I don’t have time to read these days, especially fiction.

My weary brain struggles to process this bunion of information, dropped casually into conversation. As a fiction writer, such statements are bricks hurled at my head, dental drills applied to not-numb gums. Honesty flays me open, rearranges hurts, shreds my very soul.

Why don’t people have time to read?

Here are a few things people tell me:

  • I’m too busy, say some.
  • By the time I fall into bed, I’m too tired. Thinking hurts my brain. I just want to get my mind still enough to sleep.
  • My to-do list is staggering.
  • The kids need stuff.
  • I’m harried and heartbroken, stressed and consumed by life. With everything pulling at me, reading is a luxurious waste of time in a world lacking finery.
  • A brazen few actually puff out their chests and bark, I don’t read, like it’s a badge of pride.

Fiction is even harder.

  • I can’t escape into a story. Too much is happening on my phone.
  • Really, I can’t do anything immersive.
  • Why read novels when real-life is one screwed-up show, and I don’t have to work nearly as hard?

Last month, I spent time in LA with my dear friend Debra Fetterly. One of her granddaughters straggled into the living room while we were sipping tea.

“What’s up?” Debra wondered.

“I’ve been reading for about an hour, and I’m so relaxed,” her granddaughter chirped. “Can I read a while longer?”

After she left, Debra turned to me. “You know, we’ve forgotten what reading is supposed to be.”

“What do you mean?” I wondered.

“Reading is a form of meditation. We’re SUPPOSED to read when we’re stressed, when we have too much to do, when we can’t focus. It’s a delicious form of escape.”

Reading is a form of meditation.

I’ve thought about Debra’s observation many times since I came home. I wonder how the world’s stress levels would change if, for just one week, everyone set aside an hour to lose themselves in a story. It could be about anything, transport them anywhere. Instead of wondering what new outrageous-but-the-same thing is happening in real life, wouldn’t it be glorious to go someplace different? Even if it’s only in our imaginations?

For thousands of years, reading was the seminal way for humans to escape the drudgery and stress of living. I fear we’re returning to the Middle Ages, only then people didn’t read because they couldn’t. An institution hoarded knowledge and shielded it from the masses.

These days, with so much knowledge at our fingertips, why do we choose to scroll, distracted skimmers of everything and lost in nothing?

PUT YOUR PHONE DOWN. READ A BOOK. DON’T PICK YOUR PHONE UP UNTIL YOU’RE FINISHED WITH SAID BOOK. I DARE YOU TO TELL ME YOUR BRAIN DIDN’T BREATHE.

thankful

Having spent much of the past eighteen months wondering whether I’d go blind or lose my mind, I’m thankful for what eyesight I have. Others may argue I lost my mind long ago.

Whatever.

Being thankful is the cornerstone of a happy life.

Here’s my short gratitude list for 2017:

  • MTM didn’t divorce me over my illness. He’s still steadfast. He loves me. I don’t know what I’d do without him.
  • When I was at my lowest, unexpected souls stepped in the chasm. I’m thankful for friends in unexpected places.
  • I’m finding my writing voice. The worse-than-chemotherapy-like drugs I took for almost half-a-year made me a mush-brain. These days, I’m hearing characters again.
  • I’ve only lost 25% of my vision in one eye. I’m thankful for what remains.
  • I found a publicist!
  • My assistant didn’t quit, no matter how trying I’ve been.

And if that’s not thankful enough:

  • We’re fielding some really interesting appearance opportunities for 2018. If you aren’t one of my elite readers, you don’t know what they are. Email assistant(at)andrawatkins(dot)com to be added to that super-special group.
  • I’M THANKFUL FOR EVERYONE IN MY ELITE GROUP. SERIOUSLY, I’D SLOPPY KISS EVERY SINGLE DANG ONE OF YOU.
  • Despite all sorts of online changes that have decimated my income and reach, my stories still find readers. People make memories EVERY DAY because of my work. I’m grateful for every person who gives my stories a chance.
  • I’m glad Dad still finds joy in going out, bothering strangers, telling stories, and selling the crap out of THE DAD BOOK. Having my parents in my life, still healthy, is a blessing.

WHAT ABOUT YOU? WHAT DESERVES YOUR GRATITUDE THIS THANKSGIVING WEEK? PLEASE SHARE YOUR STORIES IN A COMMENT.

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lately

Lately, I’ve been a busy girl. Here’s a short list of where I’ve been, what I’m working on for 2018, why I’m reading AND writing, how I plan to spend Thanksgiving and MORE.

Where I’ve Been Lately/Where I’m Going Soon

I got back on the appearance train with NINE appearances all over Wisconsin. In the featured photo, I’m with Vicky Calmes, director of Colby Public Library. They partnered with Colby Rural Arts Museum to bring me to the home of Colby cheese. (Yes, I bought some.)

lately

I also had my first Los Angeles area appearance last week, AND I got to spend time with the exquisite Debra Fetterly. If you don’t read her blog, GET THEE THERE NOW!

Next week, I’m headed to Portland, Oregon for five appearances, including Tigard Public Library. TELL EVERY PORTLAND BODY YOU KNOW!

What I’m Working on for 2018

I already have library programs in the works for Wisconsin, New Jersey, and New York. We’re in negotiations for a major keynote speech in 2019.

lately

YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO BOOK ME! I’M A CHEAP DATE!!

Next January, I’m speaking at West Point’s Thayer Hotel WHERE I SET SCENES IN HARD TO DIE!! I even booked a room in the old portion of the hotel to see what stay there is really like.

Thanks to a lovely reader, I’m working on a coastal North Carolina appearance next February, where I’ll get to talk Theodosia for hours and hours. Ticketed event and advance meet-and-greet!

lately

I LOVE MEETING READERS OF ALL SIZES!!!

Plus, I’m headlining my first big-city business association meeting in Atlanta next March.

AND OF COURSE I AM NUMBER 13 IS COMING NEXT APRIL!!!! YES, I’M SHOUTING!!!!!

Why I’m Reading and Writing

Books I’ve Enjoyed Lately:

  1. The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston – Set in the Honduran jungles, it provided key elements for my upcoming novel I Am Number 13.
  2. The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin – A little boy keeps asking for his other mother, the one he had before. A suspenseful novel of reincarnation and the lengths a mother will go to protect her son. And yes, I hope it gives my current project some additional flair.
  3. Among the Lesser Gods by Margo Catts – What a remarkable write! I read this one for sheer pleasure and was NOT disappointed.

I’m in the midst of edits for I Am Number 13. Last week, I shared a deleted scene. As I progress, I’ll post more deleted scenes. I’ll introduce readers to new characters, and I’ll tease final scenes as April approaches.

lately

From an appearance in Waukesha, WI.

How I’m Spending Thanksgiving

I’m headed to Nagano, Japan to touch a 1,500-year-old statue of the Buddha. Purported to have healing powers, it is featureless from the millions of hands that have touched it for more than a millennia. The toxo parasite has destroyed part of my right eye, but it lives in my brain, lungs, and intestines. I guess I’ll be groping Buddha everywhere for my study of this ancient miracle worker.

My Japanese experience will be a chapter in my upcoming travelogue/memoir about the lengths people throughout history have been willing to go for peace, for hope, for healing, for a miracle. More than anything, I want this book to GIVE EVERY ONE OF US HOPE. Humanity is seething. We need something hopeful. We need this story, handed down to us through 30,000 years of chants and potions and beliefs and ceremonies.

There’s power in hope.

What have you been up to lately? Share in a comment!

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