Sunday, April 29, 2012

Novels in Verse Reading Challenge Update

This month I read two novels in verse as part of the Reading Challenge hosted by Amanda at Born Bookish: Stop Pretending by Sonya Sones and Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse. Let me tell you a little bit about them. . .

Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister
Went Crazy

This book is based on the true experience of the author and her own girlhood journals.

At the age of thirteen, Cookie witnesses the frightening changes in her older sister as she has a mental breakdown. From that point on, everything in her life changes. Not only does she lose her sister, best friend, and confidante to a lengthy hospitalization, but also her mother and father become unrecognizable to her under the pressure of their grief and their inability to comfort each other through the loss.

Cookie finds herself lonely and longing to talk to someone about what’s going on, yet she’s afraid of losing her friends if they find out.

I felt the honesty of Cookie’s emotions, from her own fear of being crazy, to her admission that she often didn’t want to visit her sister in the hospital. Although she desperately missed her, most times she found that she didn’t recognize the girl who looked back at her. It's heartbreaking to watch Cookie try to navigate through the changes alone. But there is also hope and deep joy as she finds a true friend, and  her family begins putting their life back together.

I borrowed this book from the library, came home and thought I’d just pick it up and read the first page or two before starting lunch. But I couldn’t put it down. I read the first third of the book standing in the kitchen. Finally, I stopped long enough to fix lunch, then sat down, and read the rest of the book. I heartily recommend Stop Pretending. At just under 10,000 words, it’ll take you on a short but powerful journey.

Out of the Dust

 I had heard of this book before but never picked it up. I’m not sure why. Maybe I was put off by the cover, which I find quite drab. But after reading several wonderful reviews, I put the cover out of my mind and got the book.

This is the story of Billy Jo, a fourteen-year-old girl who grows up in Oklahoma during the dust bowl years of the great depression.
We watch her farming family struggle through drought and loss with a constant shroud of dust that covers everything from Billy Jo’s mother’s beloved piano to the very food they eat.

After a terrible accident takes her mother's life and leaves Billy Joe burned and scarred, she and her father drift through life on currents of their own quiet grief and Billy Jo dreams of the day she will leave. 

When Billy Jo finally jumps a train that will take her out of the dust bowl, she is able to come to terms with the past and the present, trading in blame for hope, and discovering something about herself in the process.

This is a wonderful book and it rises right to the top of my list as one of my favorite novels in verse.

For a peek into the story, have a look at this 10-year-old actress performing one of the most dramatic scenes in the book. It gives me goosebumps! 

If you haven't joined the Novels in Verse Reading Challenge yet, I encourage you to consider it. There's still time to join in, and at the least intimidating level you only need to read one book. I'm a big fan of the format and I've found that the challenge has pushed me to try more than just the authors I'm familiar with. And that's always a good thing.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Desperately Wanting

“You can’t, in most things, get what you want if you want it too desperately: anyway, you can’t get the best out of it. ‘Now! Let’s have a real good talk’ reduces everyone to silence. ‘I must get a good sleep tonight’ ushers in hours of wakefulness. Delicious drinks are wasted on a really ravenous thirst.” Although in this passage from A Grief Observed C.S. Lewis is referring to his frantic need for God upon the death of his wife,  I've seen this truth played out in many circumstances in my own life over the years.

Take writing for instance. I write because I love it - the exhilaration of putting words down on the page, of finding the precise words to build the particular sentences that create the exact story that’s been growing inside of me, and then releasing those stories out into the world where they are read. There’s no doubt about it, as writers, having our work published, attaining that connection with readers, is a desirable part of the process. It’s when we want publication too desperately that we can lose perspective and forget that publication is only a part of the process. If we fixate only on that one aspect, then we become “like the drowning man who can’t be helped because he clutches and grabs.” - C.S. Lewis

It's one of those perspective things that I have to relearn every so often: a can't see the forest through the trees thing that reminds me not to lose sight of the big picture.
And maybe, like so many other things in life, it’s in the letting go that we are finally able to find what we are looking for. 

Do you ever let the goal overshadow the process?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sunshine and a Song to make you Smile

Photo courtesy of Free Artistic Photos

You can never have enough sunshine in you life. So I gratefully thank Mikki and Allyn for passing along the Sunshine Award to me. I’m happy to post it here this week to brighten my little corner of the blogosphere!

The rules of the award are:

Thank the person(s) who sent it to you.
Answer ten questions about yourself.
Write a post about it.
Pass the award on and let the recipients know.  

Favorite color? Sea foam green

Favorite animal? To own: dogs.  To admire from afar:  Anything photographed by Nick Brandt.

Favorite number? 500 – the approximate number of candies in a bag of Starburst jellybeans. 

Favorite drink? Coca~Cola

Facebook or Twitter? Facebook

My passion? Writing

Getting or Giving? Giving

Favorite Pattern? I’m more of a solids kind of girl. But if I have to pick, I’ll say stripes.

Favorite day of the week? Saturday

Favorite flower? Lilacs. I love the way the scent fills the entire house.

And because music holds such potential for brightening a day, I’m adding another question. Favorite happy song? I had a terrible time limiting it to just one but I finally settled on Owl City’s On the Wing. And I just love this fan-made video.

I'd like to pass The Sunshine Award on to:

What is your favorite happy song?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Slow Down, You're Moving to Fast

Photo courtesy of Free Artistic Photos

A good friend reminded me recently of something a writing mentor said to us years ago: "Don’t rush your words."

In her book, The Wave in the Mind, Ursula K. Le Guin reinforces that message. She says, “Your mind is like a cat hunting; it’s not even sure yet what it’s hunting. It listens. Be patient like the cat. Very, very attentive, alert, but patient. Slow. Don’t push the story to take shape. Let it show itself. Let it gather impetus. Keep listening. Make notes or whatever if you’re afraid you’ll forget something, but don’t rush to the computer. Let the story drive you to it. When it’s ready to go, you’ll know it.” 

I was struck with a new story idea last week, which at first I thought was very inconvenient, because I’m already deep into a project. But this new idea was so different from anything I normally write, that I couldn’t help but get excited about it. So right now, I’m like that hunting cat - attentive, alert, but patient. I'm taking notes and capturing the voice of the character that started telling me her story. I don’t know if I need to remind myself not to rush – I am naturally a slow writer. Still I find Le Guin’s words encouraging confirmation. And I’m enjoying the discovery process as the depth of the idea reveals itself to me.

Do you let new ideas reveal themselves to you slowly or are you more apt rush to the computer and pounce on them?