Why writers must be readers

I’m sure you have heard it – from teachers, other writers and in books on writing – “Writers need to be readers.” Or something to that effect.

Writers work with words and it is in their best interest to know them well. A writer who doesn’t read is like a musician not listening to music or a chef who never samples other foods. Reading and writing go hand in hand.

Reading is not simply important for writers. It is essential to making them better writers.

Benefits of reading:

  • Reading other works of fiction can give you strong fundamentals in story structure and plot development. You can learn many techniques just by reading a variety of other works.
  • Reading allows you to see what works and what doesn’t work. Not all books with thrill you. You can learn a lot from books you don’t enjoy or don’t finish.
  • Reading can inspire you and ignite your imagination.
  • Reading can motivate you to move forward with your own work.
  • Reading lets you gain new knowledge on a variety of different topics. It allows you to understand language better and can expand your vocabulary.
  • Reading can expand your world. It allows you to step into someone else’s shoes and experience new things.
  • Reading is a great way to escape. Skip learning anything and just enjoy being transported into another world.

And you don’t have to read just fiction. You can newspapers and magazines or non-fiction and how to books. Writers should read a variety of works.

I know sometimes we are busy and feel we don’t have time to read. Or sometimes we are so absorbed in our own work that we may not want to be distracted by reading. But there is always a time for reading whether it is daily, on weekends or just on vacation. You can read while you eat your lunch at work or while waiting in the pickup line at your child’s school or while they are in gymnastics or karate. Take this time to read a magazine instead of scrolling through Facebook.

And if you don’t have time to read, you can also listen to audiobooks on your commute, while doing chores or while exercising.

Side note – I’ll admit that when I am in the midst of writing – really in a groove – I resist reading. That is because often when I read, I do get absorbed into the story and all I want to do is keep reading. Then I end up reading when I should be writing.

You write for your readers. No amount of learning grammar rules and writing techniques can replace understanding your readers and to do that you need to be a reader yourself.

So take some time to read, to enjoy what you read. Get lost in the language, get lost in the story. Everything you learn as a reader; you can use as a writer.


Do authors also need to be readers?

Every author that has a blog seems to write of the need for authors to be avid readers so here is my turn.

books uid 1269725Yes, authors should be readers. But I believe all people (not just authors) should be readers – and by read I mean anything – novels, news articles, non-fiction books, blogs, comic books, you name it.

There is a lot authors can learn from reading: learning what has been done before, figuring out what works or doesn’t work, gaining an understanding of the language, to broaden our world, expand on ideas and to get us to think about issues. It gives us new viewpoints and different techniques for telling a story. And it can fire your imagination.

Now I don’t read as much as I would like. In my fantasy world, I could spend all day lying in bed reading. But I have to live in the real world, and there are things to be done. I am the type of reader who authors love. Once I pick up a book, I typically don’t want to put it down. I want to block out doing all other things such as cleaning up the house to working on my own novel. So when I am writing, I spend less time reading fiction.

But that doesn’t stop me from reading the newspaper daily or checking out other blogs as I work on my own. And then there is the research I do for my writing as I delve into making my worlds realistic.

But when authors typically post that authors should be readers, they usually mean fiction readers. There are countless lists of books that “every author should read.” Have I perused any of them? Nope. But I imagine that many of them list great literary works. And while I am sure those books may be good or inspiring, just because something is a classic, doesn’t mean I want to read it. I have read some of them and quite simply these would not be the books I choose to read at the end of a long day.

Everyone has their own tastes when it comes to reading. And for me, when I have time to read fiction, I am reading for the pleasure of reading. I read to get lost in the story.

That is how I write too. I write the types of stories I would like to read. There is no symbolism or greater meaning to them. I don’t write them hoping readers walk away learning a lesson. I write so they can enjoy a good story.

So should new authors read or write? It is a toss-up. You learn a lot from reading, but you can learn a lot by writing too. In a perfect world you would have time for both.

I will leave you with the words of William Faulkner. “Read, read, read. Read everything – trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out the window.”

What do you do in your spare time?

Any stay-at-home mom will have received this question at some point in time. I am sure they have laughed at the person asking the question. Spare time? What is that?

As a stay-at-home parent, there is no such thing as spare time. Raising kids and taking care of a household really is a full-time job. Even after the kids start attending elementary school, your days can be filled with tons of activities to get done – grocery shopping (heavenly without the kids), errands (again, oh so wonderful without having to always be watching your little one) and volunteering at their school.

As most of you know, in my spare time, I am a blogger and an author. In addition to that, I do the bookkeeping for my husband’s (sole practitioner) law firm. And I am treasurer for the elementary parent-teacher association. And last week I announced my latest endeavor- a birthday invitation store on Etsy where I design custom printable invitations.

Spare time? What is that?

Of course, with all these activities, it isn’t to say that I am always doing something “work” related – though sometimes it feels that way. In fact, lately, I have been extremely busy with my Etsy store starting and the release of my latest book – The Heir to Alexandria (which comes out tomorrow). But I do get some downtime.

In my downtime, I love to read. And I am the type of reader that authors love because I get pulled into the story and have a hard time putting it down. This is so much of a problem that I can’t read in the daytime, or I would never get any writing done.

Of course, if I am not reading, my other evening activity (after the kids are asleep) is watching a few TV shows. As parents, my husband and I never get to watch anything when it actually airs. Thankfully, we have a DVR. (Yeah! We get to skip the commercials!)

Once Upon aTime promo image.jpgThere are three shows that we watch together which all seem appropriate for a fantasy writer as they are all superhero-based shows. (Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Arrow, and The Flash). Another good show for a fantasy author is Once Upon a Time. I love that show but so far can’t get hubby to watch it with me.

I also watch N.C.I.S., Criminal Minds and Suits. I know the channels are filled with “reality” TV shows and contest shows but those have never appealed to me. I do, however, like to watch Top Chef and any of its Masters variations. I don’t know why this show appeals to me as I am not a foodie. But I have been watching it since season 3.

BigBangTheoryTitleCard.pngThis fall I added a comedy to the shows I watch. I need a little bit of escapism and some laughter, so I turned to The Big Bang Theory. After my husband saw that I liked it, he bought me seasons 1-7 on DVD in November. It didn’t take me long to get all caught up. Awesome show!

And of course, as a fan of the San Antonio Spurs, I try to catch a game here and there. I use to watch pretty much all of their games, but now I don’t usually get to sit down and watch a whole game all that often. (We also use to have a partial season ticket package which ensured I would actually get to GO to 10 games a season. Gee I miss that. Maybe we will do that again next year.)

So, there is the answer to what I do in my spare time – what little I have of it.

Parent-Teacher conferences result in tutoring for both kids

Fall parent-teacher conferences are over, and mostly the news was good. But both teachers recommend each kid has some extra help to make sure they keep up with their classes.

Lexie (1st grade)

We had Lexie’s conference back in October. Her teacher opted to do her conference early because she wanted to talk to us before Lexie began getting extra help with her reading.

In Texas every student, kinder through second grade, takes a TPRI test at the beginning of the school year to access reading skills. In September, Lexie struggled to read the text on her own. Her teacher said she was reading at a Level D. This level is an end of kinder/beginning of first-grade level, but they expect them to read at the J/K level by the end of first grade.

Little girl reading bookNow to help, Lexie advance her reading skills and meet this goal, they suggested she attend a reading program called RAP. We are no stranger to this program as Jase did this at the end of first grade and then again in second grade. His participation was to build up his fluency (the speed in which he reads).

Now when you look at Lexie’s reading score for the first quarter of the year, you might wonder why she needs extra help. She received a 93, but this grade is about reading comprehension. (She did well on the TRPI test in this aspect too.)

So now she attends RAP four times a week for extra reading help. This is done during class when other students are writing in the journals or doing busy work. Lexie is given time to do the same sheets and write in her journal during other parts of the day. RAP also increases her homework by about fifteen minutes each day. I have already seen an improvement in her reading.

Jase (3rd grade)

Now while Jase has struggled in reading before, his teacher wasn’t as concerned about his reading skills. She did say he needed to work on them. When he reads aloud, he is reading at an end of 2nd grade level. He is right on target on reading silently. He did well on his reading benchmark test, placing above the school average. But she still suggests he practice reading aloud, which is something we haven’t been doing this school year.

Teacher writing math equation on chalkboard uid 1281297Her concern was more his math skills. His lowest grade at 84 is in math. He does fine with math, but he is slow at it. Even last year when we worked on basic math facts such as addition and subtraction up to 20, Jase could never seem to get the speed they wanted.

On his math benchmark, he scored only 8 above the passing level and about 20 points below the school average. Now he did say that he had problems with the test. He got hung up on one problem and then later was distracted when he realized others were done with the test, but he was still working.

But Jase does this often when under pressure. He freezes up. I definitely think he has test anxiety, and I am concerned it will only get worse as this is the first year that he has standardized testing. The Texas STARR test is this April, and you must pass to move up to the next grade.

So to help Jase become more confident with math, his teacher has suggested he join an after school math tutoring session that meets once a week. I am all for more help, and he actually seems excited about it. The math tutoring hasn’t begun so I don’t know yet if it will help.

I am just glad that the teachers recommended help and better yet, it is all through the school so no extra cost for us. I can’t wait to see them improve.

Setting up special accommodations for my daughter’s education

As I have mentioned numerous times on my blog, Lexie has a variety of medical issues. The only ones affecting her daily life right now are her eczema and allergies.

At six, her eczema has really gotten under control. Her skin is looking better, and we haven’t been doing anything different. She puts Vaseline on before baths, and that is about it. It still mainly affects her legs with her ankles being the worst.

As for her allergies, they still cause her to scratch some, but we just deal with it and dutifully give her antihistamines daily. Actually all summer, I gave her no medications, and she did fine. It wasn’t until middle August that something made her start itching again. It is always worst August and September, for some reason. (For those of you who don’t know Lexie’s history, she was diagnosed at age 2 with being allergic to a long list of things, so there is little chance we will pinpoint what causes the flare up during these months.)

I am not sure what triggered the school to flag Lexie as someone who needs extra attention. But last year, I received a Section 504 notice. This was in reference to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Under Section 504, schools must provide individuals with disabilities accommodations to help them receive an education equal to that of the other students.

I had no clue that her allergies would qualify her for that, but it does. I guess they consider allergies – especially a possible life-threatening one (Lexie received an epi pen 18 months ago) to be a physical issue that they needed to make a plan for even though I don’t think they limit her life activities in a way that garners special attention.

For whatever reason, last year we had a meeting with the counselor, principal, her teacher, and the nurse to discuss what the school needed to do to accommodate Lexie. I told them of her medical history, and that she had been to preschool without any problems. There really wasn’t much that needed to be done besides watch for allergic reactions and try to curb her desire to scratch.

Earlier this month, I had our annual review on her 504 plan. Now this came three days after meeting with Lexie’s teacher to discuss her involvement in RAP – a reading program that Jase did last year. It is designed to help those students who need extra help with reading.

On Lexie’s reading test in September, she was assessed at a reading level of D. This level is an end of kindergarten/beginning of first-grade level. I would think this is an appropriate level but guess not. Her teacher thinks she would benefit from the extra reading help. And as I did with Jase, I gave my approval. How could I not want them to read better?

So now her enrollment in RAP is part of her 504 accommodations even though it has no correlation to her physical “disability.” They are also offering to tutor her during school hours if she needs it. But these are all things that would have been offered even if she didn’t have allergies. Now it is just written down in the records- in case someone wanted to complain that she wasn’t being treated fairly.