Category Archives: Posts by Miriam

Thank You for the Words

I am exquisitely fortunate to be a part of a bi-weekly book club. We're a small group (currently only five members), we read eclectic selections (Wally Lamb, Madeline Albright, Lorna Landvik are three recent authors), and our conversations often veer well off the path of the books we are reading. But books brought us together and they keep us coming back for more.

Our latest is The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I was only supposed to read through Chapter 25 for our meeting in two weeks, but I couldn't stop. And now that I've finished the book, I can't stop feeling. I feel sad. I feel triumphant. I feel exhausted. I feel hope. I feel like I could burst for wanting to talk about this important book.

Truth is, I read a lot. I have the ability to read quickly and I take advantage of that. I read books like other people read newspapers – a fresh one nearly every day. But then I read a book that makes me wish time would stop. Words so beautifully strung together that I want to experience them again and again. The Help is like that – I want to live in this world a little bit longer.

Anyone who wants to say, "I am a writer" must read this book. It's as simple as that. Observe how first-time author Stockett shows but doesn't tell. Experience how she crafts her characters and gives them not just voice, but vivid life. Be inspired by the risks she takes over and over again.

I'm tempted to pick up the other book I started this week, but I can't get the women of The Help out of my head. Like an earworm, a tune playing over and over in my mind, their lives wash over me. No, I'm not ready yet to move on…

Vocabulary lists are bad?

It has recently come to my attention that not all readers like it when a book challenges them to learn new words.

As a dedicated lover of words and one who finds it amusing to use confoundedly obscure words whenever possible, I found this shocking, disconcerting, and disheartening. But it also made me think about why writers write – and I decided on two main reasons.

  1. Writers write to get out what is inside of themselves. They have a need to share, to expound, to express.
  2. Writers write because readers have a need to hear a message, a story, hard data.

So you must ask yourself, whose need am I satisfying?

If your goal is to satisfy your craving for word creation, then let us celebrate with the use of multisyllabic words and arcane references! Challenge your readers to dig out their dictionaries or dust off their encyclopedias. But if you are trying to reach the widest audience possible, then I suppose we have an obligation to write in a way that encourages our readers to engage in what we're saying. If we spend to much time amused with ourselves, then we are not serving their needs.

Now, I'm not advocating dumbing down what you have to say – NO NO NO! But I am reminding you (and me) that not everyone wants to read with pen and dictionary in hand every time they look at words. Sad as that may be to me.