Friday, October 26, 2012
My favorite costume of all time was a green sequined roaring 20's dress with black fringe swinging along the bottom. My favorite candy was a Tootsie Roll. I still have a weakness for that chewy chocolate calorie-adder.
What was your favorite costume and candy?
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Monday, September 10, 2012
That leads to today's mystical question. Can a person be happier with some kind of intention? Can it be done through behavior modification? How about through changing thought patterns? I absolutely believe it. I know where I am now. I know where I was twenty years ago; ten years ago; five and so on.
I didn't plan a happiness project, although given my natural inclination to learn everything about something before I do it, I would have. I just didn't think of it.
One of my character flaws is to blame myself for nearly everything. My boss is in a bad mood, so it must be my fault. My kid isn't happy today, so it must be my fault. A bird died in China, so it must be my fault. The next step in this pattern is to determine how it's my fault and to fix it. It's a miserable existence born out of some misguided ethic.
So I changed the pattern to something more truthful. When my boss is in a bad mood it has nothing to do with me. He's in a bad mood because he burnt his toast; got into traffic on the way in to work; had a fight with his wife; forgot his lunch; lost his house key; got yelled at by his boss. There are at least one hundred other reasons for his mood in which I'm not the central character.
Changing that auto-response was intentional and painful. And it took a lot of time, but I did it. Is it all the way gone? No. But I recognize when its creepy tendrils grab at me.
That was my biggest "happiness project" although I had, and continue to have others. I've been successful at most of them. I can create my own mood and reality if I want to.
If you don't have twenty years to work on being happier, then there's this book. I always have a book. My brother will tell you I always have a song. That's true, too.
The book is The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. She has a blog on it. Her newest book, entitled Happier at Home was just released last week. Both talk about ways to get happier in a more systematic way than I've gone about it. But they'll work, too.
Here's a book trailer on The Happiness Project. But don't buy the book unless you're going to do it because your project will be different from mine and hers because you're you.
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Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Today my blog introduces you to a young adult dystopian series of novels. GONE, by Michael Grant, is a contemporary twist on Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Add in some science fiction, a tad of fantasy and an autistic little boy and you have yourself a unique plot.
The premise of the story is simple. One day everyone aged fifteen and older disappears. A barrier goes up around Perdido Beach, California and the remaining kids have to figure out how to recreate society. Some of the children possess special powers. Others kids remain normal. Two brothers, separated at birth, square off. Then there's the gaiaphage, or "world eater" that wants to take over, which triangulates the conflict.
The new world is called the FAYZ (Fallout Alley Youth Zone).
I have tried to put down this series of six books, but I can't. It's fascinating to see how Michael Grant takes these kids through the reestablishment of some kind of order while also trying to survive. What defines leadership? Does capitalism reoccur? Does government? Will people work for free if starving is the alternative? Who takes care of the babies?
The books do need to be read in order since one serves as the foundation for the next. The order is: Gone, Hunger, Lies, Plague and Fear. Light, the last, won't be released until April 2013.
If you like dystopian literature, I think you'll like these books.
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Sunday, August 19, 2012
What the judges expect the most is that contestants repurpose whatever food is in the basket. For example, if pita bread is one of the items, it better not be pita bread by the time the chef presents the meal to them. I suppose they want it to be pesto. Perhaps some knowledge of alchemy would come in handy.
I could never be on that show. I'd be chopped the minute beets showed up. How do you think you'd repurpose beets? Or anything else?
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Friday, August 3, 2012
A friend of mine (actually a friend of Chuck's) recommended the books to me and specifically encouraged me to listen to them because he said the production is incredible. I risked the first two and Chuck didn't see me for days because I couldn't stop listening. Rupert Degas, the narrator, is the Mel Blanc of audio book reading. I've never heard anyone do more voices, more cleverly, than Degas.
Don't let the idea of a skeleton being the hero prevent you from listening (or reading) these books. They've won awards that include the Red House Children's Book Award, the Bolton Children's Book Award and the Staffordshire Young Teen Fiction Award. In 2010, Skulduggery Pleasant was awarded the title of Irish Book of the Decade. Landy, who plays video games, reads comic books and watches movies, doesn't like to brag about his achievements and prefers to live quietly in Ireland with his cats and dogs.
The first book in the series is Sceptre of the Ancients. Each book can be read as a stand alone novel, but it's much more fun to read them in order.
I recommend these unique books for you or your kids. They have everything in them to keep you turning pages.
In the meantime, meet Mr. Skulduggery Pleasant. I have to dash and get started on the fourth novel. Valkyrie and I have lost Skulduggery somewhere along the line.
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Sunday, July 29, 2012
I have a friend whose life, once,
played in metronomic timing.
One day she announced,
I think I'll start to floss my teeth.
Yes, there is time even for that.
A curse of a cascade of chaos.
That very day her son got caught in the rain,
causing him to catch a cold,
forcing him to miss school,
pulling her away from work,
overextending her paid time off,
creating a partial paycheck,
exacerbating the delayed child support,
making the rent late
generating a visit from the landlord,
who tripped over the secret cat,
causing the man to fall,
knocking over a pile of laundry,
exposing a fledgling wall mural,
strictly violating the lease, and,
Her well structured life toppled like a Junga game.
Picking up the pieces to begin again she warned,
Don't ever floss your teeth. It's bad luck.
Here's to good luck for all of you!
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Thursday, May 24, 2012
I've included the video here. It's well worth your 20 minutes to watch it. Brene Brown is such a great speaker, she'll grab your interest in the first seconds. Don't worry, her presentation is comedic because guess what? She makes herself vulnerable - in public. She a true bard and I envy her ability to be so.
Do books allow you to be vulnerable? If so, what are your favorite ones?
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Saturday, May 19, 2012
You've just finished reading A Beautiful Saturday Morning. Please consider leaving a comment. Thanks.
Sunday, May 6, 2012
Thursday, May 3, 2012
Monday, April 30, 2012
Sarah Coffey - My stepdaughter. She teaches me the art of sacrifice, which she does each day in supporting her family.
Saturday, April 21, 2012
Who Gets to Decide What's Pretty?
Friday, April 13, 2012
That makes the title critically important, then. So how do you come up with a good one? Another great question! I was just discussing with a few friends last week how challenging crafting titles can be. I usually wait until I’ve written most (if not all) of the first draft before creating titles. For my own flashes, I tend to highlight a key visual image or the central conflict in my flash titles. For instance, I just wrote a 300 word flash a few weeks ago about a couple on tour who are escaping a soon-to-erupt tsunami. That particular flash is entitled “Tsunami Morning.” After noting the storm in the title, I was free not to take up space noting the storm directly again, while also pinpointing the central conflict from the get-go. Sometimes, I will point to settings for titles, such as in another of my recent flashes I’ve called “The Home Place,” after a rich family’s garden a teenager is hired to landscape which the reader soon discovers should actually be his own land but (for various reasons) is not.
I'm going to have to re-think some of my own titles. In reading and writing a piece of flash, how much of it is realistic? While it depends upon each particular writer’s vision for her/his piece, I’d say that flash fiction stories tend to have more surrealistic and fanciful elements than more traditional short stories do, particularly with zinging endings. On the other hand, much like in all other genres of fiction, flashes rely on realistic dialogue, characters who are undergoing life changes, strong and focused narration without extraneous tangents or images, and a central conflict.
I know you've read a lot of flash and it would be hard to remember them all. What pieces have stayed with you the longest? Russell Edson’s piece, “Ape,” which is sometimes considered a prose poem and sometimes considered a flash, is searing and startling. Since hearing it as part of a grad school seminar, I’ve never forgotten it, and I’ve shared it with both my high school students and my online students in a few courses. Also, “My Date with Neanderthal Woman,” by David Galef, inspired me and cracked me up enough that I remembered it and included it into my flash fiction course handouts, to share with my students.
In our lives all of us can point to teachers or people we admire and wish we could just keep around to give us advice, support us, and sometimes even encourage us when we feel stuck. In the world of flash writing, if you had to choose, which flash writer would you consider a mentor, even if you could never talk to the person? Great question! Might as well just shoot straight to the tippy-top and site Hemingway’s “For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn.” That story just phenomenally moves me every time I read it—with a one-two punch to the gut. There’s tension, inherent in the grief. There’s that powerful symbolic image of the child’s shoes. There’s a suggested narrative. There are at least two characters if not three—a parent or parents and the recently deceased child. Without a doubt, Hemingway’s example is a masterpiece. Still, there are many other flash authors who may not be quite as well-known outside of literary circles whose work impresses and inspires me, from Padgett Powell to Russell Edson, David Galef, and Etgar Keret.
You're been very generous in sharing the work of others in this interview, but what are your own current projects? Thanks for asking. J I’m quite excited to be in the midst of putting together a chapbook of my poems, tentatively entitled (for the moment, at least) To Waken is To Begin. Some of the poems are brand-new (written in the past three months) while others are favorites from the past four or five years. It’s an amusing and ongoing process, noting how various narrative threads run through pieces written in vastly different time periods and literary influences. The poetry chapbook, however, is just one of my projects in the works. I have an article coming out with The New Writer, a British magazine for writers, in the Spring of 2012, and I’ll be teaching two more classes for WOW!, including a poetry writing seminar that kick-starts for National Poetry Month on Friday, April 13th as well as offering the fantastic Spark and Sizzle flash fiction writing course again, beginning on June 1st. I’m also sending my own flash fictions to literary magazines and working on some other prose I’m pitching to magazines. I like to keep several types of writing projects going at a time, submitting three submissions a month to editors’ desks so there is a batch of my work in circulation while I get back to work and writing new pieces. J
Eight to ten drafts. That's a lot of dedication and determination. When you're working through those pieces, what do they teach you as you go along? I love the exploratory nature of writing flashes. Generally, I receive a bolt out of the blue piece of dialogue or a character, and I’m off and writing a rough draft. Once, last September, I awoke from a nap to a line of dialogue from a single father trying to take care of his dog and his daughter amidst a washer overflowing, and I ran to my laptop in a mad dash (not brushing my hair or changing out of my pjs, and barely even putting on my glasses). It was such fun meeting my characters on the page! J I love that feeling and to hearing similar stories from my flash-writing students. I think that’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned from writing a flash piece—at its best writing flashes is pure play, like a kid in a candy store (at least until the first draft is finished, then it’s editing time, which can be challenging but amusing in its own right).
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Monday, April 2, 2012
Sunday, March 25, 2012
Saturday, March 17, 2012
- The heart-wrenching scene where Katniss volunteers as tribute in place of her sister, Primrose.
- When Katniss shows the panel her skills and gains attention.
- The scenes where we see how Panem treats the tributes before sending them into the games. It was completely unexpected.
- The mad dash for the equipment when the games begin.
- When Ru alerts Katniss to a certain danger. (I won’t say what danger in case you haven’t yet read the book.)
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
There are four books in the series (A Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith, I Shall Wear Midnight) and Tiffany is about two years older in each one. The themes get increasingly complex and Tiffany has to figure out what to do to resolve the problem she faces. She gets help from the Nac Mac Feegles, also known has the wee free men, although she continues to insist they keep their distance. These tiny, Scottish blue members of a clan are a delightful side story to Tiffany’s development as a young adult and as a witch.
Today’s Hunger Games movie trivia tip: The boots Jennifer Lawrence wears throughout the movie were personally selected by her. She knew she would have to do a lot of her own stunts, so she wanted to ensure they were comfortable. Remember to enter The Hunger Games book giveaway contest by clicking on this link. Simply go to the bottom of the post to enter!
Hunger Games Book Giveaway
Friday, March 2, 2012
Happy Hunger Games! GOOD LUCK IN THE CONTEST! DON'T FORGET TO LEAVE A COMMENT TO INCREASE YOUR CHANCES TO WIN.
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
A friend of mine in Tucson has a daughter who is now about 16. But when she was 12 she had a tendency to get into trouble, which forced both parents into the principal’s office with a fair amount of frequency. Back at home, a punishment would be pronounced which was usually making her read for an hour. It wasn’t any of my business, but I wasn’t 100% sure about associating reading with something as dreadful as being locked away in a bedroom with a book shoved in your hand. I had visions of kids in stockades with books in their hands with the guards commanding them to read. I think I have an overactive imagination.
As it turned out, the penalty backfired because the young lady ended up loving to read and welcomed every reading consequence she received. In fact they rarely saw her because she’d get home from school, grab her book, and wasn’t seen until dinner. She read everything she could get her hands on.
Now, you may ask what in the world this has to do with Rick Riordan’s Kane Chronicles. Well, my friend’s daughter reminds me of Sadie Kane, one of the two protagonists. Sassy, smart, and fearless.
The Kane Chronicles is a series of books about Sadie and Carter, brother and sister who were separated at the death of their mother. Nearly strangers, the two come together in the first book and set upon a series of quests based in Egyptian mythology. If you want your kids to learn a little history without having to dive into a textbook, this is one way to do it. Rick Riordan has done his research and weaved Egyptian culture into the very fabric of the plot.
Both boys and girls can enjoy the books since the brother and sister play equally into every plot. Although designed specifically for fifth graders and up, don’t let the suggested age group fool you. Adults can also have a great time with them – with or without kids.
The hard copies are fun, but if you want a real treat, get the Audible Audio edition. The performances are absolutely marvelous and are ideal for long trips. There is enough action to keep most kids interested for hours and you may find they don’t want to get out of the car. When I read the Red Pyramid on my itouch, I confess that I found myself sitting in my truck in the garage in order to find out what happened next.
Here's a great YouTube video that gives you the plot straight from Rick Riordan.
Please leave a comment if you’ve read these and if you liked them. Or, perhaps, if you’re going to try them out. Thanks!