Saturday, September 19, 2009

Books, Magazines, and Found Things

I am a-flurry with YA books from the library and five (count 'em five) magazines on writing from Borders. It was a good day for collecting reading material, apparently.

So far I am most excited about Out of Time by John Marsden. I like the writing so far, though he tends to overdo it a bit. Just tell me what's happening; you don't have to be so "artful" in every single sentence.

I'll have to write some mini-reviews as I get into the rest of them. I never read all of the books I pick up, which is why I like to get so many when I hit the library. I never know which ones will be duds. Now a great book, a really epic books *always* grabs me at the very first sentence.

As far as the magazines go, that Writer's Digest really has the market on writing magazines, as they are responsible for three of my finds. Writer's Digest Novel Writing, The Writer's Digest Guide to Creativity, and of course, the straight up Writer's Digest. Then I got Bookmarks, which is essentially a magazine full of book reviews, what to read, what's been short listed for the big prizes like Pulitzer and Booker, that kind of thing. Lastly, I got Found, a magazine devoted to publishing found bits, photos, love letters, grocery lists -- anything found on the ground or nailed to a telephone post. That last one is addictive. I sat and combed over it for an hour straight when I'd meant to flip through. It makes me want to go on my own "scrounging" mission.

Have you ever found a letter, photograph, or artifact of any interest on the ground or outside?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Technicolor Thoughts

If ideas were colors, you would see their orange and red ribbons slipping out of the quarter inch of air between my car's window and door frame-- you know that tiny bit you let down -- not big enough for an arm, but large enough to keep the car from turning into the July sun.

I think in the car. I have the most amazing ideas that evaporate the moment I see my front porch and begin thinking about what's for supper, do the boys have homework, when will Mike be home... Those everyday concerns crowd out the turquoise blue of my next blog or the fiery fuchsia of a particularly witty line of dialogue for my WIP's main character.

The shower does it too, seawater green ideas that end up down the drain or leaving their marks on my towel as I step from the certainty that I will write them down into "Moooom! He's hitting me!" or "Honey, do you know where I left my shoes?"

But we've all got lives. And people are still writing, busy lives and all. I just hate the thought that I'm missing so much. Would that I could walk around like an old school novelist with a tape recorder in hand, saying things like "Note to self."

And then there's the stark white truth that I wouldn't trade one moment of searching for socks or helping with algebra as time dutifully trails away.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Not every class is the superbowl

Some days I'm paranoid, insecure, and sweaty. And I accidentally ignore colleagues because, oh yeah, I'm self-absorbed.

I can't wait to find my rhythm again; it successfully eluded me this week.(As if it has consciousness and did it on purpose -- did I mention paranoid?)

Tomorrow is a new day with just one class to teach. I was surprised that having four today wasn't as bad as I thought it'd be. I have a new mantra for this semester: It's less work than high school. Those of you who teach high school or elementary, my hat is eternally off to you. I did it for two years, many moons ago, and it cured me of my "I'm going to change the world one high school student at a time!" psychosis. I truly believe teaching of all levels is a calling, especially those of you in the middle school trenches.

I wrote a scene for the novel in the doctor's office the other day. It's completely out of order, but it was the thing I wanted to write. There's something luxurious about this stage, pre-revision and plot meticulating (it can be a word just this once, right?). I'm getting to know my characters, and so far they are people I'd hang out with, given the chance. Even the, no, especially the neurotic/bipolar Stella.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Books I can't forget

Is it strange that the Mac commercials just endear PC to me? I like the frumpy guy in his glasses, and I love my Dells. Heck, I have a Dell that is 7 years old and still runs fine.

I don't usually do memes here, but this one fits with the blog.

"15 Books That Will Always Stick With Me"

(in no particular order)

1. Harry Potter series
A no-brainer. Rowling (even with her excessive adverbs) created a world I could completely submerge in. It had been a while since a book had so thoroughly swallowed the outside world for me. I've read them all twice, some three times.

2. On Writing by Stephen King
This might be my favorite book of all time. It's the reason I picked up the pen after 8 years of pure housewifery and mommy duties. I don't care how dramatic or sappy it sounds -- through this book I found myself again. I remembered who I'd been pre-children.

3. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
This book affected me. I read it during my first year of teaching college freshmen and was embarrassed/ecstatic at the way I identified with the mentally unstable protagonist. I bought a hardback edition and carried it with me weeks after I'd finished reading it. Yeah, neurotic or inspired? You decide.

Through this I discovered Plath's poetry and "Lazarus" may very well be the most powerful piece of poetry I've ever had the pleasure to read, study, memorize.

4. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenberg
First, I love time travel. It -- and inter-dimensional travel -- is my very favorite sci-fi/fantasy convention. And boy, did she do it right. It's touching, exciting, and the prose is lovely. I love her play on chronology.

5. The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier
This book has an amazing and unique premise that is often on the edge of my consciousness. Being a Christian, I view it as pure fantasy, but wow, what an idea. And the writing is great too.

6. It by Stephen King
I was always afraid of clowns (along with half the population) -- actually anyone in a "character" suit scared me. I see this as a sign of early maturity and intelligence. After all, I remember distinctly being afraid, not of the make-up or suits themselves, but of the fact that ANYONE could be in those suits, under that make-up. It felt dishonest. The best part about this book isn't even the creepy psychotic, "Evil with a capital E" clown -- it's the exploration of friendship and community among the kids. You feel a part of it by the novel's end.

7. A Ghost Story by Peter Straub
Chilling, vivid imagery. One of the best horror novels I have ever read.

8. The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub
I have to admit, on some level, I fell a little in love with the 12-year-old protagonist Jack, Ol' travelin' Jack. King is a master of characterization and Straub is no slouch. Great fantasy, and the end was terrifying and exhilarating.

9. Sing Them Home by Stephanie Kallos
I love the way she weaves magic realism into the story. Effortless and believable. And she's another gifted writer, beautiful prose.

10. The Magicians by Lev Grossman
I'm still reading this, but already, it's grabbed me. There is a moment in this book, about 1/3 of the way in that I can't forget. I actually dreamed about it the other night. Also, this book has it all: inter-dimensional travel, magic, romance, and horror.

11. Fruits Basket series by Natsuki Takaya
Basically because it started my manga/anime obsession. The art, the storyline -- yes it's a little "young," but it's harmless fun and surprisingly deep for a manga.

12. Half Magic by Edward Eager
I read (and reread) this as a kid. It began my love affair with magic in literature.

13. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
The first book I read to my kids. They LOVED it. The best part was, I'd never read it, so we really went on the adventure together. Once we finished, Brad started crying, upset that it was over. So we read it again. :)

14. Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk
Holy crap. This book. There are scenes in this book I will never, ever be able to erase from my psyche. The literary damage has been done, and it was wonderful. His grasp of concrete, concise writing is unrivaled.

15. The Color of Water by James McBride
The true story of a black man growing up in Harlem with a white, Jewish mother. Well, she actually converted to Protestantism, but that's beside the point. I read it in a day, it took hold and didn't let go and I liked the alternating chapters told by the mother and son.

Back to The Magicians and my grading.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Cap sleeves, pendants, and magicians

Fresh sheets and 60 degrees, windows open and a great book.

This was a day for running and racing and feeling as though nothing were actually accomplished. I wore an outfit that looked great head on, but made me look fat from the side. Cap sleeves are not my friend; basically my arms look as though they're birthed from their skimpy hems, fat and sausage-y. Also, they're too short to serve any real function, and it's cold in Ohio these days.

In other news, I'm a woman (I first typed girl, but let's face it, I'm nearly 37) who wears a different colored pendant every day. I love them, the bigger and more unique the better. This is a trait I've now attributed to a quirky, yet likable character in my WIP.

Reading The Magicians by Grossman, and I LOVE it. I want everyone I know to start reading it so we can discuss it upon completion. You may begin now. It does have some "adult" language and content, but it's not gratuitous* and it is labeled as a book for adults, not YA.

*At least so far-- I'm on page 106.