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Whether Contracted or Expanded

 

All people have routines of some kind, and writers are no different. Routines can be elaborate, superstitious, or just plain odd. That’s allowable.

Contracted reading preferences can become as much a routine as the genres that keep a writer comfortable. During my teen years I concentrated on literary genre and classics. When I hit twenty, I moved on to—dare I say it?—romance novels. Okay, I was a normal young woman.

For decades after I left young adulthood, I read science fiction/fantasy almost exclusively. I had an entire library, floor to ceiling, filled with the genre. During the last several years most of that library was donated to larger lending libraries in my area.

Expanded reading can have a profound effect. On a whim, before getting rid of my personal library, I went to the local library and borrowed several books from the mystery genre and a few in non-fiction science. That whim led to a feeding frenzy of reading. A new world had opened up before me, showing authors, writing possibilities, etc. that I’d not anticipated.

I tried to read everything. Non-fiction came in so many forms that I almost glutted myself trying to sample all the entrees. I revisited ancient history—pre-Biblical–and philosophy, along with world history from 500A.D. to 1700A.D. History became a friend that could keep me fascinated for hours with its tales of intrigue.

“Salt” held me in thrall for days as I discovered its particular journey through civilization and the part it played in developing the world. “The Tao of Physics” left me speechless and questioning about the very nature of reality. Volumes on theology piled up beside the bed.

There was something wondrous and invigorating about expanding one’s book bag.

My personal expansion had come and I’d reveled in it. The groaning board of literature presented itself to my every desire. That’s when writing took over and contraction began.

Writing has its own form of contraction. For me, it was children’s literature. I studied it, wrote it, and enjoyed its delights. I still do.

After a couple of years my enthusiasm faltered. When I used my own style, stories didn’t work well. I couldn’t find the groove that would send me into the genre full-time. I’d never had problems writing fiction for children, until I started studying it and working with it constantly.

Ideas surfaced from everywhere. Short or long, stories moved inside my head. Fiction or non-fiction, it didn’t seem to matter. I was told that I expected children to read at level higher than standard. It was true. I expected kids now to be like kids when I was in school, and they’re not. The standardized language levels used now seem more elementary than those used in the 50’s and 60’s.

Once again, expansion would come to my rescue. I couldn’t connect with editors seeking stories for younger children, but I could connect with older children. I could write for the YA market, but that dealt mostly in novels. I wasn’t sure I was willing to invest that much time for a novel at that moment.

What I did was begin a book of poetry for the YA/Adult market. I’d experimented with several forms of poetry for years, when I stumbled onto a form known as “sestina.” It fit the bill perfectly for what I wanted to do.

I wrote the entire book in sestina form about the journey the moon makes in orbit and what it would see on its journey each night. I grafted visual verse onto social studies and geography and took it for a spin around the world. With satellite photos to illustrate the locations referenced by the verse, the journey broadens into an educational opportunity for the reader. This marriage of verse with both concrete and abstract reality breaks no new ground. It merely expands on what is available for the learning.

Soon “The Moon Sees All” will go to a publisher for evaluation. It may be rejected. It may not. Time will decide that issue.

In the meantime, I continue to expand my options. I do well in literary. I have fun with fantasy. I thoroughly delight in non-fiction. I can choose now to contract and focus in one area at a time, or expand to embrace several areas of focus. There is no longer a conflict.

My active routine now is to embrace whatever crawls onto my plate that day. Ask any bushman. You never know what’s palatable unless you try it.

 

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