Monday, August 31, 2009

Book Review: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

The Bluest Eye
By Toni Morrison
© 1970

Genre: coming of age; literary

(Shame shame shame
Shame on you, you should be ashamed of yourself aren’t you ashamed I hope you’re ashamed hang your head in shame you are a worm and no way worthy you should be shamefaced before yourself your irredeemable self your unacceptable self your fallen born in sin self)

Did I get your attention? Did I open a can of worms? Did the above litany spark a conflagration of feelings you thought had long been put to rest? Did it, if just for an instant, make you feel like the small, helpless, needy child you once were when those shame messages were your daily fare? If so then maybe I’ve given you a taste of my experience of reading The Bluest Eye.

I don’t know whether it was Toni Morrison’s intention to show the insidious power of shame to shape a child’s soul or if I was just sensitive to the theme of shame because I happened to be concurrently reading a book called The Culture of Shame by a psychiatrist named Andrew P. Morrison. (Morrison--is that weird or what? No relation I’m sure.) Or maybe I pulled Mr. Morrison’s book off the library shelf a couple months ago because I was already sensitive to the theme of shame.

At any rate, it was the experience of this blue eyed white woman reading Toni Morrison’s story of a small black girl who wished herself blue eyed to identify so completely with that child’s soul that her own soul was able to speak her pain--an infinite pain rooted in shame and nurtured by blame.

Some readers may take the story of a black child desiring a mark of beauty genetically unique to Caucasians at face value and see the indictment of racial prejudice as the theme. But that would not explain the power of this story to move so deeply. Only the universal theme of the shamed self can carry this story into the hearts of readers regardless of age, sex, race, status….

It is easy, even required by this story to notice the pain of young Pecola Breedlove, to empathize with her, to yearn to comfort her, to mourn her dissolution--the dissolving of her soul by the acid of rejection. But to notice and feel the pain of her tormentors and extend the same compassion to them--that is another story. Yet it is the Story for me. It is the whole point. And to get that point provides the only hope for healing the pain and breaking the endless cycle. For shame breeds shame ad infinitum. And it is my experience that most if not all the pain we inflict on self and others is rooted in this swamp of shame which drains the streams of our parent’s unshed tears. Tears pent up for seven times seventy generations.

Now don’t misunderstand me. I am not naming shame itself as the evil. The experience of shame is a necessary building block if not the foundation of our consciences. But when the fragile mind-in-the-making of a child conflates the necessary shame for unacceptable (unloving) behavior with the soul dissolving shame for an unacceptable (unlovable) being--that is the wound that keeps on wounding. A wound left to suppurate under layers of scabbing and scarring sending shock-waves of pain out from its hidden darkness.

The original wound is forgotten but the pain, constant and insistent, needs to be explained. So we blame the surface features of our particular lives--too little of this, too much of that, the wrong shape, the wrong size, the wrong skin shade, the wrong color eyes--for the sucking hole in our soul that is our profound sense of unworthiness. Until we can uncover the true source of that pain and root it out we are doomed to suffer and in our suffering germinate the pain of future generations.

Stories like The Bluest Eye serve to bring the hidden wound to view and allow us to see ourselves from a different perspective where surface attributes are not the measure of our worthiness for love. Once we know, really know, that to be is to be worthy, then we will stop perpetuating the pain and begin to heal.

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Confession: I read this book and wrote this review nearly ten years ago and it has been posted on my Joyread site for at least four years. I'm working at cleaning out my files with an eye to what needs to be finished, deleted or printed. My book reviews folder contains a couple hundred book reviews in various stages from barely begun to finished. Many are all but finished just needing the final polishing. Some have never been posted. Most that have been posted to Joyread have never been posted here. I've decided to cross post some of those. I essentially abandoned Joyread (and Joywrite--see links in sidebar) during the lead-up to our library closure 2007 and after the library doors closed I put my focus here. I would like to reclaim them but I don't know where the time is going to come from. :)

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday Serenity #142



I'm in the mood for some Enya today. Always conducive to serenity.

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Busy Busy Busy

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I held back several library items that were due last Thursday to try to get as much as possible out of them by Monday morning. Since our branch isn't open from Friday through Sunday, as long as the item is in the drop box before the library opens Monday, the fines don't apply. The same thing is likely to happen next weekend. Since several of these items are crucial to the prep for NaNo and I probably won't get another crack at them before October, I'm feeling quite pressured. Adding to that sense of overwhelm are the dentist and ophthalmologist appointments I have this week. That's two to three late night work session either lost or severely curtailed.

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Forays In Fiction: Hooking Ideas

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Earlier today I had a concept for this post that was just perfect. I remember clearing that feeling of aha that's perfect for Friday Foray's in Fiction. But by the time I sat down to do the post, I could no longer remember what it was. I remember so much else with great clarity. I was on my mini-tramp. I was still half asleep and gluey-eyed and holding a big tumbler of ice-water with both hands against my chest listening to the ice-cubes clicking to the beat of my feet's gentle side-to-side stepping. I remember that I had been thinking about my experiences with Ed's laptop last night and about the post I wrote about it in anticipation just before. (see yesterday's post about making oopsies) I remember I'd also been thinking about the latest pages I'd read in The Weekend Novelist and planning to make this week's post about it for the third time. But for the life of me I cannot remember what the 'brilliant brain flashing concept' was that had me all excited for all of two or three minutes.

It might seem reasonable to think that if it had really been that good I'd not have forgotten. But I know that is not necessarily so. I know that this kind of thing has happened to me on many occasions when I've had ideas but nothing handy to record the thought. It happens a lot when I'm thinking about my WIP when I'm away from my computer and notebooks. But the really interesting thing about this particular occasion is that I've lost count of the number of times it has happened to an idea that came to me while I was on the mini-tramp just since I got it last October. Way more often then any other place or activity. I don't know if that is because there is something about being on the mini-tramp itself that is conducive to idea generation or if it is because I never have any way of recording it with me and resort instead to turning the idea over and over and making a mental mantra of it so that it sticks long enough to get back to my laptop. That does work as long as I'm left alone to my thoughts but if something intrudes, whether other thoughts or events outside my control (like the arrival of my in-laws from their overnight trip while I was occupying their tiny front room with my tramp), then I don't get a solid hold on the idea and minutes later it's gone like a fish that's slipped the hook.

My instinct is telling me that it's a combination of both the activity of moving on the tramp and the lack of means to record. So that means I need to make more time for tramp work as it's good for my art as well as my heart. And I've got to figure out a way to record my thoughts that won't interfere too much in their generation nor in the tramp work itself. Writing on paper is not going to work. I would have to stop moving and I seldom have enough light anyway.

A couple of concepts come to mind. Something like an electronic PIM with a thumb driven keyboard--a cell phone, blackberry type device or possibly the Amazon Kindle which is also hand held and has a tiny keyboard and allows for note taking and then emailing your notes to yourself. Another concept and possibly less expensive upfront would be some kind of very small hands free recording device that I could talk into. That last would entail me getting over my shyness about speaking into it. But that's probably a worthy goal in itself.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Making Oopsies

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Ed's folks left town before dawn this morning. Ed found a note on the TV screen when he got up stating they would be back tomorrow. I suspect their sudden decision to leave had much to do with it being the first full day without Sweetie. (see yesterday's post)

It was Ed's day off, though we didn't know that last night. He has to work Saturdays and they want him to avoid overtime so he needs to take time off on one or more of the weekdays but he seldom knows before he either calls in or goes in when that will be or if it will be a whole day.

So we had one of our rare days of hanging out together. Almost like a married couple. Though it feels more like playing house. There may be light at the end of that tunnel though. Dare I speak it without jinxing it? He's confident we'll be able to swing the moving expenses by January or February. That's what has been keeping us here for at least two years now--the cost of moving--first/last/deposit on a place; deposits on utilities; furnishings; kitting out a kitchen and so forth. We're starting from scratch having left our stuff in storage when we escaped the Silicon Valley after the tech bubble popped in 2001 and were then unable to keep the payments on it up.

Anyway, today he finally set me up my own desktop on his laptop. He is encouraging me to start learning my way around it because it may become mine after the first of the year. As I've mentioned here before, my four year old laptop is getting crotchety. I broke a hinge on it in June, the battery is only holding a twenty minute charge and the touch-pad is wearing out. His is less than a year old and he's quite happy with it but he's hankering for a custom built programmer's machine which he can get for a third the cost of replacing mine with a machine the equivalent of his.

But even if we can't swing a new one for him if mine gives out, I'd still need to know my way around his as we'd be sharing it the way we shared mine for three years. When it comes to tech I'm a tentative learner at best. I'm nervous as a cat in a dog kennel around new hardware and software.

So tonight when Ed went to bed he left his laptop in the front room and I moved mine out as well. The are set up on either side of his mom's PC for which he had asked me to monitor the installation of an upgrade to its virus protection. I know my way around that computer as I used it for nearly two years before acquiring my laptop in late 2005. I bet a picture of my current workstation would look pretty funny. Especially the two mouses (mice?) on the one mouse pad. Something went wrong with that installation on the PC and I couldn't decipher the geeky explanation so I left the error message box on the screen and called up a mah jong tile game on it which I stop and play for a few minutes every now and again to rest from typing or to contemplate.

I haven't opened Ed's laptop yet though. But I probably will after I get this posted. It's not as straightforward getting to my desktop on it as it is on mine as he has a dual OS--both a Linux and a Window's Vista--and it's set to automatically load the Linux unless you press the down arrow in time to choose the Windows. That's tricky for me because of my vision issues. I have to have my finger on the arrow key before I press the power button because if I take the time to look down at the unfamiliar keyboard I'll miss the moment the list shows up and I have five seconds to change the option.

And that's just the beginning of the minefield of oopsies in waiting. My new Vista desktop is on default settings which means 9pt fonts and tiny title bars, scroll bars, cursors and menus. Before I can do anything else on it I have to optimize that for my vision issues meaning 12-14pt fonts and at least doubling the size of the other things so I can see them without putting my nose on the screen. At least this is something I've done before when I did it for my Mom on their new Vista in December 2007.

Well, sitting here talking about it is not going to get it done.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

We Miss You Sweetie

You were a sweatheart. You were loved. Rest in peace sweet girl.


The house and yard feel so empty today.



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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Eyes Have It

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Or rather have had it.

I was working on a book review for this post but have run out of time and my eyes are having a hissy fit.

Any other night I might just take a half hour break and come back to working the review but I have an ophthalmologist appointment in less than 12 hours (it's actually after 3AM Wednesday morning tho the date stamp reflects when I opened this post) so I can't push my lay down time much further let alone past dawn as I have been since I'm going to have to set my alarm for noon in order to get ready for it.

This appointment is primarily about having a look at the cataract on my right eye and then scheduling its removal. But I'm sure he will want to have a look at the current state of the RP damage to both eyes as well. This will be my first visit to an ophthalmologist in over eight years. Which is hardly recommended for someone dealing with a degenerative eye condition.

I don't know how realistic my hopes are but I'm hoping the surgery can be scheduled soon enough that I can have my new prescription glasses before NaNo starts November 1. Else participating in NaNo is going to be a huge frustration. I've barely been hanging on to a daily posting regimen here of late.

Reading with my right eye has become all but impossible and when I try anyway I pay a price in eyestrain, headaches and nausea.

I can read with my left but the RP damage is worse in it and limits me to reading a single short word at a time. Which feels very limiting to someone who once read whole lines at a glance. Getting this cataract removed will not bring back my heyday of 1000 wds per minute but it just might allow me to return to the fifty pages per hour I was still able to do five years ago before this cataract encroached on the center vision of my right eye and essentially cut my already limited field of vision in half or worse. Currently I'm averaging 20 pages an hour on a good day. But seldom can last out a full hour without a break.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Pleading Eyestrain Tonight

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Pleading eye-strain tonight.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sunday Serenity #141


I'm spending my Sunday making riddles. Above is a screen shot of an HTML page I made. This particular riddle is presented primarily by images though some of the clues aren't accessible via a screen shot as they are in image filenames, title bar title, and hidden text and objects. But I think it might still be solvable. Care to give it a try?

Would you like to see more such riddles?

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Jumps 4 Joy: Giveaway Winners

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Winners of The Blue Star:

Madeleine
Beth
Nicola
Lee
Debs Desk

Winners of The Lost Dog

Katrina
tetewa
Debs Desk
ccqdesigns
Aliya D.

Congrats to all!! And thanx for participating. A special appreciation for those who helped spread the word via blogs, twitter, & etc.


I will be notifying winners by email as well. Please respond within 48 hours or I'll pass your win on to the next in line. (I save the sequence I generated at random.org until all winners have claimed their win)

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday Forays In Fiction: Teachers

My focus this past week has continued to be with this book and will be for the next week too as it has to go back next Thursday (though I may be able to keep it over that weekend without incurring a fine) and I'm hoping to not have to send for it again.

I'm not just reading it but taking copious notes--actually typing huge swathes of it into my note taking application--and doing a great deal of contemplation of my own WIPs in light of his advice.

Last week's Friday Foray post gave an overview and talked about my considering an adaptation of Ray's method for this year's NaNo novel project.

What draws me to Ray is his claim that it is possible to break down even literary novels into schematics that show how the parts work together to create the whole. And of course if it's possible to diagram a novel after the fact in such a way it is possible to do so before the fact--to diagram, chart and plan in advance of the first draft--without ending up with a hackjob.

This isn't quiet how he puts it but it's the meaning I'm taking. Now I've seen this claim made before and even seen the overall structure of the novel mapped out but what seems new to me in Ray's program is his advice to not write the novel from beginning to end but to write the first followed by the last scenes and then the three most crucial plot-shifting scenes (which I discussed in last Friday's post) and his method for breaking individual scenes down into their constituent elements and show how those element work together, play off each other and deepen the meaning of the scenes. And again, it's one thing to be able to show how a master like Anne Tyler did this, but it's another to claim to show how a beginner can plan from the get go to do it.

The constituent parts of scenes:

  • Stage Setup: time/place; temperature/season; lighting/sounds/smells; symbols/images
  • Characters/relationships: Dialog (subjects and subtexts); Action (large and small); Point of View;
  • Climax
  • Exit line
Ray breaks even these elements down into their elements and provides exercises for practicing producing them one at a time before then weaving them together into the scene. He calls this storyboarding and has adapted at least some of it from the methods used by film makers. Now storyboarding is not new to me either but I've always associated it with mapping the structure of the novel not individual scenes.

I've not made it to the halfway point after three weeks of intensive work with this book so I'm thinking maybe it's not realistic to expect to finish with it in only one more week. Not without neglecting other priorities at any rate. Including taking the time to contemplate the application of Ray's advice to my own WIP and fiddle in my fiction files making notes to myself that are stimulated by it and doing an exercise here and there. It is those very things that make the time I spend with this book the most valuable so I can't give them up and just race through the pages reading text only. I believe I've just made a case for owning this one someday. Except (as I indicated repeatedly in yesterday's post) books I own have a tough time competing with library book due dates.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

NPR Audience Picks 100 Best Beach Books Ever

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H/T for this idea to Bonnie Jacobs

I spent the last week focusing on getting done with as many library books as I could to make room on my card for the ones I had ordered. I went to the library today and now want to hang out with the newest bag of books. So I'm leaving you with this list of 100 Best Beach Books ever as voted on by NPR's audience.

I've bolded the ones I've read. 60 something. I keep loosing count in the high fifties and I'm done trying. My eyes got better things to do.

Anyways, most of the ones I've not yet read are on my TBR list. Many I've even had checked out of the library multiple times. I'm always checking out waaaaaaaaaay more than I can finish before they come due.


1. The Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling (I did read all of them)
2. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
3. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
4. Bridget Jones's Diary, by Helen Fielding
5. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
6. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, by Rebecca Wells
7. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald (this has been recommended to me too many times to count and Robert J. Ray uses it as example in his The Weekend Novelist which I'm currently reading. So I really need to read this.)
8. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams (Ed has been begging me to try this for years; decades)
9. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, by Fannie Flagg
10. The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver
11. The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger (On my wishlist for ordering from the library)
12. Life of Pi, by Yann Martel
13. The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan
14. The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien
15. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
16. Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
17. Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett (On wishlist as is every book by her I've not yet read.)
18. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
19. Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides (on wishlist; have had checked out at least once but didn't start)
20. Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen (on wishlist: have had checked out twice but didn't start)
21. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
22. The Bean Trees, by Barbara Kingsolver
23. The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith
24. The World According to Garp, by John Irving
25. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
26. The Prince of Tides, by Pat Conroy
27. Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel
28. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman (saw the movie and usually the book is better so its on my wishlist)
29. The Accidental Tourist, by Anne Tyler (Robert J. Ray is dissecting this book scene by scene to teach his Weekend Novelest method and its making me want to reread it)
30. Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer (my niece is insisting I read this and the rest of them and is going to loan her copies to me)
31. A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole (had this checked out at least once and still want to read it)
32. East of Eden, by John Steinbeck (had this checked out several times and even started it once but it had to go back before I could finish. It's been so long now I'll have to start it over.)
33. The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant (ditto as 32)
34. Beach Music, by Pat Conroy (ditto as above)
35. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
36. Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier
37. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card
38. Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry
39. The Thorn Birds, by Colleen McCullough
40. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon
41. Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett (ditto as 32; have bad habit of misjudging how long its going to take me to read a book these last few years. I keep guesstimating based on the way it was before my eyes go so bad)
42. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
43. Interview with the Vampire, by Anne Rice
44. Cold Mountain, by Charles Frazier (I own a copy of this but haven't read it yet. Poor thing doesn't stand a chance against forty-some due dates. sigh.)
45. Empire Falls, by Richard Russo (on wishlist; read other novels by Russo)
46. Under the Tuscan Sun, by Frances Mayes (saw movie and really want to read this even had it checked out once)
47. The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas
48. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, by Tom Robbins (on wishlist)
49. I Know This Much Is True, by Wally Lamb
50. Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie (on wishlist)
51. Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
52. The Stand, by Stephen King
53. She's Come Undone, by Wally Lamb
54. Dune, by Frank Herbert
55. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (on wishlist)
56. Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
57. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll
58. Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov
59. The Godfather, by Mario Puzo
60. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith
61. Animal Dreams, by Barbara Kingsolver
62. Jaws, by Peter Benchley
63. Good in Bed, by Jennifer Weiner
64. Angle of Repose, by Wallace Stegner
65. Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson (had it checked out in past but now own a copy; poor thing had a better chance as a library book)
66. The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway
67. The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand
68. Breakfast of Champions, by Kurt Vonnegut
69. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
70. The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler
71. The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway (Robert J. Ray has referred to this one several times too so I suppose I need to put it on my list)
72. The Hunt for Red October, by Tom Clancy
73. Cold Sassy Tree, by Olive Ann Burns (thought I had read this but guess I haven't; just saw the movie)
74. The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
74. Bonfire of the Vanities, by Tom Wolfe [tie]
76. Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte
77. Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon (had this checked out once)
78. The Shell Seekers, by Rosamunde Pilcher
79. Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver
80. Eye of the Needle, by Ken Follett
81. Cannery Row, by John Steinbeck
82. The Pilot's Wife, by Anita Shreve [tie] (own this; poor thing)
83. All the Pretty Horses, by Cormac McCarthy
84. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson
85. The Little Prince, by Antoine De Saint-Exupery
86. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy (ah and I even own it!)
87. One for the Money, by Janet Evanovich
88. Shogun, by James Clavell
89. Dracula, by Bram Stoker
90. The Unbearable Lightness of Being, by Milan Kundera
91. Presumed Innocent, by Scott Turow
92. Franny and Zooey, by J.D. Salinger
93. The Secret History, by Donna Tartt (on wishlist)
94. Dead Until Dark, by Charlaine Harris
95. Summer Sisters, by Judy Blume
96. The Shining, by Stephen King
97. How Stella Got Her Groove Back, by Terry McMillan
98. Lamb, by Christopher Moore (Ed is begging me to read this)
99. Sick Puppy, by Carl Hiaasen (and this; he read whole paragraphs of these two aloud to me but I couldn't understand a word through his sputtering guffaws)
100. Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Hot and Cranky

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It was well over 100 this afternoon. I just got finished with dinner dishes and am still pouring sweat from standing over the hot water next to the still hot oven. I tell ya, if it had been me planning the menu today I wouldn't have used the oven. Bleh.

It's going to be hours yet and well past midnight before I'm going to be comfortable using this warm keyboard for more than a very few minutes at a time. So excuse me for the lazy post once again.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fish: Feeding My Ravenous Muses



I'm busy feeding my muse today. Reading and daydreaming and such. Want to help feed my fish? Just click anywhere in the water.

Hat Tip to Bonnie Jacobs for pointing me to this gadget.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Story Binge

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Got a story binge going on. All weekend it was those DVDs needing to go back to the library this morning. Now I'm getting back to the novel I set aside on Thursday night to favor the DVDs. Patricia A. McKillip's The Bell at Sealey Head

Also I'm feeling the urge to be writing my own stories again. Have even been fiddling in my fiction files off and on for over a week now. So I want to be spare with the words and time for this post so that the quiet and cool of my precious night work session can be used for story reading and writing.

Temps hit the 90s again today and are headed for the 100s for the next several days and there is going to be a shortage of ice tomorrow because the trailer park management is shutting off the water at 11PM tonight so the pipes can empty for the repair crew to start work just after sun-up. This means the icemaker in the freezer can't build up a supply overnight for the day's usage of four people.

The water usually is back on before noon but on a day when it's likely to hit 80 degrees before noon its no fun to be stuck in a tin box with no ice, no cooler and no flushing of the toilet used by four adults for going on twelve hours. I think I'll plan on sleeping through it from around dawn on.

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sunday Serenity #140

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I'm chillin with story today. Watching DVD and reading a novel and fiddling in my own fiction files. I must be done with the DVD before Ed leaves for work in the morning as they must be in the drop box before the library opens to avoid the fines. Have two movies to go. Finally finished with the forty some episodes of Keeping Up Appearances along with the special features on each disc--well over 1300 minutes of viewing and at least ten episodes I saw twice because I urged Ed to watch them and of course had to watch with him in order to participate in his reaction. Many much needed belly laughs ensued. Somehow its even funnier when sharing. Also it funner to be able to let loose with a roar and not have to stifle your laughter for fear of waking some one sleeping a foot away. (I still woke him several times by the jiggling of the bed. One can laugh silently if they must but its more impossible to control the spasms of laughter than it is to control a sneeze.

I say chillin and used that LOLcat pic because I'm trying hard to think cool. The temps are on the rise again after a several day reprieve. We dipped down into the 7os after that heat wave but are now headed back to 100 plus. Ugh.

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Mom Making Progress


I haven't posted about Mom's progress for awhile now so its past time. My sister just emailed these photos to me after telling me the story on the phone.

Mom has taken on the role of mender at home and at my brother's where she visits once or twice a week. Mostly it is hand work but this one project--patching a sheet--required the use of a sewing machine. But her good, modern machine that sits in her bedroom needs repairs. So she asked to use her old machine that is down in the basement in what once was her sewing room. It was a rec room bar according to the blueprints but it became Mom's sewing room the day we moved in.

My sister had reservations but she made it happen for her--clearing a path from the stairs to the sewing machine and helping her down the stairs. That was a huge milestone in itself, getting down the stairs. That was the first time since she broke her hip last November that she has gone down to the basement.


Here Mom uses a magnifying glass to thread the sewing machine's needle.

But what seems even more significant to me is her interest in getting back to sewing, her ability to conquer the effects of the mild stroke to exercise old skills and apply herself to long time passions.

The stroke apparently did not affect her memory of how to do familiar tasks. It's primary effects were on language and more specifically vocabulary. She could still form very complex, grammatically correct sentences but she would draw a blank on nouns--names of persons, places and things. But that is getting much better too. She and I had a nearly forty minute conversation on the phone last Monday in which she held her own quite well and only needed prompting for a word a couple times.

The stroke also affected her ability to initiate--to start a conversation, to ask for help, even to help herself. For example, she would not initiate the action of reaching for a sweater or blanket when she got chilled nor would she ask for it. That was getting much better by the time I left in late June. And apparently it is even much better now than it was then. Because she initiated this event. She announced she had the sheet prepared for sewing and asked to go down to her old sewing machine.


Above she is sewing on the patch. Below is a picture of the patch.

Remember, my mom is legally blind like myself though with less vision than I have left. Imagine sewing if you had to use a magnifying glass and look through a hole the size of a pea or even a BB.

On other fronts. My sister tells me Mom is now getting her own breakfast without supervision. Sometimes even before my sister arrives upstairs. And she continues to help often with meal prep at other times. She has also been out in the yard to help with weeding and other small tasks that can be done while sitting on a special wheeled walker/cart/chair they got for the purpose. I thought I had a picture of it, as my sister bought that a couple weeks before I left and I was camera crazy in that last month. But I can't locate them in my files.

It's great to think of her getting back to work in her yard again. Mom's flower beds and the bouquets she made to give away right and left were something she was known for.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday Forays In Fiction: Teachers

I've been spending a lot of time with this book in the last two weeks. I first checked it out last spring when I was still at my mom's in Longview. I mostly browsed in it at that time. I might have got serious with it if I had discovered our system down here didn't have it but once I knew I had access once home, I relaxed about it.

The Weekend Novelist
by Robert J. Ray
(c) 1994
265p


I'm going to drop the contents page here because it will save me a lot of explanation.

CONTENTS

PART I Getting Started
How to Use This Book
Warming Up
Writing Tips

PART II Character Work
Where to Start
Weekend 1 -Character Sketch
Weekend 2 - Back Story
Weekend 3 - Dream
Weekend 4 - Wardrobe: Dressing Your Character
Closing Thoughts

PART III Scene Building
Weekend 5 - Scene Analysis/Scene Sketch
Weekend 6 - Stage Setup
Weekend 7 - Dialogue
Weekend 8 - Action
Weekend 9 - Point of View
Weekend 10 - Building Chapters
Closing Thoughts

PART IV Plotting
Weekend 11 - Key Scenes
Weekend 12 - Aristotle's Incline
Weekend 13 - Story Line
Weekend 14 - Scenario
Closing Thoughts

PART V Writing Your Key Scenes
Weekend 15 - Writing Your Opening scene
Weekend 16 - Writing Your Wrap-up Scene
Weekend 17 - Writing Your Catharsis Scene
Weekend 18 - Writing Your Scene at Midpoint
Weekend 19 - Writing the Scene at Plot Point One
Weekend 20 - Writing the Scene at Plot Point Two
Closing Thoughts

PART VI Writing the Discovery Draft
Weekends 21-23 - Act One
Weekends 24-28 - Act Two
Weekends 29-31 - Act Three

PART VII Writing the Meditation Draft
Weekends 32-34 - Deepening Key Scenes
Weekends 35-45 - Acts One, Two, and three
Weekends 35-37 - Act One
Weekends 38-42 - Act Two
Weekends 43-45 - Act Three
Closing Thoughts

PART VIII Writing the Final Draft
Weekend 46- Reading
Weekend 47 - Cutting
Weekends 48-51 - Rewriting
Weekend 52 - Editing
Closing Thoughts

Appendix: Finding a Publisher

Glossary

Bibliography

I am considering adapting Robert J. Ray's method for my NaNoWriMo novel this year. The advice in it has already proven itself helpful in solving a problem or two among my WIP and I'm curious what I could do with it with a fresh project.

Ray divides all the tasks of writing a novel up into a series of goals that are reachable with two writing sessions per weekend over 52 weekends. But the first 14 weekends are prep work and the weekends after the 31st are post 1st draft. So that leaves only weekends 15-31 as the actually writing of the first draft. Counting each weekend as two days that makes 34 days. Close enough. Especially considering you aren't required to have a complete draft only 50K in words.

But what I like about this concept is the possibility of actually having a serviceable first draft at the end of those 30 frantic NaNo days. Instead of the massive mess of words I ended up with the last four times. The messes in those files are so daunting I've barely touched them since the day their NaNos ended. Which is making me think hard about even participating this year because I would hate to 'throw away' another good story concept by turning it into another morass of words.

Another thing I like about Ray's program is that it looks possible for me to apply it to each of my WIP, including the previous NaNo novels. And since I'm not limited to weekends unless I choose to be, I can think of those 52 weekends as 104 days. That's a tad over three months. Which means I could if I chose bring up to four WIP from mess to manageable, even magnificent, in a year of concentrated effort.

The aspect of his program that I'm the most energized about is how he guides you into mapping out several of the most crucial scenes on the plot line and has you write them early. These are the scenes that are the core of the story. The first, the last, the climax and something he calls plot points 1 and 2. I'm hoping that learning how to do this might solve one of my most intractable problems to date: Getting past the middle hump of the story.

I've seen other advice using similar charts showing the plot development of stories but they always seemed like recipes for hack writing. Ray manages to show how even a literary novel can be mapped out so that you know all of the crucial scenes and how you intend to move through them to the resolution. He seems to prove that this can only improve the quality of the story. The technique that helps take your story out of formula into art is the second pass through called the meditation draft.

I haven't read that chapter yet and have only picked up hints as to what it is all about so I'm not going to try to explain it in this post. I'm sure I'll be having more to say about his book in the next few weeks.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

I'm Tapped Out

cat
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I'm blanking on post ideas tonight. I suppose I should do one of the book reviews I have lined up. But I'd rather read another book. But even reading seems like more effort than I'm up for. So I think I'll watch DVD on my laptop.

There were two movies and the Series set of Keeping Up Appearances that were all due at the library today but I held them back to finish up with them over the weekend. There are nine discs in Keeping Up Appearances. I've watched the 9th and all of discs 1-6 except for two episodes on disc 5. And then there are the special features. There is something on every disc and I've only watched them on a couple of them. So I'm guestimating I have over ten hours left to watch before Ed leaves for work Monday morning. Plus the two movies which are close to two hours each themselves.

I'd been watching the DVDs on the TV but that limits me to daytime when Ed isn't sleeping which is also when other things tend to be on the TV. And other tasks or errands need tending to. So unless I'm willing to wait until I can get them back from the library again, I'm going to have to sacrifice a few late night hours--my quiet uninterrupted, writing, reading and research hours.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

In the Running?

ai cloz mai eyz n u no seez me K?
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This is one of the LOLs I captioned last week and its possible that its in the running for making it onto the front page of LOLcats. When I was voting on LOLs the other day it came up in the mix and it had 19 votes then. Today it came up when I was perusing the upcoming pics. In the top fifty pages of them. I'm not sure if it's position is more related to time of creation or number of votes it holds. I know it has been favorited by at least two users. It is one of six of mine that have been favorited by 22 users. I've identified three of the other five that have been favorited but the only way to do that it seems is to wade through the favorites of your fan to locate the one you made. That's doable when the fan has under a hundred favorites but not so much when they have over a thousand. (I guess I'm not as obsessed as I thought?)

I'm not sure what the difference is between voting on the voting section at LOLcats and clicking on the cheezeburger images on the picture's home page because there it shows only two votes. If you'd like to go check it out and maybe click on a cheezeburger (rate it) here it is.

And check out my other creations here.

Two weeks ago I didn't care much about being favorited or making the front page. I'd been captioning LOLs for months for fun, for use as e-cards around holidays, birthdays and other events, to head a post here and so forth. There was no evidence that any of them had been viewed by anyone. Then all of the sudden I go from zero fans to 22 in just over a week and four of the dozen or so that I've captioned in the last two weeks have been favorited. Now I'm finding myself thrilled at the thought of one of mine hitting the front page. Silly me. There are so many more important things to be thinking about right now.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Problem Solved?

This is a photo essay to complement and update yesterday's post about addressing the issues keeping my copying abilities offline. Both copying via keyboard from varieties of hard copy and using my new printer/scanner to scan and print. I'm hoping it will be more photo than essay as I'm zapped tonight. It was a warm day and I had only 4 hours of sleep hence I started today's project already cranky which didn't help it go smoothly.

The top picture shows the main issue. The tendency to pile things in front of and on top of the printer. The printer is there behind the dolphin cross stitch which sits in that drawer pulled open to make a spot for it. The printer is really there, I promise. See?:

This was the one of the last pictures taken this evening after I got the printer cleared off and hooked up again. The dolphin cross stitch is in that blue bag on the right now.

But it was a process to get there. As you'll see further down.

That top picture was taken as I sat at my desk with my laptop lid down. You can see there is only a couple inches behind the back of my laptop and that open drawer the cross stitch stands in. The edge of the bed is my chair. My desk is a TV tray table with L shaped legs so I can pull the tray over my lap.


At my left at armpit level is my full spectrum light and a three drawer chest for pencil, post-its, paperclips and other common desk supplies. Under that:


Two milk crates stacked serve as shelves. All of the items on them relate to writing and research. The top shelf is for writing reference and the bottom one holds the possible NaNo project Flannery O'Connor related library books on the left half and on the right is a shoe box containing books I recently finished that are waiting for book reviews. Its nearly full. Will maybe hold one more slim book. Doing book reviews was one of the tasks made difficult to impossible by the blocks to copying from books via keyboard.

Note the small book light attached to the laptop stand with its goose neck curled to hold the ear buds and the camera's USB cord. Brilliant right?

Not so much.

I set that up the week I got back from Longview in June and a few days later the light's head got pushed a tad over the edge and I shut the laptop lid on it. And:

Broke the hinge.

Now my laptop lid won't hold a position that tilts forward without falling closed. And the case has a crack in it just above the power button which is by the hinge. So I'll be babying my laptop.

I'm not sure how safe it is to transport now and I was so excited to hear while I was still in Longview that our Phoenix branch library had acquired WIFI and I was planning to take advantage of that. But have been afraid to pack the laptop up and carry it about. It even worries me to move it into the other room or out on the porch both of which I did often last summer after dark to get away from the sauna like atmosphere of this room.


This is a full on shot of the reference book shelf showing the book easel stored on top of the books. That book easel was one of my finds at Powell's Books last April. It was part of the solution for copying from books but I've been having trouble getting the book easel set up at a high enough level to accommodate my eyes with a good lamp at the right angle and coordinate all that with the keyboard, elbow room and ability to work while Ed is sleeping behind me.


This was my solution and I've test driven it twice so I think it's going to work. I hooked the bottom of the book easel under that white board on top of the milk crates. The board is weighted down by the small drawer chest.

These two pictures show it in action. The top one is a close up of the way its hooked in there. I'm a bit concerned about the strength of the wood in the base of the book easel. All I need now is for it to snap on me.

Below shows how close to the screen and keyboard I need an item I'm copying from.


This shows
This lapdesk with its legs hooked under the mattress gives me an extra surface I can use to spread out research and reference items. I used to use it with it setting on top of the mattress and that put it at nearly the right height for use as a copy stand but it took up too much space on the bed so wouldn't work when Ed was sleeping. I would always just fold it flat and put it behind my desk at night until I discovered it wasn't in Ed's way if I slid the legs under the mattress. But getting it out of there when I was ready to lay down was hard. Then I figured out it was easier to just


remove the metal brace and the tray, taking care not to knock into my tumbler of ice water, and leave the leg section in place. Which looks like a bed rail and turned out to be of help in getting out of bed. :)



These two pictures above and below show the space my desk usually stands in after I've slid its legs completely under the bed so I can get to the closet. This is what I have to do when I need to put clean clothes away or get dirty ones out of the hamper (that box you can see the corner of, yellow with a black top edge)

In the bottom picture you can see that I've put some of the sewing project bags on that bottom shelf. I'm not well pleased with that solution though as it is really hard to get to them. Which means I'll either neglect the projects in them or I'll neglect to put them away again the next time I get them out and I'll be right back where I was.

Sigh.


So that's currently my workstation. And I think I've solved all three of the copying blocks. Unless there is some major unforeseeable change, this is where I'll be doing NaNoWriMo this year. Prep work for which was the primary motivating factor for tackling these problems this week. I'll have more to say about that in Friday's Foray in Fiction post.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Problem Solving

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I've been problem solving today. The problems being the blocks to the various kinds of copying necessary to a variety of my WIP and other projects:

1. Copying from books and notes and drafts onto computer via keyboard.
2. Copying from books and notes and drafts onto computer via new HP printer/scanner.
3. Printing hard copy of files with new HP printer/scanner.

I was going to take pictures to illustrate this post but didn't so I resorted to the LOL above which is sorta on theme and features a cat that could be my Merlin's brother. (I did not caption this one, just to be clear.)

I thought I had solved all three of these before but my solutions have not led to productivity. The solution to 2 would also be the solution to 3 and that is, for starters, to be more diligent about keeping clutter off the surface of the printer and from blocking the paper port in the front. That clutter tends to be sewing projects and clean laundry not put away in a timely fashion. But the more serious problem is the difficulty I have getting to the printer when necessary.

OK I rifled through my camera dump files and found some shots I took in the weeks right after I got back from my six months stay at my Mom's. I was documenting the unpacking and organizing of my workspace.

This one gives an idea of the location and the space limitations. My seat is the edge of the bed. That's the closet behind my desk. That area to the left between my desk and the green bookshelves is way different now with a stack of two milk crate shelves and a small plastic three-drawer chest for pencils and paperclips and such having replaced that jerry-rigged stack of cardboard boxes.

My desk is a foldable TV tray its surface area barely accommodates both laptop and mousepad. Its legs are L shaped and slide under the bed when I pull the desk over my lap. When I am sitting at it they don't need to go under but a couple inches. But in order to get to the closet I need to slide the legs all the way under until the back verticle sections are flush with the edge of the boxsprings. And that only works if I've put my shoes away properly. Which is hard to do with the desk there. This makes putting clean laundry away more difficult--hense the temptation of the top surface of the printer--as well as making access to the printer a challenge.

This is the closet behind my desk showing the top two drawers of the three-drawer plastic chest containing some of my sewing and craft materials. The printer sets on top of that.

That middle drawer containing my crochet thread is almost always open like that and has been serving as a shelf to set which ever sewing project is current that day. Lately it has been the 20 inch tall dolphin counted-cross stitch. Which blocks the paper port.

The picture was taken as I sat at my desk. So you can see that the printer is more than arm's length away unless I stand and push the desk forward the available four inches or so. Then I can place and remove paper from the port. But I can't reach the on/off switch. Nor can I use the scanner.

This shot shows how much space there is when the desk is pushed against the closed drawers of the crafts chest. It is possible to stand there and reach over the open laptop to deal with the paper port or turn the printer on or off. But if I need to see what I'm doing that isn't sufficient.

That is the amount of space I have for getting in and out from behind my desk or getting in and out of bed. It is just a bit bigger than my thighs. (I'm not saying. But that's a size 8 women's shoe box in the lower left corner.)

Ummm. There's not usually garbage on the floor under my desk. Thank Merlin for that yoghurt container. He drug it there from the place by his food dish where I gave it to him to lick after I finished with it, or possibly retrieved it from the waste basket.

As for problem number 1. Copying via keyboard from various hard copy materials. That entails two issues: a way of propping or placing the book or paper at the right angle and distance from my defective eyes; and the necessary light at the neessary angle. I thought I had this problem solved several times but all of the solutions worked best if at all only when Ed wasn't in the room and since my most productive work hours are when he is sleeping... Well its no wonder I have been doing more sewing, DVD and podcast watching and reading, than writing, research or book reviews. I needed a solution that wouldn't involve use of his space on the bed or having light in his eyes when he faced my way.

In the last couple of days I jerry-rigged a couple of things that seem to be working for copying from books. It involves use of that book easel that I bought on my trip to Powell's Books last April and moving my lamp which meant rearranging a few things. I didn't get pictures before Ed had to turn in. I'll try to get them tomorrow.

Right now, I'm off to give it a second test drive.

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Sunday, August 09, 2009

Sunday Serenity #139

Warning: Partial, Non-Sexual Nudity In Video Clip



I hope nobody is offended by this but it just cracked me up and this week's Sunday Serenity is all about laughing out loud.

I found this on another site on the pattern of LOLcats which features kids instead of kittehs. It's called My First Fail. It's mostly still shots and they don't appear to have the embed option for those so I went with the video.

If you need a good hearty laugh to spice up your Sunday you can't fail to find it on My First Fail.

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Saturday, August 08, 2009

Just One of Those Days

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...when going back to bed seems like best option.

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Friday, August 07, 2009

Friday Forays In Fiction: Process

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I've been spending way too much time on LOLcats. It's a mood enhancer for me. Does that make it like a drug? It does seem to act on me much the way catnip does on a cat. I got frustrated when the speed of new additions to the front page was too slow to feed my habit and I started looking at the upcoming pages (the LOLs nearing enough votes to go on the front page), then I started voting and soon I was captioning them myself just for the heck of it and not just because I was desperate for a picture to enhance the theme of my post. Then one of my own creations got favorited by another user--twice. And now I'm really hooked.

What I've discovered in my perusal of hundreds and hundreds of these LOLs is that the best ones are to story what haiku is to poetry.

Tonight I was looking for something to go with this Friday Forays in which I wanted to talk about how I wished there were some way to write in my sleep--to take dictation from my dreams which have been so intense and complex and everything else I love in a good story lately but which fade the moment I'm conscious enough to lift the lid of my laptop. Then this picture popped up on LOLcats with a completely different caption but I immediately saw the 'story' I was looking for. Well except for that last line--which I put in and took out and put back in again. I do love a good pun.

Speaking of puns here's one I made this week:

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And here's the one that got favorited:

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I don't know whether to accuse myself of wasting the precious time I have for writing and reading on this or to acknowledge that its a form of play that taps into the same well other creative projects do--that possibly it could be priming the pump? But I can't give it that much credit until/unless work on other projects actually commence and show progress. The proof would be in the enhanced productivity.

Last week I blamed lack of progress on being zapped by the heat (temps between 99 and 109) But that really hasn't been an issue since Sunday. This week sleep has been the issue. I don't know why but I can't seem to get enough even though I've been getting more than the usual. I usually have the opposite problem, insomnia having plagued me since grade school, so it is strange to be complaining of too much sleep.

I'm hoping this extra sleep is a harbinger of something special coming. I hope that because I am remembering the stories my mom told of me as an infant and toddler having long sleeps of 10 to 16 hours and waking from them with a new trick--a new word or ability or concept. But I probably can't really assume that's what's going on now because I'm not sleeping over 10 hours this week. It's averaging just 8 I suppose. But for someone used to averaging 6 it feels like a huge chunk of time has gone missing from my life. And even when awake I'm all daydreamy and/or hankering for a nap.

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

How Many Library Books is Too Many?

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Made a run to the library today. Brought back another haul. Nearly filled the wheeled bag. I only returned six items--four books and two DVD. So, seeing how the shelves allocated for my library books in our room were already stuffed to overflowing, the priority this evening was to make space for them and unpack the bag before Ed needed the bed. I don't know how I managed. Well, OK, I do kinda know. I commandeered some of Ed's shelf. Though I did try to limit it to the books I thought he might be interested in.

And of course I had to browse in the books while I was at it. Not just today's batch but the previous three or four batches. Then after Ed was asleep, I started updating my library book info in my WhizFolder Reading Journal. I used to make physical bibliography slips for each book the first time I brought them home. Then when I got WhizFolder last year, I started keeping records in it but it was kind of hit and miss and disorganized because I didn't establish a good system or new habits. I'm trying to rectify that now.

One problem I identified was the difficulty in copying the info off the books via keyboard. I don't have a good place to prop a book where I can read the info off as I type. So it seemed I would have to make the bib slips first and then type the info in but that was so redundant and a waste of paper. Then last month I realized (why did it take me so long?) that I could copy/paste directly from the library's online catalog, using the list of items out in my account.

I have 44 items out on my card and 9 on Ed's.

See what I had before today in the inventory post I did a couple weeks ago. Of course a few of those have been returned since then especially many of the DVD as they have only a one week check out which can be renewed twice as long as the item hasn't been requested whereas books go for three weeks with two renewals.

Today's haul:

Title: Shakespearean songs and consort music...
Author: Deller Consort.
Publisher: Harmonia Mundi France, [1982?]
Format: Music CD

Title: Witches and Jesuits : Shakespeare's Macbeth
Author: Wills, Garry, 1934-
Publisher: Oxford University Press, 1995.

Title: Standing in the light : my life as a pantheist
Author: Russell, Sharman Apt.
Publisher: Basic Books, c2008.

Title: Standing in the light : a Lakota way of seeing
Author: Young Bear, Severt, 1934-1993.
Publisher: University of Nebraska Press, c1994.

Title: Flannery : a life of Flannery O'Connor
Author: Gooch, Brad, 1952-
Publisher: Little, Brown and Co., c2009.

Title: The habit of being : letters
Author: O'Connor, Flannery.
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, c1979.

Title: The clown in the belfry : writings on faith and fiction
Author: Buechner, Frederick, 1926-
Publisher: HarperSanFrancisco, c1992.
(contains essay re Flannery O'Connor's work)

Title: The life you save may be your own : an American pilgrimage
Author: Elie, Paul.
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004, c2003.
(tells the story of the friendship and cross influence between Flannery O'Connor, Walter Percy and Thomas Merton)

Title: The complete stories.
Author: O'Connor, Flannery.
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux 1971

Title: Collected stories : A friend of Kafka to Passions
Author: Singer, Isaac Bashevis, 1904-
Publisher: Distributed to the trade in the U.S. by Penguin Putnam, c2004.

Title: The Sisters Club
Author: McDonald, Megan
Publisher: American Girl, c2003.

Title: The gravedigger : a novel
Author: Grandbois, Peter.
Publisher: Chronicle Books, c2006.

Title: When you are engulfed in flames
Author: Sedaris, David.
Publisher: Little, Brown and Co., 2008.

Title: Hateship, friendship, courtship, loveship, marriage : stories
Author: Munro, Alice.
Publisher: Vintage Contemporaries, 2002

The bulk of today's haul is related to research for WIP. The Shakespeare material, including Sister's Club, is for the FOS story world but especially for Faye, Julia, Wilma and Estelle's parts.

The Sister's Club is a chapter book for girls age 8-12 which I sent for when it popped up in my Shakespeare search in the catalog because the girls in the story use Shakespeare's insults and swear words. Since I have three grown women doing something similar in my story I had to see how this author handled it. I started the book while still in the library. It's a fun, easy read. I still enjoy stories written for this age group. I should read more of them.

The two books titled, Standing in the Light are for my novel Spring Fever which has one character with Native American heratage and another who's pantheist.

The five books by and about Flannery O'Connor are prep for a story I'm considering for this year's NaNoWriMo novel. It's the story of a middle school girl who is a Flannery fan and does a term paper about Flannery which her teacher accuses her of plagiarizing and gives her a C only because he doesn't want to take the time to prove it and threatens her with being held back a full school year if she challenges the grade and makes him have to track down the source she copied. She is innocent of the charge but too afraid to challenge him so she fumes and plots revenge instead.

I've been playing with this story concept for years. It is based on something that happened to me for real in sixth grade. Though my term paper was on Jenny Lind the famous 19th century singer about whom I'd read a 600 page footnoted tome. I had been reading college level books for over a year by then and I know now that can explain why I wrote with more sophistication than my teacher (who was fresh out of teacher's school) could account for in a 12 year old. I let that incident strangle my writing voice for over a decade.

When I was going to college in 1986 I walked by a table in the library where four women in the teacher's program were working on their term papers and blatantly copying directly out of journals and books. They were even talking and laughing about it. I felt myself go hot with what took me several minutes to recognize as rage and trace to that incident in sixth grade. Shortly after that I found myself toying with the idea of writing a story in which the girl accused of plagiarism tracks down her accuser's own college thesis and proves he had plagiarized it.

My working title is: Must Everything That Rises be Submerged. Which is a play on the Flannery O'Connor story Everything That Rises Must Converge.

So how many library books is too many?

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Planning Library Run

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With the heat wave broken and temps in low 90s and dropping it is possible to plan a walk to the library tomorrow afternoon. Regardless of whether I get to go though, I have some items I need to finish up with. Two DVD to watch and a book or two to review. So pardon me again for dropping in for little but a 'hi and bye'.

BTW found above pic on LOLcats but recaptioned it for this post. So that's not my Merlin but it is how I imagine he might be feeling. I just got a look at the list of books I requested that are waiting for me. And then looked at the already stuffe shelf allocated for library books. Sigh.

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

American Journalists Freed From N. Korea


American Journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee board private plane with former President Bill Clinton in Pyonyang, North Korea (AP Photo/Xinhua, Zhang Binyang)

I was overjoyed when this news broke Tuesday afternoon. I"ve been following the story of the two journalists captured by N. Korea since the story first broke last spring. Laura Ling (younger sister to journalist Lisa Ling of CNN, Oprah & National Geographic) and Euna Lee were working for Al Gore's Current TV on the N. Korean border with China when they were arrested by North Korea last March.

I confess, I am something of a news and politics junkie and a lot of my recent posts accusing myself of laziness (because I didn't have anything of substance prepared like a book review or fresh fiction snippets) could have been avoided if I were willing to blog about the news and political commentary I'd been perusing those days like I did in the first year or so after starting Joystory.

But I'd veered away from those kinds of posts not least because I felt inadequate to add anything to the dialog besides my own angst or anger triggered by whichever article I was linking to in order to rant off the cuff for several hundred words. I did not like the mood I was creating in myself nor the mood I was setting on Joystory nor did I want to encourage the kind of vituperative comment threads I saw develop on other politically oriented blogs because I had no wish to moderate them.

But every once in a while there is a news story I just can't resist commenting on and this one is right up there with last November's election night coverage in eliciting joy and relief where I was expecting only despair. My heart had been breaking for the Lee and Ling families as well as the two women themselves ever since their sentence of 12 years hard labor came down last spring.

My interest in the story is enlarged by my interest in journalism itself and my admiration of these two courageous women doing something I might have wished my life path had led me to if I hadn't gravitated toward fiction.

I've really got nothing to add to the discussion except the weight of my own joy for the two women and for their families.

Welcome home Laura and Euna!!

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