When I first started writing, the Internet wasn’t widely available. When I wanted to be visually inspired, I would get books of paintings and illustrations from the time period I was writing about and leave them open all around the room. I especially loved using National Geographic. I cut out the pictures and pasted them on the walls of my study. That way I could “see” myself in the time and place of my story. Now, of course, the Internet serves that purpose. But I still rely on books – especially history and art books. There is nothing like literally seeing something to help you visualize!
Here is an excellent one that I am using for my current project:
- A Red Like No Other: How Cochineal Colored the World by Carmella Padilla & Barbara Anderson (editors)
- Feather Serpent Smoking Mirror: The Gods and Cultures of Ancient Mexico by C.A. Burland and Werner Forman
- Mexico: A History in Art by Bradley Smith
Reading can’t make you a good writer, but everything you read should help make you a better writer, especially in your particular genre. But here are some books on the craft of writing today that I have found helpful. I’ll add more as I discover them.
- Zen and the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury
Eleven essays that explore writing as a celebration not a chore
- Story Genius by Lisa Cron
How to write based on what science says our brains are wired to crave
- The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maas
How to make the reader’s experience an emotional journey
- This Business of Books 5th ed. by Claudia Suzanne
Because writing is a business and you will need to know this.
Sometimes people want to know what I am reading. I’m in a book club with a few close female friends. We agree on what to read and then have a fabulous potluck to discuss the book when we finish. We’ve been doing this for almost 20 years, so we have read a lot of books! Lisa See’s The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane was our latest.
We all liked the book, although some of us more than others. We certainly learned more about tea than we ever thought we would want to. But it made us decide we needed to go into Chinatown and attend a tea ceremony! I found the parts about the indigenous minorities and their lives in China fascinating. I love reading a book that teaches me something new.
Next we are reading Jasmin Darznik’s Song of a Captive Bird.