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

Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Thing I (still) Love...

Today I noticed a spatter of coral peeking out in my garden.
My amaryllis, the one an un-named superhero karate-chopped a while ago, is blooming again.

The emergency work I did, dividing it and babying it and making sure it survived, worked!
It also bloomed last year, but quite honestly, a friendly dog visitor decided it was tempting and chopped away at the foliage, so I didn't have much hope for it returning this spring.

*I love dogs and superheros as much as flowers, so I didn't over-worry about it.

TWO blooms, and counting!

You may read my tale of Superhero and Flower in combat, if you missed it previously, RIGHT HERE.

Friday, March 28, 2014

STILL WRITING by Dani Shapiro

Do you collect every inspirational writing book, every craft book, every This is How to Do It book about creating novels?

I almost do.


This is a new one I may have to add to my collection. My friend Barbara O'Connor first mentioned Dani Shapiro's book, and of course I reserved it that very day from my library. Weeks ago. It finally arrived.
I checked it out yesterday and opened it right up. Already I love it.

I love the idea of writers as eavesdroppers, always have. Eudora Welty's quote about "Now talk!" cracks me up.  The one about listening to grown people, how she would sit between two people in the car as they set off for a Sunday afternoon ride and say, "Now talk."

I always assumed it was mostly Southerners who loved to eavesdrop. (And Southern writers most of all!)

And here's Dani Shapiro, raised in New Jersey, talking about that very thing:

"...I spent my childhood straining to hear. With no siblings to distract me, I had plenty of time, and eavesdropped and snooped in every way I could devise. I lurked outside doorways, crouched on staircase landings. I fiddled with the intercom system in our house, attempting to tune in to rooms where one or both of my parents might be... I didn't know that this spying was the beginning of my literary education. That the need to know, to discover, to peel away the surface was a training ground for who and what I would grow up to become."

Shapiro also has a lot to say about modern-day distractions. The internet, of course.
So now I'll take her advice, move away from my computer, and read, then write.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Character Names

You know how much I love collecting names, right?

I tell the kids at my School Visits that I have an entire notebook filled with potential character names. And I'm always looking for more.


(Her friend's name was Story.)

And Gertie! I love Gertie!

My latest link, just discovered?

The hot new names. 
Except guess what's on the New Baby Name Style Wave---
Yep, an old name making a comeback. 
(I won't hold my breath waiting for Augusta...)

Here are a few previous posts on The Name Thing.
Yes, I do obsess...

Friday, March 21, 2014

Writing Advice via Meg Cabot

While I was googling Meg Cabot to get a link to share, I happened upon this very basic How To Write a Book blogpost. 
From ages ago, in website years. 
But most of her tips hold up quite well!
And she's funny, of course.
For example:

But one thing you should NOT do is say to a writer, “I don't know how you find the time to write. I just have too many friends and social engagements ever to get around to it.” Because that is basically calling the writer a giant loser with no friends.
Please don't do this. Thank you.
10. If you have made the time to sit down and complete your novel, you are 100% ahead of most people out there. Pat yourself on the back.

Interestingly, oddly, one bit of advice is to know the ending of your story before you start to write it. I think that's good advice. Generally.
Though of course, whether you like it or not, that ending may change along the way. Sorry to tell you that.

(And thanks to Joyce and Carol, two Facebook writer friends, for sharing this great quote.)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Novel in Your Closet?

For all those wonderful aspiring writers who ask me How Can I Get Started?
Check out this post by Mary Jakcsch, and others.
This is pretty much it, in a nutshell.

The first draft is the fastest, and invariably the most important. In the first draft, I write for myself, and always with the door closed. No one ever sees those words.
The first draft is me getting out of my own way. In this draft I write as fast as I can without stopping. If there’s divine inspiration in writing, this is where I find it.
The next draft is revision. I usually spend longer here than I do on the first. This is where I’m massaging my meaning and making things flow for the reader.
The final draft is a polish, where I make my words sing in their intended key.
In the first draft I get it said, in the second I say what I mean, in the third I say it well.

Except I'd have to add, the next DRAFTS ARE REVISION.
I've never known a writer who could revise in one draft. Or three, for that matter.
Come to think of it, I've never known one who could get that first draft down in one quick writing. 

Here's the link:
There are some really great ideas from the likes of Elizabeth George et al. in that blogpost. Go ahead, click on over.

And I'm totally stealing the picture.

Good luck!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Excellent WRITING TIPS for all

While searching for something else, I found this.
Often that happens, doesn't it?

I wish I knew who said it first, but I'll share here.
I'm taking this excellent advice myself. If anyone can give credit to the original writer, please do. Don't want to steal someone else's words, but it's good advice.


Adjectives if 2 or 3, make 1 or 2

“Magic 2”: If a big paragraph, delete 2 sentences. Each sentence, delete 2 words. Short sentences, delete 2 syllables

Beginnings of each chapter!

People rarely use names in conversation. Leave them out!
(I never use names in conversation. Well, hardly ever. And it bugs me when they're used repeatedly in dialog. Read it aloud and you'll see how awkward they sound!)

Cliches and junk words (“well, just, even”).

Thursday, March 6, 2014

THE GOLDFINCH by Donna Tartt

At last.
I finished this book.
I can't tell you how many pages I read-- although of course I could look it up-- because I read it on my Kindle app.

I will say that it was long. Very long.

Or as Stephen King cautions: Don't drop it on your foot.

Not truly long in a bad way long.
Yes, I agree with MANY others who've said it needed tighter editing.
But reading it as an ebook meant I could speed through the draggy parts.

Pity the poor friends who listened to it. Every single word. Then I may have cried Foul!
My friends who listened mostly thought it was overwritten and under-edited.
I kind of agree but did love (or at least like a lot) so much of the book.

One of the best reviews I've seen comes from Colette Bancroft, Tampa Bay Times book editor. Best of the year, she says!
Here's a bit of her review that I particularly agree with:

"Tartt's description of the blast's aftermath and of the night Theo spends alone in his family's apartment, frantically trying to find out what happened to his mother, is a shattering tour de force."

(Click here to read all that review. Go ahead and read it if you have finished The Goldfinch. Because if you're one who doesn't like to know a thing about a story in advance, there are some spoilers.)

I also adore this review from the New York Times, written by none other than STEPHEN KING.
Many parts make me smile, but especially this:
"To write a novel this large and dense is equivalent to sailing from America to Ireland in a rowboat, a job both lonely and exhausting."

 I was a Donna Tartt fan from her first book, which I totally enjoyed. The second, not so much, but I read it. And I eagerly awaited The Goldfinch. I really was taken by her narrator Theo's thoughts on what art means. I loved the scenes that sped along, the "museum scene" quoted above, for example.
(Right now I can't think of other examples. Maybe that means there weren't any...)

I so wanted to go to the Frick to see the exhibit. Alas, my travel plans were thwarted by the weather.
You can click here to go to the museum's site. Be sure to listen to the audio. Fascinating.

A few thoughts from friends who've read the book:

At several points just when I thought it was really slow and boring, something happened to engage my interest again.  And so it went as I read on my Kindle.  Then today I got to the end.  And while I wanted it to end in an engaging manner, instead it ended in a dull, boring, preachy manner.
People who complain about the fact that it is 770 pages obviously have never read the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. I never feel those are slow and boring, even though some are over 1000 pages.

And this, from a cyber reading buddy who listened:
I actually listened to it on audible - yes all 32 1/2 hours. 
It's been a month since I finished Goldfinch and it's still lingering in my mind.

From my writer friend who reads a lot. Thoughtfully reads.
I was so taken by Boris and have seen many comments that he will live on. 
I loved the many many sub climaxes, the sinister plunges & over all plotting. It did, suddenly, become a thriller.

So there you have it! Maybe more than you ever cared to know. Feel free to comment. I'd love to hear what others think. 

Read on!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

World Read Aloud Day

It's not to late to plan your Read Aloud Day. 
(Check that link for lots of goodies.)

Wednesday, March 5th-  
All sorts of fun happenings! 

I've followed a few bloggers who've participated in this annual event.

Okay, maybe it's my librarian humor. But that post cracks me up. Love the kids' reasons for enjoying being read to. Relaxing, restful to the eyes. I couldn't agree more, Mr. Winner and students!

Though it's probably too late to find an author to read with, mark this site for next year. I'll bet Kate Messner creates her list again.

My friend Aimee Reid's blog is all about reading with your family, with your classroom, with a friend.
Here's my 2-cents worth on the topic.

(Could this be a younger me, beautifully depicted, reading aloud? Or maybe it's Glory reading her own story! Thanks again to my friends in Pelahatchie, MS, for last year's great visit.)