Thursday, 26 April 2012

No time for books? Are you sure?

When somebody tells me they don’t read because they have no time for books, it makes me want to turn into the Hulk and squash their lying heads. OK, maybe not that extreme.
It also makes me wonder if they are lying to themselves as well as to everybody else.
People make time for the things they love, enjoy or at least are good for them. If you claim not to do something because you don’t have enough time, it simply means you don’t like doing it. “I don’t have time for exercise” or “I don’t have time to cook” or “I don’t have time to read” are all useless excuses. At least be honest with yourself and say: “I don’t WANT to read because I don’t enjoy it/find it boring/think it’s pointless.”
I know this sounds like a senseless rant but I do have a point, so please bear with me.
Are you trying to convince me that you can’t read for 15 minutes every night before you fall asleep? Or that you can’t read while commuting to work/waiting for your child in front of the school/have a cup of coffee/stir the Bolognese sauce (although I don’t recommend that – you might end up with a giant red stain on your favourite Kindle skin just like me)? If president Obama can find time for a daily run and a book, and let me tell you, he has more to do in a day that every other person in the world in a week, then so can you. You just don’t feel like it.
I have set a goal to read at least 50 books this year. I don’t have time to read 250 (although I wish I had!) but I can certainly find time to read 50. That’s less than a book a week. And you are trying to tell me you don’t have time to read A book? In 365 days?
Let me tell you what’s going to happen if you don’t read. Your brain will slowly but surely start to deteriorate until you have nothing interesting to say; your mind will forget what imagination was and you won’t be able to escape your boring little world even if your life depends on it; your eyes will cloud and there will be no spark behind them making you look older that you actually are; your kids will either follow in your footsteps and never touch a book unless they absolutely have to (how could they when they’ve never seen you hold one or even have one in the house) or will hate you for not teaching them any reading ethics.
I can’t imagine my life without a book. I’ve been constantly reading something ever since I was a teenager. I’ve read crime thrillers, chick-lit, romantic dramas, horrors, sci-fi, young adult… Of course, I haven’t liked all the books I’ve read but I’m absolutely certain every single one of them, no matter how cheesy or boring or predictable, has enriched my life in some way. My day would be so much more boring without a book!
I guess what I’m trying to say is this: READ. It doesn’t really matter what. There are so many different kinds of books, there must be something you can take a liking to. But if, in the end of the day, you still don’t want to read, at least have the decency to admit that. Don’t say you don’t have time because that’s just lame. Nobody believes you anyway and you run the chance of meeting the Hulk up close and personal. 

P.S. This rant-like post has been inspired by the World book day. Don’t ask.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Don’t even try to make everybody happy

Reading the updated information on Amanda’s Hocking blog about her book in progress Swear – the last in her My blood approves series - got me thinking.
Amanda says she probably won’t be able to write the book because of too much pressure from the readers. She knows exactly what would happen, how the story would develop and end, but feels that some fans of the series would like it, and some won’t. Consequently, she’d get a lot of hate mail and feels really disconnected from the story and the characters. You can read the original post here.
Before I say anything else, I’d like to point out that I’m a huge fan of Amanda’s and her work. She seems like a very genuine, hard-working, talented person and her books are so engaging you can’t stop reading until you are all the way through. Before her amazing success came, she had been working on her books for years and everything that happened after she published that first book had been a result of hard work and perseverance. However, her status from a self-published author to a very successful self-published author seemed to change in a very short time and she had been trust into the limelight for everybody to judge. Her books, her life, her every move had been unraveled, talked about and scrutinized by journalists, bloggers, fans and readers.
I can’t even imagine how that feels. I’ve always been a believer that an author should write what they feel is right, not what their readers or publishers or friends would want to read. Every story should end as the writer imagined it, not as the majority of their fans would like. And, as a result, the readers should support that, even if they throw the book against the wall in the end (believe me, I’ve done that many times. Not so often ever since I own a Kindle though). But my anger had never been aimed at the author. It had been aimed at the injustice of the world or a certain character or even myself for not being able to accept there’s nothing I can do (control freak much?) It had never even crossed my mind to blame the book’s creator (my rant about Jem and Tessa from Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Prince here. I did throw that book against the wall several times and I still loved it, although it didn’t go along with my expectations)
 I don’t even think of the author as I read, I just accept it as A STORY. If I demanded the story be changed to my liking, it would be a different one altogether, wouldn’t it? As my favourite Italian chef Gino D’Acampo loves to say when somebody asks him if they could replace a certain ingredient (or three) in a recipe with something else, “Just use another recipe and cook a different dish.” That’s what would happen if writers tailored their stories to somebody else’s whims – a different dish.
In the end, you could never make EVERYBODY happy. There will always be someone who’s disappointed. So, what I have to say to Amanda is this: never succumb to outside pressure. Your stories are great just as you envisioned them, do not change a single word because somebody out there made a face. Let them rant about it but pay no attention. I understand perfectly that’s not easy. It must have a great effect on you to read hate mail and it must get you down. But learn to develop a thick skin and how to feed on positive energy only. There will always be people who would love to spread their negativity around and, as a famous author, those people would be in their thousands for you, but don’t let them get you down! You are very talented, very genuine and grounded person. Keep writing as you see fit and I can guarantee that in the end of the day the people that love you and your work will be much more than those who don’t.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

I. Am. A. Storyteller

A friend of mine started telling me a story the other day while we were out on our daily 5K run. It began really promising:
“There is a bridge somewhere in Scotland,” she said, “over a shallow river, and every dog that walks along that bridge feels the overwhelming urge to jump off it. Many dogs have died there,” she finished.
“But why?” I asked intrigued.
“Don’t know. They never found out,” she said and continued running next to me as if it was perfectly OK to start a promising story, get my attention, wake my curiosity and then BAM! slamming me into a dead end wall.
“Let me stop you right there,” I said, slowing my run to a lazy jog. “This is not how you tell a story.”
“But that’s all I know,” she protested.
“In that case you have two options – either make up a suitable ending or never ever tell that story to anyone! It’s absolutely pointless.”
My friend just shrugged and we continued running in silence. She didn’t get it. She couldn’t grasp why I’ve been so disappointed. She simply isn’t  a storyteller.
Everybody knows at least one person who is such a wonderful storyteller that you listen to them with mouths involuntarily open, eyes sparkling with amazement and hungrily absorbing every word. They could be describing the contents of their weekly recycling bin for all you care. But they do it with such finesse that everybody is sucked into the story right up until the very exciting end. Yes, exciting ending – that’s one of the components of a good story. But first things first.
Nobody cares if the story you are telling is entirely true. You may have changed a few details like the wind strength or the receptionist’s hair colour or the amount of alcohol consumed; you may have exaggerated a bit here and there; you may have made the build up to the exciting ending a bit longer; you may have even made the ending itself a bit more exciting. But in the end what’s important is that it’s interesting. Nobody is going to google the facts of your story but everybody would be laughing/crying/clapping (whatever your aim is) in the end.
Let’s face it – most things that happen in our everyday lives are pretty boring. That’s why we, storytellers, have to twist and model the simple daily events into interesting stories to tell at dinner. Otherwise we are facing dull conversations and our children’s sparkle-less eyes every single night. Do what you have to do to make people around you interested in what you are saying – move around, make descriptive hand gestures, play roles and change voices, be sarcastic, be funny, change the story to suit your needs. I can promise you, when you see your companions’ glowing faces or when your child snuggles next to you with the request for yet another story, you won’t be sorry.
Just bear in mind that it’s addicting.