Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Great Quote

I love this quote from Jack Kerouac: “The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars... ” I saw it when I escorted young adult author Rosemary Clement-Moore to visit a classroom at my school today after a whole school assembly. She was great! She talked to the students about Gothic novels and about writing. Her visit was a big success. I recommend her most recent book Texas Gothic to anyone who likes ghost stories and a little teen romance.

Back to the quote, I really do love it--so much that I put it in my right sidebar. (This quote reminds me of Dylan Thomas's "Do not go gentle into that good night," one of my favorite poems.) I want to be one of the mad people even though I'm not sure about the "mad to be saved" meaning. Really, though, I'm too self-conscious to be one of the mad ones. I wish it weren't true, but I know that it is. Don't get me wrong. I love life and try to live it to the fullest in my own little ways, but I do spend a great deal of time worrying about what other people think and second guessing myself. Sometimes I do talk madly, but I often end up saying something that doesn't make sense or worrying that I've said something to offend someone listening.

Okay, I thought I was going to write more, but then I updated my iPhone to OS5 and got to caught up in Criminal Minds. Now, I've lost all motivation to write. The show is just about over. Guess it's time to go to bed and read for a while. Later.

Monday, October 10, 2011

An Off Task Discovery

So, I'm sitting in a staff development session about research tips, which should have been a good choice for me to make. HOWEVER, this session was originally created for 4th grade teachers doing a certain project in their classes. The session's description was very general with no mention of grade levels. The district tech person teaching this session was very upset when she realized last night/this morning that the participants are two first grade teachers, one middle school GT teacher, and one junior high librarian (me). I feel sorry for her, and she's trying very hard to fit her presentation to our needs, but I'm really having a hard time staying on task--honestly, though, I generally have a hard time staying on task anyway.

So here's one thing that I've been doing: I checked out this article from School Library Journal that I saw a tweet about this morning: Cool Tools: Visual presentations make it easier for students to tackle data and difficult text. One of the sites mentioned in the article was, which is a word cloud creator. It's cool! I might like it better than Each word in the cloud becomes a search term when you click the word, and you can filter common words, which I did. Click here to what I made using the URL from this blog. I tried to place the cloud here, but I couldn't figure out how to make it fit the space.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Grapes of Wrath

My Grapes of Wrath post must be delayed. I'm not quite finished with the book yet. I have just over 100 pages left to read. I'll finish it tonight or in the morning and have my post up tomorrow afternoon or Sunday morning. Sorry for the delay.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Good Food, Books, and Art - My Perfect Summer Day

Today was an absolutely lovely example of what summer vacation should be.

First, a quick overview then I'll fill in some details. I slept until almost 7:15, had a couple of cups of good coffee and a quick breakfast while checking Facebook & Twitter and reading part of a short story. I walked for an hour while listening to Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater (Thanks to Audiobook Community for the free download). I had a leisurely lunch from H-town StrEATs at Inversion Coffee House, reading Victor LaValle's Big Machine while I ate. Then I went to The Menil Collection. I haven't been there in a while and wanted to see the Civil Rights era photographs on display. Of course, I can't go there without strolling through the surrealist and modern art rooms, even though I've seen most of the work in those rooms before. Since Cy Twombly died earlier this week, I thought I should finally visit the Cy Twombly gallery while I was at the Menil. Afterward, I stopped briefly at Half Priced Books, looking for a small, cheap volume of Rilke poems, which I didn't find but found something else very interesting. Then I needed to get a prescription filled and decided not to sit around and wait for it to be filled. Instead, I used the wait time as an excuse to check out Sweet Tea Cafe & Tea Bar, where I had a delicious piece of red velvet cake and some iced tea and did a bit more reading of Big Machine. After that, I picked up the prescription and came home to spend the evening blogging, reading or maybe watching a Midsomer Murders episode since I have the house to myself tonight.

Now for some details. About Shiver, it's a werewolf story, and I really don't do fantasy/horror novels, but since the audiobook was available as a free download and the book was fairly popular with some of my students last school year, I decided to give it a try. Each of the 9 parts is just over an hour long, the perfect amount of time for me to walk my three plus miles around the neighborhood. The writing is pretty good; the story is interesting, and, most importantly, the readers are not annoying to listen to. I'm no audiobook connoisseur, but I've had some bad experiences with audiobooks before. Shiver is basically a teen romance, and it's not bad, even the sometimes cheesy lyrics that Sam creates in his head seem appropriate to his character.

The World was Watching, the Civil Rights photographs exhibit, are part of a program that includes a lecture and the screening of films and television footage from the era and more photographs on display at The Gregory School. (I haven't seen those photos yet, but I plan to go very soon.) Some of the photos at The Menil actually were so powerful that they brought tears to my eyes. I made a few notes about some of the people and places in the photos. Even though I feel pretty well-educated about the Civil Rights movement, there were some people and places in the photos that I don't think I've ever heard of. I'll do some research later to learn more about them.

The Cy Twombly Gallery contains a permanent exhibition of his works. I really like much abstract and modern art, but some of his scribbling really just looks like a child's scribbling. There were a couple of series of paintings that I found rather interesting though. One had something to do with roses, but it was like the roses were bleeding or disintegrating. I should've made a note of the words on the painting, but I didn't and can't find them online right now. Another series related to lines from a Rilke poem. I think it's called A Painting in 9 Parts, and these are, I think, Rilke's lines: and in the pond/broken off from the sky/my feeling sinks/as if standing on fishes--I can't decide if these lines are hopelessly sad or not. The paintings have lots of dark greens and black in them. I've never read any Rilke, unless I read some in a long ago literature class, but after leaving the Menil, I stopped at Half Priced today looking for some. More about that later. As I was leaving the gallery, I noticed a small room off the entryway that had a few sculptures in it. One of them is called Epitaph. The epitaph on the sculpture is very chilling: "In the HOSPITALITY of WAR We LEFT THEM THEIR DEAD AS a giFT TO REMEMBER US BY ARCHILOCHOS" [sic]. Archilochus was a 7th century Greek poet. These words are just so perfectly horrifying to me, especially in light of the world I live in now. Even now, sitting here in my living room, I just feel bereft from reading them. They just kind of take my breath away. I wish I could write lines that had that much power. But I can't sit here and be depressed, not after having such a wonderful day. On to a lighter topic.

Because the main boy character in Shiver and Cy Twombly have a thing for Rilke, I decided to see if Half Priced had a volume of his poems. I could've bought one, but it cost more than I wanted to pay today. While I was looking, I noticed a copy of Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet, and I wasn't sure if it was really letters or poems, so I pulled it off the shelf--it's all letters--and it fell open to an inscription from Boston to Bean. It's Half Priced books so I wasn't surprised by the presence of the inscription. I was surprised that the book contained both a card and the envelope it was mailed in. I took photos of the inscription and the card. Was that wrong? I was going to post them here, but I'm not sure now if I should. I felt like I had found a PostSecret. Anyway, I left Half Priced empty-handed, which is not easy for me to do. I decided that I probably have some Rilke poems in one of the many anthologies at home.

Now, as soon as I publish this post, I'm going to finish reading that short story that I started this morning and, hopefully, finish reading Big Machine. I have lots to say about it, but I'll wait to post something about until after book club meets on Sunday.

I'll leave you with some Ice Cube: I gotta say it was a good day.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Bloomsday 2011

I saw a tweet earlier today and thought that I had missed Bloomsday, but I googled it and found that it's tomorrow, June 16. Yea! I will celebrate it by starting my reading of Ulysses by James Joyce. I still have a ways to go with Drood, which I wanted to finish this week, but I will interrupt it for a day. If I didn't have to work tomorrow, I might spend the whole day reading, and I could start the day with my a story from Dubliners for my daily short story.

Speaking of those short stories, yesterday I read George Saunders' "Home." It is in the New Yorker's summer fiction issue. I saw Saunders read once, and I thought I would like his work. I bought a copy of his CivilWarLand in Bad Decline. If I remember correctly, they were okay stories, but I felt like either they or I was missing something. I felt the same way about "Home." Today, I read another Murakami story (I've read several of his this summer) from The Elephant Vanishes, and I found it funny and thought provoking, but I'm still not sure that I'm seeing the greatness that his fans proclaim. I definitely think I would like to read one of his novels some time soon.

I know it's early but it's time for bed now. I have to teach a blogging workshop tomorrow morning. Later.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Biking and Books

This is my 3rd post in a week! Can't remember the last time that happened, if it ever did.

I just returned from my second bike ride of the week. I'm not doing a very good job of biking more than driving, but I'm glad that I didn't give in to my laziness this morning. I rode farther than I did on Monday, but I still didn't make it to the library. Road construction caused me to rethink that destination.

Honestly, it wasn't just road construction. Most of my time on the bike, so far, I feel old and awkward and even more self-conscious than normal. I'm really worried about embarrassing myself by looking like I don't know how to ride a bike, and I'm not young enough or old enough for that to be cute. I can't imagine learning to ride a bike for the first time as an adult. Luckily, children don't worry as much about embarrassing themselves with a fall. They might be afraid they'll hurt themselves, but they know those kinds of hurts heal. They can't wait for the training wheels to come off and mommy or daddy to step away and let them be free.

There are moments, though, when I've felt good riding the bike. There really is something freeing in it, something like flying would feel, I think, something like driving very fast does feel. I have a friend who likes to jump out of planes, maybe the feeling of freedom is the draw for him. I thought I might segue to books from this feeling of freedom, but now, I see how cheesy that would have been. I'll just start a new paragraph and a new subject instead.

I started my third Summer of Short Stories (or #shortstorydaily as I'm calling it on Twitter). I've read two stories from Haruki Murakami's The Elephant Vanishes and one from A.S. Byatt's Little Black Book of Stories. So far, my favorite is Murakami's "The Second Bakery Attack." It's about a newlywed couple who wake up starving one night and have nothing at home to eat. While they are drinking beer to try to quash their hunger, the husband tells the wife about the time he and a college chum held up a bakery for bread (the eating kind not the spending kind). They got bread but not in the way they had planned. The wife decides that the botched hold up has cursed her husband and caused their extreme hunger pangs. The only way to break the curse is to attack a second bakery. The story is quite funny with some truly unexpected details.

In addition to the short stories, I'm reading A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, my book club's current selection. I've never read any of her writing before, but I know she is much loved by literary critics, and I can see why. I'm responsible for this selection, and I'm so happy to be enjoying it. My last selection, Sag Harbor by Colson Whithead, fell flat. Most liked moments in the book but thought the book didn't hold together as a novel very well. I think Sunday's discussion of A Visit from the Goon Squad will be much different, if more than one or two of us has read the book, which seems to be a problem lately. I actually think that her novel is very similar to Sag Harbor in structure, but I'm finding hers more successful in creating a whole. I have more to say on this, but I'm going to save it for book club discussion and a later blog post.

Now, I need to do some housekeeping. Later!

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Poetry Writing Workshop Blues

Today was the first meeting of the Teachers as Writers Poetry Workshop that I'm attending this summer at Inprint. I've done several of these since 2004, including a short story one last summer which I really enjoyed. The class was full--15 participants, three of whom were also in the short story with me. Some of them are kind of scary. One has an MFA in poetry and has published a chapbook. One just graduated from undergrad with an emphasis in creative writing before teaching this past school year. One is using the class as a way to get back into writing before applying to an MFA program. Even some of the others who are "just" teachers seemed especially talented when they read their bad poems, which we wrote as a writing exercise. I'm not sure that I ever felt this intimidated on day 1 of a workshop.

As part of a writing exercise, we had to brainstorm some first lines of poems, and then we had to share the most interesting one and tell why we selected that one to share. Once we had our say, others could say where they would go with that first line, and then we had to give the first line to one of the others to write the poem. I was first to give, but I ended up getting the last person's poem, and not for lack of trying either. So here's the first line of my poem:
  • You with the teeth that balloon like porcelain scrotums--this poetry is not for you
What the hell am I supposed to do with that line? The person who created this line said that he was thinking about the two conflicting approaches (not sure if that's the right word or not) to poetry, one that poetry should be rather academic and not easy to understand by just anyone and the other that poetry should be written so that anyone can enjoy it and find meaning in it (Billy Collins is often cited as taking this approach to poetry). Even knowing what he was thinking, I still don't have a clue where this line will take me. At least I don't have to have the poem that comes from this line workshopped. I can choose to submit another poem for that next week, but I am expected to write this poem.

I should probably get to work on one of those poems now, but first, I need to do some work-ish type things. Later.