Kay: What’s onYour Shelf? I’ve Got “Save Me the Plums”

One of the most famous of the Gourmet covers, which many readers hated

I’m in a long-term project to read and give away all the books on my office shelves and then move out the shelves. It’s been interesting so far, since I bought these books over a long period of time, and my tastes and interests have changed. Or in some cases, I was in an airport, and I needed something, and whatever I chose seemed to be my best bet at the time.

I’ll be recovering from surgery for a while, so this is a great time to catch up on my reading. The book I just finished is the new release Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl, a memoir of the time she spent as editor of  Gourmet magazine (she also had been the restaurant critic for The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times). As a former small magazine and newspaper editor myself, I was particularly interested in this one. Continue reading

Kay: What Readers Want

Photo: Black Milk Women

I recently ran across a survey that I thought the other Ladies and their fans might be interested in. The (very) informal survey was conducted by Barbara Linn Probst, a novelist and researcher who holds a Ph.D. in clinical social work. She wanted to know what elements of a novel made a reader love it.

Probst said that the idea for the survey was triggered because as a novelist, she felt that she was thinking like a technician, not a reader. She said that while she focused on characterization, plot development, and pacing, she said that she believed readers didn’t pay attention to those things—unless some massive failure drew a reader’s attention to them. Continue reading

Kay: Whose Side Are You On?

The scene of the crime

This week I finished a subpar mystery and promptly wrote about it to fellow Lady Jilly. I spared nothing. I revealed clunky plot points, egregious characterizations, poorly constructed story arcs, and, perhaps worst of all, the irritating and unrewarding ending. Not only that, I said that had I known how the book ended, I wouldn’t have started it.

This discussion was all in the name of science, of course: I read bad books so others don’t have to.

But then the story broke about the Russian scientist stationed in Antarctica. You’ve probably read this one. Sergey Savitsky stabbed coworker Oleg Beloguzov in the heart for revealing the endings of books.

Okay, then! Continue reading

Kay: Little Women Celebrates 150 Years

Louisa May Alcott

Did you read Little Women when you were a kid? Did you like it?

Published in 1868, this story is one that the world seems never to tire of. There have been two silent film adaptations and four talkies so far. Six television series have been produced, including four by the BBC, and two anime series in Japan. A 1998 American opera version has been performed internationally. A musical version opened on Broadway in 2005.

And now, 150 years after it was written, two filmed productions will be released in 2018.

So one could say it’s an enduring story.

Continue reading

Elizabeth: What Did You Read Wednesday?

Girls laying on the grass with booksThe Memorial Day festivities are done, students are graduating from schools around the country, and baseball season is in full swing. That should mean long, sunny days, perfect for any number of outdoor activities, but the weather in my neck of the woods has apparently not gotten the memo. The holiday weekend was cool and windy and there was definite moisture on the windows on my way to work this morning. Hardly conducive to barbeques or yard work, but perfect for curling up with some espresso, a cuddly cat, and a random draw from the To Be Read pile.

Here’s how my reading went: Continue reading

Elizabeth: What Have You Read Wednesday?

CarpeLibrumI’ve read a variety of writing craft books and rules of writing by various authors and one thing they all seem to agree on is that reading is critical in order to be a good writer.

In her “Rules for Writing” post, it is Australian writer Hannah Kent’s number one rule.

To be a good writer you must, first and foremost, be a good reader. How else will you learn what to do? Read as much as possible, as often as possible, and if you read something you like, or something that makes you laugh, or something that moves you in a strange, ineffable way, ask why.” ~ Hannah Kent

In her “Twelve ‘Classic’ Women Writer’s post last month Kat expressed her plan to read some of the classics this year. My goal is just to get my to-be-read pile down to a manageable size before it topples over and hurts someone. Continue reading

Michille: Who Reads Romance?

novelsThe birth of the modern romance novel is generally considered to be in the early 1970s with the publication of The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, but the first romance novel was actually Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded by Samuel Richardson, published in 1740, followed by Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen published in 1813. Romance novels have been around for a quite a while and they have changed a great deal. So who reads them?

According to Romance Writers of America,64.6 million Americans read at least one romance novel in the past year, up from 51 million readers in 2002 and 41 million in 1998. Of those readers, 78% are women, 50% are married, and 42% have a bachelor’s degree or higher (I found these statistics here). Continue reading

Kay: Story Junkies

brainMany readers remember forever the novels that deeply affected them. Many of us on this blog have said that we “love” books and reread our favorites, sometimes dozens of times. Why do we do that?

We’re story junkies. Literally.

Researchers at Emory University found that reading a novel triggers measurable changes in your brain. And those changes can linger for up to five days after you stop reading.

Participants in the study all read the same book: Pompeii, a thriller by Robert Harris published in 2003. The researchers established a baseline, and then every day for nine days the subjects read a chunk of the book. The next morning, the researchers scanned their brains. After participants finished the novel, researchers scanned their brains again for five days. Continue reading

Michaeline: Getting the best out of a bad story

“I can’t believe he wrote four cliffhangers in a row.”

Reading is an important part of the professional development of a writer, and what you choose to read is as individual as what you choose to write. So, I’m not going to tell you what to read.

But, sometimes you run across a real stinker of a book – it may be universally despised, or a quite popular book that you happen to hate, or somewhere in the middle. You can still get something out of your reading time and apply it to your writing.

First, try to analyze what went wrong in the book for you. It may be thematic, it may be a structural problem, it may be consistently odd word choices. Last month, I read a book that used a lot of stock characters that rang false to me – the worst was a little plot moppet who had lost her mommy and needed a great nanny (our heroine happened to be working for her doctorate in child development, which was terribly convenient). The kid had no will, no temper tantrums, and only enough Continue reading

Elizabeth: Read!

I recently read Stephen King’s On Writing (if you haven’t read it yourself, I highly recommend it).  It is part memoir, part writing advice, and completely entertaining.  My copy has dozens of passages marked and one that really resonated with me is a quote Michille listed on her “That One Rule” post a few weeks ago:

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others:  read a lot and write a lot.”

The “writing” part makes obvious sense – if you’re a writer then you do actually have to write, otherwise you’re just somebody thinking about being a writer.  Reading makes sense too if you think about it.  We all started out as readers and were swept away by great stories and great writing.  Reading lets us enjoy new styles and different worlds, which can spur our creativity and challenge us to stretch our writing wings. Continue reading