Thursday, December 12th, 2013
Yesterday after working on my book, I went Christmas shopping in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. I love summer places in the off-season.
I was thinking of my dad. His birthday was last week and it was hard to turn the December calendar page and see his name on the 3rd, written boldly back in January when we had written all the birthdays on the 2013 calendar.
There's a "minus one" in our holiday plans. One less seat at the table, one less plate, one less person to buy presents for.
And I was thinking about how he wouldn't read any of my 2014 books. Right before he died, we joked together that he had to go before Half a Chance, my next novel, was published because otherwise he'd have to read it. He laughed and I laughed. That was how we joked with each other. He wasn't a reader, so I was a little glad that he didn't *have* to read it, but I know he would have done so--because he loved me.
As I was standing on a snow-covered wharf taking some photos, up popped a loon. Loons spend their winters on the ocean and trade their striking black-and-white summer colors for winter grays. They are a big thread in Half a Chance. He looked right at me and I looked back and took this one photo--fuzzy because my hands were shaking--before he rolled forward and dove away.
I won't need to buy my dad a present this year, but it felt like maybe the universe sent me one.
current mood: touched
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Wednesday, December 11th, 2013
I’m writing to you since God quit listening a long time ago. I want to ask you a question. What are you afraid of? This is what scares me:
1. Cockroaches that fly like small bats
2. First day of school, second day of school, third day of …
3. Fat tornadoes in a yellow sky
4. Losing Ganny
5. The banshee in the woods coming for Ganny
6. The word “illegal” and a new law about being “illegal” in Alabama called HB 56
7. Kids who ask me: “What are you anyhow? White or Mexican? Boy or girl?”
8. Brown recluse spiders
9. Other stuff too
I read 2 books this week. It’s summer and there’s nothing else to do. They were on sale for 25 cents at the library since they are old books.
THE BFG by Roald Dahl & ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET by Judy Blume –
The 2 books gave me two ideas:
IDEA #1. Vulcan, I hope you come down off Red Mountain and visit me the way the BFG (Big Friendly Giant) visited Sophie and took her back to Giant Land.
IDEA #2. Vulcan, I’m going to talk to you in letters the way Margaret talked to God.
A sixth grader in Birmingham, Alabama
P.S. I’m writing to you on an old typewriter I found at MISSION POSSIBLE where we buy our clothes. Poppa got it for me since he said typing is an important skill. He left for Florida a few months ago where he won’t look so illegal. It’s illegal to look illegal in Birmingham now, which means looking Mexican or something else, but I guess you know all about that since you can see everything from up there. PLEASE COME DOWN OFF RED MOUNTAIN AND VISIT ME. I live at 1620 29th Court South next to the fire station.
* * *
Millie-Graciella took a match out of the box and struck it to catch her letter to Vulcan on fire. It took three tries. The sparks danced inside the tiny charcoal grill outside their apartment next to the fire station where you could sometimes hear the 9-1-1 calls coming in over the loudspeaker with callers crying about their emergencies. Soon the yellow flames licked the letter into blue and black smoke, smoldering inside the coals they’d used for last night’s carne-asada.
Vulcan, the world’s biggest cast iron statue, stood atop Red Mountain in Birmingham waiting for Millie-Graciella’s letter to reach him. How did she know that? Don’t ask. She just knew it. She knew the smoke would carry her words up to him on Red Mountain and reach his big, listening ears.
Inside her family’s tiny apartment, Millie-Graciella’s grandmother, whom they called, “Ganny,” was dying slowly in a metal hospital bed to the tune of Good Morning America. But was Ganny truly dying? It was hard to tell. Mrs. Vickie, the hospice lady-with-the-moustache was inside with her giving Ganny a lavender sponge bath. Mrs. Vickie was part church lady/hospice lady. Momma said ladies like her came when folks got sick and families needed extra help and that they should be grateful to her.
But Millie-Graciella wasn’t grateful to her, not a minute.
“Millie-Graciella, are you out there playing with fire again?” called Mrs. Vickie, the hospice-lady-with-the-moustache, her voice like dusty sandpaper.
“Sure smells like smoke to me. It’s 100 degrees today. You trying to make it hotter than it already is setting things on fire, child?”
“No ma’am,” Millie-Graciella lied again. (Sometimes lying felt great.)
“We talked about y’all kids being sweet yesterday. Come in here a minute. I want to talk to you.”
“I’m real busy at the moment. I’ll have to get back to you on that one.”
“Excuse me, lady. There’s no call to be ugly. Your little brother is as sweet as the day is long.”
Ha! What did Mrs. Vickie know? When her annoying little brother, Romero, wasn’t all up in Millie-Graciella’s business, spying on her, looking through her things, he was building Lego kingdoms and collecting things, like odd headlines that he put into a scrapbook such as: “STOLEN PENGUIN RETURNED TO ZOO” and “TEN-YEAR-OLD FINDS BEAR IN KITCHEN EATING OREOS.” Millie-Graciella had to admit they were pretty good headlines, but she would never tell him that. He had a big enough head as it was with everybody loving on him all the time like he was the King of France or England or some place like that.
Ganny’s old cat, Daisy, pawed at the smoke traveling up to Vulcan. Millie-Graciella scratched Daisy’s ears, which made Daisy drool a little. She was the droolingest cat when you scratched her ears just right. Millie-Graciella looked toward the woods behind the apartment complex. All was quiet, which meant the banshee was still sleeping. She thought of how she first heard the piercing wail of a banshee in the loblolly pines just last week. How did she know it was a banshee? Because all Irish families had them, and she was part Irish, and a banshee cried when someone was dying, slow or fast. Millie-Graciella was part Mexican too, and banshees also visited Mexican families, only in Mexico, they called it the “weeping woman” or the official name: La Llorona. Millie-Graciella had read that in a book. So was it La Llorona or a banshee or a mix of both coming for Ganny? Could Vulcan hear it too? Yes, he could. He just pretended like he couldn’t by standing so awful still up there, but he was listening.
Mrs. Vicki poked her head out of the ragged screen-door, “Millie-Graciella, are you going to come in here or am I going to have to come after you? Now I’m going to close this door because I’m letting the air out, but I want you in here, madam. This minute. We need to have words.”
“Yeah, you’d better get in here to have words,” Romero shouted, “Or I’m calling Mom at the Post Office to tell her you’re not listening. Again.”
Words? Hmmm. Millie-Graciella weighed her options studying the old air conditioner stuck in the window that sounded like it was crying in the Alabama sun of August. Why should she listen to a do-gooder lady with a moustache and a nosy little brother? Besides, she hated being inside when she could be outside. She didn’t care how hot it was. Anything was better than an apartment where the doors and windows didn’t fit right and cockroaches with black wings flew over your head to picnic in the kitchen, and where her pretty grandmother, Ganny, was forgetting her face more each day, because everybody said she was dying. Nope, come to think of it, Millie-Graciella did not want to have “words” with anyone.
She pushed her short hair off her forehead into sweaty spikes, her letter to Vulcan burning up into bits of ash. Daisy watched it all and yawned. Would they come outside and get her? Romero had been inside watching television with Ganny all morning. He wore corrective glasses that kept his brown eyes from crossing and looking at each other instead out at the world. Everyday, he built Lego kingdoms near Ganny that nobody could touch or he’d FREAK OUT, but his so-called “masterpieces” crowded up the place, and stray Lego pieces stabbed your bare feet if you weren’t careful. Sometimes, Millie-Graciella forgot to be careful. Sometimes, she was plain mean. Sometimes, it felt great to be mean too, in addition to lying.
“Millie-Graciella, I’m calling you!” Mrs. Vicki knocked on the window.
“Yeah, we’re calling you!” Romero’s face appeared under Mrs. Vicki’s.
Millie-Graciella took that as her cue to run. She hopped over Daisy and took off down the apartment steps and raced across the hot asphalt toward the woods to pick blackberries to put on her Ganny’s Cream of Wheat. It was a good time to pick blackberries. The banshee in the woods was still sleeping, and blackberries sprinkled on Cream of Wheat still tasted good to Ganny. She could hear Mrs. Vicki calling after her.
Millie-Graciella! You get back here!
No thanks. Running toward the woods she thought of the sign on the door to ED’S PET WORLD on 18th Street. The sign said: “BE NICE OR GO AWAY.” Ed sold “exotic and domestic pets.” She wondered sometimes if that sign was meant for her. “BE NICE OR GO AWAY.” She could have said the same thing to the governor of Alabama or to the hospice-lady-with-the moustache, too, but most of all she could have said it to the banshee in the woods: “BE NICE OR GO AWAY.” But it didn’t seem to Millie-Graciella that the governor, Mrs. Vicki, and especially not the banshee had any intention of going anywhere. And for that matter, neither did Vulcan, god of the forge, the giant statue that kept watch over Birmingham, his spear pointed to the sky. In fact, Millie-Graciella saw it this way in terms of everybody wanting something:
1. The governor of Alabama WANTED people like Millie-Graciella’s father to go far away back to places like Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Argentina or wherever it was they came from.
2. Mrs. Vickie, the hospice-lady-with-the-moustache WANTED Millie-Graciella to be “sweet” every single second of the day and not fool with fire.
3. The banshee WANTED to take her beautiful grandmother away, plain and simple, to the underworld. It didn’t care about sweet or nice.
4. The Bug Man, who killed insects in the apartment complex, WANTED the cockroaches and brown recluse spiders to go away, but they kept coming back no matter how many times he aimed his poison at them and fired.
5. And Vulcan WANTED to keep standing up there on Red Mountain, day after day, listening to all the wishes and whispers of Birmingham. But what did he do about all those wishes and whispers? Nothing. That’s what. A big fat nothing. So far.
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Search and Rescue (170)
MOUNTAIN DOG by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Olga & Aleksey Ivanov
After his mother is sent to prison, 11-year-old Tony moves in with an uncle he's never met in the Sierra Nevada mountains where he learns about search-and-rescue dogs and how to go from lost to found. This novel in verse is beautifully written and gently told. The short chapters from Gabe, the chocolate SAR lab add another welcome dimension to the story. The pace is quick and the setting is clear. A lovely MG. (Henry Holt, 2013)
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Reptile volant et la Dame
Outside, where the sun has not yet touched, there's a thin frosting of snow. It'll be gone as soon as the cold sun finds it. Winter eats its own. Currently, 29˚F here in Providence, but the ever helpful windchill means it feels 18˚F. In the South, we'd call this goddamn cold.
Yesterday I intended to get Sirenia Digest #94 together and out to subscribers. But then Kathryn and I spent the afternoon on more edits to "Mote[L] 2032." It's one of those pieces I'll never truly believe is finished. It can always be made just a little bit better. sovay — kindly read the story for me yesterday. The Drowning Girl: A Memoir was like that. Peter Straub finally had to tell me to stop working on it. Anyway, today I am going to put the issue together.
Yesterday was also spent removing more books from my office, and reorganizing what remains. I'm estimating that approximately five hundred books have left this room. I'm finally nearing the end of that whittling away, and now I just have to get all the books I'm discarding out of the house. There are still several boxes to be considered by Paper Nautilus, and the rest will likely go to local libraries to do with as they will. Just so long as the books are not here, I don't care. If I can get everything done today I mean to get done, tomorrow we'll be taking two empty bookcases to the storage place in Pawtucket, and we should be able to shelve most of the eBay stock (hundreds of authors copies of my books from both Subterranean Press and Penguin). Slowly, progress is being made, and it feels good to be lightening the load.
If you have not already, please have a look at the current eBay auctions. The BIG-ASS XMAS EBAY BLOWOUT, remember? In particular, I draw your attention to this auction: Letter O from the lettered edition of Tales from the Woeful Platypus, which comes with a handmade by Spooky beanie platypus. Well, actually, it's a ricey platypus, as it's filled with rice, not beans.
Last night we finally were able to see Luc Besson's Les aventures extraordinaires d'Adèle Blanc-Sec! I'd only been waiting since fucking 2010. It's a marvelous film. Besson and some of his longtime collaborators – Eric Serra, Thierry Arbogast, etc. – have surely done Jacques Tardi's comic justice. I'm a great fan of Besson's The Fifth Element (1997), and in many ways Les aventures extraordinaires d'Adèle Blanc-Sec feels like a companion piece to that film. It shares much the same style, and, of course, both have roots in French comics.* The cast is superb, especially Louise Bourgoin in the title role. So, yes. See this film if you possibly can. It's now out on DVD and Blu-ray, and it's worth owning. Do not watch it dubbed!
Okay. I just got an email from my editor reminding me that, this morning, I have to go over some layouts for the forthcoming Dark Horse reprint of the Alabaster prose collection. I truly do wonder how grand publishing must have been in the days before email...
Better Than Yesterday,
* As much as I loathe Japanese manga, I love la bande dessinée franco-belge.
current mood: well...
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Imperfect Mothers are Perfect
This is partly from a facebook thread that I started yesterday. I began with a quote from The Bishop's Wife book 3 (untitled and still very much in progress), from Linda Wallheim's point of view as she is arguing with her husband:
"I spent most of my life raising children. It's the thing I'm the best at in the whole world. I know how to teach a child to pick up his toys. I know how to keep a child from touching a hot stove. I know five different ways to bribe a child to sit on the potty until his first success. I know how to talk about dating. I know how to make a teenage boy see how to look at the world differently. I know how to teach compassion and hard work. I'm a mother, Kurt. This is what being a mother has made me. I'm good at this one thing, and around me, people keep saying that maybe it's time for me to learn how to do something else. Go back to school. Get a degree in something so I can start a new stage in life."
I got comments from several people who said that they were surprised to read about a mother who thought of herself as a "good mother." The problem is that it sounds arrogant and possibly wrong-headed for any woman to think of herself as a good mother. This is probably true of any woman thinking of herself as good at anything--we're supposed to be quiet and sit around waiting to be complimented by men, right? But motherhood in particular is fraught with this image of perfection. No real woman can live up to that, which is why Mother's Day is so painful for women when it ought to be a celebration of all that they do and give in a way that makes them comfortable rather than making them feel like they can never live up.
I wrote: "I feel like one of the most important parts of mothering is showing kids that mothers are human, with strong and weak parts. This is vital, because our daughters will grow up to be mothers and we don't want them to be afraid to be imperfect. Our sons will grow up to marry mothers (and possibly do mothering of their own) and they need to know what is a reasonable expectation. That is, not perfection. They will need to step in and help and not be afraid that they're not perfect, either. Imperfection is part of perfect mothering."
This idea that when you become a mother, you are endowed with some kind of angelic insight into your children, along with this perfect love that makes you capable of knowing how to do everything right, and the capacity to give and give until you are sucked dry--that is so unhealthy. Really good mothers ought to be pointing out their flaws left and right to their kids so that this horrible, angelic ideal of motherhood is good and well destroyed. When you give birth to a child, or adopt, or however you get your child, you aren't promising never to do anything wrong. You are engaging in a special, lifetime relationship with someone else. You agree to share your self, good and bad, with someone else, to keep working things out, to compromise, negotiate, and love. And like with any other normal, human relationship, you will get things wrong. You will want to give up. You will question yourself and wonder if you should turn into someone else to make this work. You shouldn't. You're doing it just fine.
Another one of the problems of the angelic,perfect mother is that there are crappy mothers out there, but we so very rarely call them on it because of this bizarre ideal. That is, I think children want so much to pretend that their mother is good that they end up unable to see what real good mothering is. A good mother isn't a mother who refuses to let you make your own decisions. She doesn't smother you with love. She doesn't nitpick you to perfection or make you wonder if you're crazy. A good mother doesn't make problems for you with a new spouse. A good mother doesn't tell you all the things you're doing wrong with your kids. Or at least a good mother doesn't consistently to that stuff, and apologizes for it if you call her on it. There are no perfect mothers, but imperfect ones are the best kind.
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Guest Post & Giveaway: Becca Puglisi on Where Do Character Strengths Come From?
for Cynthia Leitich Smith
Quick, name a favorite literary or movie character. Now, what is it about him/her that’s so appealing?
In all likelihood, the reason you love that character is because he or she embodies a trait that you value: Atticus Finch
’s bravery, George Bailey
’s selflessness, James Bond
It’s not surprising that these icons landed in the top ten of AFI’s Top 100 Heroes and Villains list
. While flaws play a part in eliciting reader empathy, it is a character’s ability to overcome his weakness that inspires the audience.
And what enables the hero to win the day? Usually, it’s his positive attributes—his persistence, confidence, responsibility, or ambition—that allow him to succeed. This is why it’s crucial that we pick the right attributes for our characters.
But how do you know which ones are a good fit for your hero? Fully-realized characters, like real people, aren’t formed out of the air. They’re a result of many different elements that come together to make the character who he is in the current story.
When determining which attributes your character will embrace, consider the following influencers:Past FactorsGenetics
: Since this one is simple, we’ll get it out of the way first. Some traits, like intelligence, talent, and creativity, are simply handed-down through DNA. Having a character share a trait with his mother, grandfather, or even a distant uncle can add believability to his embodiment of that trait.Upbringing and Caregivers
: Everything about your character’s first role models will influence him, from their personal values to the way they spoke to him to the amount and quality of time they spent with him.
If his relationship with his caregivers was positive, he may adopt their attributes as his own as a way of showing respect. If the relationship wasn’t great, he may shun the qualities that they espoused so as to create distance. Family dynamics play a huge role in forming personality; this should definitely be taken into consideration when choosing positive attributes for your hero.Negative Experiences
: While these wounding events from the past are most often associated with the formation of flaws, positive attributes can develop from them, too. The victim of a vicious attack may become cautious and alert because of it. The boy whose father never kept his word may grow up to value honesty. The oldest child of a neglectful parent may learn, by necessity, to embrace maturity and resourcefulness.
Without a doubt, flaws do tend to form when we experience these traumatizing events, but positives can come out of them, too. Keep that in mind when mining your character’s backstory for potential strengths.Present FactorsPhysical Environment
: A character who grew up in the mountains is going to have a different perspective than someone who was raised in the big city. Americans tend to value things that Parisians or Brazilians or even Canadians don’t. Physical environments are formative—the ones from the past, and even the place where your character lives now. A southern belle who moves to downtown Chicago is likely going to experience some personality shifts during her transition.
Your character’s environment will subtly influence the kind of person that she becomes; choose her living places deliberately so her attributes will make sense to readers.Peers
: At certain points in life, your character’s peers will become her biggest influencers. Through her desire to please them and be accepted, she may adopt some of their values for her own. Sometimes, she may become like them out of a genuine respect for their beliefs and a desire to embrace them for herself.
Like caregivers, past and present peers can greatly impact who your character becomes, so take them into consideration.Values and Ethics
: This one is a biggie, because, in my opinion, it overrides all of the other factors.
The bottom line: your character will adopt or reject attributes based on what he or she believes. Does she place a high value on her reputation and what others think? Then she will likely espouse propriety and discretion while rejecting uninhibitedness. Your character’s morals and personal beliefs will play a powerful role in the formation of her strengths. If you want her to make sense to readers, make sure that her values, ethics, and positive attributes line up.In Summary
Every character needs some strong positive qualities so she’ll be capable of reaching her goals and
drawing in readers. While the easiest method would be to pick and choose random attributes, doing so will result in a character that lacks authenticity.
To avoid this, explore your hero’s backstory. Dig into these developmental factors to learn as much about them and their effect on your hero as possible. With this kind of information, you’ll be able to create a realistic and well-rounded protagonist armed with the qualities she needs to succeed.
And who knows? Maybe she’ll end up on somebody’s Top 10 List someday.About Becca Puglisi
Becca Puglisi is the co-creator of The Bookshelf Muse, an award winning online resource for writers. She has also authored a number of nonfiction resource books for writers, including The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Emotion
; The Positive Trait Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Attributes
; and The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Flaws
A member of SCBWI, she leads workshops at regional conferences, teaches webinars through WANA International
, and can be found online at her Writers Helping Writers
Enter to win a PDF copy of The Positive Trait Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Attributes
from Cynsations. Eligibility: international. Author sponsored. Enter here
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Tuesday, December 10th, 2013
Review Number Two!
Thank you, Publishers Weekly! Two down, and now I'm going to try to let the breath go that I've been holding.
"Filled with moments of discovery, wonder, and sorrow, Lord’s story captures Lucy’s artistic sensibility and photographer’s eye, as well as her compassion for both animals and people. Through Lucy’s thoughts and actions, Lord (Rules) elegantly conveys how complex stories can be told through moments frozen in time."
You can read the full review here: http://publishersweekly.com/pw/reviews/single/978-0-545-03533-0
current mood: pleased
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Mothers and Heroes
When I started working on The Bishop’s Wife, one of the things I most wanted to do was to create a character who was a mother and a hero. This is done less often than you think. There are a lot of kick-ass heroines, but most of them don’t mother actively. I guess this may seem obvious, but having little children who cling to and depend on you can get in the way of guns blazing.
But what if you could do a great female hero who wasn’t a guns blazing type? My favorite mother-hero of this type is Cordelia Naismith, who is a former member of the Betan Expeditionary group and ends up rather unwillingly fighting a war, and then being captured. But once she gets married, she wants to settle down and have babies and be happy. Only the world doesn’t let her do that. Or she doesn’t let herself do that, depending on how you look at it. So she saves her new planet from civil war, and she saves her son at the same time. But she does this in part because she isn’t pregnant and she has a uterine replicator to make it possible for her to not have to deal with our real-world realities of pregnancy.
I wanted to write a mother-hero who is in our real world and has to deal with real world stuff. In particular, I wanted to write a story about a woman who is a mother in a culture in which motherhood is lionized and women are told that motherhood is their most important role. To wit, Mormonism (which is, in fact, my home religion).
It’s one thing when you’re a dad and can go off, guns blazing, sure that your wife and children are safe left behind. Even when you’re Jack Ryan or James Bond and your wife/kids are killed or threatened with death, you aren’t held to the same standard as I think a mother is. Yes, you deal with guilt the rest of your life for failing to protect them. But what happens to the reader audience if a mother lets her kids be threatened in that way. I think the series beginning with The Boy in the Suitcase is a great exploration of complex motherhood.
But in Mormonism, the religious overtones of motherhood matter even more. What if you’re a mother who isn’t a mother anymore, whose kids are grown up? What are you good for? Do you continue to hover over kids who don’t need you? Do you find people you do need you? What are your internal excuses or explanations for putting yourself in physical danger if you get involved in crime? What about when you start wondering about the underpinnings of Mormonism and the expectations of male and female roles? What if crime seems to be helped rather than hindered by the Mormon culture?
Anyway, these are some of the things I’m exploring with the character of Linda Wallheim, Bishop’s wife and 50-something mother of 5 boys whose last son is a senior in high school and soon to head off on a mission.
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Forgot to say . . .
Forgot to say: for those of you who have wads of cash lying around, for this fundraiser I'm attempting a first: a Tuckerization. My head usually doesn't work that way, but I think I could make it happen this time. Anyone who wants to be Tuckerized will end up a cackling bat!
Also, critique offer. That can include novel length.
Click the pic if your wallet is just too weighed down with simoleons, and you need to lighten the load!
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"I just can't face myself alone again."
It doesn't seem to matter that I'm almost fifty. It's still a big let down when promised snow fails to materialize. Like today. Three to six inches were forecast. But something went awry. I suspect the ground is just a little too warm. So, the snows falling, but it's mostly melting on contact. No snow day. Get up. Go to school.
That wouldn't be so bad.
I'll never understand readers who believe – fervently – that an author should never speak up in her own defense. Readers have the right to speak their minds about what I write, and I have the right to reply to their criticisms. There is no author/reader contract that protects them. The choice is mine, whether or not I answer my detractors. The choice is mine, whether or not I answer those who compliment me. That's just the way it works; no one is immune. If you seriously believe otherwise, you need to grow up.
If you haven't already, please have a look at the current eBay auctions. Thanks!
The winter's off to a rough start. I'm trying to keep my eyes on May. In Alabama I would have said I'm trying to keep my eyes on March. But no relief, no real relief, comes to Rhode Island until sometime in May. Cold Spring holds sway. I blunder into every winter a little less stable than the winter before, it seems.
On Sunday I wrote nothing much. Sunday is sort of inexplicable, and so I'm will leave it with no attempt at explanation. I spent a lot of time reading over what I'd done on "The Mote[L] 2032." It all looked like crap. Everything I had liked about it seemed like a mistake, and I couldn't understand what virtue I'd found there. Finally, I forced myself to put the pages down and step away (yes, actual fucking pages; I edit on paper). I went back to the piece yesterday, on a far less inexplicable day. Yesterday was only shell shock, that numb, stunned feeling that comes on the underbelly of every now and then. Yesterday, I sort of "bounced back" and wrote 1,023, finishing the piece. It'll be in Sirenia Digest #94. I like it, and Sunday remains inexplicable.
My thanks to Mark West for getting my blog off Goodreads, where it was being mirrored illegally, i.e. without my consent.
And we watch stuff. The last two nights we plowed through the fifth and final season of Damages. I wasn't disappointed by the conclusion.
Little Lamb, smile
current mood: confused
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I admire people who make resolutions and stick to them. I tend not to be contrary when it comes to New Year's and resolutions. Statistically, I know most folks make resolutions and then stick to them for a short time before letting them go. Quite a few years ago, I made a resolution not to make resolutions for the coming new year. That does not mean I do not make commitments; I do.
I committed to blogging some years ago. I manage most days to post to this blog and the book blog (www.ls5385blog.blogspot.com). When I miss a day, I feel guilty somehow. I committed to reading a bookaday or reading for the New Centurions group (213 books in 2013). I write and read on a daily basis. Why? How can what I have managed to do be something I can encourage in others? Here are the guidelines that guide me. When I do workshops, I ask for the participants to make a commitment (in writing) accordingly.
1. I set aside time at the very beginning of my day for reading (and sometimes for writing as well). But I broaden the definition of reading. Reading my Twitter and Faebook feeds is where I begin. It is fun to see status updates, posts, photos, and other stuff from my colleagues, friends, and members of the larger social network. I read the Nerdy Book Club post of the day. I see what friends are reading and recommending. I follow links to articles, mailing links to myself to inspire my writing at some point.
2. I have a stack of quick reads by my chair all the time: picture books, poetry collectoons, short story anthologies, graphic novels are there. I can pick up one of these slim boooks and finish reading it in the time it takes for me to have my morning cup of coffee. #bookaday accomplished.
3. If I have some extended time, I read several books. This makes up for days when I just cannot fit in my reading.
4. I do the same thing with blogging. I blog books in batches. Right now my book blog is done until next week. I have a stack of new books waiting to be blogged. I try to do a handful at a time.
5. If I know my schedule is going to be full (NCTE and ALAN week), I schedule posts.
6. I do not beat myself up if I fail to read a book or post a blog from time to time. I want this experience to be something I always enjoy. If I miss a day here and there, so be it. I will make up for it eventually.
And so I am a reader and a writer. I make time for what matters. I commit to doing these small things. And I find it easier to then make the larger commitment when it comes time to work on a book or an article or a chapter or to read through the stack of books for my committee work. Small steps, tiny bites, slow and sure progress.
I think we need to help kids find small spaces for growth, tiny bursts of time for reading and writing in addition to the more extended times we can offer. Quick writes, poem in my pocket, and other elements like them can help us develop the good habits of reading and writing.
I wonder if we could get Arne Duncan or David Coleman or Michelle Rhee to set these examples? If beinng college and career ready is essential, could they then pick up the commitment to model their own REAL literacy actios on a day by day basis? Show us your reading, your writing, your thinking. Put it out there for others to see. Instead of putting your money where your mouth is, put your reading and writing out there for all to see. Oh, one more thing, my reading is the stuff that kids read; my writing is accessible. It would be nice for a change to see that from our educational leaders.
current mood: busy
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