Archive for the 'Reading' Category

The importance of young writers

The future of writing

I do not think that I would get many arguments when I say that the future of writing is in the hands of young writers. I probably could go on to say that the future of books is also in the hands of our younger writers. A future without writers is bleak indeed, but a future without readers is something I cannot imagine. It is a bleak pessimist who states that writing and reading are doomed.

My Hope

In the spheres of reading and writing, I am a romantic optimist. I see an unbelievable future for the art and craft of writing, and a beautiful rosy prospect for the joys of reading. How and what stories writers weave with their words may change – just look at how the internet, social media, blogging and eBooks have changed how and what people write, so too reading may change just as dramatically. We can see this already in the popularity of audiobooks and podcasts.

Very young writers 

I spent all of my teaching career of 35 years encouraging young students aged between six and twelve to read and to write. I don’t think any of them have devoted their lives to writing, but many of them have pursued great careers. Over recent days, I have been reminded again of the importance of reading and writing to very young students. I have been staying for a little while with my son and his family. My granddaughter, age 7, has always been a voracious reader.

The importance of reading

I have very fond memories of reading to my children when they were very little with my daughter on one knee and my son on the other. It was a nightly routine and a love of reading has stayed with both of them throughout their lives. I also have fond memories of reading to my grandchildren in a similar way whenever staying with them. (We live 1300km apart, unfortunately.) The habit of reading to the children every night – and sometimes during the day, too, has also been a hallmark of my grandchildren’s upbringing. Both are very competent readers with excellent comprehension and an amazing vocabulary to match. This competence flows naturally over into their writing.

The importance of writing

While on my current visit to stay with family I have been once again impressed by my granddaughter’s writing ability. She has an extremely active imagination and a great command of language and how it works. even at age 7 (nearly 8), she can write a very imaginative story with ease, the words flowing quickly and seemingly effortlessly. This has to be as a result of countless hours of reading and being read to by her parents.

Planning and structure in writing

One aspect of the writing I have seen her produce is that she plans her stories out in detail, following a structure which has been carefully taught by her teachers. She has a great sense of story, the structure of a story, and how characters, emotions, settings, voice, speech patterns and the like are so important in telling a great narrative. I am so grateful that she has had several great teachers in her life so far. May this continue.

Good reading. Good writing.

Trevor

On hearing about Stephen King’s 70th Birthday

Just a few thoughts today about Stephen King, Writing, Reading and Life.

It happens to be the great writer’s 70th birthday. I, too, will also be 70 in a few weeks’ time, but the comparison ends there.

I just wrote that he is a ‘great’ writer. Many people would undoubtedly agree with that statement, but I don’t agree – or disagree – with that assessment. I can only go on what other people have said and written. This is because I have only ever heard or read about his written works. I cannot recall ever having read any of his stories, so I really cannot pass any kind of judgement.

Not a fan

I should also say that I am not about to race out and buy any of his books.

There are two reasons for this:

  • I don’t particularly enjoy reading the kinds of books that he writes, so I am not a fan.
  • I have far too many unread books on my bookshelves and on my eReader to justify buying any more. At this stage.

I am sure that he is a fine writer. His popularity and his impressive number of major awards testify to this fact. He has the track record to show that he is a highly regarded writer by many people. I have no problem with that. But now I must come clean with a confession: I have actually bought one of his books and it has sat unopened, unread and unloved on my bookshelf for more than 4 years now. I speak of his book On Writing: A Memoir of the CraftI bought it with the view of studying the writing craft as seen by one of the greats.

And so I will. Soon, I hope.

Great Stephen King Quotes

Today I came across a list of 70 great Stephen King Quotes on his 70th Birthday. This is a great list of wonderful quotes about reading, writing, life and a whole range of topics. While I don’t particularly like some of them, many of them are great, and some of them are very well known, like this one:

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”—On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

I agree wholeheartedly. These two things I have been trying to do over the last 13 years since I retired from being a classroom teacher. All through my life, I have been an avid reader, but much of that reading was classroom based. I would voraciously read children’s books, always searching for the next great book to share with my students. For eight of my 35 years of teaching I was a teacher-librarian, so books have always been foremost in my professional life.

Me – the writer

All through my teaching career, I struggled to find the time to write. While I always regarded myself as a writer, my writing was largely confined to weekends and school holiday periods. Since retiring, however, I have given myself permission to write every day, and during some periods have considered myself to be a full-time writer. Life has a habit of getting in the way, and there have also been lean writing times – like the last few months caring for my ill wife. (She is improving – thanks for being concerned.) During these years of my second career, I have had some publication success, and I have written nearly three million words, many of them published on my various blog sites. ( Trevor’s Birding and Trevor’s Travels.)

Me – the reader

Now that I have the time, and the freedom, to read whatever I want to, I am finding so many great writers and books to explore. My family is convinced that I will die with a very high pile of unread books alongside my bed. This is probably true – and they will find many unread books on my eReader as well. Still, I love the freedom of reading whatever I want to read, and exploring the works of authors and genres I didn’t have time to read in earlier years.

So – Happy Birthday Stephen King.

Good reading and good writing to you all.

Trevor

Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Back in April I wrote about the fact that I had finally relented and procured an eReader. It was interesting adapting to a new form of technology. It was also quite a different reading experience. I found it very easy to use and quickly downloaded several books to read.

I also included my wife in this wonderful new addition to our reading regime. I was quite surprised how easily she also took to it. In fact, during the first few weeks we had to share the reader. She usually heads off to bed before me and reads for 20 – 30 minutes, and then when I arrive in bed it is lying there waiting for me. So far, we have not argued over its use at all. Not yet.

But I digress.

Well, not so much of a digression but more of an introduction to the review I want to do. The first book I bought and read on my eReader was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. When I mentioned this on Facebook many of my friends said how enjoyable this book was, as well as being totally gripping in its exciting subject matter.

I have to disagree.

Yes – I was totally absorbed by the storyline. At times I had trouble putting the reader down. I even took it out in the back yard to read – when the grandchildren allowed me this luxury. We were staying with my son and family in Sydney at the time. The utter fascination with the characters and the events in this novel had me spellbound, and about half way through the book, this began to bother me, and towards the end it concerned me greatly.

While I concede that this is a brilliantly written book – it has the reader in its grip right from the beginning – it was the subject matter which rang alarm bells in my conscience. I found the sadistic subject matter towards the end of the novel to be quite repulsive; I guess that was what the author was trying to achieve. I also found that many of the characters had no moral compasses at all. Instead, they displayed very strong ‘immoral compasses.’

Conclusion:

Certainly it is a very well written novel – no disputing that. I just found that this type of novel is not for me – especially when I have so many other books waiting to be read.

And I have resolved not to read the sequels in this series. Good thing I didn’t buy them.

Good reading.

Good writing.

Trevor

A new form of reading

I have finally joined the ranks of those with an eReader.

Yes, I know I am slow at adapting to the latest technologies, but I have some sound reasons. The main reason was a reluctance to buy any more books. I have many piles of unread books and magazines cluttering various parts of the house. I have been trying hard to get on top of these heaps of reading materials, but the list seems never ending. One day I will overcome this problem – I guess – though it has the benefit of never having to look far for something to read. (You are probably thinking that my house is a very untidy mess of books and magazines. Wrong. It is a quite tidy mess of books and magazines.)

But back to the eReader.

It was a freebie from my bank’s awards’ programme, a Kobo Aura. It was very easy to set up, and even easier to buy books. (Too easy, as my wife has discovered.)

My first book was The girl with the dragon tattoo, one I had been planning to read for some time. The reader is very easy to use and especially easy to read in bed. I recently read Peter Fitzsimons’ huge 800+ page tome called Gallipoli. I managed to read it partly in bed, but it was not really ever comfortable.

I won’t do a review of my first book just yet. I did find it a riveting tale and read it in only a few days. All I will say for now is that despite the compelling draw of the story I did not particularly enjoy the book. Sadism is not my thing, and several characters in the  book are brutally sadistic in nature.

From that interesting read I have moved on to a second ebook, The Kite Runner. So far I am enjoying it.

Good reading.

Good writing.

Critics of Australian Poetry

I must confess that I read quite a few poems in the passage of each year. I subscribe to and read a number of literary journals and occasionally buy volumes of poetry, especially new releases from poets I respect or have grown to love; for example, I ordered a new volume of Valerie Volk’s poems yesterday. I also borrow books of poetry from my local library from time to time, usually as the mood moves me.

I also write a moderate amount of poetry in the course of a year. I have never counted the poems I have written but a list must run to many hundreds, maybe 500 – 600 or so over the last 50+ years. I started writing poetry at high school. During that time I have also had many dozens of poems published in a wide variety of journals, magazines other places. As well I have on occasion been asked to perform my poems in public. I have self-published nearly a hundred of my haiku and poems on this site here. Several of my poems have won awards too.

Over the years I have written some reviews of books I have read, but rarely have I reviewed poems or books of poetry. This morning I was alerted to a major critique of the state of reviewing and critiquing poetry at present in the Australian scene. In his article “The Poet Tasters” Ben Etherington reviews the state of literary criticism of the current and recent crop of books of poetry, and finds them sadly deficient. He compares them to the lofty heights of general literary criticism – mainly novels.

The poetry critic is a different creature, evolved within a different ecosystem, whose resemblance to most critics of fiction is not much closer than honeyeaters to chickens.

The problem, as I see it, and as Etherington points out, is the result of economics. It is well known that a handful of novelists in Australia can make a modest living from their craft, but poets generally are their poorer cousins – much, much poorer.

The art form subsists in an economy of university posts, writing courses, postgraduate scholarships, literary prizes, government grants, fellowships, philanthropy and, above all, self-funding.

In the article he goes on the critique the critics, quoting extensively from a representative sample of them and concludes that the critics are far too effusive in their praise, and far too lacking in deep, incisive criticism. I confess that I too usually fall into this trap when reviewing, preferring to err on the side of praise than appear to be too harsh. I can think of only one exception where I was quite blunt and in direct opposition to the vast chorus of praises heaped upon the novel The Slap which I found written in a lazy and offensive manner.

Over coming months I do intend reviewing – and even critiquing – a number of volumes of poetry I have read in recent times. I must remember to not just end up praising the works but also digging a little deeper.

Further reading: