The word came in the form of Richard Scary’s What Do People Do All Day?
It evolved into The Aristocats (I also owned the LP record for my wee orange record player). I must have read that book and listened to those songs a hundred times tucked away in the quiet of my bedroom closet which I transformed into my very personal 7-year-old reading nook.
Then, I found The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe and I knew—reading was my thing.
No one really had to guess what I was going to be when I grew up, words stuck to me and with me.
I became the girl that reads everything.
Now, about two weeks before the end of school each year, my notorious book nerd status earns me about a billion conversations with other moms about how to keep the reading love (or at least requirement) going over the 10-week break about to descend upon us.
They know the Summer brain drain is real (seriously, kids lose so much when skills are not applied, like getting all flabby after not exercising for 2.5 months). However, getting most kids to read is exasperating at the best of times. When the sun is out, the pool is calling, vacation keeps them from any sort of normal routine, and parents are checking off the days until they can return their children to the care of saintly teachers, getting kids to read is, well, ya know . . .
Reading is pretty much the number one Summer brain activity.
It’s a great way to chill out, ground after a long flight, stay busy on a car trip, cool off in the tent with while camping. It’s a fantastic way to explore the world right around you (by parents grabbing some content-specific books before heading out on a trip or a day activity).
I supplement my kids’ learning all the time without them even knowing it by passing along guide books or identification books. They get storybooks on owls and fairies. I slip a fiction novel into their backpack, knowing they will love it once they’ve gotten over that their phone doesn’t work in the wilderness.
There are lots of ways to slip the reading in this Summer.
In terms of dedicated “reading” time, I’d tell you to go all free range and let them read what they want, join the library Summer reading club, or stuff like that. Let’s get real, though. Free range means they read Archie comics all Summer—fun, but not brain food. Summer reading club at the library is, well, usually not effective because we, the parents, are lousy at getting our kids to the ACTUAL library.
However, reading groups that give a few dedicated hours a week to discussing literature are a great way to make sure your kids are getting their brain food. In my writing groups, we are jumping into Summer reading love too.
This year, all of my writing groups are going to get down to business with some serious reading through Summer reading challenges. I had them pick the genres and “approve” the books we’d read in each group over the next 10 weeks.
Then, they get started and read until their faces fall off. 🙂
I’m not monitoring their reading in the sense that we are not doing weekly quizzes. However, they will have to know the books to make the art, write the stories, create poetry, go on scavenger hunts, and write vocabulary songs. They earn points all Summer, not just for reading, but for all of the other goodness too.
And, they are competing against the other classes for a pizza party at the end of the Summer.
Yep. It’s a little extra work on my part. However, I can report that even my most reluctant readers are totally into this Summer challenge.
If you are in Vancouver and want to get in on one of the reading challenges,CONTACT ME and I will hook you up.
Otherwise, I wanted to spread the Summer Reading Challenge love and share the reading lists I’ve developed. You can download them by clicking on the links.
Here’s the review I wrote on Goodreads the first time around:
Michelle Moran does a remarkable job of recreating ancient Rome after the fall of Egypt, building the intimate relationships that brought the children of Marc Antony and Cleopatra to life.
Selene’s voice is eloquent and pure, full of extremes and her capacity to control her own destiny. With her as the narrator, the story read like a historical peek at the bloody and cruel reign of Augustus through young eyes that understood the world to be anything but good and pure.
This book struck a deep chord for me as I have always been far more interested in the children of Cleopatra than the great pharaoh herself. I loved getting to know Selene and Alexander, crushed by their defeats and the losses.
It has been a long time since I closed a book after finishing it, sad that I would no longer be able to know more about the people inside.
A masterful recollection from a rare perspective. I recommend it for any lover of ancient historical fiction, especially those that key in on the lives of women.
This novel still resonates deeply with me, and reading it for the second time was pure joy. In the last four years, characters for my own novels have evolved as a result of learning the history beyond the fiction of this story. One of the most significant characters in my lengthy Sibylline project—Chekka—is based on Mauritanian lineage discovered in the process of curling up in bed with a good book.
I’m not entirely sure where I would be without novels such as this to inspire me to dig deeper into the past, culture, and concepts. Although Moran hasn’t published anything since 2016, I hope she’s got something new in the works as it was rumored that she would be returning to her storytelling roots in Egypt.
The other morning I flopped down onto the bed, slightly weepy, and declared myself exhausted by the epic level of work I’ve done to get my fiction writing published.
I’ve been querying the novel I just finished—Geist—hard for the last six weeks. This is the rejection phase, one I’ve been through before with another novel that remains on the shelf. It is where I suspect most writers toss themselves on a bed in the midst of a defeatest declaration.
Sticking your writing out there for people to love or hate is glorious and absolutely gut-wrenching. On the one hand, you have birthed a story into the world, and that is a stunning accomplishment. On the other hand, you want other people to love it as much as you do, and you have no control over that portion of the writer’s life.
I liken the level of anxiety at this stage to a moment years ago, when I started out as a journalist. The City Editor at the daily I worked at in Colorado Springs had a wall of shame where he posted all of the worst writing he ever received. It was cruel, utterly heartless, and incredible in its level of instruction.
“Read it all. Memorize what is garbage,” he told me. “Then, make sure you are good enough to never make it onto anyone’s wall of shame.”
So, I worry.
My husband knows the routine. Twice a year or so I break down, sure I have wasted my life after I abandoned the newsroom pursuing a foolish dream that judgy family members and people who don’t believe in dreaming told me years ago to leave in the land of artists.
There was a point in our relationship where he might have laid there and rubbed my head, let me cry, possibly placated me with something trite about how my time will come. That day he was done with this version of me.
“What are you going to do?” he said. “Cut off your arm?”
I considered developing an irritation to his curt response, choosing silence in order to avoid my semi-annual self-pity being interrupted by a rationalist.
“Being a writer is who you are,” he continued. “Get up and go do what you have to do.”
“But, what if I’m not good enough?”
“Then go get better.”
He really is annoying, and correct. Despite any other way of being I’ve tried, the only thing that wakes me up in the morning and keeps me up at night is storytelling. I could get a thousand rejections and write a thousand novels and still want to send one more query or write one more story.
I’m humbled by those further along the writing journey than I, honored to guide the young authors who are just beginning theirs. I see the spark of story in people who didn’t think they had it in them. I know it in myself when a moment, a scene, a realization that comes through birthing tales into the world brings me to tears.
Last night, I opened up my e-mail at 11 p.m. to find a note from an agent requesting a partial for Geist. It may not end up resonating with her, but I made it through a giant pile of queries and sparked enough interest for her to ask for it over the long weekend.
Yet, I still asked myself am I good enough?
It’s the question I’m going to stop manipulating myself with any more—not because I’ve grown arrogant or consider myself a superstar. I’m going to stop making that inquiry of myself because it doesn’t matter.
I will write today.
I will write tomorrow.
I will revise and edit and fret and go back three more times to do the same thing.
I will miss the mark, or nail a scene.
I will teach Grade 4 writers a technique to craft their stories and then forget to use it when crafting my own.
I will fall in love with characters. I will scrap novels. I will build amazing worlds.
I will stick my work out in the public eye for some to love, some to hate—all guaranteed to make me ache.
I will flop down on the bed at least once more this year and wonder how I will ever make it.
The submission process for publishing a novel the traditional way is an act of patience, perseverance, and a bit of luck.
I finished my most recent historical fantasy novel —Geist—(formerly The Maiden of Gevaudan for those who’ve been following for a while. The title sucked, this one is much better. 🙂 )early this year and am currently in the process of manifesting a literary agent who as in love with this allegory on life after death as I am.
I research the agents I submit to, and am pretty particular as to whom I will send my work off. It’s all about fit. I have a fair amount of friends who are agented writers, and they are all about finding the best person (other than yourself) to champion your work and your voice. I’m in this for the long haul and value relationship above all else. So, finding that right-fit representative means no mass emails to every agent who takes historical fantasy.
Plus, I am a shameless lover of the publishing industry and really want to honour the risk agents take on all of us writer types.