Tuesday, July 17, 2012

#ifbookswerereal and Honoring the Friends We Made in Books

I'm a Book Nerd.

I'm more than okay with that, it's a flag I fly high and with great pride.

But you can't get into the Society of Proud Book Nerds without some help from great people.  I was reminded of this when I read a poignantly written blog post by ONE FOR THE MURPHYS author, Lynda Mullaly Hunt on the Nerdy Book Club's blog.  She called it "The Year I Met Peter", and she describes how her sixth grade teacher, Mr. Christy, introduced her to Judy Blume's evergreen Peter and Fudge in TALES OF A FOURTH GRADE NOTHING and changed her life.  She spoke about Peter as if he were a friend she'd been waiting her whole school life to meet, and I knew EXACTLY what she meant.

It prompted me to think about my own childhood book friends.  As I contemplated, I was messing about on Twitter (oh! the technology, how she tempts me!) and I started tweeting about the characters I wish I'd met in real life, because they made such a huge impact on my life.

I wished I had made the toothpaste mural that Ramona made in her bathroom sink in Beverly Cleary's RAMONA AND HER MOTHER. #ifbookswerereal

Looking back, my mother and Ramona's mom were much alike, and well, I was kind of like Ramona.  It makes a lot more sense through the lens of my life experience now.  That toothpaste decoration represented all the times I knew I was doing something I shouldn't, but the creative muse had stolen my reason and I was left holding a metaphorical empty toothpaste tube and wondering how to get all the toothpaste back in.

I always wished Betty MacDonald's MRS. PIGGLE-WIGGLE would invite me over for a tea party.  #ifbookswerereal  

She was round and squishy and kind and wonderful to strays - animals and children alike.  She reminded me of all of my grandmothers rolled into one + Magic. (Although I suspected that my grandmothers all had some magic squirreled away in their powder-scented hugs.)

At 14, I wanted to be Ponyboy, Sodapop, and Darry's little sister in S.E. Hinton's THE OUTSIDERS. #ifbookswerereal

I couldn't talk to real boys at that time...like...AT ALL. So, the dangerous and downtrodden gang of boys in THE OUTSIDERS made me feel like I could help them and they could accept me.  In my heart, I felt sure that if I'd been there, I could've saved Dally and Johnny.

I wanted to marry Adam Trask in John Steinbeck's EAST OF EDEN. #ifbookswerereal

I discovered so much to love AND hate about the characters in Steinbeck's opus. Steinbeck gave me such insight into the truth about family and relationships. Here was Adam, the man who had the best intentions and seeks the perfect life with the perfect family, and I just wanted to show him that it didn't have to be perfect, it could just...be.

I wanted to have coffee and commiserate with Garp after the car accident in John Irving's masterpiece THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP. #ifbookswerereal

Garp, like me, lived inside his head, noticed the absurdity around him, and was sometimes too intelligent for his own good. He also had the most human of failings, falling prey to lust, and life kept walloping him upside the head. My heart broke into a million pieces more than once reading this book. I just wanted Garp to know that he wasn't alone, that others felt just like him.

I wanted to help Offred escape from the Republic of Gilead and find her child in Margaret Atwood's THE HANDMAID'S TALE. #ifbookswerereal

I was so angry for her. I wanted to learn how to steal cars and be daring just to push her off the edge to escape. This was only my second taste of dystopian fiction, (BRAVE NEW WORLD came first) and remains my favorite of the genre. Atwood made me want to be brave.

I wanted to befriend Arturo in Katherine Dunn's GEEK LOVE and help him see the good in people. #ifbookswerereal

This lovely, heartrending, twisted tale introduced me to the reality of the measures people will go to in order to feel a part of something or to stand out from the crowd...or both.  Arturo, devilish, cruel, and greedy, nonetheless was a little boy at heart who needed consoling.  Also, it convinced me I'm kind of a sucker for wounded geniuses.

I wanted to cry with Fern and tell Holden it would all be okay in Jo Knowles' SEE YOU AT HARRY'S. #ifbookswerereal

This is just one among the MANY MANY MANY great books I've read.  This blog doesn't have enough space to contain all of the things I would do #ifbookswerereal.  

What would you do #ifbookswerereal ? I'll be watching on Twitter to find out! 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Craft, Crafting, and Being Crafty

So, this week, I'm juggling using the word "craft".  As you can see, the word "craft" and its many forms can fill up a day.

For example:

I am working on my CRAFT.

By Zache (edited version, orig unknown) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
This, for me, means a couple of different things.  Immediately, I think of the WRITING craft, specifically REVISION.  I haven't made a whole lot of time to write new things, because this revision, like a pile of dirty laundry is looking at me accusingly every time I pass by.  As many writers can attest, this deadly revision time is when you have your best ideas for OTHER projects.  But, I hold steady and when writing time rolls around, I revise.  Only ten chapters to go, then off to the beta readers.  Also, I am enjoying reading and commenting on the work of my fellow writers in our online critique group, The Caffeine-Driven Page.

I am also working on my TEACHING craft.  I've been trying to get some professional reading done this summer.  I am currently enjoying "Readicide" by Kelly Gallagher, "Study Driven" by Katie Wood Ray, and "The Daily Five" by Gail Boushey.  I also just attended a planning session for teaching a new computer-based enhancement/intervention class.  

Lastly, I am working on my THEATRE craft.  It was a toss-up whether or not I was going to continue as the sponsor for our drama club at school.  The program continues to grow, but my adult help continued to shrink until finally it was just me and 65 kids at a time.  It was going to half-kill me to give it up, but I was prepared to do it, unless they could find someone to split it with me.  Sure enough, one of the new teachers to our school was interested to join as a sponsor, and Voila!  Now, I can start planning with him about what we'd like to do this fall and spring.  Whew!

I have also been CRAFTING things.

I have been meeting with the other sixth grade language arts teachers, and we are currently crafting CURRICULUM PLANS for the beginning of school. We're planning all sorts of activities and pre-assessments to help us get to know our students and their skills and gaps right at the beginning of the year.  We are planning for our entire first semester, which will be a meditation on kindness, starting with the fabulous book, WONDER by RJ Palacio and our CHOOSE KIND REVOLUTION guerilla campaign.  BTW, if any of my past students want to get in on this project, let me know. We might be doing some guerilla theatre events concerning this.

I have been crafting a USEABLE ART PROJECT.  Take one beautiful handmade bench (1 of 2, but the other is serving double-duty as a community reading bench in my classroom and prop for drama club plays), made for me by a wonderful and crafty carpentry friend, Mark Levine.  Add a layer of primer.  Add the pages of a few old, about to be thrown away books. Slap on multiple coats of the wondrous Modge Podge, and you have a new and improved READING BENCH and three happy kids who have a project.  Although, you have to be pretty CRAFTY to keep CRAFTY, CURIOUS KITTIES from walking through your wet modge-podginess. 


For those of you who have been following along at home, you know about the tree that some feckless little girl named Dorothy dropped on my house 10 days ago, leaving behind 2 broken cars, a trashed deck, and a whole lotta tree.  Well, it seems that my karmic spanking was not yet over, for I got to be the victim in a two-car accident in my rental car this last Saturday. Don't worry, all is well. Everyone is fine, and the car was driveable afterwards.  Knowing that my beloved Margaret the Malibu was driving off to that great big car wash in the sky, I CRAFTILY arranged for my husband to meet me at the rental car place to drop off my injured rental, and then off to the land of Ford dealerships to welcome my brand new car, Doug the Focus, to the family.  

I am also forced to be CRAFTY in my time management this week.  With a classes and meetings in addition to my duties as SuperAuntNanny of Awesomeness, and a slew (a SLEW) of phone calls and meetings to field, make, return, etc. to insurance agents, adjustors, repair folks, etc. -- well, let's just say my phone voice is certainly getting a work out.

So, in conclusion, the word CRAFT has been a very important part of my week.  I'm off to craft!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Dear Margaret; Elegy for A Mechanical Friend

Dear Margaret,
When we met,
nine years ago,
I knew the rightness
of you from
the first. 
You were
My First.
New and Shiny
Traveling Companion.

You smiled and hummed
your pleasure at me
engulfing me in the safety of 
your strong steel embrace.
As I fumbled at first
to shake your hand properly
you introduced yourself
Margaret: a dignified name
with a spark of the devil.

Like a friend who 
knows just when to help
you get into (and out of)
trouble, you'd laugh with
delight, when I hinted
I like speed, 
Then take off to
race the wind, 
heedless of what some
might call your "stodgy"

You were an outdoor girl -
enjoyed the wind and the rain
and the sun sparkling
in your eyes, and
you stayed looking so young.
At the last, you were
beaten and battered 
by circumstance

And as I take your image
one last time, I have to
sigh, more than a little
that I lose a loyal
friend and partner in 
the journey.
Travel on, Margaret.

Monday, July 2, 2012

What the-? How lucky am I?

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

You might have noticed that after a flurry of posts (nearly daily!), that I took a short break over the last few days.  This is because the following bits of Mother Nature got all up in my grill:
That's my gas grill. It's a pancake grill now.

Wouldn't this have been stellar in 3-D?

I call this piece "Orphaned Grill Wheel"

The foundation of the problem.
The Ents were very angry with me. I swear I haven't seen the Entwives!
So...That happened.  As you can imagine, I'm making and fielding quite a few phone calls.  The great news is: it's all just "things". No one was injured, it didn't leave us without power, we are insured on all fronts, the tree removal company was there and removed all the Ent-pieces in 24 hrs (like MAGIC), and the husband and I are currently driving some spanking new rental vehicles until they can determine the extent of the damage to our current rides.  We have great and kind friends and family who have been helping us out and offering wonderful support.  We're very lucky in our disaster.  

Back to why you haven't seen me here.  Also, there's a lot of THIS  going on:

I am a part of an online critique group right now called The Caffeine Fueled Page (woot!woot!), and I was reading and commenting on their work and reading their critiques of my first 25 pages. Side note, the three ladies who've hooked up in this crit group are AWESOME-TASTIC, and I'm really lucky to have them looking at my writing for me and sharing their mad skillz with me.

What you're seeing in the photo above is my manuscript for Secret Order of Extraordinary Outcastz.  I'm still working on the continuity revisions throughout the book for the plot changes I instituted (added more about the other Order members earlier, changed how Joey referred to some of the other characters, added higher stakes and a few events that explain some later payoff).  This is, of course, a long process, but WORTH it.  I'm coming out with a much better, tighter story.  The only revision problem I see at the end of this is that now my manuscript may be "too long" according to existing word count guidelines for Middle Grade literature (although, this MG leans toward tweens, rather than youngers - so it may be fine).  I'll burn that bridge when I get to it.  I've set myself a deadline of next weekend to get done with this set of revisions.  Which means I'll be strapped to a chair in front of my laptop as much as humanly possible this next week.  I'm lucky it's turning out so well, and that this manuscript is still so exciting to me.

Okay, I've got to hit the library with Captain Obvious, Major Destruction, and General Sarcasm (my two nephews and my niece!) and then a quick trip to school to pick up some reading material and games. Then, back to the Grind.  

I have to get back to being lucky now.