A Word I Like

 

ELISION

noun
  • the omission of a sound or syllable when speaking (as in I’m, let’s, een )
  • an omission of a passage in a book, speech, or film. “the movie’s elisions and distortions have been carefully thought out”
  • the process of joining together or merging things, especially abstract ideas. “unease at the elision of so many vital questions”  (source)

 

I like the smoothness of the word elision, and I hear it in my head as the French word elision (sounds much more melodic). Therefore, not like a boring English contraction like I’m, but French ones like quelqu’un or aujourd’hui, or elisions like j’aime.

 

“‘Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chapter door-

Only this and nothing more.”

      –Edgar Allan Poe

“Angels we have heard on high sweetly singing o’er the plains.”

      –Christmas Carol

“But with thy brawls thou hast disturb’d our sport.”

      –Shakespeare

 

 

 

 

Setting: Different Perspectives

Last week during Teachers Write (which I am trying to keep up with!), there was a prompt about setting (you can read it here). Setting is a weakness of mine, an inconvenience at best. I usually just scan right past the setting in the books I read. I never thought about it as a way to reflect character, like Elana K. Arnold talks about in her blog post.

The exercise she had the teachers/librarians do was to observe a place near us. I, of course, was at Starbucks, so I wrote about the table I was sitting at.

Mahogany but a false one. Irregular grooves to look authentic. A little space between the edge of the table and a dark brown rim that mysteriously catches crumbs—useful to keep the floor clean, but a little odd to look at. What are the stories of these crumbs? Usually eight chairs, but a few taken to add to other tables. After all, this is a working table. The light is the best here. Not the place to be comfy and cozy with friends, but sometimes used that way when there’s no other space. For four people, two frappuccinos, one iced latte, one iced tea; tall, tall, grande, grande. One book, three phones, two computers, one tablet. The future of the coffee shop.

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Then, a challenge: write about the same table, but this time, from a few different perspectives.

Lost 6 year old: I sit at the huge table. All these people here, and I don’t know who to ask about my mommy. Maybe Mommy is in the bathroom or maybe I’ll see her out the window. These people all look too busy to talk to me so I look at the table again. They don’t even look up at me. I lay my head down on the hard wood and try not to cry.

Satisfied house cat: Ah, a lovely place to stretch out. I sniff at the table and smell bitter and sweet. I stretch out like a tube. Not comfortable yet. I stand up and walk in circles until I find the exact spot to flop down. The wood is hard but the space is mine. I give my best glare to the people around me and they get up and leave, one by one. The table, and the universe, is mine.

15 year old, just heard about her parents’ divorce: I stumble over to the long table, the only area not crowded. I’d much rather be on one of the comfortable red chairs near the fireplace. Why am I here if all I want to do is hide? I open my journal and pretend to write, but all I do is sketch, my mother and my father, and then me and Skye, with a jagged line in between us. I want to take a paper clip and carve the picture into the table, because this is permanent and there should be a permanent record.

Fun! Maybe I’ll even examine the setting of my book. Maybe.

I Wonder as I Wander

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Time to start Teachers Write again! If you don’t know what it is, check out the link above. It’s a virtual summer writing camp, run by a few picture book/ middle grade/ young adult authors. Today’s the first day. I always start off Teachers Write with such enthusiasm (see last year, around the same date…), but then it fades as life takes over. But now that I actually finished my library degree (!) and the school year is over, I have some extra time.

Kate Messner’s first assignment was to write a list of things that make you wonder. A lot of the commentators wondered about historical events, scientific phenomena, etc. Mine are a mix of psychological and personal. Here’s my list, in the random order it came through stream of consciousness:

I wonder:

  • What it’s like to be a twin
  • What it’s like to have selective mutism/ why it happens/ how much (or all) is psychological? How do people come out of it or do they?
  • What it’s like to be a therapist; what it would be like if a character stalked their therapist, from both perspectives?
  • How EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) can completely relieve symptoms of trauma… if it that’s true, why doesn’t everyone do it?
  • What would it be like to honestly have a yoga “practice”
  • How a teacher can truly create & use problem-based learning
  • What would happen if I took adult ballet
  • Why I start all my writing in 3rd person and it ends up in 1st
  • Why I’m so drawn to writing and reading intense psychological stories
  • Why I don’t like fantasy very much & why I get angry if a book doesn’t seem like it will be fantasy and then it is
  • Why I like to share my writing so much
  • What my children will be like as adults
  • What it would be like to be a librarian in an actual library
  • If I’m meant to be with inner city kids (like a calling) or with suburban kids (better for my mental health)
  • Why my writing group disintegrated, without any discussion
  • How to explain my decision to be a librarian to others
  • What people think when they hear you’re a school librarian, and how that compares to the perception of an elementary school teacher
  • Why district administrators don’t see the value in librarians, even though the research is clear
  • How Greece can solve its financial problems
  • What it would be like to go to a mission trip to a poor country, and how it would affect my life
  • What it would be like to hold a copy of my published book
  • What it would be like if I just ran away for a while

What do you wonder about?

Reading Challenge Cheater Pants

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Every year I set a reading goal on Goodreads, and for the last 2 years it’s been to read 100 books. A year ago I went way over my goal, but man was this year a struggle. Let’s see if you can figure out how I “cheated” in 2014.

JANUARY (7): Takedown Twenty (Evanovich); Divergent (Roth); Reality Boy (King); Who Asked You? (McMillan); Cross My Heart (Patterson); Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for the Classroom (Richardson); The Goldfinch (Tartt)

FEBRUARY (6): Sycamore Row (Grisham); Strategies that Work (Harvey); Paper Covers Rock (Hubbard); Gone (Patterson); Insurgent (Roth); Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (Cohn & Levithan)

MARCH (8): The Magician’s Assistant (Patchett); Lie (Bock); The Impossible Knife of Memory (Anderson); Beautiful Day (Hilderbrand); Promises to Keep (Green); Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes (Coerr); Tangerine (Bloor); The Silver Star (Walls)

APRIL (7): Morning (Thayer); The Tragedy Paper (LaBan); Private L.A. (Patterson); The Theory of Everything (Johnson); Allegiant (Roth); There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom (Sachar); Hate List (Brown)

MAY (5): Roomies (Zarr); The Suitors (David-Weill); Life, After (Littman); Fangirl (Rowell); The Rules of Survival (Werlin)

JUNE (15): Flora and Ulysses (DiCamillo); Sign Language (Ackley); OCD Love Story (Haydu); This is the Story of a Happy Marriage (Patchett); Unlucky 13 (Patterson); Learning a New Land (Suarez-Orozco); This Star Won’t Go Out (Earl); Making Content Comprehensible for English Learners (Echevarria); Hidden Girl (Hall); A Wedding in December (Shreve); Living with Jackie Chan (Knowles); Top Secret Twenty-One (Evanovich); Jumping Off Swings (Knowles); The Chosen One (Williams); Go Ask Alice (Sparks)

JULY (7): Virtuosity (Rodriguez); Joey Pigza Loses Control (Gantos); Charm and Strange (Kuehn); Bunheads (Flack); What They Found: Love on 145th Street (Myers); Teen Idol (Cabot); The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (Lockhart)

AUGUST (11): The Museum of Extraordinary Things (Hoffman); Chestnut Street (Binchy); October Mourning (Newman); Tilt (Hopkins); Uses for Boys (Scheidt); Big Little Lies (Moriarty); When You Reach Me (Stead); The Coldest Girl in Coldtown (Black); Octavian Nothing (Anderson); Cracked Up to Be (Summers); If I Stay (Forman)

SEPTEMBER (4): Jemima J (Green); Wild Roses (Caletti); Savvy (Law); Suicide Notes (Ford)

OCTOBER (5): Four (Roth); Burn (Patterson); Margot (Cantor); Leaving Home (Picoult); Moxie and the Art of Rule Breaking (Frankweiler)

NOVEMBER (5): Leaving Time (Picoult); The Vacationers (Straub); Atlantia (Condie); Yes Please (Poehler); Dark Places (Flynn)

DECEMBER (20): After (Efaw); The One and Only Ivan (Applegate); The Extreme Internet Searcher’s Handbook (Hock); Gray Mountain (Grisham); Private India (Patterson); Hope to Die (Patterson); The Last Exit to Normal (Harmon); Eggs (Spinelli); Still Life with Breadcrumbs (Quindlen); China Dolls (See); Zoe Letting Go (Price); Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour (Matson); Boy (Dahl); Vacation Under the Volcano (Osborne); Amelia’s Family Ties (Moss); Captain Underpants #7 (Pilkey); Heart to Heart with Mallory (Friedman); Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (O’Brien); Sophie the Daredevil (Bergen); The Young Gymnast (Jackman)

So… notice anything about December? Yes, I read a lot in June, but December’s pattern is interesting. I read *6* of them on December 31st. And do you see how the quality declines? I go from reading books by authors like Lisa See and Anna Quindlen down to… Magic Tree House books and Captain Underpants. Not that there’s anything wrong with those books. And, I always give myself permission to read middle grade books and the occasional upper elementary book if it’s highly recommended.

But I *had* to get to my goal. Even though, as my lovely husband pointed out, it was an artificial goal set by me, that no one would ever know about. Still, it had to be done. It’s shameful not to read at least 100 books, right? Right.

So, I did it. And I already put up my goal for 2015: 100 more books.

What about you? Are you as… anal freakish weird awesome as me?

Teen Reader Lisa

For one of my library classes (Children’s/YA Literature), we needed to write a reflection of ourselves as teen readers. Here’s mine:

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I’m having a hard time remembering what I read as a teen. I know I did all my reading for school very conscientiously. For a while I was obsessed with Anna Karenina; I thought Anna’s suicide was the most romantic gesture ever. My AP English teacher let us choose an author to study for the last quarter, and I read three Jane Austen novels, which I still enjoy today. Other than school reading, I read a combination of light teenage series books, sad novels, adult author binges, and ‘forbidden’ books.

I read a lot of fluff, the equivalent of the soap operas I watched faithfully in high school. I read all the Sweet Valley High books by Francine Pascal (plus some ghostwriters). Jessica and Elizabeth were fascinating to me; they were identical twins but so different. In retrospect, the characters were fairly stereotypical, but at the time I identified with sweet Elizabeth and admired/was horrified by Jessica. I know there are Sweet Valley Twins books for younger children; I’m sure I would’ve loved those, too.

Sad/emotional books really caught my eye too. Starting with Bridge to Terabithia, I was drawn to the stories where a sibling, parent, or friend dies, or the main character is a terrible situation. I remember A Summer to Die (Lois Lowry), The Pinballs (Betsy Byars), and Too Young to Die (Lurlene McDaniel). I couldn’t relate to those books; nothing out of the ordinary had ever happened to me. But I got to see what it was like to be those characters, from a safe distance of course.

Like a lot of teens and adults, I latched onto certain authors and read most everything they wrote. I worked as a public library page in high school, doing the adult shelving, and I got to see everything that went out and in. (I also may—or may not—have read on the job.) I read through Danielle Steel, Jackie Collins, Sue Grafton, Nancy Thayer, and other authors I can’t remember.  The books gave me a sense of what everyday adult life was like, and what kinds of issues adults faced. Not sure how realistic this education was, though, considering Steel and Collins!

I will admit to the occasional dirty reading. I began with the fairly innocent Judy Blume books (Margaret gets her period! Deenie has a special place that she touches! Katherine has sex for the first time!) They seem so tame now compared to so many YA books, but at the time I felt like I was reading something exciting and forbidden. Then there was The Joy of Sex, occasionally found on the shelves of houses where I babysat; I studied those line drawings and tried to make sense of it all.  I remember discovering Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty books. Not only were they erotic novels (which was amazing in itself, because I didn’t know those existed!), but they were chock full of BDSM (an early Fifty Shades, but with princes and princesses). I sure got an education with those books! You can bet those books were well-hidden.

When I look back now, I wish I’d had a specifically Young Adult section like we have at libraries now. We had some older books in the children’s room, and some books in the adult sections with teen characters. But if there were a YA section then, I’d have been glued to it. I’m glued to it as an adult anyway.

My Name (loosely based on Sandra Cisnernos’s “My Name”)

It’s Elizabeth, it’s Lisa, it’s Hastings, it’s Rosenman, it’s too many combinations of names on letters in the mail. It’s wondering whether Elizabeth or Lisa has to go on a form, whether the form is important enough to get the full name I don’t use.

It’s Elizabeth for Queen Elizabeth, Lisa because they liked it too, and both because they couldn’t decide between them and read Lisa could be a nickname for Elizabeth. (Would’ve been Jonathan if I were a boy—not very regal.) The books say: Elizabeth=consecrated by God. Lisa=nickname of Elizabeth. A derivative of consecration?

It’s Elizabeth on the first day of school, registering for classes, at the doctor. Don’t get too many odd responses to my correction of Lisa, but it’s not like I’m asking to be called George.

Two Lisas I know are Elisabeths, but with that s, that beautiful s. I wouldn’t trade the z for the s but it sure is pretty. The s makes the Lisa natural.

It’s my Dad saying “Lis,” and Heather and Amber too, who somehow know to say Lis in a way that makes me feel childhood in my chest.

It was Lisa in the 70s when everyone was Lisa; we were Lisa H. and Lisa S. at school. Lisa S. kicked me once, and it was a Lisa fight. In the 80s, Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam. At the school I’m at now, there’s Lisa C. and Lisa D., and I haven’t even been there long enough to be called Lisa R. I’m just a glance at at my ID.

Elizabeth’s been on the top ten list for decades. Classic. My daughter’s middle name, now.

I meant to transform into Elizabeth when I moved to Ohio, but just couldn’t do it. I’m stuck in Lisa, and Lisa’s stuck in me.

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NE-SCBWI Conference 2014

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Last weekend, May 2nd-4th, I went to the NESCBWI conference. (For those of you who don’t know really long acronyms, that’s the New England Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators.) The theme was Create Bravely: Make Your Mark. The keynote speaker was Peter H. Reynolds, author of The Dot and other picture books. If you haven’t read it, The Dot is about a girl, Vashti, who is convinced that she can’t draw. She finally makes a dot on a paper, and, encouraged by her art teacher, begins to explore her creativity through dots and more. I’m no artist, I was about to say, but why? Peter talked about how if you ask a young child if he/she is an artist, the answer is always yes. By about 4th or 5th grades, fewer and fewer children agree. So going along with the theme, creating bravely, there’s no reason why I can’t make art. Does making art have to please anyone but me? No. He made me want to go buy a sketchbook and draw. Create bravely.

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There were some great workshops that I went to. Some of my favorites:

“From Stage to Page: Using Creative Dramatics to Inspire Writing” with Lisa Kramer – I love starting the conference every year with something loose like drama. This class was so fun. We alternated improv with writing. For some parts, we were our characters, and for some we created other characters. At the end we wrote scenes between two different characters that had been created in the workshop. I started a scene between an alien and a cool teenager. Although, being realistic me, ended up turning the alien into a pesky little sister who was just pretending.

“Writing a Book in a Weekend: How to Fast-Draft without Word Vomit” with Taryn Albright – I took this class because Taryn worked with me on my book, and she’s amazingly awesome. I have no interest in writing a book in a weekend. And I am NOT a planner. But I did take away how planning can enable you to write a fast draft. I’m trying one of Taryn’s ideas right now, writing a several page synopsis of my book (not a pretty one, just plodding sentences of basics). I’m hoping this will force me to think out the middle/end of my book better.

“Beyond OMG: Writing Authentic Dialogue for Teens” with Sashi Kaufman – I think dialogue is actually one of my writing strengths, but it’s always good to make sure my teen talk is believable. We talked about slang, swearing, and what makes different teenage voices unique. We read dialogues with teen characters with each other, which I totally loved.

I do have to admit there were two workshops I didn’t enjoy too much, basically because they didn’t do what the descriptions said. For example, no writing during a “writing-intensive” class?

Other bests:

Book signing – This has gotten crazy for me. I *have* to buy and get signed a book for me, each daughter, and each daughter’s teacher, with a special request for one extra teacher.

Hanging out with my critique group (who I never get to see recently) and some folks I only see at this conference.

SO glad I went and I will return next year!