Thursday, August 30, 2007

What is a Good Reader?

Having a story critiqued is a nerve-wracking experience. You put your heart and soul on paper and then willingly hand that paper to other people. You hope that your writing is clear and concise and that the critquer understood all the nuances and metaphors.

So, when I was listening to the critiques of all the stories in the latest short story contest, if a judge didn't seem to understand a certain passage, he or she might qualify their opinion by saying "maybe I am not a good reader."

So that got me thinking. What makes a good reader? Is it a person who is well-read? Does a good reader necessarily have to be a voracious reader of the classics? Or should a good reader be one that reads widely on a certain subject? Or maybe a good reader just understands a subject without having widely read in it?

As for myself, I have widely read a lot of Asian-style fiction be it fantasy, mystery or general literature. I have read non-fiction, historical books, books about Chinese society and Japanese society, books about geisha, books about Chinese mysticism - quite a bit in fact (just look at my library for an idea of what I have read).

But outside of this preferred area of obsession, I am not so widely read. I don't read hard science fiction. I haven't read all of Shakespeare's plays and don't understand Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Dickens is a mystery to me and Jane Austin has held no interest. I fly through certain books (ie Harry Potter) and slog through others (anything by George RR Martin and China Mieville) but I still enjoy them even though they are difficult. And I don't necessarily understand all the underlying metaphors inherent in those stories even if I do read them.

Does that make me a bad reader? I don't know. What is a "Good Reader?" Opinions, anyone?

Edit: After some discussion, it was suggested that being a "good reader" was short hand for apologizing for not necessarily understanding what a writer meant. Could be, could be.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A Happy Happy Place

Well, Conversion 23 has come and gone and with it, the Short Story Contest.

As I wrote in an earlier post, my story Happy Valley had made waves, well it made the top 5 of the Short Story Contest (and I promised not to mention it to anyone) and this past weekend, it took 1st place!!!

I was really shocked. I'm going to have a lot to live up to for World Fantasy Con next year (which is good because I won't be able to attend Conversion next year - got a wedding to go to).

And to top it all off, my own mother read the story and enjoyed it. But she said she couldn't figure out if the protagonist committed murder or suicide at the end of the story (you just have to read it to understand that). Honestly, it bugged her so much it kept up at night and she called me first thing in the morning to find out what I intended. Go figure.

Next story: SNOW