I am honored to have author, Cindy Hudson, here today sharing her experience as a writer, mom and book club founder. Please welcome Cindy and remember to leave a comment or question for a chance to win her book! (US addresses only, please. Must be posted by midnight 10/29)
Good Readers Make Good Writers
By Cindy Hudson
A few years ago I was fortunate enough to attend a guest appearance by one of my all-time favorite authors, Gore Vidal. My daughters were young then, and I had them on my mind as I stood up from the audience to ask a question: “What advice do you have for young people today?”
“Read, read, read,” he said, “and don’t worry so much about what others think of you.”
Of course, since I’ve always been a voracious reader, devouring everything when I was young from cereal boxes and comic magazines to stacks of library books, I barely needed justification to instill a love of reading in my own kids. And these words were certainly on my mind when I started mother-daughter book clubs for each of my daughters several years after my encounter with Vidal. But until I wrote my first book, I didn’t see a strong connection between reading good writing and writing well myself. Even then, I questioned how reading fiction would help me write nonfiction.
Now I see reading well, no matter the genre, as a crucial part of writing well for two main reasons:
- When I read great writing, I’m inspired to write my best too. Great novelists such as Vidal and countless others are provocative, moving their readers to think about big issues in history and in life. Their words flow beautifully, and they stir their readers to emotions that may affect future actions. While my words and my ideas may be more practical, I truly believe what I write about—mother-daughter book clubs—can make profound changes in the lives of moms and daughters. So I must write well and communicate clearly if I hope to inspire my readers to start reading groups of their own.
- Writing well is more than getting the reader to understand a concept or how-to do something. Otherwise, all books could be written as manuals. Instead, great writers use tools such as metaphor and similes. They introduce plots and themes and use dialogue to tell stories that someone may want to read. As a writer, you can also study how these narratives are told, and you may learn something about how to craft your own stories.
After being in mother-daughter book clubs for many years, I can also appreciate how discussing books can improve your writing as well. During our group meetings, we sit around in a circle and talk about parts of the book that resonated with us. We discuss favorite characters and ponder how our actions would differ from theirs. Usually, there are elements of the story we like, and some we don’t like. That’s to be expected, but what I find interesting is that rarely do we all agree on those points. Two or three of us may really dislike a plot line that others loved, and vice versa. When we talk about these differences, I can appreciate another point of view even when I don’t change mine.
How does this help my writing? I can see that my own readers will certainly find points in my work they agree with and others they disagree with. This lessens the pressure the perfectionist in me feels to write words that are unassailable by everyone. Instead, I hope each reader finds something of value that will stick with her long after she has finished reading the words I have written.
Cindy Hudson is the author of Book by Book: The Complete Guide to Creating Mother-Daughter Book Clubs (Seal Press, October 2009). She is a mother-daughter book club consultant, journalist, and editor. Hudson has more than twenty years of experience as a marketing and public relations professional. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and two daughters.
Visit her online at www.motherdaughterbookclub.com or check out one of her upcoming events:
· November 10, 2009—Tuesday, 7 p.m. with Heather Vogel Frederick at A Children’s Place, 4807 N.E. Fremont St. Portland, OR 97213
· November 17, 2009—Tuesday, 7 p.m. at Barnes and Noble, Clackamas Town Center, 12000 SE 82nd Avenue Portland, OR 97266