Reflections of the Past, Resolutions for the Future

Wow, what a year!

2014 was packed full for me, of both the good and the bad, but thankfully mostly good. My biggest achievement was earning a Bachelor’s degree in English at the University of New Hampshire, and I am extremely proud of myself for accomplishing that. I am so happy that part of my life is over – going to school full time is difficult while working and being a father of two small children. Part of me yearns to go back, though. Not just to earn a Master’s degree, but to sit in a room and talk books and writing with other like-minded people, to share my stories with them and to read theirs, to receive feedback and give my own thoughts and opinions. I miss that sense of community. Perhaps I should join a club…

The rest of the year flew by with the wind. Summer was over before I knew it, Halloween and Thanksgiving came and went, and Christmas was upon us almost before we had the decorations up. Now they are all taken down and today is the last day of 2014. Tomorrow is a new day. Tomorrow is a new year. And with every new year comes the time to reflect on the past and create resolutions for the future.

My goals for this year were only partially met, and I am not upset about it. Not too much, anyway. This year gave me a good bearing on what I can accomplish, and now I can set better goals for next year.

My first goal for this year was to read at least twenty-four books. I thought I would struggle with this one, but I passed it with ease around June or July. My final tally was: 51 books, 3 plays, and 28 short stories and novellas. Of the 51 books, 7 were non-fiction and 6 were collections of shorter works. It was an amazing and inspiring year of reading. I read great books and crappy books, long books and short books, old books and new books. I read books that I had never heard of and books that sat on my t-read list until they were covered in time-dust. I read fantasy and science fiction, horror and mystery and thriller, even some romance. I tried not to limit myself too much. The most important thing is that I learned something from every book. Some books had hidden jewels or inspirational passages, some had influential ideas or masterful architecture, and others taught me what not to do.

Next year, I am going to push myself a little harder. My goal is to read 55 books, 12 plays, and 25 short stories and novellas. I want to dust off a few more that are on the to-read list as well as explore with new authors and genres. I also want to read Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series again. I was too young when I read them the first time and want to read them with my more experienced writer’s mind. As for the plays, I started reading Shakespeare this year from the beginning. I am jumping past the Histories for now, but plan to read them in order of when they occurred in history (instead of when he wrote them). Hopefully I can surpass this goal again.

My next goal was for writing, and I did horribly, though I can’t say I’m not proud of what I did accomplish. My goal of 1,000 words a day was crushed into oblivion. I have come to the realization that I will not accomplish this until I can start selling stories and quit my part-time job. I also need a private writing space where I can be alone without interruption, which is also not possible because I need to watch over my hardly-napping two-year old. Sometimes the TV can babysit, but other times she just wants Daddy, and it’s extremely difficult to deny a princess. I also didn’t meet my one short story a month goal. I only wrote 9, but that is still the most I’ve ever done in one year. I can see my writing getting better with each story, though, and that is good enough for me.

This time I am lowering my goal to 500 words per day, or 3,000 per week. I still want to push myself to do more than that whenever I can, but I want to make sue I can set aside time to do at least 500. I still want to do one short story per month, and of course my ultimate priority is to get published. This year will be the year I accomplish that. I had set aside the novel earlier in the year so that I could focus on the short stories, but I have recently starting working on it again and plan to finish it by the end of 2015.

My final goal for this year was to lose some weight. And I did. Not as much as I had hoped but I finally broke free of the 190-195 plateau a little over a month ago. I hit 188 the other day, and now that the big eating holidays are over, I think I can shed a few more. I really want to fit into that pin-striped suit again!

And now is the time when we say goodbye to 2014 and hello to 2015. I hope your year was as fruitful as mine, and good luck with all your resolutions for next year!

Cheers!

Pumpkin Fever

Autumn is rapumkins-on-a-pumpkin-patchpidly approaching, and with Autumn comes a plethora of amazing flavors. No, I’m not talking about the all the colorful leaves falling through the air and littering the ground. I am talking about all things Pumpkin: pumpkin beer, pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin donuts, pumpkin coffee, pumpkin seeds, and whatever else you can make with pumpkin (canned OR fresh). Sure, there’s also the apple products, but in my opinion, there’s no other ingredient than pumpkin that can go into such a wide variety of foods and create such an excellent flavor. All that stuff is coming soon, and I know because the beer is already out (and the coffee too!). The beer is always first, and it’s my favorite.

Or, my vice, rather.

Every autumn I suffer from what I like to call Pumpkin Fever. It’s an extremely dangerous ailment, and you should be very careful around those suffering from it. Brandishing a pumpkin flavored food or drink without sharing could cause someone suffering from Pumpkin Fever to go severely out of his gourd, with side effects ranging from extreme addiction and gluttony to lethargy and a strong desire to carve faces into anything orange and round. The lethargy comes only when the infected one consumes several pumpkin flavored products, but it is not to be overlooked, as too much can cause a comatose-like reaction. But on the other hand, if the hunger is not sated soon enough, he could go into a pumpkin-fueled rage, which is not a pretty sight.

And speaking of pumpkins, Halloween is also right around the corner. My favorite holiday. I love the image of death and scariness, and wish it was a week-long holiday instead of just one measly night. I enjoy decorating the house with cobwebs and ghosts and witches and vampires, and carving scary and silly faces into pumpkins. I also like listening to Halloween-themed music when it starts getting close to the holiday, especially Midnight Syndicate. If you haven’t heard of them, I suggest you look them up and listen to a sample. They are dark and creepy, and are a perfect addition to a haunted house. And then there are the scary movies on almost every TV channel. Most of them are cheesy, but they are still enjoyable on a dark night.

So that is the kick I am on right now. And come January or so, when all the pumpkin products have been emptied from the shelves and replaced by boring winter and spring flavors, I will begin to have withdrawals and will probably have to be hospitalized to help recover my senses. So please, if you know someone suffering from the madness of Pumpkin Fever, help him or her by sharing your food with him.

 

Progress Report

At the beginning of the year, I told myself I would keep up on this blog–at least once a month, preferably once a week–just to keep myself actively engaged in writing. But then, towards the end of my final semester in college, I took a break to focus more on my schoolwork, most of which I barely managed to complete on time. And when the semester ended, and I was finally finished with school and earned myself a degree, I thought about returning to the blogosphere to maintain that one post a week that I had somehow managed to keep up for the first four months of the year. At the same time, though, I started using all my writing time for fiction, and I decided that was a much better idea. The blog could wait.

And it did. I found it’s still here, just the same as it was before. Imagine that.

Now that summer is almost over, I have taken a few moments to reflect on the past few months, and reviewing my New Years Resolutions, I decided to give a little update. A lot has happened.

My main resolution was to write. My goal was to become published; at least one short story out there for the world to read if they choose. I also wanted to maintain an average of about 1,000 words per day, write at least one short story per month, and work on the novel on the side. Unfortunately, none of that has happened. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been working hard. I have accomplished more this year than I have any other year in my past, and I am extremely happy with that. I don’t even think I’ve averaged 500 words a day, but I have completed nine short stories this year, and seven of those have been brought into being since school ended in mid-May. For the most part, I have been following a routine, which is good because I know it’s important. I feel a little burnt out, though, and for the past month I have been writing a lot less. I cut my writing time in half, managing only 100-200 words most days, just so I can spend more time with my kids before my son goes back to school. I feel that is the best decision, even if it hurts my writing. I still make sure I write SOMETHING every day, though, and that I am content with, for now. Next year is a whole new story, especially if I can get published this year. I do feel my writing keeps getting better and better, and that is not just my ego talking. I have learned a great deal by reading and writing a lot, not to mention the advice from other writers.

My reading objective is doing much better. I have been following the #readeverywhere advice, and I have been reading everywhere. I had originally planned to read 25 books this year, thinking that was a lot. It’s not. I’ve already hit 29. Five of those were non-fiction, and another five were collections of short stories. I have also read twelve separate short stories (from magazines or books or whatever). Now that I’ve seen how much I can actually read when I try, I will definitely bump that number up to 50 next year. I am maintaining a list of everything I read, even rating each book and story, and I plan on posting it at the end of the year, instead of writing a review like I had starting doing. That was just too much, and was taking away from my writing time.

My other resolution was to lose a few pounds, and I am happy to say I have succeeded. 12 pounds have been shed, and I see more going away in the future. At least until Thanksgiving and Christmas come around. But I have been more active lately, and have been eating and drinking less. I feel great. That’s the important thing.

So overall, I would say I have succeeded quite a bit so far this year. Though my writing is lacking a bit, I have still accomplished more than ever. It would be unwise for me to complain about that. There’s always room for improvement, though, and that I plan on doing.

Fred’s Narrative and the Sketches of a Free Slave

018I grouped these two together not just because they were so similar in theme, but because they were both so short, that they wouldn’t even make a standard length novel if put together. They were both very interesting reads, and though I had learned a lot about slavery during my elementary and middle school years, I found myself being amazed by what these authors had to say, as well as the eloquence in which they say it.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself (1845) is certainly a mouthful, but is short and sweet compared to Our Nig; or, Sketches from the Life of a Free Black, in a Two-story House, North, Showing that Slavery’s Shadows Fall even There (1859), so I will just shorten them to Narrative and Our Nig.

I had heard of Frederick Douglass before. Every February, we would celebrate Black History Month in our schools by learning all about slavery, the ensuing Civil War, the resulting emancipation, and of course all the Civil Rights, segregation, and racism that followed over the next 100+ years. I knew he was one of many who had escaped slavery and helped others to do the same. But what I never learned was how he did it, and the amazing way he learned to read and write to assist in that escape.

In Douglass’ Narrative, he describes briefly his time in captivity, from being born a slave to the time he escapes. He describes in fairly graphic detail some beatings – which were more like tortures – that he and other slaves endured, and even alludes to the raping of female slaves. He also describes the nature of his slave owners, and never fails to mention that they are all devout Christians. But what I found most fascinating was how he taught himself to read and write by tricking and bribing the white school children in the neighborhood. At first, he would brag that he could write better than them, and they would prove him wrong by showing him all the letters they knew, which he would then memorize. After that, he would steal bread from his masters and pay the poorer and hungrier kids to teach him more about reading and writing. From then on, he taught himself the rest, and by the time he escaped to freedom, he could write better than most people could after years of proper education.

I had also heard a lot of horror stories from slavery in the south. But, growing up in the Midwest, we didn’t learn much about what was hidden in the shadows of New England, where life was supposed to be free for all. Harriet Wilson, the first published black woman, tells us how it really was in Our Nig. She was the child of a white woman and a free black man, and was abandoned at a neighbors house when they could no longer support her. Unlike Douglass, she got a proper education, but at her new home in New Hampshire – where the motto is “Live Free or Die” – she was treated more like a slave and less like a person. She didn’t live free, and though she wanted to die many times, she survived through many physical and verbal whippings. Most of the new family she lived with was supportive of her, but the mother of the household and one of her daughters were more evil than Cinderella’s step-family. It is quite an interesting read.

Before I give too much away for each story, I will end with that, and urge you to read them for yourself. Both delve into secrets that are wont to be continuously shoved under the rug or into the closet under the stairs, and both are deserving of a good 4 out of 5 stars.

My Shelf of Writerly Essentials

061Every writer has at least a few books he keeps handy for when he needs to quickly look up how some detail or phrase was written perfectly, or refer to a guide on formatting or development (plot, character, conflict, whatever), or even just to reread a story, chapter, page, poem, play that influenced him in a particular way. We all have these books, as reading is unarguably a prerequisite to writing, and certain books or authors influence us in a way that we want to recreate (in our words and style) from time to time. Some have a stack on the edge of the desk or shoved in a corner, leaning slightly like the tower of Pisa. Others have an entire bookshelf filled to the brim within arms reach. And then there are the mad genius types who have towering stacks completely surrounding them, pages torn out and stapled to the wall with highlights and pen markings all over, bookshelves filled twice over and spilling out onto the floor, desk cluttered so much the computer or typewriter can hardly be seen, complete with a narrow path leading to the exit in case of emergency. Whatever the case may be, we all have something we keep close so that we may refer back to it from time to time.

The obvious are the dictionary and thesaurus. Those are mandatory tools that every writer should have and use on a daily basis. But there’s other essentials, as well – books, as I already said, that influence us in particular ways that we need to keep thumbing through to find those golden nuggets. Mine is kind of small at the moment, especially since I regretfully have a lot of books in electronic format (those just don’t smell and feel the same). But pictured above is my growing “shelf” of essential reading material (someday they will sit on a real shelf near my desk, instead of on said desk), and I offer an explanation of why they are essential to me:

*Note* These book are only in order of size, so that they look somewhat neat on my desk, and not in order of importance.

The Norton Shakespeare Never mind that this is the Second Edition or that it is based on the Oxford Edition, this is the complete works of Shakespeare – every play, every sonnet, every poem, plus an introduction to each play – which includes a history, what it is based on, and an interpretation of key points – and articles on Shakespeare’s life and how he was influenced by certain events and books in history. I am so happy I took a Shakespeare class during my time in college. Even though the teacher was a little tough, he knew his Shakespeare forwards and backwards, and I learned way more from him than if I had just picked up this book on my own and started reading (which I wouldn’t have, because I had already found nearly all the plays for free through Amazon). That being said, this book has influenced me more than any other, I think. I had always been a fan of Shakespeare, but only limited to his more famous plays, such as Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing, etc… There were many that I had never read, and never even heard of. Reading his plays, reading what they were about and what they were based on, reading what he was going through in life when he wrote each one has, influenced me in a way I never would have imagined – they are so expertly written that even though many are based on real events, he was able to completely fictionalize them and make them unique, as if he made the stories up himself. That is what many authors (if not all) strive to accomplish, and I am no different.

The Norton Introduction to Poetry – I am not a poet. I do not wish to be a poet. I enjoy reading and writing poetry from time to time, but I certainly don’t need this book for that. And I’ll be completely honest, I didn’t even buy this book – it was left on a “Free to Take” bookshelf, and I believe it was left there for me to find (no, not by the person that left it, but by whatever or whoever controls fate and luck and karma and et cetera et cetera, if such forces exist). The reason I was compelled to pick this book up is simple: I like to write fantasy. I enjoy creating worlds and realms and civilizations. And to create them, and to make them appear authentic, I like to add the occasional song or poem. I even like to create fictional books. What is a civilization that doesn’t have these forms of entertainment. Just a taste, is all I wish to add, something that enriches and even helps advance the story. And so I plan to scan this book for any tips it might offer to make said songs or poems seem real. Who knows, maybe I will even get a little more serious in writing poetry and publish my own chapbook some day.

The Essential Tales of Chekhov Anton Chekhov is one of those writers you either love or hate. But, honestly, I don’t know how any writer could hate Chekhov. And to be even more honest, I think the only reason people hate him is because there is so much hype surrounding him by writing teachers. I believe writers get sick of hearing about how great he is, and therefore begin to dislike everything about him, including his stories. Well I am not so narrow minded. The Essential Tales of Chekhov are essential for a reason – they show how to develop characters and how to develop short stories. Chekhov could write about anything. He is known for his blunt titles, which tell the reader exactly what the story is about (“A Misfortune,” “Enemies,” “The Kiss,” “The Lady with the Dog”), and for his expert characterization (which he likely excelled at because he had been a doctor for so many years). But besides those, Chekhov could tell a story. I was never bored while reading through this collection. I just kept turning the pages to find out what would happen, and it was never predictable. But besides that, his stories are real. Most of them could happen to anyone, and probably have. My favorite story from this collection is “Kashtanka,” which is told through the point of view of a dog, and even includes characterizations of a goose, a cat, and a pig. This story is amazing, and the actions of the dog are exactly how I percieve them, its thoughts are exactly how I imagine them. If I ever write a story that includes any of these animals, or one similar, I will be sure to refer back to that story. And I will constantly be referring to the whole book to see how a masterful story is crafted.

MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers This was a requirement for a poetry class, only because the professor was a stickler for proper formatting (and even following the guidelines in this book was not good enough for her, she wanted perfection! But that being said, she was still one of the better professors I’ve had, and I owe her a lot for all the help she had given me). For almost two years now, I have been waiting to get rid of this book, waiting to finish college and be done with essays and research papers forever. For almost two years, I’ve been saying to myself, “I can’t wait to never have to look inside this damned book again!” I hate, hate, hate research papers and all these meticulous details and procedures that need to be followed. I knew that I would hang on to it just in case, but I would bury it as deep as possible in a box of college textbooks. But as I began typing this post, I realized that I still use it! Do YOU know whether to underline, quote, or italicize books, plays, songs, short stories, or whatever else you reference? I can never remember! Most bloggers probably don’t care, but there is a proper way to format anything that is published. Even if I don’t become a journalist (which I plan to try to get into until I make it as an author), I plan to quote books, songs, and stories in my books, and I know that I had better get the formatting right if I am to be taken seriously. I guess I’ll be hanging on to this book for a while then.

The Best American Short Stories 2013 – I believe this will change every year, as I plan on buying each new addition that comes out. Once I get a proper shelf, I may include each previous edition, but I’m not sure yet. But this is included because it shows me how the best short stories of each year are crafted. And while I work on my novels, I will continue to write short stories. I have not started reading this book yet, but I am sure it will greatly influence me.

A Visit From the Goon Squad – Jennifer Egan is such a wonderful, unique writer, I had to include this. She has accomplished stories that I never could have imagined could be accomplished. I have read several of her stories from this book so far, plus a separate story that was published in The New Yorker, and I have been enthralled by everything, but especially by two very very original ideas. First is that story from The New Yorker, “Black Box,” which was written in 2nd person (a feat on its own, if you ask me and many other writers) and in tweet-sized snippets so that the magazine could put her story on Twitter. Yes, each sentence/paragraph/statement was 140 characters or less, and together they told a compelling story about a female spy. It is simply amazing. The other story I was particularly amazed by, “Great Rock and Roll Pauses” – which is included in this book and is also available for free (with audio) on her website – is told in the form of a slide show presentation. How unique is that? And it’s a good story too! These stories really show how diverse of a writer she is, and I will constantly look to her for inspiration.

On Writing – When I found out my biggest influence as a writer, Stephen King, wrote a book about writing, I snatched it up immediately. And then I let it sit on a book shelf for years before I finally delved into it. When I finally came to my senses a couple years ago, I started reading it. Most of the book is more about how King got into writing and how and why he writes, rather than on how to write. But I don’t need to know how to write. I know how to write, I know the basic fundamentals of writing. What I need to know is how famous published authors write, what worked for them and what didn’t, and more importantly, what tools they used in writing to help me fill my own toolbox. It’s not that I wish to copy them, but I want to learn what worked for their success and what they learned from their mistakes, so that I may apply it to my own writing and add it to my own learnings, and that is exactly what King wrote about in this book.

On Becoming a Novelist – This book has been recommended to me by multiple professors. I just added it to my collection, and all I have read so far is the foreword by Raymond Carver. But that foreword could nearly have been written by myself, it is so true to my own life and thoughts and feelings. And if that’s the case, then I know I will find something useful in John Gardner’s guide to writing. I can’t wait to explore it.

Bird by Bird – As the subtitle suggests, this is a book of “Some Instructions on Writing and Life.” Like the others, this is not a book on how to become successful as a writer. Success is found individually, and no one can tell exactly how to do it. It is up us to find out on our own, but getting a little help along the way is always a plus. Anne Lamott has helped me significantly, mostly by making me realize that my writing is crap, or as she calls it, a “Shitty First Draft.” I think that is one of the most useful bits of advice any published writer could offer. It is important to realize that our stories are not perfect right away, no matter how much we think they are. And it is important to edit them, let them sit for awhile, then read them over and edit them again before we even consider sending them out for publication. The quicker you send that story out, the quicker it will get rejected. But also, we must not dwell on trying to perfect the story in the first draft. Getting the story on paper, no matter how crappy it is, is important, but it is just as important to go over it with a fine-toothed comb several times before we think it is complete. And even then, it’s probably not. Lamott also offers great advice and experiences on plot and setting and character development, as well as just getting into the write frame of mind. Like many other published authors, she recommends to start short, and that is why I include all the short story collections on this shelf of essentials.

For the Birds

This is not actually the 8th book I’ve read this year (I think it was actually the 10th), but I am falling behind on posting, and I really want to post my review of this brand new book, especially since most of my reviews thus far have been of old and older books. I was able to acquire this book for free before it was even published via Amazon Prime, and I feel I owe it to the author to post a review. I was hoping to get this done before the book was published, but I had a hard time finding opportunities to read in between school work (which involved a lot of reading). I don’t normally concern myself with spoiler warnings (since most of my reviews have been of older books, as I said), but this one has only been published for a short while, so here goes:

***This review may contain a few spoilers!!***

There you have it, so don’t read further if you don’t want to be spoiled. Note: I do not do major spoilers (like the ending or the big secret, etc…), only the small stuff that you probably know about before you even pick up the book.

Bird EaterThe Bird Eater (2014), by up-and-coming author Ania Ahlborn, is an excellently written horror story about a haunted house and the troubled lives of the people involved with it. Aaron Holbrook, the central figure of the book, returns to the house where his family was killed two decades prior in an attempt to restore not only the house, but his life as well, which is left in shambles after the death of his son. Though he is reunited with friends that thought he had died twenty years earlier, Aaron does not receive the kindest of welcomes back to his childhood hometown. There is one person in particular who incessantly torments him, nudging him further and further onto the brink of sanity. After hearing the ghost stories about the old home, Aaron is left to wonder what is real and what is not, but keeps pushing away those closest to him in fear that he will ruin their lives too, or that they will find out about his.

I really enjoyed how this book opens with two huge conflicts – a haunting and a death – which definitely succeeded in hooking me in. Ahlborn includes a lot of chilling dark imagery throughout that propelled me through the book, and really knows how to pack on the suspense, keeping me on the edge of my seat the entire time. She created characters that I wanted to cheer for as well as yell at, as they make numerous unintelligent decisions, reminiscent of old horror stories. Ahlborn also does a great job showing the scenes – utilizing all the senses to show every unique detail of the house, landscape, and characters. I was able seethe events perfectly while reading , though there was some confusion as she packs in a lot of backstory as well. That confusion is cleared as the story develops, though, as I began to put the pieces together. As the book progressed, and especially as it came to a close, I found myself wishing there had been more sections in the points of view of the supporting characters (Cheri and Eric), just to build their characters a little more. They did have some decent development, but I enjoyed being inside their heads in the brief times it occurred, and wished there had been more of it throughout the book.

Ania Ahlborn creates a unique and intriguing story in The Bird Eater, and I give it 4 out of 5 stars. That last star could only be filled by adding more character development for the supporting characters.

Reading Like a Writer

I am absolutely horrible at literary analysis. I miss obvious symbols and themes, and I almost never make the connections to political or social problems, especially when they are well disguised. In all of my literature classes at the University of New Hampshire, I hardly get higher than a B. My essays usually fall in the B to B- range. And, though I always try to participate as much as possible in the discussions, I am usually baffled by the questions the teachers pose about these hidden meaning within the books.

But, honestly, I really don’t care about all that (as long as I pass the class!). I don’t read for the symbolism and deep, profound meanings. I don’t read to see an author’s view on political, social, or economical issues. I share Ernest Hemingway’s view on his most famous book, The Old Man and the Sea:

“Then there is the other secret. There isn’t any symbolysm [sic]. The sea is the sea. The old man is an old man. The boy is a boy and the fish is a fish. The shark are all sharks no better and no worse. All the symbolism that people say is shit. What goes beyond is what you see beyond when you know.”

I’m so happy he said that, and I often wonder if a lot of other classic authors probably had the same opinion of their own books. Many times, there is no evidence that an author meant to have their book interpreted the way they are now (and we can’t go out and ask them now, can we?). Most of those symbolic and theme-based  interpretations come from scholars and symbologists that dedicate their whole lives to read through every word searching for hidden themes and symbols. But I really don’t see the point in that. Why is it so important? Why can’t we just read to be entertained?

That’s why I read. To be entertained. And to be influenced. I read as a writer, not a scholar.

This concept, reading like a writer, was first introduced to me last year by a professor of fiction writing. He expressed my very same views on symbolism, the very same views that Mr. Hemingway expressed above. When the class began, he made it a point to state that we would be reading published short stories, as well as each other’s short stories, in a way unlike any other class. He said that we would be reading to learn the basic concept of fiction writing.  He said that he wanted us to learn how to write fiction by studying the design of the way others write fiction.

He said that literary analysis classes ruin fiction.

And I wholeheartedly agree.

Reading like a writer means studying how these stories work. How they are laid out. How the plot unfolds. How the characters are developed. Instead of studying the symbology of a story, we study its architecture, its characterization. We look at sentence and paragraph structure. We look at what’s being said and what’s being implied. We look at what works to get a story published. Not only is it a great way to improve our writing, but it is a much more enjoyable way to read than trying to figure out why the writer chose certain concepts or images or themes.

My mind has been permanently altered by the concept of reading like a writer. Now, whenever I read, I pay close attention to smaller details, like how the writer described a scene/character or how how she created suspense. I study how terse or how verbose the dialogue is. I study how the story is presented, how time flows, the way flashbacks occur, where the story starts and how it ends and what lies in between. Despite all this studying, I still manage to enjoy the story, much more so than if I am constantly searching for how it secretly portrays the government or society or or some crazy crap like that.

In my writing, I have no desire in tricking people by hiding symbols, themes, or otherwise. If it happens, it is completely unintentional. The way I write stories is the way I intend people to read them. I just want my readers to enjoy the story as I enjoyed writing it. And I will keep on reading like a writer, even after I eventually get published, for I will always be able to improve my craft and challenge myself.