What Am I Reading Right Now?

This post isn’t actually about what I’m reading right now. Horribly dishonest title, I know. My apologies. No, this post is about the fact that I’m reading at all, and hallelujah for that.

If you’re a bibliophile like me, you probably have at least five books that you’re currently reading, not to mention the fifty you will definitely read as soon as possible.

And the pandemic is a perfect time to finally get through that list, isn’t it?

Not if you’re like me. Somehow books got replaced with Netflix, and in 2020 the most horrendous thing happened – I failed my reading challenge. (Okay, it wasn’t the only horrendous thing to happen in 2020, but let’s focus on the reading for now).

I realised that television had taken over a place in my life that used to belong to literature, so I decided to join an online reading group. It’s actually a pretty simple concept. You meet up online twice a week, read separately for about an hour, and then you talk about what you’ve read.

It was the kick in the balls (though I don’t actually have any balls) that I needed, and I read three books in three days. The first one due to the social pressure of people knowing that you’re supposed to be reading. The following two because the first one reminded me how wonderful it is.

I love to read. To truly subvert myself into another universe, another set of problems, another mindset. But sometimes love isn’t enough.

Sometimes you need a good kick in the balls.

And a little bit of social pressure.

Silver Linings, Part One

I’m from a part of Denmark with a deep fondness for understatements.

Did you just have the best night of your life? Then it was fine.

Are you convinced that you got an A+ on your latest exam? Then it went okay.

Is there a world-wide pandemic, killing thousands of innocent people? Then it’s træls.

“A bit of an annoyance” might be how you’d put it in English.

But it’s okay to think that this pandemic is more than just træls. It’s okay to hate it, to complain until your face turns red, to reach out for help. It’s okay if you have trouble seeing any silver lining.

That is, however, what I will focus on for the moment – my personal silver lining.

Covid took the freedom to travel away from me, and boy, did I feel it.

But it also reprioritized my time. I was in Indonesia when the pandemic hit. My mother asked me to come home, and I did. Once there, I had two options.

I could either move into a friend’s empty apartment (she’d just moved in with her boyfriend), or I could rent a room at my brother’s. I picked the latter. An empty apartment sounded lonely in the midst of a national lockdown.

Moving in with my brother also meant moving in with his girlfriend and their two sons. My nephews, whom I’d rarely seen – I’d been too busy seeing Spain, Singapore, Australia. But now I had plenty of time to spare, and I wasn’t going to waste it.

Okay, that’s a lie. I wasted a lot of time. Mostly on Netflix.

But I wasn’t going to waste all of it. I was going to learn Spanish and the piano. I was going to write my own book and translate others. And I was going to spend some quality time with my nephews.

Of course, nothing ever goes entirely according to schedule. I didn’t write that book, and both my Spanish and piano play is… let’s go with rudimentary.

But spending quality time with my nephews was the most important thing anyway.

I have a relationship with them that didn’t exist a year ago. They ask their parents to call me. I know that the oldest loves dinosaurs and that the youngest loves to get into trouble.

I didn’t know that a year ago. They didn’t ask after me a year ago.

And that’s my silver lining.

Maria Sjöstrand

I don’t remember a time where fiction wasn’t part of my life. I used to swallow books like Johnny Fox would swallow swords. Except, you know, metaphorically rather than literally. I read Jane Austen and Neil Gaiman and everything in between, and writing was a natural extension of this.

I set off to write fantasy, but I quickly discovered that fantasy was only a way to get to my actual goal – humour. Sure, it’d be nice if I could make people think about life’s big questions, and it would be lovely if I could make them fall in love or even shed a tear or two.

But ultimately, I just want to make them laugh. A slight snicker. A full-blown seizure.

And that’s why I’m here, I guess. I’ve figured out what I want to do.

Now, I just need to learn how to do it.