01-19-19 – Judith Ashley – My Sanctuaries and Safe Havens: Writing and Spiritual Practices

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


Hi everyone! I am YA author B A Binns , writer of contemporary and realistic fiction for teens. My tagline tells you what I am about - Stories of Real Boys Growing Into Real Men - and the people who love them. 

I went to the movies this weekend and saw Guardians of the Galaxy, vol 2. At heart, it’s a family drama, exploring issues between Star Lord and his father, and between Gamora and her sister. I love watching movies. But I never lose track of the fact that I am an outsider, watching someone else pretend. It was an enjoyable view of someone else’s story, a window. But sometimes you want to do more than look at a window or screen. Sometimes you want to open the glass and step through to the other side. The best fiction does just that, opening the window, reaching into my life and pulling me to the other side.

Reading fiction lets you do that. In my experience, people who read fiction have more empathy, more drive, and, often more business savvy than those who don't. They learn how to get along with a variety of people from passing through that window and seeing life from different sides. I truly believe that people who read a lot will have more opportunities in life, and be more successful in meeting the challenges we all have to face, time and again..

HarperCollins, one of the worlds leading publishing companies, is celebrating it's 200th birthday. To highlight the benefits of reading and literacy, they have launched a social media campaign encouraging book lovers to share what reading means to them. This is important to me because I write specifically to encourage reluctant readers.  With HarperCollins publishing my debut Middle Grade novel entitled Courage next year, I am happy to participate in this to share my love of reading. I how you will do the same, by commenting on this post, sharing it on social media, or by making a #whyiread post on Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, or Facebook

I’ve heard it said that human beings have an innate need for story. The best stories are written down, preserved, available to be read and re-read by a large number. hat's one reason that some writers are as big as rock stars to adoring fans. Reading lets you dream on new worlds. That's why encouraging reluctant readers is important to me. I frequently speak at librarian and teacher conferences on the subject,  and later this summer I will be speaking at BCALA (Black Caucus of the ALA) about using reading programs featuring diverse books to encourage kids to read more.

I loved reading right from the start
Apparently, I came into the world craving stories. My mother read to me from an early age. I loved the stories so much that sometime before I was five I taught myself how to read. I needed my stories even when she was not available or in the mood. I figured out the relationships between those funny symbols on the page and the sounds from my mother's lips.

My inventiveness increased my joy in life, but it almost got my poor mother in trouble. The teachers informed her she should not have taught me to read because they had their own methodology and her wrong way of teaching could cause me trouble in the future.

Like anyone really believed that. Reading elevated me, got me through the bad times, and even helped my bond with my unwanted sibling (I really preferred being an only child) because I could read to her.

My mother laughed and told the teachers they had to take things up with me because I taught myself.   I never cared about the right or wrong way, I just kept demanding more books to read.  I haven't put books down since.

Robert Taylor Homes ca 1970
A plethora of well-written books  kept me going through the good and bad times, including my teen years in the Robert Taylor homes after my father lost his job. Trust me, life in these "homes" was even bleaker than it looks from the outside. The long, concrete hallways were our primary playgrounds, and the elevator waits were long - provided the elevators were even in service. And yes, life in those overcrowded conditions was dangerous. But with a book and a quiet corner, I could go anywhere in the universe.

With a good book I don’t just read about the protagonist, I get to become him or her. Or any of the other well-written, fully developed characters on the pages. How else could a girl living in the former Robert Taylor Homes on Chicago’s south side in the 1960’s and 70’s, experience life on a farm, or in the mountains, or another planet?

Science Fiction became my dearest love in elementary school. I still love Space Cat ("You can't go to space without a cat, that's flat." -- trust me, that was really fun to sing when I was six.)

And the intrepid young spacemen Chuck and Dave never noticed the little black girl seated inside their homemade space ship with them when they took the Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet. Important note, I held the chicken and kept her safe during the trip.

I moved to the adult section of the library by sixth grade.  In the years since then I have extended myself from Science Fiction to Suspense, to Historical, and Contemporary. And romance, which combines a number of genres, and has allowed me to be wooed by a Prince and a business magnate, to save the world while falling for a handsome Navy SEAL, and hang with utterly romantic doctors and lawyers. You have to love romance and the worlds it draws readers into.

Why I Read -- I read to fill my brain with stories. I write because I want to give others the same experience.  My first book, Pull, was written to draw others into the experience of being an African American teen in Chicago, adjusting to life after loosing his mother due to an act of domestic violence. I wanted readers to not just know about the loss, but to feel the guilt filling this boy because he was unable to save his mother, and follow along as he struggles and finally overcomes that feeling of guilt.

My 2018 release is titled Courage. In this story I return to the wonderful city of Chicago, the city I grew up in. The city I love. The story features kids from different races and backgrounds.

I read because I want to know and experience. I write because I want to share my own experiences.

Now it's your turn. I'd love to read any of your comments on why you read (and if you are an author, why you write)

If you want to go on social media, use the hashtags #whyiread and #hc200

B A Binns


Marcia King-Gamble said...

Congratulations on the release of Courage. Wishing you much success and many sales. I write because I have to. There's not a day that goes by I don't feel the need to pull out my laptop and get busy.

Judith Ashley said...

I read to travel the world and experience people and places I'd never get to without a good book. Sometimes I read to escape my day or challenges in my life - to get that break so I can come back to whatever it is refreshed. Sometimes I read to relax and enjoy a good story. Currently I'm rereading books on my "keeper shelf" and sending some of them on to other readers. However some of them go back on the shelf and I know I'll read them at least one more time.

I write because the stories (including the dialogue) in my head won't go away until they are on paper (or at least the computer screen on their way to being a book.

Kelly Garcia said...

I read so I can get to know new people and experience someone else's journey. This window to another's soul is an awesome and rewarding experience... Provided there's a HEA!

B. A. Binns said...

We all have really great reasons to read and share our love of reading with others. Kelly, every now and then I accept a HFN, otherwise I wholeheartedly agree with you, which is why I love reading romance.

Jodie Esch said...

I read because it is as natural as breathing. I read everyday and everywhere. As a passenger in a vehicle, in line-ups and restaurants. Wherever there are printed words - they find me. At some point I decided I liked words a lot - and so I became a writer.
Now I read to become a more fluent writer as well as to escape into other lives. Rather obsessive, I suspect.

Marlo Berliner said...

I read because it takes me away, into another world, with new characters and experiences. I read because I couldn't imagine a life without reading. Reading widely informs my own writing, frees my mind, and influences my life in subtle yet profound ways.

Lynn Lovegreen said...

Beautiful post, B.A., and congrats on the new book!

I read for many of the same reasons you do. I read to explore things I can't in real life, to live different lives or at least live alongside other people who expand my world.

Carol Coven Grannick said...

Congratulations on your debut middle grade, Barbara. Why I read: to lose myself in story, and then to find myself, to be affected by heartache and redemption, and to be inspired as a storyteller.