Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Be a Carpenter's Apprentice

"Read, read, read. Read everything—trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You'll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you'll find out. If it's not, throw it out the window."
~ William Faulkner

When I first came across this quote, I immediately thought of Valerie @ Something to Write About. Each month this year, Valerie plans to explore a different genre - she's done Travel lit. and Romance so far. The thing that I find most cool about this is that Valerie is fully immersing herself in each genre - reading and reviewing books, author interviews, and informative and insightful posts. This month has been a kick because Valerie isn't a real romance fan, yet she's swimming in romance right now. So fun!

How often do most of us take the time to read things outside our comfort zones? Most of us blog about stresses in our lives due to a lack of time already - let alone sacrifice what precious little time we do have to read something we may not even like.

The greatest opportunities to learn lie outside of our comfort zones. Valerie is wise. She will end this year with a hope chest full of new knowledge waiting to be put to use. She is the carpenter's apprentice, but she is choosing to study many masters.

I challenge each of us to follow Valerie's example and to choose one genre to read for a month this year - any genre, any month.

I choose Steampunk because it baffles me. I'm sure to learn a truckload of surprising stuff. Anyone have any good book suggestions for me? I don't think I know any Steampunk titles.

Which genre will choose?


41 comments:

Simon C. Larter said...

I choose... bodice-ripping romance! No, I don't think so. How about YA paranormal! Erm... maybe literary fiction. Yah. That works for me... ;)

Marybeth Poppins said...

I would love to do steampunk but I cannot for the life of me figure out what I would write!

Tamika: said...

Interesting choice- Steampunk baffles me too. I'm thinking of reading more YA in the near future. Thanks for the nudge.

Solvang Sherrie said...

I read a combination of nonfiction, ya and mg, but I don't think I've read any steampunk, unless Hugo Cabret counts. You'll have to review the book you're reading to let us know more about the genre.

Caroline Starr Rose said...

Thanks for talking up Valerie here. I think she's amazing.

Stephanie said...

I do have trouble reading outside my comfort zone...I try but often times I get kinda lost and end up bored and lose the ambition to pick it up again. I love to read (and write) contemporary romance...so I find that I have a better time with books of another genre if there is at least some romantic elements in the story.

I recently started reading the Uglies trilogy by Scott Westerfeld. Loved them...and it's sci-fi-ish YA.

Jonathon Arntson said...

I suppose my March is Classic event could qualify. While I usually argue that classic is not a genre, it is an idea. I am not comfortable or smart enough for a lot of the classics, so I am dedicating the month of March to my reeducation!

I am really excited to see what your take on Steampunk is.

Mary Aalgaard said...

Hi,
Steampunk? I've heard of it. I saw something on it, but don't really know what it is. Will you share a title or two of what you're reading?

You have wise words: to truly grow get out of your comfort zone. Amen.

Also, I do read some different stuff when I'm in book clubs. It's getting TO the book club and having the book READ that's a challenge.

Valerie Geary said...

Wow! Thank you Shannon! I'm blushing over here... :)

I love that you're choosing steampunk to read! It's not something I'm doing this year so I would love to hear more about it.

I would recommend His Dark Materials Trilogy by Phillip Pullman (The Golden Compass...etc). That's steampunk YA I think. I've only read The Golden Compass, but I liked it and have the other two on my TBR list.

Also Leviathan is on my list to read for next month and I think that's steampunk as well.

Thanks again!

Bethany Mattingly said...

great post! I love Valerie's blog too!

Carolyn V. said...

I'm starting a class that has me reading 30 books in different genres. I'm a little nervous, but excited. =)

Shelley Sly said...

This is an awesome post! I have a very varied taste in books as it is, and I have a personal rule that I will not read two of the same genre back to back. So I've been reading literary fiction, chick lit, YA, inspirational, romance, etc. It'll be hard for me to find a new genre (although I haven't really explored mysteries much... hmm...) Thanks for the idea!

Abby Annis said...

What a fabulous idea! Now I have to decide what I want to try. :) Great post!

Kelly said...

That is a great idea! I am trying writing different genres, but only PB, chapter book and next YA. All stuff I read regularly.
What the heck is steampunk?!

Falen said...

Oh oh oh! Steampunk is wonderful!

For a Steampunk YA read i would reccomend Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld. It won't do you wrong.

Otherwise there's also Boneshaker (which is steampunk and zombies) but i haven't read it yet...

Girl Genius is an online Steampunk comic and is very very fun. Free to read and years of archives so plenty to read if it catches your fancy (and it will because it's fun!)

Falen said...

also - Martha Wells's books are fantasy steampunk-ish. Not hardcore steampunk, but the books are an enjoyable read

Jennie Englund said...

This is super timely for me!

Out of nowhere, I've decided to try my pen at science fiction. Science fiction?!? I haven't even READ much in the genre!

What is steampunk? Sounds interesting!

Elana Johnson said...

Oh, this is me. I don't read anything outside of what I like. I sometimes feel like I should, and sometimes I feel like I just can't.

Have you read Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld? The man is pure genius. :)

Rosslyn Elliott said...

I'm glad you're looking into steampunk! I think it's a fascinating genre.

I think Edgar Rice Burroughs and Jules Verne are the ancient ancestors of steampunk. Both authors wrote about societies with advanced technology that LOOK more like Victorian cultures...or in Burroughs's case, perhaps even medieval.

One note about the His Dark Materials trilogy by Pullman: if you are Christian, you may find the second and third novels in the trilogy offensive. Pullman is known for his aggressive atheism and his overtly-stated desire to kill religion in the minds of young people. The quest of the kids in the later books is to destroy "Yahweh" who is a tyrannical god.

Bane of Anubis said...

I don't really have a preferred genre much anymore (maybe fantasy), but tend to do most of my reading via books on tape, so just choose whichever's available at the library. I've done period romance, YA, MG, mystery, thriller, westerns, contemporary, historical. Have steered clear of memoirs, inspirational, and heavier literary, and I'm pretty sure I'll stay clear of those (may not know what I like, but I know what I don't :)

Jamie D. said...

Fabulous post (and I'll have to check out that other blog too). I totally agree, we should be reading as eclectically as possible.

I read most genres - Fantasy, YA and Literary being the least read for me. But I am currently reading a fantasy novel in addition to my ever-present romance novel. I don't think I could spend a month without romance (prob. not a good idea since that's what I write), but I definitely try to add in other genres at the same time. I adore suspense & action adventure type thrillers. :-)

Rebecca @ Diary of a Virgin Novelist said...

Hmmm, I like to think that I read all kinds of books but that is not really true. To be honest I would love to read more YA - so maybe I will after that one!

Kimberly Franklin said...

You always find the most amazing quotes. And, as you can guess, I'll be reading YA! But that's a given, right? : D

Stephanie Thornton said...

I tried reading YA and found I like it (except the paranormal romance- SO many plot holes!).

As for steampunk, I've only read one and it was as a beta. I hear Leviathan is good.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Wow! It's only noon here and look at these comments - thanks guys!

Simon - Literary fiction sounds so lame after bodice-ripping romance.

Sherrie & Mary - I promise to let everyone know what I read and how I liked it. :-)

Valerie - Thanks for the inspiration and for the book recs!

Carolyn - Sounds like a cool class. You'll have to share some of what you learn.

Shelley - wow. You do read a solid variety already. Awesome.

Falen - I KNEW you would be excited by my choice. You and Matt are the reasons I chose it. Otherwise, I wouldn't have heard of it. The two of you are so passionate about it that I though I should give it a try instead of literary fiction.

Rosslyn - Thanks for the tips. I've heard that about the Pullman books. I'd like to try some others and avoid those ones if I can.

Tracy said...

I think it's great to get out of your comfort zone. I know that I like certain genres more than others, but if I hear that something is good, I'll pick it up. I'm rarely disappointed when I do.

Another steampunk YA novel is The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade. I haven't read it yet, but it's received really good reviews. I'm looking forward to getting my hands on it, because I'm always on the lookout for books my boys might like.

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

Oh gosh, I read everything. You'd be astounded if you saw my bookshelves. Everything from classics, to literary, to romance, to fantasy, to kidlit. Even a few thrillers, though I've never really delved into horror. Of all that I read, that one has never really appealed to me. Maybe I should give it a shot??? Oh gosh, just the thought freaks me out. I have such a vivid imagination.


Loved the Faulkner quote. He's my hero.

By the way, I left an award for you at my blog ;)

Niki said...

Hi Shannon, can I be dumb and ask what steampunk is?

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Niki -

My limited understanding of Steampunk is that it's a form of sci-fi/fantasy set in the victorian style era. I think. ???

Robyn Campbell said...

Uh, I'll try steampunk later. I'll give regular sci-fi a try. The only sci-fi I've read is my crit partner Beth's story. So here goes. Next month I'll do steampunk. Are you going to post each month how the new genre read?

And Shannon thank you so much for doing the iGive thing for Sturge-Weber. I am in your debt, my friend. I loves you. =)

Susan Quinn said...

I'll leave the definition of Steampunk to Matthew, because he's the expert. But I just started reading Leviathan, and let me say I'm already in love - love Westerfeld, love his muscular prose, love the girl-disguised-as-boy airman, love the Darwinian monsters.

I might get sucked into steampunk yet.


I would love to take up the "outside your genre" challenge, but I think I will restrict myself to MG. It's not really a restriction, though, because MG comes in every flavor, except possibly romance: mystery, fantasy, SF, steampunk (now, with Westerfeld), RL, non-fiction. They probably even have MG cookbooks.

Jemi Fraser said...

I'm writing a YA Steampunk mystery right now. Mine's based in Victorian London (probably the most common setting). Technology is big in Steampunk - everything is powered by steam (there are other versions like deiselpunk too, but I don't know much about them). The technology, inventions & gadgets are much more advanced than in real Victorian England. It's lots of fun :)

Bethany Wiggins said...

Adult literature. That's my most hated genre. I'll give it a try for a month!!! Thanks!

Charmaine Clancy said...

Steampunk would be a challenge, I've no idea of any titles but look forward to hearing what you find. I'd like to say my taste in novels is eclectic, but truthfully there are some I don't enjoy. Postmodernism is not my idea of fun "The Onion Eaters" was the most painful book I've ever had to endure.

Amber Lough said...

I am beginning to wonder if my wip might end up being steampunk. I keep trying to push it away, but things keep popping up!

Oh, and I gave you an award on my blog.

Matthew Delman said...

Wow ... looks like I'm late to the party. Ahem ...

The shortest definition of steampunk is Neo-Victorian. It's also slightly wrong.

What makes a story steampunk (and it depends on which kind -- fantasy or alternate history) is a combination of Victorian morality with highly advanced steam and mechanical technology. Babbage's mechanical computer, high-level mechanical robots, steam power that runs trains, factories, cars, etc.

The way I tend to explain it is to say "Take everything contemporary technology does now and replace it all with steam engines, mechanical gears, and clockwork."

Some recommendations include Leviathan, Boneshaker, The Difference Engine, The Affinity Bridge, the His Dark Materials trilogy, Soulless (romance), and Perdido Street Station.

If you want to see a master at work, read Perdido Street Station. It's impossible to underestimate China Mieville's brilliance in writing that book.

There's my $0.02. Good choice of genres, Shannon!

Matthew Delman said...

Rosslyn --

Don't forget H.G. Wells or Mary Shelley. Their works are the basis for a lot of what modern steampunk is now.

Stephanie Thornton said...

Oh! I left you an award on my blog today!

Patti said...

What a great idea. I think I might try historical fiction, because other than YA, I love it.

Christina Farley said...

Challenges are good for us. Great idea! I think for me it would be humor. I'm not a very funny person. If only!

kanishk said...

I would love to do steampunk but I cannot for the life of me figure out what I would write!

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