On Reading

On Reading‘What a mess! Why Don’t you clear your night stand after you finish a book?’
My friend had came over to help me clean my room. I had a broken arm and couldn’t manage it myself.
‘No, stop! I’m reading them!’
She had grabbed four books and was about to put them on a shelf.
‘All of them?’

I’ve always been an avid reader. When I was a kid I made a deal with my mother: I could buy as many books as would fit into my palm. Only after I’d finished all of them could I buy new ones. With great effort of my wrist tendons, considerable stretching of my fingers and intricate games of balance, sometimes I managed to make eight titles fit into one hand.

Now that I buy my own books I’m what my friend calls a ‘schizophrenic reader’.

It’s not true, though. I have my own logic. I’m not able to read two novels at the same time. I get mixed up and I don’t enjoy either of them. I don’t read things too similar. They have to differ. Not necessarily in topic, since I often go mono-thematic, at least as to genre or style. Say I’m into my romantic-relationships-phase, I’ll read a philosophic take on love in modern times, a collection of witty stories on being dumped, choosing the wrong one, letting go of the right one and so on. Then an essay from a sociological point of view on romance in the Facebook era and a collection of heart-ripping love declarations. By contrast, I would read non-fiction on loneliness and the stream-of-consciousness account of a woman living in isolation. It might take me months to finish one book. But besides simultaneity, which isn’t that rare by the way, my reading habits are not at all odd. So I asked around.

The reader community is a quirky one, quirkier than I thought. And to read its dirty confessions felt as thrilling as discovering your mum’s shoebox full of an ex-boyfriend’s love letters. After all, every book is kind of a love affair. When I was still an unexperienced lover every literary purchase felt like a courtship. I’d go to the book shop, I’d look at it, leaf though it, read some random bits. Then I’d put it back. It’s not wise to show too much interest on a first date. I’d wait a couple of days, then come back. After a while I’d go to the book shop even only to caress the book covers. I’d finally give in. Once I was sure it was the one, I’d burn with anticipation. The commute home would feel excruciatingly longer than usual and I wouldn‘t be able to keep my hands off it. At home I’d stroke it, I wouldn’t lose sight of it, but I’d know I’d still have to wait until we went to bed. It would be there where the magic would happen. Ours wouldn’t be a night-time- only relationship though. I’d take it everywhere. I’d like to know it was always there, at my disposal. When the story would come to an end, I wouldn’t hold a grudge, I’d soon forget. So in case I’d want it back, we could start anew.

But now I’m more disenchanted, I don’t pay so much attention to foreplay anymore, I get straight to the point. And what interests me really, is what other people do when they get down to the serious business.

‘I like to light a candle’, ‘ I always smell it first’, ‘I succumb to guilty pleasures’, ‘ I read the last page in advance to take some pressure off’, ‘ I’m charmed by a worn-out look’. ‘I like to do it on the rug’ ,’On the tube’, ‘on a spot with a view’.’ ‘I like to do it in complete silence’.

The weirdest habit I’ve heard so far is of a woman who used to chew the corners off pages. ‘Why?’ I asked her.’I don’t know. Since I couldn’t bite my nails, ‘cause my hands were holding the book, I bit the pages, I guess’.
I ran this informal study among bookworms and writers aged from their mid-twenties to mid- forties asking about preferences, rituals and any weird custom they might have in relation to reading.

Unexpectedly, only a few mentioned the cover. One said it does matter, another prefers paperbacks and smart formats.

Three people spoke about e-book readers, two as a complementary medium for reading, one on the impossibility of using it, since she couldn’t place her finger between pages to mark the spot she wanted to reach.

The majority reads whenever they can, before going to sleep, on the commute, on the loo.

Same goes for place, anything will do, in bed, on the bus, on the loo.

Writers in particular seem to be multiple readers. Some will read according to their mood, which can change frequently as will the book being read. Poetry for a pondering mood, philosophy for the analytic one, crime for fun, for example. Others will read depending on their concentration levels, something literary or non-fiction when the mind is sharp, something historical or fantasy when it’s tired. There are those who will read following their current interests, trying to get some inspiration, and those who will read following their current projects, trying to research.

Most of those I interviewed have a book to which they keep coming back, either for consultation, because it contains an ever-valid wisdom, or for comfort, because certain sentences will always make the reader feel a certain way.

Some talked about ‘book hangover’ after a really good reading, others are keen on slowing down to the point of stopping the more they are enjoy a book, dreading the feeling of abandonment once it’s finished. There is a collection of short stories I started ten months ago. I read a story every couple of months the same way I enjoy a glass of my most refined port every now and then. I don’t want to finish either of them.

Not as many people as I thought feel obliged to read a book till the end or to read it linearly. Skimming is allowed, leaps too, and if it’s not enticing, no regrets in putting it back in the book case. ‘Life‘s too short to read a bad book till the end’.

One admission in particular made me feel like when I was twelve and read the sex-advice columns in Cosmo with my best friend behind a bush halfway between my place and hers.

‘It feels a little embarrassing to unveil my reading secrets to you,’ she said, as if she had just told me about the kinky stuff she likes to do in bed. I giggled like a teenager, glad I was the one leading the interview.

Myths & Legends| The 2014 IGGY & Litro Young Writers Award

Bwx2CXVCYAEmMtq1 Myths & Legends: IGGY & Litro 2014/15 Young Writers Prize

Litro Magazine and IGGY are pleased to be hosting their annual IGGY & Litro Young Writers’ Prize for the fifth year.

IGGY is a social networking resource developed by the University of Warwick to serve as a global community for creative young people. IGGY is dedicated to connecting 13- 18 year olds and promoting creative excellence around the world.

For the last five years Litro has been teaming up with IGGY to host the Young Writer’s Prize, with spectacular results. Founded by Litro Editor in Chief, Eric Akoto: “Each year, the strength of the entrants amaze and surprise, the stories grow in maturity and strength of theme.”

The 2014/15 award program aims to build on past success. IGGY and Litro share a calling to promote creative excellence in young people. Both are venerable cultural institutions in their own right: known for fostering creativity, and who pride themselves on connecting debut and emerging writers to an international creative and educational community.

The IGGY & Litro Young Writers’ Prize has the potential to be a truly life changing award, with a cash prize of £2,000 for the winning entry, and £200 for each of the five runners-up.

The IGGY & Litro Young Writers’ Prize is an important opportunity for young writers from all over the world to connect with readers; but it is also a chance for us to encourage and acknowledge creative excellence in young people from all over the world.

All writers between the ages of 13 – 18 years old are eligible.
We accept submissions from all over the world.
The winner will receive a cash prize of £2,000
The winning short story will be published at IGGY.net and in Litro Magazine.
Excerpts from the winning story will appear on a poster in the London underground.
5 runners-up will receive a cash prize of £200.00

Entries open on Tuesday, September 30th, 2014; and the contest will run through to Thursday, January 15th, 2015.
We will announce the shortlist Wednesday, February 18th.
The winner will be announced Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

This year’s theme is Myths and Legends. Visit Writing Prize for more details.

Ben Fergusson, Isobel Losada, Tim Leach, Jenn Ashworth, 2012 Award Runner up Isabel Hall

Ben Fergusson Isabel Losada Tim Leach
Jenn Ashworth Isabel Hall, 2012 Award Runner Up

Photo Inspiration: Construction – A building site is rife with hiding places.

© Paige Sinkler

Photo Inspiration: Merry-Go-Round – Stop, I want to get off.

© Paige Sinkler

Photo Inspiration: Disaster

© Paige Sinkler

Photo Inspiration: An Empty Seat, or Empty Seats.

Will someone rush in late, sidling down the row in the dark bumping knees and blocking the view? Or not. Perhaps something urgent came up, and they’re out there dealing with it while the show goes merrily on. Or maybe, the show is dreadful, and the actors play valiantly to an entirely empty house…

© Paige Sinkler

Photo Inspiration: New Year

Will everything change for the new year? New things can be exciting, or scary. Often they go from being one to the other. Is there a story in that journey?

© Paige Sinkler

Pictures of 2011: Winner!

Kevlin Henney

A work-related trip to New York in May afforded an opportunity to catch runners’ rituals. This chap’s posture is particularly cartoon-like.

Running to Stand Still

Pictures of 2011: Runners-up

Ellie Rowe

I am British, but I fell in love with the Yukon this summer!

Planking in Alaska

Pictures of 2011: Runners-up

Grace Andreacchi

The picture was snapped at the breakfast bar in the Caserma Cornoldi, an officers’ club of great antiquity in Venice (Petrarch lived there once) where  I, through great good fortune, happened to be staying in September. Memorable breakfast! and the coffee was good too.

Breakfast at the Caserma, Venezia

Grace Andreacchi is an American-born novelist, poet and playwright. Works include the novels Scarabocchio and Poetry and Fear, Music for Glass Orchestra (Serpent’s Tail), Give My Heart Ease (New American Writing Award) and the chapbook Berlin Elegies. Her work appears in Horizon Review, The Literateur, Cabinet des Fées and many other fine places. Grace is also managing editor at Andromache Books and writes the literary blog AMAZING GRACE. She lives in London.

Pictures of 2011: Runners-up

Mikaela Westerholm

Personal work from a series of images under the subject Dirt/Garbage.

Certain Of Self

On the 21st of September 2011 Mikaela Westerholm was taken in at a psychiatric ward in Stockholm. She was put on sickleave, medication and assigned a therapist. She was diagnosed with deep depression with possible intention of harming herself. This project is a journey of cleansing, a process to get rid of the unwanted dirt in one’s soul. There are three series. Each series consist of two pictures, a before and after picture, with two months of intensive care inbetween. It’s about the long and wining road to change. mikaelaw.se



Photo Inspiration: Family Traditions – They must start somewhere.

© Paige Sinkler

Photo Inspiration: Drawers

You can uncover anything, or anyone, if you look hard enough. What story lurks in these drawers?

© Paige Sinkler

Photo Inspiration: Bouquet

Grand gesture of love? Memorial tribute? Apology? …

© Paige Sinkler

Photo Inspiration: Lights

Who or what is watching what or whom? Maybe your story begins at a night football match or in a prison yard. Or perhaps these are magnified neurons furiously sending an urgent message to the brain. Something seems about to happen…

© Paige Sinkler

Photo Inspiration: Fair

All’s fair. Or is it?  What goes on in the darkness behind the bright lights and manic carousel jingles?  The boy who always rocks the ferris wheel car… do you know him?  Or maybe it’s you. Are those things really safe?

Photograph taken by Paige Sinkler

Photo Inspiration: What Lies Outside

© Paige Sinkler

Photo Inspiration: Luxury

Luxury… some have got, some have not. To what lengths would your character go to get some? Or to hide it, if they had to? Rags, riches, or the unpredictable road between the two.

© Paige Sinkler

Paige Sinkler

Photo Inspiration: Life Belt

Who needs it?

© Paige Sinkler

Photo Inspiration: Crossed Wires

Crossed Wires. Have you looked up lately? Hundreds of lines of communication meeting, crossing, connecting people. At least, they used to. What does the architecture of today’s communication lines look like, between mobiles, laptops, iPods, and is the message any different?

© Paige Sinkler