What Should I Read Next? (Vol. 2)

[Article by: Morgan Simon]

At Friends of the Library, we have one mission: to spread the word to the Wells Branch community about our local library and it’s fantastic programming and resources! One of the best ways we know how to do this is to simply share what wonderful books we’re reading (and encourage you to head to the library to check them out!).

Enter: What Should I Read Next?  This ongoing feature will share reading recommendations from librarians, Friends of the Library board members, and the Wells Branch community. You can find more of this series and other information about the library on our blog: http://wbfriends.org

I recently finished The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it! Set in Florence, Italy in the 1550s, this novel follows the duchess Lucrezia de’ Medici from birth through adolescence. Filled with plot twists, historical details, and emotion this is the perfect read for anyone who loves historical fiction, Italian history, or simply a strong, fearless female lead character.

Morgan Simon, Friends of the Library Board Vice President

I recommend Kingdom of the Wicked series by Kerri Maniscalco for romance and fantasy lovers, with a lot of mythology. In 19th century Italy, Emilia is a witch living in Sicily and working at her family’s restaurant. When her twin sister is brutally murdered, Emilia tries to summon a demon to help her get revenge. Instead, she ends up accidentally summoning the Prince of Wrath. These longtime mortal enemies team up to solve the murder. Very satisfying enemies to lovers arc.

Kaitlyn, Youth Services Assistant Manager

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, tells the story of a Russian Count in the 1920’s who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside the world renowned Metropol Hotel in Moscow instead of being shot! He manages to live a life of purpose while all the while being charming and a true gentleman to all. There are also a few surprising twists that keep things interesting. I read the book, and liked it so much, I also listened to it, which I would recommend, because his charm is even more evident. Those of you who have already read A Gentleman in Moscow, might want to give it another read, because it is soon to be a Showtime series starring Ewan McGregor as the Count.

Joan Mead, Friends of the Library Board Member

I recommend A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik. Outside the Scholomance is even more dangerous for the young wizards. El is trapped inside the school with her classmates where only some of the ravenous monsters can get at them, and only some of the other students are trying to drain each other for power. It’s nice and horrible in the skyless void. All El has to do is not die and not destroy the world.

Julia, Library Assistant

For the Wine, Women and Words Book Club*, I recently read The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E.Schwab. A young woman in medieval times inadvertently calls an old god of the night instead of the day to save her from an unwanted marriage. As often happens, the wish granted is really a curse – to never be remembered after other people look away, and to live forever, until she is willing to give her soul to the god. It alternates between 2014 and the preceding centuries, and is a very interesting read.

Nancy Loomis, Friends of the Library Board Secretary

*Wine, Women and Words Book Club is a book club offered through the Wells Branch Community Library, find out more details at https://www.wblibrary.org/news-events/lib-cal

Writers Guild

Do you know anyone who read a book and said, “I bet I could write a novel. How hard can it be?” Are you that person? If so, I not only challenge you to write that novel, I want to help you by inviting you to join the Wells Branch Library’s Writers Guild.

Writing a novel is a real challenge. So, is running a marathon. Both require training and a lot of practice. I have never run a a marathon, but I can imagine the progression of what it takes from getting off the sofa to crossing that finish line. Writing a book takes its own wobbly path. I know how to progress from the moment a fragment of an idea pops into my imagination, to seeing that completed book sitting on the library shelf. I want to help others experience that journey, too. That’s why I started the Writers Guild at the Wells Branch Library.

Most people have already completed Writing Novels 101, which is understanding the basic mechanics of writing and telling a story. In elementary school, you learned the alphabet and how to arrange letters into words. Then, you learned there are different flavors of words, like nouns, verbs, and adjectives. Then, you started reading and dissecting sentences. Then, you read stories (or had stories read to you). Later, in middle school and high school, you were forced to read books and analyze them. You understand storytelling better than you may realize. You know stories so well, you could tell others about the time you made Jimmy laugh chocolate milk out his nose. Or, you can tell people about the crazy driver who nearly ran into you on the way home. Congratulations, storyteller!

You have also completed Reading Novels 101, too. Set all those books, poems, short stories, and essays you read in school aside. Hopefully, all that forced reading didn’t completely squash your love of reading. If you still find pleasure in discovering your new favorite books and genres, then congratulations, again! If there is a story buried in you somewhere, it is probably related to those stories you enjoy reading the most.

The one thing the Writers Guild may or may not help you with, is finding an idea for a story. Inspiration for stories come from all sorts of sources. Some of my ideas come from dreams. Other ideas come from taking something ordinary and either looking at it differently, or putting it in an unusual situation. Some ideas began with interesting lunchtime conversations. As I said, ideas can be found anywhere if you let your imagination run wild. If you don’t have a good idea, you should still come to one of our meetings. Exposure to a variety of writing might awaken that story in you. Maybe you do have a story in you, but you aren’t quite sure how to write it. Again, join the Writers Guild and we will help you find a good way to tell it!

In my earlier writing days, I wrote and rewrote the same book dozens of times in dozens of ways, but none of the versions ever felt right. Then, I encountered my first peer writing group, which was the writers workshop at the Armadillo Con here in Austin. I did not share any version of that book. Instead, I threw together a short story as a sample of my writing style I didn’t know I had at the time. One of the most difficult aspects of writing is sharing what you have written with others, mostly strangers, and asking for their opinions. Maybe its good. Maybe its bad. Maybe it is the worst thing they have ever read. Maybe they’ll laugh at me. Maybe any number of scenarios. I would never know until I tried. And, I did try. I submit my story, and the feedback I got on it was mostly positive. It was a wonderful feeling of acceptance! Other stories at the workshop were not as good, some were much better (in my opinion). This was my first experience with writing peers sharing what they liked and what they didn’t. They offered constructive criticism to help make the stories better. That criticism was the best training I have ever had as a writer. I’m not just talking about feedback on my own story submissions, but the feedback of other people’s stories, too. Athletes do this all the time. They learn from watching and interacting with others to see how well other people play the game, too. This is what the Writers Guild is all about. Writers helping writers improve.

Not all peer writing groups are like that. From the Armadillo Con workshop, I was invited to other writing groups. One group was fantastic, but became so popular, the waiting list for submissions was long. Another group had professional writers who acted more like professional wrestlers. Their feedback was much harsher. More like destructive criticism. Guess which group I shared that book I struggled to write? Both. The feedback was not nearly as pleasant as I got for the short story I wrote for the workshop. Still, I focused on the positives, and eventually, they helped me find a better way to tell the story. Eventually, I finished writing my first novel, and proudly published it!

I am still in touch with many members of both groups. To this day, I appreciate all the help my peers provided. With their help, I evolved into a much better storyteller. A member of one of the groups let me know of a fantastic book on story telling. A few years ago, I heard praises for another great book on storytelling. In our next Writers Guid meeting, we will be talking about these two books. One is from the Save the Cat series of books. The other is The Anatomy of Story. 

If you are serious about whether or not you could write a book, I encourage your to join the Writers Guild. There are no membership fees. We offer constructive criticism. Since the group started up again, post-pandemic, we have gone beyond the critiques by adding presentations and discussions about the elements of writing and publishing. You, yes you, are more than welcome to join us whenever you are available. We will do what we can to help you become a better storyteller and write that book.

The Writers Guild meets on the first and third Sunday of each month at 2PM. I hope to see you there.