A Year of Reading Women

I want to start my post today by apologizing for missing the first Tuesday of this month and not writing until now. The shift from April to May caught me a bit off guard and I did not manage my time well. Life got a little bit hectic and I couldn’t seem to get it done.

As I type, I realize we’re already in the 20th week of 2017. Is there a better time to initiate a reading challenge? Probably, but I’m doing it anyway! I would love for people to join me, yet I also want to see if I can personally do it. From my title, you have likely figured out that I want to read books written exclusively by female authors this year.

Honestly, barring book club picks by other members and assigned reading for my courses, I don’t think this will be a difficult challenge. I read stories written mostly by women anyway; looking at my bookshelves it’s an easy 3:1 ratio. However, with recent events around the world concerning women and those who identify as female, I want to make a point of it.

And I won’t be reading just fiction because obviously women write much more than that. I’ll be adding poetry, drama, essays, memoirs, and all the other good stuff out there. Too readily, certain governments and individuals with power are trying to silence the women who don’t agree with them. I might not be anyone important, but this shall be one of my means of resistance.

I was reluctant for all of a minute to take up this challenge. The only reason: one of my favourite authors, Guy Gavriel Kay, will be a guest of honour at When Words Collide this year and I had wanted to read all of his books I currently own. At this point, all I can do is shrug –they’ve sat there for years and a few more months won’t hurt them, or me.

So, as I look above my laptop screen at my calendar called “Women Reading,” I shall admire the artwork then shove my nose in a few more books. I hope you join me!

Interesting Finds

I have been all over the internet this month, so there’s a lot to share. Enjoy!

Have you ever wondered what those schoolyard bullies turn into? I’ve had to deal with a Regina type. Funny when she left how everyone at my job started getting along a lot better.  https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/bullies-youll-meet-business-sarah-w-browne

It’s hokey but true: a picture is worth a thousand words. What words come to your mind when you see all these male authored books flipped backwards? https://heatst.com/culture-wars/ohio-bookstore-flips-male-authored-books-displaying-them-backwards/

If you’re a language nerd, like me, check out these 10 things about the Englihs language. http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2015/08/ten-things-you-might-not-have-known-about-the-english-language/?utm_source=March21-17&utm_campaign=od-newsletter&utm_medium=Email&utm_content=10thingsaboutenglish-list-toppanel

I am a naturally negative person. I simply have trouble seeing the bright side of things. But I’m willing to try a few of these 10 things to make my life better. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/10-habits-that-will-dramatically-improve-your-life_us_58cae67ae4b0e0d348b3416b

This infuriates me. Good thing Angela Merkel has a better hold on her temper than me.  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/21/trump-did-to-merkel-what-men-do-to-women-all-the-time

If you don’t know the horrifying events happening in Chechnya right now, this is an important read. It makes me sick to my stomach. http://feminist.org/blog/index.php/2017/04/12/persecution-of-gay-men-in-chechnya-escalates/

And if that got a fire burning under you, here are 8 calls to action so you can help.

http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/35576/1/help-stop-the-torture-of-gay-men-in-chechnya?utm_source=change_org&utm_medium=petition

I’m finding this world a difficult place to exist in right now. It’s hard to believe what humans do to each other. All any of us can do is stay positive, stay informed, and help in any way we can.

People Who Don’t Read Fiction, or, A Defence of Fiction

Chances are, if you’re reading my post here, you are a fan of fiction. After all, I’m all over the internet as a writer and reader of fiction. Also, taking an assuming leap here, chances are that if you are a fan of fiction, like I am, you too are confounded by people who do not like or refuse to read fiction.

I have to admit that I see people who don’t read fiction in a strange light. Just like I think there’s something fundamentally wrong with people who don’t like animals. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with people who don’t like fiction. I think it’s strange, but it’s not nearly as odd to me as the animal thing.

My friends and I have discussed this topic at length, and the main rationale we hear from people who don’t read fiction is that they don’t/can’t learn from it. Honestly, this infuriates me. I don’t want to insult anyone, but if you can’t learn from fiction, you’re either too lazy to figure out its purpose or you lack an ability to sympathize, or you have some combination of the two.

Understanding fiction isn’t for lightweights. Not only do you have to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, but you have to be able to read between the lines. Reading and comprehending fiction requires skill and intuition.

Now, I read non-fiction as well. I enjoy books on history and philosophy and science. One of the best books I’ve ever read is a non-fiction book called Sex with the King. But the thing about non-fiction is, you don’t have to go an extra step. All you have to do is read a straightforward argument and decide whether you agree or not. You can go an extra step, but you don’t have to.

With fiction, you’re always presented opposing views. Sure, the author leads you in a certain direction, like a thesis would, but you get to see all the sides. This isn’t always the case with non-fiction. Exceptional non-fiction will provide a full view and use counterarguments, but there is still no requirement that you think outside its confines.

I must admit, I’m tired of people trashing fiction, especially genre fiction. If you open your mind, you can learn just as much, if not more so, from fiction of any kind. And it’s usually a much more enjoyable journey. Some books I would liken to non-fiction, as far as what they can teach a person, include: The Handmaid’s Tale, 1984, A Thousand Acres, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, and Beautiful Monsters.

Those are just off the top of my head. What fiction books would you consider more educational than some non-fiction?

A New Way of Keeping Tabs: Things in My Face, Reader Edition

Early this month, I shared a post on Anxiety Ink about my newest means of keeping tabs on my writing goals. I created an ugly chart and I mark on it every single day whether I write fiction words or not. There’s no better way of keeping an eye on myself than with a bright blue item I can’t escape.

One month in, it’s really working for me. My return to reality week has been the hardest because I caught some bug on the plane home and I was just not present in my life. I nearly didn’t make my “write at least 3 days a week” goal that week, but writing on my chart made me realize that. So I opened my WIP and got some words down ASAP so I didn’t disappoint myself.

As I mentioned on Anxiety Ink, part of the reason I made the chart was because last year by the end of the week when I was finally able to sit down at my desk and see my progress, it was way too late to catch up. I was behind before I even realized it because I wasn’t keeping track where I could easily see my progress, or lack thereof.

One of my goals this year, again, is to read at least 68 books. Early on, I’m coming to understand that the same reason I failed at hitting my writing goals last year is keeping me from staying on top of my reading goals this year: I don’t know I’m behind until it’s too late.

So, I’ve commandeered a small corner of my 6 Month Plan and devoted it to tracking my reading. Every time I finish a book, I write down a number–my last read was the third one I’ve finished so a three went down in roman numerals. I also decided this would be a great chance to learn more roman numerals…mostly because I’m weird.

6 Month Plan (2)

I keep track of all the books I read on Goodreads, but I don’t pay enough attention. Goodreads is distracting so it’s easy to ignore my progress. My chart, which is pretty bare-bones, makes me so much more accountable to myself and makes shirking that much more difficult.

Have you taken steps to improve your productivity this year?

Perception

world map

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the fact that I’m a reader and a writer, that I’m fascinated with perception, especially the ways people perceive themselves and those around them. I can’t claim to have a background in psychology, since I haven’t studied it since high school—and we all know that that does not count—but I’ve had a lifelong interest I’ve continued to cultivate on my own.

As a writer, perception is something I have to be aware of when it comes to the characters I create. Even within the same story, I have to know how the protagonist sees themselves and their enemies, and I have to know how the antagonist sees themselves and their enemies. Their inward and outward perceptions provide plot fodder, tension, and so much more to a narrative.

As a reader, it’s good to be in tune to these perceptions if you want to get the most out of what you’re reading. Especially if you’re reading about a character with a lived experience so different from your own who makes decisions you never would.

As a human being, it’s also important to acknowledge others perceptions so you can be a more sensitive individual.

Recently, a few things in my life have culminated to throw ideas of perception at me. First, these quotes from Socrates arrived in my inbox: “The nearest way to glory is to strive to be what you wish to be thought to be.” And, “The greatest way to live with honor in this world is to be what we pretend to be.”

Second, this exchange occurred at my day job when one of my more acerbic clients came in. We chatted while she got organized, and she told me that days before she tore a strip off someone at the Canada Revenue Agency. She followed this up with, “I don’t like to do that to anyone, but I was mad.” Honestly, I can easily see her doing this often. Even routinely. She has a very cutting personality, and she has no qualms about making her displeasure known.

You never know if people say things like this because they shouldn’t enjoy yelling at other people, when in fact they do, but they don’t want you to think they’re horrible. Or whether people don’t realize their own habits and ways of interacting with others. This perception of herself versus my perception of her are so at odds. Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in the middle. If she was a character, I could easily play with this aspect to add depth to my story.

Lastly, this happened, also at the day job. Just before Christmas, my co-worker, who is a wonderful person but not the most enlightened when it comes to people not raised in small town, Conservative Alberta—and those who identify with those ways—was helping one of our clients who is from the Philippines. She asked about his Christmas plans and then proceeded to ask him if he celebrates Christmas. The man is very quiet and didn’t really answer her verbally, but he did wish her a Merry Christmas as he left.

When he was gone, she commented that it must be hard for kids of other faiths to see their fellow students in school doing all their Christmas stuff with their families. Unfortunately, such narrow generalizations are a routine occurrence where I work. I have learned to just ignore them because doing otherwise is like smacking my head against a brick wall. There are comments that raise my hackles and I have to interject. This was not one of those comments.

All I could think as I gritted my teeth in exasperation was, “People of other faiths actually have celebrations of their own that are just as culturally significant to them as Christmas is to spoiled white kids.” I couldn’t stop myself from pointing out to her that a large part of the Filipino demographic is catholic, which means they celebrate Christmas. That elicited an, “I didn’t know that.” I bit my tongue against my caustic reply.

This example illustrates Christian privilege as well as the western perception that people who don’t celebrate Christmas are missing out on something fundamental. This lack of cultural knowledge, or even sensitivity, drives me nuts. When you know nothing about how other people live and experience life, perhaps you should keep your mouth shut and not make snap generalizations.

In any case, as riled up as it can sometimes make me, it’s important to know that other people don’t perceive the world as I perceive it. And that’s not always a negative. Even here, I said Christmas is only significant to spoiled white kids, which is not true. I know that’s not true. But my own issues with the holiday sometimes allow me to forget that and I’ll perceive it in such an ugly light.

Perception speaks to so much about our society and social makeup. There are so many endless possibilities when it comes to exploring it whether for science, fiction, or entertainment.

What’s your best story about someone else’s perception of themselves or someone/something else?