How Do You Hook a Bookworm?
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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

How Do You Hook a Bookworm?

I just "scooped" an important post about writing and egos and audiences. You'll find it at:
among other places.

The message rings true to me this morning because most of my week is filled with other people's writings, and I'm realizing how important it is for a writer to step back and think about the people who are going to read a particular book.  I'm one of a group of judges working on a major writing competition. As such, I'm reading stuff I might otherwise never have picked up. And what an eye-opener the experience has been.

I'm spotting contradictions between form and content that I might never have recognized in my own work.  I'm thinking about symbols, and how they can mean different things to different people. For example, I just ripped someone for using a symbol in his company logo that can represent a very negative impression on others.  Then I looked across the desk and saw my own books with their black cat logo. Now, I have a beloved black cat, and to me that little symbol reminds me that Miz-Miz is asleep on the rocking chair across the room, patiently waiting for me to have some time to scratch her ears. How cute she is! But for others? Black cats also mean bad luck, don't they? Maybe my logo needs a little modification.

Other examples of failure to think about the reader are all around me. Several of my assigned readings have an ego-specific component, which in itself is fine, but all too often there is also an underlying assumption about the superiority of one's own nationality, or faith, or ethnic background, or gender, or skin color. What happens when a reader finds himself (or herself) being condemned for the sins of another individual? How does a male reader react when a female author makes a judgmental remark like, "All men are little boys." As writers, we like to think that our stories tell universal truths--that they hold up a mirror to the world. But what if that mirror shows only the reflection of the writer? 

I look across the room at the stack of books waiting for me to assign a ranking, and the responsibility weighs heavily upon me. I keep reminding myself that each book contains the heart and soul of its writer. How can I presume to judge another author? In this context, Roy Faubion's piece, "Remember the Reader," offers a useful guideline. A book that offers something to its readers will touch the world. A book that reflects only the writer's ego pales in comparison.