I love to make a plan. Family vacation, menus, holiday gatherings, blog posts, reading challenges – I make lists, work out the budget, schedule my time. I’m great at planning. Dewey’s read-a-thon is no exception. This is my thirteenth read-a-thon and I found early on that, in order to fully relax and enjoy myself, there were certain things that had to be listed, laid out and scheduled in advance.
Family: My children are now adults with homes of their own, but they were teens when I participated in my first read-a-thon. I consulted with them to be sure their day was planned – work, school activities, friends, finances, food. I held multiple family meetings to reiterate the importance of the day and how critical it was that they be model citizens and mature adults for 24 hours.
Housework: I scheduled the major chores to be done in the last few days leading up to read-a-thon. Teenagers were not allowed out on Friday night until their share of the prep was complete. Teenage girls were required to draft a wardrobe plan to avoid last-minute laundry. The “paper plates only” rule was strictly enforced after midnight Thursday. I couldn’t be distracted by piles of waiting dishes or a layer of dust on the coffee table. I needed a guilt-free day of relaxation.
Food: Meal preparation takes valuable time that could be used for reading or cheering. I made a menu, stocked the pantry and cooked in advance so a variety of snacks and meals are easily accessible and ready to eat in minutes (on a paper plate).
Friends: It’s difficult to explain the read-a-thon to non-reading friends or family. “You stay home all day by yourself and read a book while hundreds of other people you don’t know are sitting in their homes also reading a book – but not even the same book – and then you go online and talk about it? And this is fun?” Nonetheless, I apologized for being unavailable for the day and promised to make it up to them.
Time: My plan was simple – out of each hour, 45 minutes would be spent in concentrated reading. The remaining 15 minutes were “free time” for checking the web site, entering a mini-challenge, grabbing a snack, visiting blogs, restroom visits and possibly a shower at some point.
Books: The most important list, of course, was the TBR list. I scoured the library, the book store, and my own shelves to find the most anticipated, most engrossing and most discussion-worthy books out there. I stacked and re-stacked them in the order I wanted to read. I compared them to other participants’ choices, then tweeked my list again. I didn’t want to be seen skipping through a cozy mystery about the antics of a modern-day witch and her love interests, while others were slogging through the latest prize-winning literature featuring wars, refugees, starvation, and depression.
The final step of the plan was sleep. The read-a-thon started at 6:00 a.m. in my time zone, so I needed to be up at 5:30 to make coffee, fire up the computer, and check that my pre-scheduled opening blog post had posted. The prospect of rising that early and staying awake for 24 hours meant I needed at least a full 8-hours of sleep. Teen curfew was changed to 9:00, lights out by 10:00.
The alarm beeped, announcing the joyous arrival of my meticulously-planned, perfect day. And then it all fell apart. “Mom, I need a sack lunch.” Mom, my car won’t start, can you drive me to Becca’s?” “Hon, have you seen my 3/16ths end wrench?” The phone is ringing. The latest mini-challenge was a blast, but it took me 38 minutes to complete. Sitting in this chair is giving me a back ache, and the latest Pulitzer winner is a snore! My eyes are drooping, my left leg is asleep and I’ve read 84 pages in an entire day! Next time I’ll do better! Next time, I’ll have a better plan!
Wisdom comes with age, or perhaps with repetition of the same mistakes. Either way, I have finally learned the key to a successful read-a-thon:
Let go of the need for total quiet and privacy. By all means, make arrangements for young children to go to Grandma’s, or let friends know that you’re out of circulation for the day. But anticipate interruptions, and go with the flow.
Let go of the need for a totally tidy house. Leaving the bed un-made just this once won’t hurt anything. Or take a few minutes to make the bed or throw a load of laundry in the washer. Your book will be waiting when you get back.
Let go of the rigid schedule. If you get caught up in visiting blogs and realize two hours have passed, no problem! If you spend 90 minutes creating your mini-challenge entry because you have a great idea (or because you don’t), good for you!
Let go of comparing yourself to others. If you like romance, read it. If you like YA, even though you haven’t been a YA for many years, that’s ok. Read “The Cat in the Hat”, if that’s your preference. Read whatever makes you happy.
Let go of the race for most books completed or most pages read. There will always be those amazing readers who post numbers I couldn’t achieve in a week, so applaud them and don’t be embarrassed to post your numbers right next to theirs. In twelve tries, I have never completed more than one book during a read-a-thon. I have started many – I usually read from several throughout the day – but I rarely finish them within the 24 hours.
Let go of the idea of staying awake for the entire 24 hours. If you’re young and still able to pull an “all-nighter”, you go!. But if not, nap occasionally, or set a shorter goal for yourself.
There are no quotas or minimum requirements. There are no Read-a-thon Police who will come knocking on your door at hour 19 to make sure you’re awake. Your library card will not be revoked if you don’t read 1000 pages. Dewey’s Read-a-thon is about fun. It’s about sharing your love of books with people who share that love. It’s about making friends, and discovering new blogs and new books. Sometimes, it’s even about being silly. So find whatever stands between you and an amazing read-a-thon and LET IT GO!
Awesome tips, Tami! We concur!