Read: [v] The act of interpreting and understanding language, symbols, and the written word.

Furiously: [adv] To do something with excitement and passion.

Congratulations to Lianne Cruz!

Pursit: A Collection of Artwork

has been selected as a Finalist in the Art category for the 2020 International Book Awards!

Showing posts with label babysitters club. Show all posts
Showing posts with label babysitters club. Show all posts

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Finding Time to Read Furiously

When I was a kid, my favorite activity was reading.  Maybe that's an understatement - my favorite activity was reading everything in my path.  Books, TV Guides (especially TV Guides, I really miss them), newspapers, Avon books, street name it, I read it.  I read as though I couldn't get the words into my brain fast enough. My mother would send me to clean up my room and she would catch me, two hours later, in a pile of stuff on the floor reading a book that I found under the bed.  Although I come from a family who reads, it drove my mother crazy.  But I couldn't stop; I always needed more books to read:  The Egypt Game, the Goosebump series, Judy Blume, The Babysitters Club series, Tuck Everlasting, A Book of Mermaids, The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, etc. We never had a lot of money, so my saving grace was the library.  I would take out so many books that we created a designated library tote bag.  I was proud of that tote bag - I insisted on carrying it myself, all the while thinking about where these books were going to take me.

Fast forward to high school and I was still reading everything I could get my hands on.  I fell into a group of friends who loved reading as much as I did; soon, we were in a book club that consisted of us eating lunch in the school library and reading silently (occasionally, someone would pause and read a line aloud to the rest of the group - quietly, of course). Together we discovered, among others,  Francesa Lia Block, David Sedaris, the Jessica Darling series (Megan McCafferty's mother was our home economics teacher!) and Perks of Being a Wallflower.  

Going to college was terrifying - my biggest fear was I could not decide what books to bring with me (oddly enough, one of my students is transferring to another college next year.  It's far from home and she needs to live on campus.  She sat in my office and kept asking, "But which ones do I bring?  How do I choose?"  In the next beat she says, "Well I have to take Perks."  Some things never change, thankfully.  Don't worry - we made a tentative list of books, which I'm sure she will change in the coming months.  I know I did.).  Another fear had been that I wouldn't find a roommate who loved books as much as me.  Luckily, I brought the right amount of books and my roommates loved to read.  Some of my happiest memories are all of us lying about our one bedroom apartment (for five girls) and reading.  The patio door would be open, a breeze would be blowing in, and we would be sprawled like cats reading our books and magazines.  As I began to try my hand at film, my reading experience expanded to screenplays and graphic novels.  One of my favorite writing professors, Dan Pope (author of In The Cherry Tree) was known to hand out books to students.  When he stopped teaching, he continued to send his previous students boxes of books to read (I mean, a BOX of books, super heavy and super worth carrying up the many flights of stairs to my apartment...I still have every single one).

Today I still consider myself to be a furious reader (for all the obvious and not-so-obvious reasons).  However, my furious reading comes in waves - some days I am too tired from reading student papers to even think about picking up a novel.  Other days I want to binge-watch a new show on Netflix.  What had been so easy for me as a child, a teen, and a college student has now become another bullet point on my list of things to do.

But that's the problem, isn't it?  It is on the list, but it isn't a priority on the list.  Most of the time I'm thinking about what else needs to be done - laundry, dishes, student conferences, oh Lord, did I forget a paper somewhere, preparing for a conference presentation, visiting family, which job do I need to go to today? - while I'm reading.  Can I consider this to be *me* time? Am I allowed to take this moment to celebrate reading furiously?  

According to our current cultural norms, absolutely not.  We need to keep moving, we need to keep constructing the City upon the Hill.  And that city does not need more books.  My favorite lie to tell myself is that I will read furiously when I have time.  Guess what, my furious readers?  We will NEVER have time to read unless we make the time to read.  And why not?  It's just as important as going to the gym or making ourselves a healthy meal.  Reading is food to the soul; it tames the mind and enlightens the spirit.  Don't we feel that way after a good walk or a good meal?  We are told that children should read twenty minutes a day, yet we never think about how many minutes an adult should read every day.   I think the twenty minute rule should continue to apply, even as we enter our busy labyrinth of adulthood.  

I still read a lot (between 75-100 books a year), but I want to make reading a priority.  A real priority.  Twenty minutes a day is  good start;  I'll still allow the amazing days of binge-reading, but I won't wait for them to present themselves.  Twenty minutes is doable and it can be done every single day. It's time for a revolution - grab a book, take a seat, and begin to read.  It may not be as simple as it used to be, but it is still worthwhile.  

Twenty minutes.  Each day. Seven days a week.  Four weeks a month.  Twelve months a year.  Every year.  

Go forth and read furiously.>
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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

We should love an ending... But we don't

Thinking in terms of structure, the ending should be considered one of the best parts of a story. It's the payoff, the moment when all the strife and conflict our characters have had to endured finally comes to a head. We get to see the people they've become, the new versions of themselves crafted by the events they undertook. From the moment we begin a book, it's what everything is leading to, and really we should be excited when that moment finally arrives. Yet often times it's the moment many of us dread.

I speak from personal experience on this, of course. It took me two years before I worked up enough nerve to finish reading Y: The Last Man. And volumes eleven and twelve of DMZ are so far down on my reading pile, it'd be an actual chore just to get them out. Even though I'm very much looking forward to reading them, I'm just not ready for the final story from the war-zone that is New York City to be told. So instead, every time I go to pick up a new book to read, I'll opt for something where the stakes aren't as high as finality.

This isn't a phenomenon specific to book series either. How many other furious readers out there have gotten so wrapped up in a book they've felt the need to set it aside with just a few chapters left, let it sit there on their night stand, and come up with excuse after excuse to never finish it. Sometimes we may even purchase books we're so excited to read we don't start for fear of when we'll finish it (note Boxers and Saints and King City on the pile as well, I want/don't want to read them so badly).

There's an anxiety that comes with the end of a book, worrying whether the author will drop the ball on an ending and leave you disappointed. There are so many things that could go wrong with an ending (Let's be honest, there's nothing worse than when the writer throws in a poorly executed Deus Ex Machina just to tie things up). That chance the characters won't get the happy ending you think they deserve. Or even if they do, the knowledge that you'll be saying goodbye to these people you've let into your life once you turn the final page. It can be like watching your best friend pull away, knowing it's the last time you'll ever see them.

We want to go on these journeys with these characters, and never want them to end. It's why there will likely never be a final issue of Superman, or a last Babysitters Club book, or why - even after Doyle finished his last Sherlock Holmes story - his exploits continue to be told by countless other authors, even today. 

These are stories we connect with, characters we adopt into our lives. It's not something for which you can necessarily be blamed. After all, if the story doesn't end, then at least there's the potential for more. And sometimes that can be better than reaching the bittersweet parting we encounter upon the last page of a story.

Yet really all we're doing is denying ourselves the pleasure that comes from closure. A story isn't a story without an ending, even if it's only the point we exit the narrative. But when we do this, all we're doing is creating an artificial end that will never offer any of the closure we want. We have potential, potential that the story will go on, that there is so much more for the characters to do.  But that's all it will ever be, and it will never be the same as the real ending (good or bad). 

So in celebration of endings, I set out this week to uncover those last two volumes of DMZ and finally finish the story of Matty Roth and the Free States. And I'm inviting the rest of you furious readers out there to join in and finally finish that book you've been putting off for far too long.
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