Tuesday, January 31, 2017

IWSG: Wednesday, February 1, 2017 ~ Two Sides of the Same Coin

It's the first Wednesday 
of the month ~ 
the day when members of the
Insecure Writer's Support Group
share their writing struggles
and offer their encouragement
and support to other members.

To visit the IWSG website, click here.

To become a member of the IWSG, click here.

Our wonderful co-hosts who are stepping up to help IWSG founder Alex J. Cavanaugh are:
Misha Gericke,  L.K. Hill  Juneta Key,  Christy, and Joylene Butler. 

I hope you have a chance to visit them and thank them for co-hosting.
I'm sure they would appreciate an encouraging comment!

This month's IWSG featured question is:
How has being a writer changed your experience as a reader?

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I've thought about the relationship between writing and reading throughout my life,
especially since I began teaching children to write and to read in the late 1980s.

I don't think you can be a good writer without reading widely,
and once you start writing, I think it changes your reading experience forever.

Reading and Writing:  Two Parts of One Whole
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Reading and writing are so intimately related that participating in the two
over time deepens, enriches, and improves the experience of both.
I have come to view them as two sides of the same coin.

Back in 1990 or 1991, early in my teaching career,
I had the good fortune to attend a writing conference in Denver.
The keynote presenter was the incomparable Shelley Harwayne.

Shelley Harwayne

For those of you who aren't familiar with Shelley Harwayne,
she was involved with the public schools in New York City for over thirty years.

During this time she worked as a teacher, staff developer, and superintendent
and was the founding principal of the New Manhattan School (P.S. 290, NYC).

As co-director of Columbia University's Teacher College Writing Project,
Shelley mentored and inspired a generation of writing and 
reading teachers around the country and the world.

At that Denver conference Shelley said something I have never forgotten.
She said that if you wanted your students to become good writers
you had to marinate them in good literature.

As a result, my classroom and many others were stuffed
with the best children's literature we teachers could buy.

My Teammates and I on a School Field Trip
These colleagues were amazing and generous teachers
who inspired their students to read and to write
across their wide curriculum.
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

IMHO, one result of the focus on obtaining the best children's literature by teachers
was an explosion in the publication and availability of wonderful,
at times profound, children's books in an array of genres.


Some of My Personal Favorites
See Notes Below

However my students, and others in classrooms around the world,
didn't just read excellent children's literature.
They examined that literature to learn how authors wrote and structured books,
and they applied that knowledge to their own writing to improve it.

As the reading and writing processes spiraled around 
throughout the year and in following grades,
students became better readers and writers,
and their awareness of how authors wrote good books deepened.
Students began to enjoy the books they read,
not only for the story or the information in them,
but also for the craft and beauty of the writing found in those books.

I have walked that spiraling path throughout my life,
and I have long passed the point where I value and enjoy
a book simply for its story or information.
I learn and derive pleasure from understanding
an author's skill in the craft of writing
and in his or her choice of words.

If a book is not well written, its impression on me
lasts as long as a bite of cotton candy on my tongue.

If a fiction book is skillfully and beautifully written,
I find myself reading and rereading passages to savor the actual writing,
even as I long to gallop ahead to learn the ending.

As for non-fiction, when a book is well-structured
and written in cogent, fresh language,
I understand the content better,
I acquire insight into improving my writing,
and I enjoy observing the craft of the writer.

Three of my Personal Favorites
See Notes Below

Some books I will reread entirely to better understand how
the author created an unforgettable reading experience for me.

These reading and writing experiences accumulate in my mind,
and the spiraling continues, both enriching my life immeasurably
and deepening my pleasure in both processes.

J.R.R. Tolkien was a giant among writers and readers,
certainly among those I admire most.

One of his many well-known quotes is about the process of writing,
and it is the one that resonates most with me as a writer and a reader.

He said of writing The Lord of the Rings that the story
“...grows like a seed in the dark out of the leaf-mould of the mind:
out of all that has been seen or thought or read,
that has long ago been forgotten, descending into the deeps.”

Personally, I expand the meaning of Tolkien's quote
to include my understanding of story as a reader.
My understanding of story as a writer
has added to my subconscious "leaf-mould,"
and it has enriched my reading experience
in ways that are hard to articulate or measure.

My treasured books are my treasured friends.
I hope my pleasure in writing and reading
continues to deepen the rest of my life.

IWSG Reads:
Since I joined the IWSG, I have read a number of books
by fellow Insecure Writer's Support Group members,
notably books by Alex J. Cavanaugh and Pat Hatt
that I have thoroughly enjoyed and reread.

Alex J. Cavanaugh Books
I Have Enjoyed and Reread

Pat Hats Books
I Have Enjoyed  and Reread

I've made it a goal this year to read at least five books
published by Insecure Writer's Support Group writers.

I just finished reading my first for the year,
Matowak: Woman Who Cries
by Joylene Nowell Butler

If this book is any indication,
I will have a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience
ahead of me as I achieve my goal.   

Amazon   Blog

This book is a fabulous read!  
It's a murder mystery set in Prince George, British Columbia, Canada.
The book is grounded in reality all the way through.
The RCMP police work is engrossing and realistic,
and the details of the Canadian setting ring true throughout.
The two memorable main characters, RCMP Corporal Danny Killian
and suspect Sally Warner, lead readers on an intriguing chase
which kept this reader double guessing herself to the end.

And yes, I appreciated Joylene's effective use of foreshadowing which she does exceptionally well in her skillfully written book!

I'm looking forward to reading your posts to hear
how writing has changed your reading experience.

Have you read any good books by IWSG authors
that you can recommend?

Happy writing in February!

1.  Shelley Harwayne  Bio

2.  P.S. 290, NYC:   Public School #290, New York City

3.  IMHO:  In my humble opinion

4.  In Flanders Fields:  The Story of the Poem by John McRae
     by Linda Granfield   (WW1 History and Poetry)   Thriftbooks

5.  Oscar the Herring Gull
     by Roberta Heembrock  (Fiction with Non-Fiction Notes)   Amazon

6.  If You Are a Hunter of Fossils
     by Byrd Baylor   (Poetry ~ Science:  Geology)   Goodreads  

5.  The Prince of the Pond
     by Donna Jo Napoli   (Fiction ~ Fantasy)   Goodreads

6.  Howling Hill
      by Will Hobbs   (Fiction)  Amazon

7.  The Garden of Abdul Gasazi
       by Chris Van Allsburg   (Fantasy)   Amazon

8.  The Hidden Reality:  Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos
     by Brian Greene   (Physics and Cosmology)   Wikipedia

9.  The Trojan Horse
     by Warwick Hutton   (Mythology)   Thriftbooks

10.  Alone Against the North:  An Expedition into the Unknown
       by Adam Shoalts   (Exploration)   Amazon

11.  Tolkien Quote:
       J. R. R. Tolkien:  A Biography by Humphrey Carpenter, p. 131  Google


  1. Love the Tolkien quote. Happy reading AND writing1

    1. Thanks, Liza! Wishing you the same. Have a happy day!

  2. What a great post today Louise. When I think of what I miss most about teaching it is the literature. I loved best sitting with a group of children and sharing great stories and good writing with them. I am not a writer as you are but I could appreciate the craft of writing. There are so many great books out there. I haven't read children's literature in fifteen years now and I'm sure that I am missing out on some fabulous finds. I not only loved the teaching of literature but I expanded the activities afterwards into creative art projects which played into my strengths. I know you were a great teacher and I'm so happy that now you are writing. I so enjoy your blog.

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Peggy! I'm really glad that you enjoyed my post! I loved sharing wonderful books with children, and I loved helping them develop as writers. One of my favorite things ever was the once-weekly after school art and literature group for gifted and talented children. We had so much fun! It was sometimes a struggle to get the group approved because administrators were anxious to improve the test scores of children who were not proficient. But I was always an advocate for the G/T kiddos, and it bothered me that the fewest resources were going into their needs. I especially had a soft spot in my heart for the "Twice Exceptional" children (those who were G/T and had a learning disability). Don't you hate labels?! In my classroom I had art activities based on the literature we read a lot of the time. Anything from paper mache dinosaurs, to petroglyphs, to handmade poppies for Veterans Day. Okay, I better stop! This is making me homesick for my kiddos and classroom. Have a great day!

  3. Yep, everything changes indeed as writing takes seed. That is great when they learn and focus on aspects of books indeed. Yippeee for me as the cat is at your sea haha thanks for the shout.

    1. The cat is welcome at my sea anytime, Pat! Have a great day, my friend!

  4. Holy cow! I'm honored you have enjoyed my books. Thank you.
    Those were wise words she imparted. They do go hand-in-hand and I'm sure you inspired many a student to take it to the next level and really learn the craft of both.

    1. My students and I certainly had a lot of fun with reading and writing, Alex! I thought it was time to dig into fellow IWSG writers and recommend books that I have enjoyed! We've moved our of our little trailer today, and now I'm at a hotel with internet, so I'm making the rounds a little late. But I'll get there! Have a good one!

  5. Louise, I love children's books, especially the vintage ones, and the illustrations are so beautiful! I love the photo of yourself with your team mates. Great post! Thank you so much for sharing, dear friend. :)

    1. Hi, my special Montreal friend! I'm always poking through the stacks of used book stores looking for vintage children's books from my childhood. I have a few, but all five of us were voracious readers, and we moved a lot. I was fortunate in my teammates. I worked with amazing women and men during my career, and sometimes I miss them and my kiddos so much. I hope you are having a good week. We just moved out of our little trailer this morning, and we're in a hotel tonight ~ Not sure for how many days; we have our eyes on the weather in the Rockies which we have to drive through to get home. Sending you a big hug and lots of love!

  6. Louise, you brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for your kind words. You are a dear soul. Can't thank you enough.

    1. You're welcome, Joylene; but no thanks is needed. Matowak was a great read, and I enjoyed it from beginning to end! I hope that you are enjoying your day as co-host! Take care!

  7. Have I read any good IWSG authors I recommend... LOL! YES!!! Oh my goodness, so many. If I listed them all I'd be here for the next three hours, which I can't afford, but the reviews are all up on my Goodreads profile. https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7073992.Crystal_Collier (And I have a few more I need to add with reviews as soon as I have a spare moment...)

    1. Thanks for the link, Crystal! I bookmarked your Goodreads site, and I will definitely check it out! I have to make the IWSG rounds not that I've gotten hooked up to the internet in my hotel room! Take care, my friend!

  8. I agree that reading the best that literature has to offer is crucial. But so is reading crap, I believe. You can't recognize the first without knowing the second.

    Or perhaps this is just a lame attempt at defending all the crap I read, LOL!

    1. Not to worry, Debra! I read lots of mind candy ~ LOL

      I'm a sucker for Preston & Child's thrillers. They're well-written, but they definitely stretch the boundaries of believability. I'm reading one right now where a group of scientists is trying to destroy an alien plant(?) growing two miles below the surface off the coast of South America, and if they fail Earth will be destroyed. I enjoy a half dozen of authors who write these kinds of thrillers. I eat them up!

      One thing I learned to do in school was read aloud a range of books hitting the different levels of books my kiddos could read. I could go from Harry Potter, to Bunnicula, and to Magic Tree House without batting an eye. I could read a kindie level book that was challenging for a few of my kiddos and make it interesting for everyone. Anything to hook 'em.

      Have a good one, my friend! Sending you a big hug!

  9. I love children's books too, and re-read my favourites regularly. A good story is a good story no matter the target age.

    I think it was Dorothy L. Sayers who (through the mouth of a character) said something like "so many people tend to write good stories in bad English, or bad stories in good English". I've always wished I could be a person who wrote good stories in good English! I'm not very good at deconstructing novels and recognising plot devices, but I do love to read and I do believe that to write well, we must be "marinated in good literature".

    Does the current generation read as much as previous ones did? Entire books, I mean? Or has humanity strayed too far on the path of tweets and instant messaging?

    Thanks for a great post!

    P.S. Tolkien - oh my yes. How he would have loved publish-on-demand and its ability to constantly (and instantly) revise an already-published work!

    1. Hi, Sue! What a delight to see you here and to read your lovely comment. I'm always rereading my favorite children's books. They have some of the best writing around. A number of my nieces and nephews actually do read books which makes me really happy to see. I hope all is well with you! Take care!

  10. Loved books by other writers on this blog hop too! Great to connect to other authors.

    1. It is great to connect with other authors, Raquel! I'm looking forward to reading more books by our talented IWSG members. Have a good one!

  11. I totally agree that writing and reading shouldn't be separated.
    And I love J.R.R. Tolkien too!!! His work inspired me to write.

    1. I still remember the moment I heard about JRRT. Fortunately I was home in bed with bronchitis one Sat. morning when I was 15 or 16. I was listening to a teenage show on CBC radio on Canada, and the host read a passage from the first book where the hobbits were attacked on Weathertop. I knew at that moment that I would love Tolkien. Of course, I was living in rural Nova Scotia well before the days of the internet, so it took me a few weeks to find a copy of the reading adventure of my life! Have a great day!

  12. Your students are lucky to have you as a teacher with this kind of passion and dedication. I, too, have been working my way through the books of writers I've come to know online. Way too many to mention in a comment. Just have fun with checking them out, one at a time.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement. I know I am going to have fun checking them out, Karen!

  13. I wish all kids had a teacher like you to teach them to love and appreciate books. Three of my four children love to read and I'm grateful for that. There are a lot of terrific writers in IWSG and everyone is getting better all the time.

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Susan! I'm glad that three of your children love to read. I'll bet you spent many hours reading aloud to them when they were little. One of the fun things about reading Alex's sci fi series was watching him grow as a writer. Have a great day!

  14. Beautifully written post, and I love how you emphasize the importance of reading with teaching students how to write. It's so important for students to read in order to develop their skills as writers.

  15. Wonderful post, Fundy. I enjoyed it.
    I had an editor that would not let me foreshadow. I didn't agree with her. I think it ratchets up the tension.

  16. I'm thrilled to hear you enjoyed Joylene and Alex's books!

    A passionate teacher can make all the difference in the world.

  17. I love the idea of marinating readers in literature -- what a great phrase!

  18. Wonderful post and journey of your life in reading. Loved the Tolkien quote.
    Happy IWSG Belated Day!
    Juneta @ Writer's Gambit

  19. Hello dear Fundy,
    Very interesting post and deep search for meaning of what you read and feel about books!
    I love reading too (when I have time!) and enjoy well built scenarios, whatever the subject.
    My favourite though are the so-called science-fiction ones.
    But I believe they are much more than mere fiction...!
    Thanks for all yours kind comments on my blog, I was away in Paris for 10 days a long drive from where I live!
    Happy to be back, I hate cities!!
    Keep well dear friend, and enjoy the rest of the week


Thank you for your comments! I appreciate the time and energy you put into making them very much.