Tuesday, April 1, 2014

In Praise of Reading (and Writing)

I have been an avid reader for most of my life and have found so much comfort and solace in books. Reading was always a favourite activity and one I could count on when life took its inevitable difficult turns. Books taught me a lot about the world and other people. They gave me hope and satisfied my curiosity. Books were very good friends.

Little did I realize, when I was younger, that avid readers often become writers. That's what I always tell students in the schools that I visit. Then I ask the group, "Who likes to read?" I invariably find keen readers (like my younger self) who love nothing more than to immerse themselves in a book. I tell them that they may become writers someday. The children are always thrilled.

I am frequently asked by other adults about how to break into writing, and how to get a manuscript published. My advice always begins with a suggestion to read. Read widely and read voraciously; read in the genres you wish to be published in and read other ones, too. When you are reading, you are learning about the ways that words can be strung together and what makes a compelling story. You are discovering how to create a memorable book. You might need to read hundreds or thousands of books before you are ready to write one. (Most people don't want to hear this; they want a faster road to publication.)

But getting published is not a speedy process. It can take years and years. You've got to love reading and writing more than the idea of getting published. And not everyone does.

I had a fall some months ago and have been on a long, slow recuperation from a concussion. In the early days, I wasn't supposed to read or write. It was very tough to give up those activities. The months have passed and I am thrilled to be back to reading several books in a week, and also polishing a manuscript to submit.

Reading and writing: what wonderful pastimes! So happy to have them as an integral part of my life.

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