Monday, January 25, 2010

Pleasant Conversation for Readers and Writers

by Julia Buckley
I'm teaching a speech class this semester, and one of the things students are encouraged to do as a warm-up is called the impromptu speech. They must select a topic from a randomly-generated list and then talk about it for a couple of minutes. It's harder than it sounds, especially when one must do it in front of a room full of people. Still, it gets the speaker used to speaking.

As I was researching various impromptu ideas and "conversation starters" on the web, I realized that the most ridiculous sounding questions can often inspire the most interesting discussions. So I trolled through items like "Have you ever eaten guacamole?" and "What was your best Halloween costume?"

I realized, too, that there could be very specialized questions just for readers and writers that could have them chatting amiably all day. Try some of the questions below and chat with your reading friends--including me!

1. Do you ever choose books based on their covers?

2. Do you fall in love with fictional characters? (Either when you read them or when you write them?)

3. Have you ever stayed up all night to finish a book? (My record is about 3 AM)

4. Do you fantasize about meeting your favorite author?

5. Snacks while reading: yes or no?

6. If yes, what snacks?

7. Do you ever find reading preferable to actual human interaction?

8. Do you read books made of paper or books you can download?

9. When you finish a book, are you pleased to have reached the end, or sad that it's over?

10. What's your favorite children's book?

11. What would be the title of your life story?

12. Which do you take: a free book or a free cheesecake? (It's either/or, you see).

13. Do you prefer hardcover or paperback?

14. Do you tend to read while reclining or sitting upright?

15. What's a book that more people should read?

16. If you had jury duty for a whole day, what book would you take along?

17. If you're reading this blog, you probably love mysteries. What else do you read? Cookbooks? Biographies? Shakespearean drama?

18. What's the last book someone recommended to you? Was it good?

19. If you read in bed, how long do you last before you fall asleep?

20. How long could you last without reading a book?

Granted, this sounds like one of those Facebook quizzes, but it provides some fodder for terrific conversations. At your next tea party for mystery lovers, trot out some of these questions.

OR choose one and answer it here just for fun!

(Art: Tree by Pam Quimby Costello)


kathy d. said...

Wow, what a lot to think about.

1. Do not choose books based on covers, read blurbs. (the photo with this blog would be a beautiful cover)
2. Yes, fall in love with fictional characters I read about
3. Have stayed up till 6 a.m., with a riveting mystery
4. Yes, think of meeting author
5. Yes, snack
6. Fruit, chocolate, tea, crackers, frozen yogurt
7. Yes, sometimes prefer reading to people, when tired or stressed or on overload or need quiet
8. Prefer real paper books
9. Want mysteries to end, other fiction sometimes don't want ending
10. Ramona & Rigsby series
11. Yes, I Did It
12. Prefer free book
13. Prefer hardcover (larger print)
14. In bed sitting
15. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, books by Barbara Kingsolver, Toni Morrison
16. If on jury duty, take a Grisham or Michael Connelly book
17. Read other fiction, memoirs, newspapers
18. A friend loaned me "The Siege," by Stephen White, liked it
19. Don't fall asleep reading
20. Maybe could go one week without a book, but would read mystery blogs and websites, newspapers

Julia Buckley said...

See, now that is interesting! I am amazed, for one thing, that you don't fall asleep while reading in bed. :)

And who is your greatest fictional love affair, Kathy?

Sheila Connolly said...

Great questions! I won't clog up space answering them all, but the first time I stayed up until the wee hours was to finish the last book in The Lord of the Rings. I swear I burst into tears at three o'clock in the morning when the Corsairs of Umbar unfurled their sails...

Ann Elle Altman said...

These are amazing questions. I will have to bookmark your page in case I want to use them sometimes.


Julia Buckley said...

Sheila--great evidence that books are powerful!

Thanks, Ann. Enjoy the conversation. :)

Lonnie Cruse said...

I'm a sucker for book covers. They draw me in or turn me off. If they draw me in, it's hard not to buy the book.

Julia Buckley said...

I've been influenced by covers too, Lonnie.

Sandra Parshall said...

I notice a good cover, of course, but I try not to be influenced by them because I know how hit-or-miss they can be: great cover, lousy book; terrible cover, wonderful book. Writers don't produce the covers. Sales people do. So the cover may have little or nothing to do with the story, and the writer shouldn't be blamed -- or praised -- for what's on the jacket.

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

A couple of these questions are very apt, as I read the post right after finishing and closing--with great sadness that it was over on page 814--Diana Gabaldon's latest Outlander book, An Echo in the Bone. If the one after it were available, I'd have opened it right up and gone on reading. And I've been in love with Jamie Fraser for years. :)

Julia Buckley said...

I have heard so much about those books--they really need to go on the TBR list. Is Jamie Fraser from those books?

Martha said...

The book addiction, lol. The local library had to stay closed from Christmas through new years. I about hyperventilated, lol. Instead I planned very carefully to have enough books to last me. The shelves at the library literary were largely bare. When the place opened again the hard core showed up in droves. I love living in a place where people can't be without books.

kathy d. said...

Hi Julia,

Unparalleled insomnia is the issue with not falling asleep reading, but it also means I can stay up for hours reading, which I do if the book is riveting enough.

Fall in love in general, could just be the Greek family in Middlesex, or the characters in The Prodigal Summer.

Since Robert Parker just passed away, I'd say I like Spenser but there are many characters over the years whom I didn't want to leave or whom I liked a lot.

Love to hear stories about the faithfuls lining up at the library when it opens. My library was closed when I arrived on Monday and will be shut for two more days--panic set in. Then I remembered I have one more Kjell Eriksson to read.

Julia Buckley said...

Martha, that truly is a great community. And it's scary when any library closes, even for the holiday. Makes one fear it won't ever open again.

Kathy, so sorry to hear about the insomnia. I agree about Spenser, but yes, I tend to fall in love with every well-written man in mystery. They all seem to have such managable flaws, if they have flaws at all. :)

kathy d. said...

I do feel sad when characters whom I like as a couple break up, such as V.I. Warshawski's mysterious journalist partner whom I liked; last book they're kaput.

I like Jimmy in Elizabeth Zelvin's books.

Also, what is the picture of that is on the main page with this blog?
As I said, that would be a beautiful book cover with sparse words.

Julia Buckley said...

It is a painting by my colleague, the artist Pamela Quimby. There's a link to her blog at the bottom of the post. You can actually buy that image in her Etsy shop.

Jonz V. Stoneroad said...

I love these kinds of questions and definitely fun to answer!

1. No, the covers may intrigue me but it is the author or the type of story that wins me over every time. I love exploring new authors.

2. I do feel a sense of awe to the characters that I read and write about. The ones I read about are more on an emotional and intellectual level.

3. I'm still working on my novel since the fall of last year since I am a full-time college student, but it is well worth the wait.

4. I have not met my favorite author in person but have chatted with him and exchanged emails on Facebook.

5. Always! Snacks and good music and noise!

6. Anything that is available at the time.

7. About the same.

8.Both are fine.

9. I love when the story reaches its catharsis and wish the writer to produce more their work.

10. Technically it's not really a children's book because of the political themes in it but Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland".

11. "Dance of the Dream Man" he he

12. A free book, I can get my own cheesecake!

13. Paperback is more compact when I am out and about.

14. Reclining.

15. Historicals.

16. Anything by Daniel Silva.

17. Love Greek, Roman, and Asian history books, thrillers, biographies, practically anything that hits me at the same time.

18. This was back in 2004 and it began my writing career. It was a series of books by my favorite author, Michael Nava and my life has began since then.

19. A good half an hour and very relaxed.

20. 8 hours!

Julia Buckley said...

Jonz, I can tell you're a very enthusiastic reader!

Good luck with the book. :)