Saturday, September 29, 2012

Reading Warriors Need Your Help

Art work done by my amazing artist friend, Jeff Crowther.
You can find his blog comic "Yeti 4 Hire" linked to the right.

     First meeting for my new book club today. I put some ideas out for the students to mull over until next meeting. Next week we will advertise the club at an activities meeting held for the whole school. So, it falls to me to put together an alluring tri-fold. I am not an elementary teacher for a reason...I can barely handle the bulletin boards I have, let alone pull people in with some glitter and bubble letters?! I'll think of something, I always do, but in the meantime, I'm open to suggestions. (Were there too many commas in that last sentence...I really need to go to bed.) I'll be working on it all deadline is Tuesday night. (I've definitely used too many ellipses...I'm not fit to run this club!)

     So, if you have any creative, artsy ideas as far as decorating a tri-fold poster board, let me know! I have tons of random craft things from my girls' years in elementary school. I am going to use the art work above, as it was specially designed for my book club - hats off to you Jeff Crowther. Also, the students want a catch phrase/slogan. So, open to ideas there too! They want something that has literary merit: alliteration, allusion, pun, etc., anything that is catchy and can be book/reading/Warrior related (Warriors being our school's mascot).

So, put your thinking caps on boys and girls and send some ideas my way!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Claim It!

My first e-reader experience has been a good one I must say. Amazon read my iPad and in seconds I had my new book: "You Are A Writer (So Start Acting Like One)," by Jeff Goins. What I enjoy about reading an instructional book on my Kindle app is the highlighting. Very cool.

And this book has been one snippet of good advice after another for a beginning writer. I've considered myself a writer all my life. I've always written poetry and short stories, although the older I got, the less I shared with others. Two summers ago when I was going through a rough time I randomly shared a new poem with a friend and then apologized! I had become that reserved about sharing my writing. "Writer" was my somewhat secret much so that I just referred to myself as a beginning writer in this paragraph!

Goins points out that, "All of this - this business of becoming a writer - starts not with the hands, but with the head." Essentially you have to "turn pro" in your head before you can do it on paper (Pressfield, "The War of Art"). I question how simple that is, but so did Goins. After reading "The War of Art" Goins interviewed author Steven Pressfield to get the real scoop on what it takes to be a writer.

Turns out being a writer is not related to agents and book deals, etc. Pressfield said you are a writer "when you say you are." It was wonderful to hear this. This is the idea the writers of the blogs I follow espouse and I admire their take on it. I opened this blog, a new email, and Twitter account to put myself out there as a writer. Turns out I was on the right track. Say it to believe it.

I am a writer.

What did it take to make you believe in yourself or your dream?

Friday, September 21, 2012

To the Dark Side and Back

As some may have guessed from previous mention and the parody I posted recently, I am not a fan of the e-reader. I actually hated them with a passion at first. I had to hold back a mini throw up walking into Barnes and Noble with the prominent in-your-face Nook display right inside the door. Every time a friend purchased one I had two comments at the ready: "So, you've sold your soul?"And for those I thought couldn't handle such a direct statement, "You've gone to the dark side, huh?" Of course I was joking...well part of me wasn't. Still, my most cherished reading friends have e-readers and knowing them as I do, there was no way the e-reader lessened their readership in my eyes. So over some time I have come to realize that e-reader use does not speak to a person's love of reading as much as the love of the book itself.

I am a bibliophile through and through. I want to see the book, open the pages, and feel the paper's texture. New books have the fresh smell of a new place. I want to consider the art work on the cover and the summary on the back. I want to place the book on my shelf to be observed by myself and others. I want to be seen with the book in my hand - a conversation starter or interest spark that e-readers lack. I am more than a reader of books, I am a lover of them.

So you may be surprised to hear that I downloaded the Kindle app to my iPad yesterday. Yes, I know, goes against everything I stand for, but please, let me explain. A friend (you know who you are...RD) told me about a book on writing she thought I'd like, "You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One)," by Jeff Goins. He had me at the title - I had to read this book. But on top of it I had just bought a book of his last month...never heard of the guy before that and now two months in a row he pops up!? I don't believe in coincidence.

Problem: his writing book only comes in Kindle version. I also found two more promising books of his that are only on Kindle and soon Nook. What pushed me over the edge? The book was FREE! And heck, my iPad was free, the Kindle app was free. I mean free is free right? So I went for it and then guiltily reported myself to two of my closest reading companions, who both own Kindles. Their responses? "Sucker!" and "The dark side, huh?"

Yea, yea, I had it coming. I'm happy to report that while I like reading instructional books on my Kindle app because of the highlighting and note taking capabilities, I don't enjoy it near enough to make a switch over. I miss the feel of the binding cracking against my fingers. I'm happy in the knowledge that I know myself so well. My books will remain physical presences in my life.

Why do you love or hate e- readers?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Need a Good Laugh?

I've watched so many "Call Me Maybe" parodies, I've lost count. And those were all before I heard the actual song itself. However, I found the best set of parodies ever! From I bring you "Call Me Maybe" parodies based on Moby Dick, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Anti-e-readers, and The Great Gatsby.

I am even thinking of offering a project like this to my students as extra credit or maybe they can just write lyrics as part of a project based on a book we've read. I don't know, but I think they would have a blast! I'm thinking after testing in January, we are going to have some fun with this.

And just FYI: the anti-e-readers one is definitely my favorite...they gave me even more reason to never be sucked into the "dark side." This is followed closely by Moby Dick. They made my day. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The One That Will Stop Me

Jaycee after release approx age 29
Her memoir - picture age 11

I have this weird thing with reading books: once I start one, I make myself finish it no matter what. I have never started a book and not finished it. It's kind of like a neurosis I guess, but now that I am older, I figure if I've only read what I absolutely love, I will miss out on a truly well rounded reading experience. I'd rather know as much about books and authors I don't care for as the ones I do.

All my life, I've been able to read whatever I wanted without having nightmares, fear, or panic, etc. Not so with movies. Movies that are overly violent, sexually violent, violent with small children involved, and horror related do not go well with me. Literally, I am afraid in the day time after watching them, let alone the night. And during the years I suffered from panic attacks, they were absolute no-nos. I stopped watching ER at one point because one episode had a mother suffering from split personality unintentionally harm her kids. I stopped watching SVU when my kids started getting a few years old because their faces appeared on those of the children in the episodes. Yet, most of these things don't bother me in's almost like my imagination will only go so far before it shuts down the details and I don't freak out.

But, I think I've found "The One That Will Stop Me." On my memoir kick, I came across a book called Stolen Life, by Jaycee Dugard. I knew the premise, girl is kidnapped at age 11 and kept for 18 years, abused. I've read fiction stories and short stories about kidnappings, even a few true accounts. But I was not prepared for the author, Jaycee herself, writing from her 11 year-old perspective what she understood (or didn't understand) to be happening to her as it happened.

Within 20 pages I was horrified and sick. I put the book in my bag to take to thing was for sure, I couldn't read it at night. Especially with my 11-year-old daughter in the next room...every bit as naive and innocent as Jaycee seemed at age 11. 

I took it to school, figured I'd read during my studyhall, and then at least the bustle of the students in the periods before and after would distract my mind from dwelling on it. But, I found that was only so helpful. I could only read so much at once. The narrative continually has you wanting to throw the book in a crying fit and scream at the sheer impossibility of the degradation of humanity. How can we live in a world this sick?! And yet Jaycee herself is such a miracle of survival. Needless to say, the book stayed in my desk for the weekend and I'm questioning if I'll return to it. It may be the longest time I've ever taken to finish a book. Or it may be the first book to break my decades long record of reading every book I've started. 

Which books have struck you to the core?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Nerd in Me Can't Help It

Hubby, Brandon, sorting
     I am decluttering  my house one section at a time. This past holiday weekend I reorganized my bookshelves by ABC order within genres (as opposed to just ABC order). Beings my birthday is Friday, I was also able to guilt my husband into helping. (But really, the man loves me or he wouldn't be so easy to guilt!)

     So as the hubby stacked books from the shelves in the living room and each of the kids' rooms (yes, I bought them all bookshelves and then commandeered them for my own use) onto our bed, I began sorting them by genre. I ended up with a decent set of genres, reminiscing previous reads and anticipating TBRs as I reveled in my stacks of books. There is nothing like the feel and look of a book in your hand. (I am anti e-reader, but that's a topic for another post.)
     Even my husband had a few laughs at the tomes we passed back and forth. Ethan Frome, which he read after I talked him into reading "just a short classic," and it's depressing ending that left him swearing off books of my recommendation for quite awhile. Of course, who can blame him after I had years before, in my high school naiveté, let him purchase Moby Dick as his first attempt into the world of Classic Literature. Call me Crazy. Neither of us has read past the first page. It's taken a long time to gain that trust back from him, but Hunger Games cinched it for me and he's back to taking my recommendations.


     Memories of late night readings and frenzied page turning came to me with each Jodi Piccoult we placed on the shelf...none as good as the first experience, Plain Truth.  My pride here is that when it comes to Piccoult (as with the Hunger Games), I am what my high school students call "hipster," meaning I was reading her stuff way before she was broadly popular.  I didn't jump on a bandwagon, so to speak. My husband's only comment to this piece of trivia: "This lady has an awful lot of books to her name."

     As a matter of fact, my husband's thoughts along the way were as much fun as the event itself. By the end of the sorting process, he was picking out the classics himself, based on the sound of a title and cover pictures. He smiled when he picked up and identified Far From the Madding Crowd as a classic and I leaned over to show him Far From the Madding Gerund, a book of language essays on the more amusing aspects of grammar and writing. Not a classic, but beautiful in the overlap of phrasing (which I absolutely love...I could write a whole post on titles taken from other works and the complicated web of intimate knowledge it brings). 

     The smaller stacks and even the fairly large classics stacks were easy to order and shelf; however, fiction was the monster waiting under the bed! No joke, stacks of books toppled under the bed and dresser and I am convinced some gem is wedged under there even now, waiting to haunt me.

Fiction, after the toppling
     To get a grip on the fiction section, my husband began divvying them up in 26 piles across the hope chest and for every letter of the alphabet. We then ordered them one letter at a time and shelved them, only to find we didn't have enough shelves. The previous chaos of haphazard books, stacked wherever I slid them in on top of rows or in front of rows, gave the impression of shelf space to spare. But in single, straight lines, not so. One of my favorites, the European cover edition of The Book Thief, is the very last book in my collection. There was no way that happy little Grim Reaper (technically named Death, and by far my favorite narrator), was going without  a shelf on which to rest. So I doublestacked some series I'd already read to make room for one more shelf of books. It will do...for now.

     Yes, I am nerdy enough to write about this. Yes, I was nerdy enough to take pictures of the process. Yes, nerdy me not only posted some pics here, but also (more than this) on FB. I can't help it. If it didn't risk being completely ostracized, oh the nerdy things I would write here and the nerdy pictures I could post!