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.

Join Andra at the library for an interactive discussion. Andra’s memoir is about making memories, about turning I wish I had into I’m glad I did.

Andra’s presentation challenges audiences to evaluate their relationships. She gives attendees concrete ideas and strategies to leave inspired to Make a Memory of their own. Andra will have tools available to help each person create a specific invite for a loved one. Everyone will leave charged to Make a Memory.

Andra Watkins Author at a recent speaking engagement

Andra is a dynamic public speaker, and she is passionate about influencing others to Make Important Memories before it’s too late. Whether you’re early in life, facing the gamut of mid-life changes or approaching life’s twilight, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to spend an hour to Make a Memory you will cherish forever.

For more information, visit the Calhoun County Library’s website.

Life is a verb. - Brian Doyle

Life is a verb. ~ Brian Doyle

If anybody’s living life as a verb these days, it’s ME.

I left Charleston before Labor Day. Destination? Portland, Oregon. Last week, I appeared at libraries around greater Portland and Seaside. I gave motivational talks at multiple civic clubs. And I spent time with one of my writing idols, the very person who authored today’s quote.

This week, I’m visiting two book clubs, another library, and several business groups. I’ll probably collapse when I board my plane of Friday!

Why do I do this to myself?

People remember VERBS.

Verbs are all about action. They make an impression. Sure, people can interact with me online, but when I stand in front of them, gaze into their eyeballs, and share my story?

I’m weaving verbs audiences don’t forget.

On my last jaunt through North Carolina and Tennessee, I made lots of new connections. One group wants me to return to their library next February. Another set of library patrons requested another program for Hard to Die. Groups at North Carolina State University want me to visit, and student civic clubs in Tennessee are interested in my program. Someone even approached me about a 2017 conference keynote on Grand Cayman. Another group wants me to address their Chamber of Commerce.

Verbs create more verbs.

I’m already anticipating a busy 2017, but I’d still like to visit YOUR community. Here are several ways we can partner to make it happen:

  1. If your local library doesn’t carry my titles, REQUEST THEM FOR PURCHASE. Libraries buy books patrons want.
  2. Once the library has my books, ASK WHO COORDINATES LIBRARY PROGRAMMING. Librarians are more receptive to programs suggested by patrons. I’d love to pitch my program to the right person in your area. Send me a name and contact information, and I’ll take it from there.
  3. Are you part of a book club or reading group, either through a library or privately? SUGGEST ONE OF MY BOOKS. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve created Discussion Guides for every title. Book clubs can download them HERE. Plus, I love to visit reading groups, either in person or via Skype, FaceTime, or Google Hangout.
  4. Are you affiliated with a school, university, civic club, historical society, or business group? RECOMMEND ME TO SPEAK. I often leverage one invitation to book multiple appearances in one area. I’d relish delivering a dynamic program to your group.

I want to make more verbs in 2017.
Will you help me?

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This is part of a series of pictures about making memories. If you liked the story why not share it with your friends? Let’s meet on Facebook or Twitter. If you prefer pictures you will surely like my Instagram. I’ve collected inspirational things and more on Pinterest! Any comments? Write them below!