Get Ready… Get Set… NoNoWriMo!

NaNoWriMoThere are a lot of pep talks out there for everyone doing NaNoWriMo this year – the same as any year.  If you need a pep-talk to get you revved up to write 50,000 words in 30 days…

You’ve come to the wrong place.

Instead, today, I want to talk to the NoNoWriMoers.  That’s right: the people who aren’t doing NaNoWriMo.

If you’re a writer, the first few days of the month of November can be a time of anxiety.  It’s like everyone you know is warming up their word processors and shooting out of the gate, ready to write.  It can make you feel like something less than a real writer if you’re not participating.

But the fact is, there are a lot of us writers who aren’t participating.  And you know what?  It’s okay.

Some of us aren’t doing NaNoWriMo because we’re already professional, published writers, and we have our own writing schedules to keep, and abiding by the arbitrary rules of NaNoWriMo doesn’t fit in with our writing work schedule.  Obviously, this group doesn’t include me.  Some of us aren’t doing NaNo because we think the whole thing is really rather a little silly.  This group does not include me either.  Some aren’t doing because, even though we think it sounds like an interesting and fun challenge, there are things in our life that make it more or less impossible to participate.  (I’m in this group.) 

But whatever the reason you’re not participating in NaNo, it’s okay.  You’re not alone.  We are the NoNoWriMoers, and we are legion.

Ultimately, if you’re a writer, you have to write in a way that fits your life, and what works for you.  If that means you can arrange things such that you can set aside a whole month in November to churn out a 50,000-word novel, and if this appeals to you, then that’s awesome for you.  If you prefer to work at a slower steady pace, and the frenetic energy of NaNoWriMo doesn’t sit well with you, then hey, slow-and-steady wins the race.  Go you!  If life has thrown a lot of distractions or troubles or higher-priorities and you have to take care of things right now, and NaNoWriMo is the least of your worries… I feel for you, and so do a lot of other writers.  Some of us have been there.  Some of us are there.

If you’d really like to do NaNoWriMo but for whatever reason you can’t… cheer up.  There’s always next year.  Or the year after.

Myself?  I won’t be doing it next year, either.  I’ll still have a toddler with even more energy than he has now (I think they peak at about 5 or 6, but I’m totally shooting from the hip here) and I’ll have a new infant with an even chance of the new guy still having a highly disruptive sleep schedule.  So if you’re like me… you’ll have to bide your time.

Until then, write whenever, however, and whatever you may.  Just make it work for you.

Now it’s your turn to sound off.  Are you NaNoWriMoing this year?  If not, why not?  Do you hope/plan to try for future years?

The Writing Life & The Writer’s Living

Recently, author John Scalzi blogged a link to an article about a fantasy writer, Steph Swainston, who was putting her successful writing career on an apparently indefinite hiatus in order to pursue a career as a chemistry teacher.

I was fascinated by the Independent article that features Swainston and her decision to put writing behind her and change careers.  In it she lists a few of the troubles she faced as a writer – turning her story of success into a cautionary tale.  Some of her complaints: the inwardness of writing that leads to a lack of outside, external, non-writing experience (one funny quote: “Look at Stephen King. All his characters seem to be writers.”); the loneliness of the solitary writer’s life, the trouble interacting with fans, the book-a-year publishing machine (where authors are expected to churn out a new book every year), and the outsourcing of publicity and promotion to the writer.

Any of those might be fair complaints.  And they wouldn’t be the only ones.  One entirely not-unfair complaint I’ve oft heard: the miserly compensation.  An author cannot simply be an author in this day-and-age.  Unless you live someplace with no cost of living and are as healthy as an Undying God, the average income attainable solely from writing novels and short stories is nothing to base a household’s finances on – unless you are somewhat more successful than average.  Of course, if you’re average or lower, you’ll eventually be dropped by your publisher, more than likely – which is why Ms. Swainston had the opportunity instead to withdraw from the industry of her own volition and choosing, as she was apparently somewhat more successful than average.

What’s fascinating, of course, is the contrary version of the typical writer’s story.  It goes: yeah, there’s some stuff about being a writer that sucks.  But you do it anyway because it’s worth it.  Or: Crappy pay doesn’t bother me because I’d write even if I didn’t get paid (in the case of yours truly, presently, this is very much true, seeing as I don’t get paid). And so on.  But here is a writer who has decided, after having lived the dream, that no, it is not worth it. Continue reading

Guest Post: Writing & Parenthood

Today I’m guest-posting it up over at Ollin Morales’ {Courage 2 Create} blog, where I’m talking about the challenges of being a parent and a writer (when you’ve already got so much else going on), strategies I try to use to succeed at both, and commisseration for the hard times – when being a parent means there’s just no time to write.

Ollin’s blog is a great place for writers to go when they need an inspirational pick-me-up.  If you’re a writer who also has one of those things called a life, you’ll find plenty to appreciate on {Courage 2 Create}.

If you’re a writer who’s also a parent, know a writer who’s a parent, or are a writer who might someday become a parent, hopefully you’ll find something of interest on my guest post there today.  So head on over and share your experiences!

At the Feet of Masters: The Writing Track at JordanCon 2011 (Part 2 of 3)

Wherein I shall continue to elucidate the mysteries revealed unto me whilst attending the Writing Track at JordanCon 2011Part 1 here.  Part 3 forthcoming.

Today I’m going to continue sharing my experiences and thoughts on the various Writing Track panels I attended.  I attended all of them, though some of them I was a little late to, for various reasons.  Saturday had already been off to a great start, but then I was ambushed by Lunch Time.

Keeping a Long Series Fresh

Jana Oliver headlined the next panel, after Saturday’s lunch, to which I was late.  She advocated keeping a “story bible” to keep all the details and events straight when working on a long series – “because otherwise you will forget important details”.  This was something I was already doing, thankfully.  I have a story bible for “Project SOA”, and I’ve recently started working on one for “Book of M”.  What goes in the story bible: a bit of everything.  Descriptions of the character both physical and internal, notes about the history of the world, geography, the plot outline – you name it, I’ll put an entry for it in the project bible.  Right now the bible for “Book of M” is in its nascency, with only a handful of unfinished entries.  I’ve mentioned my project bible before, I believe, and I won’t go into too much detail about it for now.

The purpose of the bible, as she explained it, was to help keep everything straight.  But  you could also keep new notes and bits of inspiration there as you happen upon them, to help you inject some of that much-needed freshness. Continue reading

Anticipating the End: An Introspective on My MBA

Wow.  The last actual class of my MBA program is in two weeks.  Graduation is another two weeks after that.

What a ride.  To be sure, it’s a ride that I’m ready to get off of, now.  But it has been a very valuable and enriching experience.  Enriching, yes, but also exhausting.

In some ways it’s a surprise to be here.  I don’t fit the typical model of an MBA student.  I’m a creative.  I’m a writer.  I’m a fantasy and speculative fiction writer.  I’ve done no formal polling, but I imagine you can count on one hand the number of successful fantasy and speculative fiction writers with MBAs.  You could probably have lost a few of your fingers in some horrible accident and still have enough to count the number of successful fantasy and speculative fiction writers with an MBA from one of the top business schools in the country. 

Which is to say, the business field is not one that typically draws people like me who have such a creative bent and focus that creative energy on the production of fantasy fiction.  Let’s face it, there are certain stereotypes we’re dealing with here: MBAs are understood to be cold, calculating, detached, and overly concerned about money and the bottom-line; they have little or no compassion, don’t interact well with other people, and any factory floor worker could do their job as good or better than they without a fancy degree.  They probably afflicted with some sociopathic tendencies.  Creatives, meanwhile, are flaky, flighty and undisciplined; they lack the mechanisms to comprehend the importance of financial matters, are unable to deal with numbers larger than roughly around 20, and are prone to erratic and sometimes self-destructive behavior.  They are probably afflicted with bipolar disorder, OCD, or are addicted to mind-altering drugs.  It goes without saying that both of these stereotypes are excessively and bizarrely unrealistic portrayals of either group.  And that as perhaps an amusing study in contrasts I am a member of both groups.

Even rejecting these two extremes, I still have some trouble, sometimes, reconciling the duality of my nature, with regard to being a writer in pursuit of an MBA and a business career while simultaneously in pursuit of a successful writing career.  Because, though the difference between the two worlds is not so extreme as the sad stereotypes might suggest, the two worlds are different.

When I started my collegiate education more than a decade ago now, I chose to get my bachelor’s in business for a simple reason.  It was because I wanted to be a writer. Continue reading

Staying Motivated When You Can’t Write

Let’s say you’re a writer.  (I’m a writer.)  Let’s say you love to write; nay, you live to write.  Telling stories, it’s part of who you are.  You’ve been doing it since you can remember (I have), or maybe you’ve picked it up recently and it’s infected every fiber of your being.  Maybe you get the occasional recognition for your efforts – no major awards or publications, just the odd nod of the hat – or maybe you’ve yet to make a splash of any size.  Put short, you’re unpublished, but you want to make it in the biz¹.

But you’re in one of those spots in life where you can’t write.  Not because you don’t want to write, and not because you have nothing to write about.  You’ve got ideas you’re just itching to put down on paper.  But you’ve got other obligations, right now, other priorities in life.  You’ve got things you have to do.  And, at the end of the day, there isn’t much time left over for writing.

Last week, I gave you permission, as a writer, to put the pen down and focus on those other things.  Well, that’s a relief.  With all that advice out there thrumming in the background urging you to write, write now, keep writing dangit! – it’s good to know that, well, you don’t have to be writing right this minute, and every day, in order both to consider yourself a writer and to stay the course in your path toward developing a writing career.

Except for one little, niggling detail.  For you (at least it is for me) writing is an existential activity.  It defines you, it’s part of who you are, and you need to do it to feel fully yourself.

There is a lot out there providing motivation to writers.  There’s fellow aspiring author, writer and blogger Ollin Morales’ “Courage to Create“, for instance.  On his site he provides regular encouragement to writers who are in need of motivation to write.  It’s his schtick, the theme of his blog.  There’s also the aforementioned plethora of writing advice telling you to just write a little bit every day – even just a little bit, an hour, a half-hour, 250 words, anything, that’s all it takes!  Most published writers keep their own blogs, and often drop nuggets of wisdom and advice thereon to other aspiring authors.  The internet is virtually awash in advice for writers.

And yet, in all of this, there’s very little advice for those of us in that busy stage of life where we can’t write because other obligations demand our attention.  There’s very little to help a writer stay motivated when what they want to do is write, but what they must do is not write, but something else.

And I’ve been thinking about that a lot the past few days.  I have a half-dozen blog posts I want to write up: ideas for things that are meaningful to me.  I’ve been meaning to write about my choice of genre and the nuance I see in that choice.  There are tidbits and snapshots of my history as a writer that I’ve yet to share.  And, of course, there are these stories burning in my mind that I want to write: another short story that I hope to submit to that contest that I didn’t quite win, and a novel idea where I’ve figured out this awesome opening but hadn’t yet figured out the climax and ending, and of course that other novel project that I’ve been working on since forever.  If you’ve been a writer since forever, like me, you’ve no doubt got a similar supply of projects you want to work on.  Heck, even if you’re new to the game you probably still have a fair handful of ideas you want to write about.  (If you’re out of ideas to write about, well, that’s not the theme of today’s blog.  I’m long on ideas and short on time, so there you go.)  Continue reading

A Small World, Betimes…

Sometimes, you learn something that reminds you that the world is indeed small.

In the aforementioned class on Networks, this week, we reviewed the idea behind “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” – and one of the readings suggested that we all know, or are fairly closely connected to, someone who knows everyone – or near enough to everyone that through that person we are in effect connected within an average of six degrees to pretty much anybody and everybody.  Our proximity to such a person is part of what connects us more closely to everyone else (and such persons are apparently closely connected to other such persons, extending this network more fluidly).  I don’t know that I buy the Gladwell article, but if there’s any truth to it, that’s one major flaw in my network: I don’t know anybody who knows everybody.  Which means I may have trouble reaching the people I need to reach.

But even so, sometimes amazing links do pop up.  For the past month-and-a-half, on Tuesdays and sometimes on Thursdays, I’ve been serving in a Grand Jury.  Last week, while chit-chatting over lunch with a few fellow Jurors, I happened to mention that I’m a writer and an aspirational professional author.  This was in response to one of the jurors indicating that her day job, when I asked, was as a text-book writer (she writes books on speaking English for ESL students in grad school, and she has training in linguistics and speech pathology).  When I remarked that I, too, was a writer – of fiction, of course, not of text-books – she asked, “Do you know about Nanowrimo?”

Well, of course I know about Nanowrimo.

“My daughter,” my fellow juror explained, “She’s the director of Nanowrimo.”

Oh.  Wow.  Now that’s interesting.  Suddenly I felt embarrassed that I’ve never participated in Nano, that I’ve always been too busy.  Silly, of course.  But a funny discovery, nonetheless.

My fellow juror went on to tell a short story about her daughter – a few sentances, I won’t recount them here – and we talked about writing.  My co-juror used to write fiction, she said, but she could never get published, try and try though she might.  Then, once, whe wrote a text-book, and without hardly trying she was published, and she’s been writing textbooks ever since.

I’ve been impressed with the clear intellect and awareness of this and the other co-juror involved in this conversation.  They seem like smart people, people worth knowing.  I hope I’ll be able to stay in contact with them, from time-to-time, after this jury term ends in a couple weeks.  It certainly doesn’t hurt to  have folks like that in my network…

Writers and Authors

An interesting perspective on the difference between writers and authors today from Jason Sanford.  His view in a nutshell: an author is what happens when a writer engages with readers and grows from that experience.  The short-short version: writers write; authors are writers with readers.

I must admit, I’ve often used the two words interchangeably.  At the same time, however, I’ve also often treated the word “author” as though it is something higher and nobler than just a writer.  I’m a writer, and I’ve no qualms at calling myself such.  But I also classify myself as an aspiring author.  As if, somehow, I know that though I am a writer, I’m not yet an author.  I think, maybe Jason’s perspective has some merit.  At the very least, it seems to resonate with how I’ve used the words in the past.

At the same time, however… this perspective does not suggest that I’ve crossed the threshold between writer and author when I get published, and paid for my work.  Instead, it suggests I’ve crossed the threshold when I engage my writing with readers, when I experience feedback and react to feedback by learning and growing and improving my craft.  One can argue that this threshold could be crossed either before or after getting professionally published.

But by that perspective, am I then already an author, and not an aspiring author at all?

Words to think on, perhaps.

Weekend Assignment: No Mountain Too High…

Weekend Assignment time:

Weekend Assignment # 340: How Far Would You Go?

Some people travel hundreds of miles (in extreme cases, thousands of miles)  to see a concert by a favorite performer, or to meet their favorite writers at a convention, or to attend some other kind of public appearance by someone they especially admire. Other people don’t even bother to go downtown to take advantage of such an opportunity. How far would you go to meet one or more of your favorite writers, actors, musicians, comedians or other artists, and to attend a performance by him or her or them?

Extra Credit: What is the farthest you have ever gone in a similar situation?

I’m going to start this time by answering the Extra Credit, first.  Let me tell you the thrilling tale of the great lengths I went to to meet my favorite author.  I had to cross mountains, tread through the burning desert, and swim an ocean… Continue reading

Ten Books That Moved Me

 So, apparently there’s this game going on in the “blogosphere“, started, as I understand it, by Tyler Cowen on the blog “Marginal Revolution“: name the 10 Books that influenced your view of the world.  I first saw this on the blog of T. S. Bazelli, who’s commented here a few times.  So, at first I had a bit of trouble with this.  I didn’t come up with ten, right away.  It took a little thinking about it, but I did come up with ten.  And the list is a little surprising to me: they’re not all fantasy and science fiction novels (in fact, there’s comparatively little science fiction at all, which may make sense considering I’ve read very little sci fi as compared to fantasy), though they almost all are.  Further thought caused me to consider a few others that impact that list – additions I’d make or possibly substitute if I wasn’t going with the first ten influential books I thought of.  So, here they are:
The Book of Three Cover

The Book of Three

  1. The Chronicles of Prydain” by Lloyd Alexander: starting with The Book of Three and concluding with The High King.  Originally published in the 1960s, and the conclusion of which is a Newbery Award winner, these are books written and intended for a children and adolescent market, and that’s the age at which I discovered them.  I’ve blogged about the influence these books had on me before.  Suffice to say, I’m not certain I’d be a writer today – or an aspiring author, rather – if not for these books.  If everything else in my life were stripped away, this still lies at the heart of who I am, and it is these books that started me down that path.  The final book, if I had to choose, is of particular note in my memory.  The books concluded with such a tangible bittersweetness that writing that emotion has been a sort of quest of mine ever since.

    Picture of an Open Bible

    An Open Book of Scripture

  2. The Bible and other books of Scripture: In some circles (including among many of my friends), claiming the “Bible” or any other book of scripture as one of your biggest influences is by definition a cliché.  The fact is, through most of my life, I’d read and had read to me bits and pieces of the Bible, but I’d never read the whole thing.  Still, I was taught about its importance and preeminence among books, just as a matter or religious instruction.  However, when I was about 19 years old and in college, as I was finding my religious beliefs challenged in unexpected ways, I undertook to read the book, from cover-to-cover as part of a separate religious-studies class looking at a different religion from my own, at that time.  What I discovered there was interesting and exciting.  It challenged some of my long-held beliefs, re-affirmed others, and made me think more about the nature of christianity than I had before.  Was God, for instance, a benevolent and merciful being?  The Bible doesn’t always suggest that he is!  And yet, it concludes with a resounding affirmation of those very traits!  What to make of all that?  In the end, it lead to a profound shift in the direction of my life.  I can honestly say, were it not for that change, I would not be where I am today, I would not have met my wife, and I would not now be bringing a new life into the world with her. 

    The Lord of Rings in Hardcover

    The Lord of the Rings in Hardcover

  3. The Lord of the Rings” by J. R. R. Tolkien: starting with The Fellowship of the Ring, of course.  These are the books without which no list of “the most influential books” is truly complete, making it a cliché of its own.  But, of course, there are reasons the books are so influential.  It’s hard to imagine a world without these books: half of popular entertainment and pop culture would be radically different if so.  But this is about the personal influence these books had on me.  As a writer, this can’t be understated.  Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain books were what made me a writer, but it is these books that made me think more deeply about my writing.  I find myself turning time and again to the indices at the back of The Return of the King, and to companion books like The Book of Lost Tales and The Silmarillion for inspiration in the way that I approach writing fantasy and world-building.  I find Tolkien’s influence in my work so strong that I have come to consider that “novel-I’ve-been-working-on” (cue obligatory reference to “blathering”) not so much a novel, or a pending novel-series, but a work of Mythopoeia.  While it is, perhaps, pretentious, that is nonetheless my aspiration – and why I’ve put the book aside until I can develop my skills as a writer sufficiently to be able to tackle such a daunting task. 

    The Hobbit Cover

    The Cover of "The Hobbit"

  4. The Hobbit, also by Tolkien: Another publisher of such a list might classify this as part-and-parcel with “The Lord of the Rings”, but I have to list them separately.  Even before I eventually read this book – which is a children’s book, as opposed to a work for adults such as “The Lord of the Rings” – stories from The Hobbit formed the backdrop of my childhood (along with other tales).  Before I ever read the book, I’d seen the Rankin/Bass animated version of it.  As a story of heroism and adventure, it sets a very different mood than the later books, and have different inspirations. It was only later, with the writing of “The Lord of the Rings”, that Tolkien tied the world of The Hobbit together with the world he’d been creating since his youth that we see in The Book of Lost Tales and The Silmarillion.  It’s another part of the mythopoetic process that’s well worth reading. 

    The Cover of "Dragons of Autumn Twilight"

    The Cover of "Dragons of Autumn Twilight"

  5. The Dragonlance Chronicles” by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman: which begin with Dragons of Autumn Twilight.  Long before I discovered Role-playing, or took up “adventuring” in Dungeons & Dragons, I read the Dragonlance books.  And those books were perhaps the first books that nearly brought me to tears because of the death of a character (I won’t share which one, so as not to spoil it).  It was heart-wrenching.  Of course, that’s besides the epic scope and incredible fantasy-milieu at the heart of these books (and the companion series, The Twins chronicles; read those two trilogies but the rest of the “Dragonlance” books, most by other authors, are extraneous to these two series).  Again, really, these books skew to a slightly younger audience, but they’re still fantastic, in my opinion, and were the beginning of a long and fruitful collaboration between Weis and Hickman that continues to this day. 

    The Cover of "The Eye of the World"

    The Cover of "The Eye of the World"

  6. The Wheel of Time” by Robert Jordan: which begins with The Eye of the World.  For all its flaws and detractors, “The Wheel of Time” has earned a place as one of the best epic fantasies every written, and this is especially true if we narrow our focus to the first three books of the series.  These books are among the most thoroughly-researched and richly-detailed fantasy books I’ve ever read, and even during the long slog in the middle, I always found myself eagerly anticipating the next book in the series (when I started reading them in High School, there were six of them).  Even the flaws – and yes, even an ardent fan of these books such as myself must admit that there are flaws – are a source of inspiration to me: I ask myself, as fabulous as Robert Jordan’s books are, what did he do wrong?  And how can I avoid those mistakes in my own writing?  In a future blog posting (after I finish reading The Gathering Storm), I will likely go into greater detail about the series as a whole, what I perceive the flaws to be, and how this all influences my writing. 

    The Cover of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone"

    The Cover of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone"

  7. The Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling: which begins with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, as per the U.S. title.  These books changed my opinion of YA literature (or at least of YA fantasy and science fiction literature).  I had staunchly refused to read the Harry Potter books, believing them to be a fantasy-light that was unworthy of the attention of someone like me who was interested in serious, adult fantasy (such as the “Wheel of Time” books above); and I held out reading these until after the first movie came out.  Of course, I had to eat my words: these books are really well-written and enjoyable, regardless of what age you are when you read them.  In retrospect, it was silly, naive, and frankly stupid of me to hold the books in such contempt: some of my favorite books were written for the juvenile market (see “Chronicles of Prydain” above).  Can you spell hypocrite?  Regardless, I also learned a thing or two about writing fantasy by seriously considering just what made these books so darn popular in the first place (and by extension, caused Ms. Rowling to become the richest woman in England).  One part of the answer, I surmised: the role relationships between characters play in these books.  I also discovered, after reading these books, how annoyed I was at the U.S. title-change.  It smacks of pandering to the lowest-common-denominator, or of assuming the general stupidity of the American reading public.  The fact is, Ms. Rowling obviously did research on folklore and mythology in writing this series, but you wouldn’t know it by the American title: there’s really no such thing as a “Sorcerer’s Stone”.  But the British title has it right: there’s loads of interesting things in folklore and mythology about a “Philosopher’s Stone“.  

    The Cover of "1984"

    "1984" with the same cover as used in my High School

  8. 1984 by George Orwell: 1984 is easily the best book I have ever had to read for school.  It’s also the most darkly chilling, and most culturally, socially, and politically relevant I’ve ever had to read.  Basically, if you didn’t have to read it in High School like I did, then you should go read this book right now.  Seriously.  I mean, how do you even know what the rest of us are talking about whenever we snidely suggest that “Big Brother is watching you”?  Anyway, 1984 is the science-fiction (yes, it’s science fiction, even if they made you read it in school and even if Orwell didn’t know he was writing science fiction) dystopian-future magnum opus from before dystopian future sci-fi was the cool thing to write, and is the touchstone from which all other dystopian futures ultimately draw their inspiration.  And it is a book that continues to warn us against the dangers that lurk in our futures – dangers of our own making and born of our own complacency. 

    The cover of "A Wizard of Earthsea"

    The Cover of the same edition of "A Wizard of Earthsea" as was owned by my parents

  9. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le GuinLe Guin’s books are deceptively simple to read, and belie their deep exploration of complex themes.  My parents had a huge collection of books from my childhood, and buried in that collection was a box-set of the first three Earthsea books.  Pressed into the pages of the books were dried flowers: flowers I can only assume were given to my mother by my father.  I did my best to take care not to damage the dried, pressed flowers when I read these books.  I included these books on my list because I think there’s something deeper or more meaningful here than in many of the other fantasy and science fiction books I’ve read.  Also, I think Ms. Le Guin’s campaign to protect her copyrights from corporate take-over are worthy of note. 
     
     

                                                                  

  10.  A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
    Cover of "A Thousand Splendid Suns"

    Cover of "A Thousand Splendid Suns"

    This is a very surprising, non-speculative fiction item on my list.  Dear Wife very much enjoyed The Kite Runner by the same author, which she had read before we met, and when she got her hands on this sophomore novel by Hosseini, she convinced me to read it to.  Later, we saw the film version of The Kite Runner.  These stories were deeply disturbing and eye opening, and reading A Thousand Splendid Suns gave me a new understanding of evil that goes beyond the simplistic sense most often understood in fantasy fiction.  And it made me ponder such a situation in which “the good guys”, as my preconceived notions understood it, existed in a world where there were no “good” options, where every choice, every action conceivable would lead to more death, destruction, and evil, no matter what the intentions of “the good guys”.  Indeed, I was forced to ponder a world in which “the good guys” were a force for evil and ill in the world, simply as a consequence of their existence.  That is a stark reality to face, and it is one that A Thousand Splendid Suns made me face.  Also, this book has a fabulously enticing title!  

Honorable Mentions 

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens: At once instructive, iconic, enduring, and immortal.  Plus, it’s about my favorite time of year!

 Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson: Adventure! Treasure! Pirates! And a boy in need of a father.  A bildungsroman that still delights young readers to this day.  This book is beyond being a mere classic.  Plus, may I say that this book began my love affair with maps?

 The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells: Veritably the grandfather of science fiction (alongside Mr. Verne, the genre’s other grandfather).  As far as I know, it’s the first time aliens invaded and conquered Earth, and also the first time they were a metaphor of something deeper.  What I read was an illustrated, abridged version for children, at a fairly young age.

 The 1,001 Arabian Nights: While I’ve never read them, the existence of this book nonetheless has a profound impact on my world, and my conception of a heroic tale: from the voyages of Sinbad, to the tale of Aladdin, to Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves, these are adventures and stories that were a part of my childhood and formed the backdrop for my early development as a writer.

 Fairy Tales: From Mother Goose to the Brothers Grimm and everything in between.  My childhood was steeped in fairy tales – many of them from children’s books recounting the tales in question.  Others came from movies and television, still others were related as bed-time stories. 

 Wikipedia: It’s not a book.  But it is my one-stop-shop, where all of my more in-depth research begins.   (Which is to say, I know Wikipedia’s not where my research should end, but it’s a great place to begin!)

Happy reading!