We are about to have a very enlightened conversation about art:
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Monday, July 30, 2007
At first, I tried to handle my rounds alone. Then I hired the much younger----but with such cute glasses!---Mr. Google Reader to assist me. Great! Now I could follow multiple conversations at once. The only problem was that (and here the party gets weird) if I actually spoke during one of these conversations, instead of just sagely nodding at the fringes, then I had to keep dashing back to that group of people to see if anyone had replied. Which was often days later. (How I would love to hear Dorothy Parker handle this kind of conversational time travel.)
A breakthrough occurred when I discovered I could subscribe to all comments as well as all original posts. (And just so you know, you can do that for the conversations here by clicking on the link "Subscribe to all comments" at the right.) And joy! joy! some blogs even offered to tap me on the shoulder only when a particularly scintillating conversation had new thoughts. (That would be found here by clicking on the title of a post, and then scrolling to the bottom for the link marked "Subscribe to: post comments.")
And here's where I need your help: I can't find these links for some of the wildly wonderful, totally fascinating, non-probation anklet conversations I want to follow. Is this not available in some blogging software? Or is it an option the blogger turns on or off? Please, I'm begging you, enlighten me. Because I really want to ditch my sensible tennies and slip on my three-inch bronze snakeskin heels.
Saturday, July 28, 2007
Anyhow, after filling them in on The Big Story of how I wrote Letters From Rapunzel, and how I won the contest, and how I waited, with the patience of a gargoyle, for it to be published, and then wrapped it all up with how little this has changed my life while simultaneously changing it forever, most people...no, all of them...asked me: so what's your next book?
Thank God I could tell them about the manuscript I'd just completed. I wasn't even phobic about interrupting my muse, because I'd gotten through a complete draft and was sure the story wasn't going to dry up and evaporate like good smell on a dog. This enabled me to survive a few more conversations in a few more elevators and bathrooms.
But then, and you know what's coming don't you? Someone asked: so, do you have an idea for the one after THAT?
It's a tough audience out there, my blog friends. They eat thousands of words a day and don't even take a dictionary break before holding out their book-hungry hands for more. (Just look at the questions J.K. Rowling is getting.)
I, for one, am willing to do my part. But you guys that keep saying you're gonna write a book "some day" and then keep producing excellent readers instead (teachers, I'm talking to you!) or filling hospital beds with patients who can't sit up but read like they're on crack (surgeons, I blame you!) or actually expose books on labeled shelves and then press them, FREE, into the hands of complete strangers (librarians, I'm on to you!) ....well, you'd better start pulling some of this load, because otherwise, we authors are gonna start recommending some darn good TV.
Friday, July 27, 2007
is not ‘all of the above’ and this is not
just a cheap styrofoam practice prototype
with notes in the margin and plans for
improvement, we are not a mistake,
we are not dross leftover neatly labeled
and filed away for later
this matters and there won’t be a later,
living like lizards under rocks waiting for
the sun to come out but this is already daylight,
creep out and push your nose through the
grass, look around and dig in and make this matter
this is not just a test, this is today and real
and wonderful and harsh and joyful, every
shadow and syllable and keystroke and lizard
tail and breath in the dark and failing heartbeat,
every action potential and argon atom, and
the sun will never come out but we don’t have
to stay under rocks, this is already daylight
there are already stars, we are already worn
out and breathing and beautiful, every lover
and horror and diamond matters singularly
---by Rebecca Holmes (all rights reserved)
This is my daughter. She's been teaching me that "this is not a test" since the day she was born.
Poetry Friday roundup is at Check It Out
Sunday, July 22, 2007
"The Marines love it. As soon as we post a sign-up sheet they fight to get to the head of the line because it fills up within an hour."
What are they fighting to do?
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Aaron J. Rock)
For the full story, click here.
For a well-organized list of books about kids with a military parent, see children's librarian Jan Pye Marry's website, built as part of the requirements for her MLIS degree. The background for this project is interesting, too, for as she points out, there are over a million children in military families, but she could find only about fifty books, most of them NOT contemporary, (Vietnam era or earlier!) that even in some small way, reflected their experience. My personal favorite, The Great Santini, is on the list as "an adult book for teens." (If you want a look into the world this book was based on, read the eulogy the author, Pat Conroy, delivered for his Marine aviator father.)
I would also recommend the YA novel, Battle Dress, by Amy Efaw, who was one of the first women to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point, and who was a classmate of mine at the Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop at Chautauqua in 1996. The book is not about a military family, per se, but it is a gripping fictional account of a young woman's first year at West Point.
P.S. I have some commitments for the next few days, so I'll see you (and reply to your comments) when I return to the blog...
Saturday, July 21, 2007
(If you really want to go Principal Skinner on your bad self, don't click on any links until you answer!)
1. From MotherReader, I learned how to use "b***slap Tinkerbell" in a perfectly grammatical sentence. Name the picture book that inspired this term of not-so-endearment.
2. From the excelsior file, I learned the ultimate compliment for an English professor: "wuss core." (If you click, please heed David's warning about the upcoming bad language. He means it.) Which performance artist said these words, loud and proud? And what was David afraid the FCC would do about it?
3. From Hank of the Brotherhood, via 7-Imp, I learned the philosophical reasons that "Poop on a stick!" should be every thinking person's swear word of choice. Name the vegetable Hank was wearing during (well, at the top of) this interview.
4. From Robin, I learned how to identify my inner "Charmin." From what magazine did she take shopping advice before she discovered true luxury?
5. From adrienne (WATAT) I learned that I read "Fiction for Nerds." What nerdonic (OK, made that one up) literary device is found in Fiction For Nerds?
6. From Roger, I learned that saying the Horn Book was easy to read "one-handed" was treading on very dangerous ground. Which poor blogger did he embarrass this way?
Oh, by the way, did I tell you I'm organizing the games for Robin's party...whoops! Wrong word! I meant 1st Kidlitosphere "CONFERENCE."
Friday, July 20, 2007
are you, for
will make you weep
when the light hits the grass
in the morning.
I will make you crave
conversation like red
meat, lay you
weak, at the feet
of strangers. I will open
lives like vistas
that you will never
will come to you and press
against your flesh.
There is nothing
that will not call
your name, nothing
that you will not long
to possess, nothing
that will not offer up red
seeping into the roots
of the world.
will deceive you,
tell you all you need is a
mouthful, but in truth,
I know the desire
I infect you with is
See, how the red shoes
I bind to you prick
hungry for the beat
of note upon note,
paint upon paint,
word upon word,
blood from blood.
Blessed, oh! blessed
---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)
To read more about what prompted this poem, see previous post: Painter: Lucian Freud
Poetry Friday roundup is at Mentor Texts and More.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Or look at this mottled face. How beautiful to see skin as it really is, and not a sanitized CoverGirl tone. Why do we insist upon improving upon nature’s work? Why do we deem the non-uniform ugly? What’s wrong with a face that is green and blue and black? Red, orange, yellow? What’s wrong with veins and bumps and wrinkles, when they are drawn so exquisitely?
When I first saw these paintings in the pages of a heavy, unadorned art book, it was as if Lucian Freud had spoken a pressing truth, one that I'd never dared tell, and when he did, the relief was so intense, I wanted to cry.
I especially liked the portraits he did of models’ faces on a simple pillow or bed. There is a sense of fascination, as if you were looking at a newborn child or a lover asleep. Only he looks at everyone that way. Many of his full-size paintings, which I can't link to here, are so brutally observant that they are painful.
I wonder how he treats his models, the people in his life that he paints. Is he kind to them, or as bruisingly loving as his portrayals? Does he have to shield himself from their beauty in real life so he isn’t overwhelmed? How does he maintain his true sight? How can one live, seeing this intensely?
Tomorrow, I'll post a poem I wrote in response to Lucian Freud's paintings. Until then, look at them, read this, and tell me if he is blessed or cursed.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
What are the book/literacy/youth-related causes you support? I'd like to know.
Here are a few of mine:
Military Child Education Coalition
Beyond 4 Walls Book Drive
I'm also interested in the following projects, but haven't acted upon them yet:
The Campaign for Drawing (sponsors The Big Draw and other projects)
Open Books (a literacy bookstore not yet operational)
KinderHarvest (rescues and recycles children's magazines to donate to families)
I'd like to compile a list of all the projects KidLit Bloggers (and readers) support. (Or is there one already? Someone tell me!) I would call it:
The Very Big, No-Kidding, We're Changing the World, You Bet! Good Deed List.
We're Changing the World, You Bet!
Good Deed List
- Jama supports: First Book, Heart of America's "Books From the Heart," and the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia
- Sara supports: Flying Horse Farms Library, Military Child Education Coalition, Plan International, and the Beyond 4 Walls Book Drive
- Jules supports: America's Second Harvest, Childhelp, MomsRising, and the W.O. Smith Music School in Nashville
- Little Willow supports readergirlz, who themselves support all kinds of great cause
- Kid*Lit(erary) supports: Kids in need/Books in deed (She's got a book drive going on NOW!)
- Deborah Davis supports: Embracing the Child and advocates for getting more books to youth in juvenile prisons
- Anne Marie Pace supports: The Chincoteague Island Library Building Fund
- Jen Robinson supports: readergirlz, First Book, Reach Out and Read, Cops 'N Kids, Room to Read, and Reading is Fundamental. She also is a true literacy champion through her blogging efforts. Go check her blog's sidebars for lots of great places to donate books and support reading!
- Mary Lee at A Year of Reading supports her students by working with them after school in her school garden/land lab. How cool is that? Oh, and her fellow blogger, Franki, holds book parties, too!
- Mac McCool supports Exercise the Right to Read, a program to promote childhood fitness AND reading that was started by Wendelin Van Draanen and Mark Parsons. This year, their chosen charity (for which they will raise money by running the 2007 NY Marathon!) is First Book.
- Liz Garton Scanlon of Liz in Ink supports: the Inside Books project, and Ethiopia Reads
- Robin Brande supports Embracing the Child (see her post about it here.)
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
- A rubber bracelet that reads: I LIE FOR A LIVING (fiction writers only, please)
- A T-shirt imprinted with the words: YOU DON'T KNOW ME (perfect for the pre-published writer or the sales-challenged)
- A coffee mug that says: DENY EVERYTHING (2 for 1, for ghostwriters)
- A Nancy Drew MadLibs game (to solve cases of writer's block. Bess and George, extra.)
- A digital spy plane (for research) Replaces earlier model, Pigeon Camera.
- The book, The Enemy Within (15 % discount if you show your internal critic)
- Handcuff earrings (only if you're re-writing Pretty Woman)
- An electronic voice transformer (instantly converts 1st person to 3rd)
- Crystal lipstick pen (guaranteed to produce a hot pink cover)
- An invisible journal (to record your first royalty statement)
- Tree Stump Listening Device no longer available, due to protests about The Giving Tree
Monday, July 16, 2007
Thank you for writing Doomsday Book, a SF novel that I can give to my friends who "hate" speculative fiction and watch as they fall into the dark world of the year 1348, losing themselves in this "stunning novel of both suffering and hope." (The Denver Post)
Thank you for Bellwether, which is funny and clever, and which my daughter and I both adored, and now...her boyfriend's reading it too!
Thank you for the marvelous quotes
that preface each chapter of
To Say Nothing of the Dog. (Not to mention getting a reviewer to say "comedy of manners" and "chaos theory" in the same sentence.)
Thank you for taking me completely by surprise in:
Can near death experiences be both funny and profound? They can. (My mom and dad loved this one, too.)
Thank you for writing short stories about Winnebagos, and Shakespeare, and the Schwarzschild Radius, and Hollywood, and the London Blitz, and housewives, and girls' periods (and for naming that one, Even the Queen.)
And thank you for writing a new YA novel, D.A., which Colleen Mondor (Chasing Ray) reviewed here.
Finally, thank you for looking like this.
You make me want to hug you.
***With great thanks to Emily Beeson, of whimsybooks, for coming up with the idea of Tell An Author You Care Day.
Sunday, July 15, 2007
The talented Kim Norman and Layne Rowland present a duet between an overworked editor and a pushy author: "You Won't Accept No." My favorite line is: "I'll give the dog's mom a tumor!"
(Kim also did the graphics layout for the Letters From Rapunzel publicity postcards as a book launch gift to me. I knew I'd find a way to pay you back, Kim!)
P.S. If you have technical difficulties, wait for the podcast to load; then push the play icon.
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Okay, I know I only have ten of them so far, and no doubt when there are hundreds of them (go, Sara! go, Sara!) I won't be able to afford the luxury of fussing over their collars or dabbing at their chins or smoothing their hair. It'll be Slam! Bang! Out the door with YOU and don't come back until dinner!
So far, I've only corrected a few spelling mistakes (I misspelled "librarians"--- in the label section, not in the main post--- but still, bad, very bad) and I've fixed a few links gone haywire. But I'm talking about wanting to do things like tweak my last lines.
Last words are important. Ask John Green. And if you're not careful, they can be so stupid they're funny, as in: "What does this button do?" But I'm not writing my own last words here. At least, I hope not. Still, the way a post concludes is important to me.
When I read a book, I'm persnickety about endings there, too. If the author doesn't wrap it up like I wanted him to, I'm miffed. I carry a grudge. I grumble about it to friends. Not so for beginnings. I'll give an author a bit more leeway there. Not so much leeway that she can slowly describe each sunbeam as it crawls over the horizon, but I'm willing to acknowledge that there are many, many different ways to enter the world of a story. Why then, does there seem to be only one "right way" to end one?
Maybe all of this is on my mind because I just wrote the last chapter of my second book. I don't know yet if I like it. So far, I haven't felt the urge to change anything about the ending of my first book, which is already hard cast into print. (If I do, I'm taking a little pill that says: forget you ever thought this thought, because I'm not dealing with that kind of anxiety.) But for now, the last lines of my second book are changeable. They're tweakable.
And really, so is this one.
Friday, July 13, 2007
It's not that she isn't computer savvy. She is. And she knows how to call tech support just like the rest of us. One day this month, she called about a problem, and a customer service representative based out of India answered her call. When he took her name, he paused, and then he asked, "Are you a poet?" "I am," she replied. Then he quoted one of her poems to her!
It turns out that he has a younger sister who likes reading poetry out loud to him, and she had been sent magazines from relatives in America, magazines with Beverly's poems in them. He had obviously liked hearing them so much that he had committed them (and her name) to memory.
Here is the poem that found a fan across the world. It traveled by old-fashioned print and by an even more powerful connection: a voice, speaking to someone who knows how to listen.
SUIT OF ARMOR
In its human shape
Of molded steel,
It looks as though
There's someone real
Inside. You knock:
"Hello in there,"
And hear a dull
Echo of air
As though a voice
Were drifting through
The lonely centuries
---Beverly McLoughland (all rights reserved)
Poetry Friday Roundup is at Chicken Spaghetti today.
P.S. Don't forget that Monday, July 16, is Tell An Author You Care Day.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
I'm going to the library today to pick up a book. It's the graphic novel, The Plain Janes, by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg. I first heard about it through the Summer Blog Blast Tour in interviews with the author like this one. I later read intriguing reviews of it on other blogs like this one.
When I went to the library last week, (which, BTW, was packed with people) I searched for it in the library's computer catalog. The catalog said it was on the new JFIC shelves, but I couldn't find it anywhere. A live (no other description needed here) librarian helped me search for it. She eventually put in a hold request for me, and assured me that when it showed up, I would be emailed. She checked my email address and corrected an error in it. Today, the email arrived, and I'm off to pick up my book.
This is quite different from when I was a kid. Then, I would troll the shelves for interesting reads, find as many books as would fit in a stack between my cupped hands and my chin, and take them to the librarian at the checkout desk. She didn't have a bun, but she was old and rather tiny, and I adored her. I'm trying to remember why I adored her, and I can't even recall her name. I guess it was because I saw her as: SHE WHO WILL GET ME MY BOOKS.
The more modern librarian the other day also GOT ME MY BOOK.
I will discretely stare at your tattoo if you have one. I will give you bonus points if you have cute little artsy glasses. I may check out your shoes. But if you can't GET ME MY BOOK, then you don't fit my stereotype of a librarian.See the post from kidsilkhaze (Biblio File) over at The Geek Buffet.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Read, I mean. When I was a kid, I used to read upside-down. I would lie on my back on my bed, with my book in my hands, and then carefully slide backwards, head first, over the side until the crown of my head touched the floor. Then I would read until my ears started to pound. Why? Um, do teenagers' brains lack oxygen?
I also read while washing the dishes. This was my chore every fourth week, and I hated it. I would prop a book behind the sink, plunge my hands into the suds and wash the dirty plates and greasy pans and sticky forks by feel, not looking away from my book. When I got to a page turn, (which happened every few seconds or so because I was reading like I was slurping fuel) I would do a fast hand-drying swipe on my pants and flip to the next two-page spread. Voila! Books* got read, and forks got...re-washed.
I saw a bit of advice recently that suggested that writers should imagine themselves in a comfortable reading place when they are about to compose words. Yeah, I get that. Good advice. If you like chairs.
Where do you like to read? Is that the place you go in your head when you write?
*See: A Simple List of Books, FYOL
Owl in Love
The Book of Three
The Phantom Tollbooth
A Little Princess
Teller of Tales
Frog and Toad
Jacob Have I Loved
Hole in my Life
Enchantress from the Stars*FYOL: Find Your Own Links. Also: not alphabetized, ranked, or cited properly. Will be added to on an irregular basis, for no reason. Can't you see I'm trying to read here, people?
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
I stumbled across this fascinating project when I was exploring the Japanese idea of wabi.* Go ahead, I'll wait while you take a look. (If you click on each small picture, a larger one will load.)
The artist, Claudia Tennyson, states that she was "partly inspired by the Japanese tradition of repairing cracked ceramic vessels with gold filigree. The craftsperson makes the cracks visible instead of hiding them, and the mending process increases rather than depreciates the value of the vessel."
Could there be a more perfect metaphor for writing? We are gilding the cracks. Not covering them up, not even truly fixing them, because, often, that's beyond our power. But we can say: Look. Look right here.
How do you see Claudia's art? Is she crazy to do this? What are the cracks you want to call attention to with your art?
*For a different take on wabi (or wabi-sabi, as it's more completely called) see this funny piece from Utne Reader. As they say, "are you wabi-sabi, or just wabi-SLOBBY?"
Monday, July 9, 2007
You know, the one that runs you down before you have a chance to fix all those problems in your crappy rough draft. The one that leaves you with a tombstone that reads:
she was a writer
Not to mention the obit that says:
"A sad, wrinkled manuscript
was found decaying on her desk.
There were massive doses of
literary Botox in her system."
Oh, Robin, now I'm going to have nightmares about that bus. Does it go by my street? What color is it? Are there terrifying ads on the side of it, like:
YOU SHOULD NOT BE TRYING TO CATCH THIS BUS. YOU SHOULD BE HOME, REVISING THAT CRAPPY DRAFT.
Do you think school did this to us? Made us not want to show our messy assignments as if they were the literary equivalent of tattered underwear?
Robin also mentions gold stars. Oh, man! I can see the shiny little things now. How they poke your tongue with their sharp points when you lick them! How they twinkle when placed in a wobbly row!
It was one of the hardest things I had to face in writing my first book. No one cared if I finished it or not. There was no Gold Star Giver. Nope, there wasn't even a box of "Good Job" stickers to console me for a less than stellar try.
What finally got me writing was the thought of another powerful bus. The End of the Line Bus. When I reached the end of the line, where did I want to be? What destination would make me content to give up my seat?
The only answer, for me, was to have written a book. Okay, yes, I wanted to have loved, and been loved, a lot. But besides that? Nope. Nothing else but a book with my name on it felt like a Big Gold Star destination to me.
At that moment, I knew I was toast. I didn't want to live the rest of my life knowing that I could have made myself happy, but didn't. That I could have given myself a Gold Star, but didn't.
P.S. Look both ways before you cross the street this week. I'm thinking of learning to drive a bus.
Sunday, July 8, 2007
I love those words from E.B. White. They make me feel that it's okay not to know what you want all the time. That it's okay to want more than one thing. That it's not pretentious to desperately desire to be significant and worthy, even though you know you'd hop on a tabletop and polka if given half a chance. (I did that once, in Germany, at Oktoberfest. I was told sternly to get down.)
I also considered these lovely quotes:
"The painter passes through states of fullness and of emptying. That is the whole secret of art." --Pablo Picasso
"In a way, I have nothing to say, but a great deal to add." --Gore Vidal
"I have no words. My voice is in my sword." --Macduff from Shakespeare's Macbeth. (I don't know why, but I've always wanted to say that in real life.)
"Be kind, for everyone you know is fighting a great battle." --Philo of Alexandria (I love this one so much that I'm writing a book about it.)
or perhaps, simply:
"More matter with less art." --Hamlet, Shakespeare
I don't know. Did I pick the right one? Maybe I'll see how I feel when I get out of bed tomorrow.
Saturday, July 7, 2007
I touched the spines of the dozens of books that cover my fireplace mantle, artfully arranged so that the vertical and horizontal groupings alternate and so that there aren't too many beige books in any one pile.
There are books all over the kitchen, most of them cookbooks, but some of them fiction. (Although, I admit, I've been known to treat recipes like fiction.)
There are books in the bathroom with the Lysol and the plunger. There are boxes and boxes of books in the garage. I tenderly bump them with the front end of my car as I pull in.
There are books in various cloth bags, which means I've taken them out of the house to brag about them, and then failed to put them back in their rightful place.
There are books that I will never read. There are books that I've read three times. There are books that beloved friends gave me. That I found by chance. That I bought for a quarter thirty years ago. That I will give to my children's children one day.
I thought I was conducting this book tour because I was looking for one particular book. I thought I was seeking a book to highlight here, to lovingly hold up as my first official book "recommendation."
But I was really remembering who I was and where I'd been. As a reader, I have a map of my life---right here, on my shelves.
Friday, July 6, 2007
Expectations that I would post poetry every day. (Although, yes, I love writing poetry.) That I would always talk about Big Issues. (Although, yes, I love a great conversation with friends.) That I would only use one word titles. (Although, oops, I did that again today.)
So, let's talk about your expectations. What do you expect from a writer's book? If she's a new author, do you expect to make a friend? If she's a familiar author, do you want her next book to be "just like the last one," only "better"? Do you delight in having your book expectations met?
Or are you like me? Do you like books that surprise you? I'm the series author's nightmare. Because if I pick up a book, and it's just like the last one, well...I've been there before. (And don't get me started on series that cut off in mid-story, leaving me to dangle until the next hype cycle.) Heck, I even want my own writing to surprise me.
I want a complete story. I want a fresh story. And I want the author (and my own writing) to take me someplace I never expected to go.
Really, is that expecting too much?
I also write because it is the only way I know how to be part of the Eternal Conversation. "Truth," says Parker Palmer, "is an eternal conversation about things that matter, conducted with passion and discipline." So today, I'm entering the conversation by joining in with Poetry Friday.
Jules, over at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, asked about the healing power of art. This is my reply. Perhaps I should have saved it for a more appropriate month. But that is the thing about entering. You use the door that is open before you.
The Bones of January
I love the plainness of January
when I have taken down my Christmas
finery, and in the shock
of my home stripped bare, I see
the corners of my rooms
again. And outside, all is
stark, gray, glorious
with no false beauty to help me
pretend that I am satisfied.
In January, I kneel beside my children’s
sleeping faces, and let them break
the leafless branches
that cage my chest.
And outside, all is
undone. Roots rend
the earth like bones.
How did this happen?
That all should be taken
and that love,
love should be plain
---Sara Lewis Holmes
Poetry Friday Roundup is at Farm School today.