Summer Reads Feed the Writer Within

I am working my way through a host of books across the summer…
I started out with Natalie Goldberg’s ‘Old Friend from Far Away’ which is adding to my knowledge of memoir writing. Natalie Goldbeg says to memoir we must know how to remember and to assist the reader to improve memory she provides timed and associative exercises to guide writing development around memoir. A great book if you are considering committing part of your life story to paper.

I am also reading ‘Beyond Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue' by Benjamin Green. Again, this is a practical guide to assisting students to write free verse. Green writes with a comfortable voice and guides the reader through a series of exercises aimed at helping students create high quality poems. I see this as a teacher resource book where ideas could be adopted, modified and presented. I am always a little wary of books that present a step by step process for writing, -poetry in particular, but the structure provides does provide support for those teachers who find teaching poetry a challenge.

Keri Smith’s, 'How to Be An Explorer of the World' is an exciting collection of possibilities for documenting your interactions with the world. It’s a dip into kind of book containing pages dripping with potential projects to pursue. The artist in me loves this book. It challenges the imagination and sparks thought with sixty explorations to consider from people watching to finding words; from found paper art creations to documenting differences. This book is for those of us with harvester hearts.

I am reading Michael Rosen’s picture story book, ‘Sad Book.’ Rosen writes with total honesty about his thinking following the death of his son Eddie. Rosen writes about his sadness, how it affects him and the things he does to cope with his emotional state. A very personal story is shared with sensitivity. It speaks truthfully to readers of all ages. I can imagine this book becoming a mentor text when discussing the emotional heart of the writer.

Rosen writes, ‘Sometimes I’m sad and I don’t know why. It’s just a cloud that comes along and covers me up. It’s not because Eddie’s gone. It’s not because my mum’s gone. It’s just because.’

Michael Rosen has been a favourite poet of mine for many years. His poetry makes a perfect fit with my need for humour. That’s what makes this book all the more important to me. Rosen is taking me in the opposite direction emotionally, but the level of trust is strong so I feel like I need to listen and learn from his experience. The full gamut of emotion has been bridged. It is easy to be moved by the honesty of the writer's experience. I felt like I knew Eddie through the poet's earlier work that focused on Eddie's formative years. I shared this book with two of my grandchildren. They listened with great intent, raised numerous questions and asked me to read it again. Now, that's a great review.

My final book arrived as a Christmas gift, - Paul Kelly’s ‘How to Make Gravy.’ The master Australian born song writer and story teller has written a weighty memoir. Using the lyric lines from his songs, Kelly tells the stories of his life including the art of songwriting. This book provides what the indigenous people call songlines. The book is an exploration of big and little things in life.

All these books provide insights. They sustain me as both reader and writer. The words wash over; soaking into me. I am the sum of all my reading. Curing my ignorance is an on going quest.

I’m always telling students you can’t be a writer unless you’re a reader. You can’t be a reader unless you’re a thinker. I’m trying to put that into action as summer unfolds. Afterall, I don’t want that summer drop off in my reading levels.


  1. It sounds like you've had a great start to your summer reading list. "The words wash over; soaking into me." I love this sentence and the feeling I get when I read it. You've given me some titles to search out and read, thanks!


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