Passing on the Storytelling Love

Our four-year-old loves to read before bed. Reading has been baked into his bedtime routine since he was a baby. He takes a bath, brushes his teeth, gets his pajamas on, picks some books, and then we snuggle up to read.

I always let him pick the books. I tell him how many we have time for, and he makes the picks. He usually goes through phases of reading three same three to five stories ecru night for a couple weeks, until a new set is chosen.

I usually read to him. He loves hearing each story told in a certain cadence. He asks questions about the words he hears and the pictures he sees.

For a while, I tried to teach him basic reading as we went, sounding out the letters of simple words like “dog” as we read. He was not into it. He would just like to be read to, thank you very much.

He tells fantastic stories to himself as he plays, and he tries to tell us about his imaginary party house we have yet to see.

A couple months ago, I was worried that he would be slow to pick up reading on his own. After talking about it with my wife, I realized that was a premature idea.

For one, he’s still too young to really grasp reading on his own, without being a prodigy. And two, my mom read too me every night before bed until I was much older than he is now. Maybe 10? And even once I started reading too myself, I read a lot of the same books over and over.

The Redwall series, various Calvin and Hobbes collections, Animorphs, probably some Roald Dahl.

I didn’t pick up The Hobbit until I was 12, and I didn’t expand my reading list much beyond what was assigned to me in school until I was in college.

I was a late bloomer as a reader. And the four-year-old might be, too.

I’m cool with that. It may just give me more time to read with him. And the chance to share some of the novels I loved as a kid.

He loves stories. He loves hearing them told, and he loves telling them, even to himself. I’m just here to listen.

Steve D

Book Review: THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE delivers a fantastic modern fairytale

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is my second foray into Neil Gaiman’s fantastical storytelling, and I am in awe once again, as I was when I read Stardust.

Gaiman has an otherworldly knack for telling modern fairytales, both as a writer and as a narrator. I listened to the audiobook version of this novel, which Gaiman himself narrates.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a fascinating exploration of memory, friendship, and the underpinnings of existence itself.

Told from the perspective of a jaded adult remembering a fantastical experience he had as a young boy, this story is full of wonder, fear, and anxiety about the world of grown-ups and other things as can only be seen through the eyes of a child.

The story begins when the protagonist, unnamed, goes on a drive to get away from the drudgery of a funeral he is attending.

He soon finds himself driving to the lane where he grew, where his house no longer stands, and at the old farmhouse at the end of the lane. He doesn’t quite understand why, but he seems to be drawn to this place. He speaks with the old woman over a spot of tea, then goes to sit by the pond out back, which the little girl he used to know there called an ocean. Then, the memories flood back to him.

This framework story toys with the idea of memory, why we remember the things we do and may be better off not, or remember the things we don’t when those things could change our lives, our very existence.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a rich story that weaves these concepts deftly in and out of the narrative, so you only ever feel like you’re hearing a fairytale, and not a lecture on childhood memory and the forgotten perceptions of adulthood.

Gaiman masterfully narrates the audiobook as well. Having listened to two of his novels on audiobook, and never having read the print copies, it’s actually difficult for me to imagine not hearing these stories told in his deliberate, inquisitive, and soothing narrative style. Other than Jonathan Keeble’s raucous delivery of The Saxon Stories, I can’t think of a narrator who so intrinsically captures the tone of the story they’re reading, let alone an author capturing their own work. Gaiman brings a level of depth to his characters, dialog, and descriptions that I might be able to conjure myself if I read the print version.

Steve D

November Write Day: Small Goals

October has come, and gone and so has Halloween. I used to love Halloween, but I haven’t done much to celebrate it in recent years.

Our 4-year-old is now all in. He dressed as a bat this year, and he chose the 1-year-old’s costume as the Hungry, Hungry Caterpillar, which was just a top-notch suggestion.

I think I’ll have to get more into it next year.

Last Month’s Goals

  1. Finish 9-section outlines for four POV characters in The Warden of Everfeld: Legacy.
  2. Read 3 books.
  3. Exercise 3 times per week.

Finish 9-part outlines?

Not quite. I finished two character outlines, made good progress on the third, and need to work on the fourth.

I definitely feel like these outlines will help me write more confidently once I return to my partial first draft for The Warden of Eveefeld: Legacy.

I just need to finish them.

Once that’s done, I might try to expand each character outline into a more detailed story outline. I’m not sure how I’ll go about that quite yet.

I’m not planning to participate in National Novel Writing Month this year. The timing just isn’t right for me, and I’d rather focus my attention on other story things.

Read three books?

Yes, and I came close to finishing four. I powered through two consecutive books in The Saxon Stories series. You can see a dual review of those here. Then I read The Moor’s Account by Laila Lalami, which I reviewed here. I enjoyed all three.

I’m still working through A Memory of Light, the final tome in The Wheel of Time series. I’m going at a steady pace with this one, and I’m happy with it. I’ve been reading this series for too long to sprint through the ending.

Exercise three times per week?

Not really, at least not to the extent I wanted. I have definitely been a little more active day to day, which is progress. But I’d still like to add in a few solid routine days each week.

Goals for November

  1. Finish 9-section outlines. This shouldn’t take much if I can just sit and focus on it for a bit.
  2. Finish New Earth The Herb Witch Tales #2 draft. I just want to close this story out in its current form. I’m not sure what that word count will look like, and it’s not important. I want to put a pin in this story before returning to Legacy in earnest.
  3. Read three books. Same same. I already have one book nearly complete, and I’m eyeing my next choice.
  4. Exercise three times per week. On top of more general stretching, which should really be a daily routine for me at this point.

Steve D