Writers read. Readers write.

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Few authors did not spend much of their childhood, nose buried deep in some book. Few writers have not continued this passion into adulthood. Yet with the pressures of keeping the blog up-to-date, trying to keep to our daily, allotted time to work on the latest manuscript, commenting on other blogs, not to speak of work and family commitments, reading can become squeezed into a tiny, diminishing corner.


First and foremost we read for pleasure, just as we have been doing ever since finally surpassing “Tom, Jane and Spot the dog” and progressing onto some more serious stuff, like Mrs. Pepperpot or the Moomins. Fiction was my first obsession, probably also my first (and only) therapist. The books I read taught me as much about real life as real life ever did. They also gave me that wonderful opportunity to evade the present and invade the worlds of so many other children, whose lives I became part of for so many blissful hours.


When, as a child, I was actually given an inspirational story title and not the deadly “How I spent my summer vacation”…. I either drew from autobiographical experience (such as in Grade 4 given the title “Pandemonium”, I narrated the narrow escape, with a bit of poetic license, of canoeing down the River Cam with a friend and encountering the unexpected weir) or I drew  from my latest favorite author, retelling their tales with my own twist. As adults, even in developing our own unique voice, we will continue to be inspired by others, and rightly so I believe. Great storytellers will provoke us to conscious and unconscious analysis of why: this style, that character, this narrative is so effective. So also the weaker writers will teach us the “what not to do’s”. Such is life! Seuss, Yolen, Sendak provoke both the “I can never…” and the “I want to be like….” reactions in me; both healthy responses as far as I can see.


I am not saying we should limit ourselves to reading only in the genre in which we are writing.  Much as I love reading Picture Books and Middle Grade novels, I sometimes yearn for some Big Girl fair. I read because I love to read, I cannot imagine a life without reading. As I writer I also intuitively read because I believe reading does make me a better writer. I am not just talking about understanding the rules of grammar or increasing my vocabulary, but that through reading I absorb experiences and art that will take my writing to another level. Nor do I believe we need to restrict ourselves to literary fiction to progress. I enjoy Jane Eyre to Harry Potter, Steinbeck to Ian Rankin. Read what you enjoy. Read what stretches your worldview. Read what friends suggest. Read in bed. Read on your commute. Read on the john. Just don’t give up reading, it is time well spent.


« …Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that. »

Stephen king


So tell me, what are you reading this week?

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10 Responses to Writers read. Readers write.

  1. Excellent post! Great quote from Stephen King, as well. I bought his book “On Writing” to give to a cousin, but haven’t read it yet myself. *puts it on the list*

    When I was in the library the other day, getting yet another stack of picture books, I walked past one of their rotating displays of adult books, and grabbed one quickly simply because the title is a phrase I’ve used in one of the adult novels I’ve written (not yet published, don’t get excited). The title is “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well”. That’s a quote from the medieval mystic Julian of Norwich. I’ve never heard of the author, Tod Wodicka. I’m intrigued to find out how that quote came to be the title of what bills itself as a humorous novel set in modern day upstate New York. I’ll let you know.

    I’m also reading a stack of picture books — no surprise there — and a Scientific American Mind magazine about creativity.

    To reading! *clinks glasses with Joanna*

  2. Joanna says:

    I am listening to Stephen King on my ipod right now. The first part is wonderfully biographical. Oops used an adverb! He has some strong stuff to say on the way we should obliterate them from all our writing. Have to confess his book was really the inspiration for this post.

    I have always appreciated that Julian of Norwich quote…. it attains a level of comfort deep within the soul.

    With the number of Picture Books I am reading at the moment, all my surfaces are even more book-stewn than normal.

  3. Patricia Tilton says:

    Enjoyed your post. I read in all genres because everything interests me. The nice thing about children’s books, is that we can read them quickly, yet maintain our own reading so that we continue to fill our souls. Read a book that could be a YA, but because of the subject matter is not: “I Am Nujood, 10 and Divorced,” by Nujood Ali. Heartbreaking, but this strong child changed the marriage for girls laws in Yemen. Also finished the novel “Room,” the story told by a child, but about a mother and child living in a room 11×11. Probably one of the best novels I’ve read this year — again a book that could influence our thoughts about writing for children. Now, for pleasure I’ve picked up Jodi Picoult’s new novel, “Sing Me Home,” which I anticipate will be good.

  4. Joanna says:

    We are lucky to be able to read several picture books and a few chapters of our present novel, in one evening. I too like to mix up the genres… I have noted all three titles – to see if our school library has them, Pat, for when I finish The Bible of Clay.

  5. Hi, Joanna — This is off topic, I suppose, although something I’m reading is blogs, so that sort of links this to the topic at hand…

    Here’s a blog post I think you’ll like, about writing and running: http://carolinebyline.blogspot.com/2011/03/writing-and-running.html

    I checked to see if you have Caroline in your blogroll, and since you don’t, I thought I’d “introduce” you.

  6. Diane says:

    Hi Joanna,
    Love your post. I have about 3 children’s books out from the library and paperwork strewn across the diningroom table. (that’s my writing desk). I’ve nearly finished “The fat chick in Paris” which I only read in the car, during my lunch break and while waiting for hubby. Its a good laugh, as I’ve mentioned.
    I am also prone to reading non-fiction, mainly biographical. Titles I have on my shelf are “Abandoned” by Anya Peters, her story of a drunken Uncle who sexually abused her, and ending up homeless and living in a car on the streets of London.
    After my trip to Cambodia in 2009 I came back with “to the end of hell” by Denise Affongo, her memoir of surviving the 1975 Khmer Rouge. A not for the faint hearted, I assure you.
    So it can be varied, I also have some light whimsical stories also.

    • Joanna says:

      I thoroughly enjoy biographies also, Diane. Stephen King’s on Writing, which I have nearly finished, is very autobiographical. I do recommend it as his approach to writing and what makes a good writer is pretty unconventional in places.

  7. Diane says:

    Thanks Joanna, sounds very interesting, will look for it in my local library. About time for another Bio.
    Just a note: SCBWI Aus/NZ are having a meet here next week in Ak NZ and have sent me an email. Will let you know what happens.

    • Joanna says:

      Please do let me know. SCBWI France are holding one or two events that sound very interesting but all in Paris a long, long way away.

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