What a vast fertility of pleasure books hold for me! I went in and found the table laden with books. I looked in and sniffed them all. I could not resist carrying this one off and broaching it. I think I could happily live here and read forever.
— Virginia Woolf, August 24, 1933, A Writer’s Diary
A therapist shares what she learns from working with her patients and the therapist she seeks out after being blindsided by a breakup. I loved this book, devoured it in a weekend, and wrote down pages of quotes. It’s fascinating, insightful, inspiring, funny, and impossible to put down.Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men — Caroline Criado Perez
The premise of this book is that throughout time “the lives of men have been taken to represent those of humans overall,” leaving “one big data gap” when it comes to the lives of women. The author walks readers through everything from city planning to seat belts to medical testing and how these things and others have been designed (often unconsciously) with only men in mind. Fascinating and frustrating.Song for a Whale — Lynne Kelly
Oh my gosh, I loved this book! Iris, a twelve-year-old Deaf girl who often feels alone in the world, learns about a whale named Blue 55 who is ostracized by other whales because his song isn’t understood. Iris writes a song for Blue 55, determined to communicate with him. Lynne Kelly’s work as a sign language interpreter really shines through in her most recent novel. I loved the reference to the humpback whale record published in a 1979 National Geographic that I remember from my childhood. I hope, hope this book wins the 2020 ALA Schneider Award!The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness: The Path to True Christian Joy — Timothy Keller
This is more pamphlet than book and is a super-quick read. Tim Keller says everyone is searching for “an ultimate verdict that we are important and valuable.” We “perform” to measure up either in our own eyes or in the eyes of others. But in Christianity, Christ’s perfect life is given to believers. There is no reason to perform to earn favor or value. We can forget what others think of us or even what we think of ourselves. God sees and receives us through the perfect work of His Son. That’s good news!
Lenny’s Book of Everything — Karen Foxlee
This is a gorgeous middle grade novel different from anything else I’ve ever read. Lenny has a little brother Davey, who isn’t so little. He lives with a form of gigantism doctors are unsure how to cure. Lenny and Davy find solace in a Build-It-at-Home Encyclopedia set that comes in monthly installments. Beautifully written, heartfelt, heartbreaking, and hopeful.
Last week a young reader emailed to ask me some advice on writing verse novels. Her questions are similar to the ones I’m often asked at events or online, so I thought I’d share my response here.
It’s lovely to hear from you! I’m pleased you’re writing and enjoying the process, especially that you’re experimenting with verse. Outside of that article you found, I’m not sure I have much more to say except these three things:
First, there here is no magic formula / secret answer / magic bullet. I wrote my first verse novel, May B., after reading two verse novels. The conventional rule of thumb is to read at least 100 books in your genre or form before starting your own book in a similar style. I didn’t know what I was doing at all! But I learned from trying, just as you will.
Second, reading truly, truly is the best teacher. When you read, you are constantly learning about how stories work. Dig in and enjoy!
And third, you must find your own way, mistakes and all. If your stories feel like they need to be written as verse, then by all means try them that way! I try not to think of my writing time as “writing.” That feels like I know exactly what I’m doing. Most of the time I don’t. I like to think of writing as experimenting, playing, practicing, tinkering — any word that allows for exploration and trial and error.
So read a lot and be willing to try, even when you don’t know exactly what you’re doing. There is no magic answer or right way. Be willing to try, even knowing mistakes are out there to make.
Here’s to the good work ahead!
A library is a good place to soften solitude; a place where you feel part of a conversation that has gone on for hundreds and hundreds of years even when you’re all alone. The library is a whispering post. You don’t need to take a book off a shelf to know there is a voice inside that is waiting to speak to you, and behind that was someone who truly believed that if he or she spoke, someone would listen. It was that affirmation that always amazed me. Even the oddest, most particular book was written with that kind of crazy courage — the writer’s belief that someone would find his or her book important to read. I was struck by how precious and foolish and brave that belief is, and how necessary, and how full of hope it is to collect these books and manuscripts and preserve them. It declares that all these stories matter, and so does every effort to create something that connects us to one another, and to our past and to what is still to come…All the things that are wrong in the world seem conquered by a library’s simple unspoken promise: Here I am, please tell me your story; here is my story, please listen.
— The Library Book, Susan Orlean
It’s been years since I’ve had a summer where I haven’t been on deadline. I turned in Miraculous months ago and assumed I’d have an editorial letter by now. As I’ve waited, I’ve written a picture book, have researched a novel idea, have made some last touches on my October book, and have returned to my novel on my own.
I knew Miraculous still needed work when I turned the manuscript in. (I’m seasoned enough to know the real writing happens once my editor get her hands on a draft.) The thing I wasn’t sure about was how to proceed. But distance and time have been a gift. Now I can see places where the conflict didn’t carry much weight or where characters needed an early-on interaction to help later scenes make sense. I could happily live in Book World forever, going deeper, pushing further, discovering, exploring, enjoying the place and the characters that become more clear each time I visit.
Is it possible I’ll need to make changes once my letter comes? Absolutely. But that doesn’t make this time a waste. I learn something every time I open the document. I see things I couldn’t before. I find inconsistencies. I discover ways to strengthen my prose. I better my craft. I learn what it means to write by simply digging in.
I’m grateful for this deadline-free summer of learning on my own. My letter will arrive when it needs to. For now, I’m discovering the story I mean to tell and the words I need to do it.