Sunday, August 15, 2010

Why I Read What I Read

One sad thing about becoming a writer is that I have less time to read and more things to read. I also read a lot slower now because I'm analyzing everything. So that means I need to be more choosy about what I pick up.

I'm still reading some national releases but lately I've been focusing on local and LDS authors. Why, you may ask? (Actually, no one's asked but I'm saying it anyway) Mainly, because they're clean. Clean meaning no sex, minimal swearing, and no graphic violence. That's not to say I never read books that have some of that material, but as I get older (i.e. crotchety and set in my ways) I find that they make me more and more uncomfortable.

When I do read mass market books, I mainly focus on YA (young adult) and middle grade books (Rick Riordan, J.K. Rowling). I can enjoy the stories without having to deal with those other things. Is this real life? No, but I get enough of real life while dealing with real life. I read to escape.

Recently, there was an article in the NY Times ( about how adults are starting to read more YA. It listed several reasons, which I agreed with, but feel like it missed the most important one. Maybe its because I live in a mostly religious community, but I've talked to a lot of adults during my book signings expressing that they like to read YA for the same reasons I do: because it's clean.

Okay, back to the local authors I've been focusing on lately (like James Dashner, Daron Fraley, David J West, Michael Young, Frank Cole). For one thing, it's nice to read something by someone I know or have met. It has a little more meaning. It's nice to read their book and be able to pop them an email and discuss it with them. And these people write back - it's awesome.

Now for my third reason: because it's where I want to place my vote. The marketplace takes votes by where people put their money. The money also supports the "community" that you want to support. I want to support the community of authors who write clean, entertaining material.

When I lived in Alaska, this was a little more obvious than here in the "lower 48". If you bought stuff online, you were supporting the economy of South Bend or Chicago, or wherever you ordered it from. If you bought it from 'Bob's Sushi and Fishing Gear' up the street, you were supporting your neighbor. Sure, it might be a couple dollars more than if you bought it online, but it kept money circulating where you wanted it: your community.

The clean book community is where I want to circulate my money. Sure, the books are a little more expensive because many of them are published by small presses, but it helps keep some of my fellow authors going. Many of them, in turn, have returned the favor by buying my book.

My hope is that we can get this market to grow. I believe, which is why I write the way I do, that there are a lot of people out there who just want good, clean, fun entertainment. Case in point: what's the highest grossing movie so far this year? Toy Story 3. It's made almost 400 million clams. It's rated G. It contains nothing offensive (unless you are offended by evil Care Bears).

Hopefully in the next week or two, I'll blog a little more. I want to do a series about the challenge of writing clean humor. I need to finish my current project first, so bear with me.


Braden Bell said...

Hi Berin, this is Braden from storymakers. I really enjoyed this post, mainly because it articulated what I feel and think myself. I was particularly struck by this line: "I get enough of real life while dealing with real life. I read to escape."

As a teacher, I've always been put off by the push to include uglier and uglier material in YA books because "it's real." If, indeed, that is "real" then a little escape is important.

At any rate, very interesting post. Thanks!

TisforTonya said...

I popped over here from Braden's blog - mostly because I feel exactly the same way.. well, except with the being a writer part :)

As a matter of fact, I think a LOT of people feel this way... my book blog gets a number of hits from Google for people searching for a clean read free of language.

You put my feelings into words I hadn't formed yet (which I suppose is why you're the writer and I'm... well... not)

Pitterle Postings said...

Hi Berin, I also popped over from Braden's blog because I like to read anything involving clean!! You expressed my own feelings exactly. I find myself reading what my 13 year old reads, for two reasons actually, one is to make sure what she is reading is appropriate, and the second is because I like it. I am always looking for clean reads.

Sally T. said...

I'm with you all the way on this one - also a guest of Braden's blog - and you said exactly what I have been saying for TEN YEARS - I get enough of real life in real life. Let me escape when I read!!!

I also read the NYT article and found it interesting they left out the point that adults - especially in these tough economic and politically charged times - want cleaner, lighter, happier fare than is served up in contemporary "adult" literature.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts!