Need a reason to read more? Here’s one: Research says that reading fiction makes you more creative and more open-minded. So if you want to impress your friends and family and make the world a more compassionate place, read on!
Reading fiction allows readers to be more creative and exercise better judgment, claim scientists
- A new study by University of Toronto scholars and lead researcher professor Maja Djikic, found that reading fiction, even if it’s only a short story, were less rigid in their thinking and more comfortable with uncertainty.
- Regular readers also appeared to be more creative thinkers and less prone to snap judgements.
- The study suggested reading literary fiction is a way to become more open-minded.
Reading fiction, especially literary fiction, the researchers say, helps readers to become more insightful and expand their perspectives. Confucius said something similar:
No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.
And, in the words of George R. R. Martin, author of the best-selling epic fantasy series that the HBO series Game of Thrones is based on:
A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.
In other words, reading fiction–especially literary fiction–makes you more creative and a better citizen of the world. In fact, it may be the secret to happiness. At least it is for me. What about you? What will you be reading this weekend? xo
Susan Gabriel is an acclaimed southern author of literary fiction who lives in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Her novels, The Secret Sense of Wildflower (a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2012) and Temple Secrets (2015) are Amazon and Nook #1 bestsellers.
Did you enjoy The Secret Sense of Wildflower?
Do you want to know more of the story?
Lily’s Song, the sequel to The Secret Sense of Wildflower, is now available!
To release a novel out into the world (this time the sequel to The Secret Sense of Wildflower) is a joyful and terrifying act. There are few moments in my profession that are as big. The story I’ve labored at for over a year, in the privacy of my imagination, is suddenly out there, launched like one of my children into college, not knowing if she will struggle or excel.
However, book children never come home again. They don’t write letters or emails telling me how they are. They live a life I can only imagine, sitting on nightstands, read on commuter trains, in bed, in a favorite chair, on ipads, iphones, kindles, nooks and the still-popular paperback (audiobook is in production). My hope is that Lily’s Song (the sequel to The Secret Sense of Wildflower, although it can also stand alone) is not only entertaining, but satisfying. And if you honor me by reading the story, I hope you’ll email me (email@example.com) and let me know your thoughts.
Here’s the official book description:
A mother’s secrets, a daughter’s dream, and a family’s loyalty are masterfully interwoven in this much anticipated sequel to Amazon #1 bestseller The Secret Sense of Wildflower.
“Wildflower” McAllister’s daughter, Lily, now 14, struggles with her mother’s reluctance to tell her who her father is. When a stranger appears on the family doorstep, drunk and evoking ghosts from the past, it threatens to break the close-knit McAllister family apart.
Meanwhile, Wildflower has a deep secret of her own. When Lily discovers it by accident, it changes everything she thought she knew about her mother. The events that follow silence the singing she dreamed of sharing with the world.
With her signature metaphors, Gabriel weaves a compelling tale that captures the resilience and strength of both mother and daughter, as secrets revealed test their strong bond and ultimately change their lives forever.
Set in 1956 southern Appalachia, Lily’s Song stands on its own, and readers who are new to Gabriel will be drawn into the world she so skillfully depicts. As a sequel, it will captivate fans of The Secret Sense of Wildflower (a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2012), who have eagerly awaited more.
Excerpt from the Acknowledgments:
A special thank you to the treasured readers who told me through emails or reviews that they loved The Secret Sense of Wildflower and were sorry when the book ended. They wanted to hear more of Wildflower’s story and more about the McAllister family and Katy’s Ridge. I listened, and thought of them often as I wrote Lily’s Song.
Excerpt from the Dear Reader letter in the back of the book:
Since it had been years since I’d worked on The Secret Sense of Wildflower (fourteen years since I wrote the first draft; four years since it was published), I had to read it again and take notes on characters and dates and details in order to write Lily’s Song. But then once I sat to write it, the story started playing out in my imagination very naturally, as if I’d never left Katy’s Ridge. I felt like I knew Lily personally, even though I’d never imagined her before. She was Wildflower’s daughter, after all, and I had loved Wildflower for years, as well as her family. So it felt, in a way, like a family reunion, where I got to catch up with everybody I hadn’t seen for a while.
With Lily’s Song, I tried to create the best story I could offer you. I also wanted the story to encourage you to sing your own song, in whatever way that might mean. It doesn’t matter where you come from or what’s in your past, we all have something good to give the world.
Go here for a
Lily’s Song is available here:
Also available on iTunes.
It can also be ordered at any bricks and mortar bookstore.
I thought you’d enjoy this this delightful list by Debbie Millman about overcoming creative block. We’re all creative in one way or another and it’s super easy these days to get distracted and put our creativity last on our to-do list.
Imagine how your life would change if you excelled at overcoming your creative block and started working on that book again, or that poem, or the song you were writing or the birdhouse you were going to build. (Fill in your special creative talent here!)
Do you have a favorite on this list?
I’m focusing on #10 right now. I’m feeling very lucky to be a creative person and a writer of novels. Like everybody, I fight my innate laziness and all the distractions of our modern world that threaten to derail my creativity and writing the books that I feel are mine to write. Every day that I “get to work,” I feel grateful to be a creative person, and I’m thankful that I made the effort.
Are you ready to get back to your creative work?
P.S. Big News coming soon. xo
Susan Gabriel is an acclaimed southern author who lives in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Her novels, The Secret Sense of Wildflower (a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2012) and Temple Secrets (2015) are Amazon and Nook #1 bestsellers.
Have you ever taken a pilgrimage?
“The difference between wanting to write and having written is one year of hard, relentless labour. It’s a bridge you have to build all by yourself, all alone, all through the night, while the world goes about its business without giving a damn. The only way of making this perilous passage is by looking at it as a pilgrimage.” ― Shatrujeet Nath
Some of you may have noticed that I haven’t been posting much on my blog for the last few months. This is because I have been finishing up the sequel to The Secret Sense of Wildflower, entitled Lily’s Song. I started writing this sequel 14 months ago and last week put on the final touches before giving it to my First Readers (the precious handful of people that I entrust to give me feedback).
Once I handed off the manuscript, I realized how exhausted I was. Mentally, creatively, spiritually, physically, emotionally. I have been resting up–recovering from what feels like a long journey. A pilgrimage that I chose to make, and with only the best intentions, yet didn’t expect to be so difficult. After all, I’ve done this particular journey many times. But I think I had more invested with this particular project. I wanted to give the continuation of Wildflower’s story the passion it deserved. I also wanted to give readers who have taken the time to email me and review the book, the things they asked for and wanted more of.
In the following weeks, I hope to return to blogging with some consistency. In the meantime, I offer you these words from Sylvia Boorstein, with pilgrimage in mind:
May you be safe.
May you be content.
May you be strong.
May your life be filled with ease.
In this short excerpt from the essay entitled The Crossroads of Should and Must, artist and writer Elle Luna talks honestly about her struggle to have a creative life. She discovered her art was one of those things she MUST do, as opposed to all the shoulds that kept her worried and distracted. If you are creative person and struggle to find time to do your art, I think you’ll enjoy her essay. Here is one of my favorite parts from the book that was based on the essay:
Have you ever been in northern California and stood at the base of a redwood tree? If you have, you know firsthand its majesty, its size, the trunk that you and even two or three friends cannot wrap your arms around. These trees reach unfathomable heights, strong and beautiful, lifting skyward. But what you cannot see when you stand at the foot of this tree is what is happening underneath. While a redwood tree can grow 360 feet tall, the roots are only on average about ten feet deep. This is because they spread their roots outward, searching for other redwood trees. Their roots intertwine under the ground, and they hold each other up. A redwood tree cannot stand on its own, and neither can we. –Elle Luna
Read the entire essay by Elle Luna here.
It is a hectic time of year, full of shoulds. Please take a moment to imagine spreading your roots outward, as we hold each other up. Thank you for taking this journey with me. I certainly couldn’t stand on my own without you. xo
Susan Gabriel is the acclaimed southern author of The Secret Sense of Wildflower (named a Best Book of 2012 by Kirkus Reviews) and other southern novels, including Temple Secrets, Grace, Grits and Ghosts: Southern Short Stories and others. She lives in the mountains of North Carolina.
Photographer R. K. Young (a.k.a. Becky) is a professional photographer and artist (and a dear friend) who lives in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Becky is our latest artist to participate in the From the Front Porch Interviews–a series of interviews with creative people–most of whom are working fulltime doing other things, yet somehow also (miraculously) manage to find time to do their art. As many of you know firsthand, this is not an easy task!
A Special Note: If you are one of my local readers, Becky has a photography exhibit running right now at the Transylvania Community Arts Council in Brevard. It’s called “In the Belly of the Clouds,” and it’s a pretty amazing show, so I hope you’ll stop by. The exhibit runs until December 18th! (more details in the P.S.)
Here is one of my favorites from the exhibit. I wish you could see it in person because the details in this photograph are exquisite.
Also, a Special Giveaway:
Becky will be giving away a print from the exhibit “In the Belly of the Clouds.” [Artist’s discretion] for the best answer to the question:
“Why is photography still valued as an art, with a camera in everyone’s hand?”
Answer in the comment section. Don’t miss this opportunity for one of Becky’s amazing prints! Also, feel free to ask her any questions you might have.
Please welcome R. K. Young to the Front Porch Interview:
Becky, tell us about your creative process. It can include things like: when are you the most or least creative? As well as, what inspires you and perhaps why does it inspire you?
My process is “enforced.” It has been a long time since I had chunks of time in which I could “explore” being creative. I respond to deadlines and goal setting. So, to get myself working, I set something up which require that I complete something that someone else needs from me. Sick, right? I promise a friend to have a piece for a show. I tell a few people that I will have work on “x” date. I write a grant that specifies that I will stage an exhibition. Then, when the grant fails to materialize, I’m stuck having to do a show, anyway!
In terms of the conceptualizing of the work, however… mornings in the shower are essential. I swear that if I took a day off of showering, I’d probably not have a single idea that day. I think it’s because I can’t do anything else in there BUT get clean, and that all happens essentially on autopilot. So it ends up being time to cogitate and chew on whatever random thought runs between my ears. This is where the conceptualization for the Series that I produce (the Altar Series, the Meditation Series) takes place. Where I connect what I want to shoot with what I want to communicate. This is where the Vision for a direction takes place. The rest, for me, is just execution.
Share a favorite quote:
“The small man. . . Builds cages for everyone He Knows. While the sage, Who has to duck his head When the moon is low, Keeps dropping keys all night long For the Beautiful Rowdy Prisoners.” — Hafiz
What creative project are you working on now or do you hope to work on?
Right now I am wrapping up an exhibit (In the Belly of the Clouds) and preparing to work on a book of the same name. The book will be composed of both photography and essays on topics that interest me and are related to living in this moist place I call the “Cloud Belly,” Transylvania County.
Share a photo of something you find beautiful:
Pussy Willow blossoms, after the initial fuzzy stage, when they are getting to the irresistible-to-bees stage. So many beautiful, sacred details.
Name one or more of your favorite books. What do you love about it/them? If they changed your life in any way tell us why.
Good Lord—so many good ones! But it is really no contest—the essays of Barbara Kingsolver have been especially revelatory. In the tome Small Wonders, there is an essay titled A Fist In the Eye of God. In the fourteen pages of this brilliant essay, Kingsolver lays out the greatest argument for the sanctity of evolution and the natural world that is likely to ever be written. Those of you out there who haven’t read this—well, you simply must. It is beautiful.
Name one or more of your favorite films and tell us what you love about them.
WALLE – for having no dialogue, and still communicating a great story.
Is there somewhere you’ve traveled that has influenced your creative life? If so, tell us about it.
Spain. A foreign-study trip during college gave me the opportunity to be immersed not just in a culture, but in a world of artists. The Museo del Prado gave me, for four weeks, a place to study the work of Velasquez, Goya and others, but particularly these two. Many Spanish painters defy clear classification, and the methods in which they communicate within the context of their work are extremely compelling. Look at Goya’s official court portraits—especially The Family of Charles IV—and you can be shocked at the level of scorn communicated. But then compare those royal portraits with The 2nd of May or The 3rd of May, and you will see an artist’s soul laid bare. It is his honesty that made Goya most memorable.
Name one or more of your favorite songs or pieces of music and tell us what you love about them.
The third movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. He plays his bass line like a drum, but lets it soar. Crank that puppy up and I challenge you to not “direct” in your living room.
What were you like as a child?
Pretty easy going. I wandered a lot, mostly in woods. Always came home for dinner, though!
From James Lipton, host of Inside the Actor’s Studio
- What is your favorite word term? “brain fart.”
- What is your least favorite word? “blessed.” It’s common usage implies that others aren’t.
- What sound or noise do you love? Cat purring.
- What sound or noise do you hate? Cat barfing at 4:00am.
- What is your favorite curse word? Must be “shit” because that’s the one that keeps popping out of my mouth!
What are you grateful for? (Today and/or in general.)
Gay Marriage. My partner. My sister. House cats. Good Friends, Mountains, clouds and rivers, peanut butter, wine and Snicker bars. Pollinators! Probably a few other things, as well. 🙂
R. K. Young is an award winning photographer and artist who works and writes in the company of cats, bumblebees and white squirrels in Transylvania County, North Carolina.
Don’t Forget the Special Giveaway:
Becky will be giving away a print from the exhibit “In the Belly of the Clouds.” [Artist’s discretion] for the best answer to the question:
“Why is photography still valued as an art, with a camera in everyone’s hand?”
Answer in the comment section. Don’t miss this opportunity for one of R. K. Young’s amazing prints! Also, feel free to ask her any questions you might have or simply thank her for taking the time to share a little about her life as a photographer.
You can contact her here: www.humnature.com
P.S. Local Exhibit information: Friday, December 18th will be the final day of the Transylvania Community Arts Council exhibit “In the Belly of the Clouds.” This exhibit features the work of photographer R. K. Young, paintings by plein air painter Julie Bowland and wood turner Peter Mockridge. The exhibit is one of many open for the final Gallery Walk of 2015—the Artists’ Reception is from 5:00 to 8:00pm. Come meet the artists!
To sign up for my weekly blog posts, including future From The Front Porch Interviews, go here: http://www.feedblitz.com/f/?Sub=950791
In some ways, Thanksgiving is my favorite American holiday. Especially, if it means we pause long enough before stuffing ourselves to express our gratitude for the people, places and things that grace our lives. While life can be hard sometimes, most of us also have plenty to be grateful for. To help get us in the mood, I am posting my Top 27 Favorite Gratitude Quotes from writers, artists, philosophers, musicians and filmmakers.
See what you think. And please feel free to let me know your favorite ones.
What did you think of these gratitude quotes? Do you have a favorite?
I’ve experience many wildly talented and creative people who are terrified to put their creative work out into the world. I am one of these people.
It’s scary out there. It’s much safer to not risk anything. To not write the controversial blog posts. To not write the book that you really want to write. To not say what you truly think when someone asks your opinion. But I also believe that safety is overrated.
When did you lose your creative voice? Is there an incident you can trace it back to? Or is this something that simply fell by the wayside in the midst of a busy life? Have you reached a point in your life where you’d like to reclaim your creative voice?
Not using our voices in the service of our writing, our painting, our fill-in-your-creative-endeavor, is not only the world’s loss, but we lose respect for ourselves and we undermine our creative journey. Especially if we know we have things to say and we keep quiet. You know exactly when you do this. You might actually feel your face grow warm just thinking about it. It is our secret shame.
So here’s what Seth has to say about reclaiming our creative voices. See what you think:
When Did You Lose Your Voice?
All these microphones, all this amplification, and we’re stuck, unable to use them. Not because the amplifier doesn’t work, but because we are unwilling to use it.
The Internet has given anyone with something to say the freedom to say it. It has given us the freedom to connect, the freedom to be generous, and the freedom to make a difference. And we (all of us) refuse to use this freedom to the fullest, because we can’t bear to live with the internal narrative it would create–the narrative of responsibility and risk and failure.
To be really clear here, I don’t think you’ve lost your voice, not at all. I think your voice is there, it always has been, but the thought that you might be able to use it is paralyzing.
Don’t fight this feeling of dread. Don’t fight this fear. Acknowledge it and speak, regardless.
Is it easy? Of course not. If it were easy, you’d already be doing it. Just as the marathon runner is exhausted, the person with a loud and clear voice is afraid.
But she speaks, regardless.
First in a whisper if you must, but begin.
What do you need to begin to speak in a whisper, in order to honor your creative voice? What do you need to say into the microphone, however timidly? xo
P. S. If you’re interested in this topic you may also enjoy my book Fearless Writing for Women: Extreme Encouragement & Writing Inspiration.
I miss you! If you haven’t heard from me lately it’s because I’ve been a tad busy. The good news is: I’m having a super-focused and productive year so far.
First of all, my first box set, called Southern Secrets, is out as of this week
It contains my latest novel Temple Secrets and my earlier novel The Secret Sense of Wildflower all in one ebook and at a great price.
Secondly, I hired a wonderful author’s assistant last week to help me finish things faster and more efficiently in my author business. This is quite a leap for me since I was an author assistant myself when I first started out as a writer (20 years ago). So it’s like I’ve come full circle. (Doing the Gratitude Dance!)
I am also working on two novels this year. The first is the sequel to The Secret Sense of Wildflower. It takes place 14 years later and is nearing its final draft. I’ll be handing it off to my First Readers soon.
If you’d like me to send you an email when the sequel is available, sign up here.
I’ve been working on the second novel for over a decade. It’s still in the Top Secret stage. (You know how I love secrets!) The setting is Charleston, SC, the summer of 1964. The civil rights movement has ignited, the Beatles have just put out their first American album, and Bonanza and Bewitched are gracing television screens. I had a lot of fun researching this novel. You’ll be hearing more about this one in 2016.
By the way, if you were alive in 1964, I’d love to hear what you remember about it!
Another secret I’ve been keeping: I have been exchanging email letters with a younger writer here in the mountains of North Carolina. I hope to post these letters on this blog in the next few weeks. I think you’ll enjoy this dynamic exchange between two women at different stages of life searching for their authentic selves through writing.
So that’s my update and why you haven’t heard from me as much, and why I’ve been missing you and wanting to touch base. I’m writing like CRAZY and trying to keep up with the rest of my life, as well. It’s all good.
Feel free to leave a comment on this post or send me an email and let me know how you are. As always, I love hearing from you. xo
Susan Gabriel is the acclaimed southern author of The Secret Sense of Wildflower (named a Best Book of 2012 by Kirkus Reviews) and other southern novels, including Temple Secrets, Grace, Grits and Ghosts: Southern Short Stories and others. She lives in the mountains of North Carolina and loves secrets.
Novelists often reveal themselves in their writing. While telling a great story is always the most important part – not the writer’s life – the creators are behind the scenes leaving breadcrumbs for readers to follow along the way.
My latest novel, Temple Secrets, may not be about my life exactly, but it certainly reveals what fascinates, intrigues and interests me.
If you’ve read more than one of my novels or short stories you will start to see themes and patterns that are like my fingerprint as a writer. I’m putting more of myself into each successive novel, so my latest one, Temple Secrets reveals than most.
With that in mind, here is a list of 13 Things I reveal about myself in the writing of Temple Secrets:
1. Ancestors are important to me. The sense that we aren’t alone; that people came before us; that some may even be watching over us.
2. Secrets make people do strange things. Everybody has them. Sometimes we even keep secrets from ourselves.
3. The spirit world, or the invisible world, (think ghosts, spirits, the secret sense) is very much underestimated.
4. Female characters and female voices are underrepresented in our culture, so I have a mission is to get more female characters out into the world who are courageous and have integrity and humor.
5. I think characters over forty are the most interesting.
6. I think happy endings are possible in life, and that it’s only to the level that we’ve experienced sorrow that we can experience joy. Readers have told me that my books make them laugh and cry. This pleases me.
7. I love to make people laugh, so my books often have humor in them. When I was younger, I wanted to be a stand-up comedian. As a girl, I would sneak into the den late at night to watch Joan Rivers on Johnny Carson. Since my comedy act never hit the road, I became a writer instead. Well, first I became a teacher, then a psychotherapist, and then a writer. It was by no means a straight path to writing. I grew into it.
8. The archetype of the old wise woman shows up in nearly everything I write because I have trouble finding them in real life. Women, in general, are very reluctant to claim these parts of themselves. We need this wisdom more than ever.
9. I am fascinated with death, so there is usually at least one death in my stories. To me, it’s the bigger story. However, I rarely kill off an animal, especially a dog. (The exception was Aunt Sadie’s dog dying of old age in The Secret Sense of Wildflower. I’m still sad about that.)
10. I think laughter opens us to a deeper emotional experience.
11. Sometimes when people are obnoxious in real life, I create a character with some of the same characteristics and then kill them off in the course of a story. Or they are found out for who they really are. I am very good at disguising these real people in the skins of my fictional characters. By the way, it’s not just me. A lot of novelists do this!
12. I always write about things that interest me. I write the story that I would love to read, trusting that other people will enjoy it, too. Since I spend years writing a book, I have to love the characters and understand them. After I release a book, I often grieve the loss of not having the story in my life every day.
13. I think we are all trying to find our way “home,” in one way or another. Home being a place where we feel the most authentic.
Does anything surprise you? As always, I’d love to hear from you. Comment here or email me at susan (at) susangabriel.com. If you’re feeling a little shy, instead of commenting, please consider posting this on your favorite social media platform.