Friday, January 9, 2015

today and its haiku

ghost trees loom in the
shroud of fog--I silently
tread down the mountain

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Brilliant reads

I may not have been reading, writing, and computing as much as I usually do, but I did read a few books that have stayed with me long after their covers closed.
Each of these shines with brilliant imagination and fearless exploration of possibilities. I'd say I wish I could write like this when I grow up, except I'm grown up and then some.
If you've read any of these, I'd love to hear your take. These stories are a walk on the wild side with totally refreshing views by David Levithan, Sally Green, and Andrew Smith.





Riveting, hold-on-to-your-seat storytelling that sucked me in to Half Bad, churned me in its vortex, and spit me out breathlessly at the end. Warning: this YA story is quite brutal at times. A lot of times. But there are also tender moments and people who stand up to the brutality giving the story hope and redemption. Kudos to author Sally Green for creating three-dimensional characters and a flawed society that carry the depth and substance of reality.

The protagonist, Nathan, is half bad, because he is the son of a notorious Black Witch father and a White Witch mother who died after his birth. Raised in the White Witch community he is, at times sullen and combative, but that isn't surprising since he's always been shunned and tormented. As he grows, treatment becomes more and more harsh, both psychologically and physically.


For brief sections the story is told in second person. I wondered at this device until I realized how brilliantly it was used to show the breakdown of Nathan as he struggles to maintain his sanity when imprisoned and beaten. It is a kind of disconnect that allows him to scheme, fight back, survive.


This story isn't about white and black witch societies, one being morally better than the other. It's about all the gray areas that allow people to believe they have the higher ground no matter how they achieve it.


 Excrementum Sanctum! About this book I'll say just as the teen-age protagonist, Austin, says with frequency, "Holy shit!" And not without cause. 

I don't know how Andrew Smith keeps doing what he does, but it's always brilliant, always a fusion of real-life messes and wonders mixed with crazy-pants stuff that makes me laugh out loud. Grasshopper Jungle may be the craziest of all his stories. 


Not only are Austin's hormones on hyperdrive and his confusion over his sexuality dragged along with that, but the world around him turns into the most outrageous, sci-fi horror show imaginable. Yeah, Austin struggles with being in love with both of his best friends--a boy and a girl-- while giant, people-eating bugs appear to be taking over their town. What do you do with that? Andrew Smith does amazing things with that. Entertaining and thought-provoking. Not for the squeamish or prudish.


Every Day is one-of-a-kind, a stroke of genius by David Levithan.

I don't find it easy to concentrate in waiting rooms and airports, but fell into Every Day each time I opened it no matter where I was--captivated by the dilemma, the characters, the truths about life.


The story has a supernatural element but is rooted in the realities of identity and relationships. The protagonist wakes up in a new body every day, never knowing what gender or race he/she will be in that borrowed life. Currently a teen, this means new parents, new school, new friends, to navigate. Some days are sweet, some are nightmares. Since nothing is permanent, love has remained elusive. Until now. 


That's all I'm going to say, not wanting to give spoilers. If you trust me, read it and be amazed.
 



Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Every tree should have an alien octopus.
Am I right?

And a bird all cozy and warm.
And an angel from Notre Dame, because Paris is never to be forgotten.




However you spend the holidays, I wish you beauty and joy and a ton of fun.






Tuesday, November 4, 2014

am writing

Tumbleweeds have been blowing around this blog but not in my life. I moved for the second time in 10 months this year. Whew, that is too much.
I'm glad to say I'm settled and  #amwriting again. Pulled out the manuscript I was revising and rewrote the opening. About 2k new words in the last two days. Feels good.
In June, I attended an amazing workshop on revision, Novel Metamorphosis, with Darcy Pattison. As soon as I get deeper into the revision I'm going to post more about this incredible experience.
For now, want to let you know I'm still here and share pics from around my new neighborhood. They're not the best focused shots but perhaps they give a flavor.





Monday, July 7, 2014

The art of nature

I stumbled on a gem of a botanic garden where professional artists and students from local schools are encouraged to create art out of/in nature. The experience is like walking a trail through the woods and discovering unexpected marvels along the way.


This masked being with antlers looks like a  powerful shaman. Although he's magically awesome to behold, he's really made of old planter pots.


This captivated me, made me want to step into a tale. A table, chair, and meal growing moss. What does it mean? Everything returns to nature, dust-to-dust? Or the remains of a shipwrecked or fairy-stolen soul? What do you think?

Playful splash of color that almost seems musical.

Um. I have no idea, but it's deeply strange. Like a bog creature.

A wildly colorful yarn tipi thing with a wheel and arrow stick.



A fortified fairy abode. There were a bunch of tiny twig and bark houses tucked in corners of one part of the garden.

This is a big leaf magnolia, one of about 2,000 different native and exotic plants suited to the Pacific Northwest, growing in the Kruckeberg Botanic Garden in Shoreline, Washington.

At an on-site nursery, volunteers propagate many of the trees, shrubs, herbs, and flowers so that people can buy them to grow in their own yards. Workshops for adults and exploration programs for children continue the mission of the garden as educational as well as enjoyable.

I know I'll be going back.


Friday, May 23, 2014

We Were Liars is so true it hurts


I read We Were Liars two times, start to finish, within days. It's that good, that fascinating, that compelling.

I had read e. lockhart's The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (a Printz Award Honor Book and finalist for the National Book Award) and fallen in love with her brilliant storytelling, so when the buzz started for We Were Liars I was excited. No disappointment here. This is another brilliant book--one that left me thinking about the multiple ways people can love and hurt each other, the deceit of behaving as expected, the emptiness of privilege, the danger of moral superiority.

This is one of those special books that is both entertaining and thought-provoking.

 We Were Liars takes place mostly on a private island owned by a super-wealthy, manipulative patriarch who summers there with his grasping daughters and fed-up grandchildren. What ought to be idyllic instead seethes with jealousy and desperation, leading to unbearable tragedy. But no more can be said about the plot, because it would be criminal to give away anything that will spoil it for the next reader. This story is a mystery, intricately crafted. In my second reading, I saw clues that could be taken in more than one way. The effect was I didn't see what was coming but accepted its authenticity when all was revealed. And it was so real it hurt to the marrow.

We Were Liars isn't a long book, nor is it heavy with description, but the description it delivers is crisp, fresh, and vivid.

 So here are some examples to show lockhart's style, which is simply stunning:

 (A beautifully-written, gripping couple of lines about abandonment and loss) The bright red shame of being unloved soaked the grass in front of our house, the bricks of the path, the steps to the porch. My heart spasmed among the peonies like a trout. 

(A snippet from the POV character, Cady, about herself) I own a well-used library card and not much else, though it is true I live in a grand house full of expensive, useless objects. 

 (Cady about her migraines following an accident she can't remember) Welcome to my skull. A truck is rolling over the bones of my neck and head. The vertebrae break, the brains pop and ooze. A thousand flashlights shine in my eyes. The world tilts. I throw up. I black out. This happens all the time. It's nothing but an ordinary day. 

(Cady's description of the first time she met Gat) His nose was dramatic, his mouth sweet. Skin deep brown, hair black and waving. Body wired with energy. Gat seemed spring-loaded. Like he was searching for something. He was contemplation and enthusiasm. Ambition and strong coffee. I could have looked at him forever.

 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Expanding horizons in reading

If you've been on Twitter, Tumblr, or other media in the last few days you've probably noticed #WeNeedDiverseBooks and #DiversifyYourShelves, a grassroots movement to increase diversity in books for children and teens.

I decided to go to an independent bookstore and ask a bookseller for suggestions to expand my (already crammed, I might add) shelves. She was great, taking time to not only point out books but talk about each one.

I bought some titles by authors I didn't know and added some by authors I did.

Among my new books is Matt de la Pena's The Living, a disaster-at-sea story with a protagonist from Otay Mesa near the border between Mexico and California. Shy is a towel boy, a water boy, on a cruise ship. His economic background is a world apart from the passengers, but he figures by summer's end he'll make enough to help out his mother, score some gear, and take a girl out.

I love his voice as he considers the last thing: He'd get a reservation at a nice spot, too. Cloth napkins. Some fine girl sitting across from him in the classy-ass booth. Maybe Jessica from the volleyball squad. Or Maria from down the street. All eyelashy smiles as whatever girl glances at him over her menu. "Get whatever you want," he'd tell her. "You ever had surf 'n' turf? For real, I got you." Yeah, he'd play it smooth like that.

Matt de la Pena is a fantastic speaker--funny, heart-breaking, and inspiring. I heard him at the SCBWI LA conference last summer. Using himself as a case study about finding your voice as a writer, he said he was told in second grade he couldn't advance because he couldn't read. He formed an opinion of himself as a bad student, but in high school he began writing poems because he liked the rhythm of language. Eventually, he got into a writing program. He said he decided not to worry about where he fit in but to just work his ass off.

His other books include Ball Don't Lie, Mexican WhiteBoy, We Were Here and I Will Save You.

In my pile o' new books is Bird in a Box by Andrea Davis Pinkney, who also spoke at SCBWI. Set in the 1930's, this novel features three kids looking for hope and finding it in a young Joe Louis, who had a chance to become the next heavyweight champion.

The rest of my new purchases: Crow by Barbara Wright, Fire in the Streets by Kekla Magoon, Saint Louis Armstrong Beach by Brenda Woods, Every Day by David Levithan. I also bought Shades of Earth by Beth Revis, the third book in a futuristic space trilogy, in which humans and society have become homogenized, an interesting concept.

Oh! and for my Kindle, I purchased Best Ramadan Ever by Medeia Sharif.

It will be impossible to remember all the diverse MG/YA books I've ever read but to mention a few I enjoyed: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz; Marie Lu's Legend series; Ash by Malinda Lo; Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan. Also I'm a big fan of Paolo Bacigalupi's teen and adult books. And Sherman Alexie!

In the slightly more adult category any book by Susan Straight is a cultural treasure.