Welcome to Austin Bat Cave’s Virtual Literary Salon. Over the next few months, we’ll be featuring some of our favorite writers reflecting on the current moment and presenting writing prompts and literary challenges that will hopefully get you inspired and creating. We welcome discussion and your input. Each week, you’ll be able to comment on the post and share your own thoughts, ideas, and challenges. Please tell a friend! And if you’re able to, consider making a contribution to Austin Bat Cave and help support our creative community.
Today’s writing prompt is brought to you by Richard Z. Santos. Richard is a writer and high school teacher living in Austin. Trust Me, his debut novel, was released by Arte Público Press. He is a Board Member of the National Book Critics Circle and served as a non-fiction judge for the 2019 Kirkus Prize. He is also an Associate Editor for American Short Fiction. His fiction, essays, reviews and interviews are widely published.
Trust Me can be purchased here and signed copies are available by calling Bookwoman in Austin.
For most of my life I always read three or four books at a time. A couple novels, maybe a book for school, a big anthology or something I’d pick up twice a week or so. But about five years ago I went in the opposite direction. One book at a time.
It let me focus on what I was reading. I no longer had all these voices and storylines rattling around in my head. No need to flip back a few pages and try to remember what was happening in this book instead of that book. If I had multiple books I needed to read for some review or contest, then I’d finish one, write whatever I needed to write, then move on to the next book. Clean. Orderly. Slowing down helped me appreciate my meal.
Yet for the past two months I’ve gone back to my old ways. I’m currently reading SEVEN books. Or is it eight? And if I count comic book series the number shoots way up. I haven’t been doing much fiction writing or novel revisions, but I have been reading voraciously and writing about the books I read. Even if it’s just an email to the author or a series of tweets or recommending an author to an organization or publication, engaging with books and the literary community is keeping me focused, happy, and productive.
And when I can’t read anymore I clean the kitchen or force myself to go for a walk. The panic isn’t always kept at bay. Whose is nowadays? But it helps.
I’m not challenging the ABC family to read nine books at a time (unless it’s my book and books by the other newsletter writers!). Instead, I have two challenges for writers and readers:
Tell the world about what you’re reading. Post on Goodreads/Amazon, start a blog, post on twitter about the titles getting you through these times and tag those authors (Unless you didn’t like the book!). Email authors and say you appreciate their work--we want to hear from you! Write to friends and include links to indie bookstores. Spread the beauty of books right now because they’re key to getting us through this.
And when your eyes hurt, or if you just can’t focus, or if you’re having trouble writing at all: listen to songs. Pay attention to how the songwriter weaves their narrative together. This can be especially rewarding for songs by artists who are storytellers at heart: Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Kendrick Lamar, T-Swift! But also listen to how the syllables of rap music flow together. Appreciate the precision of a catchy chorus. Follow the ups and downs of a classic country song. Marvel at how the music itself holds it all together and conveys meaning. The greatest songwriters (ah, John Prine) can write a novel that lasts four minutes. Learn from them.
As always, please share your comments and reflections in the thread! We want to hear from you <3