Thursday, April 30, 2009

Who Is So Stupid as To Actually Need This Book?

I can not believe that someone published this...


So sad. In a Mormon Times column published last August, Orson Scott Card called for the overthrow of the government over same-sex marriage. He said:
If America becomes a place where our children are taken from us by law and forced to attend schools where they are taught that cohabitation is as good as marriage, that motherhood doesn't require a husband or father, and that homosexuality is as valid a choice as heterosexuality for their future lives, then why in the world should married people continue to accept the authority of such a government? What these dictator-judges do not seem to understand is that their authority extends only as far as people choose to obey them. How long before married people answer the dictators thus: Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down, so it can be replaced with a government that will respect and support marriage, and help me raise my children in a society where they will expect to marry in their turn.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Fabulous article about an openly gay college football player.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Billy Collins on The Workshop Model

I stumbled upon this poem about the creative writing workshop and it cracked me up. I must say, I am enjoying my Grad School workshop experience, but I do understand the complaints one could have about creative writing classroom critiques. Clearly I am quite lucky to be in a room where I respect my peers and their writing and the feedback they give me, but I see how easily the whole experience could devolve into useless chatter. I love this poem because it seems to mock the person critiquing as much as the poet being critiqued, all the while being an earnest piece of poetry.

Workshop by Billy Collins

I might as well begin by saying how much I like the title.
It gets me right away because I’m in a workshop now
so immediately the poem has my attention,
like the Ancient Mariner grabbing me by the sleeve.

And I like the first couple of stanzas,
the way they establish this mode of self-pointing
that runs through the whole poem
and tells us that words are food thrown down
on the ground for other words to eat.
I can almost taste the tail of the snake
in its own mouth,
if you know what I mean.

But what I’m not sure about is the voice,
which sounds in places very casual, very blue jeans,
but other times seems standoffish,
professorial in the worst sense of the word
like the poem is blowing pipe smoke in my face.
But maybe that’s just what it wants to do.

What I did find engaging were the middle stanzas,
especially the fourth one.
I like the image of clouds flying like lozenges
which gives me a very clear picture.
And I really like how this drawbridge operator
just appears out of the blue
with his feet up on the iron railing
and his fishing pole jigging—I like jigging—
a hook in the slow industrial canal below.
I love slow industrial canal below. All those l’s.

Maybe it’s just me,
but the next stanza is where I start to have a problem.
I mean how can the evening bump into the stars?
And what’s an obbligato of snow?
Also, I roam the decaffeinated streets.
At that point I’m lost. I need help.

The other thing that throws me off,
and maybe this is just me,
is the way the scene keeps shifting around.
First, we’re in this big aerodrome
and the speaker is inspecting a row of dirigibles,
which makes me think this could be a dream.
Then he takes us into his garden,
the part with the dahlias and the coiling hose,
though that’s nice, the coiling hose,
but then I’m not sure where we’re supposed to be.
The rain and the mint green light,
that makes it feel outdoors, but what about this wallpaper?
Or is it a kind of indoor cemetery?
There’s something about death going on here.

In fact, I start to wonder if what we have here
is really two poems, or three, or four,
or possibly none.

But then there’s that last stanza, my favorite.
This is where the poem wins me back,
especially the lines spoken in the voice of the mouse.
I mean we’ve all seen these images in cartoons before,
but I still love the details he uses
when he’s describing where he lives.
The perfect little arch of an entrance in the baseboard,
the bed made out of a curled-back sardine can,
the spool of thread for a table.
I start thinking about how hard the mouse had to work
night after night collecting all these things
while the people in the house were fast asleep,
and that gives me a very strong feeling,
a very powerful sense of something.
But I don’t know if anyone else was feeling that.
Maybe that was just me.
Maybe that’s just the way I read it.

You can listen to him read this poem here.

Monday, April 27, 2009

More about Matt de la Pena

His first book has been made into a movie and it is coming out soon.

I guess I ought to try and read that book again, since I love him!

Saturday, April 25, 2009


There was an interesting post on Read Roger this morning about censorship in YA literature. He links to two posts from Collecting Children's Books about newer editions of older books changing language and images that are now considered by most to be racist. One book is They Were Strong and Good Enough and another is  The Rooster Crows. Where do you stand on this issue?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

What Would Hector Think?

Williams Imitations

Every week for my poetry class we are asked to read one or two poets and then create work that imitates their style. Some of these assignments have been fun and others have been excruciatingly difficult. Writing in the style of Wiliam Carlos Williams was an absolute joy. It was a nice reminder that there is material everywhere one looks.

I have slept
with another

Which you were
probably hoping
not to have to hear

Forgive me
she was willing.
So supple
And so bright.

You deceive me so!
I wear you
like they wear their smiles-
predicting rain
that never comes.

Still I blog-
Yet no one reads;
no links, no followers,
no proof that I am heard.

Still I blog-
Comment boxes
by human detritus.

Hernan Bas


I went to the Brooklyn Museum of Art today and fell in love with the work of Hernan Bas. (I was mildly appalled to Google him and find out that he is a year younger than me. I have been feeling a bit of an "age-to-output ratio" depression lately, but I won't blather on about it, because it's obvious and boring) I will, however, blather on and on about Hernan Bas...

The drawings and paintings are alive and vibrant (and do not look nearly as captivating online- so get your pretty self to Brooklyn with a quickness). The video & installation pieces are smart and lyric and gorgeous and did not bore, confuse, or annoy me like most video art.

I appreciated the variety of content in the show and in my bit of internet research it seems as though this show barely scratched the surface of themes and styles in which Bas has worked.  

I had no expectations going into the museum, to be honest I was killing time and avoiding the rain, and found myself completely engaged with this work emotionally, aesthetically and intellectually. Yay for happy accidents!


Monday, April 20, 2009

William Carlos Williams

One of my favorite poems of all time.

This Is Just To Say 

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Mexican Whiteboy

Ok. Here's a good story. I went to a reading and saw a man who I thought was just the cutest thing I ever done seen.  Tall, dark, and handsome.  And then he spoke; and, surprisingly, he got even cuter. He had a California accent. Pitter Patter went my heart. 
I was in love.

But the reading starts, and he is introduced as the author of 
Ball Don't Lie...

What? No! Can you hear my heart breaking? 
I had major beef with that book. I couldn't get through the first few pages. I tried several times. I mean, I had been given a free copy! And now, I find out that the love of my life wrote this mess. Tragic. This means we can't be together! Because, hey, you have to respect your partner's work, right? I mean, we are talking about a serious, emotionally mature realtionship here...who cares that I haven't actually introduced myself to him yet!  So, there I am, heartbroken in the third row. But fret not, dear reader, harmony was restored. 
He read the first chapter of Mexican Whiteboy...

...and not only were we back in love, we were back with visions of a beach wedding.

See, dear reader, this book sounded like home.  It spoke to me and about me and for me in a way that I hadn't encountered in a book in a very long time. Maybe ever. And damn he was cute.

 So, of course I bought it and stayed up all night reading it. And, yes, rest assured, our love is secure. It is a beautiful book. A well written, engaging, funny, suspenseful, thought provoking, and heartfelt book. Absolutely 5 Scoops.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Full Spectrum

The Full Spectrum:
A New Generation of Writing about Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, 
Transgender, Questioning, and Other Identities
4 scoops

This collection, edited by the wonderful David Levithan and Billy Merrell, is comprised of prose and poetry by authors who, as of publication in 2005, were under the age of 23.  Some of the writing is clunky, but all of the pieces are earnest, engaging, and well worth reading. There is an old blog about the project. And a portion of the proceeds from the book sales goes to GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network.

Pretty Please

Hi folks, I could use some help. I'll even ask nicely: Please, would you be so kind as to rack your brain with me?

Can you think of any Young Adult or Middle Grade novels that take place in the Bay Area? I am thinking specifically East Bay (as in Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda, San Leandro or the surrounding burbs), but San Francisco proper is fine too. 

Most California stories that I can think of take place in the great sunny Southern portion of the state, you know, in a split-level ranch home....

Amazon sucks...

...but they don't want anybody else to.

Then sign the petition here.

(But at least Adidas still wants our support!)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Jenny Han Contest



So here is the contest. It is twofold.

1. In the comments section or via email, tell me your favorite thing(s) about summer-- by way of HAIKU! For those who don't know, a haiku is a poem made up of three lines, of five, seven, and five syllables.

2. Spread the word about the contest on your own blog or tell a friend or something, and tell me all about your efforts when you submit your entry.

for example:

bathing suit tan lines
i do not mind them at all
in fact i like them

I mentioned this contest on my blog ___! (insert blog name here)

See how easy that was? And it took all of two minutes. You can do it too!

You have until April 20th. You can email me your summer haiku at jenny at jennyhanwrites dot com. Or, leave it here in the comments. I will publish the lucky winner's poem on this blog, or I won't, if maybe you are shy and don't want me to.

Good luck, dear readers!

xoxo Jenny Han


burnt skin bubbles dry
peel off in long see through sheets
like glue hands of yore


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Boner Etiquette

We seriously read this poem in class tonight. My MFA class. We read it and discussed it. Seriously. It was some kind of awesome.

Boner Etiquette
by Jeffrey McDaniel

Please: be kind to boners. Nothing
ruins an evening quicker than catching
a glimpse of a demoralized boner
sobbing into his foreskin. Remember
the boner is always half full. Most
boners sleep upside down in caves,
ready to flutter into the world
at the dropp of a bra strap. Boners
move in packs—rarely will you see one
wandering alone in a train station.
Look closer and you’ll usually find
a second boner bobbing nearby. But
it’s the lone boner, the Oswald boner,
you must watch out for. Whatever
you do, don’t challenge it. Don’t
stare it directly in the eye.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

My Nephew's Smarter Than Your Nephew

My nephew is 9 1/2 and absolutely adorable. In addition to being adorable, he is also brilliant. Of course I am biased...but please, just ignore that fact for a moment and go with me here. Seriously, the kid is sophisticated in thought, although, I admit, not yet in action (he still likes to smack his sister when she talks too much and often trips over his own, giant feet).

At a thrift store near my house I found him a book called Maximum Boy: The Hijacking of Manhattan by Dan Greenburg. I thought this was a perefct title because this summer he will finally be old enough to visit me in New York City.
I tucked him in (and after having to explain that he could not play his Nintendo DS while I read to him becuase 1. it was rude and 2. it was important to focus on one thing at a time) read him two chapters. The book was not terribly interesting for me, but he was really into it and that made it an awesome book in my eyes. The names of the characters made him giggle (things like Shmegeggi and Poopenstein).

Then, I told him he could play his Nintendo DS until he fell asleep (I'm the Auntie, I get to do things like that instead of forcing him to go to bed at a reasonable hour like a responsible adult should). After about 20 minutes I heard his cute little voice calling my name, "Auntie, I'm bored. Will you read me another chapter?" What! Unlimited Nintendo DS is this kids dream in life! And he wants me to read him more of this silly book! Uh, okay. So I read him two more chapters and then turned off the lights.

The next day I expected him to have lost interest in the book, but no! He finds me and his Grandma sitting outside and walks over with the book and says, "Auntie. Read." Well, okay then. As a teacher, I could not help but insist that he summarize what had already transpired so as to catch Grandma up. His summary was succinct and precise. I love this kid! Did I mention he is in Special Education and diagnosed ADHD? Grumble, grumble, stupid school system, grumble. Anyway, I finish the book, and he loves it. He wants the next one in the series. We go to the book store (this is a kid who got to play hooky from school to hang out with me becuase I was only in town for a few days and I told him I would take him anywhere he wanted and we went to the bookstore). Unfortunately, the series is out of print.

Instead, I bought us a copy of Boyds Will Be Boyds: Get Well Soon or Else by Sarah Weeks, who will be my teacher next Fall.

My mother was driving, so as soon as I got in the car I started reading to him (as a nerdly little kid I trained myself to be able to read in a moving car and not get sick). The book starts right in the middle of a conversation between the protagonist and Fink, about how they do not want to see their teacher in a nightgown. Through the conversation it is revealed that they are thinking about this because of their upcoming 5th grade, week-long, camping trip. At about the third page it provides a few sentences of exposition about who the main charatcer is and what his relationship is to Fink. From the backseat I hear, "Auntie, that sentence you just read should have been the first sentence. Becuase when it started I didn't know who was talking or who he was talking to. But now I know they're friends. So, it should have said..." And then, from memory, he recites the sentence I just read and creates a seemless transition to the first paragraph of the book. It was an awesome revision.

Did I mention he's brilliant?

Now, I don't think I will tell my teacher that a 9 1/2 year old kid revised her work, but I do know that his words have certainly answered the question I posed last week about how to start the first chapter of my novel!

Thanks, dude. Auntie loves you.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Questions of Form and Genre

In my poetry class we just finished reading 
The Collected Works of Billy the Kid by Michael Ondaatje.
(3 1/2 Scoops)
It is written in a very interesting hybrid form and uses multiple voices, many of which go unidentified, to piece together the myth of Billy the Kid.  It explores the unknowability of others and what is lost and gained in the mythologizing of a man. The book was originally classified as Poetry and somewhere along the line its categorization shifted to Fiction. This raised the questions, what does this reveal about us as readers? And as writers?  I was intrigued by the responses from the poets in the room, because this is a fairly routine type of discussion in the realm of Writing for Children: What is YA? Who decides? What does it mean? It did feel nice to get to brag that in the Young Adult Section an author's entire body of work is side by side, regardless of genre classification. We still might be seen as the underdogs in the world of capital L- Literature, but at least we have one up on those authors that feel pressured to write under specific genre guidelines. In general, I find the debate over labels, classifications, and categories unnecessary chatter.  Yes, there are expectation of a genre, but with strong writing a reader will figure out the rules with which the author is asking them to engage with the the text in front of them.  All the other issues are ones of consumerism, marketing tactics, and how many steps the book buyer needs to walk in the big box bookstores.  

In preparation for next weeks discussion of Italo Calvino and Lydia Davis I just read a eulogy written of Calvino by Gore Vidal in which I found this wonderful quote: 

In Calvino's case, the American newspaper obituaries were perfunctory and incompetent... Surprisingly, Time and Newsweek, though each put him on the "book page," were not bad, though one thought him "surrealist" and the other a "master of fantasy"; he was, of course, a true realist, who believed "that only a certain prosaic solidity can give birth to creativity: fantasy is like jam; you have to spread it on a solid piece of bread. If not, it remains a shapeless thing, like jam, out of which you can't make anything."

Not only does this show that labels are usually wrong and, by nature, minimize a work, but it also provides amazing advice for the creative writer in an genre: that there must always be a foundation of truth underneath all writing, regardless of genre expectations or experimentation with new forms.

Little Red Riding Hood hits 2009