Reading is Sexy

My husband went out in the windy cold this weekend to take some awesome photos for my blog. I love this one.

Miles run yesterday: 3 (icky, rainy, didn’t-wanna-be-out-in-it run)

Book club meeting I attended last night: 1 (We discussed 2030.)

Words I have written in my novel today: 0

Sometimes you have to hear things over and over and over for the words to sink in.

Sometimes when you hear the words over and over and over, you say words without thinking about them.

Sometimes this is a problem.

When I went on the field trip to Old Salem with my daughter’s fourth grade class recently, I embarrassed her beyond imagination. (A very, very easy thing to do.)

Every single restored home had large signs throughout the building; signs that the girls in my group were able to overlook with daunting regularity.

“Second Floor for Staff Only” placed on a stair riser became: “Oooh! Let’s go upstairs!” And “Private Residence: Do Not Knock” became “Hey! Let’s go in this house! Let me knock!”

I was beginning to wonder whether I was chaperoning juvenile delinquents or illiterates.

Finally, as five girls started to lounge against a stair rail that said, “Do Not Touch,” I yelled out:

“Reading is Sexy!”

My daughter wanted to crawl under an 1800s-era rock.

A few years ago, my husband had seen a bumper sticker–Reading is Sexy–and every time our kids now disregard the printed word, one of us laughs and says, “Reading is Sexy.”

Sexy is apparently a bad word among the fourth grade set.

Blurting out inappropriate words made me realize that all of the things we repeat in our daily lives sink in somewhere in the crevices of our gray matter.

Last weekend, when I was at the writing conference I attend each year, I walked into a “Slushfest” with two friends. Slushfest, for the uninitiated, is where two anonymous, laminated first pages of someone’s novel are thrown up on a screen, and agents riff on why the passage would be something they would consider reading further or not.

After four years at the conference, I was starting to get that apathetic, senioritis feeling. I was tired; I felt I had heard it all before.

An agent we had sat at dinner with the night before then said something that felt like he was talking directly to me: “We have all heard these things before. At times, you may think you don’t need to hear them anymore. But I think it takes many times and ways of hearing things for wisdom to set in.”

I perked up. If only a teacher had said those very same words to me years ago, maybe I would have sat up straighter in my seat; maybe I would be sitting in a swank office somewhere, contemplating string theory.

Or maybe not.

I’ll leave you with words of wisdom gleaned from these experiences:

1. Reading is Sexy.

2. We need to hear important information over and over for it to sink in.

3. Be careful what you tell yourself over and over. You may start to believe it.

What is a helpful mantra for you that has led to success? What have you needed to hear over and over that eventually worked its way into your psyche? Have you ever embarrassed your child beyond belief?

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40 thoughts on “Reading is Sexy

  1. That’s a gorgeous photo – the colours!
    What I like about this post is, having read those others about the school trip and the conference, I can see how events stay with you and gain deeper meaning through time. Lovely!

  2. Carrie Rubin says:

    Repetition breeds retention–I actually use that one quite a bit, which is very apropos to your post today. 🙂

    As for embarrassing my children beyond belief? I try to be cool about things when we’re out in public. Their father is far more likely to embarrass them than me. But when we’re at home? All bets are off…

  3. Sometimes you just have to be ready to hear a thing. You might have heard it before – many times – or not, but today you are
    just in the right “place” to be receptive to it. My thesis adviser used to quote a phrase that kind of says this: “ripeness is all.”

    I can’t think of an instance, but I’m sure I have embarrassed my children. I’ve probably blanked it out.

  4. I always embarrass my kids, well particularly my daughter anyway, it’s obligatory for parents to embarrass their teenage daughters. She once told me off for smiling when I went to pick her up from somewhere! I’m not allowed to do ANYTHING. I wrote a blog post a while ago about how embarrassing I am.

    I have a kind of mantra that is relevant to repetition, it is one that my old acting teacher used to say – ‘Practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect’. i.e. repeatedly doing something doesn’t achieve anything if you’re repeatedly doing it wrong!

  5. jmmcdowell says:

    Hmm, no kids to embarrass, but I do try not to embarrass myself in public—with varying degrees of success.

    And I was so sure I’d understood all the writing advice when I queried my first novel…. While I may understand it more today, I know I still haven’t come close to figuring it all out. And I don’t think I ever will. ; -)

    What a nice husband to go out and take photos for you!

    • annewoodman says:

      I know! I’m very fortunate. ; )

      I guess writing is a continuous learning curve. It probably wouldn’t be much fun anymore if we had it all figured out. At least… that’s what I keep telling myself. ; )

  6. David Gentry says:

    Anne,

    Even greater than usual post!

    You would know much better than I the embarrassing things I said when you were a little younger. But, wait, maybe I am still saying them.

    One of my favorite mantras is something you say after you have done a particularly dumb, stupid, or embarrassing thing: “But I am still an OK person.” At that point, no one may believe that. That is why you say it to yourself.

    Love, Dad

    • annewoodman says:

      Dad,
      Maybe you only say embarrassing things now. ; ) Ha! I don’t remember you or Mom being very embarrassing. I was fairly embarrassment-proof.

      When someone close to me says something embarrassing, I repeat to myself, “They are not me. They are not me.” See? It’s kind of like “I am still an OK person.” Then I let the stuff just bounce right off. ; )

  7. Great funny post, Anne! “Everything works out for the best.” Its taken fifty or so years for his one to sink in, but the older I get, the truer it seems.
    Great photo, too!

  8. robincoyle says:

    I’m sure I’ve embarrassed my kids, but the worst was when my husband pulled out a pair of underwear from his pocket while we were walking as a family to junior high graduation. He put them on his head and said, “Like my hat, Amanda?” She about died. Me too.

    P.S. I think reading is sexy too.

  9. J-Bo says:

    I feel for your daughter, but I love this story. Reading IS sexy, and maybe those 4th graders needed to know it.

  10. David Gentry says:

    I am reminded of the many ways I embarrassed my children frequently–my daughter is a blogger! An expression which says with me is “Tomorrow is another day”. I don’t know how many times I heard Scarlet O’Hara speak those words, since they played Gone With the Wind every day for a year at the bank I worked at in Atlanta.

    Mom

    • annewoodman says:

      Wow! I didn’t know that. I tell myself that, too. It gives a clean slate feel to all the bad stuff that goes down.

      I don’t think I write too much about you embarrassing me… more about me embarrassing myself. And there are a lot of those stories.

  11. I was a corporate trainer (babysitter) for seven years. When I started I was given some advise by an elementary school teacher.

    1) Tell them what you are going teach them.
    2) Show them what you are going to teach them.
    3) Teach them.
    4) Let them touch what you are teaching them.
    5) Have them tell you what you taught them.
    6) Have them show you what you taught them.
    7) Tell them what you taught them.
    8) Show them what you taught them.

    Sounded like rinse and repeat to me but it works.

  12. Ravena Guron says:

    Ha! Love this post! I can just imagine my mum yelling that in front of all my friends. I wouldn’t die of embarrassment though – more of shock! 😀

    I have yet to figure out a mantra, but ONE day… 🙂

  13. Jay Helms says:

    I’ve heard it said that we have to hear things 7 times or read things 7 times before we can lock them into our memory It would be fun to find a way to test this.
    As for embarrassing our kids, now that I’m a little more experienced I think I understand premeditated payback for the ways our kids embarrass us in front of people we want to present a awesome family impression for. Modern Family is the best at portraying this.
    That version of embarrassment is basically harmless and amusing, and may serve as a great lesson for our on whose opinions really matter and are worth our time.

    • annewoodman says:

      Modern Family is wonderfully written… cringe-worthy moments abound, and I can always relate to at least one per episode!

      I guess awesome family impressions are like unicorns… mythical. ; )

  14. #3 – definitely. Self talk is really important, especially for me right now. THANKS! I needed that!

  15. Reading IS sexy, and so IS writing. Being a chaperone for a class is a great investment in both. Fun post with great examples.

  16. Amy Mak says:

    Reading definitely IS sexy. I’ll be sure to keep that mantra tucked in my sleeve and pull it out next time I want to embarrass my children (very easy to do too!) As a mama, I can tell you that it is very true – repetition is the only way to teach anything! As for me, I’m still trying to remember “i before e.” Actually all grammer in general!

    • annewoodman says:

      “I” before “e” except all the rest of the times when it isn’t. ; )

      Repetition: I am hoping I can help my son’s future wife by telling him to put his dirty socks into the laundry basket instead of throwing them on the floor. It’s been 12 years now… so far, no results. I’m still trying.

  17. 4amWriter says:

    I’m often amazed at how many times I need to repeat myself to my kids (and husband) regarding tasks or info that they don’t want to hear. However, if I’m informing them that we’re going to a movie or to the toy store, they will remember every single detail and I only have to say it once.

    And I agree. Reading is sexy. 🙂

  18. My mantra has always been “I will not go away.”

    That is why I adore Sarah Hale so much; it seemed to be her mantra, too.

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