May 14th, 2010


Before I left for a recent trip to the United Kingdom, my coworkers said, “Maybe if you’re lucky, your flight will be cancelled and you’ll have to stay there!” Did they know something that I didn’t? Sure enough, Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted the day before I was scheduled to fly, and like every other air traveler in Europe, I was stranded. For nine days. Quick math: I’d be spending only two more days in England than the volcano has syllables. Now that’s just crazy.

I was much more fortunate than most, though. A friend put me up for free and the extra time afforded me the rare opportunity to do a little solo adventuring. I visited a library in Manchester, checked out a few books on Edinburgh, and hopped on a train to Scotland. Now I’ll be able to look back and say, “Thank you, unpronounceable volcano, you opened the door to the experience of a lifetime.”

Having nine extra days to read isn’t too shabby, either. I read my first thriller, Harlan Coben’s Tell No One, the story of a husband who receives an e-mail that could only have been sent by his murdered wife. The mystery behind the message leads him on a frantic chase for the truth. Really, really fun read. Then I picked up The Last Child by John Hart, a complex and thought-provoking suspense novel about a 13-year-old boy searching for his kidnapped twin sister. I highly recommend it. And finally, a trip to England would be incomplete without a historical fiction novel on my favorite monarch, Elizabeth I. Alison Weir’s The Lady Elizabeth was a fascinating novel about the queen’s life from childhood to coronation.

I made sure to stay away from books about other people being boxed in or stranded, lest I start feeling the effects of my abandonment as well. That being said, try these three books about trapped characters, all recommended by coworkers:

[Suspense/Thriller] Joseph Garber’s Vertical Run: An average work day in a New York City skyscraper gets crazy when David Elliott’s boss points a gun at him. Soon everyone David knows, including his wife and children, are against him. When the FBI bursts in, the building is full of people trying to kill him, he doesn’t know why, and there’s no way out.

[Literary Fiction] Debra Dean’s The Madonnas of Leningrad: Marina, a woman battling Alzheimer’s, tries to tell her granddaughter about her experiences during the 900 day Siege of Leningrad when she and others were confined within the walls of the State Hermitage Museum.

[Science-Fiction] Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair: Special Operative in Literary Detection, Thursday Next is literally trapped inside a book until she can figure out who has kidnapped Jane and Rochester from Jane Eyre in an effort to change the plot of the novel.

Have you been stranded in an airport before? What did you read to pass the time?

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May 7th, 2010

All Readers Are Writers

I blame my parents for my recreational writing habits.  As a child, they often read me books that were far beyond my ability to read to myself.  Each night, they could never read enough to satisfy my growing literary appetite.  I was often stuck, excited and enchanted by the story when my dreadfully unfeeling parents stopped for such frivolous activities as cleaning the dishes, paying the bills and sleeping.

Such neglect forced me to be creative – with the book in my hand as a prop, I began to make up the next chapter for myself, turning the pages as my mind filled in the story I could not yet read.  When an author killed off my favorite character, I wrote them their own stories in my head.  Bad endings were re-written and when stuck waiting for a sequel, I came up with a hundred versions of my own.   My first stories were grossly similar to the plots of my favorite books, but eventually, my own wildly developing imagination took over my pen.

When the mood strikes, you can find me beating up my keyboard to write embarrassingly bad stories even today.  And I don’t think I’m alone – every reader who wonders what will happen next or keeps dreaming of characters when the book is shut has a bit of a writer buried inside.

If you would like excavate your own inner writer, grab something to write with and on and join the Writers Workshop at the Perryville Branch Library.  We meet one Tuesday a month at 6:30 P.M.   The meeting starts with a unique writing prompt and anyone who cares to can share their musings. Click here to see more info.

Additionally, you can find plenty of literary companionship by reading what great authors have to say about the writing life. 

Here’s a list of some of my favorites:

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury – As one of my favorite authors, Mr. Bradbury never fails to inspire me through his fiction and great articles about writing.

The Writing Life by Annie Dillard – Thanks to Leah Davies for her review that turned me on to this book!

The Writer Magazine – A great general resource with lots of good articles about writing. I have found some wonderful writing prompts and other resources while browsing this publication.  You can check out all but the most recent issue.

So what do all you other readers think?  What books have made you want to pull out your pen and start writing?

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