Professor's prompt goes viral, sparks a “Twitter Moment”

Timothy Schaffert's viral tweet - text in body of article

calendar icon May 9, 2018 - 2:42pm by Erin Chambers

Last Saturday morning, Timothy Schaffert (@timschaffert) tweeted a simple question that sparked nearly 800 replies: what's been your favorite reading experience? 

“Not your favorite book, necessarily,” Schaffert added, “But one of your favorite moments/periods of engagement with a book? Situations when the actual circumstances of reading it enhanced your appreciation of the book, or in some way proved memorable?”

Husker graduate student Ilana Masad (@ilanaslightly) was one of the first to reply to Schaffert's tweet, sharing impactful reading experiences from her own life. “Reading as a child - in a bed with a pink summer blanket in LA, or very late on hot summer nights in Israel; reading Tamora Pierce books about powerful girls and women and their magic. When the weather is a certain way, I remember these reading sessions vividly, painfully.”

The prompt caught on and resonated so widely that Twitter featured it  on their “Moments” page — a feed of curated stories showcasing the very best of what’s happening on the social media site. The Twitter Moment, “Delicious reading experiences that will inspire you to curl up with a book,” features just a handful of the responses. “Tana French's In the Woods on my own in a hotel room that may or may not have been haunted,” wrote one responder; “Lolita in Woodstock in winter on a whim,” wrote another. “I read Kavalier & Clay in the weeks after 9/11 while exiled from my lower Manhattan dorm,” another said. “It made me remember that NYC is a magical place even when the world is horrible.” 

Timothy Schaffert is Susan J. Rosowski Associate Professor of English and director of the Creative Writing program at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. He is the author of The Swan Gondola as well as four previous critically acclaimed novels, which have been among Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selections, Indie Next Picks, and New York Times Editor's Choices. As the Twitter thread continued to grow Sunday afternoon, Schaffert shared a few of his own favorite reading experiences. “I was in the Bahamas during a tropical storm,” he wrote in one of his replies. “Spent most of the time in the lobby and bars, playing Monopoly w/strangers, but when it eased to a drizzle, sat in the hot tub, beneath an eave, and indulged in the grim, grey world of Greene's The End of the Affair.”

The thread continues to draw responses as readers reflect on the power of literature. Get inspired by others' poignant experiences and join the conversation by replying to the initial tweet.