We are playing a summer reading bingo these next few months with 24 squares of categories of books you can read. And you are invited. Grab your card to play along with us, then choose a row, column, diagonal line, or complete the card.

Why are we, a writing community and I, an instructor of writing courses, doing this book bingo? I answer this question in the episode. Our game of book bingo is inspired by book bingo at the Seattle Public Library. (Yay, libraries!) Of course, we added our own twist. The categories all support writerly reading.

Listen to this episode as I dig into some of our summer book categories, why we chose them, and how reading books in these categories will improve your writing.

Notes and Links from the Episode

  • Get Your Book Bingo Card Here >>
  • More episodes to check out if you are looking for a craft book in a genre new to you.
    • Episode 68: Writerly Love Community members Jennifer Robinson and Candace Webb joined me to talk about quite the throw-back book, The Poet’s Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry, by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux. At the time, Jen and Candace were fairly new to poetry and found that this book helped them journey into a new genre. So, listen here if you’ve been writing short stories and want to try verse.
    • Episode 72: Another community book club chat on Voice First: A Writer’s Manifesto by Sonya Huber. Listen to our book club conversation with Writerly Love Members Louise Julig, Lina Lau, and Wendy Atwell if you need help to shake up conventional wisdom on writing craft.
    • Episode 88: I know I’m not alone in reading and writing for connection. Kae Tempest’s On Connection helped me understand how immersing ourselves in creativity can help us cultivate greater self-awareness and bring us closer to each other. Hear me talk about the book with Yolande House.
    • Episode 78: Author Kavita Das joined us to talk about her amazing book Craft and Conscience, an intentional journey to unpack our motivations for writing about an issue and to understand that “writing, irrespective of genre or outlet, is an act of political writing.” Dig into this vital topic for writers and a great book to read, whether you’re crossing off a bingo square or not. Listen to our conversation with Kavita Das.
  • I mention the book Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde, published in 1984.
  • Discover new authors to read on Room magazine’s website.

Sign up for my Writerly Love Digest filled with support for your writing practice, prompts, and lit mag publications sent every week.

#98 Write, Publish, Shine Episode Transcript

Transcript Outline

00:01 Announcement



Podcast focus
01:48 Purpose and reflection
04:21 Categories and insights
19:20 Craft book recommendations






Episode 62
Episode 68
Episode 72
Episode 88
Episode 78




Episode 84
Community engagement


Rachel Thompson

Rachel Thompson:

Hi listeners, Rachel here with an exciting announcement. We are holding a summer book club Bingo game. There is a card that you can download, a bunch of prompts for different types of books that you can choose to read to play the game along with us, all the instructions and information on how to sign up are at rachelthompson.co/bookclub where you can get your card, and you’ll also be able to enter your card to win prizes throughout the summer months. So that’s from May to September, we’ll be running this book club Bingo. I hope you will sign up and read some cool books, and be inspired to do some more writerly reading this summer. So all the information is rachelthompson.co/bookclub.

Welcome, Luminous Writers, to the **Write, Publish and Shine** podcast. I am your host, author, and literary magazine editor, Rachel Thompson. This podcast explores how to write and share your brilliant writing with the world. In each episode, we delve into specifics on how to polish and prepare your writing for publication and the journey from emerging writer to published author.

Hi, and welcome, Luminous Writers. We are playing a summer reading bingo game these next few months with 24 squares of categories of books you can read, and you are invited. You can grab your card to play along with us up at rachelthompson.co/read. And to play along, writers can choose a row, column, diagonal line, or complete the card. Then to make it interesting, you can send in your completed card to be entered into a draw for writerly prizes, including one grand prize of a spot in one of my live course sessions.

So why are we a writing community and I an instructor of writing courses? Doing this book bingo – this reading bingo? Things have picked up in the past couple of years, haven’t they? Time feels more fleeting than ever. And especially as the summer months approach in my hemisphere, I feel the pull to do everything and experience as much as possible from the invitations to be outside with our friends, to the long list of books on my TBR pile. There’s so much I want to say yes to and so little time.

I count May as the first month of summer, by the way, because the summer feels really start now. And I enter the summer months, i.e. now this month, with this dual longing and nostalgia for this time, even as it happens. So every moment of idleness feels both correct and incorrect, like it is the appropriate season for lingering, but also that by lingering, I’m missing out on something. And perhaps you have those mixed feelings or foreboding joy like I do. So if so, I think a summer reading challenge a la our bingo game can help us both linger and deepen our writing commitment and learning. So we don’t feel like we’re missing out.

This is a writer fundamental reading and I’ve noticed that writers have less and less time for the fundamentals of writing in our writing membership community for example: we felt like we had to introduce co-writing times to help with the first barrier of getting our butts into the chair to write and I’ve noticed in myself and others that there just has been less time for reading and of the many reasons for this I tend to agree with the notion that we are reading a lot. It’s just online and it’s detracting from our more quality writerly reading.

So one game of summer reading bingo isn’t gonna solve this, but if we can increase the time we spend reading like writers, deeply engaging with material and ideas, and make it fun, even just a little bit, I think we should do that. Our game of book bingo is inspired by Book Bingo at the Seattle Public Library, Yay Libraries. Of course, we added our own twist and the categories all support writerly reading. I’m going to dig into what exactly that means and give some examples coming up in this episode. So to help you get set up for our game of bingo, grab your card at rachelthompson.co/read, then listen as I dig into some of our categories, why we chose them, and how reading books in these categories will improve your writing.

Here are just some of the categories that we selected after careful consideration about what is most going to help writers and really make this a book list that’s customizable and really centers on you, the writer, but also will help you develop your craft and read in a way that’s going to inform your own writing and writing life. So the first and probably most obvious one that I’ll mention is that on the list we have a category to reread a book that you like, it’s implied, to look closely at its structure.

So the writers I work with often have all the elements of story dialogue scene and plot, but will be challenged when it comes to how to organize it all. And the poets I work with often combine beautiful images and emotions, but with less considered line breaks or a general lack of shape to their poems. So if you need to pay more attention to how you organize your writing, I really recommend reading a book for its structure. It’s really important that you pick a book that you already love for its organization or a book you intuit will teach you about structure based on having read it before.

And the place to start is just the table of contents. How is the book organized? You can look at the lengths of each section, an essay, chapter or poem, and even draw a flowchart to break the book down into discrete parts. What tradition does the writing come from? You could think about like, is it a coming of age story? Maybe it’s a crown of sonnets. It could be almost anything, but what is it exactly?

Another trick that I have is to squint at every page and view the blobs of words as shapes and think about if the text is dense, light or varied. How does one line follow another? What blank spaces exist in the book? Often when I do that squint check on submissions for room, I see exactly how much revision a writer has done. This is an odd fact of reading submissions because unpolished writing inhabits the page rather haphazardly or conversely, it might maybe way too formally or just in a structure that doesn’t make sense and feels very contrived perhaps. And writing that has been revised sits on the page with freshness and certainty.

It’s hard to explain but it just has an attitude that feels like, “Yeah, I’m excited.” where I’m supposed to be. So reading for structure invites you to bring that learning that you’ve done through examining structure to your own writing and thinking about how have I organized my writing? How might I change my organization? What traditions am I writing in? What traditions do you want to be writing in? And what do you already know about your writing that will help you place your words with more certainty so it has that kind of, “Yep, here I am, exactly where I’m supposed to be at a tune.”

Another item on the square, and you’ll see this is going to give you a sense of the variety of items. There are 24. I’m certainly not going to go through all of them. But another one is to read a book published in 2020. And the reason for that is really community-based and to be a literary citizen because this was such a bad year for book launches and tours. Think about all the canceled plans. And so reading these books as a literary citizen will help you even perhaps catch a gem that was missed in that year when people had their book promotion canceled and maybe you didn’t hear of something that you would have loved to have read.

Another category, again, all of these are selected to help you with your writing, is to read a book in translation. So maybe you’re going to pick a book written in a language that you are learning and that maybe you want to explore in writing somehow. And my favorite thing about reading in translation is how different their writing styles and narrative structures are speaking of structure.

So reading translation has blown my mind when it comes to story or maybe feel like I get this secret inside track on a place and people that I only get because someone took the time to deeply explain the context as much as the words. You can deepen your understanding of the art form of translation by reading a translation to be a literary translator. You generally need to be a very strong writer in a language that you’re translating into, and it really is a craft that requires kind of this dual track of honoring the work that you’re translating, but also bringing all of your literary powers into translation.

It’s such a magical thing, and I think it’s really worthwhile to specifically read a book in translation to pick up all of the nuances. Another category I’ll highlight is a book that was recommended by a writer you admire. For me, that’s all about connection and so much of writing is about connection. I have one writer friend. who I’m not in touch with much and we haven’t been in touch very much over the last few years and this is someone that we used to workshop a lot together. We met in a course but in the last year we started texting each other about books that we’re reading and asking what the other is reading and I find it connects me to that person, a writer, peer admirer. It helps me reach outside of my comfort zone in terms of writing and try different things and learn through them.

And this square, by the way, too, doesn’t need to be a writer friend, necessarily. It could be a writer you adore, a major literary figure or someone that you don’t know personally, but you love their books. And think about when they answer the question, “Who are your influences?” And you could read those other writers that they admire to get deeper into the pool with them. and their ideas and sort of what they’re swimming in. And for you to then, you know, let that also become your influence and influence your writing. And this, I think, offers an insight to the writer’s influences and preferences so you can connect and better understand that person, be they a writer you don’t know personally or a writer friend.

Another category I’ll mention is a book published in your book year. This is such a personal thing and it’s kind of fun to look up, you know, what was published in the year that you were born. And you might be surprised to find the books published at that time. For example, we had a writer born in 1984 that asked for recommendations and discovered, Oh, wow, Sister Outsider by Audrey Lord was published that year. And I suspect many of us will find a significant book, perhaps one we hadn’t had a chance to read yet, but that was published in our book year gets us a little bit out of the usual of what we’re reading, trying something different from that time based on a date.

As you read, here’s a right early assignment for reading a book published in your birth year, is as you read, reflect on how books from your birth year reflect and shape cultural moments and what has changed and what hasn’t in your literal lifetime. So this book came out when you were a baby, and now you’re reading it in real time. It’s, you know, exactly the same age as you and what has changed over that time. And a little bit related to that in your personal history is a category encouraging you to reread a book you loved as a child.

This category is all about connecting with the magic that attracted you to books and was the gateway to your reading for pleasure. When you think about it, there is a direct line between the books you loved as a child and your decision to become a writer. So reacquaint yourself with that joy or get surprised by how you have changed in, perhaps, there are aspects you don’t vibe with today. So maybe that’s going to be like, oh, I’ve changed. That doesn’t attract me in the same way that it did when I was a child. And sorry if that breaks a little bit of the magic of that book, but I do also think that’s really interesting. And think about, you know, what you remembered of the book and what might be different.

Another category that’s also, you can see what we’re doing here, we’re trying to get at who are you as a writer, what has influenced you and what has shaped who you become. Another category we picked was a book that was published in the year you became an adult. We didn’t define the age for that because maybe, you know, the age is varied based on location. So some places you’re an adult when you’re 18 or some places you’re an adult at 21. But also maybe there was something significant that year that made you an adult and sadly that happened earlier or sadly that happened later.

So thinking about, you know, that formative year and perhaps even thinking of the book that you read that made you feel like an adult too. So all of this, again, is a way to get at just who you are as a writer, the context that you’re coming from, your positionality, perhaps even the cultural aspects that create the identity of you. And I do feel as a writer and a lover of literature that books are definitely part of that aspect of shaping who a person is and what they believe where they come from in terms of their thinking. So just another category that connects with when you were born and, you know, what you’re coming at.

All of those categories, though, too, I think it is interesting to look at writing that was about maybe issues that you weren’t as familiar with at the time or movements that were happening that you didn’t know much about at the time. And in fact, we have another category too that’s about reading a book you wish was assigned in a high school. So again, personal timeline here, but what do you want to go back to your past self, the self you were in high school and tell them in the form of a book what literature is often not covered on traditional high school reading lists that you wish were?

And what are we not telling high school kids that they should know what information was and is censored for them. It’s harkens to our category about reading ban books and upcoming, I’m going to talk about reading about Palestine as well too. What interests do you want to foster? So what curiosity do you want to share with them about lesser known works or genres to engage high school students in critical thinking, self-acceptance and beautiful art. This is something assigning to current high schoolers, but thinking about it too is like your past self that you wish had been assigned then.

And I think the lessons we learned from canonical writing about gender, race, and sexuality, when I went to high school and university was controversial to name that that’s what those aspects were. People wanted to always decontextualize the author from the writing, but also not talk about issues of gender, race, and sexuality. Those were always shut down. At the time, people would refer to reading dead white males in the pejorative sense and try to engage with more diverse, dare I say, reading lists. And I loved a lot of what we read in high school, too.

But I wish I had access to the wider world of literary writing, which came later in university classes, in particular ones that looked at things like gender, race, and sexuality, among other topics and global issues too. We have several categories based on place relative to you, such as our category to read a book by an author living where you were born, or a category on reading a book by a poet in your city or town.

We have a category too to read across continents, so go read a book from another continent than the one you’re living on. And I think all of these, particularly, I mean, the two where you’re reading a book by an author living where you were born and reading a book by a poet in your city or town is thinking about how their experience of place is different from yours. This might be abstract. They might not be specific overtly set their writing in the place you share, but you might find that there’s some really interesting insights that you know come from those places.

And another place-based category, I mean, it’s definitely more than that, is to read a book on Palestine. And to me, reading books about a people in a place remains the best way to humanize them and understand them more deeply. Well, we need to keep our solidarity by writing letters, boycotting and holding our leaders, both political and literary, to account through direct action or supporting direct action. This square exists on our bingo card to underscore how dehumanization of the people in Gaza has created the conditions that give cover to the ongoing genocide. And reading and reflecting on the history of Palestine now, I think would help all of us understand all the atrocities committed in the last seven months that are going to impact the globe for generations to come. I think it really behooves us to understand this as much as we can.

Another category is to read a book banned once or now, and this relates to understanding the forces of censorship and freedom of expression and the impact of so-called controversial literature. Though the books banned are often simply controversial for stating that a person has a right to live. It’s often really surprising sometimes where you think, “Why was this particular book banned?” It gives you an insight into a time to maybe when it was banned. It might be the present-day time, but it may be a time in the past and considering what are the cultural influences that led to this book being banned.

Again, I think these are all great writerly questions that inform our knowledge, experience of the world of literature and reading to examine why the books were banned and looking into the history of the ban and the kind of writing that gets outlawed, why and by whom really behooves us as writers. We have a couple of categories related to literary magazines and one of them is to read an author you found via Room Magazine. If you don’t know, if you’ve been, you know, new to the podcast, I am one of the editors with Room Magazine. I have edited most recently the issue “Ghosts” that came out in 2023.

So we set aside this card because of the importance, I think, of reading literary magazines and specifically give a shout out to Room and over, you know, 10 years and six issues where I was lead editor at the pleasure of publishing brilliant writers and poets, commissioning interviews with writers I deeply admire. And for me, I was a great discovery as well as an editor to find the folks who we published in our pages. You can see everyone that we’ve published listed on the issues page on roommagazine.com, or read along on the website. You don’t need to have a subscription or have an issue in hand to discover someone through the website at roommagazine.com.

Now, let’s say maybe I’ll make a note about people not being squares because there was a version, an initial draft of our list that encouraged reading based on identity and thinking back to, you know, what’s happened largely over the last 10 years in terms of reading widely, reading own voices publication, reading from perspectives that are from BIPOC writers. So Black, Indigenous people, color writers, or reading just different groups, particularly marginalized groups. But on reflection and conversations as we put the list together, Emily Walker, our community facilitator, came up with the expression, “People are not squares.”

And I think our reading choices have evolved beyond that, and we didn’t want this to feel like a prescriptive homework kind of you must follow these particular communities. And I think naturally some of the reading choices encouraged based on the categories we selected will lend itself to reading from certain communities. For example, we have a square on the genre of Afrofuturism, and that’s because it’s an exciting category. And really cool things are happening there, and I would say the same for you by trans or non-binary authors as well. It’s like an exciting genre. There’s some really great thinkers, so much really cool stuff happening.

So it lends itself to people possibly being squares because there’s some narrowness in terms of the people. And it’s also interesting what’s happening in those particular books with those profiles. Finally, we have a category on reading a book on craft in a genre that is new to you. So the instruction is read a book on craft in a genre that’s new to you. You can interpret new to you how you’d like, dear writer. And I will now go through several past episodes on craft books that I think you might want to check in on to find a book on craft that might be a fit for you.

So starting with episode 62, in which we went through 17 books on writing craft in that episode, you will hear my thoughts on who each book is for and some key takeaways from each book to help you choose. You can listen to that at rachelthompson.co/62, where I’ve posted the complete list of 17 craft books and a couple of platform-related books, which I count as part of the general craft repertoire for writers. I have links to all of those books there too.

For episode 68, I had two members of the writerly love community on for a book club conversation about the The Poet’s Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry by Kim Adonisio and Dorianne Laux. Both writers who joined us, the writers who joined to discuss this book, the guide to the pleasures of writing poetry, were fairly new to poetry and found the book helped them on their journey into a new genre. So if you’ve been writing short stories, for example, and you want to try verse, you can listen at rachelthompson.co/68 to see if you and the book will be a match.

In episode 72, we had another community book club chat. This was about Voice First, A Writer’s Manifesto by Sonya Hooper. This book is provocative. It is a manifesto after all. And we were there for the ways it bucked conventional wisdom when it comes to writing craft. So you can listen to that one at rachelthompson.co/72.

I mentioned earlier when it came to reading recommendations that I love writing, reading, and sharing reading lists for connection that connection is really central to me in all of those practices and all of the aspects of being a writer. So here is a book that is key. If you’re want to understand how immersing ourselves in creativity can help us cultivate greater self -awareness and bring us closer to each other. It is K Tempest’s On Connection, and we talk about it in Episode 88 up at rachelthompson.co/88.

I’ll recommend one more craft book related episode. This one I can’t recommend enough. It’s Episode 78, in which the author comes to speak with us. Author Kavita Das comes to talk about her amazing book, Craft and Conscience. Kavita Das really takes us on an intentional journey with her deep knowledge of social justice work and challenges us to unpack our motivations for writing about an issue and to understand that writing, irrespective of genre or outlet, is an act of political writing, regardless of our intention. It is such a vital topic for writers to understand and a great book to read. Whether you’re crossing off a bingo square or not, you can listen to our conversation with Kavita Das on Craft and Conscience at rachelthompson.co/78.

I have one last archive plug, though it’s not about a specific craft book. This is episode 84, in which I spoke with Room Magazine’s book reviews editor, Micah Killjoy, my colleague at Room. I suggest this episode because, Micah, I talk about reading books for craft and how they see reviewing as a practice for writers to understand craft. So you can listen to this one up at rachelthompson.co/84.

So that is a list that I hope will help with finding craft books. And that’s the end of me going through the squares on our bingo card. As I mentioned, there are 24 so there are more to find. Since we started playing writers in our Slack community for members and course alum have been sharing their reading lists and ideas for future reading, as well as excitement about reading in community and reading like a writer, meaning reading to deepen their understanding of themes and topics and reading to learn elements of craft. Everything we’ve discussed about the squares so far. So I’m going to pull in some of what they’re saying and what I’m hearing from other writers that may be you too.

You can always reach out to me about your reading and they’ll do that in my Writerly Digest which you will automatically be subscribed to when you get your bingo card at rachelthompson.co/read. You can always unsubscribe at any time but maybe you wanna stick around because I’m gonna share some of the burgeoning reading lists that’s been published. Our writers in the coming weeks and notes on what we’re reading and learning about writing and the world as we play Summer Reading Bingo!

The game starts now as you know my broader definition of summer encompasses May and we go until September 10th so again get your card, rachelthompson.co/read and send it in when you’ve finished in time for our draws so send it in before September 10th.

The Write, Publish, and Shine podcast is brought to you by me, Rachel Thompson, sound editing by Adam Linder, transcripts by Dia Jaffrey. Production support for this episode came from my brilliant thinking partner and our community facilitator, Meli Walker.

You can learn more about the work I do to help writers write, publish and shine at rachelthompson.co.  When you’re there, sign up for my Writerly Love Digest, send every week and filled with support for your writing project. If this episode encouraged you to read, read, read, I would love to hear all about it. You can always email me at hello@rachelthompson.co.

You can tell other luminous writers about this episode. You can do this by sending them to the podcast at rachelthompson.co/podcast or by letting them know they can search for write, publish, and shine wherever they get their podcasts. Thank you for listening. I encourage you to read like a writer this summer.

I am recording this episode in the South Sinai, Egypt on lands historically and presently inhabited by the El Muzina Bedouin near Palestinian lands occupied by Israel. I’m honored to be part of an unstoppable and growing movement of people in organizations worldwide who condemn the ongoing apartheid and genocide perpetuated by Israel on Palestinian people.

Join our game of book club bingo this summer learn more and sign up at rachelthompson.co/bookclub

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