At the beginning of each middle school and high school writing class, I ask my students:
“If writing were a food, what kind of food would it be and why?”
Here are some answers I’ve received:
- Writing is like spinach. It’s good for me but I hate it.
- Writing is like pizza. I enjoy it but it depends on the toppings.
- Writing is like lasagna. It has a lot of layers that have to be put in just right.
- Writing is like inventing a new soup recipe. You experiment with a dash of this and a dash of that and you have no idea how it’s going to turn out. Sometimes it needs to cook for a long time to blend the flavors.
- Writing is like mashed potatoes. It’s bland until you add salt, pepper, and butter.
- Writing is like tacos. You can fill it with different things and spice it up the way you want.
- Writing is like chips and salsa. You dip ideas into spicy words and eat as many as you want.
This is a fun way to learn my students’ attitudes toward writing, right off the bat, and to determine what kind of challenge I’m in for.
How would you answer that question in regard to reading fiction?
If reading fiction were a food, what kind of food would it be and why?
That’s not so far-fetched. When we read literature, we’re tasting, swallowing, ingesting, and digesting a story. A good story provides food for thought. It nourishes us.
Which reading/food metaphor works for you? Steak, French fries, chips & salsa, a loaded baked potato, broccoli, blueberry pie . . . I’d love to know! Reply below in the comments.
As Thomas Jefferson said, “I cannot live without books.” I concur, whether fiction or non-fiction. Especially novels.
Author Barry Lopez would agree. He said,
“If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.”
Consider this blog as a place where I’m giving away stories from a variety of authors. A story cafe, if you will, called Standout Stories–serving the best titles, both savory and sweet.
I’ll share titles of stories that impacted me, ones I’ve enjoyed and can heartily recommend. Ones that take time to chew, and leave you satisfied.
I’ll serve out stories that “redeem the years the locusts ate.” Stories that produce a bumper crop of hope, second chances, or redemption.
So what can you expect here?
- Book reviews–my own perspective on a Standout Story. Weekly to start with. Twice monthly beginning February 2022
- Author interviews
What kind of fiction?
- My favorites: primarily historical fiction from various time periods, and some contemporary
- Books aimed at adults, mainly women with similar tastes, but men are more than welcome here
- Some CBA-approved (Christian Bookseller Association) and some general market
- Mainstream, upmarket, or literary–no science fiction, horror, superheroes, or thrillers but maybe some suspense or cozy mysteries
- Books by mid-list authors as well as newer ones, bestsellers, and award winners
- Books released in the last five years (mostly), and some new releases. A good story is worth reading anytime.
- Multi-layered stories with depth and well-drawn characters, complex family dynamics, complicated relationships–not just action-packed “hold on to your hat” plot lines
- Stories that embrace hope, that in some way “redeem the years the locusts ate.” They must either 1) espouse a Christian worldview without being sappy and superficial, or 2) have worthwhile themes that hold their own despite a conflicting worldview
- Perhaps some romance as a bonus, but not necessarily the main course
To give you an idea of my tastes, my all-time favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. It embodies complex characters and relationships, challenging themes, a historical setting, and a plot that builds to a dramatic and rewarding finish. Plus, it offers food for thought.
At my Standout Stories Cafe, To Kill A Mockingbird would be listed as an entree and Specialty of the Day.
“A book is a garden, an orchard, a storehouse, a party, a company by the way,
a counsellor, a multitude of counsellors.” ~Henry Ward Beecher
For my purposes, and fitting with the food/fiction metaphor, a book is also the pantry and the refrigerator–where you go for sustenance. In that vein, here are the criteria for my consideration in reviewing each book:
MEAT: Can you sink your teeth into this story? Does it have substance as well as style? Is it more than just sizzle? This is the overall effect, how the story unfolds as the premise develops into plot and theme. Does it challenge our thinking and our safe assumptions?
SALAD & VEGETABLES: Is this story life-giving and nutritious? Do we walk away from it nourished?
SOUP: This is no simple bowl of broth. Whether it’s full of rice, noodles, veggies, beans, or chunks of meat, is there a satisfying and savory mix of plot elements, setting, and characters with enough spices to make us keep on going? Is there rich imagery that draws us in, making us see, hear, touch, smell, and taste the setting? Can you feel it in your bones?
BREAD: Think 7-grain bread with nuts and seeds–hearty and textured, something crunchy to relish with each bite. Texture is key–like layers of complexity, with well-developed, vibrant characters and complex relationships. Do the dynamics reflect real life and create empathy for people who are different than us?
DESSERT: The Sweetness Factor. Not overdone, but with elements of humor throughout, balancing out the heartier elements so we leave smiling. The icing on the cake is the element of style that enhances the tone and purpose of the story.
“Books let us into their souls and lay open to us
the secrets of our own.” ~William Hazlitt
Granted, every book may not rate high in every single category, but you get the idea. Bottom line? It’s a compelling story and the author is a gifted storyteller.
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Additionally, I invite you to check out the Books page to learn about the re-launch of my first book, All That Is Hidden, set in southern Appalachia in 1968. More on that later.
I’d love to have you join me on this book venture. Make sure you have plenty of tea or cappuccino or whatever you like to drink when you’re reading. Then find your cozy spot and get started.
“You can never get a cup of tea large enough
or a book long enough to suit me.” ~ C.S. Lewis
Which food/fiction/reading metaphor works for you and why?
Fill in the blank: Reading a novel is like eating _________ because ____________.
Please reply below. I’d love to hear from you!
Then go here for the first book review and author interview.
P.S. Check out previous author interviews on my Journey to Imagination blog:
Gary D. Schmidt–May, 2019–Young Adult
- Gary D. Schmidt–Remember who you are, Part 1
- Gary D. Schmidt–Remember who you are, Part 2
- Gary D. Schmidt–Remember who you are, Part 3
Liz Tolsma–April 5, 2018–Historical Fiction–World War II
Barbara Britton–June 11, 2018–Biblical Fiction
Barb & Liz–June 14, 2018
Anita Klumpers–April 13, 2020–Contemporary Romance
Angelica Shirley Carpenter–August 2020–Non-fiction Biography