I love books.
Outside of my family and church, books may well be my primary vocation in life. I’m a non-discriminatory reader: I’ll read anything (well, I draw the line at erotica and excessive violence) as long as it’s good, though I admit I prefer fiction to non-fiction, and light over dark. And if you’re a book person too, I’ll probably like you.
Few things make me happier than hearing back from a friend that they read a book I recommended and loved it. Well, maybe getting a good book recommendation from a friend!
I recently read Josi Kilpack’s new Regency romance novel (starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly *and* Kirkus!) and was reminded how much I enjoy a good Regency. And since the season of summer reading is (almost) upon us, what better time to share a few of my favorite Regency books–and hopefully get some good recommendations in return! Continue reading
As a writer of speculative fiction–in particular, speculative fiction for children and young adults–I’m all too aware that sometimes a stigma persists about genre fiction: that it’s not “real” (whatever that means), or that it’s meant purely as escapism. But as Ursula Le Guin points out in response to Kazuo Ishiguro’s fear that readers might mistake his latest novel for fantasy, “Fantasy is probably the oldest literary device for talking about reality.” The best speculative fiction does more than simply entertain: it teaches us something about ourselves and the world we inhabit. Last fall, while accepting a medal for medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at the National Book Awards, Le Guin made this purpose even more explicit:
Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom – poets, visionaries – realists of a larger reality.
The same is true of these 2104 young adult speculative finalists, all of which imagine a world unlike our own, but sharing core human sensibilities: love, fear, families, and the pull to be part of something bigger than yourself.
I’m pretty open about the fact that I love young adult fiction, both as a reader and as a writer. I know the same is true for a lot of my friends, largely because books written for teens are less likely to include gratuitous sex scenes and excessive violence (though this is changing, particularly in edgier books geared at older teens). But I think there are other compelling reasons to read young adult literature.
As Sarah Burnes (a literary agent at the Gernert Co.) wrote for the Parisian Review:
When I read YA and children’s fiction, I feel knit together with the person I was and who I am, still, becoming. It feels, in Gilligan’s words about girls’ relationships, like a “continuing connection” with my past internal selves—especially my reading selves, my favorite selves.
I like too, what Neil Gaiman says about reading for pleasure (which is where most YA books fall for me):
And escapist fiction is just that: fiction that opens a door, shows the sunlight outside, gives you a place to go where you are in control, are with people you want to be with(and books are real places, make no mistake about that); and more importantly, during your escape, books can also give you knowledge about the world and your predicament, give you weapons, give you armour: real things you can take back into your prison. Skills and knowledge and tools you can use to escape for real.
I think this year’s Whitney finalists for young adult literature (non-speculative) do just that: they provide a window on the world, they allow readers to experience (or re-experience) the pleasures and pains peculiar to being a teenager, and (mostly) they offer hope.
The quarterly theme at Segullah is on how-to–and given that it’s the last week of the semester and my life is full, the only things I feel like I know how to do are the things I’m currently doing. And even then, I’m not sure.
But it occurred to me that many of our readers might also be writers (most writers start with a love for the written word), and some of them might be interested in something I’ve recently spent a lot of time learning how to do: writing and publishing a book.
About a month ago, while reading Elder Eyring’s First Presidency message in the February Ensign, I was struck—and stricken—by his admonition to be less selfish: “The Lord taught us that when we are truly converted to His gospel, our hearts will be turned from selfish concerns and turned toward service to lift others as they move upward to eternal life.”
Parenthood has cured some—but not nearly all—of my selfish propensities, but I struggle with ways to be more selfless, particularly as a writer. In the intervening month, I’ve wrestled with the question: how can I be both increasingly selfless *and* creative? As a writer, I have to carve time for myself—time away from my husband, my children, from other people I could be serving. Much of my creative energy gets spent in pursuits that appear, on the surface, to be selfish.
We’re told repeatedly to develop our talents. My own talent for writing is one I feel prompted to pursue. And yet I still struggle with guilt, with the feeling that my creative needs are not only an indulgence, but a selfish one at that.
I’m (slowly) coming to believe that my problem is two-fold: part of my problem stems from a cultural conditioning, particularly of women. And part of it stems from a too-narrow understanding of creativity. Continue reading