Sunday, December 20, 2009

Milorad Pavic



Ironically, it is only through his death that I have learned of his life.
But, now that I know, I need to know more.
So, it is fair to say, that if you are looking for me this winter break you'll find me in the
Newly Deceased "Unorthodox" Serbian Novelist
aisle of my local bookstore.

Wishful Drinking in the Snow

Earlier this year I reviewed the script of Wishful Drinking. Last night, in the middle of a snowstorm, I had the opportunity to actually see her one woman show.

The house was only about a quarter full, but all seemed ready to have a good night, Carrie Fisher included.

I think she delivered a tremendous performance. I was impressed by her ability, through the script and her stage presence, to completely control the audience. Seriously, she brought people from laughter to heartbreak exactly when and how she set out to. It was masterfully done and a pleasure to experience.

Since I had read the script before, some of the jokes fell flat, but I still found myself laughing heartily many a time. Audience participation however stresses me out to no end. I am too anxious for such things. I have little faith in humanity and therefore always expect things to go tragically wrong. They didn't. But it was still awkward.


Cynthia NIxon was in the house. That was fun.

I really found the moment where she talks about her daughter's ability to laugh, despite all madness, as the key to her salvation quite moving.

So, all in all, I'd say well worth the frostbite.

This Country of Ours

The only article on Tiger Woods worth reading.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Quote of the Day 12/18/09

An intellectual is someone who says a simple thing in a difficult way; an artist is someone who says a difficult thing in a simple way.
–Charles Bukowski

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

THINK!

I've copied this from ThinkProgress.org because I think everyone needs to know what "facts" are being presented to the American public (well, at least the public that for some inexplicable and inexcusable reason turns to the Fox network for their news).


Fox fudges poll numbers to claim 120 percent of the public believes scientists falsify global warming data.

Last week, Fox and Friends showed a Rasmussen poll graphic revealing that a whopping 120 percent of the American public believes scientists may be falsifying research to support their own theories on global warming:

Fox poll

Media Matters explains Fox’s fuzzy math:

Well, here’s the Rasmussen poll Fox & Friends cited. They asked respondents: “In order to support their own theories and beliefs about global warming, how likely is it that some scientists have falsified research data?” According to the poll, 35 percent thought it very likely, 24 percent somewhat likely, 21 percent not very likely, and 5 percent not likely at all (15 percent weren’t sure).

Fox News’ graphics department added together the “very likely” and “somewhat likely” numbers to reach 59 percent, and called that new group “somewhat likely.” Then, for some reason, they threw in the 35 percent “very likely” as their own group, even though they already added that number to the “somewhat likely” percentage. Then they mashed together the “not very likely” and “not likely at all” groups, and threw the 15 percent who were unsure into the waste bin. Voila — 120 percent.

Last month, ThinkProgress also caught Fox showing a pie chart documenting that 193 percent of the public supports Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, or Mitt Romney for the GOP nomination in 2012. So much for “zero tolerance for on-screen errors.”

Friday, December 4, 2009

USCommunity

I'm not a football fan, but I am a softy. This video is quite lovely.



I like this video for many reasons, some serious, some silly...
1. The family, in classic California style, uses the word "like" like nine million times
2. Did you see how nice that kids house is!
3. A football player admitted on National TV that he has feelings and is capable of crying
4. His twin sister was able to participate in everything with him
5. It is interesting to hear him speak around the idea that the anxiety of an event is always worse than the event itself; what a nice reminder to stay calm
6. It is also a beautiful reminder that people are capable of compassion, kindness, and generosity


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Authors I am Thankful For


Yesterday I was browsing at Idlewild Books and decided I would pick up a short story collection or two.  There were many to chose from so I asked the (handsome) guy behind the counter if he was a short story reader. He said yes, much to my surprise, as I always hear that short stories are a dying form and collections unpublishable. 

He showed me a few titles that he was fond of and then asked what I had read recently that I had really liked. And let me tell you, dear reader, I had absolutely nothing to say. Seriously. It was embarrassing. I was silent and bug eyed as it slowly dawned on me that I had no idea who I liked to read. 

I managed to mumble that I was in school so I hadn't been reading much for pleasure lately. But the question rang in my ears: I'm a writer, how can I not have any favorite authors? How can I not know what I like to read? 

I've had friends go through MFA's in Painting express a similar feeling of discombobulation, the feeling that all you thought you knew has been ripped away and replaced with others ideas or empty spaces, like coming home to find that all of your furniture has been replaced and rearranged. But this was the first moment in which it had occurred to me that I was feeling this way. 

So, after some serious thought and home-bookshelf browsing I am able to articulate five authors that have inspired and continue to engage me as a reader and writer. 

1. Milan Kundera
2. Italo Calvino
3. Dorothy Alison
4. Emily Dickinson
5. Julia Alvarez

Which authors are you grateful for?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Irony

"Irony has always been a primary tool the under-powered use to tear at the over-powered in our culture. But now irony has become the bait that media corporations use to appeal to educated consumers. . . . It's almost an ultimate irony that those who say they don't like TV will sit and watch TV as long as the hosts of their favorite shows act like they don't like TV, either. Somewhere in this swirl of droll poses and pseudo-insights, irony itself becomes a kind of mass therapy for a politically confused culture. It offers a comfortable space where complicity doesn't feel like complicity. It makes you feel like you are counter-cultural while never requiring you to leave the mainstream culture it has so much fun teasing. We are happy enough with this therapy that we feel no need to enact social change."(Dan French, review of The Daily Show, 2001)

Who Creates Hate?

I strongly encourage everyone to take the time to read this thoughtful opinion piece by Robert Wright in the NY Times entitled Who Created Major Hasan? 

When I first heard about this tragic event I was fearful for the inevitable reporting and distribution of blame. I wrote on my Facebook page:

I'm so sad about the loss of life at Fort Hood. And I am nervous about the fallout this will bring for mental health professionals and Muslims. I hope the conversation will be about one man and his choices, not about groups of people, and that we can honestly talk about the damage that wartime has on the human psyche.

It is nice to see that Wright is also pushing the dialogue in this direction and that the NY Times has provided him with the platform to do so.

Middle Grade Reviews

No Laughter Here
by Rita Williams Garcia
(4 Scoops)

Walk Two Moons
by Sharon Creech
(4 Scoops)

To Reread or Not to Reread?

Charlotte's Web
by E.B White
(5 scoops)
A classic. 
The themes are still relevant and the language still gorgeous.



Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.
by Judy Blume
(1 scoop)
This book does not stand the test of time. It is poorly structured and the writing is bad. It is not funny, nor salacious, and doesn't even communicate any helpful information about puberty. Also, there is a sub plot, that I had no memory of whatsoever, regarding Margaret's search for an organized religion. It starts out interestingly, but concludes in a wishy-washy way that is extremely unsatisfying. 

The only thing that this book is good for is making fun of! 
See my submission to Book: The Sequel

— From God? It’s Margaret Again… (sequel to Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume)
I’ve got another question. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Project America's Amazing Race for the Next Top Author

I'm Busy! Life is crazy. So I am borrowing this AMAZING post from Literary Nathan Bransford (who I heart) that tells you what you can learn about writing from watching reality TV. Did I mention I heart him?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Two Moms = One Controversial Book Fair

Read this great blog post from Six Boxes of Books about the preposterous "controversy" surrounding Lauren Myracle's Luv Ya Bunches and its inclusion at elementary and middle school Scholastic Book Fairs.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Dollar Dollar Bills Ya'll

As a former recipient of an NEH grant to study Shakespeare & Performance in Ashland, Oregon I am heartened by this decision.

Congress Approves Budget Increase 
for Arts and Humanities Endowments
October 30, 2009- New York Times

The House and Senate on Thursday passed a budget increase for the National Endowment for the Arts and for the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Interior Appropriations Bill for fiscal year 2010 sets budgets for each agency at $167.5 million, up $12.5 million from last year. President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law shortly. The funding comes as Rocco Landesman, the new chairman of the N.E.A., prepares to start a nationwide “Art Works” tour next week. “It’s never enough,” Mr. Landesman said. “But we’re looking for progress at a time when every dollar is precious. For us to get a notable increase is extremely heartening.”

The N.E.A. is currently funded at $155 million, and the White House had requested an increase to $161 million. The agency received an additional $50 million through the stimulus bill. This summer, the House approved $170 million for the arts endowment, while the Senate proposed $161.3 million. The final budget was decided in conference this week and passed by a vote of 247-178 in the House and 72-28 in the Senate.

“This important budget increase recognizes the essential role the arts play in our lives, schools, and communities,” said Robert L. Lynch, president and chief of Americans for the Arts, an advocacy group, in a statement.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Diary of a Teenage Girl: The Play

Keep your eye out for the exciting adaptation of Phoebe Gloeckner's graphic novel The Diary of a Teenage Girl.  (Read a review of the book from Bookslut).  The play, written by Marielle Heller, is "the story of Minnie, a fifteen year old girl growing up in San Francisco in the 70s, who has just started an affair with her mother's boyfriend. Shit."

It doesn't open until March of 2010, 
but in the meantime you can watch 
the beautiful and intriguing trailer video!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

CONTEST WINNER

Thanks to a very scientific process (which I borrowed from the blog 
All About Them Words) a winner has been chosen from the fabulous entries to The Mall contest. And the winner is the poetry of Perpetual Thought! Congratulations! Email me your address and I will get your prize packet in the mail right away!

Here is the winning poem about a memorable mall purchase:

Pocket burn spirit free
Took my twenty on a shopping spree
No regrets, passed a pack of cigarettes
Bat eyelashes at a nerdy hunk
A blue and purple purse made by a Buddhist monk?
Hmm, I think I like
Holds cell phone, camera, pack of Mike and Ikes
Made my three dollar purchase, made the economy good
wanted to hail a cab, but there I stood
never once thinking that on my way back
I would wet my phone, break my camera, spill my Mike and Ikes
give myself a heart-attack!
Why did I not use the purse you ask?
Because taking it out, packing stuff in, 
would've been quite the task
Broke my twenty on that stupid purse
should have spent more time being careful first.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Newest "Girl Next Door" is...

If you answered Marge Simpson you are correct!

Playboy has decided to feature the animated mother of two on the cover of its next issue and give her a full spread (pun intended).

The strangest quote of this very strange article states that, the staying power of The Simpsons "has been in large part due to its family values...." Um, yeah, that's not how I would describe it. I am a fan, and it's not family values that keeps me watching. Unless a blatant disregard for the physical safety of your reckless, troublemaking son is a "family value".

I agree with the notion that having an animated character on the cover of a nudey mag is misleading, but I also know that Playboy magazines are sold in a plastic 
sleeve that makes it so no one can flip through the pages while it sits on a 7-11 rack (Rack! Ha!). Having Marge on the cover of a Playboy, instead of the usual breast implanted platinum blonde peeking over the blacked out part of the plastic sleeve, is probably better than a small child being exposed to the unsleeved Maxim
cover on the shelf next to it. I think what is more troubling is the idea that anyone, child or legal adult, would actually want to see Marge Simpson's animated (and photoshop slimmed) nakedness. Yuck.

This further infantilizing (Miley Mania- Toddlers and Tiaras- Anime porn- Furries- Catholic School Girl costumes- what have you) of sexuality in America is troublesome. And Marge Simpson posing in Playboy is just one step too far in my opinion.


And since when is 7-11 a corporation that "wants to be a responsible member of American society..."? Last I checked encouraging people to eat processed cheese product and bad coffee is not terribly responsible.

Do You Desire A Denouement?

denouement |ˌdānoōˈmä n |
noun
the final part of a play, movie, or narrative in which the strands of the plot are drawn together and matters are explained or resolved.

My friend Michael The Girl recently sent me this link to a blog discussion of the value of the denouement because I am working on a project that begs to end slightly ambiguously. 

Does anybody out there have a lil sumpin' sumpin' to say about books that end without wrapping up all of the loose ends?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Twas Brillig...

There is a curious article in the NY Times about the value of nonsense on the intellect.  

I love the final paragraph.  

"Still, the new research supports what many experimental artists, habitual travelers and other novel seekers have always insisted: at least some of the time, disorientation begets creative thinking."

Sunday, October 18, 2009

My Brother's Keeper

My Brother's Keeper
by Patricia McCormick
(3.5 scoops)
Author Patricia McCormick tackles difficult subjects in her books; the war in Iraq, sexual slavery, cutting, and drug use. My Brother's Keeper follows a 13 year old boy whose father has left, his mother is struggling with finances and his older brother is dealing with his pain through drugs.  The protagonist is an anxious, insecure kid who is actually quite funny and endearing despite the difficulties he experiences in this novel.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

NBA

No basketball on this blog, just the good old fashioned National Book Award. The finalists are in and there are five nominees for Young People's Literature. Check them out:


Deborah Heiligman, Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith
Phillip Hoose, Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice
David Small, Stitches
Laini Taylor, Lips Touch: Three Times
Rita Williams-Garcia, Jumped

Coe Booth, the fabulous author of Tyrell and Kendra and contributor to The Longstockings blog and generally awesome and intelligent human being, was one of the judges this year so that gives me an extra boost of confidence for these titles.

I haven't yet read any of these books, but I am very curious to hear a lil sumpin' sumpin' from any of you who have. Keep me posted!

FOLLOW UP: There is now a controversy as to whether or not Stitches should have been nominated as a YA book when it was published as an adult graphic novel by W.W. Norton.  Read the full article at Publishers Weekly and weigh in on the debate.

Evolution of Tinkerbell


Check out this 12 picture evolution of Disney's Tinkerbell! Since I just finished reading the original J.M Barrie version of Peter Pan for class and spent several hours discussing what the text revealed about gender, this slide show was particularly interesting.

Having just read Constance Rourke's seminal 1931 work, American Humor: A Study of the National Character, however, I think Barrie was commenting more on the relationship between America (Peter Pan and Neverland) and England (The Darlings and British tradition).


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Mall- CONTEST

Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall
by Wendy Mass
(4 scoops)
This novel is written in verse and, for the most part, the short lines enhanced the quick pace and ephemeral quality of the inner monologue, but at other times, the enjambment was so illogical that it stalled my reading. There were many genuinely touching moments in this story about a girl who gets pegged in the head by a dodge ball and finds her self in the hospital teetering between life and death. The ending is a bit didactic and moralistic, but it happens to be a moral I agree with, so I didn't particularly mind! Each section had a very clever ending, which made them fun to read, but since I read the book in one sitting, the predictability made the individual endings seem a bit less clever. Overall, despite a few flaws, I found this book extremely charming. 

And it has inspired another contest!

Tell me about a purchase you made at the mall 
that was significant in some way.
You can write a poem, like Wendy Mass, or just ramble as you see fit. 
Make sure to explain what the purchase was 
and how it turned out to be significant.
 
The winner will be announced on Friday the 23rd
and the prize is a mall inspired gift bag!
So, like, get to it!


Wimpy

I was reading The Longstockings blog today on which Kathryne posted a link to the NY times article about the Diary of  a Wimpy Kid series.  It points out that the appeal for kids is that the protagonist, Greg, does not always do the right thing and that as adult readers it gives us insight into the "child's ethical mind." I also enjoyed reading the comments if for no other reason that they illustrated that there are still places, unlike here or here, where people can comment on the internet thoughtfully and articulately and without name calling!

Monday, October 12, 2009

A classic?

Harriet the Spy
Louise Fitzhugh
(2 scoops)

What a clumsy, unfocused book! 
I had such a hard time getting through this novel. 
It is quite dated and the plot is preposterous.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Middle Grade

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
e.l. konisburg
(5 Scoops)

Holes
Louis Sachar
(4.5 scoops)

Peter Pan
J.M. Barrie
(3 Scoops)

The Tale of Despereaux
Kate DiCamillo
(2 scoops)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

10 Little Things That Make Me Happier Than They Should

1. Parsley
2. Bright nail polish
3. Free refills
4. Having exact change
5. Chocolate dipped vanilla soft serve cones
6. A new pen
7. Compliments on my jewelry
8. Hand knit blankets
9. Comedians that actually make me laugh out loud
10. Non-lascivious smiles on the train

Friday, September 18, 2009

Whitehead Revisited

So, a while back I got into a little online exchange with the author of Sag Harbor, Colson Whitehead.  I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt so I bought the book, gave him my hard earned money, and sat down to read it. I made it about a chapter and a half. 

Fast forward to the day I received a syllabus that listed John Henry Days, another Whitehead book, as required reading. I thought to my self, "Self, give him another shot." I reread the first chapter and a half of Sag Harbor and actually made it all the way through the third. Progress!

But I felt no desire to keep reading. Strange, because I really wanted to have a well formed opinion about this book.

Of course, now it's clear, that this was my opinion. Is my opinion. Neither the protagonist nor the writing is compelling enough to even invest the few hours it would take to complete the book. Ouch.


John Henry Days, however, is a marvelous book. 4 Scoops for sure. It weaves together structure, content, and theme masterfully; all three components truly support and enhance each other. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Reluctant Readers No More

For all you teachers out there I thought I would compile a list of books I've read that I think would be well received by teenage boys. 

1. Tyrell- Coe Booth
2. Sucker Punch- David Hernandez
3. Feed- M.T. Anderson
4. Mexican White Boy- Matt De La Pena
5. The Vast Fields of Ordinary- Nick Burd
6. Gentlemen- Michael Northrop


Monday, September 14, 2009

Ghenet's Contest

If you aren't already following All About Them Words then you should be. And now is a great time since she has just posted her first contest!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Mockingbird

Mockingbird
(4.5 scoops)

This book does not come out until April 2010 so I can't find a picture of the cover to post here. As of now the book has a light sky blue cover with a few abstract clouds. Centered and about two inches from the top in black ink is the word mockingbird. It is lower case and in a font that resembles a youthful handwriting. A red heart dots the "i". Underneath that, in the same black font, is the phonetic spelling in parenthesis. The author's name is centered at the bottom. The simple and emotionally neutral cover is very appropriate for this book which is about a ten year old girl named Caitlin who has Asperger's Syndrome.

The story is told in first person which presents many challenges, all of which are skillfully and beautifully handled by the author. In reading this book I felt a very strong sense of Caitlin's character as well as the nuances of those around her. The book uses Asperberger's as a way of looking at grief and the hard lesson of learning empathy.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

FADE TO BLUE

Fade to Blue
by Sean Beaudoin
Now this is one cracked out read!

Let's start with the cover. So goth. So cool. Reading it on the train certainly broadcasts a certain don't sit next to me unless you're as cool as I am kinda vibe. Or at least it would if you were a Hot Topic shopping teenage girl looking for a black nail polish sportin' boy. And then that super stylized strip of comics on the side. Dizzying. Just like what's inside. The narrative is fragmented. Time and space are distorted. Characters question what is real. For a teenage-person who is just becoming a grownup-person this book might inspire some metaphysical inquiry. 

14 year old me would have been super stoked to stumble upon this book. Present day me...not so much.  But just look at the girl on the cover. She doesn't trust anyone over thirty anyways. 

Monday, August 31, 2009

Contest Winner


A big balloon drop for the winner of the Barry Lyga Boy Toy Contest, Ms. Alex Millard 
and her Pink Socks! 

All of the entries were great fun to read and I really appreciate the courage it took to share your stories. Over the course of this contest it was amazing how many conversations I had with grown folks who turned red remembering awkward, unrequited loves of yesteryear and then paled when asked to write about it.  I guess for my next contest 
I will stick with trivia questions or something! 

Thanks again to everybody who participated! 

Stay tuned for more giveaways...
 

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Chronic

Chronicles
by Bob Dylan
(2 Scoops)
Who knows if Bob Dylan was born a rambling man, but after years of the drugged out hippie freewheeling lifestyle he has certainly become one. Following the logic or chronology in this book is more effort than it rewards.  The only thing thing I appreciated about this book was that it served as a fairly good decoder ring for the movie I'm Not There (which I would rate as just under 2 scoops). Sure there are some amusing anecdotes and a handful of interesting facts in this book, but overall it was not a great read. What continues to astonish me about Dylan fanatics is their insistence on trying to understand a man who has set out to be un-understandable.


Friday, August 21, 2009

My Life in Course Description

The Old Weird America: Music as Democratic Speech—
from the Commonplace Song to Bob Dylan

Greil Marcus


“Poor boy, long way from home” . . . “The cuckoo, she’s a pretty bird, she warbles, as she flies/ And she never, hollers cuckoo, til the fourth day, of July” . . . “Sun gonna shine in my back door, someday/ Wind gonna rise up, blow my blues away”—those lyric fragments and thousands like them are part of a pool of floating lines and verses—the raw material of the commonplace, commonly held American song. They took shape in the years after the Civil War; in the first part of the 20th century they reached a kind of critical mass, and thousands of voices emerged, speaking this new, common language.

Throughout American history people excluded from or ignored by the story the country teaches itself have seized on music as means of both affirming and questioning individual and cultural existence. Music has been used to make symbolic statements about the nature of the singer, the country, and life itself. These are big words for ordinary, anonymous songs like “The Cuckoo Bird” or “John Henry”—but it is in songs that seem to have emerged out of nowhere, and in songs that are self-consciously made to reclaim that nowhere, where much of the American story resides.

This course examines commonplace, authorless songs as elemental, founding documents of American identity. These songs can be heard as a form of speech that, with a deep foundation, is always in flux—especially in the work of Bob Dylan across the last fifty years. In that work, a single performer can be seen to have taken the whole of this tradition and translated it into a language of his own—a language that, today, with other artists, such as Todd Haynes with his film I’m Not There, a movie filled by Dylan-like figures, composites, and specters, is itself becoming a form of the commonplace.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

CONTEST News



TO WIN AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF 
BOY TOY BY BARRY LYGA

Friday, August 14, 2009

Book Publishing Glossary

Literary Agent Nathan Bransford maintains an amazing blog for aspiring writers. His posts are informative, fun, and kind. Yesterday he posted an excellent Glossary of Book Publishing terms, well worth checking out if you are interested in the business of writing. 

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Wishful Drinking- Script

Wishful Drinking
by Carrie Fisher
(3 Scoops)
So, I didn't read the Memoir, but I did read the script of the one woman show derived from it. This Fall Carrie Fisher will be performing her show at the Roundabout Theatre Company and I will most likely be responsible for leading audiences through a Pre Show Theatre Talk. I was never a huge Star Wars fan, even though I am the right demographic, and I am woefully inept at remembering stars names or the projects on which they've worked, so I am quite nervous about having to give a lecture to audiences that will most likely be much older and Hollywood-savvier than I.  I guess I should make a "use the force joke" here, but that is too lame even for me. 

The script was funny and actually made me laugh out loud a couple of times. And there were even some poignant and profound moments. But overall, it lacked a... a something. It didn't have a strong narrative thrust. It didn't have a powerful climax.  It seemed to pander, what with the audience participation and all. It was funny but not pure comedy. It was poignant without really taking me anywhere raw, new or scary. It was what it was.

I'm sure if I saw the show I would have a stronger reaction, but positive or negative is hard to say. Right now I feel like I will keep the one or two sentences that I underlined and forget everything else.  I wonder how well that will go over in my lecture...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Love is the Higher Law


Love is the Higher Law
by David Levithan
(5 Scoops)

I cried from page one. Not always because of what was on the page, but for what it evoked. My own memories. The feelings flooding back. Fear. Loss. Love. Need. Every moment flooding back- reminding me of the strange space my mind and body occupied.  Chapter 1 was breathtaking. Stunning. Perfect. And then, wondrously,  Chapter 2 got me to laugh. It was just as powerful as Chapter 1, but in a different voice. A new truth. Equally right and real.  Then Chapter 3 brought me back to the tension. The voice of feeling frozen. But needing to move. 

Throughout Love is The Higher Law David Levithan does an amazing job of creating the truth of that moment and the following days and years, yet it never overwhelms. It is honest but not oppressive. He remembers, amidst the confusion, pain, emptiness, doubt, anger, and sorrow, to point out the good, the kindness, the calm, the helpfulness, the love and desire to protect. 

The book doesn't come out until August 25th but I need you to order it now. Buy it. Read it. (Especially if you're scared of it.) Share it with everyone you know. If you were here it will help you clarify- even if you think you need no helping. And if you were not here it will educate you, not just about a moment in time but about people in all moments in time. 

No matter where you were in September of 2001, this book will inspire you to love those you love just a little bit clearer and to appreciate beauty where you can find it, like in one of the many glorious sentences that pepper this book.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

MY VERY FIRST CONTEST!

Hello dear readers,

In the past I have linked to many cool contests, but never actually hosted my own. Well that is about to change...

Welcome to my 1st Official Contest!
It's your turn to tell me a lil' sumpin' sumpin' about yourself.


Author Barry Lyga has graciously volunteered an AUTOGRAPHED COPY of his wonderful book BOY TOY for my contest winner. Boy Toy explores the ramifications of a relationship between a 7th grade boy and his teacher. 

Now we all know that such relationships are wrong. And damaging. 
And just plain icky. 



But who hasn't had the hots for someone they weren't supposed to? 

I certainly have. 

Mr. Cushing. My 11th grade English teacher. He was Hollywood hot with a subversive charm. We read The Handmaid's Tale, A Clockwork Orange, and Demian to name a few. He understood my sarcasm, my angst, and my apathy. Never once did he tell me I was squandering my potential; he just let me be me. I loved him for that. And he was so damn sexy that I even managed to stay awake in his class, most days. I learned a lot from that man and I credit that to my crush. If only he had taught Economics, instead of that ogre Father Glass...

It was a harmless crush. It never crossed that line. And I'm sure you've had one of those yourself. So, here is your task: TELL US ALL A LIL' SUMPIN' SUMPIN' ABOUT YOUR MOST ILLICIT CRUSH. That time you were hot for teacher, or for that den leader, or that cute rabbi whose pants were too tight, or your best friend's mom, or the local Lolita, or that cousin that wrote poetry and windsurfed into your heart. 

Of course, only write about an UNREQUITED LOVE. No tales that would force me to call the authorities or throw up in my mouth. 

The best crush story wins the prize. Best being completely arbitrary, I know. But think salacious, honest, funny or tender, and well crafted. I'm open to a variety of forms; haiku, short essay, rhyming couplets, rambling. 

I can't wait to read all your entries- post them below by August 28th! 

A winner will be announced on August 31st. Best of luck!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Reading Like A Writer

Reading Like A Writer: 
A Guide For People Who Love Books 
and For Those Who Want To Write Them
by Francine Prose
(4 Scoops)
 

Sunday, August 9, 2009

No Homo?


A flawed premise, I do believe, but an interesting take on homophobia and hip hop nonetheless.


Saturday, August 8, 2009

Gentlemen


Gentlemen
by Michael Northrop
(4 Scoops)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Friday, July 31, 2009

Michael Pollan- A Call to Knives


In Michael Pollan's compelling argument for why cooking is an important component of our humanity, he compares the process of cooking to that of telling a story.

"Food shows are the campfires in the deep cable forest, drawing us like hungry wanderers to their flames."

"Every dish contains not just culinary ingredients but also the ingredients of narrative: a beginning, a middle and an end." 

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Contest News

Anybody wanna win stuff? Cool stuff. Autographed copies of books stuff. Check out this contest on the awesome website of the awesome YA author Barry Lyga.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Ding Dong

As someone who has spent most of my days with a red pen in hand, this version of Sarah Palin's resignation speech made my day. Not that her resignation speech wouldn't have made my day any which way, but ya know...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Monday, July 20, 2009

Nancy Drew

This lovely article in the NY Times about the impact of the Nancy Drew books actually brought a tear to my eye. I loved the Nancy Drew Files as a kid and read them as fast as I could get my hands on them. I loved her tenacity and perhaps, unknowingly, looked to her as a role model of strength, independence, and analytical thinking. I'm pleased to read any article that honors the affect of children's literature, but especially when the books referred to happen to be some of my personal favorites. 

Cue the Violins

Wow. 


Monday, July 13, 2009

I'm Baaaack!

And ready to write again.

Here are some inspiring words from Barack Obama via the New York Times. His consistent eloquence reminds me that language matters:

But Obama's own history lent a poignant tone to the family's pilgrimage to Cape Coast Castle– where many Africans began a journey to slavery. His speech there crystallized the tangled sentiments and complicated history:
"As Americans, and as African-Americans, obviously there's a special sense that on the one hand this place was a place of profound sadness; on the other hand, it is here where the journey of much of the African-American experience began. And symbolically, to be able to come back with my family, with Michelle and our children, and see the portal through which the diaspora began, but also to be able to come back here in celebration with the people of Ghana of the extraordinary progress that we've made because of the courage of so many, black and white, to abolish slavery and ultimately win civil rights for all people, I think is a source of hope. It reminds us that as bad as history can be, it's also possible to overcome."

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Exciting News

So, thanks to this lovely lil' blog here 
I get to read and review the forthcoming novel Fade to Blue 

I know you will be eagerly awaiting this, 
so while I lounge poolside in California 
I will make sure to get my read on. 

In the meantime, check out his website
there is a really cool NAME MY NEXT BOOK CONTEST 
that I'm sure one of my clever colleagues can win!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Us v Them Again


Another article discussing the abundance of gruesome and depressing topics in Young Adult literature...why do adults (who publish and read J.M. Coetzee, Jodi Picoult, Chuck Palahniuk, Toni Morrison and the like) continuously seem surprised that teenagers look to literature for the same reasons they do; entertainment, education, catharsis, provocation.  Why do so many adults need there to be such a separation between adult and young adult fiction? In the 1930's Melvin B Tolson wrote, "Somebody has to black hisself/ For somebody else to stay white." Perhaps it is this same perverse logic that drives the adult need to see teenagers as distinctly different so as to make their adultness seem more precious and profound.


Monday, June 1, 2009

Book Review

Thirteen Reasons Why
by Jay Asher
4 scoops

Knowledge is Power


Books matter. If you need further proof, read this.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Two More Reviews

Falling Through the Earth
by Danielle Trussoni
3 scoops
(Great material- and some chapters were really quite moving- but on the whole I felt the moments were not connected into a gripping narrative arc)

Big Mouth and Ugly Girl
bu Joyce Carol Oates
4 Scoops
 (She did a great job of following an idea all the way through; she shows all of the ways in which a person and those in his immediate circle are impacted by an event, in this case, the character of Matt having been being falsely accused of threatening to blow up the school.  She also does interesting things with syntax and perspective to show the development of identity.  I liked the character of Ugly Girl/ Ursula Rigs/u r.)


Friday, May 22, 2009

QUICK AND DIRTY

There are three books I've read recently that I keep meaning to review in depth.... Shiver, After Tupac and D Foster (Thank you Allary!), and The Vast Fields of Ordinary. But, since my time management skills have slipped into some sort of coma, you will have to settle for this:

The Vast Fields of Ordinary
by Nick Burd
5 Scoops

(Seriously, I feel like he wrote this just for me. This book is amazing. Top Ten. You'll love it. I promise. And you'll probably feel like he wrote it just for you too. But don't worry, I'll still like you if you don't. This book is gorgeous. The perfect combination of funny, sincere, and angry. It's about loneliness.  And about not being able to fully express the complexity and truth of our emotional lives while we are living them. Or being able to and choosing not to. So, buy this book. Support this guy. I want him to write some more books for me.)


Shiver
by Maggie Stiefvater
4 Scoops

(I'm not usually a fan of fantasy, but this book was a good read. It was well written, although there were too many butterfly references. I kept hoping the werewolf thing was a metaphor for something profoundly grand, but I think it's just a book about werewolves; feeling conflicted within yourself, searching for your true identity, wanting to fit in with people who genuinely understand you, of course that's all in there, but really just a love story between a girl and a werewolf. I can't say I liked the last chapter- but I wont tell you any more about that. Read it and then we'll talk.)


After Tupac and D Foster
by Jacqueline Woodson
3 scoops

(Enough with the overly lyrical inner monologue and the forced ghettronic dialogue. I do love me some Tupac though...)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

KUDOS

Today was an amazing day. 

GET YOUR READ ON! was a tremendous success- all the readers were awesome and the audience was extremely supportive.

And we officially announced the launch of Verbal Pyrotechnics- our new online magazine exclusively dedicated to showcasing teen literature. 

Gabriela Maria Periera is our Editor in Chief, Kathryn Holmes is the Fiction Editor, Benjamin Andrew Moore is the Non Fiction Editor and I am the Poetry Editor. we will post our submission guidelines as soon as the website is up and running.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Yay!

I guess more of you should volunteer to read at the next GET YOUR READ ON! Don't forget to join us tomorrow at the Fat Cat at 3:30! 

Some Thoughts on the Lost Art of Reading Aloud

By VERLYN KLINKENBORG
Published: May 16, 2009
New York Times

Sometimes the best way to understand the present is to look at it from the past. Consider audio books. An enormous number of Americans read by listening these days — listening aloud, I call it. The technology for doing so is diverse and widespread, and so are the places people listen to audio books. But from the perspective of a reader in, say, the early 19th century, about the time of Jane Austen, there is something peculiar about it, even lonely.

In those days, literate families and friends read aloud to each other as a matter of habit. Books were still relatively scarce and expensive, and the routine electronic diversions we take for granted were, of course, nonexistent. If you had grown up listening to adults reading to each other regularly, the thought of all of those solitary 21st-century individuals hearkening to earbuds and car radios would seem isolating. It would also seem as though they were being trained only to listen to books and not to read aloud from them.

It’s part of a pattern. Instead of making music at home, we listen to recordings of professional musicians. When people talk about the books they’ve heard, they’re often talking about the quality of the readers, who are usually professional. The way we listen to books has been de-socialized, stripped of context, which has the solitary virtue of being extremely convenient.

But listening aloud, valuable as it is, isn’t the same as reading aloud. Both require a great deal of attention. Both are good ways to learn something important about the rhythms of language. But one of the most basic tests of comprehension is to ask someone to read aloud from a book. It reveals far more than whether the reader understands the words. It reveals how far into the words — and the pattern of the words — the reader really sees.

Reading aloud recaptures the physicality of words. To read with your lungs and diaphragm, with your tongue and lips, is very different than reading with your eyes alone. The language becomes a part of the body, which is why there is always a curious tenderness, almost an erotic quality, in those 18th- and 19th-century literary scenes where a book is being read aloud in mixed company. The words are not mere words. They are the breath and mind, perhaps even the soul, of the person who is reading.

No one understood this better than Jane Austen. One of the late turning points in “Mansfield Park” comes when Henry Crawford picks up a volume of Shakespeare, “which had the air of being very recently closed,” and begins to read aloud to the young Bertrams and their cousin, Fanny Price. Fanny discovers in Crawford’s reading “a variety of excellence beyond what she had ever met with.” And yet his ability to do every part “with equal beauty” is a clear sign to us, if not entirely to Fanny, of his superficiality.

I read aloud to my writing students, and when students read aloud to me I notice something odd. They are smart and literate, and most of them had parents who read to them as children. But when students read aloud at first, I notice that they are trying to read the meaning of the words. If the work is their own, they are usually trying to read the intention of the writer.

It’s as though they’re reading what the words represent rather than the words themselves. What gets lost is the inner voice of the prose, the life of the language. This is reflected in their writing, too, at first.

In one realm — poetry — reading aloud has never really died out. Take Robert Pinsky’s new book, “Essential Pleasures: A New Anthology of Poems to Read Aloud.” But I suspect there is no going back. You can easily make the argument that reading silently is an economic artifact, a sign of a new prosperity beginning in the early 19th century and a new cheapness in books. The same argument applies to listening to books on your iPhone. But what I would suggest is that our idea of reading is incomplete, impoverished, unless we are also taking the time to read aloud.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Follow Up- Colson Whitehead

So, it seems as though my post stirred up quite a bit of discussion. I like this idea. I like that people are thinking and talking about what it means to be categorized. And I am very impressed that Colson Whitehead himself got involved in the discussion. Thanks! You can read his words at the bottom of this post.

I am currently taking a class with Laurie Sheck who has just published a text called A Monster's Notes that her publishers are calling a novel and she insists is not a novel- she believes there is no accurate category for what she has written. As a result we have been studying many texts this semester that similarly straggle or merge genres, and yes, the conversations can be exhausting and often seem futile, but I think what ultimately matters is how the label can effect readers expectations. 

As someone who is writing Young Adult literature I am often made aware of the snobbish hierarchy of the book world.  I think in my question to Whitehead at the New School reading I was excited that his book might be doubly marketed/categorized and that his readership could be expanded in that way and was put off when that enthusiasm was not immediately reciprocated. I do realize, however, that an author has little to no say in how their book is labeled, marketed, reviewed, and shelved. And that this can lead to frustrations with the very subject. But with the world of publishing being what it is, it is naive to ignore or purposefully avoid issues of categorization. Issues of marketing are really issues of getting the book into readers hands- which clearly is important to all authors, except maybe Emily Dickinson.


Colson Whitehead Responds to YA “Controversy”
Written by Edward Champion
Posted on May 4, 2009
Filed Under Whitehead, Colson, YA

The blog A Lil’ Sumpin’ Sumpin’ recently posted an item from an appearance that Colson Whitehead made at The New School. At the event, Whitehead was reportedly asked about whether his latest novel, Sag Harbor, could be classified as YA. And it was reported that he got “huffy” about the issue. This surprised me, because Sherman Alexie and China Mieville have both written specifically for a YA crowd. And it might also be argued that David Mitchell’s Black Swan Green and Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time could swing both ways as a YA and an adult title. If Whitehead had indeed said these things, it seemed counterintuitive to reduce his novel’s possible audience.
Curious about Whitehead’s side of the story, I contacted him by email and he responded to my questions quite quickly. Here is his answer:

Thanks for letting me address this “controversy.”

I remember the exchange. Do you have a transcript of it? Anyone who knows me will tell you that I don’t do “huffy,” but I do roll my eyes in exasperation, as I will when asked at a writers conference about “how will it be marketed?” I’ll talk about writing, how I got started, my work process, what have you, but marketing is boring and not what a writer should be asking about. Write the book. Make it the best book you can make it. All the other stuff is crap. So if I seemed “huffy,” that’s the reason: I’d rather talk about the work. I’m not hawking Flowbees here. I don’t “target” my work to a “demographic.”

Labels bug me. My first ideal reader was a teenage version of myself; someone who might randomly come across my book and be changed by it, the way I was changed by so many books in that key time. Then I started publishing, and the people who came to see me read were so varied – old, young, black, white, redheaded, balding, etc. – that it seemed dumb to have a mental picture of my ideal reader. It’s a blessing if anyone reads your book at all. But if she or he is a “Young Adult,” great. With braces & a bad slouch, even better.

If I had my way, there wouldn’t be any categories at all. For me, it’s all just “writing.” Is The Colossus of New York non-fiction? Not strictly, but it has to go somewhere in the bookstore, and if it’s in Essays or in the About New York section, I don’t care. I’m just glad that it’s getting out there. But we need classifications, I guess, and this has to go here and that has to go there. If Sag Harbor is in YA tomorrow, I wouldn’t care, as long as people who want to read it can pick it up. In some bookstores, I’m in African American as opposed to Fiction; this is a category failure, but it’s out of my control and in the end I’m glad that I’m in the store at all, and hopefully the savvy consumer who is looking for me will find me. What I’m saying is that we write, and then the world categorizes us, and the next day we get up and start writing again.

I’m publishing in the age of the web. You don’t have to go far to find that I’m not a snob about genres, and go out of my way to say that I came to writing by loving comic books and Stephen King, because that’s how it happened and you should read what you want to read, and not what someone else thinks is proper for you to read. Frankly, I don’t really know what YA is. Does that mean it features kids or teenagers and is only intended for kids and teenagers? I’m sort of out of the loop about these turf battles. They seem kinda dumb. If it’s a good story, I don’t care what section I find it in.