Posted by: jeannineatkins | August 31, 2007

Writers not Writing, Kids not Reading

Usually my four-person critique group meets to, well, critique: about every two weeks around 8 p.m. But it’s nearing the end of summer and we decided to meet without paper. We swam in Bruce’s pristine pool surrounded by sunflowers and Rose of Sharon; a violet beach towel was draped over a chair, the sky a perfect blue. We ate Bruce’s quiche, Dina’s gazpacho, and a baguette Lisa bought with lots of air holes and flavor and cheese that sprawled in just the mild heat. I made a blueberry and raspberry cake we ate while tallying the month’s rejections and assessing the wisdom in editorial comments. Then commenting on the recent press about how no one reads any more, and we hinted at how we hate those people.

I came home to walk the dogs and ran into my twelve year old neighbor who stopped her bike to chat. I asked how her second day of school was, which she kindly did not point out was a vastly boring question. She told me her teacher was new. “She says she taught for eight years somewhere else, but I don’t believe her. She can’t handle us and she has books that look like they belong in kindergarten.”

The conversation turned to first grade. G. liked the teacher, but even she could not make up for books she thought were too boring to bother to read. She said, “I was kind of a snotty-face girl then. Ms. C. handed me books to put in my book bag, but I slipped them under the jacket in my cubby and left. It was fun. Of course now I’m in Speech and they say I’m an awful reader. Oh well.” Then, distracted my dog, she said, “I love watching dogs chase squirrels.”

Yeah, it can be amusing. G is a big fan of dogs and other animals. She sells her chickens’ egg for her so-called college fund. She lives among goats, peacocks, and horses, too, but there is no computer in her house, so we can’t blame that for her lack of interest in reading about human beings and their concerns. (Basically, the only good book in her opinion is a book about animals.) I like her, so I guess it’s a reminder that nonreaders needn’t be uncivilized or unattractive.

And to try, try, try again for a plot, or at least a paragraph, that moves like a dog after a squirrel.



  1. I need a dog-plot too, Jeannine.
    If it makes you feel any better, sounds like I was very much like G when I was a kid. I wanted to be outside watching the world. But I found books eventually. 🙂

  2. Good luck with the dog plot!
    And a not-so-smitten reader becoming a writer is indeed a good story. My E hasn’t read as much as me for years, but the fact is, she’s better at life with people, life beyond the page, than I was at her age.

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