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Brandi_R
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Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Topic 19: Reading Widely

On a recent trip to Italy, I wandered in and out of many bookstores. I gravitated toward the books that weren't in English in order to see the titles of familiar authors in this unfamiliar (to me) language and also to see what authors Italians were popular. When I travel, I find this is a fun way to learn about new writers and to expand my own reading terrain. (I have plans to look up Gabriele d'Annunzio, a fascinating poet, whose house I toured during my trip. Cluttered with unique objects and objects used unexpectedly, his house is intriguing. The grounds include a battle ship. Such a fascinating home. How could I resist tracking down his work?)

Do you actively seek new authors? Make attempts to read outside of your own genre, subject matter, or authors of interest? As a writer, how important do you feel it is to read widely? Why?
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Dezdura
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Registered: ‎08-23-2007
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Re: Topic 19: Reading Widely

I am constantly amazed by various young, or new writers I read (mainly on message boards like this) who have little or no awareness of normal science, philosophy, geography, or other "school" subjects. A fiction author must not only read a good cross section of fiction, but also needs to have a good grounding in science, art, nature, history and the liberal arts.

I seek new authors and have found many who are worthwhile, keeping in mind that even though it is published, doesn't mean it is good.
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PBuermele
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Re: Topic 19: Reading Widely

What a timely topic question for me. I just made a quick over-night trip to Mexico City for work and had some time on my hands at the airport. I checked out the books, which were mostly in Spanish, for familiar covers, authors, etc. and also the genres available. It was typical airport book fare but fascinating to me to notice what is marketed versus what I think is "good" literature.

I agree with Dezdura about the importance of having a solid background in the basics to draw from as an author. It's important for an author to connect with the reading audience so having a lot of experiences and knowledge in things common to people in many cultures can only add richness to our writing.

Reading widely helps me look beyond my everyday experiences for those details that will add uniqueness to a character or setting or plot line. Last year I read "The Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" by Alexander McCall Smith and was fasinated by the writing voice and the small town setting in Africa. The main character is a woman sleuth, Detective, Precious Ramotswe, somewhat styled after Agatha Christie. The mystery wasn't deep but the richness of the setting and characters kept me interested and drew up the shade on another window in my mind.
Paula Buermele
www.thedreamcatchertour.com
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KristenS
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Registered: ‎02-09-2007
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Re: Topic 19: Reading Widely

I like to read several genres, not nonfiction so much. But I'll do the research necessary to make sure my stories aren't totally stupid. In fact, I just ordered a stack of books from Dover that'll help give me details for my next project. Nice cheap resource.

Widely read or not, with Wikipedia as a starting point (flawed as it may be), there's no excuse not to do at least some research. :smileyhappy:
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bobzyeruncle
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Registered: ‎09-25-2007
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Re: Topic 19: Reading Widely

I try to branch out every now and again ... for instance, reading something off the best seller list that normally wouldn't appeal to me, or getting recommendations from people I enjoy. I love asking new people "what are you reading?" or "who do you like?" This is especially exciting now that I'm teaching English in London to adult learners. I'm meeting lots of adults who have favorites in their own languages. I've just been introduced to Panos Karnezis in this way, and am looking forward to reading "Little Infamies."

I run a weekly development workshop and one of the things we always touch on is creativity. I try to remind the attendees that one way to spark your creativity is to read things you normally wouldn't, to step out of your favorite genres -- whether that be a certain styles of fiction, novels --> short stories, history books --> travel writing, The New Yorker --> Heat Magazine --> Psychologies.

Popping into the B&N Book Clubs is also good. I'd never have picked up "The Emperor's Children" without it.
:: :: ::

Bob
www.bobzyeruncle.com
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Brandi_R
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Re: Topic 19: Reading Widely



Dezdura wrote:
I am constantly amazed by various young, or new writers I read (mainly on message boards like this) who have little or no awareness of normal science, philosophy, geography, or other "school" subjects. A fiction author must not only read a good cross section of fiction, but also needs to have a good grounding in science, art, nature, history and the liberal arts. . . .




This is a good point, and as a writer I also find this investigation into areas I’m unfamiliar with often bring up intriguing story ideas, too. Reading widely in terms of subject matter lets me cast my net wider in terms of story idea, but also in terms of metaphor and description.
letterpressfiction.blogspot.com
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Brandi_R
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Re: Topic 19: Reading Widely



PBuermele wrote:
What a timely topic question for me. I just made a quick over-night trip to Mexico City for work and had some time on my hands at the airport. I checked out the books, which were mostly in Spanish, for familiar covers, authors, etc. and also the genres available. It was typical airport book fare but fascinating to me to notice what is marketed versus what I think is "good" literature. . . .




This can be interesting, indeed. I found myself doing the very same thing in my own airport wanderings on this trip. What do you think accounts for the differences between what’s showing up in book stores and what you think of as “good” literature? Is this an issue of marketing? Or something else?
letterpressfiction.blogspot.com
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Brandi_R
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Re: Topic 19: Reading Widely



KristenS wrote:
I like to read several genres, not nonfiction so much. But I'll do the research necessary to make sure my stories aren't totally stupid. In fact, I just ordered a stack of books from Dover that'll help give me details for my next project. Nice cheap resource.

Widely read or not, with Wikipedia as a starting point (flawed as it may be), there's no excuse not to do at least some research. :smileyhappy:




Great point about the importance of research. I find that the research itself is often an entryway into deeper aspects (of plot or character). So it actually becomes a part of the writing process in addition to getting things right.
letterpressfiction.blogspot.com
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Brandi_R
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Re: Topic 19: Reading Widely



bobzyeruncle wrote:
I try to branch out every now and again ... for instance, reading something off the best seller list that normally wouldn't appeal to me, or getting recommendations from people I enjoy. I love asking new people "what are you reading?" or "who do you like?" This is especially exciting now that I'm teaching English in London to adult learners. I'm meeting lots of adults who have favorites in their own languages. I've just been introduced to Panos Karnezis in this way, and am looking forward to reading "Little Infamies."

I run a weekly development workshop and one of the things we always touch on is creativity. I try to remind the attendees that one way to spark your creativity is to read things you normally wouldn't, to step out of your favorite genres -- whether that be a certain styles of fiction, novels --> short stories, history books --> travel writing, The New Yorker --> Heat Magazine --> Psychologies.

Popping into the B&N Book Clubs is also good. I'd never have picked up "The Emperor's Children" without it.




What a great reminder--that getting outside of our reading comfort zone is about sparking creativity. So true.
letterpressfiction.blogspot.com
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PBuermele
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Registered: ‎08-20-2007
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Re: Topic 19: Reading Widely

Booksellers in airports have a very limited opportunity to sell to the pass-by reader. They also have minimal shelf space so they can't afford to stock books that aren't highly marketed by big-name publishers. Certainly, there is some good literature in that group but I think it has been declared "good" by a few critics and has benefited from the marketing machine of the publisher. Just as there are many good movies and music produced by independent companies, there are also many good books published through non-traditional publishing channels. But because the non-traditional group also includes many books that aren't well-written or interesting, none of them are given a chance in a venue that simply can't take a financial chance on them.

My experience has been to be suspicious of over-hyped books because I know the shelf life of any book is short-lived and many of those "bestsellers" are eventually returned to the publisher to be replaced by the next bestseller. My favorite way of choosing "good" books - books that appeal to my reading tastes - is to go to my local B&N or independent bookstore and head for an aisle of interest where I can select from books that catch my eye and have a good first page or two or interesting inside flap text. I know my selection will still be limited to books that have the appropriate trade discount and returns policy, but it will be a wider selection and will include that occasional special find of a book by a new or unknown author. So, if I'm in need of "good" travel reading, I guess I should plan ahead.
Paula Buermele
www.thedreamcatchertour.com
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Clippership14
Posts: 382
Registered: ‎07-12-2007
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Re: Topic 19: Reading Widely

I agree that research is a key element in good writing. I often find myself intrigued by something I've read or heard about and have to look it up. Usually it sparks ideas in my head for one of the books I've been working on. I like to study history and have always been a huge fan of geography and some of the basic sciences. We live in such a vast and varied world and I don't think that we've even begun to tap into this rich legacy with what has been or is being written.
I do look beyond my pet genres for new material to read and digest. It keeps creativity alive, whether its fiction or nonfiction. And it cleans the mental palette between reading courses. =)