The Lighthouse Writers Top-Secret Blog

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So, Um, What Are You Reading Now?

One of the things I like most about Lighthouse is that a community of writers is also a community of readers. If you carry a book into a Lighthouse event or meeting, someone will surely ask you about it or tell you what they thought of it or announce that it’s among the many books they plan to read next. My reading list expands exponentially every time I have even a casual encounter with members of Lighthouse. Case in point, reading Andrea’s blog post yesterday has me rushing out to get the Jessica Treadway collection, Please Come Back To Me. (I hear it’s sensational!)

Something I’ve learned by discussing reading preferences with fellow Lighthouse workshoppers is that many writers have strict rules about the kinds of books they read while they are writing. I know novelists who stick to non-fiction when they are in the middle of a manuscript, especially during that crucial first draft. I know memoirists who wouldn’t dare pick up the latest Mary Karr while unspooling their own story. I get it. Why take the chance that someone else’s voice will influence you? Why invite comparison, even if the only one comparing anything is you?

It’s probably smart to set some boundaries, but boundaries aren’t really my strong point. You see, I write fiction, almost always novel-length fiction. And I read novels, lots and lots of novels. Oh, sure, I occasionally pick up a short story collection or memoir, but I’m happiest when I’m wading through a long, complicated, completely fictional story. Ever since I discovered “chapter books” in elementary school, I’ve been hooked on the novel. I can’t imagine weaning myself off novels for a few weeks, much less the year or more it takes me to write a halfway coherent draft of my own novel. Recently, however, I made the rare decision to check out a couple of non-fiction books from the library: Bright-Sided by Barbara Ehrenreich and When Everything Changed by Gail Collins. Reading these books led me to some surprising insights about a current manuscript and even sent me back to a piece I thought I’d abandoned for good. As a result, I’ve been writing more and I’m feeling pretty good about the words on the page. I don’t know if it was the subject matter or the change of genre that spurred this latest burst of output, but I’ll take inspiration wherever I can find it.

I have no intention of putting down my novels for good or even for very long. The new Franzen is beckoning, after all. However, I do believe that reading outside my usual comfort zone has proved beneficial for my writing. So I think I’ll take a cue from some of my Lighthouse cohorts and read more books that are nothing like the one I’m writing. Heck, I may just dive into a collection of poetry next. Recommendations welcome.

About Tiffany Quay Tyson

Tiffany Quay Tyson is a writer living in Denver, Colorado. She was born and raised in Mississippi. THREE RIVERS, her debut novel, was a Colorado Book Award finalist and a finalist for the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award for fiction. She is a 2016 Amtrak Resident. She is currently working on her second novel.

5 comments on “So, Um, What Are You Reading Now?

  1. andreadupree
    September 21, 2010

    This is fantastic, Tiffany. I love reading while I’m writing. I’m a vulture! It’s not unusual for me to turn, exasperated, from my story I’m working on to a book of poetry, hoping to steal something. (I stole an entire line from Jake Adam York without realizing it. I figure I’ll apologize later, if anything ever happens with it.) But I also turn to fiction. When I go down to my “office” (which is either my kitchen or living room) to write, I often unconsciously pick up a stack of books to take with me, as if they’ll be able to save me from what’s in store. And sometimes they do! So, I’ve never been one for rules, either. (HA! “boundaries aren’t really my strong point.” That could be the title of your memoir.) But I do, on occasion, run across something in a published work that’s eerily similar to what I’ve been working on, and there’s a deflating feeling about that.

    Thanks for being a t-s blogger. 🙂

  2. Betty
    September 21, 2010

    I enjoyed reading your article. I’ve always enjoyed mixing up the genre that I read. Seems I tend toward fictional romance a lot. I’m currently reading one called “Soul Mate” by Ronald Lewis Weaver. It’s about a twenty-six-year-old high school teacher and her eighteen-year-old student discover incontrovertible evidence that they were soul mates. A bit controversial but hey it’s fiction and I can’t seem to put it down.

  3. tqtyson
    September 22, 2010

    Andrea, my great fear is that I’ll inadvertently steal something from another author, but I don’t fear it enough to put the books down. I’m like you — a vulture!

  4. Pingback: What Readers Are Reading « The Lighthouse Writers Top-Secret Blog

  5. Pingback: What Readers Are Reading « Nick Arvin's Sporadic Blog

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This entry was posted on September 21, 2010 by in Good Books, Writing.

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