As a young adult I didn’t read young adult fiction. I looked at people reading “modern books” and wondered how they thought they could call it reading. After all, you haven’t READ until you’ve read the classics.
In college I had to take an adolescent literature class, and it wasn’t until then that it dawned on me that I was being hypocritical. I thought less of those who actually ENJOYED contemporary literature when I, me, myself wanted to write contemporary literature.
Are you seeing the problem?
The truth is, I used to hate reading just about anything that wasn’t historical fiction or close to it. I still love period pieces the most–it’s why I write them. Being transported to another time with different style and ideals and challenges intrigues me the most.
What would it have been like to live as a governess, or cross America in a covered wagon, or sailed the seas on a tall ship, or lived in the middle of nowhere when technology was a glint of the future?
Books take me to these times, reveal the impossible, and give me a sense of character, through characters, of the time. That’s the beauty of books.
I have since learned, that is the beauty of ALL books. Not just historical fiction.
While I’m probably shooting myself in the foot with this post, I’m sharing to be honest. I didn’t start off reading contemporaries– I started as a literature snob.
It started in first grade when I wrote my first true story: “The REAL story of Pocahontas, not the Disney one.”
It continued to fourth grade when I started reading Shakespeare. And in seventh grade when I read Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters.
I don’t know if these facts come across as bragging, but they’re not meant to. On the contrary, it’s to show that I couldn’t see past the classics stand at Barnes and Noble to open my eyes to so many other opportunities.
But now I have. And it’s exciting. And I’m ashamed of nothing that I read. Because I’m reading, and learning, and growing. And Stephen King really did say it best:
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
I would add: Read a variety of things. Your writing (and knowledge and growth and creativity) depend on it.