Archive | November, 2012

The Importance of Reading Fiction

24 Nov

I read an interesting article in the New York Times yesterday entitled “What Should Children Read?” I am providing the link so you can read it for yourself.

Whatever the “experts” who have written these national standards might think, reading fiction has a value far more than just time-filling entertainment that has no practical use and cannot help in the job market.

We have become obsessed with thinking of education as a road to employment, and have forgotten that education is a road to life. If you do not have the tools to think critically and examine your own life, your potential in any career will be minimal.

Reading fiction allows us to learn about other lives and other times and apply them to our own. It allows us to compare our experiences with the experiences of characters who have been created by writers to make a point. Reading fiction allows us to learn to appreciate the beauty of the language, and to be articulate speakers and writers. And reading fiction is often just plain fun.

To cite just one example, the generation that has grown up reading the Harry Potter books has learned more than just a story about a school for magicians. They have learned about friendship, the struggle between good and evil, bravery, sorrow, disappointment and many other human emotions and circumstances. All of these factors are important for grown-ups as well as children. And they have learned all of this while enjoying that great story of the school for magicians, which I think makes it more meaningful.

For some reason, the English classes in the high school I attended did not assign novels to read as a class. My parents brought me up with weekly visits to the library, so I read anyway. Later as an English teacher, I taught many of the classics, but also encouraged students to read for fun. Instead of cutting back on the reading of fiction, we should encourage students to read more.

Some of my favorites are To Kill a Mockingbird, Jane Eyre, A Tale of Two Cities, Of Mice and Men, Slaughterhouse Five. There are many more, of course, and they teach timeless truths that are so much more meaningful because they are fiction.

Fiction may not be true, but it is the truth.

What novels have meant the most to you?

Review of David Bell’s The Hiding Place

21 Nov

Although The Hiding Place is certainly not a Thanksgiving book, I though it appropriate to post my review of this book which appeared in Suspense Magazine. This novel deals with two families and the secrets that were kept for many years. It seemed fitting for the holiday season in that it emphasizes how easy it is to hurt those we love the most.

Twenty-five years ago Janet Manning’s four year old brother disappeared. His body was found some weeks later in a woods not far from the family home. Now, all these years later, a mysterious man has appeared on Janet’s doorstep in the night, claiming to know the truth about her brother’s death. The man disappears, and Janet tries to put it out of her mind, but her teenage daughter has overheard the conversation, and begins an investigation of her own.

The memories of that day in the past, when Janet’s family was forever changed, begin to emerge little by little. Janet had been only seven years old at the time, but still blamed herself because she was charged with watching her little brother that day. But as time goes on, she learns that she was not the only family member who has lived with guilt and secrets for twenty-five years.

I found the title of the book to be particularly appropriate in that it can refer to the way family members often hide the truth from one another, as well as the location where a little boy was buried. The story is about a terrible crime, and also about the “crimes” that human beings can commit against the people they are closest to.

David Bell does a masterful jobĀ  of crafting a crime story, with the guilty and innocent existing next to each other, whether they realize it or not. He has also created a tense drama of emotions and relationships. It is a riveting book with surprising but believable twists on every page.

I wish everyone a wonderful holiday season.

NaNoWriMo (What the Heck Is That?)

3 Nov

This year, for the first time, I participating in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. The goal is to write 50,000 words during the month of November. This is a pretty short novel, but a darned good start.

I have been so caught up in the release and promotion of Lydia’s Story that I haven’t been doing much “real” writing lately. I have not been working on anything new. True — I have some unfinished pieces hiding away on my computer that I could resurrect and turn into something readable, but I had the urge to work on something new, something challenging.

So I am devoting the month of November to writing 50,000 words of my new project, which has the working title Magic Words. The title may have more to do with me typing the words than the actual words themselves!

I did a little basic arithmetic and figured out that to write 50,000 words in a month, I need to write 1,666 words per day. This is not out of reach. When I write a first draft, I write fast. I get the words down. And I do have a plan for this story. I know where I’m going. But since like most people, I have a lot going on in my life, I think this is what will happen: I will try to write 1,666 words each day, but most of the time, I won’t make it. Then every three or four days, I will have a marathon writing day when I will catch up with my goal. As of November 3, I have over 5,000 words.

Anyone else out there doing NaNoWriMo? What are your tricks for reaching your goal? And does the goal matter if it gets you writing?