Author Essay Good for Book Clubs

Teaching Like A Writer

Last year I taught a continuing education workshop in the basement of a Brooklyn bookstore. I like teaching in a bookstore, as it makes me feel like I’m a writer in a movie, and every Tuesday evening when I’d take the steps down to the subterranean level (where writers belong), I was filled with a decent, quiet light. It’s a pleasure to spend a few hours hammering out thorny issues of craft with people who spend their days in other industries.

It was toward the end of my time with this particular class. It was the first workshop experience for one of the women, who I’ll call Agnes, and while she handled her fellow student’s work with care, at times she seemed suspicious of the workshopping process in general. I watched her frustration grow over the semester, especially, I noted, when the work of an experimental writer was being discussed.

During the final class we discussed the work of who I’d say was the most surrealist writer. Another student suggested she explain the background of one of the characters. It was the kind of note that can be common in workshops. I want to know more about so and so, being used in place of what is normally the deeper issue: details you are deciding to include are not specific enough. With the particular empathy of a teacher, I could feel Agnes’s blood heat until, it seemed, she could no longer take it.

She launched into an impassioned monologue that mostly revolved around the idea of workshopping being anti-art. That it chokes the creative sense.

When she finished, every head in the room swiveled to me. It was my job to massage the shoulders of everyone’s ideas and feelings, to push forth whatever the “right” idea was. The room, its stultifying air, the unfinished bookshelves stuffed with remainders. It was as if every single object in that room had a face, looking at me to correct the atmosphere.

Hundreds of thoughts occurred to me simultaneously, most of them variations on how to bend this moment into a teachable one. Then, almost as quickly, all thoughts were overruled by one question: Do you, as the human being called Marie, agree with this person?

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

Happy Holidays RIFers!

Read It Forward wants to wish you a happy holiday!

We’ve loved sharing book recommendations with you this year and we can’t wait to continue with even more exciting books coverage in 2016!

We hope you open some delicious reads and find some time to settle into a good book this holiday season.

From our family to yours,

Happy Holidays!

Giveaways Good for Book Clubs

Gorgeous Memoir Giveaway: Before I Forget

“I know where I’m going. I’m still myself. I just can’t remember things as well as I once did. So on short trips, I work hard not to be confused. I’ll say to myself, What are we going to do? How long are we staying? It’s like I’m talking to my other self—the self I used to be. She tells me, This is what we need to buy—not that. I’m conscious of that other self guiding me now.”

Restaurateur, magazine publisher, celebrity chef, and nationally known lifestyle maven, B. Smith is struggling at 66 with a tag she never expected to add to that string: Alzheimer’s patient. She’s not alone. Every 67 seconds someone newly develops it, and millions of lives are affected by its aftershocks.

B. and her husband, Dan, working with Vanity Fair contributing editor Michael Shnayerson, unstintingly share their unfolding story. Crafted in short chapters that interweave their narrative with practical and helpful advice, readers learn about dealing with Alzheimer’s day-to-day challenges: the family realities and tensions, ways of coping, coming research that may tip the scale, as well as lessons learned along the way.

At its heart, Before I Forget is a love story: illuminating a love of family, life, and hope.

Giveaways Good for Book Clubs

Suspense Giveaway: Trust No One

“The final twists and turns of the plot are among Krentz’s best.”—The Seattle Times.

When Grace Elland finds her boss, motivational speaker Sprague Witherspoon, murdered, a vodka bottle on his nightstand is a terrifying reminder of the horrors of her past—one that can be no coincidence. To regroup, Grace retreats to her childhood home, Cloud Lake, where she meets venture capitalist Julius Arkwright, a man who lives to make money, by any means necessary. But the intense former Marine has skills that Grace can use—to figure out her future. And he’s the perfect man to help Grace when it becomes clear she is being stalked. As Witherspoon’s financial empire continues to crumble around them, taking a deadly toll, Julius will walk Grace step by step into her past to uncover a devious plan to destroy not only Grace, but everyone around her as well…

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

The Best Gift I’ve Ever Received

I purchased my first copy of Their Eyes Were Watching God myself. It was required reading for a women’s literature course I took during my sophomore year of college. I was less than a quarter of the way through the story when I realized that this book was like nothing I had ever read before. I found honesty in its themes, relished the unapologetic determination of its tone, and the voice of its characters felt so familiar and relatable that I came to embrace the author, Zora Neale Hurston and the story’s protagonist, Janie Crawford, as friends, and as mentors.

In my enthusiasm towards the book, I committed what many avid readers might consider to be an unforgivable act. I “damaged” the book.

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

5 Creative Ways to Wrap a Book

When you wrap a book you run the risk of having it look well…like a book. But what if you made the wrapping as thrilling as the literary content inside the package?

Read It Forward got creative and came up with five fun ways to wrap books that not only are practically free (we used found items from around the house and upcycled ribbons from last year’s festivities), but will look absolutely delightful under any tree.

We predict people will be calling you Martha Stewart pretty soon.

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

Give A Book As A Gift—Successfully

We love books, but receiving one as a gift is an entirely different matter. Often it can seem impersonal, making the recipient believe that his/her friend, family member, or significant other expended no more effort than walking into a bookstore and snatching up the closest title on the New and Popular table. It takes a very special set of circumstances to make a book gift truly exceptional, one that supersedes all other gift options. Here’s our advice:

Figure out his/her tastes. You wouldn’t buy an unathletic friend workout gear, or flashy jewelry or clothes for a significant other whose tastes run more minimal. Similarly, you have to consider what your recipient would actually like to read, not just what you want him/her to read. Is he your horror-movie buddy? Recreate that experience with a page-turning thriller like the latest Lisbeth Salander novel The Girl In The Spider’s Web. Does she work a drudging office job? That’s an entire sub genre! Try gifting her The Beautiful Bureaucrat.

Do your research! Did she love Gone Girl or Station Eleven? You’ve got resources like Read It Forward and GoodReads to find the new and classic books that will hit those same emotional and thematic beats. There are readers everywhere eager to share what they loved (and didn’t), so consider them a litmus test.intext

Giveaways Good for Book Clubs

Historical Romance Giveaway: The Song of Hartgrove Hall

Natasha Solomons’s breathtaking new novel has it all: a love triangle, family obligations, and rediscovering joy in the face of grief, all set against the alluring backdrop of an English country estate perfect for fans of Downton Abbey

It’s a terrible thing to covet your brother’s girl. New Year’s Eve, Dorset, England, 1946. Candles flicker, a gramophone scratches out a tune as guests dance and sip champagne— for one night Hartgrove Hall relives better days. Harry Fox-Talbot and his brothers have returned from World War II determined to save their once grand home from ruin. But the arrival of beautiful Jewish wartime singer Edie Rose tangles the threads of love and duty, and leads to a devastating betrayal. Fifty years later, now a celebrated composer, Fox reels from the death of his adored wife, Edie. Until his connection with his four-year old grandson – a music prodigy – propels him back into life, and ultimately to confront his past. An enthralling novel about love and treachery, joy after grief, and a man forced to ask: is it ever too late to seek forgiveness?