Word by Word

Practical insights for writers from Jessica P Morrell

Living the Writing & Reading Life

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Nov• 19•21

The light is changing day by day, hour by hour. Through the rain-streaked glass, this morning’s sky features silvery tones and mystery.

The National Book Awards were revealed Wednesday and it’s an exciting lineup. Jason Mott’s Hell of a Book has been on my radar for a while so this recognition has nudged me to pick up a copy.  The subtitle is That Altogether Factual, Wholly Bona Fide Story of a Big Dreams, Hard Luck, American-Made Mad Kid. The genre-bending novel has two narratives running through it with an author tour as the scaffolding.

All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family’s Legacy by Tia Miles also is genre-bending considering the author is a history professor. The nonfiction story  follows a family’s history going back to girl being separated from her mother and sold into slavery and her sack of keepsakes given to her by her mother that survived generation after generation.

Books change lives. Books can also build lives.  If you’re a fellow bookworm you cannot imagine a lifetime without the affirming, healthful habit of reading. Your brain has been shaped by reading. All those neural pathways we’ve laid down will help our brains stay stronger as we age. And pondering, analyzing what we’ve read is deliciously rewarding and translates to other areas of life.

Why are we reading, if not in hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed? Why are we reading if not in hope that the writer will magnify and dramatize our days, will illuminate and inspire us with wisdom, courage, and the possibility of meaningfulness, and will press upon our minds the deepest mysteries, so that we may feel again their majesty and power? What do we ever know that is higher than that power which, from time to time, seizes our lives, and reveals us startlingly to ourselves as creatures set down here bewildered? Why does death so catch us by surprise, and why love? We still and always want waking. We should amass half dressed in long lines like tribesmen and shake gourds at each other, to wake up; instead we watch television and miss the show.” ~Annie Dillard

Reading magnifies my days. How about yours?

Thinking about you NaNoWriMo writers out there. I hope your back is holding up, you’re well-fed, somewhat rested, and have spun out a magical tale. On the other hand if you’re living amid dust bunnies, pizza boxes, and dirty dishes, that sounds productive. If your dog is lonely, your family neglected, we get it. Whatever it takes. Your efforts matter, no matter how shaky. Because words matter.

Side Note: For some reason a memory pricked at me recently. Years ago when I first moved to Portland, before my first book was published, whenever I visited bookstores I’d find the section of the store where my future books would be shelved. I’d home in and find the space where my books would be located alphabetically somewhere between Mc and Mu. It was a powerful exercise in belief.

I recommend using it if you’re not published yet.

Keep writing, keep dreaming, have heart


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