Virginia Woolf

I am the Common Reader: Virginia Woolf on pleasure, reading, & the survival of literature

Despite her knowledge of Greek and her voracious reading of the classics, Virginia Woolf considered herself a self-taught reader. As a woman, she had been denied the illustrious Oxford education that the men in her family enjoyed. As it turns out, her lack of affectation, her insistence on taking pleasure in reading, is what makes her essays on literature so lucid, smart, and delicious to read.

Reviewing The Essays of Virginia Woolf, Volume 6: 1933-1941, for the December issue of The Atlantic Monthly, Benjamin Schwarz notes that, despite Woolf’s place in “the highest stratum of the English intellectual aristocracy,” her essays were written not for the academic but for the common reader, the category in which she rather modestly placed herself. The common reader, she posited, “reads for his own pleasure rather than to impart knowledge or correct the opinions of others.”

Here, Schwarz excerpts Woolf’s essay “Hours in a Library”:

A reader must check the desire for learning at the outset; if knowledge sticks to him well and good, but to go in pursuit of it, to read on a system, to become a specialist or an authority, is very apt to kill…the more humane passion for pure and disinterested reading. The true reader is a man of intense curiosity; of ideas; open-minded and communicative, to whom eating is more the nature of brisk exercise in the open wire than of a sheltered study.

For all of her wealth and status–the very condition that allowed her the coveted room of one’s own–Woolf also believed passionatelym Schwarz notes, in the democracy of reading, as evidenced in her essay “The Leaning Tower.”

Literature is no one’s private ground; literature is common ground.

Woolf’s prescription for the survival of literature, which might have ruffled feathers in her time, is no less meaningful today. Literature will survive, she wrote,

if commoners and outsiders like ourselves make that country our own country…teach ourselves how to read and how to write, how to preserve and how to create. (more…)

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Best website plugins for authors & writers

Perhaps the number one way to engage with visitors to your website is to include a highly visible opt-in form that allows readers to sign up for updates or a newsletter. Blogging experts say that email lists beat out every form of social networking. Why? When someone follows you on twitter, they make no commitment. They may or may not be on Twitter when you make a post, and Twitter users often scroll very quickly through updates. Likewise with Facebook. Someone who likes your facebook fan page may visit it only once. The beauty of an email list is that readers have chosen to opt in. They have provided their email address to you, which means they are interested in what you have to say.

I’ve tested a number of plugins for opt in forms, and the one I’m happiest with by far is OptinSkin. Not only is it easy and pretty, it also has proven to be very successful at generating signups. On my first day using it, I had 33 signups. Prior to installing it, I’d had a signup form on my site for years and had never gotten more than a hundred subscribers, total.

I think the success has to do with the fact that OptinSkin just looks prettier and is far more visible. It’s very easy to set up, and can be used in sidebar widgets, in posts, in pages, or as a popup. The big rectangular box at the bottom of this post is an optin skin. So is the small signup box to the right of the first paragraph in this post. I also use optin skin on my author website to do a monthly book giveaway. See it in action at

Get OptinSkin here.

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Better in French

Why does everything sound better in French? I came across this charming youtube video of a French reader reviewing Le R’eve D’Amanda Ruth, the French translation of Dream of the Blue Room. (I love the French title, which translates as The Dream of Amanda Ruth.) My high school and college English isn’t intact enough for me to know if she actually enjoyed the book, but it’s so much fun to watch her holding my book up, I’m posting it anyway! The youtube user is Frenchorchidea, and she has more than a hundred video reviews of books.

And here is one of L’annee brouillard, the French translation of The Year of Fog, by the same reviewer a few years ago.

All three of my novels were published in France by Buchet Chastel and translated by the wonderful Sophie Aslanides.

And here’s an adorable review by a young American reader reviewing some of her favorite books. Thanks, youtuber thisbeangelikaa!

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Jesse Lewis

Jesse McCord Lewis was an amazing child, full of light and love that was unmistakable in his presence. He brought joy to the world with his infectious and radiant smile. He was smart and compassionate beyond his years. Jesse died bravely trying to lead other children to safety. He ran into the hallway to help when he heard the shots. In our hearts we already knew because that was the way he lived his life – fearless, full of courage and strength.
We take comfort in knowing what a brave child he was. His actions were consistent with the way he lived his life; passionately embracing everything, a perfect combination of courage and faith, like a little soldier, his favorite toy. The love we shared was abundant and all encompassing. He slept in his mother’s arms almost every night of his precious life, with her thanking God for him.

Read Jesse Lewis’s full obituary.


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Allison Wyatt & Benjamin Wheeler

Benjamin Andrew Wheeler“didn’t walk anywhere. He ran,” grandfather Carmen Lobis told Digital First Media. Wheeler, 6, loved soccer, swimming and had recently played piano at a performance. According to his obituary, he told his mother on Friday morning that he wanted to be an architect, but that he also wanted to be a paleontologist because “that’s what [my older brother] Nate is going to be and I want to do everything Nate does.”

Wheeler’s mother, Francine, said that her son always blew kisses to his family, saying: “Catch it and put it in your heart.”

His funeral was scheduled for 11 a.m. at the Trinity Episcopal Church in Newtown.

Allison Wyatt’s parents say their little girl made their home look like an art studio. They told NBC that the 6-year-old wanted to be an artist and would tape her work on walls all around the house.

Wyatt “loved to laugh” and came up “with observations that more than once had us crying with laughter,” her family wrote in a statement. The girl is also remembered for “random acts of kindness — once even offering snacks to a complete stranger on a plane.”

via Huffington Post

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