Tagged with "reading"
Believe in Furry Tales – by Angela Williams Tags: Reading Cats Rescue Cats Childhood literacy Author's Cats Book Buddies

Positive news stories are few and far between these days but when I came across this one which combines two of my favourite things, cats and reading, I just had to share it with you. I kid you not; cats are helping kids to read!

Organized by the Animal Rescue League — an animal shelter in Berkshire County, Pennsylvania — 'Book Buddies' is a program that allows children to read to cats which are waiting to be adopted. The program, which aims to both improve reading skills among children and help socialise the shelter animals, allows kids from ages 6 to 13 at any reading level to participate.

It is a win-win situation. The rescue cats learn to relax in human company, and kids who are shy or lack confidence in reading aloud start to enjoy a hitherto unpleasant and even embarrassing activity. Cats are not judgemental and tend to sit quietly and so make ideal reading companions.

As a child I loved to read and even though I was always two years ahead of my actual age in reading ability, I did have the disadvantage of being painfully shy. When I was little I don't remember reading to my ginger tabby cat, Henry, but I do remember rehearsing a school dance performance for our family horses as they looked out over the stable doors. A truly captive audience! They didn't have score cards and say SeVEN, but their expressions were definitely more Len Goodman than Craig Revel-Horwood (Strictly Come Dancing fans will know what I'm on about.)

All the positive social media attention around the Book Buddies program has been good for the children's self-esteem and the publicity has seen an increase in the number of cats being adopted. The idea is being rolled out at other cat shelters too. What will come next, I wonder? Cats teaching kids to write? Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, Ray Bradbury and Colette were all cat-lovers and claimed their feline friend's presence enhanced their creativity. Do you have a favoured animal companion for reading or writing? Maybe you didn't have a pet as a child but always dreamed of one? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Why Do We Read?
Category: Writing
Tags: Writing reading books

Stephen King says: “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” No doubt this is excellent advice, but what exactly does he mean?

How much is ‘a lot’. I read every day and feel strange if I haven’t managed to read anything all day. Reading is such an ingrained habit that it feels akin to brushing my teeth. I nearly always read before going to bed, sometimes it’s an hour, sometimes only ten minutes depending on how tired I am. I used to read on my commute to work (and was always disappointed to note how many people were playing on their phones rather than reading on the underground). On average I read a book a week. Some people I know find this a lot, but I know of many others who read much more than I do.

And what should you read? Some people advise that you should read exclusively within your genre so that you get a feel for the pace, style, vocabulary, etc. Subconsciously you absorb aspects of others’ writing that will make yours better. Others say you should read as widely as possible, from Classics and literature to trashy novels and everything in between. This gives you a ‘bigger picture’ concept and you learn from other writers’ positives as well as negatives.

And what should you do with that book once you’ve finished reading it? I used to have a blog and write extensive book reviews for the book I’d read. This made me read more ‘actively’ as I was searching for quotes to use in my reviews and looking closely at style, sentence structure and vocabulary. I also used to find out information about the author. This was also very useful; it was always interesting to learn how many books the author had written and how his or her journey to publication had evolved. Now, because my time is more limited and I’m focussing on writing, I no longer write long reviews. I do, however, have a goodreads account and write short reviews for the books I’ve read. This still makes me think about the book and it’s good for fellow authors to have reviews online for their books.

The question I’d like to leave you with is this one: do you read solely for pleasure, or do you read more actively?  

Why do we doubt ourselves? Tags: author readings author responsibilities Ad Hoc Morgen Bailey

photo credit V. Conrad


I was all set to write a blog about the benefits of reading our work in public. Note the pic of me seriously reading Love on a Wednesday Afternoon, the one about the bouncy 4-poster bed and the trombone lessons, from my Ad Hoc collection to an appreciative coffeehouse gathering recently.


But then this topic drizzled out of a couple of our recent blog posts - and it won’t give up:


Why do we doubt ourselves?


You made the resolution this year to just keep sending your writing out - and to keep track of what you’ve sent where and when to expect results. Many of these lit-mag-comps only tell you if you’ve been placed - so when results day arrives, you trawl the sites to read long lists, short lists, and finally the selected work. To find that you’re not there.


You swallow hard, tell yourself you can’t win them all - but you ‘tip-toe’ away from the websites thinking - ‘again - not good enough’ and it can leave you with a feeling of giving up, doing something completely different, stop banging your head against quite a high brick wall. Consider signing up for donkey rearing for beginners instead.


Because standards change. You want the standards to be high. You don’t want it, ever, to be a piece of cake. But you work so hard at the writing game and you begin to wonder if you are ‘edgy’ enough. If you should break more grammatical rules, chop your well-constructed sentences into fragments, forget about well-place commas, and if you should write more about the current world problems. e.g. The annual Canada Reads CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) Awards novel contenders this year needed to be books that ‘Canadians need to read now’ - in other words, novels that centre around current issues, immigration, the environment, world peace (or torment), politics, etc and so forth. A little dictatorial on the part of the CBC - in your honest opinion. http://www.cbc.ca/books/canadareads


None are novels that you are desperate to read - for those reasons above. You can explore those issues via other means. Can’t you? For you, isn’t a novel a means for you to lose yourself, travel to another world? It is fiction. After all. (please note the chopped unstructured sentences here.)


So, you ask, is this the reason your work does not hit the mark right now? Are you too fictitious, or do you dwell too much in another era, when dialogue was different, when street talk was polite and grammatically correct?


You have, this past week, been in correspondence with a British TV producer regarding a shocking storyline on Coronation Street (always known for its quality writing.) You received a reply telling you that the drama uses ‘real life’ situations that people can relate to. You tell them that their writers should be fired for total lack of insensitivity and that cancer is no joke. The upset this story line caused btw was all over the UK tabloids that week. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-4369954/Coronation-Street-fans-slam-Sally-Webster-storyline.html


Writing is a responsibility for sure; your dilemma is this - do you want to be published and to hell with the consequences? Or do you take your responsibility more seriously?


Footnote - after writing this, your sweet little greyhound story was placed 3rd in the 100-word comp run by Morgen Bailey - so maybe, just maybe, all is not lost.




And this is Nelly (RIP old gal), who never won a race and inspired the story. 

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