I’ve just added this accumulated pile of books on my desk to my Goodreads profile. It got me thinking about the importance of reading for writers. One of the things I put on my Writers’ Action Matrix at the beginning of the year was “Read books in your genre – study their elements.” It’s something that keeps cropping up in my interviews with authors. I am so fortunate to be given copies of books for children to review for Reading Time and Creative Kids Tales, and this forces me to analyse how and why something moves me to laughter or tears and the whole gamut of emotions in between. In short, what makes a kid’s book ‘work’.
I love it when I find a gem of a book where the whole package sings, like “The Cow Tripped Over the Moon” (my review here) which I am so pleased to see made the CBCA notable list this year.
And sometimes I can locate something gleaming in the text that captures my attention, and that as a writer, makes me sit up and take notice, like in Claire Saxby’s “My Name is Lizzie Flynn” (my review here). It is told with achingly beautiful prose eg. “I feel good until I see her stitches, neat and tiny like a baby’s eyelashes. Mine look like someone has thrown kindling wood, all higgledy-piggledy.”
And still at other times I find a concept that is so intriguing that it seems to ‘unstick’ my imagination and open up a world of possibilities. “The 52 Story Tree house” (review here) with its ninja snails did this for me.
So reading kids books across all genres helps improve my writing, but I would also say that reading in general improves my writing. I particularly remember listening to an audio book of Catch 22 and having a ‘Eureka’ moment that helped me through a concept I had been wrestling with in one of my manuscripts. I try and keep a journal of wonderful phrases that I come across in my ‘grown-up’ reading which may go on to inform my own writing. A few of the quotes that I have collected over the years include:
“Krystal’s slow passage up the school had resembled the passage of a goat through the body of a boa constrictor, being highly visible and uncomfortable for both parties concerned.” The Casual Vacancy, JK Rowling.
“she didn’t curl up – she was too bony to curl – but she jack-knifed herself nearer to herself.” Wicked, Gregory Maguire.
“Good looking in a squashed nose sort of way.“ Maestro, Peter Goldsworthy
“He did not have the brains to be afraid.” Catch 22, Joseph Heller
The physician “came, consulted, prescribed, left.” V anity Fair, William Makepeace Thackeray
“row upon row of poplars that looked…like witches’ broomsticks upended and stuck savagely into the earth.” Johnno, Malouf.
“Everyone in Banville had a little tag like that at the end of their name, trailing after it like the tail of a kite.” The Vale Girl, McDonald.
The only problem with reading. reading and more reading – is finding space on a bookshelf!
I’d love to hear quotes that have inspired you – please comment below.