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Reading Fuels Writing

Reading a Novel on My Porch
Reading a Novel on My Porch

I’ve been reading a lot this summer!  In addition to my usual dose of newspaper and education-related articles, I read a lot of books. Nerdy Book Club’s Book-a-Day Challenge encouraged me to track my reading via Twitter. (Click here to see what I read the past two months.) Initially I felt guilty about tracking the picture books I read for the Book-a-Day Challenge since many other participants were reading novels in a day.  I envy their ability to read so quickly, but I’m not that fast of a reader. (Plus I have a three year-old at home!) Thanks to Donalyn’s reassurances I realized reading picture books was more than okay for three reasons:

  1. I need to read a lot of picture books since I’m looking for books to include in Craft Moves, my forthcoming book from Stenhouse.
  2. I am constantly introducing my daughter to new picture books in addition to reading some books over and over again.
  3. I want to be a picture book author when I grow up (i.e., once I find an agent and a publisher), so I read lots of picture books so I can write better manuscripts.

I read to be inspired.  Nothing motivates me to stretch myself as a writer than reading a well-written text. I’ve read several novels this summer, but three have inspired me, kept me reading well past my bedtime, and have encouraged me to get more of my own words down on the page.

Cancel the Wedding pb c
Want to win a copy of Cancel the Wedding? Leave a comment on this post for a chance to win.

I have a feeling you’ve heard of Sittenfeld and Sullivan, but Dingman’s name might be new to you. Cancel the Wedding is her debut novel.  There were several things I admired about this book:

  • The depth of the characters — main and secondary — made me get deeply invested in this book.
  • Setting details were woven throughout the story which made me feel as though I were there.
  • Historical facts were embedded into the text.
  • The plot had twists and turns, which made it exciting to read.
  • The conclusion wrapped everything up neatly. I had a feeling something would be left hanging, but it wasn’t. Everything became clear by the end of the novel.

In addition to admiring all of the above, I also paid special attention to Dingman’s style since it felt unique. Upon finishing Cancel the Wedding, two things happened:

  1. My enthusiasm to do my own writing went up.
  2. My desire to find out if she was writing another novel was insatiable. Thanks to Twitter, I found out she is working on another one.

I’m wondering… What have you read this summer in service of your own writing? Please share titles and what made them great reads.

GIVEAWAY INFORAMTION:

  • This giveaway is for a copy of Cancel the Wedding by Carolyn T. Dingman. Many thanks to HarperCollins for donating a copy for one reader (USA/Canada only, please).
  • For a chance to win this copy of Cancel the Wedding, please leave a comment about this post by Monday, August 25th at 11:59 p.m. EDT. I’ll use a random number generator to pick the winner, whose name I will announce at the bottom of this post, by Wednesday, August 26th.
  • Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win.  From there, my contact at HarperCollins will ship your book out to you.  (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field only.)

Comments are now closed.  Thanks to everyone who left behind titles that inspire them.

Lisa’s name was selected using the random number generator so she’ll win a copy of Cancel the Wedding.  Here’s what she wrote:

Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd & How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes are Untied but Jess Keating. Both of Middle Grade fiction with very realistic, believable characters. I often feel that I need to write a book with a big dramatic event that is OVER THE TOP! But both of these showed me that the big turning-point event doesn’t have to be HUGE to be effective as a craft move.

Stacey Shubitz View All

Literacy Consultant. Author. Former 4th and 5th Grade Classroom Teacher.

32 thoughts on “Reading Fuels Writing Leave a comment

  1. OK, moving to Ecuador has put me out of the loop since none of the three authors you mention are familiar to me. Since there are no public libraries to speak of here, I depend on ordering online, for when my daughters come for a visit, or on my Kindle. So you’ve got my interest piqued. I have done lots of prodessional reading and some personal reading this summer. Moving is like having a full time job!

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  2. Thanks for the titles. As a literacy coach, I hope to have an after school Book Club for any of the staff that is interested. Something just for them! Thanks for the book suggestions.

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  3. This is a great blog, e’d to me by fellow writer Augusta Scattergood. Her GLORY BE is a current favorite of mine. Hanging Moss, MS, during what came to be known as Freedom Summer. Her sense of place & clear POV are worth studying.

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  4. I have had a wonderful summer reading a variety of books. The one I started with was A Writer’s House in Wales by Jan Morris. I wasn’t familiar with her, but I love her style, it’s as if she’s sharing secrets with me over a cup of tea instead of me reading a book. The second nonfiction I read was Hillary Clinton’s first autobiography. It had been sitting on my shelf for many years, making many, many moves and I hadn’t stopped to read it. I decided if I wanted to get the current one, I had to read the first one. I was amazed how interesting and readable it was. I found myself staying up later and later to get to the next section. In some ways it was like reading a bit of my personal history, because i remember so much of it. I finished some children’s chapter books and I’m currently reading a Phillipa Gregory historical fiction piece. I just love having the time to read!
    tpettyconrad512@att.net

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  5. I decided this summer if I want to be a middle grade author, I need to read middle grade books. Duh! I also think it helps me with recommending books to my students. They were all vying for one from my pile after I did my summer reading book talk. Thanks for offering a give away. Blogging and connecting to other bloggers has exposed me to many more books and authors.

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  6. Like you, I want to be a children’s author when I grow up! This summer I found a critique group (they’ve been invaluable! I’m floored by how much I’ve learned and grown!), submitted my first manuscript (got rejected…but proud of myself for trying), read nearly a dozen middle grade and adult books, and am figuring out how to write in iambic pentameter. And tried to sleep some, too.

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  7. Spending a week with my five-year-old granddaughter and a pile of books I need to read for the Maine Chickadee Award nominations has been a perfect combination of reading time! I don’t stress over ‘just reading picture books’ – hey, someone’s gotta read them! Also, I round out my reading with professional books, adult fiction and non-fiction, as well as listening to audio books when I travel or commute.
    Thanks for the offer for “Cancel the Wedding”!

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  8. I read all the Sunshine State Young Readers (pretty much) this summer, plus a few historical fiction pieces (my fav). King’s Ransom by Sharon Kay Penman completed the series on Richard–all the way from Stephen, Maude, and Henry. Even though I know a lot of the historical background and what happens, the books and her writing style keeps me enthralled.

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  9. Glitter and Glue by Corrigan is an inspiring memoir that made me cry and want to quote out loud often.
    For kids, I loved the rich family character development and inner dialogue of The Thing About Luck! So many golden delicious lines in that one!

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  10. Because I’m trying to develop my skills in the personal essay, I was very inspired by This Is The Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett. I really admire her ability to stay true to her voice and to take those “small moments” and turn them into compelling ideas about life.

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  11. I teach 5th grade and I am a picture book fanatic as well. I love to point out craft moves to my students. I read the Book Thief and several student novels. I think Cancel the Wedding will be on my Books I want to read list.

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  12. I wish I read more for me this summer, but I did finally manage to read the Hunger Games and I LOVED it! Now, I’m intrigued to read Cancel the Wedding. 🙂
    Thanks for the inspirational posts, I look forward to them every day!
    Maria

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  13. I have been taken some on-line picture book writing courses and so have been reading a lot of picture books – both fiction and NF. Love them all! Also am reading MG and Ya as well as the odd adult book. You’re right tho – a great book inspires you and you are eager to write.

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  14. The Signature of All Things – It was a historical fiction novel with Botany as the backdrop. I loved how I got interested in a topic that I usually would not care about through the storytelling of the author.

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  15. I love books that do that to me. The Invention of Wings by sue monk Kidd was the book that affected me most over the summer. Can’t wait to read Cancel the Wedding.

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  16. I just finished reading Me Before You by Jojo Moyes and I kept finding myself thinking about her craft. The characters, setting and problems were so real to me and I found it inspired my writing. I’ve read a few books this summer but this one made the biggest impact on my writing. Thanks for the post, looking forward to your new book Stacey!

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  17. Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd & How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes are Untied but Jess Keating. Both of Middle Grade fiction with very realistic, believable characters. I often feel that I need to write a book with a big dramatic event that is OVER THE TOP! But both of these showed me that the big turning-point event doesn’t have to be HUGE to be effective as a craft move.

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  18. I love this website. I just found it last week. We are encouraging more reading and writing at school. I am very interested in reading these books you have suggested in your blog. LuAnn

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  19. I love your line that nothing motivates you to stretch as a writer as much as reading well-written texts. So true. I find myself underlining and marking excellent writing as I read; just can’t help myself. I too like the variety of reading adult books (I’m a sucker for nonfiction), YA, and picture books. As I tell my students, good writing is good writing, no matter where it appears.

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  20. Thanks, Stacey, for the great recommendations. I need to read more adult books. Cancel the Wedding sounds like a good start. One book I’d recommend as a great middle grade read aloud is Tess Hilmo’s new book Skies Like These. I loved it! Great for boys and girls.

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  21. I’ve been trying to read with a mentor text lens on. I’ve been writing books down in lists – I have lists of books for good writing mentor texts, texts about friendship, central message, problem/solution, etc. I need to find some good books with strong characters. I love using books for teaching! Thanks for your posts!

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  22. Hi Stacey – I also love to read children’s books. I go to the library and scan the “new” shelf, those books you can only take out for a week because they’re brand new. I love to watch the trends and see what kinds of books publishers are choosing. It definitely helps with my writing!

    I became an “Indie” author just over a year ago because I was tired of waiting for my agent to find a publisher and I’ve never looked back. I’m having a blast. (I published three books in the last year.)

    Our book group read WONDER, by R. J. Palacio last month. Have you read it? It’s a mid-grade novel and an amazing story. I highly recommend it.

    I enjoy your posts. You inspire me!
    Michelle

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  23. Cancel the Wedding sounds like a book I should add to my list! I read John Green’s Looking for Alaska and Geoff Herbauch’s Stupid Fast this summer, among others. These books both have me thinking about the characters in my writing. I find myself wondering if they have enough depth and personality to bring them off the page and into my reader’s mind in the same vividness that they have in my mind.

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  24. Cancel the Wedding sounds like an amazing book. I’m jealous of all of your reading this summer…I found myself fighting a reading slump. UGH! It was like I had too many choices…strange complaint isn’t it? I’d pick The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson as the book that served my writing. I loved all of the characters and I’m in awe of how Johnson wove the plot together. It’s one I read slowly and I’ll return to again and again!

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  25. Thanks, Stacey! Just what I need, another book I want to read 🙂 Seriously, Cancel the Wedding sounds like a wonderful read. I loved Half A Chance, by Cynthia Lord. Lord’s characters are real kids dealing with real problems, but the adults stay largely in the background and the kids work out their issues mostly on their own. I also love the way the novel is structured. I think this will be a great read aloud and I can’t wait to share it with kids!

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  26. Kicking the Sky by Anthony De Sa. What struck me was how well he described the ordinary, and set it in the midst if the extraordinary. I also like how he used levels, looking at things from rooftops as well as from the ground, changing perspectives while maintaining the point of view.

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