cricketmuse

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the category “Writing”

Reader Quotes


One of my daily subscriptions is Dictionary.com. I’m a confessed word nerd. I enjoy learning a new word as much as some people get that thrill from a new tasty food item. Hmm, words are nourishing in a way, aren’t they?

Recently Dictionary.com sent out a list of quotes all about reading books. How could I resist? Here are the favorites gleaned:

wilde

“The book to read is not the one that thinks for you but the one which makes you think.” 
        Harper Lee

“If a book is well written, I always find it too short.”
                                                                                 Jane Austen

worldquote

rousseau

Hope one of these inspired you to grab a book or sit down and write something simple or even profound.

And now it’s back to editing my own writing instead of veering off chasing my email distractions like a rabbit chasing a dog around the yard.

 

Sully and Alien Parents


For those who appreciate writing contests you will want to scamper over to Mike Allegra’s site for his Sully Writing Award Competition. Lots of nice swag if you’re a winner. 

NOTE: this Sully is not to be confused with the heroic pilot from the recent Tom Hanks movie. This Sully is from a salamander. Yeah, I know. What was Mike thinking? I hope the hero Sully has a sense of humor. 

Part of the competition is to pingback Mike’s site. I think we’re supposed to post our entry here as well.  

So here is my entry, an excerpt of a work in progress:

ALIENS AT THE BREAKFAST TABLE

There were aliens sitting at the breakfast table. I don’t know when it happened but aliens came and took up residence in my mom and dad’s bodies. Admittedly, they looked and acted quite a bit like my parents. They even got that one mole that sits on my dad’s neck just right. It’s raised and kind of hangs there, like a fleck of ear wax. They copied how mom’s left nostril is larger than her right one as well. All in all they are very good imitations. Not like the guy from Men in Black, whose skin didn’t fit right. No. These look, sound, and act like my parents. I still think they are aliens.

    Why?

    The real question is why I didn’t notice earlier. Maybe there is some sort of cosmic ray they used to shoot my milk with so I didn’t notice. Now that I’m in junior high I don’t drink as much milk. It may do my body good, but it’s havoc on my intestines. Lactose intolerant. Bad gas is not cool in eighth grade. Sixth grade maybe. Not eighth grade. Okay, in the locker room. Not in science. Especially standing next to Heather Fortuna. I may not end up marrying her, or even like her by the time we get into ninth grade. All I know is drinking milk at lunch with my pizza slice has its consequences a half hour later. Which would be in science class.  

    Let’s get back to my alien parents.

    I think when I stopped drinking so much milk I caught on to the fact my parents had changed. They may be onto to me so I better stop staring at them and slip into my usual morning scowl of indifference.

*********

This story idea is based on the fact that teens and parents are truly different species. I know this. Not because I’m an anthropologist, but because I’m a high school teacher and I work with both teens and their parents. After 20+ plus years of observation, I’d say they are truly from different planets since they do not understand each other, and certainly do not speak the  same language.
 

Will see if this is Sully worthy…

Historically speaking, dancing, writing…


When I received my manuscript comments  I was a bit taken by one particular sentence from the agent. She seemed to hesitate at reading about a family who had traditional roles: women in the kitchen, menfolk working outside. She didn’t think it would be readily accepted. Maybe I hadn’t emphasized in my pitch that the setting is 1860s gold rush era or maybe she missed that point. Back then, women and men did function in traditional roles. Yes, we like those Annie Oakley stories, where someone steps out and does some gender bending, yet history is chock full of regular people in regularly expected roles.

I shelf my manuscript comments, but then another historical noticeable comes up on my radar.

Instead of deleting the email, I decide to take up the offer of teaching a trial rhetorical analysis lesson with Taylor Swift’s “Wildest Dreams”–yes, it was indeed a hit with my students. What proved interesting was the backlash Swift received for marketing a perceived colonialism video since the cast and crew were about 99% white on location in Africa. And here I thought she was channeling Elizabeth Taylor ala 1950s.

Once again historically the setting details were correct in that whites dominated the fifties Hollywood scene and the video would not look quite right having a multi-ethnic set.

Another recent creative endeavor got me thinking that we are becoming either enlightened to the point of oversensitivity or we’re becoming very confused. I refer to Hamilton the musical. The cast is anything goes in terms of ethnicity. And I have no problem with casting for ability rather than color, yet I see this reluctance towards accepting history as it really was. Are we uncomfortable with defined roles as they were set down in the history books?

 

This loose interpretation of roles has even drifted into ballroom dancing, very traditionally gender coded: men lead, women follow. A recent TedTalk revealed this is changing into what is called “liquid lead,” which I can relate to since I never know what I’m doing when dancing and end up inadvertently leading. The most fascinating implications at stake as women now have the option of taking the lead when on the floor. Except–I don’t think scenes like this would be the same…

 

 

As a writer I am aware of trends and it’s worrisome that to write a story set in a time period where men were men and the women women, makes the publishing powers uncomfortable. Do I have to ignore history to radically shape it to fit modern audiences? Does a character have to chose an alternate path to deserve notice?

What are your thoughts, readers? Are we dissatisfied with history enough to change it to reflect our contemporary concerns in all artistic endeavors–from stories to musicals to even dancing?

POM: April 25


John Donne, Metaphysical poet, definitely challenges our perception of death with his “Death Be Not Proud.”  Death is not seen as a bully, a villain,  nor even anything to actually fear. Donne portrays death as a coward, in that it cannot act upon its own accord, needing an agent to perform. He presents death as merely a comma, a breath into the next life. This Holy Sonnet is a stunning portrait of his faith.

Another portrait, one more contemporary is by Dean Rader. He presents our transition as a reuniting. How welcome is an embrace, the meeting of child and parent after a long journey apart? Beautiful.

Alternate Self-Portrait 

by Dean Rader

One day

I will drift

into darkness

and know it

perhaps

the way a son

recognizes a mother

after he has returned

from many years

of travel

understanding

the new distance

is neither

beginning nor

end

only stillness

 

Copyright © 2015 by Dean Rader. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 30, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

POM: April 24


Always a parent. The kinder are grown, gone, got lives of their own. Yet I will always be their momma. I am concerned if they are eating right, sleeping enough, and if they are  concerned about their cholesterol levels. This is why I so relate to this poem.

Sentimental Moment or Why Did the Baguette Cross the Road?

Don't fill up on bread
I say absent-mindedly
The servings here are huge

My son, whose hair may be
receding a bit, says
Did you really just
say that to me?

What he doesn't know
is that when we're walking
together, when we get
to the curb
I sometimes start to reach
for his hand

—Robert Hershon

from Poetry Northwest, Volume XLI, No. 3, Autumn 2000
Poetry Daily, University of Washington, Seattle, WA

Copyright 2001 by Robert Hershon.
All rights reserved.

POM: April 22


I have fond memories of my father and boats.

Work

by Sally Bliumis-Dunn

I could tell they were father and son,
the air between them, slack as though
they hardly noticed one another.

The father sanded the gunwales,
the boy coiled the lines.
And I admired them there, each to his task

in the quiet of the long familiar.
The sawdust coated the father’s arms
like dusk coats grass in a field.

The boy worked next on the oarlocks
polishing the brass until it gleamed
as though he could harness the sun.

Who cares what they were thinking,
lucky in their lives
that the spin of the genetic wheel

slowed twice to a stop
and landed each of them here.

Copyright © 2015 by Sally Bliumis-Dunn.

image: morguefile/seabreeze

POM: April 17


Moon moths. Couldn’t resist. Or is that the moon looks like a moth?

image:indigoluna.typepad.com

 

Moth Moon by Florence Ripley Mastin

Moth Moon, a-flutter in the lilac tree,

With pollen of the white stars on thy wings,

Oh! would I shared thy flight, thy fantasy,

The aimless beauty of thy brightenings!

A worker, wed to Purpose and Things,

Earth-worn I turn from Day’s sufficiency.

One lethéd hour that duty never brings,

Oh! one dim hour to drift, Moth Moon, with thee!

POM: April 1


April is all about poetry,being it’s National Poetry Month. In anticipation of this wonderful joyous month of celebrating verse I’ve been busy collecting poems about poets. Here is the first postcelebrating poets and their contribution:

The Poet by Tom Wayman

Grrs and Greats


Not that it’s a resolution, but I have come to the conclusion I have got to find a balance to my aggravating days and really great days. You know the routine:

“How’d your day go, dear?”

“Are you kidding? The stoplight skipped a cycle and I’m hanging out waiting for-ever, and when I finally get to the light it changes! That’s before I even got to work. I dropped my keys in a puddle, I forgot about a meeting, the boss came by for an unexpected chat and I was updating my blog, which was on my break, but his frown didn’t register that information…yada yada.”

It’s soooo easy to just grrumble.

Then again, I’m working on bettering my PollyAnna side of life, where all is rose petals and never a thorn.

I’ve decided to balance a great for every grripe.

Here is my ongoing Grrs and Greats list:

GRRS  and GREATS
GRR: food packages that require Herculean effort to pull apart
GREAT: handy “tear here” bags that seal with a zip

GRR: forgetful servers on a tight lunch break
GREAT: a server who remembers I like lemon with my water

GRR: unexpectedly meeting someone and drawing a blank for their name
GREAT: not only remembering the person’s name but remembering
pertinent details like their kid’s name and their college major

GRR: a book that has been on hold FoREveR, only to be a dud
GREAT: 
grabbing that last minute read while in the checkout line and it is FABulouS!

GRR: a DVD with only previews for the special features
GREAT:  
an entire dedicated disc of special features WITH a bloopers reel

GRR: forgetting to do the laundry-again which means the shirt I really wanted to wear is buried deep in the laundry hamper
GREAT:
finding all aspects of desired wardrobe essentials because I actually washed, dried, folded on Saturday.

GRR: the store drop-listed a favorite brand
GREAT:
it’s on the shelf again and on sale!

GRR: hanging out in waiting room limbo for more than a half hour
GREAT:
 wait time of ten minutes or at least new magazines to peruse

GRR: forgetting to pay a bill and getting punched with a hefty late fine
GREAT:
getting a refund for overpayment, or a rebate, or a gift for being such a valued customer

GRR: the school district decides to close school and it’s important test day
GREAT:the school district decides to close school and it’s important test day [a matter of perspective]

GRR: someone with 30 items in the 15 or fewer line
GREAT: the person who says, “Go ahead, you’ve only got a couple of things.”

GRR: getting gas and up the street it’s going for 20 cents less a gallon
GREAT: a full tank prior to a gas hike

GRR: saving up and buying that gotta have item only to find it on sale a week later
GREAT: finding that fabulous item on clearance, saving mungo bucks

GRR: the long dark days of winter
GREAT: hmm, I’m still trying to find something really great about the long days of winter

Balance is indeed important. And while I’m still working on figuring out how to embrace those tedious winter days, I’m hoping you have come up with a couple of GRRS and GREATS of your own. Eli of Coach Daddy originally posted this list as one of his guest spots, and since I’m still adding on my grrs and greats I felt it was a post repeating or is that a grr: posts that are reruns,  then again they could be grreats: that post was really terrific  to read even the second time around.

Feel free to share your own grr and grreat.

And for those who missed my usual POM slot (poem of the month–stay tuned, since next month is  National Poetry Month and I have a poem for every day of April!)

 

 

 

Wouldn’t You Know–A Reflection on Desks


Where writers write is almost as fascinating as how they write. Personally, I become rather discouraged rather than encouraged to read about authors with routines that involve getting up at 4:30 am, doing yoga first, downing their wheatgrass shake, writing away until noon with no breaks because they are of the “plant butt in chair” answer to the obsequious “how to be a writing success?” Quora question.

I am more interested if it’s a wouldn’t desk or not. That’s no typo.

A “wouldn’t” desk is different than a wooden one. A wouldn’t desk involves an alter ego, as in “You wouldn’t believe that when the laundry is off this couch, this is where I work on my cow joke book.” Or “You wouldn’t think that writing in bed would be comfortable or even productive.”

Both couches and beds have served as my desks. Apparently I’m in good company because Mark Twain is famous for writing in his bed. He kept a pool table in his bedroom for when he needed a break from  writing. That’s one big bedroom.

I have yet to find an author who wrote or writes on a couch, that is, a purple one. I purchased mine as my muse and placed it next to my bed. A lovely shade of deep eggplant, it’s  in patterned plush, reminding me of the old movie theatre seats in the Rialto of my childhood years. It has since disappeared into the guest room where it lives an unfilled life as a laundry sorting station.

I ditched desks a long time ago due to two factors:

1. Space

2. Clutter

Desks take up a lot of space. Plus they are so imperiously demanding. Desks can’t go anywhere and require sitting at them. My creativity is shackled somewhat to planting my hindness in that chair. Realizing sitting at a desk feels too much like being a student expected to produce something worthy of a grade, I have since ditched the desk.

Another factor for being deskless is guilt. I could not bear allocating one of the bedrooms as my office. Kids do better not being piled up like Twinkies in a box  in terms of sharing rooms. So, my desk found itself in the living room or our bedroom which led to problem #2:

Clutter is ineviable when a flat horizontal surface beckons. Bills, library books, toys, plates, cups, laundry (which finds a place no matter in the house) all land on my desk. Like Rodney Dangerfield, my desk got no respect. Hence the switch to the couch. Which is a horizontal surface, wouldn’t you know. I ditched desks, couches, beds as writing stations when I switched to a laptop from a desktop computer. My desk is now an IKEA chair. Foot rest is option. It has yet to serve as a laundry station.

Now that I am an empty nester, I have commandeered an abandoned bedroom (after 18, unless they pay into the mortgage,a progeny’s bedroom is absorbed into the household) and have a bed, a couch, a rocking chair, and an IKEA chair as muse choices. No pool table at present, but I do have my son’s lava lamp, which is pretty good entertainment.

So–about your desk?

image: Wikipedia The secret is in Twain’s plumpy pillows

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