Books -- reading and writing.
Home, cooking, the weather.
And whatever connections I can make between these chapters of my life.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Best Book Blogs?

Great, extensive, useful list of Book Blogs right here. The list is broken into categories: Picture books, Teens and Tweens, etc. This is all you'll ever need to follow in order to know all there is about writing, reading, sharing kids' books.

Bookmark the list and try to get through it in an afternoon... Impossible!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Quote for the Day

If there is a writing Easy Street, he's got it nailed.

"The road to Easy Street goes through the dumps."
John Madden
(as quoted on Sunday Night Football, Giants vs. Cardinals)

Related post: Writing Quotes

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Spiders in Teacups and Swans on Tables

Just in time for Halloween. Check out Play With Your Food and make some critters like my friend Julie's.

Photo courtesy of Juliette Eastwick

And these from her co-conspirator:

Photos courtesy of Susan Tinanoff

Or if you prefer to eat your table decorations this Halloween, try a ladyfinger cookie decorated with red almond nails or a delicious chow mein noodle black spider, recipes and instructions from Ghoulish Goodies.

Happy Halloween fun to all you creative types out there in blogland!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Writing Inspiration...

Well, I just love this. Made my day. Many thanks to author Barbara O'Connor for her terrific contribution to the National Gallery of Writing.

And I know just what your reader means. I so appreciate his writing tip:

Erik to Mrs. O'Connor: Thank you for sharing your writing techniques with us. My technique is to stare at trees.

Thanks, Erik. Now, back to staring at the really great trees outside my window...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

New York Times Book Review

Often a book review appeals to me more than the book. With good writing and an interesting topic, I learn all I need to know just from the review. That's the case with Ben Yagoda review of The Tyranny of E-Mail. I may or may not look at the book, but I learned a lot from the review.

1. The "average corporate worker" gets about 200 e-mail messages a day.
2. 62% of Americans read and answer work e-mail on vacations. (Bet it's more than that!)
3. E-mail is highly prone to being misinterpreted. (Oh, really?)
4. Don't "debate complex or sensitive matters by e-mail." (Again, this shouldn't be news to anybody.)
5. E-mail is an instantaneous, demanding, borderline addictive medium.

That's what the author of the book has to say.

Yagoda has some thoughts on the topic also.
E-mail has "flaws and limitations, but they have also served as cleansing agents for prose..they may disinhibit inappropriate declarations, they also inhibit dull, abstract wordiness."

Took me a minute to work that out, but I think I agree.

The review concludes that "every day I get a half-dozen or more fine e-mail messages: short, (often) witty, (usually) pointed, (sometimes) thoughtful, and always written in that correspondent's particular register."

I suspect I get a few that are just as witty, pointed, thoughtful, and certainly written in a way that there's no mistaking the writer.

Maybe not all bad, this addiction of ours?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Not Millionaires...

I'm laughing while reading this posting over at the Southern Writers' Blog. Read the whole thing before deciding to take this advice because there are a lot of good things about writing, many mentioned by the end of the blog. But, still, there's truth in what poster Sarah Shaber says:

A young man at a school where I was speaking once asked me how much of the $23.95 price of my newest book did I get to keep. Oh, I said, maybe $2.00. He passed my book to another student with a look that indicated he’d be going into a different business. Novelist Lawrence Block, who’s written many books on writing, likes to tell anyone who is interested in becoming an author that they “should take two aspirins, lie down in a dark room, and hope the feeling goes away.”

Of course, don't a lot of us know that feeling's not going away any time soon, even with aspirin?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Libraries I Have Loved

None of the group touring our alma mater on a recent fall weekend remembered that much about the Wilson Library and its resources. Details were fuzzy. We poked around the Rare Books room, wandered up and down stairs, tried to picture the place filled with undergraduates. But it is a different place now, and it's been a while since any of us studied for that last exam.

The beautifully renovated Rare Books room looked vaguely familiar as a place we'd hide out and study during exam week or possibly a place for a nap cloistered behind a study carrel. On this October day, the words closed study and stacks and Shakespeare 101 were bandied about like the fading memories they are. But the outside of the Wilson Library looked familiar and even a few of the nooks and crannies inside.

We spent some time in the Rare Books room and took a picture with our forbidden cellphone until the librarian hushed SOME of the group up and sent him outside to finish his phone call.

Among the displays- a glass case of banned books.

And this Ray Bradbury quote:
“You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”

Related posts: Beautiful Bookmarks One Good Librarian

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

More Bumper Stickers

Seen on a bumper sticker (Florida, of course):

Am I getting older or has the supermarket begun playing great music...

(For past bumper sticker viewings, click here and here and here.)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Calpurnia Tate

Yes, I know. Everybody and his brother has weighed in on this first novel by Jacqueline Kelly. Set in Texas at the turn of the century, the book is told by an 11-year-old sister with 6 brothers. Her interests are scientific, something she shares with her slightly eccentric grandfather. She's intrigued with Darwin's Origin of the Species. She fills a notebook with observations on her own natural world. She's a likable character, no shrinking violet, who holds her own with those brothers.

Although I don't know a lot about Texas or this time period, I do read historical fiction, and I've read a lot about writing historical fiction. And yet I'm still not sure if this book will appeal to a wide range of young readers. I know I loved it. I'd love to know if actual kids are reading it.

There's a good discussion going on over at the Mock Newbery blog run by the folks at School Library Journal. At least one of the bloggers thinks Calpurnia is too boring to win the Newbery. Scroll down that blog to read about The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, but don't miss some of the other books they're scratching their heads about. I always love the pre-January dither writers, readers and librarians get themselves into over this very prestigious award. Let the Newbery chatter begin!

Here's a passage describing Calpurnia's terror at performing in her piano recital, an event I totally related to (having once fainted dead away at a recital held in a 90+ degree Women's Club hall where my friends and I were performing in the heat of a Mississippi summer):

Miss Brown walked to the edge of the stage...She gave a small speech about this splendid occasion, about Culture making inroads in Caldwell County...and how she hoped the parents there would appreciate her hard work in molding their children to value the Finer Things in Life, since we were still living, after all, almost on the edge of the Wild Frontier. She sat down to more applause, and then we got up, one by one, in varying states of misplaced confidence or paralyzing terror.

That's probably Calpurnia's last musical performance, but she's on a different career path. Her wise grandfather's advice often conflicts with the norms of the day, which can present a dilemma for Calpurnia. When her grandfather tells her it's more important to understand something than to like it, that's a lesson we all could take away.

Lucky for readers, we get to watch her evolution, hear her observations of the times and places around her. Sounds like a winner to me. But I'd still like to talk to an actual reader under the age of 20 who gets this one. I hope there are a lot of them out there, passing the book around, admiring the very appealing book jacket (check out the animals scrolling at the bottom!), noting the differences between Calpurnia's world and their own.

Although by the book's end, I still wasn't completely convinced that Calpurnia wouldn't end up like her mother, with a brood of young Texans and tea parties to plan. And perhaps that was the most realistic part of the story. At that time, in that place, it did seem likely that Calpurnia Tate might not follow her dreams and her grandfather's footsteps, and perhaps that's what Jacqueline Kelly wants us to come away with. Though after reading this very well written and certainly thoroughly researched novel, readers will surely feel if anybody could do it, this heroine could.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Blood on the Forehead

Scrambling around looking for writing inspiration early this morning, I pulled out this book of writing advice, novel excerpts and short stories by YA/ Middle grade writer M.E. Kerr:

A few quotes, worth sharing.

Cut! Cut! Cut! Your reader has a life.

Easy reading is hard writing.

When a writer chooses names for characters, she has to believe they couldn't be called anything else.

A novel gives you a legitimate way to have a little world of your own creation.

(Quoting Somerset Maugham)
"There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately no one knows what they are."

And my own personal favorite discovery this morning?

After about thirty pages, you should find your voice (or voices), and when you do, your characters will begin to speak and act on their own.

Whew. Thirty pages. Don't give up on those voices too soon.

Related post: Voice

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Quaker Motto Calendar

Please note: there are newer entries, with updated information for ordering! Click here for 2013 info.

This morning, a few days late, I turned to October in my favorite calendar, and the quote seemed apt. I'd just spent several sunny afternoons last week watching the monarchs migrate through North Carolina.

Here's a Nathaniel Hawthorne quotation from October's calendar:

Happiness is a butterfly, which, when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you sit down quietly may light upon you.

In 1884 Thomas Scattergood initiated these little gems known to many as "Quaker Motto Calendars." My sisters-in-law have continued the family tradition of compiling them. Although the old address still works for a while, this year there's a new address for ordering the 2010 calendars.

THE MOTTO CALENDARPO Box 1383 Pottstown, PA 19464

They are the perfect size to fit into a large Christmas or greeting card. They are exceptionally realistically priced:
25 envelopes and calendars for $28.00
(without envelopes, $25.00)

If you order 50, the price goes down to $46 and $40! You can order as few as 10 ($15) but why would you?
And if you order soon, you are assured delivery by early December.

And, for my writing colleagues, they are perfect little calendars to tuck away near a desk or on a bulletin board where the sayings will inspire you every day. Like this one from September:

Don't cry because it is over. Smile because it happened.
Dr. Seuss

And here's a sneak preview - February 2010:

Monday, October 12, 2009


How hard is it for you to begin a writing project? I know, I know-- tons of words have already been written on this topic. But I'm beginning anew, and beginnings are hard, especially if you don't know where they are going or how they'll get there. So do you put characters on the pages and let them sort it out? Outline first? I do a little of each. (Any excuse to outline or diagram- after all I was the Queen of Sentence Diagramming in 8th grade English class...)

This morning I opened a book by Carole Burns- OFF THE PAGE: Writers Talk about Beginnings, Endings, and Everything in Between- and reread how some of my favorite writers bring their stories to life.

Alice McDermott mostly writes about Irish Catholics. While doing a reading, she once was asked "Is this your family you're writing about?" and from the back of the room, someone shouted, "No, it's mine!"

Now off I go with a new set of characters, created totally from my imagination, with a few composites plucked from friends, family, newspapers, kids I once knew.

So, all you writers out there- where do you begin? Characters? Outlines? Venn diagrams? Spiderwebs? Journaling? A time or a place? Reading everything you can get your hands on about the most obscure subject in the world? OK, then where did that topic appear from? A box of newspaper clippings like Elizabeth Glaver's? And then, like Joanna Scott, do you get to that arbitrary point- hers is page 100- and tell yourself that "no matter what happens I'm going to finish that book...I have to see it out."

Related post: Plot Will follow

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Two Favorite Quotes for Today

"I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day."
E.B. White

"Songwriters talk a lot about 'writing' songs, but it seems to me like I spend most of my time 'waiting' for songs. Writing is just something I do to kill the time until they get here..."
Iris DeMent

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Challenge of Plotting

Last week on the Southern Writers' Blog, my day was up. I was at a loss for words (truly). So I wrote about something I'd like to know more about: I wrote a few words about Plotting.

It's best to learn from the experts, right? So I'm rereading a Writer Magazine article about plot, featuring Dennis Lehane, Gayle Lynds and Stuart Woods, three who know of which they speak. Dennis is in charge of the Eckerd College Writers in Paradise conference- a fantastic week in St. Petersburg, Florida, in January just when the weather should be at its best. He spoke to us last year throughout the week, and let me just say I was hanging on most of his words. So when I found the Writer Magazine interview I'd saved, I reread it. And it is full of gems.

Lehane on plotting:
I put a character on the page and I have him want something-it could be as simple as a cup of coffee-and he goes out to get that thing. And hopefully, he bumps into another character and then another and conflict will gradually develop. I'm not a good plotter in the early stage of a novel. The trick is to remind yourself that no one's ever going to see those early stages of a book, so let yourself loose and let your characters loose and see what happens. Then go back and rewrite it all to make it look fluid.

Whew. Great advice. Now I can begin something new, messy and disorganized, without fear of anyone peeping...

Related posts: Writers in Paradise, 2009
The Dreaded Plot

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Twitter/ Tweet/ Twriter

OK, I'm not a twitterer/ tweeter/ twriter, but I loved this comment:

Twitter has been called "The Seinfeld of the Internet — a site about nothing."

It came from a very old email I just uncovered, sent from Ann Wylie's newsletter. The newsletter basically has nothing to do with the kind of writing I read, or write for that matter. But I frequently uncover a gem of advice, so I keep on reading. Even if I don't open the July email until October...

And actually, I did find the greatest site by following her link to Word Spy, the Word Lovers' Guide to New Words:
(Forget Twitter, there's a place I could spend/ waste a whole lot of time.)

"Social notworking
pp. Surfing a social networking site instead of working. Also: social not-working — social notworker n."

Friday, October 2, 2009

A Good Blog is Hard to Find

Every six weeks or so, my assignment over at the group blog made up of some really great Southern writers is due. Today was that day. The topic this "term" was book signings or writing process. Or whatever we want to blog about, writing wise. It's a stretch to say I wrote about my writing process. Actually, I went for the "whatever" option. Come to think about it, I could have written about book signings but that would have been from the other side of the desk, from my librarian days. Hmmm. That might be a worthy topic for next time.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

It's Cybils Time Again

October 1 is the date to begin nominating your favorite kids' book.
Check out the categories and get out there and nominate your favorite book of the year. This is an award worth watching in the Kids' Book World. Nominations by actual reader/bloggers- you can't beat that.

Related post: Last year's winners