Thursday, February 19, 2009

How it isn't.

So I don't know if you have watched the Elizabeth Gilbert thing. Which started slow and then got rolling. I rolled along with it. So it is posted on TED. You can also see it here. I linked to it in my post before last. Thank you, TED.

What stuck with you?

I love Tom Waits. That was fun.

But I adored the part about the poet Ruth Stone. It reminds me that I need to sit down and blather with my pen whenever I feel the wind blowing through me. I've never been so good at pursuing it. It's those people who externalize their art, that seem to treat it as a force to be reckoned with, that I find so darn interesting.

The wind blows more lately as my practice has developed. I don't strive for it, I just do Jane Yolen's BIC (butt in chair). Okay but Ruth Stone is way more interesting. Out on the field working and she can feel the poem rumbling at her. Like a train or something. I picture it sounding like that--or a tornado. So she has to run to get a pen, lest it passes her by, to go on to find itself another poet. But (imagine this!) sometimes she just manages to grab the tail end before it is gone and pull it back into herself, where she transcribes it. LAST WORD TO FIRST. Does that sound like magic? It makes me feel the wind blow just to hear that.

Lately my process has changed. I have been timing myself for twenty minutes. I have a whole separate throw away document that I can write anything and everything into. and I start with two words from my Lynda Barry(thanks very much to her) Box of words (It's totally magic with envolopes and everything).

But so let me tell you how it comes out. And I'm going to have to be long winded in order to describe this. It is like this trick book that my kids got for car trips where there is a page made out of transparency plastic tinted black, with it came this "flashlight" which is actually a piece of cardboard shaped and printed like a flashlight and at the end shines forth a yellow cardboard pool of light that you slide beneath the plastic sheet in order to see the page. Magically, out of this seemingly utter darkness, appears perfect detail. It's as bright and clear and distinct as day. Beautiful. And the rest of the page is still cloaked in blackness.

That illustrates my process. I do so wish it was more like a ramling Tazmanian devil of a poem that would knock me down. Come to me backwards, like the devil.

All I have is this little pool of light to flash around inside my book, the rest is terrifying darkness. I just run my pen, or my fingers as fast as I can when the light is shining. Because once it goes out I can see nothing. But it is my job to keep typing into the dark void. Thanks, Elizabeth Gilbert.

As Always (inspired),

Finished a book

Feathers By Jaqueline Woodson

Boy, I looked at her website and she has written a lot. Good thing.

Takes place during the 70s. Frannie lives on the black side of the train tracks and is in 6th grade at price. A new kid comes to town, a white boy named Jesus. (It quickly becomes obvious that this boy is the only white boy. At this point my son said, "what?" I was reading the book out loud to him and up until this boy arrives at school there had been no mention of the characters being white or black and even upon the entrance this boy the description could be of characteristics other than skin color: the boy comes in white and soft as snow. My son is used to the numbers going in the opposite direction.) It turns out the bully of the class also has light skin.

It's a small little book with a small little plot. My son and I found it because we were looking for a medal winning book to read for a book report. He ended up reading Rules by Cynthia Lord for class. But we decided to read Feathers together. Just a new kid who's quiet, sad and different. A girl with a deaf brother.And a mother who's lost some babies. All together it is a book about difference, hope and doing the right thing. It moved quickly. With a lot of white space, effective dialogue and short chapters.Ms. Woodson sure knows how to show versus tell, through Frannie's eyes. We see a portrait of the lost baby on the wall. We see her beautiful brother and their special relationship. We see the new kid. But Frannie does not look very closely at herself. She is only revealed by her actions. The things she does without thinking. Wonderful.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Long Video

But worth it.
As Always(thinking of you),

Sunday, February 8, 2009


Sometimes reading is an instinctual process. Like a weasel I am driven by my instincts to sink my teeth to the jugular of the book. That might be dramatic, but reading can feel like that. Other times you have to force yourself.

I'm reading an adult book. Torch by Cheryl Strayed. It's lovely. We begin with Teresa, the mother of two nearly adult children. Teresa discovers she has cancer in the very first chapter. She becomes ill, very quickly. The narration begins close to her head but moves around the members of her family as they all struggle to comprehend her illness. I'm about halfway through. Cheryl Strayed has a way with metaphors that thrills me. Listen to this:
She ached. As if her spine were a zipper and someone had come up behind her and unzipped it and pushed his hands into her organs and squeezed, as if they were butter or dough, or grapes to be smashed for wine.
This and other of Strayed's descriptions of the cancer stick with you. And I love the characters. They are beautifully rendered, complicated and interconnected. I really care about them. I have to finish the book by Tuesday. But it doesn't have the pacing of a YA. I'm taking little drinks as if reading were a civilized tea party.

How come some times books enter your bloodstream and course through you, other times you can only sip it digesting little bits at a time? Obviously this has a lot to do with the book, but, as in this case, I think the reader has to be ready to meet the book head on.

As Always(pondering),

Friday, February 6, 2009

This is how I buy books

I never go to bookstores.
Backtrack, that is not true, I go to this one.

Wild Rumpus

Especially when we need birthday presents. We often need them.

I never go to the big ones. I don't do much shopping, period. I go to thrift stores. I go to Amazon, some. (With specific titles that I know I want and proceed to put them in my cart and have them sent to my house.) I'm always at out neighborhood co-op--for food(down the street from above store.) So I'm not one to be swayed by book covers displayed predominately on the shelves of Barnes and Noble.

So how do I find the books that I read and eventually buy. When I love them and need them or I am buying a birthday gifts(in this case books are always the way to go). I read blogs. I read a lot of blogs. That is the buzz that I'm privy too. Librarians' buzz, or other writers, and the young people themselves, because they are out there all over the place saying what they read. But I especially like it when said blogs show a picture of the book, the cover, with the buzz they provide. Sites like Goodreads make it easy to see covers and publish covers on your own blog. So I am swayed by covers, but not by the ones that are placed on shelves by some kind of agreement(money) between publishers and booksellers.

Then, I go to my neighborhood branch of the public library(just a little farther down the street from my neighborhood book store).

So how many people buy and read like this? How do young people read? John Green had an interesting discussion of Goodreads. This is a site where readers keep electronic bookshelves of books, with ratings and easy ways to sort and review books. I trust John Green because I know from his blog and past projects that he pays attention to this kind of stuff. (I liked Papertowns. I have not read other books by him--but all my young neighbors have. He's a good writer.)

I don't have answers or further information. I am just pondering the future of this all. This writing publishing, reading thing. How will the marketing and bookfinding thing happen in the changing times. I think I know. I think it requires authors to have a different kind of relationship to the outside world. But I'm only speculating.

As Always(checking in),

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Coining the word Pioneerpunk

Recently I cam across the term steampunk. It was here actually. I'm going to read that book and now The Rad Librarian has recommended Diamond Age too. Not only do I love the movie The City of Lost Children, but there is something very craftsman like in the aesthetic. Classic, artful, pleasing.

My son and I were reading a book together, perhaps a year ago or probably more and I was so struck with this world that I thought of as science fiction-y. I was thinking the author was brilliant, creating these intricate details. I kept telling my son, it's like they are frozen in a futuristic Victorian time. I thought the writer was so brilliant(although I thought the story needed a little more work). Now I know it was a genre on to itself (and that author should have worked a little harder on the story).

Well this idea has thrilled me and I decided that I would like to create my own genre not steampunk, but still punk and I came up with Little-House-on-the-Prariepunk. Which paints a nice picture in your mind, right? But it is a little too big for your mouth. I refined that title to pioneerpunk. Does it still need work?

It doesn't look exactly like this of course. Where is the edginess? It needs more Ally Sheedy. Something. But a picture begins to form.

Here are some beginning thoughts on it:

Steampunk has the steam engine as their aesthetic. That industrial look, the glasses and dark smudges on the skin with all that coal burning. I think pioneerpunk would be more wholesome. Puffed sleeves and gingham, with a leaning toward the makeshift, like crocheted baby socks tied with goat sinew for holding your ipod. Hmm, what else? Beaver fur caps with built in blue-tooth. Pioneerpunk uses the new technologies while facing environmental hardship. You know, rabbit skin muffs with built in remote keyboard, in order to keep your fingers warm while staying in touch with your FB community. Pioneerpunk would shine it’s brightest in below zero temperatures.

I haven't fully fleshed it out, and who's to say that it won't change a whole bunch yet, but the idea has intrigued me.

As Always (thinking),