I once asked another author to join a writing group in which I was a member. The author responded, “Well, it would be nice to have people read my manuscripts but I have no interest in reading others’ stuff. I’m way past the time I let someone else tell me what to read.”
For me, the joys of being in a group of other authors goes way beyond the critiques offered. To be there when another writer struggles with the creative process, especially with deeply personal issues, is rewarding on many levels. Our group once helped an author write about a time that she was in a group of children, led by adults to chant racial slurs at young black children during the early days of integration. Powerful stuff.
I also value my membership in a book club where selections are made for works I would never have discovered or chosen to read. We are currently reading This is the Voice by John Colapinto. The book is a scholarly but entertaining history of how speech developed and its place in overall human evolution and culture.
Since I am neither a musician, a linguist, or an evolutionary biologist, my initial reaction to scanning the contents and the comments of praise on the back cover was, “Why are we reading this?” I soon found out. Learning things such as how making music with vocal sounds probably predated what we think of language and conversation is only one of the fascinating things in the book. Tune comes before lyrics and actually helped build the brain for higher function.
Finally, the publisher of my book, Billion Dollar Bracket, (BQB Publishing) has many fine writers in its offerings. I have joined with a number of them in reading each-others’ books, to write reviews and otherwise help promote our work.
One book from a BQB author was unique, Choker, by Bob Mosley, a young adult book. It has been more than a half century since I was a young adult, but this book took me back to another book from my childhood, Phantom of the Foul Lines, by Burgess Leonard (1952). Both were stories of young men seeking accomplishment and peer acceptance through sports. Choker was updated to reflect current issues such as race, but the story works no matter the time.
I am glad I let other people tell me what to read.
I read. I write. I learn. I’m in a writing group and I have four published books. I’m still pretty sure I’m not Steinbeck, but my heart and soul have found their way back to where they should be.