Luckily, we have many resources available to us. The library is first on my list. I love that mine offers the “interlibrary loan” which means I can get virtually any book I want from anywhere in the metro area, not just my little city. Also, bookstores! If you’re lucky enough to have a thriving local bookstore in your area, go there! Or a big box store will work too. You need not buy a thing, although that’s tough sometimes. This option is best for bestsellers and newer titles.
Ideally, this Facebook group is intended for just that, to help you stay current on new books and market trends, but it’s also a great way to check out what you may have missed. If you read a book by an author you love, get all ten on the shelf! If you decide you’re really into dragonflies this week, see how many you can find. Maybe you want to immerse yourself in rhyme. How about a week of books with Spanish in them. And everyone loves dinosaur week! You can read seasonally, thematically, alphabetically, stylistically, you name it.
More specific to your own work, you could check out books from publishers, editors, or agents you’re interested in submitting to to get a sense of their taste. You could check out mentor or comp texts. Have a conference or retreat coming up? Check out everything by everyone that’s going to be there so you’ll be familiar with them and their work before you meet.
You can even give yourself a break from your own genre and grab a bunch of nonfiction if you write fiction. Grab robots and space books if you tend toward the bucolic. Try laugh-out-loud slapstick if yours are quiet and lyrical.
I think the best way to tackle this is to not view it as work, but as a fun challenge, like trying to get to the next level in a video game, or beating your personal best in a 5K. You can even combine the two. I read picture books on the treadmill at the gym the other day. Got weird looks, but I’d take Dragons Love Tacos over Cosmo any day!
So head to the library once a week and check out 20 books. Or head to a bookstore once a week and read 20 there. Some people in the group are actually keeping a list of the titles they’ve read. Some are just counting. And since it’s already mid-March, maybe you can prorate it for yourself and read the equivalent of 3 books a day for the rest of 2016. Or challenge yourself to 1,000 books by next St. Patty’s Day. Or just try to catch up! Whatever works for you. I’m actually reading less than 1,000 picture books, but adding chapter books in too. And if you need to set a smaller goal, like 500 or something, that’s fine too. Many in the 128 member strong group have done that.
I suggest joining the official group for some cheerleading and community, but you can just do it on your own too. Wait, have I said why we're doing this? To become better writers, of course. Also, you're bound to find some new favorites along the way.
Thanks again to Colleen Paeff for putting it together and happy reading everyone!