I’m always impressed when I get fundraising letters from friends who are walking from San Francisco to LA, or snowshoeing across a tundra, or finishing their first marathon, all in support of a worthy cause. I am a sucker for those requests because I have yet to find the BLANK-a-thon or the cause that would coax me to commit that much of my own time and energy, especially in a sporting endeavor in which I undoubtedly have no talent. Easier to just write a check.
Tomorrow is the first ever National Readathon Day, organized by Penguin Random House and the National Book Foundation. From the website:
- NRD is a nation-wide marathon reading session on Saturday, January 24 from Noon – 4pm (in respective time zones)
– You can share your love of books and support programs that promote reading by pledging to read and fundraising for the National Book Foundation
– It’s like a walk-a-thon charity drive, but we’re turning pages instead of walking laps.
Turning pages instead of walking laps? On a Saturday afternoon for four hours? I have been training for this my entire life.
I have loved reading since I first memorized the Little Golden Book version of Jack Sprat at age 4 and read (recited it) confidently to my mom, who made a huge fuss over what an early reader I was and cemented “good reader” as a centerline of my identity. I read fiction, non fiction, YA, mystery, blogs, cookbooks, the back of cereal boxes, and the “guess the ailment” column in the Sunday New York Times magazine. I cannot imagine how empty my life would be, how much dumber I would be, really, if I weren’t reading all the time. I dream of putting a book out into the world that will affect people the way that good books affect me, taking me for a few hours or days out of my regular world and plunging me into a new understanding of someone else’s.
Still, life is busy and the number of books on my Goodreads “Want to Read” list is six times longer than I can reasonably get to in the next five years. Especially when I’m so easily distracted by Buzzfeed lists and videos of cops lip-synching Taylor Swift songs. I think I still read as many words, but I know I read less longform work since the iPhone was invented.
But I still have it in me. When we were on vacation in December and my only daily responsibilities were to show up and be fed, I powered through three novels in seven days. It was glorious. I was drunk with words, proud of turning the last page on each one, this close to calling my mom and bragging about what a good reader I am.
So I’m going all in on National Readathon Day. I’m turning off my phone and parking in my living room from noon-4 with “The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller” by John Truby (a gift from my friend Heather.) Because so many published authors have recommended this book to me and because…and I’m shuddering even as I type this…I think I have to rewrite my completed midlife music crisis memoir as fiction if I’m ever going to give it the dramatic arc it needs to find a publisher.
Put plainly, Mama just ain’t got enough drama. So I need to see if freeing myself from the constraints of what really happened (since I don’t want to get into James Frey territory) will let me write a more compelling story, even if it means starting over from scratch. (She said weakly, from her position crumpled on the floor.) Maybe four hours of Truby will help my confidence with the task at hand.
If nothing else, four hours on a couch reading will make a regular January weekend feel like a little vacation. Join me?
You can sign up for NRD here, and donate to support the National Book Foundation’s program. But I’ve decided to stay local and make a donation to Oakland 2020, which supports classroom literacy projects here in Oakland via matching grants on DonorsChoose.org. I pitched in for a Community Carpet and chapter books for middle grade readers. Join me in that, too?
Happy National Readathon Day, everyone. May your books be fabulous and your papercuts few. What are you going to read?
Just replace “Can you read my mind?” with “Can I read my book?” and you’ve got yourself a theme song.