“I would be the most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.” ― Anna Quindlen

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Words that don't exist in the English language

I've been thinking a lot about this blog lately. I won't pretend that I'll be posting more, but for my own references and for those who might also appreciate this, from housecats on imgfave:

Mostly writing irritates me anymore, creative writing that is. I hope that changes soon, because I'm trying. But even when creative writing brings me down, I will always love words and language.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Finding the Right Book

Last night a good friend of mine and I had a discussion about my son's teacher (and really, any teacher) who has their little pet projects, passions they want to pass on to their students, whether it be about math, science, reading, writing, etc. Learning, too.

I've seen a lot of this particular strategy for such things: lots and lots of homework.

As the wife of a junior high math teacher, I totally get that teachers are in a huge, pressure-filled bind. They are teaching to the tests (NCLB, bah) and have their hands tied in other ways, ways that confine them to how, exactly, they can teach. The list of "do-nots" is gigantic and only growing.

When speaking to my son's kindergarten teacher last year, she lamented the half-day schedule because there was just so much to teach these kids. She also expressed a desire to only have her kids leave her at the end of the year loving school. And while there's only so much you can do (especially these days), I appreciated her sentiments and recognized her limitations. She had 18 boys in a class of 26, I believe, and 6-8 of her students were English learners or otherwise needed special attention.

Anyway, so my son loved school last year. He had his days, but he enjoyed it. He'd bug me in the morning, "is it time to go yet?"

This year, however, not so much.

Eric and I had to split up for Back to School night, and Eric took Jason's class. His teacher said something to the effect of being laid-back in the area of homework, but hot damn the woman sends home a lot of homework.

Again, I get the pressure. But crap.

I want my kid to, if not love, like learning. I want him to like reading. I don't necessarily need book nerds, but I have a firm belief in the power of reading. And learning. And not just out of obligation, but out of curiosity and love. And I don't believe that piling on the homework and requiring a certain amount of reading per week is necessarily beneficial to this. For a first grader, 20 minutes a night is a lot of reading.

(and to be fair, this was more my daughter's first grade teacher's encouragements)

Because I feel this is a lot to ask and I don't want them to become discouraged or resentful, I only ask one book a night, more if they want. My daughter is asked to read at least an hour a week this year, but she loves books. She's in second grade reading fourth grade books. Asking her to read is no problem at all.

But it's different for my son, and I think demanding a set amount of reading per week is too much and will actually discourage him. I won't have that. It's also not as if he doesn't like reading books, but it's not an everyday interest for him. That's okay.

So my friend and I discussed this and began to focus on finding the right book. This is somewhat a new concept to me. I don't remember needing "the right book." I just read. I'm hardly always reading, but I enjoy it thoroughly. My husband, however, needed "the right book." My sister hated books until she discovered Twilight (hey, whatever right?). I gave up on reading for some years until I came across Harry Potter (maybe i'll get into that sabbatical thing later).

Jason seems to enjoy anything funny. I'm finding that funny books for kids are great gateway books. For the older crowd, junior high and up, subversive books seem to work great (per my friend who teaches 7th grade English). But it's difficult to find books for kids--boys--his age. Their attention span isn't exactly long. Suggestions, anyone?

Sometimes, if there's nothing he's interested in, I just keep the reading per night to the instructions on his (math, writing) homework. It's practice, and that's all they're really concerned with right now.

But back to the "right book" thing. My friend is in the process of teaching her students to find "the right book," beginning with throwing a pile of books in front of them and asking them to simply look at the cover, the title, and the summary and picking out which ones appeal to them most. No reading is required right away, just observation. I think it's a fabulous idea. Fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels, magazines, anything.

I love this stuff and now I want to begin building a library for my kids as they get older so they have ready access to good, engaging books.

I'm excited to read them, too :D

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Banned Books Week is Almost Here!

September 25th - October 2nd

*confetti* *balloons* *cake* *ice cream* *cocktails*

Because I don't have the patience or the time (i'm pushing it now, people), I won't go into the reasons why, but suffice it to say censorship bites big time and I'm totally excited for BBW.

That said, I know censorship is an extremely complex subject that ought to be discussed. So I want to. Just not right now, but totally later.

My dream is to one day write a book that will be banned. I already have a surefire idea for that, but it's waaay controversial. Scary. I dunno if my skin is quite that thick, but yanno. Some of these writers weren't even trying. The reasons they were banned weren't for atrocious writing, nono. Other things.

It's stupid things, really.

Parents, stop shielding your children so much. And if you feel you must (who am I to judge--I get concerns about age appropriateness), at least allow other parents the freedom to choose what they feel is best for their kids.

Knowledge is good. Powerful. Sometimes I think those who censor feel it's too powerful.

ANYWAY, to celebrate BBW I'm going to suggest that we all buy at least one of the following books:

(YA books are highlighted)

1. “TTYL; TTFN; L8R, G8R (series), by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: Nudity, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs

2. “And Tango Makes Three” by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
Reasons: Homosexuality
  • *more children's book than YA, but still.
3. “The Perks of Being A Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Anti-Family, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs, Suicide

4. “To Kill A Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee
Reasons: Racism, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

5. Twilight (series) by Stephenie Meyer
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group

6. “Catcher in the Rye,” by J.D. Salinger
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

7. “My Sister’s Keeper,” by Jodi Picoult
Reasons: Sexism, Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs, Suicide, Violence

8. “The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things,” by Carolyn Mackler
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

9. “The Color Purple,” Alice Walker
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

10. “The Chocolate War,” by Robert Cormier
Reasons: Nudity, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

Other books that have been banned, courtesy of The Huffington Post:

1) Merriam Webster and the American Heritage Dictionaries in an elementary school in 2010 for its definition of oral sex. Reason? Not age appropriate.


2) John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath--not just for profanity, but because it painted the country in a bad light.

(don't even get me started on that)

3) Various Toni Morrison books, incl: Beloved and The Bluest Eye. Morrison has a way with writing amazing books, but people are offended by the gratuitous violence therein.

Still, I learned so much from Beloved alone. It's so important to read these books.

4) Freaking Anne Frank's Diary. (!!)


It was banned in 2010 "from a Virginia school for 'sexually explicit' and 'homosexual' themes."

(homosexual themes? where the crap did they find that? i'd say the same for the 'sexually explicit' thing, but i know it's because she talks about her period and liking Peter. i know, i know. sigh.)

5) Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time because it talks about religion in a way some parents didn't want their children to be exposed to. Whether this is pro- or anti-religion, I don't know. I confess I haven't read the book. Yet.

And the funniest book ever banned (just in one school from what I saw)

Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. A book about the censorship of books.

Helloooo irony.

Just the tip of the iceberg, people. Chances are if it's a book, it's been challenged at least.

Harry Potter because of its witchcraft themes.

I mean, good gravy.

Go buy a banned book, yeah?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

My rogue novel

I don't know what to do with myself.

Some of y'all, esp from WDC, already know this. You've heard me complain and whine and go on and on about this.

You know about my novel. You've probably read a chapter or two or eight. Whatever I got to. You know the characters. You know the story line--or at least what it was the last time you read it.

This novel of mine will be the death of me. Srsly.

I don't want it to be. It's my baby. My characters are my imaginary friends. I talk with them all the time. They tell me things. I act it out when I'm alone to get the jist of where they're going. To get to know them better.

Yes, I do. Don't judge.

I write out their various scenes. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. Sometimes they tell me "omg, I forgot to tell you about this other girl. She's important. You should totally add her in."

And then I have another character to get to know.

I am not repeat: NOT an outline girl. This doesn't mean I don't get the wonders that are outlines. And don't you dare think I haven't tried. I have. A few times. The beginning is always fantastic and I get totes excited and then


I hit a wall.

WTF, I say? This doesn't work. What's her/his motivation? Does this logically make sense? Will people believe it? Is this something this character would do? Is it even relevant to the story, or can I leave it out? Can it just be quiet and only for me to know as I write the character? Is it stupid or am I just being too hard on myself?


I want to be the writer who's totes laid back and says "meh, I don't write outlines. I let the story reveal itself to me."

Mine won't effing do that.

Or when I get an idea of how it'll end, I worry it's even worth reading. Interesting? Thought-provoking?


I have a complex, y'all. At least it feels that way. I want to write a good story. I want it to be well written. I want people to talk about it. While I have a special place in my heart for Twilight (will discuss later), I don't want to write Twilight. I did, but I don't now. I repeat: I do NOT want to write another Twilight. Ugh.

And then I'll think "oh whatever, if the story is good the story is good."

But I want to be lauded for my writing too.

It's hard to do both for me. And so I'm stuck.

It would help if my characters spoke with me a bit more about how they want this whole thing to end. I have various ideas. I have various things I could integrate into the story. But it either feels like too much or too little. I've considered making short stories, but I haven't figured out how to yet. These are my characters and I'm obsessed. I even created Miis out of them. Which I totally recommend. It's great fun to have your Mii come up to bat on Wii Sports.


It's so bad. My complex should be in the DVM-IV. Though I dunno what it'd be called.

I can't write anything else. It's the most horrible kind of block I've ever experienced. If I could sign up for a creative writing course I SO WOULD. Deadlines help me sososo much.

It's a bit of a schizophrenic kind of thing. So many possibilities. My characters tell me so, so, so much. I don't know what to leave out and what to keep in or add. Who to leave out or keep in. I don't know how to make the story something worth reading. I keep hearing about tension and plot and progression and all of that totally valid stuff, but it's not there. Not that I can see.

And omg, doesn't this YA need a job? Isn't the MCs mama just a bit one-dimensional and, uhm, waaaay too much like my own mom? What about her daddy? The MC herself? Oh gods!

I've tried just writing without worrying. It works for a little while. I want to write a really great rough draft, but I hear that's impossible and SO not worth getting a migraine over. Truth is I don't know what most people's first drafts look like, and I'd like to know that they're all over the place and lacking almost everything but the basic idea.

What if my story sucks. I can't take that. Do you know how long I've had this in my brain? Well, at least two of the characters? One has evolved and even changed names, but my god. Sophomore year in high school. That was nearly fifteen years ago. I have to be nice to myself and consider my ten-year hiatus and the fact that everything to do with these characters and this story is all ripped up and all I've left is memory, but still.

Do you know how many drafts I've written of the first few chapters? RIDICULOUS.

I know I need to trust the story. I try to. Really. I just get caught up in stupid stuff. It took a long ass time to get the stink of Twilight off me, and in a few microscopic ways it's still there.

Still, you'd love my characters. I do.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The TBR shelf grows

I meant to read today. Really. Instead I got angry at things I refuse to discuss here (because this is supposed to be a HAPPY PLACE) and then I spent the rest of my time organizing picture files and some other stuff on my computer.

I know.


I'll give y'all a moment to contain your jealousy.

Annyway. I have two more books on my TBR shelf. The Truth About Forever may have to wait.

I've heard loads about Paranormalcy, Kirsten White's debut novel. I'm thinking I'll have to pick that up.

Then there's Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. Even though i'm kinda done with the whole werewolf thing. I just keep hearing so much good about it.

I can't write sci-fi and fantasy to save my life yet I'll eat it up as a reader. But it has to be realistic. Yanno, names and places and dialogue. If it's weird I won't get past the first page. My attention span prefers teh shiny.

That said, there is very little I've read in the mainstream YA world I liked. Loved Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak about a girl who cannot speak after a tragic event happens to her. Seriously good stuff.

I want to write mainstream YA. I loong to write it. It's in my blood.

Does anyone know of any good mainstream YA books they'd recommend? If it's something like Gossip Girl I will have to stop you there. Not for me. Deal Breaker.

Though I hear Pretty Little Liars is good.

I like stories that deal with the average kick ass girl. See Katniss Everdeen in Hunger Games--I mean, hello? Kick ass. I like underdogs.

You start giving me cliques and high maintenance drama queens and you're playing with fire. I can't take that shit. Couldn't in high school and can't now. I'm not even sure I could take a girl like Cher from the movie Clueless (love the movie, btw)--yanno, perfect blonde self-centered bombshell without a brain turns altruistic by the end of the story.


It's nice. It probably happens sometimes. But it's predictable. It's like taking the "ugly girl" who is in reality a gorgeous vixen with really bad glasses on. By the end of the book, someone has convinced her to wear contacts and a bit of blush and omg she's popular and confident and her life is so much better now that she is pretty and smart.

It was original the first time they did it, but it grew tired and formulaic.

I realize this isn't Gossip Girl or, probably, Pretty Little Liars. Then again, I don't know the first thing about those books. I should, I know. Maybe I'll do a little research and/or one of y'all can set me straight.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


I have a plan.

Five books this month. Three for sure. Four.

It's my birthday, people. At least in a few weeks. Good enough reason, yeah?

They are:

1-3) Hunger Games series.

Me and my skeptical self borrowed 1 and 2 from my SIL. Now I wish I had them because I need to reread, even though I read them first not too long ago.

This girl (me) doesn't retain information well nor does she pick up on most details on the first read.

It's been a crazy summer.

4) Forever by Judy Blume.

I was initially against even looking at this because I hear the name Judy Blume and for some reason associate it with Ramona Quimby. And while the various Ramona books were and are awesome and I'm introducing my seven-year-old (that's right!) to her, I'm not really in the mood anymore.

But I'm intrigued upon closer inspection of this book. A book written in 1975 is just as controversial now as it was then?

Oh hell yes.

5) The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen.

Okay. So, weird. I'm a TOTAL black sheep in this area and have a confession to make: I'm not a big Sarah Dessen fan. I first read her because I learned she was big (okay, huge) with the YA crowd and I wanted to know what her style was, her MO, her stories, what made her a success. I read This Lullaby and was, uhm, not incredibly impressed.

I'll admit the woman can write. It's clean. Squeaky clean. Not in a moral sense, but in a technical sense. Everything has a purpose. She ties up every single loose end. Her dialogue is believable and realistic.

But I felt as if Dessen slapped me in the face with her message (for lack of a better word--and please don't ask me what the message was. I'm exhausted, it's been a while, and someone has my copy right now).

It was just too clean. I need a little mess! Not too much, but a little. It doesn't seem real enough without a little mess.

I suppose I'm touchy about the message because my writing teacher pounded it into our heads that we needed to write with a message in mind. I am writing this book to prove...

And then, I couldn't write. It became about the message and not about the story.

Anyway, Sarah's books strike me as slightly formulaic. Kind of like how certain factors in every Nicholas whatshisface...oh! Sparks books are rather predictable. I could totally be wrong in my word choice there, but that's the impression I get.

But, that said, I have to respect her talent. I have to respect a writer who can command her audience the way she has. She has a following, a very loyal one. And a good friend of mine who has never, ever steered me wrong suggested I read one of Dessen's books while I visited last summer. I think it was Keeping the Moon. I liked it better than Lullaby. I read it in about two days, two busy days (keeping in mind that I didn't have any kids or husband or house to deal with while I visited).

So after reading a review of The Truth About Forever at Forever Young Adult, I figured I'd give her another go. Third time's the charm? Maybe I can force myself to fall in love and get what the big deal is.

Maybe. Maybe there's a good, cheap used version somewhere.

In the meantime I still need to get through The Book Thief. It's not that it's a bad book. So far it's interesting enough.

I'm just lazy.

Monday, August 2, 2010


You people make me blush. Really? I'm barely up and I have four followers. Four!

I suppose I should give y'all something.


This is not my first foray into the blogging world by far, but I've never talked about writing before, even though it's something I've done since I was six. I wish I could remember more about my first story, but it had something to do with a bear. Like, a teddy bear. But not.


I've loved writing ever since, but I don't remember much between third grade where we had some seriously hippie poet teach who would tell us we gave him goosebumps with our work (and oh how i wanted to give this man goosebumps...which sounds dirty now but totally wasn't) and my sophomore year in high school.

Though I'm positive there was something in between that. There had to be.

During my sophomore year I had this awesome English teacher (props to Mrs. Parker) who saw that I had some form of talent and encouraged me to write more and to wave goodbye to regular English classes. It didn't take me long after that to indulge myself in creative writing courses where I found myself writing YA stories. Probably because I was a YA. But still. It never really stopped. I think I'm hard-wired to write (mainstream) YA.

Then there came my decade long sabbatical. I don't want to get into it completely, but it included a dark day or three where I ripped up all my writing, my journals, my poems, etc. Everything.

Don't ever do that.

/deep breath.

Anyways, I want to talk writing YA (and just writing period) and reading and all sorts of good stuff like that. I'll be going back to school soon to get my English degree (and gasp become a teacher myself) so I'll probably talk a bit about what I'm doing there. Maybe--maybe--I'll even review, though I'll confess that it takes at least two reads for me to really digest the details of a book and I don't exactly read as often as I could/should. But I'll get into that later.

I dunno how regularly I'll post. There will undoubtedly be days where I will post a few times and then there will be a whole week that will go by with just one post.

Fair warning: There will probably be irreverency here. Talk about sex and violence and drug use and all of that. Not every book I will discuss will be YA, nor will the writing.

So, yeah. Welcome--hope you stick around <3