A Teen Writer’s Breakthrough

This is an essay by Alyssa Liljequist.

“I’ve had a breakthrough!” It sounds like something an inventor or mad scientist would say. But writers or want-to-be-published writers can have breakthroughs as well. The first published article for a freelance writer is memorable. So is the first sale. For some, that is one and the same but for others, such as myself, it is quite different. I was fourteen when I began writing for an online magazine for ladies entitled Growing in Grace. This was my first foray into writing for a magazine. I remember it clearly because, well, I’m only 18 now. I was not used to writing nonfiction since I was formerly a fiction writer for the most part. For two years, I gained experience in writing articles on various topics and writing them on short notice. Though I was not paid for being a contributor, the experience has paid for itself. During my time as a contributor to Growing in Grace, I wasn’t doing any freelance work.

At 16, I finally decided to submit to a writing newsletter that paid and that accepted submissions from teens. You might be wondering what advice I could have given since I hadn’t been writing for that long. Yet, I had been writing long enough to run into writer’s block so I wrote about choosing to write and five tips on how to write despite lack of inspiration. “To Write or Not to Write?” was submitted via email. Soon, I received a reply. It was accepted for publication. I was so excited! I was able to see my name in print, albeit in my inbox, and receive payment for it. This was my breakthrough and you can have your own breakthrough, too. Now I can’t promise that it will happen on the first try but here are some things to keep in mind:

Have reasonable expectations.

When I say I was “paid”, I don’t mean a three digit figure (though those are nice and have happened since then). Getting your first paid acceptance, regardless of the amount, will boost your confidence, paving the way for submitting to higher-paying magazines. The first publication I targeted was: 1. Looking for submissions. 2. About a subject I was interested in and had some experience in. 3. Publishing articles with a word count of no more than 500-550 words. That kept me from being intimidated. How does this apply to you? Follow guidelines carefully and write about something you know and are passionate about.

Enter writing contests.

Writing contests are a great way to gain exposure and writing experience. A few months ago, I entered the quarterly Euterpe YA Short Story Contest and was the first grand prize winner. The main part of my prize was having my short story published as an e-book. This contest opened the door to an incredible new adventure in the world of writing. Nevertheless, there are many benefits to entering writing contests besides winning a prize. Some of my favorite stories that I’ve written have come about as the result of a writing contest. Themed contests can spark the imagination. A healthy feeling of competition can spur you to improve your writing. There are even a few contests that offer feedback on your entry. After the contest is over, if you don’t win, you can always choose to take that story which you have carefully crafted and submit it to a magazine.

Take initiative.

For a breakthrough of any kind, initiative is necessary. You are your own boss and you must be able to research, write, edit, and submit in a timely fashion. Set doable starting goals for yourself. Would you like to submit one story/article a month? A week? Give yourself deadlines so you will actually do it, instead of postponing until “later.” Allow time to both write and polish your article.

Finally, swallow any fear you might have and submit to a publication that is a good fit.

Sometimes I write an article based on my inspiration from a magazine’s guidelines. Other times I write an article first and then find a home for it. Regardless, this final step is what gets your writing before editors. They can’t accept it if they don’t see it first. I understand the fear of rejection. Since my first paid acceptance, I have received many rejections but I’ve also been accepted by a variety of publications. It is not possible to be a published writer without risking rejection from someone. This someone could be an editor, publisher, agent, or your audience. Remember that you also have the chance to inform, to make someone laugh, or to touch someone’s heart. So what are you waiting for? Stop reading my writing and go write a story, article, or poem of your own!

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Alyssa Liljequist is an 18-year-old freelance writer whose work has been published by various online and print publications. Her e-book, Deadly Delirium, can be found on Amazon and the Musa Publishing website. She blogs athttp://mylifewithamission.blogspot.com.

Photo: Some rights reserved by quapan.

Writing Book Reviews – An Application

This is an essay by Brandon Monk.

Recently, I was honored to host an essay by Dianna L. Gunn. In the essay, she talked about how to write book reviews. Upon reading her essay it struck me, I have never attempted to review a book. I read, I take notes, I incorporate my notes into blog posts, but never have I reviewed. What a disservice to the authors I truly appreciate. Today I’ll remedy that. This post is my application of Dianna’s review guidelines to review Andrew Blackman’s Award Winning Novel, On the Holloway Road.

1. Read slowly.

I read On the Holloway Road over the course of a week. The book is 202 pages of reading bliss. It took some effort to hold myself back from gobbling it down even faster.

2. Take notes.

I bought the book in paperback so I took the opportunity to jot down notes in the margin and underline paragraphs of interest.

Here’s an example of my sloppy but practical underlining:

3. Deconstruct the book to figure out what works.

I deconstructed the book so I could come up with some very rough opinions/general thoughts about the areas Dianna suggests reviewers consider.

  • Why do I like/dislike the main character?
I like the main characters in the book, Neil and Jack because they are real people with faults and inconsistencies.
  • Does the writer use all the senses well?
The descriptive language in the book is beautiful. The setting varies widely throughout the book and the author does a brilliant job of bringing the reader to those places.
  • What makes the location of the story so interesting?
The location is interesting to me, being from the United States, because it is completely unknown, almost like a fictional world. The impression a native citizen of the UK might get would be completely different. I find that very interesting to consider.
  • Did I learn anything from this book?
I learned real people are vulnerable despite what impression they may give you when you meet them. I learned the way relationships develop, even among two people, is very interesting. I learned those relationships change when you interject another person into the dynamic.  I learned the impact of a relationship is for a lifetime even though the formation of that relationship may be by chance.
  • Who else would enjoy this book?
I think fans of Tom Joad from The Grapes of Wrath or Jack Kerouac would enjoy this book. I also think anyone  interested in the dynamics of a friendship would enjoy this book.

4. Figure out what you would have done differently.

I feel highly unqualified to offer this opinion. To follow the guidelines though, as a reader, I would like to know more about Nicola, another character in the book.

5. Decide on a rating system.

Because I will  post the review on Amazon.com I decided to go with a five-star rating system.

Having considered the areas Dianna discussed, I wrote my review.

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On the Holloway Road is the winner of the Luke Bitmead Writers’ Bursary which was offered in memory of Luke Bitmead, an author, who passed away five months after the launch of his first novel. The award is intended to support aspiring writers. You can learn more about the author, Andrew Blackman, here. I hear his next book is due out Spring 2013 and will be called “A Virtual Love.”

The two main characters, Jack and Neil, embark on a road trip after meeting on the Holloway Road. The book focuses on Neil’s powerful influence over the people he meets, his attitude toward the world and the people he encounters, and on their trip together. Jack has left behind an unfinished novel and his mother to embark on the road trip. Neil has left nothing behind aside from his past brushes with the law.

The characters are developed as real living human beings. I value this. I tire of stereotypical characters created more out of an idea than a true story. It is these real faults and inconsistencies that make people rather than characters. People make stories unpredictable and thrillingly real.

The book uses vivid literary descriptions to bring us across the UK with Neil and Jack as they search for…something. For Neil, the search seems to be for adventure. For Jack, the search is more of an internal struggle for identity. As of the date of this review I have never been to the UK. I like that I read this book, though, before I had anything concrete to compare the setting to. Blackman uses the blank slate that is my understanding of the UK landscape and creates the beautiful geography of a UK road trip.

The book raised questions in my mind worth evenings of consideration. The characters, even and especially Neil, are vulnerable humans. None are handled delicately by the world or by the author because to do so would be to keep the reader from feeling the true nature of their own existence. For all the outward appearances of bravado and anarchical tendencies, the real story is what every reader knows the characters are struggling with under the surface.

Have they missed the very best of life or can they re-create the lives their favorite legends of the past lived? Have the best times come and gone? Have the Tom Joads and even Jack Kerouacs of the world been hunted into extinction? If they have, then who is responsible for their demise? Is there any place for a hero unwilling to admit his vulnerable nature? Is there any room for an individual to live without restriction and based on whim? Is there room for true friendship or camaraderie today?

Like Hemingway, Blackman brilliantly keeps the real symbolism and emotion out of sight, but still in the readers’ mind. (Remember Hemingway’s statement, “The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.”) Rarely, and only using the most cutting dialogue, Blackman gives the reader a taste of what the characters are really struggling with.

The scenes involving Nicola invoked more emotion in me than any other in the book. It is in these scenes Neil is revealed to be, ultimately, selfish and where Jack is shown to have been truly harmed by Neil’s selfish nature. Neil’s selfishness is not seen as malicious because he is unconcerned with the consequences of his actions, but Jack is hurt by them. There is another entire book in this dynamic. I would like to hear it told by Nicola. I would like to hear her explain whether Neil imposed his will on her or whether she submitted to it. I would like to hear her explain herself to Jack. None of these omissions, however, negatively impact the book Blackman chose to write. Jack and Neil’s story remains the focus of the book. I’m just left wondering what the other eighth of the iceberg looks like.

I believe, despite the setting being the UK, the book is an American book. It deals with the American dream and the concept and symbolism behind the open road. I’m an American, so of course I could be biased, but this book seems to be written in the tradition of Hemingway, Steinbeck, and Kerouac. If your sympathies align with Tom Joad from The Grapes of Wrath or with Jack Kerouac’s On The Road then you must read this book. If your sympathies don’t align with Tom Joad, of course, I’d love to hear you try to make the argument, sober, and with a straight face.

I give the book five stars.

Now to figure out how to put it on Amazon.com.

Update: You can read the review on Amazon.

Have you recently reviewed a book? Where can we find your review? Share in the comments.

Two Beautiful Greek Words That Give Our Reading Perspective

This is a continuation of our “Why Read” discussion. Remember, we started by defining the three broad reasons to read. Then we talked about pleasure and education. Last week, we continued our discussion by looking at  how reading reveals new ways to live.

Today I want to talk about two ancient Greek words, paedeia and eudaimonia, and what they mean to your reading. These two Greek words carry the weight of tradition. Both of these words have been the subject of philosophical discussion for centuries. That, of course, tells us they can mean just about anything you imagine  (no offense to philosophy majors, it was my favorite class as an undergraduate).

Paedeia

Let’s start with a dictionary definition:

training of the physical and mental faculties in such a way as to produce a broad enlightened mature outlook harmoniously combined with maximum cultural development
English borrowed the Greek word and rooted it into words like encyclopedia, but that is really a bastardized use of the word when you consider how we use encyclopedias today.

Paedeia, in ancient Greece, was the process of educating humans into their true form, the real and genuine human nature. For our purposes, though, I am most interested in part of the definition that deals with a “broad enlightened mature outlook harmoniously combined with maximum cultural development.” What a mouth full!

For ancient Greeks, it was not enough to memorize facts. It was not enough to gather large stores of information. A proper education concerned itself with teaching how those facts can be used to look at the world.

This is how we should read. It is not enough to plow through a book without stopping to consider the  ideas expressed. It is not enough to absorb a work and take it at face value without stopping to consider how you might apply what you’ve learned from your reading.

Eudaimonia

Again, let’s start with a dictionary definition:

a person’s state of excellence characterized by objective flourishing across a lifetime, and brought about through the exercise of moral virtue, practical wisdom, and rationality.”

A lifetime of “flourishing” is what we’re after, isn’t it? A weekend of flourishing is not enough nor is a decade if you’ve been given more time. Your approach to reading should be with this outlook as well.

Eudaimonia is a combination of morality, practical wisdom, and rational thought. Exploring only one is not enough. Your reading should be well-rounded.

We should read with this aim in mind. We should read for a lifetime of learning and flourishing in a well-rounded way.

How Do You Read Like These Greek Words Suggest?

1. Read slowly.

2. Take time to contemplate what you’ve read.

3. Consider a real world experience that might relate to your reading.

4. Discuss or write about what you’ve read to test your ideas.

5. Read from a variety of sources and on a variety of subjects.

6. Re-Read.

7. Make reading a daily habit for life. Even if that means, some days, spending only five minutes reading a folded up poem from your pocket.

8. Have a conversation with the author you’re reading in the margins of your text.

9. Read with an open mind and without pre-suppositions.

10. Question everything you read.

11. Eventually, take a position for or against what an author’s written.

By following these guidelines your reading will never be boring nor will it be wasted time.

Photo: Some rights reserved by Mark Wooten.

The Cognitive Benefits of Reading

This is an essay by Anita Dualeh.

Reading is good for the brain. Though this would probably never be one’s primary reason for reading, it is an interesting byproduct of being an avid reader. The cognitive benefits of reading may also suggest some compelling reasons why we might want to help others – either children or struggling adults – to advance in their reading skills. (Kudos to all the reading mentors out there.)

The following findings are from an article published in the Journal of Direct Reading Instruction in which a professor of education and a professor of psychology examine empirical evidence about the contribution of independent reading to one’s general knowledge, reading ability and verbal intelligence. Though key findings in the article included both the impact of reading on children and adults, this blog post focuses on findings from studies with adults.

Growth in Verbal Skills

One benefit of reading a lot is a well-developed vocabulary. Most people acquire vocabulary through exposure rather than explicit instruction. We learn new words by seeing them or hearing them used in context. Since oral language lacks the richness of written material, most vocabulary is acquired through reading. Reading material typically contains words that are two to three times more rare than words used in conversation or TV. Additionally, print material provides about three times as many opportunities to encounter new words than oral language does. Results from a study with college students suggest that reading also makes a significant contribution to verbal fluency, spelling and general knowledge, even after factoring out the contribution of reading ability and general intelligence.

Increased Knowledge

Reading volume is associated with higher scores on general knowledge tests, while television watching is associated with lower scores. In a study involving 268 college students, avid readers scored higher on five different measures of general/practical knowledge. Respondents also demonstrated that familiarity with prime time television material tended to be negatively associated with possessing accurate information about the world. Researchers concluded that the “cognitive anatomy of misinformation” is the result of too little reading (though they did note that watching public television programs, news and documentary could have similar positive effects on world knowledge as reading would.)

Arrested Cognitive Decline

One study compared the performance of college students and senior citizens on working memory, general knowledge, vocabulary and syllogistic reasoning. Participants also completed several measures of reading volume. College students outperformed older participants on working memory and reasoning tasks, whereas they did not do as well as the older participants on vocabulary and general knowledge tasks. The positive relationships between age and vocabulary and age and general knowledge in senior citizens were shown to be correlated with reading volume. These results suggest that reading helps compensate for the natural cognitive decline associated with aging.

Though an early start in reading is an important predictor of lifelong reading habits, readers of all ability levels should be encouraged by learning that reading yields significant dividends for everyone.

So, how do we help more people become avid readers?

Suggested link:
What Reading Does for the Mind

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Anita Dualeh is a freelance education writer who creates everything from test items to web content. She blogs at www.1stteacher.wordpress.com.

Photo: Some rights reserved by IsaacMao.

Special Considerations: The Novel

Time’s up. I’ve stalled long enough. It’s time to talk about the novel, the genre I spend the most time with. I want to use a combination of three sources to do it: Proust, Kundera, and Forester.

Proust

“Every reader, as he reads, is actually the reader of himself. The writer’s work is only a kind of optical instrument he provides the reader so he can discern what he might never have seen in himself without this book. The reader’s recognition in himself of what the book says is the proof of the book’s truth.” Marcel Proust

Marcel Proust most famously wrote a multi part monster known as “In Search of Lost Time.” Today, though, I’m more interested in his work in defining the genre of the novel.

His quote, is interesting because it defines the component parts of a novel in two sentences. He says you need a reader that actually reads your work and you need a writer that  actually writes what he intends to be read. He also explains that you need a reader with a willingness to bring their own discerning vision to the work. To Proust, a writer has not done his job and, for that matter, neither has a reader, until the reader is made to recognize in himself some truth.

I start here when I think of the novel because the nuts and bolts of the characters, the story, and everything else that gets thrown into the proverbial novel mixing bowl don’t mean anything unless you get this kind of outcome. In fact, I would even say that a book that reveals no truths to no readers does not meet the definition of a novel.

Kundera

Milan Kundera wrote some interesting novels that centered on ideas almost as much as or more than characters. Try out “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” and “The Book of Laughter and Forgetting” if you’re interested. It should also be pointed out that Kundera is a big fan of Proust’s definition of the novel. He even said the above Proust quote defines “the meaning of the very art of the novel.”

Kundera adds some important ideas of his own, though. He makes a point of talking about how long it takes an author to write a novel. Having written several, he knew that they take away an era of an author’s life and by the time you finish such a novel, as an author, you are not the person you were when you started. The same should be true of the reader.

The novelist’s goal, therefore is to change the reader into something they were not before they read. To Kundera, an artist does that by doing better than his predecessors did in the same field. An author should strive to see something his predecessors did not see and to say what they did not say. Put cutely, the novel should be novel or else it’s not a novel.

Forester

E.M. Forester is great because he wrote “A Passage to India.” He’s also great because he defined the novel and published a whole series of lectures on the definition as “Aspects of the Novel.”

In these lectures, he gives us the nuts and bolts that define the novel.

To Forester, a novel must have/do/be the following:

1. Any fictitious work of prose over 50,000. 

Length distinguishes the novel from the short-story

2. Independent of the culture that creates it. 

A novel is not specifically English despite any historical roots that trace it there.  As an example, Forester points to Tolstoy and Dostoevsky as brilliant Russian novelists.

3. Novels can be about any time or place so the time or place they are written about can not define them.

The setting does not define the novel. Novels can be set in space, a desert, or Siberia and still meet the definition. Novels can be set in the past present or future and still fit the criteria.

4. One central focus is the story that makes the reader want to know what happens next. 

A novel is nothing without a story. The driving force in the mind of the reader must be the events that occur. Without a story we know we are looking at something other than a novel.

5. The concept of time plays a central role. 

In a novel there must be some passage of time. Compare novels to poems, for example. Poems can exist in eternity without the effects of time. Novels must obey the rules of time or create new rules where time is considered.

6. The novel deals with characters and people.

You can’t have a novel without people. Real people are best. Real developed people with motivations and desires.

7. Novels reveal the hidden lives of characters and this makes them different from history.

Accounts of history reveal what we know about a person that didn’t reveal his innermost thoughts. Novels can help us know people in a real way because we can understand what goes on when they aren’t speaking. A novelist can expose the inner life which is rarely if ever exposed in daily life.

8. You have the right as author of a novel to change and shift the view-point. The right to “intermittent knowledge.” 

The novel is flexible in terms of how it is told. Memoirs are first person accounts. History books can’t be written from an omniscient point of view. Novelists can weave in the details from the point of view that makes the story best told. A novel can have an author talk about characters, talk through characters, or let the reader listen while they talk to themselves.

9. Some characters stand for more than themselves.

I hate to open up a discussion of symbolism here, but suffice it to say that novels can use characters to stand for more than just a person. They can stand for ideas and emotions.

Conclusion

The novel is a flexible story that surrenders itself to the same effects of time that humans experience. It is a lengthy work, usually undertaken and written during a period lasting an entire era of an author’s life. The reader then comes along and gobbles up that era in a week or a month of solid reading. The effects of the novel, however, should last a life time. It is in this way that the author sees the act of novel writing as worthwhile.

Photo: Some rights reserved by heliosphan.

Re-read: Become a Better Reader and Writer

This is an essay by Chris Ciolli.

I don’t know about other readers out there, but the first time I read a book, it’s a scrambling sprint to the finish line. I have to know what happens in the end, and I want to know as soon as possible. In reading groups at school, I was one of those children who always got in trouble for reading ahead. To this day, even when reading nonfiction, during a first read, I’m likely to rush through the book to whatever it is I’ve decided is the “good stuff.”

What does that mean? It means my first read is a sort of “gist” reading, where I get a good general idea of what a book is about.  Sadly, it means I miss out on some things, many of them (vivid imagery, beautiful syntax, character development) worth noticing and reflecting on both as a reader and a writer.

Fortunately, there’s no rule that says I can’t return to a text a second time to savor it slowly and respectfully after a race-to-the-finish first reading. Re-reading gives speedy readers (myself included) a second chance, an opportunity to digest books more completely and better apply what’s learned to future reading and writing.

Re-reading makes you more observant and aware of how the story unfolds.

When I return to a novel I’ve just consumed like a woman starving for the nutrition that comes from words, going back to the story gives me a chance to be truly observant, to find the cues and clues that the writer leaves along the way to lead the reader through the story; a good plot unfolds gradually, through small details that the writer weaves into every paragraph. Re-reading frees readers from an initial (and understandable) obsession with finishing the book to see what happens and allows them to contemplate how, when, and why characters act and certain events take place. Readers who write can learn a lot about plot construction through slow and careful repeat readings.

Re-reading furthers your understanding of words and language.

Re-reading is a great opportunity to jot down sentences or dialogue that particularly inspire you with your notes about why. Maybe there’s a descriptive passage where you can literally see the scenery, or a couple of lines of dialogue that are hilarious, believable and keep the plot moving along at a good pace.

Singling out and analyzing why these strings of words work for you and the public at large can help you to more effectively use language in your own writing. A second (or third) read through is also a great chance to write down words that you more or less understood in context, but aren’t clear on their exact meaning and look them up. Increasing your vocabulary enhances your reading and writing.

Re-reading makes the knowledge acquired from a book a part of you.

Reading a book multiple times helps make the book and the knowledge it imparts a part of your memory. Since books widen your world view, every book that you internalize through re-reading improves your comprehension of future books.

What’s more, repeated readings will enrich your writing. Why? Because writing isn’t created in a vacuum (nothing is).  The words you use to describe the worlds you choose to write about are inspired by your experiences (books that you re-read and remember become part of said experiences). So that then, when you sit down in front of your computer to write, you can call upon the wisdom and techniques of  writers that came before, mixing up ideas and characters to make something new and all your own.

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Chris Ciolli: A writer and translator by trade, Chris Ciolli spends her spare minutes reading, traveling and playing with art supplies. Okay, so sometimes she sleeps, eats and slurps coffee, too. Learn more about her at ChrisCiolli.com, read about her travels at Midwesternerabroad.com, or follow her on twitter @ChrisCiolli.

Photo: Some rights reserved by » Zitona «.

Why Read: Perspective Cont’d – Reading Reveals New Ways to Live

This is a continuation of our “Why Read” discussion. Remember, we started by defining the three broad reasons to read. Then we talked about pleasure and education. Last week, we continued our discussion by looking at why modern man needs books.

“Among the many worlds that man did not receive as a gift from nature but created out of his own mind, the world of books is the greatest.”  Herman Hesse

“Dreams, books are each a world.” Wordsworth

Your imagination is creativity’s womb. By using your imagination you can create anything. This is a power that must be wielded responsibly. You should read to know how to use that power.

You Can Create Worlds

I want you to try something. First, read this paragraph to the end to get the idea. Now, close your eyes. Keep them closed for one minute or as long as you can spare and imagine a new world. Any new world that comes to mind is fine. There are no rules. What does it look like? What does it feel like? Can you smell anything? Taste? Use all your senses.

Now I want you to really think about this question: is what you imagine any less real than the television shows you watched last night? or the movie you saw a week ago? Is it more real? In what way?

Through this exercise I hope you realize the difference between having something imprinted on your mind with visual effect and something you have to work to imagine. This distinction is important because it’s easy to fall into the trap of letting others create the world for you. Be careful how much you allow yourself to be influenced by seductive influences that over power your creative thought through direct impact on the senses.

Words Create Worlds as Well

Wittgenstein helps us take our discussion one step further. He says, a new language is potentially a new way to live. Wittgenstein wants you to be reborn, even if just for a moment, in every book you learn something from. For our purposes this means that language and words have a creative effect. They show us how to live and encourage us to adopt a new way of life inspired by the words we’ve read.

Why is this important to us and to Wittgenstein? When you read, worlds are revealed to you. If you understand the writing and believe it enough you might decide the world, or some part of the world, is worth working to bring into existence. Your imagination makes you an active participant in the world. You start to influence your thoughts instead of having them influence you.

How Do You Decide Which World to Bring to Life?

In great writing, a new way to be is revealed. If you choose, you can make that existence your own. Readers know which “selfs” are worth living. The idea behind a liberal arts education is to equip you with the ability to decide which worlds are worth bringing into existence and which are not.

Without books, many of our experiences are chance discoveries. The unpredictable nature of our days makes it hard for us to live up to our creative potential.

Don’t reduce yourself to floatsam and jetsam carried by the waves of daily life. Instead of being a passive vessel, influence your thoughts by proactively exposing yourself to new ideas.

Are There Any Limits to Your Power?

It is a western idea that man has no limits except for those he self-imposes and to make this idea real western man has written many books. Indulge in that power.

Here’s the thing though, the modern western reader isn’t the chosen one. He doesn’t have special powers or abilities. He will hear no voice commanding him to act in any special way.

He is, instead, blessed with the same power as everyone else. The power to influence his own thoughts. The only question is whether he will choose to use it.

Conclusion

Reading reveals the power of imagination. The new perspective gained by the active selective use of the imagination is life altering. Read to know how to create worlds and then how to choose which ones you bring into existence. Read to understand that you can actively influence your thoughts and, in doing so, bring the world you choose to imagine into existence.

Maybe it’s not enough to just read and move on. Maybe what Wittgenstein, Hesse, and Wordsworth are suggesting is that we should live what we read and let it work on our lives. In “Why Read?” Mark Edmundson phrases the issue perfectly, “A liberal education uses books to rejuvenate, reaffirm, replenish, revise, overwhelm, replace, in some cases (alas) even help begin to generate the web of words that we’re defined by.”

Start defining yourself through your reading experiences. If you do, you might just find a whole new way to live.

Here’s the challenge: Imagine part of a new world every day for 10 days. The part of the new world can come from your creative conscious or from your reading. Write down something about that world in a notebook or journal or online. After ten days, read back over what you’ve written down. Did anything you wrote down influence your day-to-day thought process? How?

Photo: Some rights reserved by kretyen.