Reading When Writing Ebbs


In the last few days I’ve been glad to see posts from other writers on the process of finding it hard to write and working it through. This happens for me too. It often happens after things are going well, when I’ve begun to feel like I am getting an idea of how writing might work for me.

Oriah Mountain Dreamer wrote about Feeling What We’re Avoiding  and Jen Loudon asked Do You Have To Burn Out? Both posts comforted me as I negotiated the latest ebb in my writing flow.

One of the things I realized after reading them was that I was getting a bit pushy with myself about what I would post here. Today it feels like maybe it’s time for a stroll through the everyday rather than a forced march along the edge.

March 6th was Reading Aloud Day. I love reading aloud. My mother read Black Beauty and Heidi to me, and my grandmother read dozens of fairy tale books aloud before I was five, so my love started early. I once convinced classmates to take a day and read Let Us Now Praise Famous Men , the classic by James Agee and Walker Evans, aloud. We read to each other for about ten hours, handing off the book when our voices tired. It was an intense experience. Now I wonder if I would have been able to read the whole thing by myself. Later I read Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient aloud to myself for the beauty of the language. Now I often read passages from books aloud.

When I experience a writing ebb I read even more than usual. Mysteries have taken me out of the everyday and into a new set of puzzles since I first discovered Agatha Christie as a twelve year old. Today, I am a fan of Jacqueline Winspear’s mysteries about Maisie Dobbs.  Maisie is a fascinating character who begins as an English house maid, becomes a World War I nurse, and transitions to detective. The era is rich with themes that resonate with our own age of profound changes.

I am fascinated by the period from just before World War I thru World War II so I was delighted to find Charles Todd, a mother-son writing team, who have written a slew of good mysteries set in that era. I started with the Bess Crawford mysteries because Bess is a World War I nurse too. The first of the series is  A Duty to the Dead.

Another group of mysteries set in this period, this time in India during the last days of the British Raj, are by Barbara Cleverly. The Last Kashmiri Rose introduces Joe Sandilands, late of the Western Front, now in India. Cleverly also has a series that has an echo of Agatha Christie’s real life. In The Tomb of Zeus  she introduces Laetitia Talbot, a young English woman who wants to become an archaeologist. Set on Crete in 1928, the book gives us a view of the world between the wars from another part of the world .

It’s still raining in Vancouver; great weather for a mystery and a cup of tea.

Join the conversation: Do you ever read aloud? What are your read-aloud favourites? What are your mystery picks?



  1. Hi, Lynn. It’s nice to meet you and your thoughtful website. Your post reminds me how much I love to read aloud and how fun it would be to do more of it. I sometimes read what I’m in the process of writing aloud, but I hadn’t thought of reading aloud to myself in general until you suggested it. Great idea! That keeps me from lamenting not having more people to read aloud to. … As for read-aloud favourites, off the top of my head: Stories from the Vinyl Cafe (Stuart McLean), any of the Jeeves stories (P.G. Wodehouse), Origin (a novel by Diana Abu-Jaber), Lives of the Saints (a novel about the South by Nancy Lemann), “The Other Side of the Hedge” (short story by E.M. Forster in The Celestial Omnibus), and anything by David Sedaris. Thanks again, Grace

  2. My friend, another writer, suggested I take a look at your site, The Writer’s Shepherd yesterday. I look forward to exploring the rich content. I appreciate your taking the time to look at my website and comment. It’s exciting to hear from another writer! I read my in-progress writing aloud too, and always find something new that I hear, but didn’t see when reading silently. Thanks too for the suggestions for reading aloud.

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