a writer's journey as a reader

First Folio Facts

2016 was a time of celebrating the 400 years since Shakespeare left us back in 1616. A plethora of celebratory activities and events transpired throughout the year–yet, his influence continues as we head into his 401st year of influence.

One of my highlights involved going to see the traveling First Folio show. Even though I had previously encountered a First Folio up close and very personal at my Folger Library Hamlet Academy adventure, I couldn’t resist being part of a greater event and traveled eight hours to experience the Folio hoopla with other Bard appreciators. Definitely worth the drive.

Lots of information abounded about the Bard, including this nifty fact sheet about the Folio provided by the Folger Shakespeare Library ( They listed 21 facts; however, these are the top 7 in my eyes:

1.The First Folio was printed in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare’s death.

2. Shakespeare’s First Folio was the first folio ever published in England devoted exclusively to plays. Plays were not considered literature at that point in time.

3. The folio was put together by two of Shakespeare’s friends and acting colleagues–John Heminge and Henry Condell.

4. The First Folio contains 36 plays grouping them into comedies, histories, and tragedies.

5. Scholars generally believe that about 750 copies of the First Folio were printed in 1623.

6. A finished First Folio in a calfskin binding cost about one pound in 1623, which today roughly equals between $150-$200. In 2001, a First Folio sold at Christies for just over $6.1 million. The most recent sale was in 2006, when a First Folio sold at Sotheby’s for $5.2 million.

7. Since there haven’t been any manuscript copies of the plays written in Shakespeare’s handwriting, the First Folio is the closest thing we have to the plays as Shakespeare wrote them.

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“400 years?–Let every man be master of his time.”


Review Round Up: December

December proved an excellent month for reading. Pushing to complete my Goodreads Challenge of 101 books for the year, I tried to finish off with books that had meaning and were enjoyable, which is actually what I try to do with all my reading. Here are my top picks for December:

The Tipping Point by Malcolm GladwellGladwell presents complicated sociological ideas in such a conversational manner that once the chapter is finished there is a satisfying acknowledgment of understanding what has been discussed. He presents the topic, performs a seemingly unrelated side excursion of information and then neatly links it back to the first topic. This explains his popularity. I’m looking forward to reading his other books as well.

The Girls' Book: How To Be The Best At EverythingA seriously fun book for 9-11 year olds who will enjoy the mixture of goofy and practical activities ranging from surviving being in a horror movie to making a friendship bracelet. Or it could be considered a present for thirty-something women who seriously have fun reading these nostalgia guides.

Raising an Original by Julie Lyles  Carr A mother of eight children, all who are featured prominently in the chapters, Carr weaves together advice, experience, anecdotes, scriptures, and a healthy dose of charming humor founded in likable reality. One aspect that is notably artful is her ability to take a metaphor, be it lace-making or her daddy’s signature blue dress shirt, and apply it to parenting techniques. Her book reads well. It’s engaging and thought-provoking.

You're the Cream in My Coffee by Jennifer Lamont LeoI knew Marjorie when she just a sweet little rough draft–so fun to come across her all grown up into a novel. Jenny’s novel took shape from idea to rough draft to publisher hunt to Hurrah! of acceptance in our writing group. I kind of feel like an aunt at a christening…
Marjorie is that small town girl who goes off to the city and makes changes. She changes her looks, her ambitions, her love interest. Chicago does that to the 1920’s kind of girl.
The humorous situations that Marjorie often finds herself in are reminiscent of a Shakespearean plot filled with misunderstandings, thwarted lovers, and secret identities. A well-researched novel that focuses on the alcohol issues related to Prohibition, WWI and PTSD, plus a look at the advent of the independent working girl, this is a “bees knees” of a debut read.



Happy Anniversary (to me)

Five years ago I jumped on the platform wagon upon the advice of an editor at a writing conference. Establishing a platform as a writer was, and seems to still be, advice that is to be embraced.

Five years ago, I thought it would be nanoseconds until my contract for my debut novel would be signed and my career launched.

As Shakespeare said:


image: Buzzfeed

I’m still dreaming and my dream of walking into a Barnes and Nobles and find my novel on the shelf (better yet–they are sold out). But I’m not asleep. I’m sending out manuscripts, still waiting for an editor, agent, publisher to sign me up, and my blog is now five years old. I’m okay with that. Okay, I’m fairly okay with that. I would rather have a novel published and celebrate that announcement on my five year old blog.

I’ve enjoyed writing a blog. I’m pleased that I’m keeping up with my posts and I haven’t had any lags of more than a week or so. The blog has changed, morphed, developed, and grown during its five years. If it were a child it would be potty trained, riding a bike, and getting ready for kindergarten. In dog years I think a five year old blog is roughly fifteen years old.

For fun, here is my first post. It’s been viewed a total of around 50 times since it’s debut in 2012, no likes, and 3 comments. I’m glad writing book reviews isn’t my day job. Since then I’ve decided writing about books is still my prime goal, but I’ve taken off the training wheels and I’m covering different topics as well, including the posting of my own writing such as poems, and short story tidbits.

I promised myself when I reached 1,000 followers I would sign up for the version of WordPress. I’ve surpassed that goal by a dozen or so. I just need to figure out what to name the professional launch.–hmm…

Quite Types of Funerals

Having gone through a year of loud public proclamations of accomplishments by a host of folk, got me thinking about how people are to be remembered once they pass from among us. It got me thinking how some people want to grab their glory now. There is a definite difference between a quiet funeral and quite a funeral:

image: Morgue File

Pigeons crown his statue, his duly noted acknowledgement, set in middletown square. He put the “I” in accomplishments. He gave generously his extra wealth to widows, orphans, and tax-deductible appreciatives. We knew because the newspaper told us so. Often. See page 3. His wife mourns him in stylish crepe, his children of status quo receive yet another scholarship in their father’s memoriam. The high school foyer plaque commemorates his sterling support of his alma mater class of ’52. A great whole will be felt in his passing. Much was given and much was gainfully benefitted. The piece that passes understanding is felt in regard to a man noted for his quite accomplishments.

Across town, in the smaller chapel, is the memorial for a man of lesser renown. In fact, the funeral director politely expressed his concern at the ratio of empty pews to attendees by frequent, albeit discreet, checks to his watch and neck stretches towards the door. Surely a man’s passing deserved more than a mere handful, he contemplated as he shuffled his notes. This man laid in the simple coffin at the front, closed at the widow’s request, did not rate column space beyond the discreet obituary notice. This man volunteered as a youth activity leader, though he had no children, walked shelter dogs every Saturday, and could be talked into helping out at the retirement home by reading to Mrs. Connelly or playing checkers with Bob Jaegers. He drove a fifteen year old Subaru, played golf with his nephew Paul, who remained in a thirteen year old mindset despite have grown into a 6’2 frame, and he bought his wife flowers every Friday, a tradition started and maintained through his forty-two year marriage. The funeral director did not have anything in his notes beyond: “Frank Peterson will be remembered for his quiet dedication to friends, family, and community. His accomplishments noted by those who knew him.” An embarrassing moment came, but quickly passed when his quick breakfast of reheated sausage patty sandwich gave him a wincing pain, causing him him to lose his place. As a result, he read out to the small gathering: “Frank Peterson will be remembered for his quiet accomplishments.” Realizing his error he hurriedly tagged on the part about being noted for dedication, etc. At the end of the service the director made sure to be extra kind and reassuring to Mr. Peterson’s widow.


Challenge Met

Done did it with 8 days to spare and 5 extra books.

That’s right–I achieved my goal of reading 101 books 📚! And then some…

Goodreads sent me my stats a wee bit early when I had two more books to go. Their stat gnomes indicated a confidence in my ability that spurred me on to finish strong and well.

Your 2016 Year in Books

TOTALS: 101 books
27,046 pages

God Bless Our Country by Hannah C. Hall

LONGEST BOOK: 573 pages
Villette by Charlotte Brontë

Villette by Charlotte Brontë

MOST POPULAR: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (1,868,794 readers)

God Bless Our Country by Hannah C. HallThe Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

LEAST POPULAR: Artists of the Renaissance by James Barter (2 other readers)


HIGHEST RATED ON GOODREADS: Lots of Knock-Knock Jokes for Kids by Whee Winn (4.58 average)


NOTE: Goodreads creates a gorgeous color montage of all the titles a person has read during the Reader Challenge. And they send along a nifty bit of applause:

Congratulations! You’re really good at reading, and probably a lot of other things, too.

Hope your 2016 was full of reading delights and you also challenged yourself to explore the joy of reading.

I’m deciding upon my 2017 goal…hmm, up the ante? keep the same? make each month a special focus? So many choices!

I’m interested in any challenges met, planned, or otherwise. What’s going on for you in 2017 book wise?


Throw, THORoh,ThRow–that is the question

image: pintrest (this expression is no doubt related to the tolerance and forebearance he withstands of mispronouncing his name)

It’s more than embarrassing to realize the mangling of pronouncing a word, let alone it’s the name of a significant author. Authoritative responsibility is lacking. Students expect me to know how to say it if I’m teaching it. It’s one thing is mispronounce a word from time to time (can’t quite get synecdoche to come out right–it always sounds like a city of the Jersey state) and try as I might I still mangle words from time to time, but I do need to be better prepared when it comes to introducing writers to my students. For starters, this author list is definitely helping me to reestablish my reputation for literary name dropping. 

NOTE: my first list inconveniently vanished–this is from

Chinua Achebe (CHIN-wah uh-CHEH-beh)

Isabel Allende (ah-YEN-day)

Maya Angelou (MY-uh AN-juh-loo)

Avi (AH-vee)

Albert Camus (ahl-BEHR kah-MOO)

Paulo Coelho (POW-loo KWEH-lyoo)

Michael Crichton (KRY-tun)

Junot Diaz (JOO-no DEE-as)

Cory Doctorow (DOC-tuh-roh)

John Donne (dun)

Ken Follett (rhymes with “wallet”)

Neil Gaiman (GAY-mun, rhymes with “Cayman” as in the islands)

Johann Wolfgang Goethe (YO-hahn VULF-gahng GUH-tuh)

Seamus Heaney (SHAY-muss HEE-nee)

Brian Jacques (like “jake”)

Jack Kerouac (like “care uh wack”)

John Le Carré (luh kah-RAY)

Vladimir Nabokov (vlah-DEE-mir nuh-BOH-koff)

Samuel Pepys (peeps)

Ayn Rand (first name rhymes with “mine”)

Rainer Maria Rilke (RY-nur mah-REE-uh RILL-kuh)

J. K. Rowling (like “rolling”)

Louis Sachar (rhymes with “cracker”)

Jon Scieszka (SHES-kuh)

Shel Silverstein (SIL-ver-steen)

Donald J. Sobol (SO-bull)

Henry David Thoreau (like “thorough”)

Paul Theroux (thuh-ROO)

J. R. R. Tolkein (TOLL-keen)

Evelyn Waugh (EVE-lin wah)

Elie Wiesel (elly vee-ZELL)

P. G. Wodehouse (like “woodhouse”): Merriam-Webster

Herman Wouk (like “woke”) 
If there are any other writerly pronunciations that are tricky, oh please send them my way. 

Literary Book Boosters

I am a professed Book Booster, and most, if not all of you, reading my musings enjoy reading as well. Glad you’re here, and thanks for dropping by.

As I close out the  year, I wanted to give more than a  nod to Book Boosters found in literature. These are characters whose love of reading defines them and is central to the plot.

1. Scout Finch of To Kill a Mockingbird

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image: Houston Chronicle

Her love of reading gets her in trouble with the teacher on the first day of school because a first grader isn’t supposed to read yet–according to Miss Caroline. That’s the teacher’s job, as Scout finds out. Scout and Jem are always referring to books, often they become the object of bets made. The novel ends with Atticus and Scout reading The Grey Ghost (a definite correlation to Boo) as they wait for Jem to recover.

2. Jo March of Little Women

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image: Pintrest

Jo’s love of stories, both reading and writing them, propel her towards her goal if becoming an author.

3. Guy Montag of Fahrenheit 451

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Guy Montag goes from book burner to book booster as he discovers the powerful message of allowing one’s imagination to roam unfettered. Reading books has him questioning the government’s oppressive rule over people’s freedom. He is willing to die for his love of books.

3. Catherine Morland of Northanger Abbey

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image: Pintresst

Catherine’s fascination with Gothic romances fuels her imagination to the point of her concocting a horrible family secret that brings shame and ridicule upon her and jeopardizes her future. Jane Austen obviously had some fun poking fun at the Gothic romance trend of her day.

4.  Liesel Meminger of The Book Thief

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image: Wiki

Liesel’s hunger for books leads her to steal them from a private library. The need to read becomes life-threatening when Hitler locks down on Germany’s freedom of expression during WWII. Liesel’s love of reading becomes her solace during the horrendous experiences of the war.

5. Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables


Image result for Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables reading


Fiery-haired and a fiery disposition fuels Anne towards her goal of taking her imagination and putting her ideas to paper. This beloved series captures the natural relationship between reading and writing.

I know there are more literature loving characters out there. This is where you chime in: who do you nominate needing a nod as a Literary Book Booster?

The Woeful Tale of Beowulf 

Great story–

Everything going pretty well for a king and his village and then out of nowhere this monster reeks destruction (a smelly monster because it lives in a swamp) killing all the strongest and best warriors.  For fourteen years!

The hero arrives. 

Not just any hero. Not only is he an amazing hero–he is epic.

Briefly put, he not only fights the monster but does so naked of weapon (a bit of literary humor). AND he takes on and defeats the monster’s mama who is twice as monsterish.

The king and village are saved. Our hero is more epic than ever. He returns to his homeland and eventually becomes king. He rules for fifty years over a peaceful kingdom. Goes out fighting a dragon. His people love him so much they create a barrow (think–round grassy pyramid).

Our hero’s tale becomes one of the most popular hero tales out there. He’s right up there with ancient epic heroes like Odysseus and Achilles.

Yup–we’re talking Beowulf.

You’d think someone could make a decent film adaptation.

This is the woe of Beowulf. His story has yet to be told.

Adaptation: 2005

Image: pintrest

This has promise. Gerard Butler. Nordic ponies. A troll. Epic setting. Frightening kelta. Everyone looks sufficiently cold and miserable. Then it gets R-rated. Not classroom watchable.

Adaptation: 2007

image: Wikipedia 

English teachers were so excited about this version that a field trip was arranged to the Imax. Bus loads of seniors traveled an hour riding in their preferred mode of cheeswagon to watch a cartoon that so strangely twisted the tale of Beowulf that it is not worth discussing. Most people went to see Angie dressed up as a golden dragon who wears high heels. Truth.

Adaptation : 2015

This is Beowulf in an alternate universe. That’s the only explanation I have. Not much is even close to the original story except they have named the main guy Beowulf and there are some monsters running around. A short-lived TV series. There’s a reason for that.

Beowulf is a really amazing story and no one can get it right. Maybe Marvel can get a greenlight and make it a go.

Oh–I do have one version worth showing. Kind of. It’s also animated but no famous actors were present unless you count the narrrator, Derek Jacobi, and other assorted worthwhile Brit actors lending their voice talents such as Joseph Fiennes.

Adaptation: 1998

This faithfully follows the story. The only strange part is the monster, Grendel, is rendered as a furry green Jello creature instead of a troll. There is also a trippy interlude of Beowulf fighting the dragon.

Film folk–open challenge: 

Bring Beowulf to the screen so there is no more woe when watching Beowulf.

November Reading Round Up

I’m closing in on my Good Reads goal of 101 books!

Here are my November highlights:

Empty Places by Kathy Cannon Wiechman

Adabel Cutler is wanting to remember her mother, yet there are empty places in her memory and she can’t quiet the need to find the answer to why her mama left the family seven years ago.

Set in the Kentucky mining area of Harlan County during the lean times of The Depression, author Kathy Cannon Wiechman provides a rich portrait of a young teenage girl and her family struggling against hard times and poverty. 

Adabel’s voice and her persistence to find the truth is strong and aptly presented in the dialect of the area. The author’s research adds to the realism of the story and provides insights about the coal mining community that is beneficial to students studying The Great Depression.

The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett

Boy meets girl. Once. Twice. Three times. The typical romance story takes a turn of shoulda, woulda, and coulda. A girl and a boy meet in their young twenties, and readers follow three possibilities of their romance into their seventies.

It’s a bit like a choose-your-own adventure book, yet reading this type of format is not for one looking for a leisurely read. Just as one gets involved in version one, it changes to version two, and then goes to version three. And so goes the tempo. 

Personally, I gave up and followed version three and decided one read was enough, and did not go back and read the other two versions. 

It’s a clever idea, and I have tried other books that try this multiple plot device. They don’t work for me. I want it to work, but I don’t want to work that hard when I settle down for my leisure reading sessions.

The Alchemist by Paul Coelho

I experienced The Alchemist as an audio read the first time on a long drive a few years ago. I think having Jeremy Irons read the book to me enhanced the magical of the read. I highly recommend the audio version.

The second time I read it in one sitting, appreciative of the full color illustrations which complemented the story. Overall? I preferred the audio version. Jeremy Irons knows how to tell a story.

For those who disliked the book, and some of the reader reactions were intense, I suggest listening to the book, for it truly is like a long endearing bedtime story. Set aside apathetic notions and listen to a story of a boy seeking his heart’s desire. There’s still a bit of the child in all of us ( I hope).

And I continue reading…

With only a couple of more weeks until my December deadline I am trying to squeeze reading time in when I can: at the gym while I pedal in my mile or walk off my 💯 calorie warm up; decompressing after a long day trying to interest sophomores in how to analyze a short story; a few minutes before going to bed (and getting smacked in the face as I succumb to sleep).

A stack of books taunts me on my side table. I shall find time to finish strong. I shall. I shall.

Anyone else have a reading goal for the year?

Why We Say #26: ‘Tis the Season or here’s to muddying meanings

Between putting our votes in and putting up the mistletoe there are words we banter around that no longer mean what they once meant.

For instance:

Season: from the Middle English “seson”, which originally referred to spring, the time for sowing. “Season” is now extended to four times of year: spring, summer, fall, and winter. I actually live in an area that recognizes a fifth season, one that is situated between the last snows of winter and the downpours of spring. We call it “Mud.”
Transitioning from seasons to secrets:
Secretary: a good secretary can keep a secret, and there were a good many secrets floating this last election season. Maybe the mud season applies to election years as well. Never mind…. However, the word “secretary” is derived  from “secrets” because appropriately enough, a secretary dealt with his or her employer’s private papers, which no doubt contained some clandestine concerns.

Moving from secrets to secret agendas:

Senate: in Roman times the senate was comprised of one hundred men who tended to be on the elder side of life having accrued a wealth of experience and wisdom. It makes sense then that senate is derived from “senis,” not to be confused with “senile,” of course not. 

And that brings us to another politically oriented term:

Shake hands: skaking hands signals agreement, courtesy, acknowledgement, and friendship. Originally it was a precaution, making sure that the other person wasn’t reaching for his sword with his other hand. Wait, wasn’t Caesar in the process of shaking hands with members of his Senate when he was stabbed? So much for trust and knowing what the right hand and the left hand are doing.

This moves us to consider–

Showing one’s true colors: to avoid suspicion pirates would raise up the colors of a friendly nation and once they pulled up alongside a ship they decided to plunder, they would raise their true colors of their pirate ways. Hmm, the political connection seems to be still afloat.

Speaking of evil:

Sinister: it’s only been in recent years that being a lefty is considered somewhat of a notable distinction. Back in the Roman days (difficult leaving our ancient roots), the left side was considered unlucky and even “sinister.” Anything menacing or wrong would be designated as sinister. In fact, the idea of left being wrong (and not right) is found in other languages such as the French’s “gauche” attached to the idea of committing a gaffe or error.

That leads us to:

Snooper: from the Dutch verb “snoopen” referring to the practice of eating sweets without getting caught, so it makes sense to noun this verb into a snooper or snoop. 

This makes me wonder if a sinister senate secretary is willing to show his or her true colors when caught out as a snoop. Watch out if the offer to shake hands is mentioned as as an acknowledgment of the season of goodwill and glad tidings. See–mud still applies. 

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