Chatting with Michelle GD
Today marks the beginning of what I hope will be a monthly series of interviews with creative kinfolk about their reading lives. This month I spoke with photographer and writer Michelle GD, whose focus on the small quiet moments in her life has influenced the way I look at my own world. Enjoy!
What books are currently on your nightstand?
In truth, I have two rows (!!!) on the floor in front of my nightstand. Too many, I know, so I’ll just share a few: A Year of Mornings by Maria Alexandra Vettese and Stephanie Congdon Barnes, Devotions by Mary Oliver, Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, The Essential Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks, The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo, Delights and Shadows by Ted Kooser, Collected Poems by Jane Kenyon.
What book first got you hooked on reading as a child?
It’s hard to remember if there was one book that did the hooking; I remember loving to read at a very young age. We had a Volkswagen camper and I have distinct memories of sitting in the way back (this was before seatbelts and car seats, ahem) reading books when my mom dropped my older sisters at school. If I had to choose one book from my early days it would be The World of Pooh by A.A. Milne.
Which book would you say has most influenced the way you view the world and why?
That’s a tough question as different books have influenced me in different ways throughout my life. I could cite titles from various points in my life but, in the interest of answering your question, I’ll say The World of Pooh. I loved the characters and the warmth imbued. Of course, I didn’t explain it as such when I was a child! But I’m sure that I felt it and I’m sure that I internalized some of that intended goodness as I read and re-read that volume. There are nuggets of wisdom sprinkled throughout the Pooh stories that gently guide children and teach valuable lessons…better yet, wisdom. And, if we allow so, the stories guide adults as well.
Whenever I stumble upon quotes from The World of Pooh, I am delighted. Like these:
Did you ever stop to think, and forget to start again?
Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.
You can’t stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.
Delightful. Insightful. Like a hug and a big fat yes. I want to live this kind of wisdom.
Which genres are you drawn to and which do you avoid?
I love both fiction and nonfiction, and read lots of both. Within those broad distinctions, I’m especially drawn to historical fiction, creative nonfiction, cookbooks, and poetry. I read none in the way of mystery or horror.
Which books have you introduced to your children and which have they introduced to you?
Reading aloud, the three of us, is one my very favorite things to have done with my kids. Naturally, we read The World of Pooh. Some others we enjoyed reading (there were so many): all of Roald Dahl’s books, the Tales of Magic series by Edward Eager, The Oz books (as in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz…I had no idea there were 14 titles in that series when I started reading them with my kids!), The Melendy Quartet by Elizabeth Enright, Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. We read voraciously, so anytime I stumbled upon a good series, I was immensely grateful.
As for what they’ve introduced to me, in an indirect way: The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I read The Hobbit when I was young and remember loving it, but for some reason, I never went on to read the LOTR trilogy. After I read The Hobbit aloud with my son a few years ago, I directed him to The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which he read independently. He loved it so much that I then decided to read the trilogy aloud with both kids. If it hadn’t been for my son’s intense love of the trilogy, who knows if I’d have gotten around to reading it on my own.
As a photographer, is there a particular book or author that you find yourself referring to again and again? As a writer?
Oh, there are so many! Let’s see...
For photography: The Tao of Photography: Seeing Beyond Seeing by Philippe L. Gross and S.I. Shapiro
For writing: anything Anne Lamott, and anything Mary Oliver…they both inspire me to keep going.
Which three authors (living or dead) would you invite to join you for dinner and why?
Anne Lamott, because she’s funny and kind and honest and insightful, and deeply human.
Mary Oliver, because her words and ways of being soften my heart.
Maya Angelou, because she’s Maya Angelou.
Is there a book that you often recommend to others?
Reading is deeply personal, and I like to know something about a person before I recommend a book. One book that I might recommend across the board though: The Humans by Matt Haig. Haig writes eloquently about the human condition; he explores our messy, darker sides in addition to what it is that makes us beautiful. He writes with wit and in a style that is both blunt and soft. Towards the end of The Humans there is a section that blew me away, and it’s one I return to again and again. If you’ve read the book – or if you do – you’ll know exactly what I mean. It’s a touchstone. And it tugs at my heart every time I read it.
Finally, what are you planning to read next?
Well, I’ve just begun A Homemade Life by MollyWizenberg. It’s a memoir with recipes sprinkled throughout, and is a comfortable sort of read. After that I’m planning to return to Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I’ve been reading it off and on for months, and want to finish it!
Michelle GD is a writer and photographer. She likes to notice the tiny moments that make up a day…the moments that fill the spaces, the in-betweens. She also likes to help others learn to do the same. You can read more about her work and online workshops at www.michellegd.com and visit her quiet corner on Instagram @michelle_gd.
I had a lot of fun learning about Michelle's reading life and hope you did as well. I am very excited about this series! I would love to hear what you thought in the comments below, especially if you have any questions that you would like to see included next month for my interview with Karen of Pumpkin Sunrise. Cheers!