Why I Read

I bought myself a present. The print you see in the above picture created by one of my favorite novelists, Katherine Center.

I love this quote, because I agree whole-heartedly.

There are so many reasons to read. And those are the same reasons I write.

This week, I thought I’d take inspiration from Ms. Center and share a book I have read for each of these statements.

Read for Fun.

This one is easy. I recently finished Abbi Waxman’s The Bookish Life of Nina Hill. The pages flew by as I read this fun, delightful novel. And now I want to read more of Abbi Waxman’s books.

Read for Pleasure.

Beach Read by Emily Henry was pure pleasure. Just one of those novels I disappeared into and stayed up later than I probably should have just to read one more chapter.

Read for Comfort.

A disclaimer – one of my essays is published in The Things We Don’t Say: An Anthology of Chronic Illness Truths. What most strikes me about this valuable anthology is the universality of the feelings written about. The medical conditions may be different, but the emotions are the same. And it is so comforting to know there are others out there who “get it.”

Read for Wisdom.

Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird may be one of the most popular books about writing. It’s a book I have read multiple times, and each time I find some new nugget, something that strikes my fancy and warrants a sticky note. 

Read for Insight.

Michelle Obama’s Becoming. Honest, moving, inspiring. And what makes it even more special is that one of my best friends gave me this book about one of the best role models out there. 

Read for Hope.

I discovered Danea Horn’s Chronic Resilience: 10 Sanity-Saving Strategies for Women Coping with Stress of Illness in what can only be described as an act of serendipity. I have read this important book more than once. It is a book that I highly recommend to anyone living with a chronic illness.

Read for Adventure.

Scott Kelly’s memoir, Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery is a true tale of adventure. It’s highly unlikely I’ll travel into space, let alone live onboard the International Space Station for one year. Yet, by reading Mr. Kelly’s memoir I could get a sense of what it would be like to be that far away from planet Earth.

Read for Laughs.

Matilda by Roald Dahl has a special place in my heart. I always read it to my fourth graders – a little bit after lunch each day. Once we finished the novel, we’d watch the Danny DeVito film. (A touching side note – my students thought I resembled Miss Honey. I took it as a sweet compliment.) And I’m so glad my son enjoys it too. We’ve read this book many times. And we laugh at all the same parts.

Read for Possibilities.

Kicking in the Wall: A Year of Writing Exercises, Prompts, and Quotes to Help You Break Through Your Blocks and Reach Your Writing Goals by Barbara Abercrombie should be on every writer’s desk. So many great prompts to use for 5-minute writing exercises. And I never know when I start writing which of those prompts, which of those “exercises,” will actually be the seed for a whole new essay.

Read for Joy.

There is a new edition out, with a beautiful cover, for Katherine Center’s Everyone is Beautiful. It was the first novel I read by Ms. Center. It was one of the few books I can say had me hooked from the first sentence. And I knew after reading this book, I would read everything and anything else this author wrote. 

Breaking Down Walls, 5 Minutes at a Time

Back in March (doesn’t that feel like so long ago?), I was set to begin a class offered through the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. When everything shut down, my class switched from in-person to virtual. 

At the same time, we were figuring out how to best help our son with distance-learning because Los Angeles Unified schools had shut down as well. So I dropped my writing course before it began. 

Since March, I have been writing. Sometimes more than others. 

And since March, I’ve been published. Again, sometimes more than others. (You can check my Published Work page for a complete listing.)

But lately I have felt like something was missing. 

And I realized what it was – being around other writers.

Most writing classes begin with a general introduction of who you are and why you’re there, what your goal is, what you hope to accomplish by being in that particular class. My introduction doesn’t vary a whole lot. I have a pretty consistent writing practice and know how to meet deadlines. (In case you didn’t know, I’m a regular contributor at MomsLA.com.) 

I enroll in writing classes for the people. The energy that comes from surrounding yourself with other writers. Writers who are readers. Writers who read my work, and offer honest feedback, who push me with questions to go deeper and explore further. They let me know what works and what doesn’t work. 

Often, there’s a mix of workshopping and writing in class; short exercises that sometimes develop into longer pieces.

In-person classes aren’t an option right now. And while virtual classes are being offered through UCLA Extension, I haven’t enrolled in any.

But I continue to write.

As an added stimulus, I have begun re-reading Kicking in the Wall: A Year of Writing Exercises, Prompts, and Quotes to Help You Break Through Your Blocks and Reach Your Writing Goals written by Barbara Abercrombie (my favorite instructor in the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program).

If you’re a writer (and as Barbara says, “Writing is a verb. A writer is one who writes”), I recommend this book. It’s gotten me writing – not an assignment for MomsLA or to answer a submissions call I learned about on duotrope.com, but writing not knowing exactly what it may lead to.

May it help you kick in your own wall.