Sunday, October 13, 2019

Welcome, Liesl Shurtliff!


Liesl Shurtliff is a favorite author here at A Year of Reading. Franki has reviewed Rump, Jack, and Grump. Liesl has a new series, Time Castaways, and the second book has its book birthday on Tuesday!


by Liesl Shurtliff
Katherine Tegen Books, September 17, 2019


by Liesl Shurtliff
Katherine Tegen Books, October 15, 2019

Liesl has graciously shared her thoughts on The Importance of Reading Wisely. We couldn't agree more!

The Importance of Reading Widely
By Liesl Shurtliff

“You are what you read.” It’s a sentiment many people have tossed around over the years, right along with “You are what you eat.” And if both of these things are true then I challenge anyone to define who I am. I read too widely, and I eat absolutely everything. I’m a person with many tastes and interests. I think we all should be.

I see many initiatives to get people to read more, and I like them, but what I’d liked to see a little more of is encouragement for people to read more widely, move outside their comfort zones, pick up a book you wouldn’t normally choose. Here are my suggestions:

Read both fiction and non-fiction

Statistics show that women tend to read more fiction, and men gravitate toward non-fiction. This is fascinating to me, and I could delve into all kind of psychoanalytic theories about why this is and what it means, but that would be (mostly) beside the point of the post. Suffice it to say, I think we should tip the scales in both cases. Men should read more fiction. Women should read more non-fiction. Both are good for you.

I personally used to think non-fiction was code for BORING. I’ve since learned that non-fiction can be some of the most engrossing books out there. It’s one thing to get lost in a good story. It’s another to get lost in a good story that is completely REAL. Malcolm Gladwell, Erik Larson, and Elizabeth Gilbert have been a few of my favorites.


Read outside your usual genre.

Whenever someone asks what genre is my favorite I say “Good writing.” Perhaps the definition of what makes a good book is subjective, but I’ve found my own tastes have become more refined the more widely I read. Yes, I read a lot of fantasy as that is what I write, but I’ve read plenty of poorly written fantasy, and I’ve found that it helps my own writing to read a wide variety of genres and styles. I feel like I’m in a rut when I read too much of one genre. It can start to feel stale and boring, sort of like eating only one kind of food. No matter how good those tacos are, eventually I’m going to want some salad. Mix up your reading diet with a mixture of genres.

Read books and authors outside your own race, culture, religion, country, experience and world view.

Reading has been touted as an activity that develops empathy, but for whom are we developing empathy? People like us? People whose experience and world view is not so different from our own? That will not develop empathy, only self-assurance. Challenge yourself and your world view. Pick up a book that makes you a little uncomfortable. Or a lot. And please, read books written by authors who are intimately acquainted with the experience being written about (aka #OwnVoices.) It matters.

Read children’s books!

Okay, I am slightly biased here, seeing as I’m a children’s book author, but please believe me when I say there is some incredibly good literature being produced in the children’s book world. Don’t stick your nose up at it. Pick up a picture book, a middle-grade or young adult novel, or a graphic novel, and remember what it was like to be a kid. Or pick up a book you remember reading and loving as a kid and see what you think of it now. I’ve done this and usually find I love it just as much, even though I’m reading it with a completely different perspective. It’s a nostalgic experience.

Reading is good. Reading a lot is better. Reading widely is best, just like eating a varied diet. Take stock of your reading choices. See if you can mix things up every now and then.   Get recommendations for friends or co-workers. If there’s one thing I know it’s that people love to talk about what they’re reading. And if they don’t read, well then, we should all be ready to share our own reading recommendations and feed the famished. Best to have a variety on hand.


Liesl Shurtliff is the New York Times bestselling author of the (Fairly) True Tales series and the Time Castaways trilogy. The second book is available October 15th! Her books have been named to over two dozen state award lists and have won many awards including a Children’s Book Award from the International Literacy Association. Liesl lives in Chicago with her husband and four children. Lieslshurtliff.com @lieslshurtliff



Thanks for visiting, Liesl! We can't wait to read your new series!



Friday, October 11, 2019

Poetry Friday -- My Nose Takes a Walk in Fall




My Nose Takes a Walk in Fall

dust of acorns, crushed
summer-gone spicy gardens
skunk musk, just a waft


©Mary Lee Hahn, 2019



I got the best gift in the mail yesterday! Along with two books that will inspire my writing, there was a box of "matchsticks" to Spark Creativity. I pulled one out: "Take a walk, tuning in carefully to everything you smell," and found this poem! So much fun! I can't wait to try more of them. Thank you, Brenda!!

Catherine, at Reading to the Core, has the Poetry Friday roundup this week and a post full of gratitude.


Friday, October 04, 2019

Poetry Friday




Loss is a Non-Negotiable Miracle

The cold front came through last night
scrubbing the sky of humidity
polishing Orion, the Pleiades, and Cassiopeia
to a glittering shine.
Loss is a non-negotiable miracle.

My hair, both parents,
a purse left in a shopping cart,
occasionally my temper,
frequently the punchline of a joke.
Loss is indeed non-negotiable
but the part about miracles is sometimes murky.

We read the news of the day
and non-negotiable seems more like
brutally inevitable
or else crushingly destructive
with a side of mercilessly inescapable
and miracles are nowhere to be found.


©Mary Lee Hahn, 2019 (flash draft)


My new set of Metaphor Dice (Erudite Expansion) have been waiting on my desk for a month, patiently watching me clear hurdle after hurdle, with no time or brain space left over for them. I cleared a huge hurdle last night -- my first night of parent conferences. Eleven down, fifteen to go, but the prep for all is complete.

It's been unseasonably record-breakingly HOT this past week, but the weather from Colorado and Montana finally arrived. The relief is palpably miraculous. On the other hand, the daily news seems like it can't get any worse, and then it does. As I look back on my draft, I'm not sure I like how it slides from such joy into such deep despair. Perhaps I need to flip the first and last stanzas, so that the flow is from broad, generalized angst, to specific, local joy. What do you think?

Cheriee is hosting the Poetry Friday roundup this week at Library Matters. I'll do my best to visit posts, but now that the parent conference hurdle is cleared, the 150 picture books that have been accumulating in my living room need to be read this weekend!

Happy Friday! Happy Poetry!