Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Charlotte's Web

If you love good writing or if you love to read and write, and if you haven't read Charlotte's Web lately, you really ought to give it a second-or fourth or fith go. If you've never read it, then it's a MUST.

We read Charlotte's Web this past week for Children's Lit., and even though I read it two years ago, I had once again forgotten what a spectacular book this is.

Publishers Weekly listed the book as the best-selling children's paperback of all time as of 2000. Lasting as a favorite since its publication in 1952 says volumes about its classic appeal.

Eudora Welty wrote, "As a piece of work it is just about perfect, and just about magical in the way it is done."

Last night we examined the major elements of literature within the story, and it holds up to all kinds of scrutiny. Apply almost any school of literary criticism, and Charlotte's Web is a great study. It is, quite simply, a nearly perfectly written story.

And best of all, no matter how many times I read the story, I will cry, yes every time, when Charlotte dies. Anita Silvey tells this in her Essential Guide to Children's Books and Their Creators: "...[W]hile making a commercial recording of the book, White himself choked up as he read those elegiac words about Charlotte--'and no one was with her when she died'--so that the taping session had to be stopped."

Not bad, when the creator himself is so moved.
Want a fast read of one of the most classic of all stories? Pick it up and read it again.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sherman Alexie

I'm finally reading The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Sometimes Alexie's style isn't my favorite, but this book is pretty entertaining, and I do like it a lot. I don't think I understand that it got the National Book Award, but I do think Sherman Alexie is hilarious and insightful, so I don't want to detract from that at all. He throws in cartoon illustrations, which are also funny and painfully honest. I guess that's why it won the National Book Award--an amazying blend of hilarity, pain, honesty, and insight.

So, yeah, I recommend it whole-heartedly.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


I'm pretty excited about the classes I'm teaching. But how quickly we forget how much work it is...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Young Adult literature

Here's an essay about Young Adult Literature and why we love it so much--and how it's popular for readers of all ages, not just teens. I love this. Makes me feel all the better about writing YA, too.

YA books, are great reads for anybody. Absolutely. So nice to be in such good company.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Scarlet Pimpernel

I finally watched The Scarlet Pimpernel last night. It's set during the Reign of Terror after the beginning of the French Revolution. It is a different view than those stories that glorify the Republic and the ridding society of Aristocracy. It's a good movie, though it's "old"--made in 1982.

The Pimpernel is a underground hero, saving innocent aristocrats from the infamous guillotine. By day, he plays the foppish English dandy, Sir Percy Blakeney, but he is really the fearless swashbuckling hero, whose identity isn't even known to his wife. The revelation, is of course, a major plot point.

I'm not sure how I'd feel about this movie if I were French. It plays the Engilsh hero against ruthless guillotine-happy French libertines, fighting for the Republic.

It's interesting because it's a precursor to the hidden identity-hero--who plays a fop or bumbler for the public eye. This was written sixteen years before ZORRO appeared, and of course Superman and even Batman also come to mind.

If you're interested in superheros and the evolution of heroic tales--or if you've seen Zorro--or even better, read Isabel Allende's version of his development in her novel ZORRO, you would thoroughly enjoy this movie!

Friday, August 13, 2010

On being ridiculous

I've been lucky enough to have both my kids and their partners home for chunks of summertime. Besides a visit to N. Carolina to see them, I've had more time with them than I have for a few years. Summer has gone too fast, but it's been one of the best ever.

As I write this, my son is at the kitchen table, with his buddy. They are planning a cross-country trip that goes from Minnesota to the desserts in the southwest, up the West Coast through L.A. and San Fransciso, all the way to Alaska, where his buddy's parents live. My son is not teaching this year--burned out--and needs this, especially if he can sell his motorcycle to finance the excursion.

So this morning, I said, "I sure am going to miss you when you leave. But I'm so excited for your trip, that it overrides the selfish sadness I'm going to feel."

"Oh, Mother. You're ridiculous."

"I know. I try. It's one of my goals in life to be ridiculous."

My son: "Well, Mom, check that one off your list."

Ah, chief on my bucket list is to never slide into mediocrity or humdrum existence. Ridiculous is good.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

My BAT story. Bats 2010.

When Freya got me up to go outside this morning at 4, a BAT was flying laps around my kitchen.

All the bat stories my friends tell involve: 1. a husband chasing the bat while they hide under the covers, 2. a tennis racket--Neither of which I have at my disposal. Tennis racket is in the garage, and I don't want to risk this bat flying off to hide in some cranny upstairs. I don't want to let him out of my sight, so my tennis racket is not an option.

So, first I buck up--nobody else is gonna get this sucker so I gotta do it--I put on my hat (in case the wives' tales about bats getting in your hair is really true), and look for something with which to swat him out of orbit! Used the last newspaper to light the grill last night...wait...a RUG! I swoop up a rug, time his lap just right and wham! I knock him to the kitchen floor. Quick, before he flaps up again, I pick him up in the rug and hustle outside.

Over the raspberry bushes, where the bat body can decompose, I give the rug a shake. No bat. I shake harder. No bat. What? He's stuck to the rug. I'm NOT pulling him off. After all this, I'm not touching him. Is he dead? No, he's hanging on for dear life. I can't shake him loose.

So I hang the rug over a rung of the windmill and let him be. Freya looks at the rug and wonders if she needs to bark at this apparition in the dark. (Why didn't she see the damn bat? She was too busy on her way outside to do her business! And I wouldn't want her chasing it or barking at it in the house anyway).

He was there the whole time Freya was outside, but this morning, he was gone.

Good little bat. Stay OUTSIDE where you belong and eat mosquitoes.

Ah, the price I pay for a farmhouse getaway of my own. Know what? It's worth it.
And it makes a good story.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Children's Lit

I get to teach both Creative Writing and Children's Lit again this fall! I'll have four different preps, so it's gonna be busy, but I'm excited, now that I'm seriously getting stuff ready for classes. It's always a hard transition to go from summer schedule of writing and riding my bike and seeing my kids and reading to a full school load, but once I get going, I remember why I love to teach.

I'm determined to keep writing during the school year. I'm determined. We'll see how long I can keep that mantra going.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Happy Birthday, Freya!

Freya's two years old. My puppy. The Giant Furball. Joy-bringer, snuggler, galumpher, the Never-Ending Story dog in all-black.

She's spending most of her birthday on the basement floor, trying to stay cool.

Don't you love it when you exercise and take a shower and keep sweating for an hour afterward? It's one of those days.

But I have to spend the day at school. Ah, yes, it's fast approaching. So much to do. It'll be fun. Being around students helps me get excited. Otherwise, I just want to hole up and write (and ride my bike and play with Freya).

Monday, August 9, 2010

Great article/speech by Elif Shafak on fiction writing, and the politics of multi-cultural literature

Elif Shafak on the politics of fiction--and about the art of fiction in general. It's a wonderful speech, and the transcript is available if your computer won't play the video. If you're interested in writing, or in how writers work, you'll find it interesting:


Friday, August 6, 2010

Leadville...sigh, relief.

The author of this article has won the Leadville Mountain Bike race many times. Last year, he was second only to Lance. After I saw Race Across the Sky, I entered the lottery to get into the race. I didn't get in, and as I read about prepping for the race, I'm wistful. But to be honest, I'm also RELIEVED!


Thursday, August 5, 2010


Now, I am a believer that when you expect something to happen, it doesn't. I was sure I would not be picked by the Junior Library Guild. Guess that's why it happened.
But this article makes me seriously glad to be picked. I feel very honored, even though I expect nothing more will ever come except simply getting in print.

It's just cool to be a part of this. And this long-in-the process--fifteen rewrites and revisions--pays off, I guess.

Next book project first draft completed last week. Many more drafts to come, I'm sure.

In the meantime, onward to another novel that I've started. More on that later.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


OMG. The Junior Library Guild has chosen Chasing AllieCat as one of their official book selections for 2011!!! I'm so stoked. I hope I get to visit lots of libraries and schools to read and talk about stories and biking...and dogs!
Check out Junior Library Guild YA paperback selections:
Preorder at