Into the new: reflecting on reading and writing in 2019

Lemon blossom, close up: a sign of December

December is, for me, the season of reflection. For the past week or two, as things have wound down at work, in the garden, everywhere, I’ve been thinking about reading and writing – what I’ve been doing over the past year, and what I’d like to change.

I didn’t get as much writing done in 2019 as I had hoped I would; there’s nothing new in that (does anyone ever get as much writing done as they had hoped?). I *did* have breakthroughs with a couple of different projects that were stalled at this point last year, and I know how I want to proceed with them now. The trouble is that I have too many concurrent projects going, and it’s not yet clear to me which of these I will pursue first and which will wait. This decision is at the forefront of my reflections right now. I will decide this, sometime over the next few weeks, and we will see.

On the positive progress side of things, I was able to return to reading in 2019. I read lots, and I wrote about reading, too (here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). I’m happy about this – both the reading and the writing about it. My reflective reading brain is slowly creaking to life again, it seems. I am so glad to have it back.

And yet, despite this, I’ve been frustrated by my reading lately. This has happened before (and it’s a not-uncommon experience), but, this year (and maybe in previous years also, I don’t know) and for me, I think my frustration isn’t a purely internal phenomenon. I think it has to do with what’s being published, at least in part (this and this and this contain some previous related reflections).

When I’ve felt this in previous reading slumps, I’ve pushed back against my instincts, telling myself it’s all internal. And maybe I was right; I did manage to get out of those previous reading slumps. But this time, I’m going to try something new to address this. Following up on some recent thoughts on self-publishing/small presses, I’m going to try to devote a majority percentage of my 2020 reading to works published by small and independent publishers, rather than by the big 5.

I’m still working out how I will actualize this, but I’ll write about it here as I figure it out.

Listening

I have been listening to Performance Today this morning, featuring Andre Watts and Rachmaninoff’s 2nd Piano Concerto. When asked about his relationship with his teacher Leon Fleisher, Watts said that the most important thing Fleisher taught him was to listen – to listen to everything.

It reminded me when I took a class in drawing, many years ago. The class’ first rule was to really look, to see.

Writing, like music and drawing, sharpens my senses. Look, listen, touch: such small things, all a part of everyday life, and yet magic when given full attention.

Q&A with Scott Hawkins, author of The Library at Mount Char

Last week I posted about reading (and enjoying) The Library at Mount Char. Author Scott Hawkins was kind enough to answer a few questions for me, providing (among other things) some thoughts on fantasy libraries, a recipe I can’t wait to try, and advice for librarians engaged in power struggles at work. Thanks for the great answers, Scott!

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TheLibraryatMountCharI’ve seen The Library at Mount Char described as urban fantasy, as horror, and as speculative fiction. How do you think of it, and why?

I think of it as fantasy, but ‘speculative fiction’ works too.  I was a little surprised to see that some people think of it as ‘horror.’  I mean, that’s fine, think of it however you want, I just wasn’t expecting it.  I knew that there were horror elements, of course, but I miscalculated the degree to which some people found them disturbing.  I thought I had the horror dial turned up to maybe 5 or 6 out of 10, but based on the reactions it seems like it was more a 7 or 8.

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