02 August 2010

Reading therapy

I will admit this - while I had been known as a bookworm during my childhood, that completely melted away during my teenage years, as the pressure of honors/AP English classes and literary analysis really built up. Reading was dreadful rather than fun, and even when I did read books, I often kept to nonfiction books discussing my favorite topics (science, sociopolitical issues, etc.) rather than anything fictional or literary. Sure, objectively speaking, leaving ESL in one year, and jumping to honors English in just another year, was an unheard-of accomplishment, but that was never enough for the people around me who were determined to send me to Harvard against my own goals/wishes. (Sure, I did end up at Columbia, another Ivy, but that was not so good for bragging rights.)

I continued to avoid reading even as I've been working on my own story to tell - the story of Sarah. That's NOT good. If I ever read, that would've more likely been a nonfiction book on airplanes or computers or some other topic of interest to Sarah.

But it appears that I am finally discovering the joy of reading! My nerves are extremely frayed at work, as I am trying to close out a few projects and wind my business down. But I've now started using downtime to start reading a few novels - and I found that being engrossed in the world of the novel's characters was actually the best way to distract myself from work and current events! Moreover, reading works of fiction is always a good thing, as I can observe some techniques used by the author and take inspirations that can be of use in my own writing.

Last week's read was My Life with the Lincolns, the first young adult novel from my (longtime) mentor Gayle Brandeis. This week it's another new novel from her - Delta Girls. One reason why I enjoy reading her is because of her emphasis on social justice. Of course, it doesn't hurt that she is a mentor I've worked with for years, and that I have better insights into her thought processes (and she's more than happy to elaborate if I have questions) than I would with an author I don't know. But if having such a mentor as a friend is the key to let me rediscover the joy of reading in general, and improve my own writing as a result, then that may be the best thing to come out of having a mentor! In fact, I am attending some of Gayle's public book reading sessions, to get further insights into how she came up with the concepts and the storylines, and what kinds of research she did; this past weekend was my first time seeing her in over two years in fact!

Hoping to get to know a few more authors and their works while at it. That also means I will need to get my hands on a copy of Dorothy's Girl, from my Facebook friend Margaret Bengtson, as soon as I can - since the concept of that book is very similar to the way I am crafting Sarah's story.

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