Friday, February 27, 2009

Poetry Friday: And as in Alice

I've been doing a lot of reading this week.

I finished The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia. I'm slowly wrapping my brain around the mind-warping concepts in The Black Hole War: My Battle With Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics.  I dived into The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks yesterday and had to force myself put it down to get sleep. And I'm continuing to dip in and out of Rilke's Book of Hours, which is too intense to gulp in one sitting. 

All of these books together have made me feel that I've fallen down a rabbit hole.* So today's poetry selection might make complete sense. Maybe.

From the middle of Mary Jo Bang's poem, And as in Alice:

She's wondering what possible harm might come to her
If  she fell all the way down the dark she's looking through.
Would strange creatures sing songs
Where odd syllables came to a sibilant end at the end.

Perhaps the sounds would be a form of  light  hissing.
Like when a walrus blows air
Through two fractured front teeth. Perhaps it would

*Both The Magician's Book and The Black Hole War discuss Alice in Wonderland; I think of Frankie as a sort of Alice, exploring society's rules that don't make sense, and as for Rilke, well, he makes rabbit holes. 

Monday, February 23, 2009

In Case You're Asleep Today

I'm still in the throes of work (plus I took a three day YogaFit workshop) so I find that I have nothing for you but another Rilke quote. But believe me, it's a spit ball right between the eyes.
"The admiration with with art hurls itself upon things (everything without exception) ought to be so impetuous, so forceful, and so radiant that the object has no time to recall its ugliness or depravity.” --- from the book, The Poet's Guide to Life: The Wisdom of Rilke, edited and translated by Ulrich Baer.
P.S. There's a blurb on the back of this book that reads: "Boy, Rilke is a kook. [...] I have to say that I love his point of view." ---Gus Van Sant, director of Good Will Hunting and My Own Private Idaho.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Soup, Soup, and more Soup

I'm working.

But I wanted to say:  this soup is delicious!

His Organic Chicken & Egg Noodles is excellent, too.

I'm on a soup testing jag.  It seems to go well with the obsession of a rough draft.  I don't have to do anything but open a can and it fills me up for hours. Plus, I can be creative in what I sprinkle on top of or stir into the soup.  (Nearly every soup can be garnished with chunks of ripe avocado. Yum, yum.)

So far, these creations get my thumbs up:

Imagine Bistro Corn Chipotle Bisque (good with tortilla chips crumbled on top)

Imagine Bistro Cuban Black Bean Bisque (yummy with a dollop of sour cream or a sprinkling of cheese.  Also makes great nachos.)

Progresso Vegetable Classics Lentil  (a favorite for a long time. I don't like thin lentil soup, and this isn't. It isn't too onion-y either, a prime fault of some brands.  I do like the local Lebanese place's lentil soup the best though, if I'm not too lazy to drive there.)

Pacific Split Pea with Ham and Swiss Cheese (wonderfully thick and filling. Load it down with oyster crackers.)

On the take-out side,

Panera's Vegetarian Creamy Tomato soup is delicious, especially with their cheesy croutons, but I see from their nutrition info that it's really not good for me. (I guess creamy should have been the tip-off.) 

Their Low-fat Chicken Tortilla soup is healthier, and just as delicious. 

And if I'm making my own soup, it's Green Chile Chicken Stew, which I posted the recipe for here.

Okay, that's your public service announcement for the day. Share your own favorite, if you want to. 

Monday, February 16, 2009

Rilke: Building the cathedral

"When writing poetry one is always assisted and even carried away by the rhythm of all things outside, for the lyric cadence is that of nature: of the waters, the wind, the night. But in order to shape prose rhythmically, one has to immerse oneself deeply within oneself and detect the blood's anonymous, multivaried rhythm. Prose is to be built like a cathedral:  there one is truly without name, without ambition, without help: up in the scaffolding, alone with one's conscience."  ---Rainer Maria Rilke

Gee, Rilke, thanks for the encouragement. 

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Looking for a Few Good Books? The Cybils Shine

You want a stellar book to read? Or you want to give a brilliant book to someone you love? And you don't want to mess around or waste your money? Or hem and haw or dilly dally or any of those other alliterative wishy washy activities? Then print out the list below and get at it, because the Cybils have delivered.

Last year, I had the privilege of serving on the poetry category judging panel. This year, I get to simply enjoy passing on to you the results of the third annual Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards.

Click through to the Cybils site to buy any of these guaranteed good reads. (They also have the full list of finalists in each category. Go!)

The 2008-9 Cybils Winners

Easy Readers

I Love My New Toy
written by Mo Willems

I Love My New Toy is a perfect example of an early reader book. Using simple, repetitive text and charming illustrations, Mo Willems gives the youngest reader a title full of emotion, humor, and action. Children can easily relate to this wonderful story of friendship at its worst and its best.

Nominated by Nan Hoekstra.

Fantasy & Science Fiction

Middle Grade

The Graveyard Book
written by Neil Gaiman

Transcendent writing and wry bits of humor brought The Graveyard Book to the top of a strong field of contenders. Gaiman pulls off the trifecta of a ripping plot, nuanced characters and sublime prose. He submerges the reader into standard horror subject matter but freshens and modernizes it, never being predictable. The orphaned Nobody Owens, or Bod to his other-worldly friends, is being raised in a cemetery, where he masters a few tricks of the ghostly trade. His guardians have to hope it's enough to protect him from the assassin who killed Bod's family, and who lurks somewhere beyond the graveyard gates. This riff on the Jungle Book balances humor, heart and darkness, creating a winning read.

Young Adult

The Hunger Games
written by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games wins for its broad crossover appeal, complicated moral issues, and sociopolitical satire. In a richly imaginative twist on a familiar dystopian landscape, Suzanne Collins creates a deadly game using child combatants to explore the dehumanizing effects of war and violence. Katniss struggles against overwhelming odds while being groomed and polished for what could be her televised fight to the death. At each agonizing choice or fearful alliance, the reader is confronted with the same questions Katniss faces. How far would you go to save yourself? Can you meet violence with violence, yet preserve your humanity?

Nominated by Heather Doss.

Fiction Picture Books

How to Heal a Broken Wing
written and illustrated by Bob Graham
Candlewick Press

This deceptively simple book achieves so much more than telling the story of a boy who notices a wounded bird in a busy city. By alternating single and double-page spreads with clusters of small panels, Graham creates almost a film strip of time passing. The artistic technique lends both intimacy and urgency to the boy and his family’s precarious mission to save the injured pigeon. The text is commendably lean, supporting the strong visual narrative and keeping a lighter touch to the theme. The cartoon-style, watercolor illustrations provide the perfect tone, and the accessible story offers connections for picture book readers of all ages. For all of these reasons, How to Heal a Broken Wing distinguishes itself as the rare picture book that speaks quietly, yet has volumes to say about courage, kindness, and hope.

Graphic Novels

Elementary/Middle Grade

Rapunzel's Revenge
written by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale
illustrated by Nathan Hale
Bloomsbury USA

“What made this book stand out to the judges was that it takes a well-known story and does something recognizable, but unique, creating an adventure which readers of both sexes can enjoy. Those readers will get swept up in the rawness of the emotions presented. The art is bright and leaps from the pages, but the images don’t overshadow the story or mask weaknesses in the plot. The story and images carried the weight equally, were well-paced, engaging, and generally solid.”

Nominated by Elizabeth.

Young Adult

Emiko Superstar
written by Mariko Tamaki
illustrated by Steve Rolston

“This title rises above a traditional outsider/teen angst tale because of its protagonist's interest in her local performance artists, a subject that hasn't been done to death in YA. The story is also novel simply because it's about a teen exploring art and find how it can change you. Ralston’s art is an important aspect of the story, working in tandem with Tamaki’s unique story.”

Nominated by Cecil Castellucci.

Middle-Grade Fiction

The London Eye Mystery
written by Siobhan Dowd
David Fickling Books

Brother and sister, Ted and Kat, take their cousin Salim to see the London Eye, the city's gigantic Ferris wheel. While Ted and Kat watch, Salim gets into one of the glass pods, but thirty minutes later he doesn't get off. So the siblings set out to find their cousin. Complicating the situation, Ted's brain "runs on a different operating system" from other people's, which makes him a lot better at facts and figures than he is at reading people. Narrated in Ted's voice, this is a page-turner that brings London to life and takes readers inside a powerfully rational mind. The London Eye Mystery shows off kids' natural ingenuity and proves that difference can be a strength, as Ted and Kat work to solve the irresistible riddle of their cousin's disappearance.

Non-Fiction MG/YA

The Year We Disappeared: A Father-Daughter Memoir
written by Cylin Busby
and John Busby
Bloomsbury USA

This gripping page turner quickly stood out as the favorite of the judging panel. In alternating chapters, Cylin Busby and her father John tell the story of what happened when someone tried to kill John and how it affected their family. Some readers will identify with Cylin's pain and confusion, some will enjoy John's discussion of life as a policeman, and the drama of the man suspected of the attempted murder, as well as his motives for trying to kill John Busby. Many teens will enjoy this joint memoir that gives readers multiple sides of the same story.

Nominated by Jen Robinson.

Non-Fiction Picture Books

Nic Bishop Frogs
written and illustrated by Nic Bishop
Scholastic Nonfiction

Nic Bishop is known for his jaw-dropping nature photography. Open a book cover with his name on it and you'll be greeted with stunning action shots, exquisite attention to detail, and sharp, sharp close-ups that inspire awe. Couple that with Bishop's equally crisp, up-close and personal writing in Nic Bishop Frogs, and you've got an award-winning combination of text and illustration that captures a child-like wonder about a topic that is anything but new. That's quite a feat. Bishop's language is interesting and playful, and his analogies and references are right on, squarely aimed at where kids' heads are at. Simple word choices never talk down, but will allow newish readers to find success easily. The book flows logically, covering life cycle, defense, diet, habitat, and other essentials you'd expect to find in an animal book, but the organization is refreshingly kid-friendly, meandering through the topics as though Bishop and the reader were having a conversation while sitting in a marsh waiting for a frog. It's intimate and personal and accessible---frogs as you've never seen them before. Fascinating process notes are sure to inspire young photographers.

Nominated by Sonja.


written by Naomi Shihab Nye

Honeybee is a hybrid of delicious poetry and lyrical prose poems on wide-ranging themes blending science and observation alongside personal memoir and political challenge. There are ideas buzzing here that young people have probably felt in their gut, but may not have verbalized. Isn't this what poetry is supposed to do?

Nominated by Kelly Fineman

Young Adult Fiction

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
written by E. Lockhart

It's a setting we know. It's a theme we're familiar with. But with The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, E. Lockhart takes common features of teen fiction and turns them into a smart, fun, multi-layered, action-filled, coming-of-age story with a unique treatment and fresh voice. Frankie's feminist-fueled and P.G. Wodehouse-inspired antics at boarding school are hilarious, but also tinged with the sometimes-harsh truths of growing up. A book complex and clever enough that wildly diverse readers will each take, and love, something different out of the narrative.

Nominated by Stacy Dillon

Friday, February 13, 2009

Poetry Friday: I cannot

In her Monday Poetry Stretch, Tricia at the Miss Rumphius Effect challenged us to write a love poem without using words of adoration or affection. I'm not sure I complied, but here I am anyway:

I cannot

Do not fear the poaching of an egg
a recipe begins, and I cannot turn away.

I’ve faced my fear of peaches
(the answer: dare to eat them, every one)

and fear of fear itself
has been worked into my bone

and should I fear the Reaper (seasons don’t)
I can find him on the oldies station now

but of all the things to fear, I never dreamed to fear
the poaching of an egg.

Gathering eggs is good but poaching
---as in stealing--- eggs is wrong

and if you have to steal an egg
God help you when you run.

But should you buy them, as I do, 
in a carton, lift the lid

as if canvassing the engine  
of a far too rowdy bus hmmmmm,

and save the rows of bucket seats
for needy seedlings or for mixing

twelve ascending shades of yellow paint.
Watch, if you poach one, how it floats

not just in heated water but on a raft
of sugar-beaded toast, how it melts

the moonscape of an English muffin,
how a poached egg elevates anything,

even a rainbow-sequined 
tube top worn jauntily to breakfast.

But this morning, my eggs are
scrambled. I suppose I did it

because I was afraid. 
An uncooked egg poses 

perfect questions by balancing
in its shell. I do not fear  

the poaching of such an egg;
only the exactitude it requires.

I cannot write a love poem 
about you either.

---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

Poetry Friday is hosted by Kelly at Big A, little a.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tanita S. Davis at The Brown Bookshelf

I'd like to direct you this fabulous interview with author Tanita S. Davis over at The Brown Bookshelf. 

 I'm stoked to read her new book, Mare's War, which comes out in June.  It's described as  "told in alternating points of view - partially told from Mare’s point of view while she’s serving in the Woman’s Army Corps during World War II, and also told from Mare’s granddaughter’s point of view."

Tanita says: "I was actually seeking information on my own grandmother, whom I knew had run away from home and been in the military. She, like my grandparents on my mother’s side, was in her teens during that time..."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

More of that Icky Love Stuff

1)  Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect admits to disliking romantic poetry and has issued her Monday Poetry challenge
As unromantic as I am, I thought it would be interesting to write a love poem. There is a catch, however. The love poem you write cannot include any terms of endearment or words of adoration. How's that for you? A Love poem without explicit words of love. Also, you don't necessarily need to write about a person, as surely there are those who love things as much as people (or pets).
I'll think on it, Tricia. It all depends on what you define as "terms of endearment." If I call my nine-year old van "Old Goldie," is that too affectionate for you? How about if I channel Pablo Neruda and admit that my favorite running socks are sturdy and wooly? No? Too explicit? In that case, I may need to invent some completely neutral action verbs like "to Depp"  or "Fiennes with" to stand in for passionate interest. (And "Lovett!" Got to able to use that one.)

And on a slightly related note...

2) The kennel staff who watch over our crazy dog when we're away sent her a Valentine's package yesterday. I thought it might have a heart-shaped biscuit in it. Or a coupon for a pampering bath and groom.  But no. . . it was a book of poetry.

(Everyman's Library Pocket Poets)

In paging through it, I'd say that it's very, very tricky to write a poem about a dog that is better than the dog is.  But perhaps I'll read a few to the intended recipient and see what she thinks. 

Friday, February 6, 2009

Poetry Friday: A Love Song by William Carlos Williams

I've already broken into the bag of candy hearts. So let's get started with the love poems already, shall we?

A Love Song
by William Carlos Williams

What have I to say to you
When we shall meet?
I lie here thinking of you.

The stain of love
Is upon the world.
Yellow, yellow, yellow,
It eats into the leaves,
Smears with saffron
The horned branches that lean
Against a smooth purple sky.

There is no light—
Only a honey-thick stain
That drips from leaf to leaf
And limb to limb
Spoiling the colours
Of the whole world.

I am alone.
The weight of love
Has buoyed me up
Till my head
Knocks against the sky.

See me!
My hair is dripping with nectar—
Starlings carry it
On their black wings.
See, at last
My arms and my hands
Are lying idle.

How can I tell
If I shall ever love you again
As I do now?

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Elaine at Wild Rose Reader.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Listing to one side (or the other)

I love my blog. But right now, I'm loving my WIP more.  Between the timer and the outline, I've gotten myself into a real story. And I'm the only one who can get me out.

I would say that blogging here will be scarce for awhile, but I don't know that. Something interesting may happen that I want to tell you. Or I may start posting old photographs instead. Or lists.

Did you see where the NY Times says lists are taking over the world?  Well, one particular "25 things" meme.  My theory is that most people don't think they can write, but everybody knows how to make a list.  It's the perfect way to join your left and right brains. The left brain loves the sequencing and the right brain loves the brainstorming. (By the way, my favorite list exercise is 100 Questions.) 

Here's Bod and his teacher making lists in The Graveyard Book

"Name the different kinds of people," said Miss Lupescu. "Now."

Bod thought for a moment. "The living," he said. "Er. The dead." He stopped. Then, ". . . Cats?" he offered, uncertainly.

"You are ignorant, boy," said Miss Lupescu. "This is bad. And you are content to be ignorant, which is worse. Repeat after me, there are the living and the dead, there are day-folk and night-folk, there are ghouls and mist-walkers, there are the high hunters and the Hounds of God. Also there are solitary types." 

"What are you?" asked Bod.

"I," she said sternly, "am Miss Lupescu." 

Now, off to write!

  1. has a fantastic list of poetry in movies. (Maybe more on that for Poetry Friday tomorrow.) 
  2. I recently posted a select list of Shakespeare and theater-related movies over at Flixster. (Suggestions welcome.) 
  3. The new Kidlitosphere Central has a list of nearly every blogger active in the children's literature world, plus a ton of other resources. It's the perfect gateway to share with those who have no idea such a wealth of on-line expertise exists. 
  4. I've added a new feature to my right sidebar: A list of shared items, posts from around Blogdom that have inspired, distracted, amused or otherwise compelled me, put them on a list.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I Dreamed I Could Draw

The other night, I dreamed that I could draw.  I was sketching the outline of a Shakespearian costume--the sleeves, I think.  I remember marveling at myself: cool! I can DO this!

 Then I drew a man in armor holding a lance, and as I was drawing his arm holding it, I suddenly realized his entire head in his helmet was on backwards. So much for my drawing ability. 

But it made me wonder why I could draw at all in my dream. What's the difference between being able to manipulate imaginary lines in my head and doing it on the page? Fine motor skills, yeah. I have little to none of those.  But they say drawing is seeing. And if I can see, even briefly in my dreams, then why can't I draw when I'm awake?

Then again, I can fly in my dreams, too.  Are dreams only what we hope for or what we are actually capable of?

I think all dreams must be rooted in a tiny spot of reality somehow. If we only knew which spot it was. 

Monday, February 2, 2009

Book Club Rumble

I love talking books with like minds, and yesterday's D.C. Kidlit book club was my monthly outing to do just that. Unlike most of our meetings, this one was a free-for-all discussion of most of the ALA winners and honor books.  Newbery, Printz, Caldecott, Geisel, Odyssey....everything!  

It went something like: NO! YES! MEH. REALLY? WHY? WHAT ABOUT ____?? WHY NOT  _____??? DID YOU SEE GAIMAN'S TWITTER?  (Backed up by passionately argued facts, of course. We're trained in the art of verbal combat.)  I half expected the non-book-wielding people near us to edge away in polite horror. Not because we were uncivil, but because we were so opinionated and enthusiastic. I mean, when's the last time you saw a bunch of people raving about books in public? 

At the end of the mad jumble of ALA books, we saved time for a more focused look at the National Book Award winner, What I Saw and How I Lied.   There was much discussion of who was a "bad guy" in this book and who wasn't, not really. Do we expect YA heroines to "do the right thing" even if everyone around them isn't? Does how deeply you get sucked into a character's point of view alter how you experience a novel? (Of course it does! But why do some readers remain distant and others buy in immediately?)

Afterwards, I was reading more of The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia and found this great quote: 

"If literary writing has any distinguishing characteristic, it's that the more you look at it the more you see, and the more you see the more you want to go on looking." 

Thanks for making me want to go on looking, book club!