Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Unplugging in a Smaller Way (but don't belittle it!)

So spring is in the air around here. The mountains of snow are melted and kids arrive home demanding food without even coming in the front door and then go slop in the mud for hours. Not only has that behavior sprouted anew but I have COWORKERS. You would think the chatting and socializing and the extra work these folks create (by way of critiques and problem solving and assigned posts: Heather Kelly is simultaneously posting on UNPLUGGAGE PHENOMENA) would be taking up more of my time and I would be LESS productive. But that is not the case, the surprising thing is the opposite is true. I have been making unheard of progress on my revision. I have the sketch up all ready for my new wip. I have a whole new blog (Wibbage) that I have been posting on regularly and I still find the time to hang out on chat and feed the children. I don't think the children have suffered, neither has the laundry or summer camp schedule planning (gosh, it is only March still!).

All you need is:
1) Unpluggage. It works like this: Heather and I (and Jonathon when he is plugged in, ironically) schedule an hour (sometimes, if we get to it early, we even round up to longer) meet on chat at the beginning. Essentially to type "Ready, set, go!" and then we unplug. I sign out of google altogether. I have seen it done where you just put up the red light, but, for me, I don't need my inbox to be so easy to check.

2) Someone you trust that is prepared to meet you at the other end of above mentioned hour.

3) The sure knowledge that if you have gone 30 minutes, not checking email, than you can surely wait thirty minutes more.

4) When the whole hour is up, a coworker prepared to ask: "So? How did it go?" And then, you take stock. Typing an explanation of what happened, even if it didn't go exactly as expected, you write something down in the little chat box and somehow taking count of those hours one at a time gives them more clout. And aren't we all looking for more bang, because there sure aren't no bucks?!

I am preparing a practice room, a doorway from here to a space where we convene. There we will meet, check in, then separate to do exactly the thing that brings us all together. Let's practice our writing. Do you think you could do it? And would you be willing to try?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Spring Cleaning

We are cleaning up around here. Passover begins tonight and we have to get the chametz(pronounced home-itz) out.
Do you know what that is?
Well, the crumbs of leavened bread, of course. It is time to clean the corners, all the cupboards, every nook and cranny, scrubbing and airing out. After that I'm going to smudge the place, just to mix all my religious metaphors and kill all my demons at once.

I am going to do a little virtual cleaning up as well. It is time for me to lose the orange hat. I have been wearing it for years now but it's spring, my world is warming up and it is time for it to go. That was never a picture I intended to keep anyway, it was one I took myself with my little webcam and I didn't like all the ones that were straight on. This weekend my daughter and son did me the honors of taking some new ones. My son held the camera while my daughter made faces in the background. And that is the new leaf that I want to turn in blogging, the group effort. And the way you all make faces makes me smile.

Friday, March 26, 2010

My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger

A recommendation from my very bookie young(fourteen going on forty) friend, we will call her Mademoiselle M. She is my neighbor and my best book recommender. This girl reads like a fiend, is exceptionally articulate, will spear a book, movie or even you with her attitude and then turn and skip from the room. And you will be so lucky someday to read her writing, dark stories about alcoholic fathers and cross dressing big brothers and suicide car drives from cliffs. Expect to hear more from her.

So this book was a fav of hers. Described as a romantic comedy, it is a large book to hold in your hand, but told in the form of letters to famous people and more intimate ones (dead mothers) and through IMs and casting calls and other show type signage, it moves quickly with the eyes. And it involves two or three romances. Lots of references to baseball, Boston and Mary Poppins. It was fun to read (although it took me forever, totally not its fault). The characters were great. First off was Augie, vulnerably portrayed knowing everyone's needs instantaneously but not knowing himself at all. Secondly was TC, also wonderful at the get go, but totally disarming by the end. and Hucky, a six year old who comes on the scene late, and a character to be reckoned with. But the reason the book is so excellent is, it is a modern day fairy tale. Mother dying, deaf child in the orphanage, son and best friend gay and falling in love and everything that happens is just as it should be. Not only because you want the best for these lovely characters but also because it is almost so over-the-top and fairytale like that it is unexpected. A book where all needs get met and the right people end up with their right counterparts should be boring, right? It is exactly the opposite, it is so surprising and pleasant precisely because fairy tales are pleasing. And that taste of camp? well it doesn't hurt at all.
As Always (so there!)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Rube Goldberg Machines and associations

Here is a new video from OK GO. I have to thank my sister Becka for this one. She posted it on her blog.

My favorite OK GO video is the one choreographed on treadmills (look at that here). But I like this one for it's intertextuality, for the apparent single take it was filmed in, and for the collaboration and coordination it seems to illustrate.

Here it is if you want to watch it:

Here are my thoughts as I watched: First, The Electric Company, didn't they have some kind of video where you watched a ball fall down some rails and through several contraptions until it got ground to a fine powder? Look as I may, I couldn't find it. Initially, I thought, nifty and whatever, but as bigger and bigger things were taken out in the chain reaction, I switched to awe. My daughter sat on my lap and watched with me. Just as I was thinking, they are really making a mess, my daughter said those very words. And then the tv screen with my OK Go's best video(totally my opinion) swung by, band members standing in place as if he had been there all along, finally the paint!!! and then the crowd!!!

Why was it all so pleasing to me? First, it was about the sheer effort put into it. Read here if you want to know more. But also it made me think of that advice, if there is a gun above the mantle in scene one, it better go off by the beginning of act two. Or whatever. The echos of the paint first on their faces, then spattering them, wondering about this choreography and then seeing the treadmill, of each band member being perfectly placed, and that Rube Goldberg Machine I remember from childhood all working together as I watched the ball, rolling down and setting the next thing in motion. Makes me think about life and spring and W.I.B.I.J?!  (Game 2 on Wednesday at 1pm Eastern).

As Always (and writing novels),

Friday, March 19, 2010

Alex Chilton+A Tiny-Tiny Break

Alex Chilton died on Wednesday may he rest in peace. And to misquote Paul Westerburg: I hope to never travel far without a little Big Star.

Here is my favorite song:

I like how simple and nostalgic this song is. Makes thirteen seem sweet and tough. Which I think it is.

And I will not be here or commenting until Monday or Tuesday. It will probably be harder for me than for you! (And Wednesday, March 24th at 1pm eastern time posts the second big game at WIBIJ?!)

Today the generous Casey McCormick hosts us WIBIJ folk at her blog.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A map of the world as we know it (or W.I.B.I.J?!)

When I was little, my dad had a computer. It was the first computers I had ever seen, the size and shape of one of those old dehumidifiers. All black and metal, with just a tiny little four by four screen on the front. And he had a game he would play on it. No visuals just word descriptions of everything around you. You had to find your way around like that, just green words on a screen and otherwise darkness.

And now there is the internet. Everything is beautiful. Bright colors, back lit screens. But still the mystery. There is no map. It just crisscross link to link. One blogger leading you to the next. Still like being blind, finding your way through it with links and google searches.

Well, now we are in it together:

Just to give you a taste of what we are up to, here is a clue that will lead you to another blog post about W.I.B.I.J?!:

He loves to comment in glitter mode.
Whether about his life or HTML code.
Or regarding other odd people doing other odd things,
Or Thesaurus Thursday, with whatever words that day brings.

Go find the next post....

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Kelly Link and W.I.B.I.J.?!

Pretty Monsters, short stories written by Kelly Link, illustrations by Shaun Tan
This post is inspired by Heather Kelly who went and saw Kelly Link and friends last week. Go hear what she has to say about the experience at her blog.Technically I read Kelly Link way back in September of 2009. But that was back when I was not blogging about every book I read. So I coordinated this post with Heather. And apparently I need assignments to get my posting done. So thank you, Heather, dear co-worker of mine!

Magical realism! I do love it so! And Link's magical worlds are realistic. In fact I believed them quite emphatically. There is something about the revelation of detail in the short stories, unfolding in slowness, that made the acceptance of this other world hard to pinpoint. And I wanted to figure it out so as to write just like her! Is it something to do with language? yes. Is it the details? yes. She does everything well. There's a sense that the world its off, Is it because his dad drugged him and dragged him on to a plane to Costa Rica? But maybe it is also because the narrator is so real: the declarative statement: Soccer is what I was meant to do? or his disbelief in the science fiction that everyone else had bought hook line and sinker. Is it the details; men's pajamas with women's diaries printed on them, a purse with teeth, a world plagued by a the flu, (really not so far off from our dearly held fears).

I didn't connect with every story but some that I liked were "The Surfer," the flu has everyone quaranteened and wondering if the aliens will return. "The Faery Handbag," a purse with teeth and another dimension. "The Library" teens and technology and odd TV shows where the viewers are also the stars. "The Hortlak" an all-night convenience store where zombies shop and the two store clerks love a girls who takes dogs from the animal shelter out for their last car ride before being put down (this last one is from Magic for Beginners, I believe but I loved the sad tone of it).

Free Downloads:
Stranger Things Happen
Magic for Beginners

Small Beer Press is an indie house that Link and her husband founded and have Link's previous story collections available for download.

Un-related news:
Sorry I have been a little absent. I have been spending time time here:
Check it out to see what I have been doing.
More about that later this week(read: tomorrow).

Also, my last post was number 200. This is post 201. Woo Hoo!

As Always (wishing you were here!),

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Public Service Announcement

I'm just posting to say I hope you're following The Battle of the Kid's Books. They have their own website now and AN UNDEAD POLL. You get to help decide which book will return to plague the final contenders. Go check out the brackets.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Finished Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

This book gets better as you go. I finished it on Sunday and ever since I can't help stopping at the kitchen window to check out the line of pines that border our yard. I’m looking for  ghostly figures out there, piercing eyes, a cloud of breath. Maybe it's all the more evocative to read Stiefvaters book during a Minnesota winter. For me the cold, the snow, wolf eyes, the white pages with the blue font(so beautiful!), all of it worked together and the images have been haunting me for the last couple of days. In Stephanie Meyer’s books (you know the ones), you smell vampires and wolves all over the place but I couldn’t help  think that Meyer’s vampires smelled like over-ripe canalope and her wolves like wet-dog (I’ve said this before, sorry if I get boring), but Maggie Stiefvater made me want to go put my face in my dog’s ruff(his name is Haimish) and I usually avoid that kind of thing.
Romance, Stiefvater does that well. And Sam is so likable, both in boy and wolf forms. I also liked him in first person or from Grace’s perspective. I returned the book to the library because there were folks waiting on it, or I would look a little more closely at how she used the changing perspectives to build tension in the story. It seems to me you would need to slide into the perspective of the character who has the most to lose. But knowing me I would avoid that character!

As Always (best laid plans: I WAS going to post my plot mapping--maybe tomorrow--and a response to Paul Greci's reading post--I loved it!--and I want to do a post on some reading my son is doing--Steve B. that's about you--later in this week, oh and AWARDS, so behind),