Friday, October 31, 2008

Friday Forays In Fiction: NaNoWriMo. Ready. Set. G...

3.5 hours before the 'Go' moment for me here in Oregon.

Anybody else doing NaNoWriMo this year?

Here is my NaNoWriMo Profile.

Watch the NaNo word count widget in my sidebar as it monitor's my progress.

Here is a blurb about my NaNo novel this year:

Set in a mobile home park Mobile Hopes features the lives of a dozen or more separate families through the summer and fall of 2008. Each family is living its own crisis that is impacted by the current events of July through November. From the immigrant family hoping for citizenship to the family forced out of their foreclosed home in the suburbs hoping for another chance at the brass ring, they epitomize the American Dream and breathe life into the headlines.
Here are links to two previous Friday Forays in which I discussed my NaNo plans:

Anticipating NaNoWriMo
NaNo Project Prep
NaNo Project Status

I didn't get all the prep work I had planned done but I don't think that is going to be a huge issue since my concept is designed to be loose and adaptable.

My main problem right now is that I'm fighting the drooping eyelids and the gapes already. I'm thinking that a nap might be in order. Either a nap or just an early night and then begin first thing upon waking. The only rule regarding midnight is that one mustn't start before. Nothing requires one to on the instant the click ticks over to November. It's just that I've been anticipating the moment for so long that I'm sure I'll be disappointed if I let it slide.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Field Report: Contest Deadline Reminder

I posted about this web community which offers awards for true, first person stories several weeks ago, here.

Well, I thought I would remind any who might have thought about it that the deadline for essay entries eligible for the Grand Prize of $250,000 is November 15, 2008. The prize is to be awarded January 5, 2008.

The best place to get started is the Quick Start page where they walk you through the easy steps. It isn't much harder than starting a blog.

Field Report has generated some press since it debuted last summer. Check out some of the buzz:

Guardian (UK)
Time Magazine
The Telegraph (UK)
The San Francisco Chronicle

I seriously considered participating but decided to keep my focus on my NaNoWriMo novel project and wait for the next round.

Speaking of NaNo. Can you believe it is only 26 hours away for Pacific Coast participants?

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #110

Thursday

Thirteen

Thirteen Reasons Why I Support Barack Obama

1. He cares about people more than ideas--
2. But he articulates ideas well,
3. Without either patronizing or pandering to people, by which I mean he neither talks down to us nor tells us only what he thinks we want to hear,
4. Which is an essential skill of an effective leader.
5. That skill in communicating combined with the range of his intellectual curiosity and
6. The rigor of an intellect trained by an intensive education
7. Will give him the ability to seek out whatever information or advice that any unforeseen circumstance requires.
8. This ability was tested, honed and displayed from 1985 to the present as he took leadership roles as a community organizer in Chicago, as editor of the Harvard Law Review, as a civil rights lawyer, as a Professor at Chicago University Law School, as Illinois State Senator and then U.S. Senator from the State of Illinois--
9. And most recently during the crisis with the economy when his leadership and problem solving manner was manifest before the entire nation as he displayed a calm demeanor while going about gathering the information and advice he needed
10. And then proceeded to work in a reasoned and deliberate fashion in cooperation with his colleagues on both sides of the aisle
11. While simultaneously running his campaign on an even keel which evidences his ability to multitask
12. And as well his ability to organize, to delegate and to inspire people to work together toward a common goal.
13. Most of all he had the audacity to hope when I had begun to despair and he was able to show me how his hope was rooted in his personal knowledge of the hearts of the American people based on the many thousands of them he has met and listened to, worked with and for, over the last two decades and he has proved to me that the possibility of cooperation, the power of local community and the willingness of a majority in our pluralistic republic to pull for the common dreams of all and work together in a spirit of respect, while holding differing opinions on some issues, for the commonweal is still viable.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!




The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It's easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!


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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Still Reading the Rented Library Book




Nora the Piano Playing Cat
if you like this one follow it back to youtube for more Nora videos, including her being featured on TV shows

(I embedded the video as a substitute for posting something substantial. But then went ahead and chattered on....and on below. But I guess I'll leave the vid even though it relates not at all to the theme of the post.)

As I mentioned last night, I'm pushing to finish a library book that is a week overdue and costing me 20 cents per day. I fell asleep last night after less than two pages! Then today, while I had the room to myself I began an organizing project that involved piling a bunch of stuff on the bed to sort and rearrange etc. This too is a high priority project that must be done before NaNo starts at 12AM Saturday morning. It is my writing workspace. I knew I could read after Ed was asleep so I spent several hours working at preparing my physical workspace for NaNo this afternoon.

And this evening after my in-laws went after the mail (over ten days worth held for them while they were on a Baja cruise with their youngest son) I was presented with my ballot. Yay! And several books. Yippee! One which I won in the second read-a-thon last June and because of a mixup am just now getting: The Maternal is Political edited by Shari MacDonald Strong. The other four books were from Amazon and mostly paid for by the $20 gift certificate I got for posting about FieldReport awhle back. We added some to qualify for the free shipping for orders over $25.

One of those books was The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski which is the current Oprah Book club selection. My turn for the library book came last week the day after I ordered my own copy. I knew I wouldn't be able to finish it in the three weeks alotted what with NaNo prep and then NaNo daily quotas and would then have to go back in queue for weeks. So I used my gift certificate for it.

I was about to babble on to talk about the other three books too but I should really be using this time to read the one I'm paying by the day for!! Besides, I've made my point about where my time went today and the sooner I finish that library book, the sooner I can start Edgar Sawtelle.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Rushing to Finish Overdue Library Book

funny pictures
moar funny pictures


I know. Posting LOLcats three days in a row is lazy blogging. I am pushing to finish a book that is a week over due as of today. In other words I am renting it at 20 cents per day and it's over a dollar and counting. Meanwhile there are like twenty more books coming due Thursday that I haven't touched since before the read-a-thon on the 18th. And lots of prep work left to do for my Nano project. 12AM Saturday is about three blinks away. Why do I always feel like I'm doing today what was supposed to be done yesterday? Sigh.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sunday Serenity #99

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

Hope! I can almost taste it.

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

So, When They Say, "You are What You Eat." They Mean This?

Humorous Pictures
more animals

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday Forays In Fiction: The Future?


I've been seeing these around all over the book blogs and wondering what they were about exactly. I wasn't immediately excited because recent experience with electronic screens had dampened my enthusiasm. I was, for example, extremely disappointed when I bought my laptop in 2005 to discover that I could not read the screen outdoors in daylight. The same thing happened with my new digital camera I got for Christmas last year. I can't see the image in the LED screen in sunlight. Even on cloudy days it is only very faint. So I feared the same problem would hold for an e-book device. But ever since I read the product description last Sunday and learned that the Kindle's screen is not backlit and can be read from any angle either indoors or out, I was intrigued. More than intrigued. I started to drool (in a virtual way) and the more I read about it the more I liked what I saw.

These are the features I like:

  • A readable screen
  • Long battery life for reading (less long when useing the wireless) and quick recharge
  • Adjustable font size--my poor eyes just looooove this.
  • An onboard dictionary to look up words encountered while reading.
  • An ability to subscribe to newspapers and blogs
  • A QUERTY keyboard for typing search terms, orders from the Kindle store and notes on reading
  • It comes with room to store approximately 200 books but a memory card can be added to expand that to 4000. sigh. droooool. No more second bag for my traveling library.
  • But if you run out of room and need to delete material to make room for new orders or you loose your Kindle--no worries Amazon stores your Media library for you and it can be downloaded again at anytime.
  • The cost of recently released hardbacks in Kindle format is only $9.99! That is like one half to one third of the cost of most new books! In fact fairly close to the price of the mass market paperback that isn't released for over a year. And no trees have to die!

But alas. With a ticket price of $359 and our current circumstances, I'm sure Suze Orman would say DENIED! So for now I drool.

But none of the above really qualifies this for a topic in Friday Forays in Fiction which is reserved for topics relevant to the craft and business of writing fiction. What I got to thinkng about after I got an email from NaNoWriMo a couple days ago made it relevant to the publishing of one's fiction though which is a topic concidered very relevent by most fiction writers.

The email from NaNoWriMo announced that a deal had been struck with CreateSpace which is owned by Amazon to provide every NaNoWriMo winner with a free proof copy of their NaNo novel. Beginning retroactively with 2007 winners. Not only can they get that free paperback proof copy but they can choose to offer their novel for sale on the CreateSpace site.

My mind instantly made the connections between the two Amazon endeavors and saw a future in which fiction writers could bypass the tyranny of the publishing industry gatekeepers: agents, editors, bean counters, the hostage holding of manuscripts, the catch 22 of needing to be published in order to get published and all of the rest of the hurdles that tend to curdle the aspiring writer's soul.

Self-publishing using methods that would combine the potential of the Kindle technology with that of CreateSpace and the promotional potential of blogs and websites could put the power back in the hands of the writers. The creators, the providers of content could dictate the terms instead of groveling at the gates of industry moguls who have to care more about buildings, printing presses, payroll, paper, ink and advertising than they do about art.

And oh yes more trees would live!

BTW Oprah announced the Kindle as her new fav gadget today and gave them to her audience with the current book club selection, The Story of Edgar Sawtell loaded already. And for the watching audience Amazon is providing $50 off for anyone using the special code at checkout. You'll find that special code at Oprah.com. The offer is good only through November 1st.

$50 off $359 is a significant savings but not enough to get me the Suze Orman APPROVED. Sigh.

OK I've been watching too much CNBC this month.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Purple Hibiscus
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
(c) 2003
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
307p

Purple Hibiscus is a coming of age story set in post-colonial Nigeria. Narrated by fifteen-year-old Kimbili, it is the story of the year things fell apart both in the turbulent political situation of a country teetering on the edge of civil war and in her family as the fragile facade of perfection her parents presented to the community shattered as thoroughly as the glass figurines in the etagere when hit by the heavy missal her father threw at her older brother Jaja after he had refused to partake of communion at church that Palm Sunday morning.

That was the scene set by the first paragraph. That was the event that alerted Kimbili to the realization that something had shifted irrevocably in the way of things. And when at lunch a few hours later, Jaja left the table before their father had said the closing prayer and she saw that the fear had left his eyes and was now in her father's she was so shook up she choked on her juice. Her brother's defiance seemed both shocking and yet inevitable. She reflects that its roots were in the visit the two of them had made to their father's sister's a few months before. "Jaja's defiance seemed to me now like Aunty Ifeoma's experimental purple hibiscus, rare, fragrant with the untertones of freedom..." p16

Aunt Ifeoma was a University Professor and a widow with three children, the eldest two near the same ages of Jaja and Kambili. The contrast between the two households had been shocking to both siblings. Theirs had been a life secluded in a large house surrounded by a high wall and cushioned by their father's wealth and prestige. Their days had been strictly scheduled, communication among family members had been spare and ritualized. Their father had monitored their every move and doled out consequences for every infraction of his rigid rules. At Aunty Ifeoma's house it was noisy with talk and laughter flung about. The house was small and crowded and full of books and games. In the short time they were they both Jaja and Kambili had begun to bloom like the flowers in the garden outside the veranda that Jaja was learning to tend under Aunty's guidance.

Kambili traces the beginning of the trouble back even further though. Back to nearly a year before the Palm Sunday of the shattered figurines. Back to Pentecost of the previous spring. The day their mother miscarries after their father beat her. The day Kambili and Jaja had together cleaned up the trail of blood leading from the door of their parents room down the hall and down the stairs to the front door after watching their father carry their mother like a 'jute sack of rice' out of the house.

As events unfold within their household over that year there are political occurrences in their country that are equally fraught with fear and defiance. Like a fugue there is an echo between the inner sanctum of the family and the outer world as Nigeria undergoes it's latest military coup, as cultural and ethnic forces fissure the community.

Kambili's father is a respected, even revered, man of their community. He owns a factory and a newspaper. He is active in the Catholic Church. He is a generous benefactor to many individuals and causes. He is a promoter of free speech, defying the new government by continuing to publish exposes of governmental corruption.

But he is a man who requires obedience from his wife and children and his expectations are so high and so rigid there is really no way to fulfill them. His perfectionism and need for order is probably a tendency of his personality but a symbiotic dance exists between it and his religious beliefs and he cloaks much of his demands in the religious language of sin, repentance and forgiveness. He holds to a hard line fundamentalist doctrine that will not allow him to give quarter to even his own father who has 'stubbornly' continued in the traditional 'pagan' practices.

If I say much more about the story I will start to give away spoilers. I began reading this novel months ago while I was still working actively on my own story Home Is Where the Horror Is. I found the correspondences between Crystal's story and Kambili's eerie and it is quite possible that work on my story halted at least partly out of a sense of intimidation by Adiche's exquisitely wrought story. I really must learn to get over that tendency.
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

This review is the first towards fulfilling the Herding Cats Challenge.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #109

NaNoWriMo in nine days! So much prep left to do! I may be falling back on that 11 page list of silly author/title combos and LOLcats for my TT list for the duration. And beyond since the holiday season will be in full swing as NaNo finishes.

Reminder: These are made up. Not by me. Not real books. Not real author names. Just a handful of giggles.

Enjoy.



Thirteen More Silly Author/Title Combo



How to Break In: Jimmy De Lock
How to Cook a Steak: Porter House
How to Cut Grass: Lon Moore
How to Draw: Ellis Strait
How to Get Rid of Unwanted Guests by Bea O'Problem
How To Make Cornmeal Pancakes: Johnny Cake
How to Make Honey: B.A. Beaman
How to Overcome Stress: R.E. Lachs
How To Prevent Leaks: Titus A. Drum
How to Read a Book: Paige Turner
How to Succeed in School: Rita Book
How to Tour the Prison by Robin Steele
How To Tune Up Your Auto: Carl Humm

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!



The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It's easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!


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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

shhh! Iz sayn mai prayrz

funny pictures
moar funny pictures


Notice to all read-a-thoners and book bloggers: Send prayers and good thoughts to Dewey, our 24 hour Read-a-thon hostess who is in the hospital.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

I Only Wish It Were This Easy

cat
more animals

I had to laugh aloud when I saw this one. I occasionally say this about myself but this isn't quiet what I mean. Tho I do remember a time as a pre-teen when I thought putting a book under my pillow helped me do better on the test the next day. Or, in the case of a novel, even finish the story in my dreams.

I'm still recovering from the read-a-thon; or more specifically from the 43hrs I was awake. Still haven't had a good catch-up sleep. Slept a little over six hour Sunday and a little over six again this morning. I probably could have slept more on Sunday but chose to get up and spend the afternoon with my husband on his only day off this week.

Ed had gotten me a pre-paid Visa card to combine with an Amazon.com gift certificate in order to qualify for the free shipping. And the plan was for him to teach me how to use the card and gift certificate and make the orders. He could have done it for me as he has done similar things on other occasions. It would have taken him all of fifteen minutes to registar the pre-paid card, register a new account on Amazon make the selections off my list and apply the gift certificate and pre-paid card at the checkout. But the hope is that the ninety minutes or more he took to walk me through each step may save him dozens of those fiftenn minutes in the future.

The reason it takes me so long to learn a new task on the computer or Net is the combination of me visual impairment with my anxiety disorder. The RP aka Tunnel Vision limits me to seeing only two or three words and/or icons at once. It takes time for me to scan a new web site screen to learn where the relevant text and input forms and etc are. I tend to loose track of the cursor. My tendency to become anxious in new situations makes it hard to concentrate and stay focused on the task. My obsessive need to check and recheck my entries into the forms would try the patience of Buddha himself. And we won't even talk about my mini-panic attacks when I click submit and it comes back with an error message.

So now I have an Amazon.com account. I spent several hours goofing around on Amazon after completing the order. I learned how to create a wishlist. I only managed to put in a few items before I made myself quit so I could get my Sunday post up and go to bed. But what fun!

This morning I got up the first time I woke up because I had DVDs due at the library today and meant to try to watch two before Ed got home from work. I was pleasantly surprized and amazed to find three of the four DVD renewing for me. Only Love In the Time of Cholera did not and I knew for sure that it would not because I knew there was a queue behind me of at least 15 last week. So I started watching it at 11, paused it at noon to listen to Marianne Williamson on Oprah and Friends XM, went back to the movie at 1PM and it finished at a bit after 2. Ed got home as the last of the titles were scrolling off the screen. I had hoped to go to the library myself but I knew Ed would prefer to just get it done so he could kick back for the rest of the day. So I didn't make him wait for me to shower and etc. an inescapable necessity given that I'd spent most of the noon hour on the mini-tramp.

Since I didn't have to go out, I put off the shower since I hoped to get back on the mini-tramp again this evening. My time on it at noon wasn't an aerobic workout just a gentle limbering and balance training. After dinner I put in another movie and got on the tramp as it started. This time it was Akeelah and the Bee. I surprised myself by staying on the tramp for 72 minutes. Mostly it was still the gentle swaying and flexing etc but everytime the soundtrack went into music with a faster beat I began to move with it and sustain the faster pace for as long as the soundtrack did.

This was huge improvement for a week ago yesterday--the day Ed bought and assembled it for me. The first two days I could only manage three to five minutes at a time. I made up for the short intervals by getting on frequently those two days. The Tuesday through Thursday I had worked up to fifteen to twenty minutes at a time and did two sessions per day. On Friday afternoon I managed my first over thirty minute session but then on Friday evening I stepped on the rim as I was mounting and the tramp tilted and threw me off. Though I got back on for short sessions several times that evening, I had bruised my confidence.

The tramp was a major factor in helping me thrive thoughout the 24 hours of the Read-a-thon Saturday in spite of having managed to set myself up for failure by not sleeping the night before. I got on it so many times during those 24 hours I lost count. I was flagging seriously around 8PM Saturday and did a 45 minute workout with over fifteen minutes being aerobic. I used the time to contemplate the story I'd just read and prepare to write my comentary on it. I don't know how much credit to give the tramp and how much the energy drink I was sipping away at during and after that stint on it but I didn't flag again before 5AM. In fact I didn't get sleepy until after 6AM.

One of the books I ordered on Amazon yesterday was The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. I had actually gotten in queue for it at the library the day before Oprah announced it as the next Book Club selection because I'd stumbled on a blog that was speculating about it and it was one of several favored as highly likely to be IT. I read a couple of reviews about it and decided I wanted it whether it was Oprah's selection or not. So I went to order it and found myself 45th in line for about fifteen copies. By the next evening there were about forty more behind me. So that week I began to plan to spend an Amazon gift certificate I'd gotten for reviewing a writer's community site here on that book. When checking it out at Amazon that week though I discovered that if I added another five dollars to the amount of the gift certificate I could have an extra book or two instead of paying for shipping. So I waited to place my order until Ed could swing the pre-paid card.

Now here is a bit of irony. One of the books Ed brought back from the library today was...... drumrollllllll.....

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle.

Now I have to decide whether to go ahead and start it while I'm waiting for my copy to arrive. Or let it go back so the next in line can have their turn. The latter seems the most gracious choice. Considering that there is less than two week before NaNo starts and I still have so much prep still to do if I want the first week of NaNo to be all about writing the story(s), then my choice is obvious. And I also hung onto a book novel that was due today that I'm in the middle of--the one I set aside Saturday morning in order to devote the read-a-thon to short stories as planned. So you could say I am renting that book for twenty cents a day and it could take me three to five days to finish it. Another good reason to let The Story of Edgar Sawtelle go.

Ed also brought back four more DVDs we'd been in queue for at the library. One of them is the six hour Stephen King miniseries, The Storm of the Century. One is The Golden Compass and another is The Aviator.

Choices. Choice. Choices.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sunday Serenity #98

cat
more animals

Something I aspire to.

But right now I'd settle for some deep, dreamless sleep.

I woke after only 6 and a half hours sleep this afternoon and that is far from enough to recover from being awake 42 and a half hours. It took me another ninety minutes after the read-a-thon concluded this morning to wind down for sleep.

I'm sleepy now though. So I'm off to show my respects to the sandman.

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

My Brain On Books III

click the pic to learn about the Read-a-thon

This post will be organized like a blog inside a blog with recent updates stacked atop previous ones.

The current updates begin under the following list of the short story collections from which I'll be reading. I post the list fyi but mostly to keep it handy to copy/paste titles from it into the updates as my intention is to post an update with first impressions after reading each story.

Happy Reading Read-a-thoners!!!
  1. Storyteller by Leslie Marmon Silko
  2. Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway (contains 25 short stories to support the discussion of craft)
  3. The Sincerest Form: Writing Fiction by Imitation by Nicholas Delbanco (contains 24 short stories associated with discussion of craft and suggested exercises for imitating the elements of craft exemplified)
  4. The Art of the Tale: An International Anthology of Short Stories edited by Daniel Halpern (contains 81 stories from all over the world)
  5. Mama Makes Up Her Mind and Other Dangers of Southern Living by Bailey White
  6. Complete Stories by Dorothy Parker
  7. The Collected Stories by Grace Paley
  8. The Complete Stories by Flannery O'Connor
  9. Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman
  10. A Celestial Omnibus: Short Fiction on Faith edited by J. P. Maney and Tom Hazuka
  11. Homeland and Other Stories by Barbara Kingsolver
  12. faithless: tales of transgressions by Joyce Carol Oates
  13. Logorrhea: Good Words Make Good Stories edited by John Klima (eleven stories from eleven modern fiction writers each given one of the winning words from the Scripps National Spelling Bee between 1996 and 2004)
  14. Down to a Sunless Sea by Mathias B. Freese

5:00 AM I made it I made it I made it.

Now to convince myself it is OK to let go and be sleepy. I stopped with the caffeine and energy drinks at 10PM but still wired on something.

4:33 AM I am still here. My eyes aren't so sure.

4:11 AM End of the Event Meme:

1. Which hour was most daunting for you? the 10th hour between 2 and 3PM PST

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? How long do you want this to be? But then what does high mean? And whoose interest? This is not the time to ask me hard question like list good books. I would still be at it 24 hours from now.

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? Can't think of anything at the moment but I'm barely thinking at all.

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? the instructions, organization and directions to the mini-challenges were much easier to follow.

5. How many books did you read? I read IN 8 short story collections. I read 7 short stories of varying lengths and 13 vignettes. And I commented on each one here. Though I had anticipated reading twice as many stories, I still feel I fulfilled my goal for the day. To get a good strong start on an intensive study of the art of the short story.

6. What were the names of the books you read? The list of the story collections has been at the top of this post all day.

7. Which book did you enjoy most? It's a toss up between the story about the cambist in Logorrhea and the vignettes in Mama Makes Up Her Mind and Neil Gaiman's The Study In Emerald and Barbara Kingsolver's Homeland. See I can't make up my mind on such things.

8. Which did you enjoy least? I guess that would be Obisan but that isn't a dis on the story. It is the fault of the term 'enjoy'. The story had something other than enjoyment in mind. It was meant to be disturbing.

9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? N/A

10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? Very likely. And Reader is my niche.


3:55 AM Just spent the last hour hour reading 13 vignettes from Mama Makes Up Her Mind and Other Dangers of Southern Living by Bailey White. It was the perfect antidote to the horror of Obisan. I laughed out loud at least thirteen times. These mini-stories are like a cross between stand-up comedy and parables.

Here's a taste from the first one pages 4-5:
When Mama starts to move across a room, people pay attention. You can never be sure she's not going to grab you by the top of the head to steady herself. and she's pretty free with that walking stick, too. The room grew quite. I don't know whether it was the faltering gait or the look in her eye or the mismatched safety pins holding her glasses togehter or the Band-Aid with the "Sesame Street" characters on it on her arm, but by the time she got to the counter, everybody was watching.
One hour to go. I think I'm going to make it!

2:22 AM I'm still at it and seem to be going strong as I complete my 39th hour awake.

I just finished the story Obasan by Joy Kogawa which is in A Celestial Omnibus: Short Fiction on Faith edited by J. P. Maney and Tom Hazuka. It is apparently an excerpt from her novel of the same name. I cannot bear to contemplate it let alone comment on it right now. I'm feeling too vulnerable; emotional defenses wobbly under the sleep deprivation. The story contains graphic descriptions of the aftermath of the the bombs dropped on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. Nuf said for now.

How can I take such images and emotions to bed with me in just two and a half hours? I'm thinking I need to find something lighhearted to counteract that. Powerful, powerful story though. I'll probably keep an eye out for the novel.

Sun 12:12 AM The story I read last was The Cambist and Lord Iron: A Fairytale of Economics by Daniel Abraham from Logorrhea: Good Words Make Good Stories edited by John Klima. Abraham was given the challenge to write a story featuring the obscure word cambist. (See #13 in the list above for further explanation.)

Cambist means: 1. a dealer in bills of exchange. 2. an expert in foreign exchange. 3. a manuel giving the moneies, weights and measures of different countries with their equivalents.

I selected this story precisely for its theme related to the economy because that is one of the themes my NaNo project has. And I'm for sure going to make use of it for reflection on the theme and will probably pull some quotes and plant them in my projects notes. The story reads a bit like a fable crossed with a novel of the 1800. Its value lies in its ability to lead one to reflect on the meaning of value and how value is calculated.

The protagonist, Olaf, is the cambist for the Kingdom. A local noble with a reputation for cruelty and debauchery sets his sights on Olaf as his latest anti-boredom ward. He brings the cambist tens of thousands of guilders in an obscure Protectorate's bills and holding an obscure regulation pertaining to the duties of a cambist orders him to exchange them for their fair value in pounds sterling within 24 hours or forfeit his job and to also beware of giving them an arbitrary value as more than loss of his liscence to practice would be forfeit if such a charge could be prooved.

None of the cambist's manuals can tell him anything about the value of the bills, the library has little info pertaining to them or the country who issued them. Olaf sweats it out for over twelve of the 24 hours before Lord Iron will return. The solution comes to him in the middle of the night. The next day he hands Lord Iron an evelope with his 'fair value' for the guilders--some nine pounds--explaining that he had discovered fair market value by testing the market--by taking the bills himself to several local merchants and then accepting the best offer made by a glass blower who wished to use them as exotic wrapping paper for his products.

This infuriates Lord Iron who can barely listen to Olaf's patient explanation about the measure of anything's worth; that it is nothing more nor less that what one can purchace with it which is nothing more nor less than what another is willing to exchange for it.

Lord Iron is not done with Olaf though. Six months later he calls him in to settle a bet he has made with another profligate noble on which they have each wagered their lives: Lord Iron wagering both his own life and Olaf's that Olaf will be able to compute the value of a day in the King's life as measured by the value of a day in a prisoner in custody of the Crown.

The third challenge Lord Iron confronts him with a year or so later is to calculate the worth of a man's soul.

The results of those last two calculations are startling and provoking of deep thought. They have the flavor of Talmudic reflection. This story should be made required reading by every literate person in America from age 13 up. Beginning with our elected officials and all of those working for them from the Cabinet level down to the lowliest clerk. Next in line would be every member of the media. Once they all comprehended the principle involve maybe there could finally be dialogs of substance among them and then between them and the rest of us. Then between every employee and employer.

Ah, well. It was a fable after all, I guess I can be excused for wanting to write one of my own.

8:22 PM Nope, I didn't fade away yet. Even though this is now my 33rd hour awake I'm having a strong hour at the moment. It was a different story about an hour ago as I was finishing the story Homeland from Homeland and Other Stories by Barbara Kingsolver. I had to get up and move for awhile and besides I needed to think about that story before I could make my comments on it here.

That after all is what today is about for me. It isn't about how many pages I can read or how many stories. It is about what I can learn about story weaving from the stories I read. That requires giving each one space to be itself before rushing on to the next. A short story is different from a novel and not just in length. Everything is compressed; every paragraph pregnant with implication; every image oozes meaning when massaged. Some stories, like Kingsolver's Homeland, must be held whole like a carved ivory bead in the mouth--probed by the tongue for the meanings of its grooves and knobs.

So I got on the mini-tramp again and this time did a serious workout, doing a shuffle dance step to the beat of 70s songs for twenty minutes; got my blood moving; broke a sweat. Does that sound impressive? Ha. Only 'cause you didn't see me needing Ed's help to climb down off the thing once I stopped bouncing. But considering that the first day I had it last Sunday I could barley shift my weight while standing still in the middle I guess a twenty minute stint that went aerobic for at least five even without once lifting a foot clear is worth modest accolades.

So about Homeland. I am in awe of Kingsolver's storytelling as ever. This story was narrated by a woman named Gloria who has grown children of her own now as she remembers the years she was ten and eleven, when her failing Great-Grandmother, a full blodd Cherokee, came to live with her family in the Carolina coal mining town of Morning Glory in the fifties. Morning Glory is the name of the town for a good reason. The vines grow so fast a man standing still could be tied down and "not found until first frost." The houses wore the vines like fur coats.

The relationship between young Glorie and Great Mum develops as quietly and gently as the tobacco smoke rising from Great Mum's pipe as they sit together on the porch swing in the evenings as Great Mum tells her great-granddaughter the stories of her people, ending each story with the imperative to "Remember that." Great Mum calls her Waterbug and when asked why refuses to explain for many months.

The story when finally told was powerful. Waterbug was of the star people who gazed upon the sea before there was a world, seeing nothing of interest. Then Waterbug went down and skated on its surface, then diving to the bottom and bringing back mud that immediately upon breaking the surface grew and grew and hardened into the island that is Earth and began bringing forth all the voices and life that now exists. The star people tied it down with grapevines to prevent it being lost again.

Everything I understand about the meaning of story and storytelling is wrapped up in that little story. Grand Mum and not just been idley telling her granddaughter stories to pass the time or entertain. She was passing on the wisdom of her people to the last one of her line who showed the slightest interest. She was handing over her mantle as keeper of the stories. And that story was the key to all the rest for it explains how story telling calls up life out of the abyss.

4:22 PM

Mid-Event Survey:

1. What are you reading right now? I'm about to pick up Homeland and Other Stories by Barbara Kingsolver and read the title story. It is about 29 pages LP. I have two Large Print books in my collection for today and two more with nearly as readable fonts. The rest are more challenging for my eyes. I wish I'd thought to line up some short stories in electronic format but I don't want to waste the time to go looking for them now.

2. How many books have you read so far? I'm not counting books today. I'm counting stories. I've read and commented on here five stories if I'm allowed to count having read Gabriel Garcia Marquez's story twice first the English translation, The Eyes of the Blue Dog, then again in the language he wrote it Ojos de Perros Azul. This was for the mini-challenge still open on Sarah Dillon's blog.

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? Probably Logorrhea: Good Words Make Good Stories edited by John Klima as I just love the concept of handing a writer an obscure word and asking them to weave a story out of it. I just might borrow that concept for the NaNo novel project and add obscure vocab words to the list of inspiration jumpstarts along side current event headlines, photos and a list of possible crisis to dump the family in. I'm thinking of taking those lists and then using random.org to generate a combo of one of each that I must generate a story from. Read more about my NaNo project in yesterday's post.

4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day? Not this time. My inlaws just happened to leave town for ten days Thursday afternoon and my husband had to work this morning and this afternoon had an event to attend and will sleeping early tonight.

5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? Not really. Other than the attacks of the drowse that hit about three times. Ed has been extremely cooperative. He just got home with pizza and the smell is about to make me swoon. Earlier he brought me energy drinks and corn chips smother in guacamole.

6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? That I'm still awake?

7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? Nothing I can think of except maybe somehow solve the conumdrum I deliniate in #8

8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year? I guess I would have to seriously consider making new posts everytime I make progress reports instead of updating a single post as the fact that most visitor's are dependent on a list that reflects only recent new posts and not updates to older posts. So my traffic is much less than last year even though the participation has more than doubled. I know I was warned. But I know myself too well. My fussiness would make creating new posts each time such a chore I'd probably post updates half as often as this or even less.

9. Are you getting tired yet? I was tired when I started, having been unable to sleep at all last night. I'm working on hour 30 awake!!

10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered? I'm finding the occassional little bounce on my mini-tramp is very helpful for getting the kinks out of joints and the cobwebs outta my head. I can even read while on it if I move gently enough.


2:55 PM Where did those two hours go? I spent a few minutes on the mini-tramp twice. I poured an energy drink over ice and took it and my book out to the porch to read but spent several minutes playing with the Merlin our cat and Flipdizzy the stray kitten who took up residence under the porch last August. She fell asleep in my arms and I struggled to hold her and hold the book open, keeping its pages angled at the light just right, to sit still enough to not disturb Dizzy while turning pages and flinching from the occasional drops falling on me. I was sitting under the awning but earlier it had rained and when the sun came back and warmed the porch roof the underside began to rain. If it had been more than a very occasional misty droplet I wouldn't have risked the library book. Dizzy was sleeping on my right wrist over my watch so I don't know what time it was when I finished the story I was reading but I know I didn't move immediately. I just don't know how long between closing the book and my first glimpse at my watch. I know I sat there conscious of Dizzy purring and twitching and breathing against my chest and left arm. I know I went over the story in my mind from start to finish, image by image. I may have dozed myself. All I know is that when a sharp cracking sound of a branch breaking or a kid's popgun from across a fence or two caused either me or Dizzy to startle and the other to follow suit so close I'm still not sure which of us was startled by the crack and which by the other's startle. When Dizzy freed my arm and I caught sight of my watch it was almost 3PM.

The story I read while outside was Everything That Rises Must Converge from The Complete Stories by Flannery O'Connor. I have read this story multiple time. The first time while in Jr. High. At least once more while in High School. And at least once each in the first and second decade of my marriage. I thought I remembered it well and I was sure nothing in it would surprise me. I wanted to reread it because I gave a title to one of my storyseeds written while in my thirties which was a play on the title of this story and I remembered that the theme of my story was also a riff on the theme of this one. I needed to reread it to refresh my memory of just what I was trying to do with my When Everything That Rises Is Submerged, which is a coming of age novel with a protagonist between 13 and 15 who is frustrated by her English teacher who keeps confiscating her library books--Flannery O'Connor,Dostoevsky, Henry James the Brontes--when she is caught reading them in class instead of the assignment which she had finished. She is also in conflict with her mother the way the young man in O'Connor's story is, holder her in contempt for a level of cluelessness that pains her.

I remember being in complete empathy with the twenty-something, college grad son in this story every single time I read this story before today. And this time I was shocked to discover that I felt deeply for his mother this time and was disgusted by his smug self-righteousness; his 'educated' ethics that can be contempteous of his mother's racial bigotry and see her as needing to be taught a lesson while being completely oblivious of his own cruelty toward her that was rooted in a prejudice more disturbing than her's. Her's had been innocently absorbed from her raising in the pre-WW2 culture of the deep south. His was almost studied, practiced with conscious effort. She showed herself to be capable of kindness and thoughtfulness while his gestures of solidarity with the snubbed colored people on the recently desegregated bus held not one whit of kindness and smacked of a using of them that was as disgusting as slavery itself.

Oh, Boy! I think if I go on to write my own story it will have to be rethought from the roots up. Because it was rooted in an anger very much like that of the cruel young man in O'Conner's story.

And I wonder how many of Flannery O'Connor's stories I misread as badly as this one when I read them in my late teens through early thirties?

And there just went another hour. I think I need to pick up something real light next. I'm going on 29 hours awake because anticipation of the read-a-thon kept me too wired to sleep. I seem to have overcome the last wave of sleepies tho. Hope it lasts a few hours.

12:55 PM Again its been two hours! And no it didn't take me two hours to read Ojos de Perros Azul I took a detour past Dewey's on my way to comment and decided to take the challenge to go play Free Rice for a few minutes. A few minutes! Don't know how many minutes I was at it but I earned 6660 grains of rice.

Now re Ojos de Perros Azul it was interresting to 'read' the same story over in its orriginal language. I recognized maybe one in ten words. But I 'heard' most of the words in my head as clear as if spoken by one of our many immigrant neighbors. I remember that pronuciation in Spanish is fairly straightforward. There is little variation in the vowel pronunciation for example. What struck me was how musical it seemed, how much more alliteration there was which made it flow smoother.

Well I've now been awake nearly 26 hours. I need to get on the mini-tramp for a few minutes, grab an energy drink and then choose my next short story. At this rate I'll be doing good to read and comment on one story per book in the above list let alone the two per I aimed for.

10:55 AM It's been over two hours since my last update and I've only read one more story. I took a bit of a detour. Tho it is read-a-thon related. First some catching up at Dewey's again. Learned about Sarah Dillon's mini-challenge to spend an hour reading in a language other than your own which I enjoyed participating in last year and decided that if I could find a way to fit it into my short story project I'd do it again. It took me over half an hour to find a complete Spanish version of Gabrielle Garcia Marquez's Eyes of the Blue Dog (Ojos de Perros Azul). Once I had it, I signed up at Sarah's blog. Then proceded to read the English version whish is in The Art of the Tale: An International Anthology of Short Stories edited by Daniel Halpern a trade paperback I bought for a dollar off the Friend's of the Library shelf at the library the day I went to check out the other short story collections I had ordered for this project.

Eyes of the Blue Dog like much of Garcia Marquez's stories is very surreal. How could it not be when it is set in a dream in which a man and woman discuss the frustration of not being able to find each other in their waking worlds. They devise the phrase 'eyes of the blue dog' as a phrase for recognizing one another. But he is unable to remember his dreams. While she relates to him how she goes about every street and public place repeating the phrase and writing it on napkins and walls and floors, she is unable to remember the name of the city she is currently in. Dreamlike indeed. So dreamlike it drew my mind into the vortex where dreams are waiting. I had to spend ten minutes on the mini-tramp to wake up. Then I stepped outside to see if it was warm enough to sit out there for a bit. On my way back in the house my cat, Merlin, got out and I had to chase him to the end of the driveway.

I'm off to read Ojos de Perros Azul I'll be back to report on the experience. My Spanish is as rusty as the hinges on Davey Jones locker seeing as it is based on two years of high school classes that ended over 33 years ago.

8:44 AM I just re-read the story 'Little Errands' in Down to a Sunless Sea by Mathias B. Freese. You can see my review of this story collection in Tuesday's post below. This really short story at only four pages is entirely an inner monologue of a person with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) who frets over every step of every task checking repeatedly that each step has really been done and still fretting that maybe he had been mistaken in his memory of completing certain steps. He has to open and reseal letters to confirm the right check was really inside. He opens and reopens the trap of the mailbox to be sure the letters went in and still frets that maybe they hadn't been in his hand in the first place. He turns the car radio off and on and off again repeatedly and still frets as he procedes to his appartment that he misjudged the feel of the click and will find a dead battery upon returning the next morning. A misunderstanding with his neighbor has him repeatedly calling and knocking on his door to attempt to clarify himself and being repeatedly rebuffed he resolves to write him a letter.

I laughed aloud at the ending again as I did the first time tho maybe not as spontaneously or as energetically. It still tickles me. Partly because I see elements of my own behaviors in this poor guy's. I don't obsess on the same things but my thoughts go in similar circles and moibus strip loops about other things. In trying to pin down the difference it occured to me that his thoughts are stuck in the past--in whether or not he did something and did it correctly--whereas mine are stuck in the future--in planning what I'm going to do.

Part of me is still stuck in the planning stage for this read-a-thon and I'm a bit befuddled to find myself already in the midst of it.

7:44 AM I haven't gone back to reading yet as I went over to Dewey's to checkout what's up. Decided to answer the questions posed in the hour 1 post.

Where are you reading from today? Home. This moment from the living room. I'm hoping the gorgeous fall Indian Summer will hold so I can sit on the porch later.

3 facts about me … 1) I am visually impaired with RP aka Retinitis Pigmentosa aka Tunnel Vision. When I gaze into the center of my coffee cup I cannot see any of its edges. I've also got a cataract in my right eye that needs tending to. 2) I have been in love with story since I was in the crib. I started making up my own before I could hold crayon. 3) I'm doing NaNoWriMo for the fifth time next month. The short stories I'm reading today are part of the prep work for my NaNo project. see yesterday's post below and this one for why.

How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours? 14--see list at top of post.

Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)? My goal is to read and comment on two stories out of each of the 14 story collections. I would also like to make it the full 24 hours as I did last October but, well, see next answer.

If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, Any advice for people doing this for the first time? Get a good solid night's sleep before the Read-a-thon starts!!! Ha. I never have (the first time I got seven the second time I got five or so) but this time is the worst as I've already been awake since 11:20 Thursday morning and that was only five hours of sleep then!



6:44 AM Well, I didn't oversleep. I didn't sleep. Though I lay in the dark for a full hour twice, I could not calm my thoughts or pulse towards sleep. This is a prank my mind has played on me before big events since before I started kindergarten. So I'm going to be hitting my 24th hour awake at 11:20 AM.

When I opened my eyes to look at the glowing red numbers of the clock and saw 4:00 I gave up, knowing the alarm was going off in 22 minutes anyway. I sat up and turned on the lamp and picked up the novel I've been reading all week--Betrayal by Kathleen O'neal Gear and W. Michael Gear. I read in it until a quarter til 5 and then set it aside. I don't plan to pick it up again until after I've slept Sunday and it will most likely be Monday before I actually get to.

So at a quarter to 5, I started the coffee pot and fixed a bowl of cereal and read the intro to Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman as I ate. I chose to read the first story, 'A Study in Emerald', which was an intriguing blend of Lovecraftian Science Fiction with a Sherlock Holmes mystery. The open paragraphs are so similar to the Sherlock Holmes stories I read around age twelve I could easily have mistook them for one if I'd encountered them out of this context.

This is my first introduction to Neil Gaiman. I've been reading reviews all over the blogs for months and have several of his titles on my wish list aka my library to-be-requested someday list. Now I definitely know I want more.

The flavor of the Victorian era was rendered exact right up to the moment the erzatz Holmes/Watson team entered the murder scene and saw the writing on the wall. In blood. Green blood. A study in emerald indeed.

It took me much longer than I expected to read this single story but two things contributed to that which I hope will not be a factor for the next several hours. I had to call my husband at 5:15 and his getting-ready-for-work routine distracted me and around 6 I began to wrangle with an attack of the drowsies which required me to get up and do some gentle two-stepping on my new mini-tramp. My balance isn't good enough yet to lift my feet off the surface but I can work up a sweat and get my blood moving with just five minutes of moving my feet.

Well, Ed left at 7 and it's quiet except for the music on the XM satellite 40s on 4. I intend to alternate among the decades through the 70s throughout the day.

5:00 AM Let's get started y'all. (i've set this to autopost at 5AM. if this parenthetical is still here I may not have had time to stop in here before starting. At least I hope it's not because I overslept.)

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Friday Forays In Fiction: NaNo Project Status



I described my plans for this year's NaNo project in this Friday Forays in Fiction post a couple weeks ago so I'm not going to reiterate any of it here. I'm going to let the screen shots above do most of my explaining for me. They show my favorite application for all manipulation of text up to the point a formal precisely formatted hard copy would be needed at which time it is easy to export the text to a word processor.

The ap is WhizFolder and I use it for note taking and organizing, WIP, collecting active links to the web or any file on my computer including between WhizFolders and between topics inside WhizFolders.

You may have to open the images in separate windows or tabs to see some of what I describe here. The top picture shows two WhizFolders, one atop the other and to the side. The one to the left is STORY GARDEN and is where I collect story ideas and story theory. The story ideas I call STORYSEEDS which has a topic window near the top of the list on the left. When I get an idea for a story, I create a child topic under that and jot notes on the idea or even write a scene or character sketch. When the storyseed outgrows a single topic window I may give it a few child topics but before it grows by much I give it its own WhizFolder and it graduates to Work In Progress aka WIP. The WIP topic window contains active links to those WhizFolders. You can glimpse the first letters of these links next to the edge of the second WhizFolder to the right which is for MOBILE HOPES my NaNo Novel in Waiting.

The rest of STORY GARDEN is devoted to collecting notes from readings on and off line on all aspects of story writing including the writing life itself but with much emphasis on the rhetoric of fictionwriting. Another WhizFolder related to this one is the one I call my Reading Journal where I collect my impressions of my current reading and reading lists of various themes. There is yet another WhizFolder for Book Reviews. All of my reading whether fiction or non-fiction relates in one way or another to my own story writing whether I intend it to at the moment I select it or not. At some point unremarked at the time--probably in the late eighties--I reached a point where I began to read as a writer.

The second screen shot is of the full editor window with one of the topics from Mobel Hopes open in it. I used the full editor whenever doing sustained writing. I use the quick editor, shown in the top screenshot, for jotting a line or two or inserting a quick link.

Tomorrow as I read short stories for the Read-a-thon, I'll be using these two WhizFolders along with Reading Journal to take notes that relate to my dual project of a formal study of the short story form and preping for NaNo which is going to be a month long intensive practice in short story writing. Yes, I know the No in NaNoWriMo stands for Novel. Mobile Hopes will be a novel comprised of a dozen or more short stories all set in the same trailer park. Besides the characters themselves weaving in and out of each other's stories, there will be the common themes of hope and community weaving the stories into something like a novel. I hope to organize the stories at some later date in such a way as to create an overarching plot but I'm not going to fret about that until after NaNo is over and especially not before I've created a minimum of six families and their stories.

Arrrrrrrrrrrgh! My alarm is going off in THREE hours!!!! So much for my hopes of making it through the full 24hours of the Read-a-thon.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Who's Swinging That Halloween Hachette?


Sorry it isn't me this time. :( Click the pic to find out who. But hurry the contest closes at noon PST tomorrow, Friday October 17.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #108

Thursday

click the pic to learn about the Read-a-thon
Thirteen

Thirteen Story Collections I'll Be Reading From For Saturday's Read-a-thon

  1. Storyteller by Leslie Marmon Silko
  2. Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway (contains 25 short stories to support the discussion of craft)
  3. The Sincerest Form: Writing Fiction by Imitation by Nicholas Delbanco (contains 24 short stories associated with discussion of craft and suggested exercises for imitating the elements of craft exemplified)
  4. The Art of the Tale: An International Anthology of Short Stories edited by Daniel Halpern (contains 81 stories from all over the world)
  5. Mama Makes Up Her Mind and Other Dangers of Southern Living by Bailey White
  6. Complete Stories by Dorothy Parker
  7. The Collected Stories by Grace Paley
  8. The Complete Stories by Flannery O'Connor
  9. Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman
  10. A Celestial Omnibus: Short Fiction on Faith edited by J. P. Maney and Tom Hazuka
  11. Homeland and Other Stories by Barbara Kingsolver
  12. faithless: tales of transgressions by Joyce Carol Oates
  13. Logorrhea: Good Words Make Good Stories edited by John Klima (eleven stories from eleven modern fiction writers each given one of the winning words from the Scripps National Spelling Bee between 1996 and 2004)


Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!




The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It's easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!


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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Down to a Sunless Sea by Mathias B. Freese

Down to a Sunless Sea
by Mathias B. Freese
(c) 2007
Wheatmark
134p

Genre: Literary Short Stories

This was the short story collection I was reading a couple of weeks ago which inspired me to commit to a serious investigation into the craft of the short story with the intent to write them. I have been wanting to for some years now but keep putting it off being the practiced procrastinator that I am. And even as the reading of these very short stories triggered the wish to begin that project, that naysayer who lives in my head whispered, "If only it weren't so close to NaNoWriMo." But then that trickster, that jokester, that idiosyncratic juxtiposer shot down the naysayer with a jaunty "What if you combine the short story project with the NaNo project by making the stories related by theme or setting so you can still call it a novel?" And with that my muse took off and the result became the plan that I delineated in this Friday Foray's in Fiction post a couple weeks ago. Since then I've picked up several short story collections from the library and am preparing to immerse myself in them over the next couple of weeks.

So what is it about Freese's stories that had the power to kick start all of this? It was something about the effect each one had on me. The reading of each one was an emotional experience that lingered like the aftertaste of strong tea; often a bit bitter but compelling the next sip. It was something about the startling realization that each story was so unique in style, tone, voice and vocabulary that I probably would not have been able to match story to author if I'd encountered them sans byline. The uniqueness of each story seemed to be a function of the story--whether told in first or third person and from whatever POV--of its belonging as intimately as breath to its central character every one of which were uniquely wounded by the travails of growing up human. It was something about Freese's ability to render the lives of social misfits in such a way as to elicit empathy; to display their despair and the deplorable complacency of a society whose primary byproducts tend to be injustice and hypocrisy without denying the possibility of hope.

These stories were often dark and depressing and just as often humorous and full of wit. Sometimes all in one story. I had to ration myself to two or three per day and never more than one in a single sitting. This partly to protect my own emotional equilibrium but mostly to protect the integrity of each story so that I could hold it in my mind like a single pearl and wonder at the beauty that could result from the attempt to isolate and excrete a toxin. Which leaves me wondering if that is the source of all human art.

Here is a list of the fifteen stories:


* Down to a Sunless Sea
* I'll Make It, I Think
* The Chatham Bear
* Herbie
* Alabaster
* Juan Peron's Hands
* Little Errands
* Arnold Schwarzenegger's Father Was a Nazi
* Echo
* Young Man
* Nicholas
* Billy's Mirrored Wall
* Unanswerable
* For a While, Here, in This Moment
* Mortise and Tenon

I had hoped to comment on each one with a line or a paragraph but that was too ambitious for the conditions in my life this week and I must not put off posting this until conditions improve as they are not likely to before NaNoWriMo starts in less than three weeks and if it isn't posted by then it would likely wait until after the Holidays. Which would be unconscionable since I was given this book by the author as a review copy and that would be a poor way to show my gratitude. And I am profoundly grateful. Not just for the book but for having encountered the heart and mind of its creator through his creations. Also for the inspiration that led to the concept of combining NaNo with my desire to study and practice the craft of short story which I have known for years is quite distinct from that of novels. Maybe I will reread one or two during this Saturday's Read-a-thon and comment on them at that time.

Update: I did re-read Little Errands during the Read-a-thon and wrote an off-the-cuff impression of it in my Read-a-thon post, My Brain on Books III. But my couple of paragraphs regarding this story are buried in the several thousand words of that post so I am pasting them here:

Re Little Errands by Mathias B. Freese: This really short story at only four pages is entirely an inner monologue of a person with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) who frets over every step of every task checking repeatedly that each step has really been done and still fretting that maybe he had been mistaken in his memory of completing certain steps. He has to open and reseal letters to confirm the right check was really inside. He opens and reopens the trap of the mailbox to be sure the letters went in and still frets that maybe they hadn't been in his hand in the first place. He turns the car radio off and on and off again repeatedly and still frets as he precedes to his apartment that he misjudged the feel of the click and will find a dead battery upon returning the next morning. A misunderstanding with his neighbor has him repeatedly calling and knocking on his door to attempt to clarify himself and being repeatedly rebuffed he resolves to write him a letter.

I laughed aloud at the ending again as I did the first time tho maybe not as spontaneously or as energetically. It still tickles me. Partly because I see elements of my own behaviors in this poor guy's. I don't obsess on the same things but my thoughts go in similar circles and moibus strip loops about other things. In trying to pin down the difference it occurred to me that his thoughts are stuck in the past--in whether or not he did something and did it correctly--whereas mine are stuck in the future--in planning what I'm going to do.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Another 24 Hour Read-a-thon

<--Click the image for the Read-a-thon FAQ

The next Read-a-thon sponsored by Dewey at The Hidden Side of a Leaf is coming up this weekend. I've known about this for a month and kept forgetting to post an announcement. Shame on me!

Check out the great list of prizes to be awarded to the intrepid readers.

I'm referring you to the FAQ for details because I'm just wiped out this evening and I need to make this as quick and easy as I can. I started feeling better today and probably overdid--part of which overdoing was a trip to the library. By car not foot and yet still demanding of more energy and stamina than I have to spare. But I needed to pick up the last of the books I sent for for the Read-a-thon.

This time, in order to make the Read-a-thon do double duty, I am devoting the day to short stories as part of my NaNoWriMo prep. See this post for an in depth explanation but, briefly, (hahaha as if I can do brief) my NaNo project this year is to be a collection of interlocking short stories all set in the same trailor park between July 4 and November 4 of this year and featuring upwards of fifteen different households each in a different crisis that is either directly caused by or significantly impacted by the current crisis in the global economy. And no it is no accident that I chose Independence Day and Election Day to bracket the story's timeline. I may though, continue working on the exercise right on through Inauguration Day, adding stories and households to the collection as I go.

And I am looking at it as more of an exercise than anything at this point. The idea is to practice the techniques of story making starting as many stories as possible in a limited time frame. Ideally I would like a story per day for a total of 30 but I will be plenty happy with 15. I was thinking of these as analogous to the finger exercises of those piano lessons from the dark ages of my pre-teen years. But now I'm thinking the analogy of speed dating is more apt.

I'm not going to making finishing any of the stories the goal during the NaNo challenge. Nor am I going to worry about the interlocking of the stories until afterward. The goal is to generate the story characters, situations, conflict and resolutions, voice and tone, and in a variety of styles and lengths--from under 500 words to just under 3000. I hope to do a few first person as I've never attempted any since a semi-autobiographical one I wrote in high-school. Before starting this blog I was very uncomfortable using first person for anything. Four years of blogging has helped me acclimate somewhat to using first person in the casual personal essay cum personal journaling which blogging is. But writing an entirely fictional story in first person still feels alien to me.

I have been wanting to study the craft of short fiction for some time now. And I learn best by immersion in a subject and in the case of writing fiction it isn't enough to read about technique and craft, I must also read a lot of fiction in a huge variety of styles and types.

So I decided to combine my NaNo prep with the Read-a-thon.

It starts at GMT 12 NOON which is 5AM for me. I am usually laying down to sleep between 3AM and 6AM so the only way I can make that work is if be sure not to go into it already sleep-deprived like I did last June. I wussed out with only an hour to go because I was starting to hallucinate.

Well, I have rambled on way too long. I'm practically sleep writing.

Watch for a list of the thirteen short story collections and anthologies that I have gathered for the combined Read-a-thon and NaNo prep project in my TT on Wednesday.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sunday Serenity #97

Today I be taking my medicines religiously.

funny pictures
more animals


funny pictures
more animals


funny-picture-cat-fail.jpg
see more pwn and owned pictures


Obama Pictures and McCain Pictures
see Sarah Palin pictures


Obama Pictures and McCain Pictures
see Sarah Palin pictures


song chart memes
more music charts


dog
see more puppies


dog
see more puppies

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Fail

They say laughter is the best medicine. Well, I'm taking extra dosage. Introducing failblog.org another spin off from LOLcats.


fail-owned-pwned-pictures
see more pwn and owned pictures


fail-owned-pwned-pictures
see more pwn and owned pictures


fail-owned-pwned-pictures
see more pwn and owned pictures

The above is a screen shot of a forum thread. There is a readable enlarged version available at the site but I won't make you chase after it as I want to be sure you read it. It's one of my favs. I'm sure it will obvious why:

book rental service? (<--Thread title-JR)

was just thinking. my sister does -alot- of reading, and spends like $1000 a year on just books alone. most of them she reads once then never looks at again. is there any kind of like…video rental store but for books? would make things alot cheaper, plus once one person had read one the next person can get enjoyment from it etc



fail-owned-pwned-pictures
see more pwn and owned pictures

The failboat is a meme of its own on failblog. There are dozens of pics of boats of various kinds and sizes in dire straights.

fail-owned-pwned-pictures
see more pwn and owned pictures

Now that is what you call stranger than fiction. Who would believe it in a novel or film?

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Friday Forays In Fiction: Writerz Blox

cat
more animals

I seldom have writer's block anymore and I don't believe that's the real issue today either. I'm feeling unwell and that's the only explanation necessary for not having anything to say today. So I went looking for an LOLcat to post in place of my Friday Forays In Fiction but when I saw this one I saw a way to still call it an FFIF post even though I don't intend to muse on the subject today. I thought other writers would get a kick out of the pic and to telegraph it was an LOL cat pic I spelled it in LOLese in the post title. But this does give me an idea for a future post about the ways I have learned how to win most of my duels with writer's block.

Meanwhile you can probably expect more LOLcats from me in the next couple days. Though I could end up surprising us all.

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Turn Off Flashing Lights! PlzKTnxBai

cat
more animals

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #107

I have been feeling a bit bleh for over a week and considered passing on TT for the first time since I started but then I remembered that list of silly made up author/title combos I've been doling out 13 at at time for TT over the last year whenever I'm pressed for time or out of ideas. It's been awhile and putting this together is mostly copy/paste so I'm going to go ahead and put it up tho I may not do much visiting today. We are in the Hs now.

To clarify and anticipate certain misunderstanding from previous viewers of these author/title combos:

These are not real books so no, I've not read any of them let alone all of them.

I did not make these up myself. But I remember playing this game with my siblings and friends as a kid. Though there have been many on this list that remind me of those I heard as a kid there have also been many that would have gone over my head back then and several that, in my opinion, are not kid friendly and I've edited them out--those that tap into bigotry, hate, violence, demeaning of women or R rated graphic sexual contexts.

These are off a list that my sister forwarded to me in an email four years ago. It was eleven pages long in ten point font.



And Yet Thirteen More Silly Author/Title Combos


  1. Hiya Fella: Gladys Eeya
  2. Holiday Spots by Sandie Beaches
  3. Hollywood Gossip: Phyllis Zinn
  4. Holmes Does it Again by Scott Linyard
  5. Home Alone IV by Annie Buddyhome
  6. Home of the Liberty Bell: Phil A. Delphia
  7. Hot Dog! by Frank Furter
  8. House Construction by Bill Jerome Holme
  9. House Plants: Clay Potts
  10. Housework: Dustin Cook
  11. How I Won The Marathon: Randy Hoelway
  12. How to Annoy by Aunt Agonize
  13. How To Beat A Murder Rap: Scott Free


Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!




The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It's easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!


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