Yes, it’s Thanksgiving, but a day off from the “day job” means, hopefully, that I just may make a little more progress on the writing that I am not always and/or steadily paid to do. Tops on my agenda for the long holiday weekend is reading a book that I won’t name here and drafting an accompanying review that is due next week.
I will, of course, take some time for celebrating and giving thanks. I have so much to be thankful for. I do try to count my blessings on all the other days of the year, but today I’ll take some extra time to reflect on them. Foremost: my family, my friends, my health, the health of aforementioned family and friends, and a job where I am appreciated and believe that I am making a contribution.
I’ve always been grateful for words and books–as a reader. This year, my writing life has been extra-special, and I want to say a few public thank-yous to those who have supported it (and, by extension, me).
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Remember when I posted my summer to-do list? What sort of progress have I made? I’ll share that below, in a second update-reprint (click here for the first one).
North of the equator, we’ve just begun summer. Although I’m still going to be working 40 hours a week in my day job, still running the usual errands, still partaking in the same family responsibilities (and joys), I’m also hoping to accomplish certain writing-related goals before we merge into fall.
After all, for six weeks this summer, my 40 hours at the office will be recalibrated: heavier on Mondays-Thursdays with “summer Fridays” off. I hope to use those Fridays wisely. And I hope that I can use the general light and energy of the summer to help infuse some projects under way and others that I hope to start.
Herewith, items on my list of writerly hopes, plans, ambitions, and commitments for the season.
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As if the promise of a video visit with yours truly were not enough to entice book clubs around the world to order truckloads of copies of Quiet Americans, here’s another incentive: author Robin Black’s magnificent and generous manifesto (as I am terming it): “A Book Club Guide to Discussing Short Story Collections.”
Black, author of the acclaimed If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This, explains:
I’m writing this because in the year and a half since my short story collection came out, I have had some amazing experiences discussing it with book clubs but I have also been told by many other groups that they find it hard to “tackle” story collections. First they run into a too-common reluctance to read those books at all, but then, for reasons inherent to the form, it’s also difficult to structure a conversation. There isn’t one set of characters to discuss. There isn’t one plot. There may even be stories that feel as though different authors wrote them. These things may seem obvious, but how to craft a cohesive discussion in spite of them, isn’t so clear.
And so I have been thinking about advice to give, strategies to suggest, mostly because I really do believe that although the approach may have to be be a little different, the experience of talking about stories is truly one of the great joys to be found among exchanges about literature.
Please go read Black’s suggested strategies. And then, please suggest that your club take up the cause of the short-story collection. You certainly don’t have to choose Quiet Americans. (But of course, I’ll be grateful if you do!)
For those of you who have been following along the super-exciting story of my summer (yes, a bit of self-sarcasm there!), please recall that back in June I promised myself (and you) that I would acquire a new computer this summer, and not long ago, I fulfilled that promise.
To emphasize how old my previous Mac was, allow me to share the fact that it lacked a built-in camera, and, late-adopter that I am, I never even investigated purchasing an external webcam. But my new computer is dazzlingly tricked-out with all kinds of accoutrements. And thanks to a reminder from a good friend who is based outside the U.S. that once upon a time I did, in fact, have a Skype account, I have reactivated said account.
What this means is that I can now offer book groups video visits as well as chats on the phone. Sadly, I’ve had to turn down my most recent invitation (and for a variety of reasons, it’s unlikely that I’ll be able to join any club meetings that are scheduled before late September). But from that point on, if you and your group are reading Quiet Americans, and you’d like me to “visit,” please invite me! I promise to learn more about how to be a good video visitor beforehand (thanks to this article, I’ve already discovered that I may need to add some lighting).
P.S. Whether you’d like me to “attend” or not, please remember that you’ll find some discussion questions for book groups right here. Enjoy!