Making Reading Private and Personal

A bookshelf that is not my "to be read" shelf.

At the start of this year, I was in a bit of a reading slump. I didn’t have much interest in any of the books I was looking forward to reading, so I switched to different books and solved my slump. But since then, I haven’t been posting what I’ve been reading (aside from tweeting about two new releases!). I do have a Goodreads account, and I have taken the time to post ratings and reviews after I finished reading a book. I also updated my status while reading, as a means of trying to make myself accountable and read a certain number of books per month.

But I’m not doing that anymore.

A few months ago, I made the decision to keep my “to be read” shelf private. I didn’t want to update on Goodreads anymore, or tweet every time I started and finished a book. This came while I was reading a collection of short stories, which I didn’t love or hate. I didn’t want to review and rate the book. Then I realised I didn’t want to do that with the next book I planned to read.

Having a TBR shelf so public, with the intention of rating and reviewing, put too much pressure on me. I felt like I needed to read the books for the purpose of reviewing them, rather than just reading! Reading was no longer a leisure activity. I started getting overly critical and nit-picky with books. It was exhausting and felt like I was studying my English degree again.

It also felt needlessly competitive, sort of? Like I needed to read faster, read more books, rate books as soon as possible, and review books with a critical essay. Reading wasn’t fun anymore when I felt like people were watching my opinion of the book. Sometimes I read books for the fun of it, and I don’t have a lot to say about them. Some books are just books. I don’t need to critique them all, and I know that, but that was the attitude I had for displaying books I was reading or planning to read. I just wanted to read!

Books can become a personal thing, whether you’re writing or reading them. So keeping the books private and to myself was a step toward that again. I don’t want to read books in order to discuss how good or bad they are. Maybe that’s why I’m not a book blogger or YouTuber—those folks do a lot of work with reviewing books! I’ve thought about adding book reviews to my blog (I posted a few way back in the day), but I’ve decided I don’t want to.

Now, with my TBR just the shelf by my bed or the downloads in my Kindle app or the private shelf in my local library account, I feel better. Reading is personal again. I can read as slowly as I naturally do. My opinions are kept to myself and I can read what I want, rather than what I think I should be reading. (*cough* like new releases that I can’t afford and my library doesn’t get for months after the pub date.)

I’ve returned to the bliss of reading quietly by myself, like I did as a kid. 🙂

via GIPHY

5 Reasons To Read Poetry

My love of writing started with poetry and song lyrics. Although I’ve been reading novels since I was kid, I branched out to read poems in my teen and adult years. I think all novelists should be reading poetry along with the books they read! Here are five reasons to read poetry, especially if you write novels.

Expose yourself to new vocabulary

Genre tropes mean you see a lot of the same language used for characters, settings, and conflicts. Poetry can span so many genres and topics, and playing with vocabulary is a key aspect of writing poetry. For me personally, I’m always looking for new words to add to my vocabulary. In all the languages I know, vocabulary is my weak spot. I struggle to use different words and get creative, so poetry gives me easy access to unique words.

Read styles different from genre fiction

If you’re like me and read a lot of genre fiction in the same demographic (YA fantasy!), you’ll notice that a lot of the writing styles are… very similar. Poems tend to have a strong voice, especially since there are so many styles of poems. Haikus, sonnets, free verse, spoken word—they’re all different. I love spoken word poetry and have a background in writing and performing it, and it shows in my fiction writing! Writing that can be read aloud has a different flow to writing that is easier to be read. So

Discover new writers

One of the best reasons! There are so many poets out there! It’s always a good time to find new writers whose work you enjoy. Poets need support and rarely become bestsellers, so hype them up and follow them online when you can.

Get out of reading slumps

Reading a new genre or form is one of my secrets for getting out of a reading slump. It’s an easy way to refresh my palette for reading. I outlined a few more ways I get out of a reading slump, but poetry and anthologies with poetry are some of the surefire ways for me to do it.

Read innovative writing

This is similar to the different styles, but I want to emphasise the innovation of poetry. Poetry can break all the rules of grammar and syntax. Metaphors, similes, symbolism, and imagery shine through in poetry. Innovation in writing craft leads to inspiration!


Here are a few recommendations for some poetry collections available online/digitally.

the secrets i keep by alex casso (Amazon)
bone by yrsa daley-ward (Amazon)
Various Collections by Elle (Gumroad)
Compasses and Other Ornaments of Direction by Coryl Reef (Amazon; I gotta promo!)

If you’re a poet and have some published writing (self-published, or self-hosted, or anywhere else!) feel free to comment below and I’ll be updating this post with them.

Writing Transformation From Lit Mags

Improve Wring Craft From Lit Mags

During my reading slump at the start of this year, I picked up periodicals again. I had burned myself out of genre fiction and YA fiction. I craved a way for me to improve writing craft. So I turned to my stack of literary magazines and picked Room Magazine to marathon. They release publications four times a year and publish writing exclusively from people who are not cisgender men.

The volumes include poetry, short stories, creative nonfiction, interviews, and essays. The bulk of the content is poetry and short fiction. Eight issues of this magazine is two years’ worth of material, and each volume consists of around 90 pages of content.

I read them in the span of a few weeks. I’m a slow reader, so reading that quantity in that time frame is unheard of for me.

I read nearly 800 pages of literary fiction. I love poetry and short stories, and even though there were pieces I didn’t like in some of the volumes, I still read them. There must have been over 100 pieces total—100 complete written pieces. Imagine reading 100 books, or 100 essays, condensed down into a few pages. That many self-contained stories is magical; inspiring; awesome.

Diverse content

I can’t stress enough the importance of reading diversely—and not just sociological “diverse.” You need to read writing from disabled, queer, black, and/or indigenous people, and/o people of colour. Remember they write more than books! Read their poems and short stories and more. Read different forms—poems, short stories, song lyrics, essays—and different genres in fiction. Even if you write in one genre or form, read widely and away from the style and tropes you normally write.

I’m also a poet and short story writer, so I went into the literary magazine reading with the aims of improving my poems and short stories.

Improve writing craft

Writers learn from reading. And I learned a lot, even if I wasn’t consciously studying, analysing, or evaluating. These pieces were vastly different from the writing I was producing. My main project this year has been my older YA high fantasy novel.

The writing I put into my fantasy novel surged in quality. My words became confident. I sat down to my writing sessions and produced deliberate work. Since I write my novels by scene, I had less difficulty creating self-contained segments of conflict. I could more easily visualise and plan out a condensed piece of my story.

And I won’t get into specifics of how my style of writing changed. But poetry is like a salve on trope-laden, saturated genres like fantasy. I attribute much of my good and great writing to the fact that I started out my writing journey with poetry. If I hadn’t learned poems, I wouldn’t be as good of a writer.

Refreshed palette

In my post about how I beat a reading slump, I outlined three ways I refresh my palette and taste for reading. Literary magazines fall into new genres and other storytelling media. So not only has my wring transformed, but my reading habits have improved and rejuvenated from the change.


If you’d like to subscribe to Room Magazine, I highly encourage you to visit their website and do so. Whether it’s this magazine or another journal, adding a literary magazine to your reading regime will benefit you. And of course all the writers your subscription supports!

The best way for a writer to improve writing craft is to read. Read as much, as varied, and as often as you can. There are so many stories beyond the bestseller and new release shelves in corporate stores. With the Internet at your fingertips, seek out something different to read—and watch yourself change.

2nd Quarter Goals for 2018

I love working on goals by quarter. I already do month-by-month goals, but having ones that I can work on over a longer span of time is great for me. I still have flexibility, since the goals could be accomplished in 3 weeks, but also have more time to invest on my goals.

Over the next 13 weeks, I have a number of goals that I want to work on and achieve by the summer!

Writing Goals
  • Edit The Pilgrimage
  • Query The Pilgrimage
  • Submit to a literary magazine each month
Creative Goals
Personal Goals
  • Read 1 book every week
  • Do #CorylMornings as often as possible
  • Blog twice a week
  • Launch another super secret project
Freelance Goals

I’m keeping my month-by-month goals private and in my bullet journal for the time being, especially because my goals can fluctuate over time.

Two of my projects are secret ones, but they will be revealed over the next few weeks and months! I want to do a lot of creating as we go into spring and summer. Art, design, and writing are my top priorities.

3 Ways I Beat a Reading Slump

Every so often—about every 4 months, actually—and lasting for a few weeks, I fall into a reading slump. There are books I want to read, but I can’t focus on any of them, even if I’ve been looking forward to reading them.

I’ve gotten very good at navigating reading slumps, since they happen so often and make me so sad. They’ve happened because of burnout from editing, or while I was doing my English degree and reading immense amounts of writing on a daily and weekly basis. There are a number of ways that I ease the pain of not indulging one of my favourite hobbies. But I’m sharing only three of them today!

These three ways of getting out of a reading slump focus on refreshing your taste for stories.

Indulge other storytelling media

If you catch me on Twitter posting about marathon-watching TV shows, I’m likely in a reading slump. I’ll also play video games or watch movies, but I’m less likely to tweet about those.

Movies, TV shows, audiobooks, podcasts, and video games are all different forms of storytelling that can help refresh your palate. As different as books are, they’re still written and words can get repetitive. Humans love stories, so get them in as many forms as possible.

If you need an excuse to marathon-watch a show, I give you your reason.

Read new genres

I have my favourite genres that I like to read. There’s nothing wrong with having a favourite, or getting intimately familiar with all the tropes in the genre. But sometimes, it’s better to branch out and try a new book.

When my reading slump in the fall came from reading too much fantasy, I switched to different genres. Try out a non-fiction book, a short story anthology, a literary magazine, a poetry collection, a contemporary romance–pick up something outside of your regularly scheduled reading.

Work on a project unrelated to writing or reading

As a creative person, I’ve picked up lots of hobbies and skills to flex my creating muscles. Reading and writing go hand-in-hand, so if my reading is sucky and flumpy, so is my writing. I read and write to stimulate my imagination, so other creative hobbies and projects can fill the void that emerges when I stop reading or writing.

I started the year with a big reading slump, so I got back into web development and created the new theme for the website! Coding, painting, drawing, photography, and more are all ways I can creatively interact with the world. Try doing something artistic, crafty, or design-based.


There’s nothing wrong with a reading slump. Sometimes we can’t pick up a book or partake of something we enjoy, and that’s just life. Remember: the slump will pass. You can be bookish and not be reading all the time!