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May 21, 2007



I concur, although I'd prefer a well-written budget report over a flaccid melodrama. The Hi/Lo, high interest, low reading level market is great, but I find it useless, since the way a story is told can affect the overall impact. If you have great ideas written badly, it is rendered obsolete by the style in which it is displayed.


I totally agree, and finding the balance can be hard. Usually I prefer the literary more than the popular but sometimes...it's best when there's a balance.


Shannon, I think your writing fits that medium. I've gotten more and more critical of writing in books, and find that there are few out there I enjoy as much as yours. The effort you put into it is noticeable to weirdos like me who go crazy for perfect writing, and to those who are less concerned with that than with plot. Which I also like. In any case, you should know that your writing, in my opinion, fits both worlds.


I must say, that was very interesting. I vary my reading habits; from Austen to Cabot (blushes). Although I do watch American Idol!

Emily M.

There are many books I can't enjoy now because the writing is just too sloppy. The sad thing is, a good editor and a few more revisions could really fix the problems. I just read a couple of books that I wish I'd read when I was thirteen (no offense to any 13-year-olds reading). I would have loved them. As it was, I couldn't turn off the critical voice in my head enough to enjoy the excellent plotting.

Enna Isilee

I don't really know what to say. That entry was a little too deep for me after a hard day at school. Mozart? What huh?

But I think that your writing appeals to most audiences. I say most only because I don't know many boys/men that read your books. But EVERY one I know that has read your books, LOVES them. I didn't think that I would ever read your books. They just didn't seem like me. But then I met you so I decided to give it a try. I was in love instantly, what it was exactly that pulled me in I don't know. But it really suited me. And some people who love it as well are nothing like me and it suited them too.


Yeah, varied reading makes a cultured person. I read Meg Cabot's Princess Diaries as well. And don't think Pride and Prejudice isn't a bedside fav also. Oh, and don't forget the greats like London, Thoreau, and...Hale!!


Hmmm.. why aren't the emails displayed anymore??? Has anyone else noticed that?


I think it's just for more of a privacy thing. Do you really want strangers knowing your email address?

Marcus Aurelius

It's funny. I just finished reading a little essay about the Golden Mean by that *other* Alex Ross. (Okay, it's not really that funny.) What a wacky world we live in, where so many creative endeavors overlap in approach and methodology. (I read the paragraph following your excerpt, about Mozart not being the idiot savant some have taken him for, but rather someone who refined his work to an "almost manic degree". Makes me feel a little better to think that most of anything I've done that I've felt any kind of satisfaction toward has always been something of a chore to produce.)

I think it's rare for me to find anything that is entirely satisfying. I'm not really that harsh of a critic and I'm very easy to please, but I've rarely come away from something with my socks completely blown off. I do think there's a sort of a bell curve when it comes to the execution of artistic efforts (both from the artist AND the audience), and managing that perfect mix of technique and vision is incredibly difficult. I don't think that ever means the same thing to anyone. Sometimes, with my inscrutable sensiblities, it even means a different thing to me from day to day. :P

I think it's easy to fall to either extreme of the curve, to hide the difficulties of meaningful communication under the mantle of the erudite and esoteric artiste whose work is so obscure and recondite that we of the hoi polloi will never be able to wring a drop of pleasure from it, or the crass and churlish clown whose pandering to the lowest common denominator strips their work of any lasting value. It makes me happy to see folks who are willing to struggle and sweat to produce something of meaning, something that endeavors to edify as well as entertain.

Very much, I suppose, in the manner that this post HASN'T...

Sorry. I'll shut up now.

Anyway, thanks for all your hard work. It's why we love you. (That, and your dyna-MITE sense of fashion.) Keep on truckin'.


I have a crazy reading diet. CRAZY. I'm reading Sharon Creech, Eva Rice, and Niccolo Machialveli. All today. My mind is bouncing from this to that and back again. But that's what I love. The perfect balance of influence. I am content this way.


I feel crazy when it comes to reading. My class is reading a Dear America book and it is so boring. I love history and all but when your classmates are readng it to you and you can't hear them or understand what they are saying. It's hard to get into it. Plus you have to fill out study guides. Right now I am reading Pants on Fire by Meg Cabot. That is an entertaining book! Bye the way, has anyone read the The Giver? I think that is a wonderfully written and exciting book.


I'm a bit like Burning. I'm reading mostly fantasy, but then there is the hard core stuff (i.e. Victor Davis Hanson, Jared Diamond, Alexandre Dumas, Plato) I read mostly of my own volition.


Boys don't read them very much because they are mostly about princesses and brave girls without weapons. RIVER SECRETS might be enjoyed by males, but then again, some boys may find the kerfuffle over Dasha "too mushy". However, not all boys dislike them, nor do all boys find discomfort in reading them. However, you must remember that girls often read more than men anyway.


How come it is on Pacific time zone when they say what time you posted your comment? Sorry, dumb question. I just want to know.


I think the "golden mean" is relative. It is different for each person. For instance, my personal opinion is that "War and Peace" is THE perfect novel. Most people think I'm crazy.
As to Mozart, everybody may enjoy him, but as far as playing his music, I prefer to play the more complex composers. Music is more enjoyable when you have to decipher it. I find the same thing with reading.
And I think Mozart would have been a big fan of American Idol (I'm not)--he was a ham. :)


I'm glad I'm not the only one who auto-edits when reading! Awkward phrasing drives me nuts when I'm reading sometimes, and I can't help thinking, "Why didn't someone spot this???"

The Mozart bit was interesting. Thank you for blogging about interesting stuff, not your run-of-the-mill-I-must-blog-about-nonesense-for-blogging's-sake type of stuff. Your blog is always enlightening. :)

Marcus- is that actually your name or do your parents have a love of history? (Marcus Aurelius was a Roman emperor, for those who aren't recalling.)


Lauren- you're probably talking about my phrasing. (sighs) Oh well, my life is horrible anyway. I am going to go hide now.


Very interesting, Shannon. Personally I am a bit in favor of enjoyable books. However, they must have a heart. The author must have really meant it. My favorite books are The Once and Future King and The Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh. And of course, anything by you. I'm a fan of several other fantasy series, mainly Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Eragon.


I'm really surprised, I'm reading the Once and Future King for school and I actually kind of like it. I'm the only person in my class who's still reading it, everyone else is addicted to SparkNotes. The Motzart thing was interesting, but a little too deep for me right now. I'm kind of really tired. Sorry, this was kind of a worthless post :)


Wow, I just reread that and talk about awkward phrasing. try to keep your auto-edits to a minimum. Oops. I spelled Mozart wrong too. Time to go to sleep; my brain isn't functioning right now.


Thank you, thank you, Shannon, for posting an entry compelling enough to lure Marcus Aurelius out of hiding. I've missed your comments, Marcus. I don't think we've seen you around here since the discussion on women's suffrage. (Your subsequent absence is just a coincidence, I assume.)

And thank you, too, Shannon for demonstrating that authors are not limited to just two choices: erudition or inanity. (Though for some, it's not really a choice, I suspect.)

There are plenty of scholarly people who enjoy your entertaining tales, and there are many less-sophisticated readers who benefit from being exposed to your masterful writing. Your books satisfy both camps.

And all the little campsites in between.

Where my tent is pitched.


No worries, Panda. I meant I auto-edit books, newspapers, magazines, etc. Not comments on Shannon's blog. :)

Callie the Strongbad Fan

Great insight Shannon! One thing that I really disliked in my English classes in both high school and college is that the literary word assigns students to read literature that has no entertainment value whatsoever. The story was written with the purpose of experimenting with literary style and teaching some message, like Arthur Miller, William Faulkner, and Albert Camus (just to name a few of my least favorites). And that is one reason why students end up being discouraged from reading and fail to develop a love for reading. It seems to me that literary scholars (who I like to call literary snoots) think that entertaining popular fiction can't hold literature value. They would never recognize you Shannon, or my other favorite authors, to name a few include JK Rowling, Lois Lowry, and Katherine Paterson, for their literary value, even though they deserve it, because they write for entertainment and not with a complicated style that people have to analyze and study to appreciate. This reminds me again of what Orson Scott Card said about the problems with Elitism.


Thanks for the great Mozart info! That's exactly how I feel about writing -- and my experience in school was much like yours; I followed a trajectory from classics snob to being much more interested in story and fun and page-turniness. Now I seek out "the golden mean," in reading AND writing. Great way of putting it!

Megan G.

And that is why I LOVE your (Shannon's) recommended reading list. I read Like Water for Chocolate and a few others from the list and loved them because they offered story as well as intellectual stimulation. Another book that I'd recommend is The History of Love by Nicole Krauss (but keep in mind, it has more adult themes and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone younger than high school. Maybe even college).


I like to think of the reading camps like food. There is junk food, which is fun to snack on but doesn't really leave you satisfied. There is health food, which is better for you but maybe not so fun to eat. And then sometimes you have a Sunday dinner or the like with a great main course (plot and characters) and lots of flavorful side dishes to accompany it (word choice and style, etc). We had one two days ago with this amazing salmon and sides of cheesy potatoes, green beans, sweet corn, soft dinner rolls, etc--the kind of meal where you have to keep circling your plate taking a bite of each thing because it all tastes so good. To me, a perfect novel is like that: where my mind is constantly being drawn to the next thing--the phrasing of this sentence, then a brilliant indication of character, then a powerful scene. I need all of it together to feel satisfied.


This might be too generalized an observation, but I have noticed to some extent that the authors who don't spend a lot of time revising (which Shannon spends most of her time on) are the ones whose language doesn't inspire me so much. I can think of one particular currently popular author who finished his first draft a few weeks ago and has already turned in the final revisions for copy editing--not someone whose book I'm excited to read.


Wow. I feel so intimidated now, like my comments are stupid. Which they are.
My mom has always told me that some books were like Strawberry Blasts (a wonderful cold ice drink at a local coffeeshop) and some books were like a meat-and-potatoes meal--meaning, of course that some books are going to be easy and fun to read, while others might be enjoyable but will be a lot harder. (She's always trying to get me to read classics and things like Oliver Twist instead of reading so much fiction. Because I do read a lot of fiction-a lot.) I personally enjoy the Strawberry Blasts more than the meat and potatoes. So.
I'm very drained. I've been writing a new story, and starting new things are always very hard for me. I've never written a beginning of anything that I didn't rewrite more than than the rest of the story--and I've never been completely happy with my beginnings anyway. My ideas for stories tend to be ideas for the middle of the story and the end--not the beginning. Writing would be a lot easier if I could write good beginnings,if the start of the story just popped up in my mind as if I was reading it. but then I probably wouldn't be happy with them anyway. So I guess I'd better just grin and bear my load.

Marcus Aurelius

Lauren- My mom is really the only one who calls me Marcus. She wanted to name me Torbjörn, but my dad couldn't pronounce it. He wound up naming me "Mark" in the safety of our church meeting (much to my mom's horror- "mark" is Swedish for "soil" [the noun, not the verb, but still...]). A friend of mine added "Aurelius" to my mom's "Marcus" a few years ago, and I'm still looking into what it'll take to get someone to add on an "Antoninus Augustus". Maybe if I start a little something with the Costoboci in Macedonia... Hmmm. Note to self...

Laura- Howdy! Sorry for my lack of posting (Golly, it *has* been clear since the month of sassitude!) It certainly hasn't been due to a lack of interest, though. We have a weird filter on our network here at work that sometimes won't let me onto Squeetus at all (which denies me access on the grounds that "oinks.squeetus.com" falls into the catogorization of "Arts/Entertainment/Games" which has been deemed unacceptable content by Human Resources. Roll eyes here.), or it lets me on but won't allow me to post. Then, every once in a while it goes all seditious on me and lets me go anywhere and do anything I want. It's hard on me, 'cause now that The Hales have moved so far away, ofttimes the only interaction I get with those crazy-heads is through Squeetus and Dreadcrumbs. And Max and Mags can't even type yet!

My life is harder than anyone should be forced to bear. I think it's time to listen to country/western (the music of pain) and cry myself to sleep on my enormous pillow.


The happy-medium principle. If only everyone would pay attention to it :D. It's so hard to find beautiful language and a nice plot. Some people can find it, such as you, Shannon, and Jane Austen. Hers are the classics you love to read, because there is that humor.


I find it comopletely delightful (oh yes, I just used that word!)that we all have very, VERY similar reading interests outside of Shannon's books. But then everyone has their own little category or series that they read that no one else really has. I'm reading The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets for the amazing second time. I absolutely had to reread it after I Capture the Castle. It's very similar, as long as you can stomach a lot of alcohol and smoking. Ha. But really...


I agree. I'm an English major, and I read two sorts of books--books that written well, and books that I enjoy. And then there are the few that cross into both categories, and those are my favorite books.

Shannon's books are in both categories.


err, I'm glad I'm still just a kid because I can enjoy rip-roaring adventures in whatever language.


I think that it would be really cool if Shannon's website had message boards. You know, where you can discuaa Shannon's books. There can also be forums for other books, literacy fiction, classics,etc. Basically, everything we discuss here. I think that would be really fun.

Just a suggestion.


Panda, have you visited
http://www.littleredreadinghood.com ?

It may be just what you are looking for.

And more.


I think hwalk has got the right idea. There are books you read to make you happy, and books you read for the experience.

Enna Isilee

Panda LittleRed has just what you need.

And I just thought that I'd mention that my grandma started reading TGG yesterday and she can't put it down. She keeps telling me "This is so good" she even said "This is better than Twilight" high praise indeed. And I wholeheartedly agree.

Watch out Shannon, soon you'll be having a "Bayern Prom"

Laurel Snyder

Yeah, I think about this ALL the time. I feel like I have a big on my shoulder about it-- the "literary" vs. "popular" debate.

I did my MFA in poetry (was actually told by a fellow student that if I "wasn't addressing postmodernism in the age of Ashbery I shouldn't bother to write), but now write mostly picture books and middle-grades.

And while I seek to blend the craft lessons I learned in poetry-land into my books, and while I LOVE and believe in children's writing wholly, I can't quite get over my hangups about "dumbing things down.

But I haven't really thought about the middle ground much, because for me the genre divide makes me polarize the issue into a poetry-kiddielit issue.

Though you're totally right! That's what it is. I want to write books that are readable, fun, accesible, human. But I want to make them worth having written. I want them to stand the test of time, speak to universal themes, rely on really strong language and innovation too.

Ach! Sorry I'm ranting and rambling, but this was really good for me to read. I'll check your blog more often!

Thank you...

Laurel Snyder



First off, now I'm afraid to post due to the fact that I am NOT a writer, and therefore my intellectual content may be ignored for my poor writing skills. Sorry!
However, I did want to say that "the golden mean" is a phrase used in almost all of the arts. We talked about it all the time in theater and then when I changed my major to photography it followed me there too.
Every artist is faced with living with their own style and passion and creating something that everyone one else can love also. There were some artist's in Russia that did a study on what the perfect painting would be they did surveys on everything from the most popular colors to the most popular subject matter. And then they made paintings from the most popular responses. Even though the paintings were technically well done and they followed the popular answers exactly, they were boring, common looking, and not something that anyone wanted to buy in the end.
My point is as an artist, writer, musician we have to follow our heart and hope that someone can appreciate it, not the other way around. Catering to the masses only creates mediocre work at best. It's only when we are true to ourselves that we can truly connect with someone else. And that is what Mozart did. He may have edited and edited his work but it was to make himself happy with it first and then the critics and the "everyman", not the other way around.
I think that your work is similar. I'm guessing you edit and re-edit so that you, yourself can be happy with the story and the language and not so that a critic can praise your choices of words. And it's because of your heart and your passion that so many readers are able to connect to your wonderfully delightful stories.


Well said, Candice. You *could* be a writer, I think.


this isn't working!


oh.. now it is! the TypeKey thingy wasn't working earlier. guess it is now!!! yea :D


You don't have to have a TypePad account to post. I don't have one.


By the way, I am eagerly awaiting the next edition of The Squeeter Pig. When is it coming out?

Adam Haver

Isn't that what Christ did? He taught in parables that were layered so that unbelievers and mockers could only understand the simple outer meaning, while only the spiritually minded could percieve the deeper and more important meaning? I think he was the master at "The Golden Mean".

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