still with me here–SHARE. MY. WORDS! On a national scale. With people at a soundboard watching my every move. With the producer of one of the station’s most popular listener-contributed shows on CBC Radio1 (FIRST PERSON SINGULAR) smiling at me from the other side of the glass.
Go big or go home.
With that dip into the world of reading under my belt, you would think that it would begin to come easier to me…right? You’d be wrong. I was asked later in the same month to read the same piece in front of an audience of writers at the (WCDR) Writers’ Community of Durham Region’s monthly Breakfast Meeting. The request sent me into a tailspin of panic. I mean, I was ready to call 9-1-1 for myself. What did I do? I said YES. This only increased my anxiety. I thought of many ways to get out of this. I would tell them a taxi ran over my legs, so I’d be unable to make it to the meeting. I would tell them I was stung by a Brazilian Wandering Spider, and I only had a few short minutes to live…so I’d be unable to attend. Or, I could tell them I fell down one of those wells everybody always seemed to be falling down. These may seem like ludicrous alibis now, but at the time each one was viable. ANYTHING to get me out of the horror of reading my words in public. It was a double whammy of anxiety stew. Public speaking AND sharing my words. The horror!
I did it. I sat down with my back to the audience, but I did it.
The whole time I’ve been on this writing journey, I understood that public speaking and the sharing of my words were both necessary. I could not get out of either if I were to progress to anyplace of any significance. So, I hunkered down and accepted my dismal fate. I bit the bullet. I read. In public.
I think I’ve come a long way since that first audience interaction where the audience remained out of my field of vision and I sat down so that my wobbly legs were not forced to hold me vertical. I know I’ve become more comfortable…or that I’ve become more adept at hiding my discomfort. I’m not sure which one it is, but does it matter? I’m biting the bullet whenever I can, now. It hurts! I won’t ever pretend it doesn’t. But I’m doing it.
In today’s world, the writer is a self-promoting machine. It’s no longer enough to sit in a candle-lit garret room and write the next Gatsby. One has to take that work on the road. Even the shyest most introverted writer would do good to get to open mics and spread their words. Believe me when I admit to you here and now. I AM THAT SHYEST AND MOST INTROVERTED WRITER of which I speak. It’s me. I’m it. And if I can do it, anybody can.
Wherever you live, I’m sure there are open mics happening in your area. Do yourself a favour and sign up. Attend. Read at the mic. Listen. You will never get good at it if you don’t keep doing it…especially if you’re an anxiety ridden lunatic like myself. Keep this in mind before you attend your first one–people are there because they want to hear writers read. Upon arrival, you already have their support. All you have to do is read.
One more piece of advice. Whatever you write–read it aloud. Whether you intend to stand up in front of the mic and read it to an audience or not. READ IT TO YOURSELF. OUT LOUD. A writer who reads their work out loud will discover that this is one of the best editing tools in the writer’s toolbox. Hearing your words will help you to hear what works and what isn’t quite ready. The writer’s ear knows.
SO – There are times I start a post and it goes to drafts and it’s forgotten for ever. Or, at least until I accidentally stumble upon it months later. I just discovered this one and I have NO idea where I was going with it. I will now attempt to finish writing it and post it. I can’t imagine what I was thinking when I began it…from my recollection, I have never had dinner with Mr. Twain.
When I originally set out to have dinner with Mark, I had no idea what to serve. What do you serve the man who has been everywhere, seen everything?
I thought, ‘whatever I feed him, I’ll have to have chianti nearby for him to wash it down with‘. I searched everywhere for an old fashioned jug to serve the wine in. I don’t know why I knew it, but I knew it was an imperative that the wine be served in a jug. Something pulled out of the earth from sometime in the Pleistocene Epoch.
Everybody knows Mark Twain cannot have his wine poured from a bottle. That would be so gauche.
After sorting out the chianti situation, I moved on to the peas. Or, should that be string beans? Or carrots? Is there a literary themed vegetable? Surely someone must have written a masterpiece on the eggplant?
Immediately, Fruits & Vegetables popped into my head. You know…that awesome book of poetry by Erica Jong.
“I am thinking of the onion again, with its two O mouths, like the gaping holes in nobody. Of the outer skin, pinkish brown, peeled to reveal a greenish sphere, bald as a dead planet, glib as glass, & an odor almost animal.” ~ Erica Jong
And onions are an awesome thing. But I would never serve them as a side veg to the man who gave me The Innocents Abroad. I would cook with onions, saute them for the flavour and aroma…but they would not appear on the plate by themselves.
The next thought, “Potato I have.” Brought to you by the Dr. Seuss of the literary world, James Joyce himself. Although Leopold Bloom did everything with that potato but eat it, I was bound and determined to serve potato to Twain. For consumption. Just…not as a side veg. Mr. Mark Twain, I reasoned, would be nothing if not a meat and potatoes man. I mean, I could picture him at table with my own Poppy…picking at the new-fangled tower of ugly fruit and kiwi-infused kelp of the post-modern diner. Neither him nor Poppy would touch it to their lips. But both would inhale a good meal of MEAT & POTATOES. And I imagine they would eat the side veg, too, as long as it wasn’t…pretentious.
TURNIP! Only, I would call it rutabaga. This way, I give the man what he wants–wholesome, manly veg. And I get to slip a little pretension in there with the lofty moniker. Win-win. I thought I would boil them, mash them and throw in some brown sugar and lemon…for the extra kick in the face they would need to impress the Twain.
Let’s see… chianti, potatoes, turnip. I needed a meat!
Anybody who is breathing on planet earth today must know that Marky Mark’s favourite food was OYSTERS. But is that meat enough for a main course…of course not.
Yep. You know what happened. I found my appetizer! Served with a nice pumpkin beer and a black-pepper/hot-pepper infused olive oil bread–I knew I’d have him eating out of the palm of my hand. Or at least off the dishes in front of him. That’s a punch and a kick right there!
With a little help of my amazing ninja skill otherwise known as Google-Fu, I quickly learned that Twain would basically kill for a 2″ Porterhouse Steak. Not one for steak, myself, I figured I could make an exception. It was, after all, Mark Twain.
So, my menu was complete. I just had to remember to top it all off with throat-punchingly strong coffee (with hot milk, not cold cream) and a slice of—you guessed it—hot apple pie. You don’t serve the Great American Novelist dessert less American than hot apple pie. Though, if I had had it my way…I would have insisted on enlightening him to the delicacy of the BLUEBERRY BANG-BELLY.
Where was I?
Right. So dinner with Mark Twain.
Guess what! If you have an opportunity to break bread with an author—don’t worry about the tone and texture of the bread. Don’t do it! You sit…you talk.
Maybe I never once in my life had dinner with Mark Twain. But I know a good wordist™ when I read one (I just coined that word myself). I was 15 when I first took that trip around the globe with an excited Twain in his beautiful INNOCENTS ABROAD. Ever since I first read that book, I imagined Dinner with Twain. Not once, however, did I even passingly consider what we would be shoveling into our mouths at that table. This was a man who profoundly changed me. He changed what I wanted to be, who I wanted to be, where I wanted to go.
I guess my point is…use your opportunities. If you know you will have an opportunity to sit with a writer you respect…to share words and wisdom with them—FUCK THE DETAILS. No matter how high on the pedestal you perceive your giants to be, they are people just like you. Have a conversation…have the conversation you want to have with your heroes. Don’t pay too much attention to the details (odd advice coming from a writer, but I think you understand where it’s coming from in this instance). It doesn’t matter what the surroundings are, what food is on the table. What matters is that you both have an intrinsic thing in common. You both love words. Revel in that! Celebrate together.
An opportunity to spend time with a fellow writer is too beautiful a thing to waste.
As an aside, though…I would definitely have oysters at my Mark Twain meet-up. Dude would need serious ninja skills to get any, though. I’d stomp him for the last one. Oysters are a definite weakness for me. Filled with the yummy!
Next up to be interviewed for the Summer Reading Series is Marcel. Marcel lives in Toronto, Ontario, and you can Twitter follow him here: TORONTOHABSFAN One of my personal favourite Twitter handles! (-:
KC: Where do you read? Do you have any favourite places? Everywhere? Only in bed? On the subway? Favourite coffee shop?
MARCEL: Primarily, all my reading is done on transit. It’s my little distraction from everything else going on, but if I’m into the book I’ll read everywhere I can. Some books cannot be put down for that long.
KC: What book are you reading right now? And what are your thoughts on it so far?
MARCEL: I just started reading a book called Changing Tides by Michael Thomas Ford. I’m literally 4 pages in. So still getting into it. However I just wrapped the Hunger Games Trilogy. Such a heartbreaking, exhausting read. I really got into the books and just lost myself in them. I couldn’t put books 2 and 3 down.
KC: If you find you’re not really liking a book, do you still commit to reading it through to the end? If not, how far into it are you willing to go before putting it aside? If you DO commit, have you ever seen one through to the end to realize you were happy to have stuck it out?
MARCEL: I give every book 100 pages. If the story can’t draw me, away it goes. I have read a few books where I felt like it was going to be a chore to read only to get through and find myself liking it. Others I’ve stuck with and thought what a waste of my time.
KC: Who were your favourite authors as a child? Your favourite books?
MARCEL: I read every single Eric Wilson Mystery book I could get my hands on. Also read the Little House on the Prairie series; the Beverly Cleary books about Ralph. S. Mouse. And the geek in me read Shakespeare a lot too (13 year old).
KC: Your favourite authors as an adult?
MARCEL: As an adult I’ve read all of John Grisham, Michael Thomas Ford, Christopher Rice, Timothy James Beck, J.K. Rowling; Michael Connolly books. (I’m a complete-ist. If I find an author I like I read everything I can get my hands on.)
However my all-time favourite “book” cover is a comic book – issue 276 of THE AVENGERS:
KC: I SWEAR I had that issue of The Avengers when it first came out! Thor was my favourite. Definitely a great cover! Fess up – Are you an adult who reads YA? YA is one of the biggest growing markets out there right now…and a LOT of adults are consuming YA books in large quantities. Are you one of them?
MARCEL: I hate classification. Too me a story is a story, is a story. If I’m into it, I don’t care about the target market. So yes, I do read YA novels (I’ve read the entire Harry Potter Series 4 times; Just did the Hunger Games), but I was also reading Shakespeare at 12-15; Stephen King, V.C. Andrews and Anne Rice all before I hit 16. I think we need to stop pigeonholing ourselves with classifications. Let the masses decide what they want to read.
KC: I SO love your answer to that question. My thoughts exactly! Any books you’ve read recently that you won’t tell your friends you’ve read? Guilty little pleasures?
MARCEL: Lately – no. But I’m tempted to check out 50 Shades of Grey. I have no shame when it comes to books. I love the fact that I read books and show off that I do. If I can read a book called Sluts in public, I have no shame.
KC: Do you read fiction or non-fiction? Or a mix?
MARCEL: I do tend to aim for fiction. I like the escape a story give me. I don’t need to read real-life stuff, it’s too depressing.
KC: Do you recall any book-to-movie adaptations where you enjoyed the movie more than the book?
MARCEL: More than the book – nothing jumps to mind. There are a few adaptations where I’m ok with the changes made (most of the Harry Potter series for example).
KC: Do you have favourite genres? Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Contemporary, etc?
KC: Do you have favourite quotes from books? Any passages you felt compelled to highlight or call/text a friend at 3 in the morning to share it with them?
MARCEL: Nothing that really comes to mind. I was a fan of that first sentence from A Million Little Pieces, but I read it long after everyone else and took it for a work of fiction. I still maintain it’s a great story.
KC: “I wake from the drone of an airplane engine and the feeling of something warm dripping down my chin.” ~ First Sentence from A Million Little Piecesby James Frey.
That is quite a compelling sentence! Thanks so much for your time, Marcel. It’s been great reading your responses. We have some new titles to check out, and reminders of old favourites. Thank you!
I’m about to start a series of blog posts that I will probably share both here and at my book review blog. This is a series I’ve been thinking about covering for a while, and one I’m excited about.
Book talk is probably one of the hottest conversational topics in the world. EVERYBODY who reads loves to talk about the books they are reading. Readers are passionate about sharing book love. And in today’s internet age, it’s never been easier to talk books. I thought I would take advantage of this fact and interview a few readers!
When I asked for interviewees on Twitter, I was surprised to see how quickly the replies came in. But not really. (-: It just proves that people love to talk books. So, over the course of the coming weeks…I hope to have this be a fairly regular series. Readers really seem to kick it up a notch over the summer months. I’m going to pick a few brains and let you know where you can find these readers on the internet. They’ll be book bloggers, writers who read and just people who are passionate about reading.
The first interview should be posted within the next couple of days. Hope you enjoy!
Just a quick post to let you know I’ve started a book review blog. I’ve been following them and reading them for a couple of years now and always wanted to try it out myself. The first review is up and I’ll be posting the next in a couple of days. Reading an amazing new YA that I can’t wait to review! You can find the review blog here: