Why Fiction Is Bad For Me.

My closest literary friends know that I shy away from reading fiction. Non-fiction is my wheelhouse–it’s what I prefer to read and what I prefer to write. When pressed for a reason why, I’ve often said that I’ve seen too many bizarre events in my own life that I don’t need a make-believe world of someone else’s.

This morning, though, an epiphany. The real reason I can’t abide fiction?

It is a drug.

Earlier this week I started reading a book by an author I despise on a personal level. This author used to be a columnist for the local paper and I found her 10 million kinds of annoying. And then she started publishing books. Which made her 20 million kinds of annoying (granted, mostly borne of jealousy). And then NPR and the New York Times put two of her books on some “Best of 2013” list and that was it. I had to read one of her three books so I could live quietly with my righteous indignation of how much I despised her. She couldn’t possibly be that good.

But she is.

Which now makes her 60 million kinds of annoying because she’s been validated by NPR and the New York Times and, reluctantly, by me.

So this morning, as I’m finishing her book and falling in love with the main characters and seeing so much of myself in the female protagonist, and my heart is smarting a little because of a dumb boy who, last night, pretty much dismissed me for reasons I won’t disclose here but suffice it to say that while it’s for the best, it still makes me feel like God–God who parted the Red Sea and kept Noah afloat and allowed Elijah to bring down fire from Heaven–did not think to create one single man on this God-forsaken planet who might find me lovable, it hits me:

This book is like crack.

Or maybe heroin.

Now, I’ve never done drugs so the analogy is truly lacking any kind of grounding in reality. But from my vast TV and film watching, I understand these highly addictive drugs make their users feel completely blissed out for a period of time, but once the high wears off, there is a crash to earth in which reality seems so much worse than before the initial hit.

And that’s what reading fiction is like for me. It starts out innocently enough, and I tell myself I’m not going to get wrapped up in the lives of these people who don’t exist. So I space out the reading. 10 minutes here, 30 minutes on the treadmill, a couple of days a week. You know, totally casual and not at all habit forming.

But then, something upsetting happens in my real life (and it isn’t always boys–sometimes it’s work related, sometimes family) and to escape, I am freebasing page after page, getting lost in the story and when I read the last page and put down the book, I look around and nothing has changed. The sudden crash back to my reality is such a let-down.

There’s no soft-spoken nerdy yet burly man sitting next to me who, in response to the question “Do you believe in love at first sight?” Answers “Do you believe in love before that?”

(Out of context, maybe it doesn’t sound all that impressive but trust me. My knees buckled when I read that sentence…and I was sitting in bed.)

There’s no sudden fabulous job or new-found success or instant fame.

There’s just me.

I don’t have these same emotions when I read Anne Lamott or stories of actual events (I lovedlovedloved The Girls of Atomic City) or celebrity memoirs (Mindy Kaling +Tina Fey = must reads). These people exist. These events happened. For some reason, it’s not escapist crack-like highs when I read non-fiction. It’s empathy and broadening world-views and learning.

Non-fiction doesn’t make me sigh or swoon or imagine my life in fictitious settings. It makes me think, and most of the time, makes me want to be a better person.

Fiction makes me rant. Like this:

Writing Paralysis.

Faithful readers might recall November 2011, when I committed to writing a book in 30 days as part of National Novel Writing Month. I completed the 50,000 word count, and the book has pretty much languished in my Google Drive ever since. But I really do want to try and get it polished up for public consumption, so I’ve been trying to revise the chapters one at a time.

Last week I read Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking. I’m a fan of Didion’s writing–it’s academic and accessible at the same time, and when I read her writing, I (stupidly) feel like I can someday write near to her level. I read Didion, and I’m motivated and inspired to make those revisions on my book and send it off to publishers.

This week I started David Sedaris’ Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls. I’m also a fan of Sedaris’ writing–it’s hilarious and heartwarming at the same time, but when I read his writing, I am convinced that I should never write another word as long as I live. I read Sedaris and his wit paralyzes me, his vocabulary intimidates me, and while I am crying tears of laughter as I read his anecdotes, there’s a few tears of sadness mixed in because each word of his I read crushes my tiny writing dreams.

So if you are looking for a good book, I recommend either of these, but it’ll be a long while before you get to read mine.


This year is harder than others. I don’t know why. I didn’t expect it–I have one of the best schedules I’ve ever had in all my years of teaching, I’m starting to see some legitimate change in the district, and in general, I don’t have a whole lot of waves going on.

Yet I’m restless. Unsettled.

Last night before I went to bed, I thought I’d read for a bit. The last book I read was so mind-numbingly boring that it put to sleep every night. It was a fantasy-alternate-world-fighting-dragons kind of book and I hated every page. But I’ve committed to reading the books on this list, 

So next up was the book “Shiver” by Maggie Stiefvater. It is just shy of 400 pages and from what I could tell was a book about wolves.


I crawled into bed, exhausted from my day, opened the book and read a page. The pace wasn’t bad, so I read another page. And before I knew it, it was midnight, I was wrapped up in the story, and I had to force myself to turn off the light and get some sleep.

I found pockets of time throughout my day, and finished it before school was over. I was lost in that book. And while I was reading, I didn’t have to think about grading papers, planning lessons, district demands. I didn’t worry about my nieces and nephews, or my parents or my sisters, or think about how I need to start coming back to terms with the fact that I will likely never date again, and definitely won’t ever marry. My thoughts were concerned only with the characters in the book, what was happening to them, and how the story would end.

There are two more books in the series; it’s taking all the willpower in the world to not sink back into the story.

It was glorious to be lost in that world for a day, to just not be really living in mine.

Twilight of the Gods: A Review

I am not a fan of comic books. I don’t hate them, I don’t love them–I nothing them. But my good friend and partner-in-adviser-crime Stueve sent me a PDF copy of a comic he wrote that will hit stores in November, and since he will one day have to suffer through a draft of a manuscript I might dare to send to a publisher, I figured the least I could do is read his comic book.

This really is a rather big sacrifice for me. I have vague memories of going to comic book stores with my high school boyfriend. I remember being bored. I remember the boyfriend trying to explain to me the complicated relationships of the X-Men, and I also remember my eyes glazing over, trying to figure out when he’d stop blathering on about comic books so we could just go make out already.

But now that I”m older, I try to be a good friend, which at times means that I do things like read a comic book. Here’s what I thought of AE Stueve’s comic, Twilight of the Gods.

I’m not well-versed in Greek mythology at all, so I won’t comment on particular plot points, simply because I don’t know enough to do so effectively. That said, some elements of the story were a little difficult to follow, until a very well-written letter at the end of the book pulled the whole book together, and upon a second reading, I felt more comfortable with it.

The dialogue is easy to follow, and this first book in the series made this non-comic fan crave the next one. I want to know what happens to Artemis and Orion. I want to understand how Persephone sees everything from below. I want to know if Heracles can control his temper.

And then there’s the artwork. Oh my, the artwork. The colors are perfect–not too muted, not overwhelming. I never once felt overwhelmed with the design. In the past when I tried to read comics, I always felt each panel was too busy, had too much going on. The artwork in Twilight of the Gods was accessible to even me. And best of all, Artemis is drawn as a strong woman with shades of realism, as opposed to the buxom broads that tend to fill comic books. By the end, I liked Artemis. I wanted to know more about her, because her image was relatable, even though as a comic book character, she still had exaggerated elements in her figure.

It is pretty family-friendly as well. My nephews, who are fans of the Percy Jackson series, would love the story. My sisters wouldn’t accuse me of trying to steal their sons’ innocence by giving them this comic.

But here’s the thing: this first piece must sell 1,000 copies for the rest of the series to live. Each copy is $1. I plan on buying five: one for my brother, one each for my three nephews, and one for me, the non-comic book fan. I want to know what happens next, and I can only know that if 1,000 copies sell.

I’m buying five. Will you help out with the other 995?

It will hit stores in November, and I’ll plug it again then. Start saving your pennies now.

Freedom and Choices

I read this book last week. It took me about five hours. It was that good. And yes, it has the cheesy love triangle business that, since the Twilight series, seems to be a required element of Young Adult Lit. But that pesky love triangle doesn’t overpower the true message of the book: what is the consequence of yielding choice to the government?

True, the society in in Matched has eradicated disease and on the surface, its citizens appear to be happy. But they really aren’t happy, they just…are.

It’s a frightening look at how our lives would be if we weren’t allowed to make our own choices, from what food we eat to how hard we exercise to who we marry.

The friend who lent me the book (which I have since purchased) said, “You have to read this! It was written by a former English teacher, and you’ll totally get it!” She’s right–I did. I love Dylan Thomas, and his poetry is featured throughout. But that wasn’t the only thing I got.

The author is LDS, and the theme of choice was not lost on me. A scripture from The Book of Mormon reads “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so…righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad…” (2 Nephi 2:11). This, for me, was the larger message in Matched. Condie created a dystopia where people don’t seem to emote. Scarier still are the freedoms they apparently willingly handed over to the government.

I do think government can accomplish amazing things–look at car safety, for example. Standardizing the speed limit and requiring seat belts have decreased highway accidents and deaths. But some things we should probably be able to choose for ourselves despite negative consequences. One small example: if people want to live on Twinkies and Coke, then they should suffer the consequences, not sue Hostess or call for Congressional oversight into the American diet.

I have a lot to say about this book, but don’t want to spoil it for you. Read it. Let me know what you think.

Or don’t read it. It’s your choice.