Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Frostbite, by Richelle Mead - a Vampire Academy book

This book was a lot of fun. Mead's characters are stronger, sassier, and more nuanced than those I've read in *other* popular vampire series. The first book in this series, Vampire Academy, offered some plot twists that surprised me. This second installment was much more predictable, but it was still fun. There were only a handful of places where I wanted to take my red pen to the page, but Mead's masterful use of voice and a few instances of really elegant narrative intrusion made up for any "mistakes" in writing. The VA series is quick and fun, a definite breather between deeper, heavier tomes.

Friday, December 04, 2009


I was feeling sick, but I agreed to go to the diner anyway. He got there first and had gotten us a booth and ordered his drink when I walked in. We sat and chatted for an hour and a half - about everything, as usual. I wasn't very hungry, so I ordered hot tea and grilled cheese. He got fried fish, macaroni and cheese, and a coke. It was super-cute. I made an origami hat out of the paper placemat. I tried to fit it on one of the glasses, but it was too snug. Finally, I put it on the ketchup bottles, where it fit perfectly. Then I thought slightly better of it and pulled the writing workshop pen out of my pocket and wrote "KETCHUP HAT" on the hat itself. I put it back on my husband. It made me happy.


Kaylee was meowing when I pulled into the driveway last night. It had been a wonderful day - productivity at work, a promise of references from an old professor, a 45 minute conversation with the current guy. I didn't see Kaylee as I turned the key in the lock to the front door. Usually she butts in around the screen as I pull it open. I paid more attention once I felt the blast of warm air from the inside of the house and noticed that Kaylee was mewling more pitifully and less demandingly than usual. And then I knew.

She was on the roof. I smiled and cursed at her affectionately, hoping my septuagenarian neighbors on either side weren't taking out their trash. Then I remembered how hubby had gotten her down before. Climbing on a chair and reaching for her wouldn't work. I tried it once, anyway, and I felt too unsafe to try for very long. He said he'd tried that tactic a different time and couldn't loosen her grip on the gutter. Nope - the only way to get her down was to remind her how she got up in the first place. I walked around the carport, opened the rickety wooden gate to the side and backyards, and walked until I was standing beneath one of the trees that grows next to the side of the house. I expected her to protest a bit more, but she maneuvered her way into the tree, plopping to successively lower branches, and sliding down the slope of wooden boards next to the piles of bricks and firewood. She was more grateful than aloof as she led me purposefully back to the front door.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It's the NCTE of the World As We Know It

Liz and I leave for NCTE in Philadelphia tomorrow morning! We met last night during her office hours to pore over the program, discuss what to do during downtime [shopping, museums, Liberty Bell, cheesy cuisine], and, of course, chat a little bit about our panel presentation Friday afternoon. But back to the important part: Road Trip!

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis - I'm enjoying this but not as quickly as my book club ladies.
Also enjoying The Witch of Portobello by Paulo Coelho. I believe that he should be listened to rather than read, at least for me.

In my last few hours at work for the week, I'm kicking ass and taking names this morning.
• Last Thursday I called the student union to confirm that we'd be using their display space starting Monday at noon. They made it sound like we'd be ready to move in yesterday. When my student showed up at 7pm, the other tenants were still using the space. I got fun calls from students and the boss. This morning I got to call and talk to a student at the union, who said things will be ready to go for us at noon today, and I left a message for the reservations director. She hasn't gotten back to me about reservations for rooms next semester either.
• I've been working with our Printing & Design folk on a brochure of students' microcompany products. I have a happy-looking proof. All I need to do now is confirm with my boss that the pricing is acceptable, decide on a final number to order, and encourage P&D to get it done before Thanksgiving so students can take them home and advertise over the break.
• Pricing confirmed - we'll order 1000 (400 more than we wanted, but we all know how profit margins work). They should be ready Friday!
• I set up my work e-mail's autoresponse message for when I'm gone Wednesday through Sunday.
• Just printed out my handout for NCTE Friday. Many thanks to C & M for your input!
• Boss is having a guest speaker Thursday. I confirmed printing and confirmed that a coworker of mine can greet her and take attendance. Need to call the guest and tell her to meet my friend Stella in her office.
• Done.

Speaking of M, do you love vanilla? And nuts? And sugar and salt? And adorably infectious writing?
Check out this recipe for Sweet and Salty Vanilla Pecans!

More later - presentation to work on, clothes to pack, fun books to read, gchat friends to harass, and husband to hug!

Friday, November 13, 2009

I went to a poetry reading/slam/community on campus last night with a couple of classmates and was so pleased with what I experienced there.  In addition to the two professional guests I mention below, we had some students and local church members get up and spit their rhymes.  Powerful powerful stuff.

John Goode is real and hilarious and I swear he and I must have grown up with the same mother!

Sunni Patterson is a mystic with a sense of lyricism and rhythm that nearly blew me away and made half of the audience secretly tear up.  I am going to (safely and electronically-only) stalk her, I think.

If you're in the Dayton area tonight, I strongly suggest you check them out.  Now it's off to the library and to see if I can find their stuff, especially Sunni's.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Review of Pygmy

Chuck Palahniuk's Pygmy was dark, disgusting, and absolutely hilarious.  It's the story of a young would-be terrorist from foreign country [redacted]. He narrates the tale of his arrival in a Midwestern U.S. town where he is taken in by a Christian host family with two teenage kids.  Pygmy, as Agent 67 is called by his new community, has a nickname for everyone.  He exposes the hangups of everyone he meets as Palahniuk attacks Christianity, Captialism, Consumerism, and everything else American, in true Chuckie fashion.  Through his eyes, we watch him and his fellow "exchange student" operatives prepare for Operation Havoc.  He goes to school, he gets in fights, he falls in love.  It's a riff on your typical YA high school story, but it's twisted.

The satire is scathing and brilliant.  Chuckie doesn't pull any punches, but he doesn't unilaterally beat up on American culture.  He exposes some of our weaknesses but shows how dictatorial, freedomless fascist training is also flawed and damaging.  I don't know if he goes so far as to promote a happy medium, but he certainly doesn't say that one side or the other is blameless.  The ending surprised me.  It was much more redeeming, I think, than Fight Club or what I would expect from Chuck.  But it was also a little bit "neater" than it needed to be.  The process rather than the product is the fun part of this one.

The writing style is postmodern, and I like it.  I'm lucky that I picked up the audiobook version, because the reader did a wonderful job and I don't think I could sit through reading-by-sight the choppy, jumbled (though hilarious) "sentences" of Chuckie's prose.

I liked this book a lot.  It is NOT for the faint of heart, and if you strongly dislike gratuitous and graphic violence, don't bother.  The social and political commentary are not novel enough to make this required reading for anyone, but it's great escapism if you're into that sort of thing.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

On Writing

Anyone here like Barbara Kingsolver?  *raises hand*  She did an interview with Goodreads recently, in part to promote her new book, and the interview transcript is fabulous!  She has some great gems and insights about writing and culture, how trends in writing have changed over the past thirty years, and much more.  I quote one nugget as my gchat status message, but it's cumbersome.  A nice nugget for a blog post is the quotation below:

"The essential ingredient of authorship is authority."
It sounds easy, obvious, but it's so true.  In order to write, you  have to own your material and your subject.  That's not to say that if you feel unknowledgeable you shouldn't try to write.  Write.  Always write. But don't be afraid of research.  Don't be afraid of reading everything you can get your hands on.  Read from a diversity of sources.  Learn how to discern which sources are good and which are not.  Weave them into your story.  Be entrenched in your ideas, and you'll find that your words can mystically write themselves.  To push that idea, build a foundation of information ideas and then empty your mind to let the words flow through you and onto the page.

Authorship as authority is true not only of fiction-writing, as I know many people are attempting with National Novel Writing Month.  It is also true of academic writing.  In freshman composition courses, students are learning about discourse communities, which is just a big scary word for specific conversation among people with similar goals.  John Swales can give you more details at the wiki site.  Basically, students need to enter the discourse community by learning about it and then practicing.  Dive in, or at least wade.  That's how children learn language, and that's how most of us learn anything.  It's ad hoc and intensive and beautiful.