July 19, 2022
Note From Rochelle
I was talking with a group of writers this past week, and one said, “I need a deadline.” Don’t we all! There’s nothing like a deadline to motivate us to get stuff done.
This fall, I am once again holding my Writing Accountability Group. We will meet five times over the course of ten weeks—to hold each other accountable. I will be teaching you tools for setting and achieving goals, overcoming procrastination, and getting work done. I’m opening up just six spots for this group, so sign up soon. Check it out: WRITING GROUP.
Today’s tip is my recommendation for what to read this summer—enjoy!
Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach
Writers Recommend: Rochelle Melander
I’ve read more than 60 books this year. Right now, I have four novels next to my reading chair as well as a stack of nonfiction books. I have difficulty choosing what to read next. Some days, I want the comfort of a mystery novel from a series, with a set of characters I’ve come to know. On other days, I want the excitement of a middle grade adventure story—following kids as they solve mysteries in England or Egypt. I also like learning about new ideas, so I collect nonfiction books about everything from time management to trees. Here are a few of the books I’ve loved this year.
If you’re looking for hope
When Women Were Dragons by Kelly Barnhill. This coming-of-age tale is set in the 1950s, but in this world, people had to deal with the Mass Dragoning of 1955, when “hundreds of thousands of ordinary wives and mothers sprouted wings, scales and talons, left a trail of fiery destruction in their path, and took to the skies.” (Book jacket) Why did Alex Green’s aunt transform, but her mother did not? How will she cope with the adoption of her niece?
If you’re looking for community
Search by Michele Huneven (2022)
Jamesland by Michele Huneven (2003)
These novels, published nearly 20 years apart, share at least one character. Search deals with the search for a new minister at a Unitarian Universalist church. Jamesland is about people who find community when they are at a turning point in their lives, and that saves them.
If you’re looking for a bookish read
All of the following books took place in libraries or bookstores. They reminded me how important our public gathering places are—especially the libraries.
The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams. A teenaged library worker finds a crumpled up list of books, and reads every one of them. When she passes on the list to others, magic happens.
The Sentence by Louise Erdrich. The workers at a small independent bookstore in Minneapolis deal with the pandemic–and a ghost.
The Library of Lost and Found by Phaedra Patrick. When librarian Martha Storm receives an old book of fairy tales dedicated to her by her grandmother (who she thought had died years ago), she sets out to find the truth.
The Last Chance Library by Freya Sampson. Lonely librarian June Jones has worked at the same library for her whole career. When the library is threatened, she must step out from behind the shelves to fight.
Bait and Witch by Angela Sanders. After uncovering corruption at her last job, Josie Way is working undercover at a remote library. When the library is threatened, Josie Way must find a way to save the old library. Oh yeah, and then there’s those witchy powers that keep showing up!
A Kind of Paradise Amy Rebecca Tan (Middle Grade). When thirteen-year-old Jamie Bunn ends up being assigned library duty as punishment for making a big mistake, she never expects to find just what she needs. But she does.
How to Read Diversely
This past week, I was on a panel for Nerd Camp, How White Authors Can Support Diversity and Inclusion. I spoke about how authors can promote diverse writers and topics when they teach and share their book with readers. I also talked about one of the most basic and important tools for promoting diversity: learning. Every one of us can build a reading plan to help us better understand the world. Here are some tips for developing a diverse reading plan.
Reading diversely means thinking about race, culture, geography, chronology, gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, neurodiversity, physical ability, and so much more. Make a list of three-five categories you’d like to explore.
Once you have a list of categories, look for book recommendations online. Here’s a list of ten websites that provide diverse book recommendations: https://www.booksourcebanter.com/2015/10/15/10-websites-find-the-best-diverse-books-lists/
I’ve found it helpful to read books by authors who come from one of the above categories. For the most part, that ticks many of my boxes: diverse authors, themes, and genres. Make a list of books that sound interesting to you.
Pro Tip: If searching online isn’t your jam, check out displays at the library and local bookstores. Or ask your favorite librarian and bookseller about their recommendations!
Visit the library
Take a few hours to review the books on your list. Review the jacket copy. Then read the first lines. Are you hooked? If so, take it home. If not, put it back and try the next item on your list.
Pro Tip: Once you find a book that hooks you, stick with it for the first 50 pages. If it doesn’t engage you by then, try something else. There’s no shame in not finishing a book.
Reading about diversity will change you. But talking about what you read: that will transform you. Challenge your book group to read more diversely and then talk about it. Start your own “Reading for Diversity” book group. However you do it, find people to talk to about diverse books.
Keep a record
I’ve been tracking my reading since graduate school. (I know, big nerd here.) Having a record helps me to review it and see what I am reading (and what I am missing). I keep my record in a three-ring binder, but there are plenty of digital ways to record and evaluate your reading. Goodreads and LibraryThing offer both tracking and a community connections. One blogger used Google Forms to track her reading—and that gave her valuable visual data. However you track your reading, review it regularly to see how diversely you read.
Write Now! Coach Rochelle Melander is the author of 12 books, including the award winning Mightier Than the Sword: Rebels, Reformers, and Revolutionaries Who Changed the World through Writing. She’s a professional certified coach, an artist educator and the founder of Dream Keepers, a writing workshop for young people. She can help you overcome distraction and finish your writing projects as well as navigate the publishing process. Book a private consultation: https://writenowcoach.com/consultation/