Christmas is over, so I’m off to do some shopping. I’ll never leave my chair, of course—the idea of going out to shop has become almost laughable—but there are a few books waiting for me to buy, a few more almost certain to be discovered, and an Android e-reader that supports enough apps to overcome even Amazon’s false Kindle barrier.
In other words, while I struggle to do any writing, I might as well do some reading.
My first stop is to pick up B. Lynn Goodwin’s newly released memoir, Never Too Late. If you’ve read any of Lynn’s articles, coaching or other missives over at Writer Advice, you’ll already know that her style will grip you, but that’s not what appeals to me most about the samples of this book. What appeals to me most is that it’s written by someone who remembers when meeting people had to be done without the help of billion-dollar apps, and when the photos that strangers saw of you were too expensive to be reposed or retouched. It’s written by someone who understands that the person in our mirror may not be the person we remember being, and that Craig’s List may be as brave a foray as some are willing to make into social media. It’s written by someone who’s learned that humanity is a fleeting treasure.
In other words, Never Too Late is written by someone from my generation: not the most fun generation, maybe, but one that understands no-frills relationships. Never Too Late tells the story leading up to Lynn’s first marriage at age sixty-two, and the samples promise to do so in a way that will tickle the excitements and embarrassments of readers from any generation.
Next stop will be to collect a copy of Sheila M. Good’s short-story chapbook, Maybe Next Time. My long-time supporter and one-time collaborator, Sheila has earned a following here at WordPress on Cow Pasture Chronicles, and now takes her talents into a collection of fiction that will make you wonder how you would behave if someone pushed you just a little too far.
Filled with genuine characters who could be your neighbors or girlfriends, Sheila plants just enough motive to explore how deeply each of their dark sides lay beneath them. The disturbing joy in reading Maybe Next Time is that these motives may not be life-rattling; Sheila dials up the conflict just enough to let readers know that we aren’t immune to our own dark sides, either.
Finally, after enough of the pleasure-reading, I need something in my basket to help me start writing again. If Matthew Bird’s Secrets of Story isn’t in your toolbox, then you’re not ready to tackle your novel. Matt has written some confronting challenges to a range of too-familiar artistic sensibilities, but done so in such a way that I feel like I have a coach sitting near me, encouraging me to keep on mining my ideas. His keen deconstructions about good storytelling will have authors agreeing just enough to reconsider points of advice that don’t settle in as comfortably.
Not only is Matt dedicated to helping other authors on his blog (also called Secrets of Story), but he has done some editing for me, and he never makes it easy. Matt’s insights take an author’s reactions from “That’s not what I meant to write!” to “OK… that’s how my book reads,” opening that psychological floodgate to an outpouring of much better fiction. I have no doubt that Matthew Bird’s book, Secrets of Story, will take pride of place on the bookshelf near your writing nook.
So I’m off for some shopping, but I can’t face the muzak or the lure of five-dollar coffees, and I don’t want to look at Christmas decorations that are overdue to be taken down. Luckily, we live in a different world, now—one that may not really be a world at all—where three very different books can be mine after just five minutes in that chair. They can be yours, too.