Friday, September 29, 2006

Top Peeve of the Week

See all of these books? These are the books piled in the Great Storage Facility of my house. If we used these for fuel, we could go to the moon. If we ate them, we'd be the fattest people on earth. If we donated them to the Smithsonian, they'd not have room to store them all.

So let it be written; so let it be read by Crystal.

I have a serious serial affliction in reading. My husband says that in my entire lifetime I cannot possibly read all of the books I have accumulated. He is probably right ( as he is always right, it seems.)

But I cannot help myself. I love the feel, the smell, the look of books. I love seeing what is revealed inside of them. Even if I get a box of books every single mail day, I still am thrilled, and my heart beats faster, to get them. I have loved books for my entire life, even before I actually have a formal memory. You might say that books are a passion. Most of the books I read these days are from the Christian publishing industry. I know many of the authors, some editors and a few literary agents. I work on the manuscripts of some of these authors in the process of getting them published. I have written and published over 500 book reviews and would have had more, if I hadn't quit to take time to figure out my passion in writing.

When an author, who has just published a book, or will soon, emails me and says, "Crystal, have you received my book yet?" I am helpless to say, "Please don't send me another book." I simply MUST have it. And amazingly enough, for every published book review, I have probably read 50 times that many books.

My peeve this week is not the ever-growing pile of books in my home and life. No. I could never hate a book. I love books. I have donated hundreds of books to church libraries and given them to individuals. I figure I can always find a place for the books after I'm through with them. Books are definitely my passion. And tied up in that passion, I would like to publish my very own book with my own byline. It's that simple. And that complicated.

So, my peeve of the week is this: I cannot settle on one genre that I consider my passion so I will focus in my writing.

I have tried. Experienced authors and editors (and literary agents) have told me to make a list of my very favorite books of all time,and then from that list decide on what to write myself. Kristin Billerbeck, author of many Christian chick lit books and someone I often listen to because I like the way she says it, gave me exercises to reveal to me my passions. I have made lists until I ran out of computer space and paper. "Write the book of your heart," she tells you.

I guess I need more help. I started this blog in order to discern what I wanted to write, and find out what truly drove me in my own passions in writing. Seriously, I have written in every form:

articles,journals, poetry (ick,)sports stories, book reviews, newsletters, newspaper articles/columns,editorials, columns, children's stories,various genres of fiction(historical,Biblical, romance, romantic comedy, mystery, medical thriller, small town,sci fi, fantasy,) memoirs, letters, devotionals, personal experience, humor (ack), women's issues, and health. I write grocery lists, prayer lists,notes to teachers, critiques of novels, and now this blog.

Well-known/published writers tell me that if I write it, it will reveal itself to me. All I can figure out so far is that I love books--all kinds. (I also have a serious addiction to magazines, but that's a peeve for another day.) I try to figure out what I've had the most reaction to when I write, because deep down, I like to get reactions and feedback when I write. Every writer needs/wants readers. So far, I don't have many readers for this blog, but every reader is sincerely appreciated. And I've found what I most like about writing a blog is getting the feedback.

I figure I only have so much time left in my life to narrow down what it is I am truly passionate about that I would devote to my writing time. What is it? What should I write, so that every day when I come to the computer, I'm thrilled to be doing it?

And tied up in all of this is a desire to do that thing that God calls me to do.(Isn't that true for any Christian?) Right now, I know it is this blog, but I have no idea why. I can tell you this--my youngest son one time told me to write about my life, because if I wrote about my life, he would read it. (He likes it when I tell stories about the people in my life, like my dad, who lived a colorful life.) To get a boy to read, I know, is something I desire in my heart-of-hearts. I say this because I still relish the feeling I had when I read books to my 6th graders back 26 years ago. Let me tell you about that so you can help me.

Those kids were hand-plucked from 5 other classes that year to be put into my class because of overcrowding. I was a brand new teacher who really knew nothing and was not experienced enough to deal with their problems. (The teachers who picked them to be in my class dumped on me--even the principal said he was sorry he let that happen.) They were the bottom of the barrel, most of them, and they'd been passed on, regardless of the fact that most of them were failing not only in school, but in life.

I understood one thing--that I had plenty in my own life in feeling rejected and ignored and abused, so I related to them. I could tell you stories all day about these kids. None of them read assignments, much less the books they didn't check out on library day. So, I simply read to them every day right after noon recess. They would groan when I would stop reading to them. Not one went to sleep (which given their lives and the lulling atmosphere I enhanced, you would've thought they would have.)

An amazing thing happened. I turned in the book I'd gotten from the library in our school after finishing it to many complaints and the request, "Read it again!"

On our library day the librarian grabbed me as we were heading back to class, and said, "What in the world are you doing in your class? Every kid in your class wants the book that you just turned in. I don't even think half of them can read it! And not only that, it's the first time they have wanted a book!"

And so it was each time I finished reading to them a book; the library was swamped with requests for that book.

I want to write for those kids. I'm not sure if it is the now adult kids, or if my audience is the kids who were in 6th grade. I try to remember my reading list that year. I can remember only a few titles. I wish I had written down that list and examined what it was about those books that appealed so much to me and to them. Those are the stories I want to tell and to write. I know it is that passion I wish to convey to readers. I want to tell stories that kids like those kids would ask for from the library, even if they could barely read them.

So I'd like to ask some of you to give me feedback over the next week. If Crystal would write it, what would you like to read from her? (If you wouldn't read it, no matter what I wrote, then please don't be mean and say it to my face. Ignoring me tells me just as much and I don't hold it against you.)

I'll post samples of things I have written that I enjoyed writing. If you would be so kind, I'd like for you to read them. Then, if you would, let me know what you most would like to read in this blog, and ultimately, help me figure out where to concentrate my writing energies. If you cannot post to me on this blog, you can email me (and you can find that on my web site.)

I'll have a vote at the end of my experiment so you can choose from my examples. Then, maybe I can focus. I hate not being able to focus. And I really need to clean out the excess in my life. Maybe in this experiment you will discover something about yourself, as well. That would be my prayer.


Cara Putman said...

Crystal, This is a great idea! Now you need to add feedblitz to your site so I'm reminded on a daily basis to come and chew!

Cara Putman said...

PS: Ready to brainstorm a few plot twists for my next two WWII proposals? :-)

Sheryl said...

It's a little scary ... I could have written your blog today (BG). I too love books! And there is not enough time left in my life, I'm sure, to read the books I already have, not to mention the ones I will yet buy and receive because I too won't stop buying them! :-)

I will look forward to your postings in the days to come with your writing samples, but don't count on me to help you narrow down a genre. I have great admiration for and have enjoyed tremendously everything I've read by you. I've also appreciated your honest & encouraging feedback on my book reviewing.


Unknown said...

Oh, the feel and smell of books.

Just sit down and start writing. When your book is finished, then try and see where it fits. At least you will have written that "book of your heart".

Anonymous said...

OK, I had to stop reading when you mentioned the smell of books.

Friday night at the ACFW conference, we (Phil and I) were at the Faith In Fiction dinner and I mentioned that I love the smell of books. He thought I was NUTS (I am, but that's beside the point.)

So I went around our table and it turns out that almost everyone sitting there could relate. They wouldn't fully admit to smelling books, but I know they do.

Sabrina L. Fox said...

So bring on the samples, sister. I can't wait!

I feel like I know how I'd like to see you write, but I'm ready to be educated on the writing style of Crystal! LOL.

LeAnne Benfield Martin said...

Thanks for the plug, sister! I am a fellow book lover and yes, I do smell books. In fact,I did that the other night (a new hardback). I asked my husband if he ever smells books and he said, "No" with a strange look on his face. I waved him over and made him smell it. He nodded and smiled with that "okay, I'll humor you" expression and backed carefully out of the room. Actually, I think he liked it--he's also a book lover.

About your writing: I enjoy reading your posts about your life. I really like the world you created when you wrote about your grandmother. Maybe it's because I'm at that same place with my writing--I'm ready to start telling stories about myself, my parents, and my ancestors. I'd like to see more of that from you. It could be nonfiction or fiction, as long as it's your voice.

Hope this helps!

Delia said...

Another bibliophile here who loves the smell of books! I will read just about anything, but I'm a sucker for a good romance. I used to try to write other genres, because I like to read those genres also, but no matter what I started writing it always ended up a romance.

I can't wait to read your writing samples! Lol, but like I said I will read and like just about any genre, so I'll give feedback but I don't know how helpful it'll be.

Terry Whalin said...


Great post. You have a tremendous amount of talent--and will find your way in the publishing world. I'm convinced so keep at it.

As for loving books, I'm right there with you--constantly adding to my my Amazon wish list as well as buying books. It's our world so I celebrate it--even if I have to sort my shelves every now and then.

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