Friday, December 3, 2010

Busted!—Kelly Simmons caught kidnapping my inner editor

I love nothing more than getting lost in a good book.

That’s not so easy anymore, I fear. I’m a most willing subject; that’s not the problem. It’s my editorial brain.

Even though I beg that freakish overachiever to take a break, it stands ever ready to pounce on any hiccough in the prose. Shut up! I tell it, as it allows awkward wording or a clichéd image to bump me from the fictive dream. Take a hike!—but no, no, it’s already seen this author use two different spellings of the same name eighty pages apart and now I’m going back to check. Let me finish this book in peace, I beg of it, as it scans the climax for psychological insight or philosophical profundity or an emotional payoff when clearly this author was willing to settle for action alone.

I’m sure you can see what I mean. My brain is not always the most accommodating partner when I want to lose myself in a book.

It’s still a few weeks until the holidays, but December has me thinking about the gift of a really good read. How extraordinary it is when an author, through careful application of imagination and craft, offers up the kind of psychological tension that does not allow you to put the book down. What a rarity when an author can so engage a reader's over-stimulated mind that it will elbow aside its editorial bent and fully surrender to the gift of insight being offered.

When that happens I’m no longer a reader, sitting in a chair, appreciating words on a page. I am in the scene, hearing the rain tap against the windows, watching as the kidnapper “cracks open our new skylight like an oyster and slithers in,” feeling my breath catch as this stranger scoops up the protagonist’s child—no, my child! I am dropping to my knees “to utter the only fearless words I have ever spoken”: “Take me instead.”

That’s why, in this time of thanksgiving and gifting, I must bust Philadelphia area author Kelly Simmons. Once I crossed the threshold of her book, Standing Still, I was kidnapped—and held willingly captive until I closed the back cover a day-and-a-half later. It’s been several years since I had such a fully engrossing and rewarding reading experience, and I’ll happily spend several more years finding another.

This isn’t the kind of book you’ll read to escape from life; it’s the kind you’ll read to enter life more fully. Then you’ll want to read it again for all the gifts of example it offers up to writers in all genres.

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Kathryn Craft more appropriately applies her "freakishly over-achieving" editorial brain to the development of her clients' works at Writing-Partner.com, an independent manuscript evaluation and editing service. What she believes: 1. Editing forever changed the way she reads. 2. Well-crafted moments of brilliance help her forgive many other problems in a manuscript. 3. All writers have strengths and weaknesses—but why settle for weaknesses? 4. We can learn as much from what other authors do right as we can from what we do wrong. This is her series, "Busted!—An author caught doing something right."



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9 comments :

  1. I absolutely hate it when someone raves about a book so... now I have to go buy it. LOL

    Seriously, I am just like you, Kathryn. I have a hard time staying iwth a book when it has mistakes that pull me out of the story, but I can also fall in love with a well-crafted story and be lost for days. Sounds like this is going to be my next "lost" book.

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  2. Oh, man, you've forced me to add another book to my shopping list, as if my TBR pile isn't already high enough.

    Thanks for a great post.

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  3. Maryann and L.C.: Sorry! You should see my pile--I can relate. When I go to yet another used book sale and come home with yet another bag my husband shakes his head in disbelief. I always tell him: "I need these books here for when they call to me."

    I had STANDING STILL in my house for several months before it called to me--and I'm sure glad it did!

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  4. Great review Kathryn. That kind of book is, alas, rare, so it's good to hear about this one.

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  5. I too, loved this book, Standing Still and wrote a review of this book here: http://bit.ly/eyVlBB

    Thanks for your review and keeping this wonderful book in the eyes of readers who truly know a good book when they read it!

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  6. Helen: Right? I think all editors know what I'm talking about here.

    WritewhereUR: I went to your site and read your review--holding my breath for fear you'd give too much away. Good for you, for resisting temptation! This is a wonderful book discussion read but a tough one to write about up front, since discovering the unfolding of the story is the beauty of its experience.

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  7. Kathryn...thank you. You are so right. It was hard to attest to the reasons of why Kelly Simmons book, Standing Still, was so great without getting to the core of it. :)

    Luckily, she is a great writer who knows how to layer her books with many aspects to appreciate. Keep up the good work of spotlighting great reads!

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  8. I so relate to the editor-brain issue, only I haven't picked a book lately that overcame it. I'm always hopeful though.

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  9. I totally relate to this. Once you start editing, it's hard to ever turn off the messenger in your head!

    Monti
    MaryMontagueSikes

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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