Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Muse atop my tree

Remember the beautiful snowflake painted by Inga Poslitur that I won at auction last year? Here she is,  crowning my tabletop tree:

Merry Christmas and a peaceful and inspired New Year to you all. 

I'll be on a blog break for awhile.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Holidays: Kick back and...

What do you do to relax?

I'm asking because it struck me as funny the other day when three members of my household were all engaged in "relaxing" activities that would be crazy-making to others:

One was building a scale model of a lunar landing craft. (This involves tiny pieces, glue and patience. You know this wasn't me, don't you?)

One was learning Stairway to Heaven on the guitar. (This might be me, except I have no musical aptitude.) 

One was writing/fiddling/obsessing over a sestina. (Of course, you found me. Weird word woman.)

And you? Do you relax in ways that others find strange?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Poetry Friday: A Deeper Love for the Longest Night

The Washington Post reports that the Inaugural Committee has chosen Elizabeth Alexander to read a poem at the swearing-in ceremony for President-Elect Barack Obama. 

It also asks several poet laureates to weigh in on the practice of including poetry on such a day. 

Ted Kooser says: "I am basically an introvert," he said. "For an occasion like that, they'd have to bring me on strapped to gurney." 

Rita Dove says, "no one would refuse if they were asked, but you would kind of go, 'Oh, my God.' "

 And Charles Simic sums it up: "It's a nice idea . . . but it's not an easy one to do justice to..."

Really, it's quite a good article that quotes from an impressive array of poetic sources. I kinda wish they'd get these guys to offer their opinions on government business more often.

Brooklyn Arden beat me to a preview of Alexander's poetry, so I'm going with another great artist who will be performing on January 20:  Aretha Franklin. (Ranked #1 on Rolling Stones list of The Greatest Singers of All Time. The woman I want to be reincarnated as.) 

Despite the title, her song, A Deeper Love, isn't exactly Christmas material, but I think it's perfect for The Longest Night on Dec. 21.

People let me tell you I
work hard every day
I get up out of bed, I put on my clothes
'Cause I've got bills to pay
Now it ain't easy but I don't need no help
I've got a strong will to survive
I've got a deeper love, deeper love
Deeper love inside and I call it
Pride (a deeper love)
Pride - a deeper love
(Pride) a deeper love
Woah woah woah woah
It's the (pride) power that gives you
The (pride) strength to survive

Listen to her on YouTube (no video, just glorious sound) 

P.S. She does have a new Christmas album.

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Author Amok.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Reading Date

Today, my daughter and I are going on a Reading Date. 

We're driving to our local indie bookstore, Politics and Prose, having lunch, buying books...and we're sitting there in the store and reading them. 

We may stop here for a cupcake on the way back. 

Don't you want to make a Reading Date with someone you love?

(Can someone design a Reading Date logo? I need one.)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

What exactly do creative people DO all day?

Instead of blogging, I'm sending you snooping via two links:

----My editor, Cheryl, sent me this site that feeds my love of reading about process: Daily Routines   

I'd have to put myself in the "early risers" category at Daily Routines. My favorite quote? 

"Honestly, I still can't wait to get my pants on in the morning," Friedman said.

----My friend Jackie answers the question: What do photographers do when they get bored?

It's a lot more interesting than what writers do when they get bored. (Watch 30 Rock. Eat Peppermint Jo-Jos. Write glowing reviews in their heads.)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Now will poetry be cool?

Blogging may blink on and off over the next few weeks, folks. Don't be alarmed. Just the normal holiday overload. 

Seen on Facebook:  


Yes, Forks High School is running a Poetry Out Loud competition! You can see the Poetry Out Loud-logoed poster right above the heads of lead characters Edward Cullen and Bella Swan in the hit teen movie Twilight. The scene is a hallway scene about 20-25 minutes into the movie and takes place right after the characters first talk in science class. The poster is right above some lockers behind the characters."

Poetry and science in teen movies. What's Hollywood thinking

Friday, December 12, 2008

Poetry Friday: Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds

On love, age and alteration...

 Take #1: What to do with worn books culled from the library?

Give them to art students who will lovingly alter them.  (link via Layers Upon Layers) After the gallery show, the aged books went back into the library system as new items, where you can now borrow such things as that Shakespearean-looking book ruff.  

Take #2:  the BBC's remake of Much Ado About Nothing.

Be warned: it's witty, well-acted and highly entertaining, but the director's changed the old play almost out of recognition, setting the feuding Benedick and Beatrice in a modern day newsroom. There's hardly a word of Shakespeare's original verse in it ... except ... in a wholly new scene, the director has Beatrice and Benedict examine at length some of Shakespeare's words from somewhere else:  Sonnet 116. 

Take #3:

Sonnet 116
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

---William Shakespeare

Such blatant alteration, not only to modernize the play, but to stick in words that never belonged in it in the first place! Yet, it's brilliant.  In a movie with modern dialogue, to finally use Shakespeare's real words, as if to say: see? here he is, the Bard you love, changed yet unchanged, and listen! he's speaking unchanging.  I think Shakespeare would have approved.

Maybe that's what great writing or interesting art or a lasting love affair is: a pattern of alterations that does not alter the essence of what is first loved.

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Wild Rose Reader

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Poll Results (Check yes or no)

I was wrong. I'm not so strange. My poll says so.

80% of you said Big Ideas jump-start your engine,  just like me.
20% of said Juicy Memories inspire you, not like me. 

But many of you left comments saying both were essential, and I bow to your wisdom.  Nothing in life is ever as bisected and artificial as poll answers. 

It reminds me of those notes from high school:
 Do you like me? Check yes or no. 

How about: I like you enough to say HEY to you every single day, but not enough to hook up with you.

Or:  I hate you, but I can't say that because you would take that as a sign that I care, so I'll just stick this note in the glove compartment with all your other sick notes.

Or: OMG! OMG!  I LOVE everything about you! But I'm going to check No. 

Which makes me think that literature is a complicated answer to a simple question.

Duckings:  Make way or not?

Messenger:  Am I or not?

Octavian: Traitor or not? 

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Judy Blume is a trombone

Judy Blume wisely doesn't give advice to other writers in her blog interview at 7-Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Rather, she says: "There are no rules when it comes to writing. Whatever works for you, go for it!"  

I know that answer might disappoint some, but it's the truth. I'm amazed by people who think that what works for one writer will work for another. Writers are their own instruments, and if I try to play trombone like I'm Judy, shouldn't be surprised when I honk out sour notes.  

Digression: I think of Judy as a trombone.  Perhaps because of this unrelated interview with trombonist Christopher Schweizer: 

Tafuri: Though there have been some great ones in the music's history, trombonists (compared to other instrumentalists) are a bit of a rarer breed. Why did you gravitate toward trombone?

Schweizer: ...
 I should tell you that I barely ever think "trombone" anymore, it feels more like my voice — it just "is". It does not feel difficult. But let me try: it was and still is a mixture of love for the many sounds of the instrument and a certain instinct that this was the sound my soul was going to need to express itself. Trombone is a talking sound, and I do think of music in terms of language.

 [...] from a very early age I had a certain urge to do things that had never been done before, or to do old things in new ways, which got me kicked out of most schools I ever tried to go to.

 In the field of musical instruments, this means I was clearly hearing possibilities on the trombone (not on the violin or the piano) that I didn't hear anyone play, and it is towards the realization of these visions that I enjoy working today. 

I'm not saying you have to completely understand yourself as an instrument in order to write. I'm not saying writing standards don't exist. Or that starting with some time-tested rules like "show, don't tell" might not give you a solid foundation. But whichever habits, quirks, goals, guidelines, practice schedules, superstitions, bribes or other "rules" produce writing that sounds true to you, do that. (What Judy and Schweizer said.)

In the beginning, you'll be wrong. You'll think stories sound good that don't. You'll miss obvious blunders. You'll play the music least likely to draw a crowd. So what? What you're strengthening is what Judy Blume has in spades: confidence in your choices. 

Writing rules: Make 'em. Break 'em. Fake 'em. Take 'em to the bank if they work.  If Judy freakin' Blume doesn't care, why should you? Play on!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

From me to you


If you need a speedy gift for someone, I have limited copies of Letters From Rapunzel at home that are available for signing and immediate shipping to you or your chosen reader.  $16 covers it all, including postage.  

I'll toss in one of my nifty red "Read * Write * Believe" pencils 

Email me: email(at)saralewisholmes(dot)com  or use the link in the sidebar.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Don't open the Cheetos

I'm not feeling profound today. Finishing a novel sucks out brain cells and mine haven't regenerated yet. So you get a post about Cheetos.

I like to eat while I read. Or read while I eat. One-handed foods are a must, as are those that don't drip or spatter. Not that I think about it too hard. I pretty much eat what I'm going to eat, and then adjust my lunch reading material accordingly.  Tomato soup = cheap news magazine or Washington Post.  PB&J = new hardback book (Unsigned. Signed books don't come near my table.)  

According to the comments for this post, Cheetos make the list of worst foods to eat while you read, and I concur, especially if it's a library book.  However, I strongly disagree with the body of the post which claims that popcorn is a "bad" book food.  No way. Of course, I don't grease mine with butter, but I think popcorn is the BEST food to eat while reading. Give me a big bowl of it, some kind of fizzy beverage, and a fat book. I did like the suggestion of hot tea and licorice.  (Again in the comments. Those smart commenters!) 

Things I've eaten while reading: sushi, cereal, salad, baked sweet potatoes, Good 'n' Plenty, stuffed baby eggplant, sea salt and vinegar chips, apples with peanut butter, graham crackers and milk, toast with jelly, and much more. I've attempted a burger (not wise) and am adept at soup. 

I'm pretty sure a dietician or a mindfulness expert would advise against multi-tasking my eating and reading.  They might have a heart attack if they saw this guide:

Food/Suggested Read: 

fried bologna sandwich/ InStyle magazine (the more humble your meal, the more outrageously satisfying looking at $895 shoes is.)

Lebanese lentil soup/The Book Thief (If you're going to read a book narrated by Death, you need soup, and lentil is my favorite.)

Sushi/poetry.  (Attention to detail in both food and words.)

What's your recommendation?

P.S. Did you know there's an International Edible Book Festival? I didn't.

P.P. S. Random movie thought: Eat Drink Man Woman---have you seen it? Sooo good.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Poetry Friday: Selecting a Reader

I found this beautiful poem at Poetry 180. It's by former U.S. Poet Laureate, Ted Kooser. Then I found a picture of him. 

Poet incognito, that's what I'd say. 
Not flashy.
Not pretentious.
He might even be nice

But I don't really know. I only know him through his words. Isn't that the most intimate and strange thing? He selects a reader; a reader selects a poem. Or not.

They need not ever meet or have a thing in common. Poetry is their mutual dance card. And if I understand this poem, sometimes he writes for those who don't want to dance with him at all. 

Selecting a Reader
by Ted Kooser

First, I would have her be beautiful,
and walking carefully up on my poetry
at the loneliest moment of an afternoon,
her hair still damp at the neck
from washing it. She should be wearing

the rest here

The roundup is here

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Poll: Juicy Memories or Big Questions?

Over Thanksgiving, I had a conversation with my sister and my mother-in-law about writing. Both of them said that questions about the past, and specifically, questions that sparked memories, inspired them to put words on the page. 

No. Not me. I despise writing exercises like:  Describe the ceiling of the first room you remember sleeping in.  Tell about a time when you should have stopped talking, but didn't. List all your favorite toys, in the order you received them. 

 I would rather write about what could be, not what was.  I know my sister and my mother-in-law are in very good writerly company. Generations of writers have drawn upon memories to spark new stories.  But I still rebel. What inspires me (no surprise to those who read this blog regularly) are the Big Questions.  

I think I'm in the minority, though. To investigate this, I'm running my first poll. It's in the sidebar there. Vote for Juicy Memories or Big Questions.  

I'm fully prepared to be labeled odd.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Gifts For Readers and Writers, Part V

You're giving books for the holidays, right? 

Yup, thought so.  But if you need something to accompany said books, consider these add-ons...

Clip to a page, horizontally or vertically. 
Talk back to the author.
File the 3x5 card later. 

A mini-poster. Consult daily.

Invisible Ink. I'm sure you'll find a use for it. 

And then, of course, wrap your books and everything else in gorgeous paper.

Other ideas in this gift series here (but I can't guarantee all the old links are still current.)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Round Three: Line Edits

Yes, I'm here.  I'm line-editing.  Round Three.

That's where we bring the manuscript (in the words of my editor) to "complete and breathing life."  

New lines are born and must find lungs.

Old lines expire. Wheezing all the way. 

Some lines move to get fresh air.

This "breathing life" business is exhilarating. And exhausting.

Down to five more breaths. Five more changes. Then I'm reading the whole thing yet again.

Good thing I love bringing a story to life more than most anything.