If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com

Our October Author Interviews--10/4 Wendy Tyson, 10/11 Marilyn Levinson, 10/18 Earl Javorski, 10/25 Linda Lovely. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.


October Saturday Guest Bloggers: 10/7 Mark Bacon, 10/14 Elaine Orr, 10/21 WWK's Margaret S. Hamilton, 10/28 Kait Carson, and E. B. Davis 10/31 to fill out our fifth Tuesday.


WWK’s Carla Damron was one of three finalist for her novel, The Stone Necklace. Go to Carladamron.com for more information. Congratulations, Carla! Look for Carla's blog this month to find out the winner.

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Warren Bull's new Lincoln mystery, Abraham Lincoln In Court & Campaign has been released. Look for the Kindle version on February 3.

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.

In addition, our prolific KM will have the following shorts published as well: "Sight Unseen" in Fish Out of Water, Guppie (SinC) anthology, just released, and "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Baby Killer" will appear in the 2017 solar eclipse anthology Day of the Dark to be published this summer prior to the eclipse in August.

James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for order.
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Sunday, June 5, 2016

A Better Person through Fiction

By Julie Tollefson 

Recently, a candidate for a high profile job at our local university said this during a presentation as part of the job interview: “I don’t read novels. I tend to only read books that make me a better person.”

Oof. What a thing to say in a town that’s proud of its deep, rich literary history. Langston Hughes and William Burroughs both lived here. Lawrence is home to more than one of Kansas’s poets laureate as well as the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction. Our coffee shops, bars, and independent bookstores regularly host well-attended readings and other literary events. We’re a community that thrives on reading and writing of all types.

William S. Burroughs house in Lawrence, Kansas
"William S. Burroughs home, Lawrence, KS"
by Topeka Public Library is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.
When I think about the role fiction has played in my life, I know I’m a better person because I read novels. Novels open windows into worlds far beyond my own. Through books, I’ve traveled alongside Elizabeth Bennet in 19th century England in Pride and Prejudice; held my breath as three children—unlikely friends—bring a Secret Garden back to life as they learn empathy and independence; wept over the injustices and unfounded suspicions in Dennis Lehane’s Mystic River; experienced life on a Kansas ranch in Nancy Pickard’s Scent of Rain and Lightning.

Beyond the personal delight of finding the perfect story, though, many strong relationships have been built on a foundation of books. In mid-May, we gathered for a weekend camping reunion with a group of dear but geographically scattered friends. Three of us sat by the campfire and swapped book recommendations for hours, just like old times. The exchange of perspectives and ideas each month at my book club stokes my enthusiasm to read outside my favorite genres and topics. 

But maybe the best bonds forged by a mutual love of books have been within our little nuclear family.

The boy's reading selections for
a six-day road trip in 2014.
When my son was little, we read the Harry Potter series aloud together. On long car trips from Kansas to Louisiana or Florida, the books entertained the whole family. My husband drove while I read and the miles flew by. I remember one year, wrapped in a quilt on the porch swing of a cabin at Lake Fausse Pointe, Louisiana, the kiddo snuggled in between us, reading late into the night because all three of us wanted to know what happened next.

Later, when he was a very early teen, we gave him a copy of Blood Magic by local author Tessa Gratton. I shared his joy when he got to meet her in person at our library. Blood Magic is still his favorite book, and that’s a bond we will always have.

So do I read books that make me a better person? Yes I do. The fact that most of my favorites are fiction doesn’t make the things they teach me any less real.

How have novels made you a better person?
What novels would you recommend I add to my list in my quest to become a better person through fiction?

10 comments:

Kait said...

I cannot imagine my life without having experienced To Kill a Mockingbird, the joys of family in The Five Little Peppers, solving mysteries alongside Nancy Drew, and those are only childhood memories. So sad that this person does not value reading for personal enrichment and joy.

Gloria Alden said...

Julie, I so totally agree with you. I was fifteen before my parents got a TV, and because they were both readers and belonged to the Book-of-the-Month club even though with finances rather tight with a growing family and only one bread earner, they had bookcases full of books. All my siblings are readers, too. I can't imagine a life without books. One of the best things I've done was to join two book clubs. It's been responsible for introducing books to me that I might not have heard of or read without that. Like my parents, I belong to a different kind of book club - The Mystery Guild Book Club - where I can check out new mysteries and order what appeals to me at a reduced rate. I have too many favorites to list them all here, but like Kait, I think To Kill a Mockingbird had to have been one of my favorites. Both book clubs I belong to chose that so I've read it four times and enjoyed it each time. I watch very little TV except for a few shows on PBS. Instead I listen to music and read evenings. I have two books going at all times; one by my nesting chair, and one beside my bed, and sometimes it's even three. And yes, I am able to keep them straight in my head. :-) As writers, don't you think reading makes us better writers? I do.

Warren Bull said...

Fiction provides a safe way to experience events that we have not personally gone through, i.e. physical and sexual abuse, being thought of as less than human because of our ethnic backgrounds and losing friends and family early in our lifetimes.

GMT Voyager said...

Sadly that person doesn't realize that reading fiction can also make him a better person. Novels will show him situations that he may never experience but will help him learn, through the characters, how to handle them. This is especially true for young readers.

Jim Jackson said...

I often meet people (usually men) who claim they read to expand their understanding of things and therefore only read nonfiction. They're missing the value of fiction, but that’s okay with me as long as they read nonfiction that challenges their current understanding. Unfortunately, too many only read works that support their worldview. That narrowness contracts rather than expands their understanding.

KM Rockwood said...

I can understand that some people don't especially like fiction, but to think it lacks the ability to make one a better person is beyond me.

Kait, my mother saved her copies of Five Little Peppers (and How They Grew was the first one, I think.) Much to her dismay, none of her children liked them. But then my older daughter picked them up while visiting Grandma one summer, and loved them. Vindicated!

Julie Tollefson said...

Gloria - I do think reading makes us better writers. Nothing makes me want to work at my craft more than reading a novel or even a sentence that stuns me in its beauty. Just last week I read a debut novel, FIFTH AVENUE ARTISTS SOCIETY by Joy Callaway, that has that kind of rich language and nuanced storyline.

Julie Tollefson said...

Kait - I agree. I hope he just misspoke at the end of a long day.

Warren - So true. And as a writer, fiction helps me work through and clarify my feelings about big life events.

Julie Tollefson said...

Jim - I think it's in our nature to read works that support our own worldview, unfortunately. I see that on Twitter and Facebook, too, in the way people choose to have social media conversations with like-minded individuals and shut down when faced with different opinions.

Julie Tollefson said...

KM - I sometimes think, too, that different kinds of writing speak to people at different times in their lives. I'm thinking of a friend who reads mostly nonfiction but goes through phases where he seeks out fiction, sometimes heavy, meaty fiction and sometimes light and humorous.