Words – are all that matter

Reading and reviewing books for ReedsyDiscovery has become an integral part of my daily schedule. I don’t give it a thought and yet my reading game seems to be spot on. I get the Reedsy Discovery top book reviewers for the month badge when I am least accepting it. I do not count the books I read in a month or compete to get this badge. I just pick up a book that draws me in – be it the book cover or the back cover blurb.

I read parts of a book throughout the day. Each weekend, I carve out a good 3-4 hours to write and publish book reviews. I always have a read and review task on my to-do list. Honestly, it requires discipline, dedication, time, and effort. Yet, it comes effortlessly because it is a cherished interest. It has helped me grow in so many ways.

I have read some brilliant books this year and the stories have stayed with me. I often ponder over the stories or the lessons I garnered from the non-fiction book I consumed.

The most endearing part is that the authors are also thinking about my review of their work. I receive comments and emails from authors and it warms my heart. Many request me to read another of their work or contact me with advanced review copies (ARC) when their new work is ready to be unveiled. It’s a symbiotic author-reader relationship – unique because we only know each other through words.

We build bridges across the world with our words. I can only stand in awe of all the brilliant talent out there and gaze with greedy eyes wanting to consume the brilliance of these works of art and creativity.

The butterfly

I have a corner seat in my office where I can lift the blinds from the tall glass window and glance outside. When I am writing and can’t find the right word or tone, or even mood, I just gaze outside or stand next to the glass trying to capture inspiration from a tiny piece of concrete- ensnared Universe.

When I lifted the blinds this morning, I saw a yellow butterfly in a small manicured green patch. Throughout the day I shivered in the office air conditioning while admiring the blue sky and the cotton candy clouds, imagining it to be a pleasant winter morning. The truth is after a week of regular Monsoon rainfall, the sun was back with vengeance. The washed sunlight was extremely harsh outside. I felt sad for the yellow helmet-clad cleaning and construction guys. Somehow, their work never seems to end.

The sun beat down upon them as they shoveled through their assigned chores. I wonder if they saw the butterfly, or the sky, or the white cloud drifting by. All I could do was sigh, return to my desk to work, and pay my taxes so that the world still goes around, and there is always a patch of grass that needs to be manicured. Such is life!

Everybody wore a hat

FromOneLine Volume 3 has been published and is now live! Here is around 220 pages of pure brilliance, emotions, words, and thoughts, compiled by Meghan Dargue for the third FromOneLine anthology, published by Kobayaashi Studios, United Kingdom. This anthology features poems and flash fiction from writers around the world.

Where can just one connecting prompt line take us? That’s what the FromOneLine community of writers have been exploring on a regular basis since 2019. I was privileged to be featured in the second volume in December 2021. I regret not being in the first Volume only because then I was not seriously following my creative writing passion. Around mid-July 2021, I was pulled into creative nourishing of the soul due to myriad reasons, and then magic happened.

I reinstated my blog, became a book reviewer for #ReedsyDiscovery Reedsy and the #HimalayanBookClub, got opportunity as a probono editor for a self-published author, and got published, as a short story writer and imagist poet. It was the inspiration and boost I needed in a time of self-doubt. It helped me make some significant decisions to embrace change.

Life changes course in more ways than one. My creative pursuits are not as intensive as they were at the close of 2021, however, I continued writing for the #FromOneLine prompt. It gave me much joy and artistic succor. It made me believe in my creative abilities. For me, being featured in the third anthology is a manifestation of my desire to be read and acknowledged, to be meaningful, and to make my words touch hearts and souls. It’s fulfilling and I only feel love and gratitude for Meg for connecting personally with selected contributors and making this gorgeous cover design and poetry collection happen.

The blurb from the Amazon site says all about the stellar writings that Meg chose for this book:
“The writings to make it into this volume were chosen from a staggeringly high number of submissions. Poems and pieces of flash fiction have danced me through a rollercoaster of emotions. Words that I have returned to time and again to discover new feelings, or just to delight in connecting with familiar ones. I hope you will enjoy exploring them as much as I have, and may they inspire many more writings and adventures to come.”

FromOneLine Volume 3 (paperback) is now available on Amazon for worldwide delivery! To celebrate, there’s a time-limited cover design offer available until the end of Friday 15th July:

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When the words beckon

Analysis of the art of reading

Blogger, Tom Johnson, of the I’d Rather be Writing blog recently experimented with reducing his smartphone usage and filled that time with reading. He shares some interesting views in this latest post. I made notes that ended up becoming observations worth sharing.

  1. “Queuing up books” – Been there, still doing it. My eBook library has books for seven lifetimes. Every time I read a good review or hear a recommendation, I grab a copy. The reasonable pricing of eBooks makes piling on the reading list relatively easy. However, looking at the ever-expanding reading list can be stressful. Often, I have this urge to give it all up and just wade through that enormous shelf.

2. “The problem is that my interests evolve from book to book.” This, I believe, is not the problem but the “power” of reading books. It opens new thought vistas and encourages questions. Someone asked me the other day what kind of books I read and my response was “anything that holds my attention.” My taste has increasingly shifted from fiction to nonfiction but I can also devour Calvin & Hobbes or Garfield, cover-to-cover, any time of the day. Reading variety changes the mood and widens our knowledge.

3. “….I decided it wasn’t worth slogging through.” It took me some mental reconditioning to accept that some books are not worth the effort, and some are good in just bits and pieces. I still find it a difficult decision but I have started rationalizing skip-reading and not making it a battle to finish a book that I don’t want to. Tom talks more about this in the section, “Can I skip ahead when bored?”

4. “Buy print versions of audiobooks I enjoyed?” – It’s a personal choice but audible formats don’t hold my attention. Audible versions keep me hooked to my smartphone, which is counterintuitive to the act of reading. I also miss making notes and highlights. I love physical books and buy many on impulse, however, I usually end up with the Kindle version for convenience.

5. “For me, part of the reading experience involves interacting with the book through these annotations. Writing in a book destroys it for resale, but I consider that part of the cost of reading.” – I try to keep my books clean and find a local library to donate or share it with a friend. However, the desire to annotate is as real as Tom describes and this makes eBooks an appropriate choice for me.

6. “I dislike Kindle entirely. Reading from screens is the worst.” This is a universally debatable notion since the birth of the eReader. The eInk technology and the disconnect from any other app or truly workable web access, differentiate a Kindle from a typical screen. I love my Kindle Paperwhite because it powers a more immersive reading experience and is more portable with anytime-anywhere reading. Tom also talks about “How to remember words I look up?” For me, the Kindle highlights and dictionary lookup work well to create a mental map. I can easily search and refresh my memory.

7. “Is reading expensive?” – This is subjective and depends on the format as well as a source of books, for example, libraries, free or discounted eBooks, or used book stores. However, any hobby or pastime involves a monetary angle.

8. “I do think writing reviews would be a good skill to develop, though.” – As a regular book reviewer, I agree with this. It has helped me in developing critical analysis and vocabulary, paraphrasing, and writing in engaging ways. It enables me to pay back to the community of writers, especially self-published, by spreading the word about their work. Book reviews are a beautiful thing to do – for the self and the authors.

9. “Reading is a natural precursor, even a requirement, to writing.” – Always! The more you read the better you write and that’s true for self-review or edits in one’s own writing. The work evolves with each iteration.

10. “What value do non-technical books have on a technical career?” I am glad that Tom raises this question about how book reading as a hobby can help in our technical writing profiles. Well, content strategy, paraphrasing, minimalism, understanding audiences, and trends, are all skills that grow as we expand intellectually. As Tom says, “Perhaps reading helps prime and tune my intellectual engine, which then makes me more capable in performing other tasks (even in writing documentation).”

I enjoyed reading Tom’s article and crystallized my views on the wonderful hobby of reading. Tom’s article has many more points to ponder, for example, is reading passive or are book clubs worth the time. You may find your takeaways or rediscover the lost art of reading. At the end of it, don’t forget to grab a book.

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