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March appears to be going out like a lamb, so I guess its time to wake up and officially come out of hibernation. I have been missing the blogosphere, but haven’t been able to force a post out lately. When we get a round of flu, it takes a few weeks for the whole crew to recover and of course Mom ends up cleaning and caring for everyone else, even when she’s down and out. So, I have found it hard to do more than a quick look at some sites and multiple rounds of mind-numbing Scrabble. I did sign up recently for another reading challenge. This one is called Diversity Rocks! and focuses on adding new cultures and authors of color to our reading lists. It runs all year if anyone else is interested, and there are several “levels” of participation.

Speaking of challenges… April is bringing many to the web including Script Frenzy from the makers of NaNo. I considered trying this one because I thought it would be a good way to quickly learn about scriptwriting. NaNo was a fun experience, but it kicked my booty too, and I know I will have a raging case of Spring Fever by Earth Day, so maybe another year. I did, however, find a couple handy links just-in-case. If anyone else is thinking of trying their hands at writing 100 pages of screenplay, play script or TV shows [apparently graphic novels are also included in the Frenzy, but I don’t have links for that style.]:

Screenwriting.info

Screenwriters Utopia

Stage Affair- offers an e-book on play structure when you sign up for newsletter

I still would like to try my hand at playwriting someday…I am more of a one-act stage person than screenplay writer I think. I used to like reading plays though I never did any theater stuff myself.

Anyhoo, rather than the call of the stage, I am returning to an old love and taking up the Poem A Day Challenge happening through Poetic Asides, the  Poet’s Market blog from Writer’s Digest. April is Poetry Month and I have always had fun writing my own ditties. Each day a topic or prompt is posted on the prompt and participants add their words right in the comments. It makes for some interesting reading…often hilarious.

Just to add to the fun, I am planning on combining this challenge with NaBloPoMo again. ..why not? I need to stretch my muscles. I like writing poetry, but have to add the universal disclaimer that daily poems written for fun may not always be considered “art”…there are so many ways a poem can go and sometimes it gets out of control. But what a great way to celebrate spring!

BTW: I also wanted to share this with folks because its just so exciting [it doesn’t take much for me :)]… after our discussions on books made into films, here’s one I wasn’t expecting and yet apparently have been waiting all my life to see, because now I cannot wait. Obviously, the storyline is getting changed in this one since the original is about 100 words or less. Maurice Sendak certainly had a way of proving the adage “A picture is worth a thousand words.” His classic book said so much in so few words, and spoke volumes to millions. Or perhaps it was just the imagination running away with us. Enjoy!

button designed by Elizabeth Dulemba

Share a Story - Shape a Future

I just learned about this blog, just in time to share before the festivities begin. This week, Mar 9-13 there is a blog tour  happening which concentrates on children’s literature and literacy. Anyone interested in kid lit, whether as a writer, teacher or reader, will find a plethora of information there. Each day is hosted by a different blog and covers a different theme/topic. I got the heads up through The Reading Tub whose blog is hosting the first day. There will be related downloads and giveaways too. As a mom, I look forward to gaining some insight into teaching the skill and love of literature to my own kiddos. As a writer, I think we can probably gain some insight into what children’s literature encompasses and how to write for young audiences. Either way, encouraging literacy in the new generation is beneficial to our culture, future and anyone who loves books.

Not A Day Goes By

I just found about this carnival happening this week, so I thought i would share the info. Click the cute little button for a whole list of participating blogs. I may have to look for something to giveaway too, but I am also happy to enter for a chance to win! Yay! Free books!

Yes, I am cramming them in, so this is a nice, easy one to choose. I actually did mention it when I first started the challenge in December, so it’s only a little slack of me. Besides it allows me to make another public service announcement.

As far as children’s literature, it is hard to argue with Dr. Seuss’ prominence in our culture. He, Theodore Geisel, contributed more than just a Cat or a Grinch; he pretty much revolutionized the way we teach our children to read. This Monday, March 2 is Read Across America Day, which just happens to be Dr. Seuss Day too [it’s his birthday!]. In honor of the great man of words, parents and teachers (and anyone with 15 minutes to spare), are encouraged to read to children. The National Education Association through kidthing.com is even offering four free e-book downloads of classic Dr. Seuss books, including Horton’s own tale. So celebrate everyone’s favorite rhymer and make a kid’s day. You could even make a day of it with Horton in book form and his full-length animated film. If you want to eat green eggs and ham too, that’s entirely up to you.

200px-hortonhearsawhobookcover

Personally, I was glad to hear that Horton was going to get his chance at a revival. These days a film version is a guarantee of related merchandise and what better gift to get than a book, I ask you? His story, seriously now,  is such a good one for children of all ages. If you think about it, the Cat and the Grinch really are scoundrels. Horton the elephant, however, is a good guy, who speaks out for what he believes in and for people who cannot speak for themselves. To summarize: Horton discovers another world within his own larger world, a subculture if you will. He defends their rights to exist, despite resistance and attacks from others in his community, including a couple of rude kangaroos. In the long run, he helps the little Whos find their own voices and he teaches the others a lesson in equality and tolerance: “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

Of course the film has its own script to follow, and it is probably not too surprising to learn that they changed the story more than a bit. They did have to try to stretch it out to the standard 90 minutes. So, the Mayor of Whoville gets a wife and many kids, there is some added drama and even a dose of social satire. The main plot is maintained, but sometimes it is hard to tell. In this case, though, I say “So what?” It is silly enough for kids and parents will enjoy some of comedy’s biggest names as the voices of Horton (Jim Carrey), the Mayor (Steve Carell) and the Kangaroo (Carol Burnett). The cast is full of other great comic voices too. The animating team, which also worked on Ice Age, has done a wonderful job of creating modern Whos and also maintaining the classic Seuss look.

I have to admit that there have been problems with Seuss adaptations in the past. I was not impressed at all with The Cat in the Hat starring Mike Myers, and though it has become a holiday standard and I have found the kids watching it in July, The Grinch version which Carrey did is way over the top, and at times grates the nerves to a fine point. I like both actors, but they both seem to have forgotten that one of  Dr. Seuss’ universal appeals is that it is clean fun. Kids really do not need to add extra potty-humor to their lives. Maybe Horton is saved by being animated instead. Not only does it mean we are not seeing Carrey in an elephant costume, but it also maintains a little more of the Seuss whimsy.  Though it could definitely use a few more rhymes.

So my SAD seems to be affecting my flow…and it can’t be good for my Chi either. I have been procrastinating so much with my work writing that I don’t feel I can justify fun writing…but I miss it and have to remind myself that the blog does help my flow. I was contemplating how ironic my blog name is considering how little flow I have to show…when I began this blog, I was coming out of a long block and needed an outlet to write my never-ending opinions. I was also trying to learn more about the blog form and can say I have definitely achieved that goal.
I cannot say I am exactly blocked these days. I am writing [for-profit!] and still working on various creative projects. But I am at more of a trickle than a flow. Naturally, when I am struggling with work and rejection, I am not going to be at my peak creative performance, but the muse is still THERE…giving me dirty looks and whispering in asides. Quite aggravating. So why don’t I just get back into the flow already, what is holding me back? These are the kind of things I contemplate when I am internally berating myself for not finishing the novel or not submitting more often…not writing what I really want to write…
Anyway, I do not want to get to deep into the self-pity stage, but rather want to share yet another fab resource I have found for anyone who understood everything I just wrote.

logoarchetype

I was attracted by this site’s offer to help fiction writers with their characters’ psychological needs. I plan on sending my YA heroine to group therapy, and boy, does her mom have issues. So I want to get it right, right? Archetype [The Fiction Writer’s Guide to Psychology] offers just such a resource and then some: writing prompts, advice for submissions and agent searches, even worksheets to help newbie writers. There is also a Media Portrayals section [essays on psychology of characters] which looks interesting and will hopefully expand.

What I did not expect was to find answers to my own psychological needs (or at least the ones linked to writing). The site also has articles about creativity and the psyche, beating the dreaded block, even-and this floored me because it was like finding the answer to life-what is “writer’s flow”- no kidding: here’s the link

http://archetypewriting.com/articles/articles_ck/muse_block_ckFlowArticle.htm

It explains so much in such a succinct way. I read a few other pieces before I found that one, and I am going back for more. If you have any need to diagnose your protagonist, are looking for key characteristics of a disorder, or need a boost to your own flow, head on over. There is an Archetype Writing blog worth checking out too, and the site does accept article submissions as well. Frankly, I think they could add a forum and offer online therapy for those of us loony enough to love our writing lifestyles. Sign me up!

I ran across this link on a “research surf” and thought I would share. Whichbook.net offers a fun and easy search program for finding the book you might enjoy. You can choose based on your mood, what type of characters you like, etc. The site is British, so the “Borrow” feature only works if you are in the UK, which I am not. I have not actually read my choices, so I cannot say whether they matched my data exactly, but I did get some interesting looking titles. I do recommend using the “how to use” tutorial as it helped me. whichbooklogo

Lit Flick Challenge

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

New Line Cinemas film Directed by Iain Softley

cvr_inkheartI have to admit that I pretty much ignored this trilogy at first. Not completely, because I did buy the first book for my bookworm son when it was on special through his book club, drove him to the library to get #2 [Inkspell] and pre-ordered #3 [Inkdeath] (yes, now we need a copy of #2 at home). He is a great reader, so I knew that the series had to have some good points. I often read YA books, because it is what I like to write and because they appeal to the YA that is still in me somewhere, [and also- some of the world’s great books have been considered children’s/Young Adult literature] but I did not pick this set up until late last year. I confess, I did not check closely enough to see what it was all about and for some reason I thought it was yet another dragon/quest/ fantasy book much like the several dozen my son had previously read. I committed the unpardonable offense of book lovers everywhere. I judged a book by its cover.

Not to say that is necessarily a bad thing all of the time, nor that this was a bad cover. I knew it looked like my son would dig it. I just did not think I needed to add yet another book to my large pile when the story has been done and done again. I mean, I am still trying to get through Brisingr because my son says I just have to. For the record, I like dragon/quest/fantasy books…but this fantasy book has so much more than most in the genre, and there are no dragons in it, [though I do standby “Inkheart” being a cool name for a dragon- if I ever have one to name].

Actually, Inkheart [and its sequels] is a book lover’s fantasy, which is primarily why I feel so ashamed of my conclusionary leap. The author, Cornelia Funke, obviously loves literature [like all good writers do] and she has essentially created a tribute to the books she loves, the passion of readers and the magical world of writing. Real book lovers will relate to the characters’ personalities and quirks. Fantasy lovers will thrill to the idea of fictional creations stepping out of their books and into our world. Think about how many times you wished [whether you were 8 or 38] that you could walk into a magical wardrobe or meet your favorite character, just once. What if they came to meet you?

To summarize: Our tween heroine, Meggie Folchart, discovers that her quirky-yet-boring father is not just an ordinary bookbinder. Rather, he has a rare talent which is the ability to bring what he reads to life. For some, this would be a gift and blessing, but to Mo Folchart it is only a curse. It has brought him misery and danger and taken away one of the joys of parenting-reading to a child. He has raised Meggie alone, and raised her to respect and appreciate books too, without reading aloud to her. Their life is interrupted when a mysterious man named Dustfinger arrives one evening with news that another shady figure, Capricorn, is trying to hunt down Mo, a.k.a. Silvertongue. They both want him to read their book, Inkheart, for different reasons. Mo also wants the book, for his own purposes. He tries to protect Meggie by taking her to her Great-Aunt Elinor’s home, but that only drags them closer to Capricorn’s trap. They are joined in their quest/adventure by other characters including Senor Fenoglio, the author of the book within the book.

Funke is listed as a producer of the film, but not on the screenplay. I can assume she approved all changes, though. Most of them are minor, but there are enough of them to make my 12 yo spend the evening after the film pointing out all discrepancies. He did concede, however that he thinks the movie was somewhat “better”. I do not know about better, because changing unnecessary factors bothers me to no end. But I do think that most of the adjustments in the screenplay do make the film work well and some are kind of cool. I am trying very hard not to give any major points away because the film is in theaters now, and I do recommend it. If you are a hardcore by-the-book fan, be prepared [though hardcore fans probably already saw it], but if you haven’t read it yet, do not be concerned about seeing the film first. You will be able to enjoy both independently.

Brendan Fraser is the unlikely book-binder turned magical hero, and I think he does it well, but it’s a little weird seeing him be so serious. There isn’t as much of the usual charming humor [some may say “goofy”] that he brings to most roles. Frankly, most of the “supporting” cast are actually superior in their acting and awards, but he is the big box-office draw and my favorite on the list [he had me at School Ties]. It’s probably good for him to do some more serious roles and I have to say this role is better than the recent Journey to the Center of the Earth was. The rest of the cast is full of some of Britain’s best actors,  from Oscar-winners Helen Mirren and Jim Broadbent, to the young stars Eliza Hope Bennett and Rafi Gavron.

I was really impressed by the portrayal of Dustfinger, the fictional fire-juggler come-to-life played by the very-fine INKHEARTPaul Bettany, as well as the villain, Capricorn, played by Andy Serkis of Lord of the Rings fame. One of the ‘conflicts’ of the novel is centered around how the characters that come to life are almost independent from what the reader or even the writer expects them to be. I think this idea is epitomized in film adaptations when characters are not quite what we pictured in our minds. These 2 actors managed to exceed my expectations. In fact, I think they made the characters better on some level. Of course, they had a lot of help from the special effects crew. Some of the movie magic and photography is stunning, but at the same time some of it is overload. The magic in the book is really about the magic of the written word, and the power that books can offer us, and it is a lot simpler than the computer- enhanced images imply. But, it looks good on the big screen, that’s for sure.

Glory be! I am writing from the comfort of my own home in the security of the Obama administration. I am definitely counting some blessings. I did spend several hours staring at C-Span on Tuesday taking in all of the pomp and circumstances. I believe the only highlight I missed was the removal of…departure of W… which was probably what I had looked forward to the most…for 8 years.

I have to admit to getting rather emotional during the ceremony and speech. Part of me was missing being at the party but mostly it was a happy set of tears of relief/joy/anticipation. Of course I celebrate the historic factors, etc, but mostly I am thrilled to hear the revival of a positive discourse in our culture. We should be able to “choose hope over fear” without sacrificing our ideals. We should be models to the world based on “what you can build not what you can destroy”. President Obama is not the first politician or even POTUS to offer similar hopes, but it does truly seem like he may be the one to make lasting changes and renovations in the culture. Yes, there is the obvious one [many claim this is a post-racial America now, but I think that in saying that they prove we’re not quite there yet], but there is so much more to this “new revolution”. He offers a multicultural point of view, a world view which we need in the 21st century, not a close-minded view that says we only care about US.

So here we go , ready to change the world [again] for the better. I hope this is the end of American imperialism and the beginning of a simpler, open-minded democracy. We have a lot of work to do and it will not end in 4, 8 or 20 years. But I do still have concerns. I am not sure that everyone celebrating this week is getting the message that we have to stop wasting time, energy and resources on ‘stuff’ and that part of the problem of the previous 2 decades has been caused by our need to succeed. Many people still want the rich lifestyle and the gadgets that go with it. Many people still see others as enemies or Different. And in that respect, I think the most brilliant statement made on Tuesday January 20, 2009 was not by a president, a preacher and definitely not by a pundit. It was a poet who said “What if the mightiest word is Love?”

First of all, I liked it. I listened closely and took notes. I have heard some ridiculous statements and criticisms by people who should not comment on things they do not understand, [but that’s the American media for ya], though I have not yet checked out the Poetry community’s reaction. I did not really like the way poet Elizabeth Alexander read her “Praise Song for the Day”, and that may be one of the factors leading to the criticisms. The thing is, she read it the right way [obviously, it’s hers, she can read it any way she chooses] as far as academics and poetics goes. I have been taught “how” to read poetry, but I always thought that the Beats had the right idea, and she probably would have made a great impact on the day’s events if she had gotten up and slammed it. But of course, staid and solemn is more appropriate for the event [tho apparently that message did not get out to the other 1.5 million people there]. A song of praise was exactly what we needed though it could have sounded a bit more jubilant.

That is one of the powers of poetry which I have always loved, however. To me, a poem begins as a thought: the poet has a thought, jots it down [at keyboard, in journal, on napkin grabbed out of the glove box, etc]; the poet elaborates on the thought, then shares it with others. A listener or reader will take that thought and make it their own, based on what they hear, what their experiences are, what their interpretation of metaphors, images and individual words are- or what they think the poet meant. Which is why some poetry lasts centuries, because it is open to interpretation by whatever reader encounters it, whenever it is read.

So, I suggest we read it again. Silently, slowly, to yourself, over and over if you need to, then out loud as expressively or solemnly as you want. Her words are “words to consider, reconsider” just as the speeches are.

Praise song for the day.

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each others’
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, “Take out your pencils. Begin.”

We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of someone and then others who said,
“I need to see what’s on the other side.

I know there’s something better down the road.”
We need to find a place where we are safe;
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain, that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
The figuring it out at kitchen tables.

Some live by “Love thy neighbor as thy self.”
Others by “first do no harm,” or “take no more
than you need.” What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to preempt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp —

praise song for walking forward in that light.


—transcribed from the Presidential inauguration ceremony

January 20, 2009
© 2009, Elizabeth Alexander

I did attempt my own creation after the party had ended, though of course it is nowhere near as profound. At first, I was focusing on the idea of Freedom, specifically the so-named statue atop the Capitol building that was cast and placed by a slave. There is even more irony to that story. I have to work on that piece more especially if i want to use poetic metre, but then I jotted out my ode to the crowd :)

[photo from michaeldeangelis on flickr]

Come, Together

They came to gather
Whether for history or
For honor,
For celebration or
Revolution,
They were there today.
They weathered it together
As the winds of change
Swept the world up and
Blew them all away
Leaving chapped cheeks
And cheerful smiles.
They filled the monumental Mall,
Each a drop in a grand pool
Reflecting the “patchwork heritage”
Flowing through
The nation’s veins.

Millions have worked,
Prayed and hoped for
Positive resolution
And so they milled together
To enter the new era of Love.

I am sure others have created their own lasting tributes to the day and I would love to read more. Please share if you have a poem, post or opinion. Now that I am back in the virtual world, and we are in the midst of the new administration, I am eager to connect with everyone. Happy Day! Write on!

I am still writing from a public computer and had planned to use today’s “leisurely” writing time to make an entry for the Lit Flicks Challenge, but now I am focusing on another challenge. I have been sucking up a whole lot of Inauguration coverage on the tube lately [since i can’t do it online ;( ] and have been going back and forth between moping and celebrating. I had planned to attend the revo…um, celebration myself, but my call to serve is generally dominated by my motherly duties. I am not about to drag them up there in the forecasted snow and millions of revelers, so I will probably be glued to CSpan Tuesday too. It really is exciting watching the nation prepare for a new era, and though some of it seems extravagant while there are wars raging and economies failing, I can’t blame anyone for the desire to party on…it has been a long time coming. [I’m talking generations, not just administrations].

So, I was flipping through the news channels and stopped on a call-in interview with Dr. Maya Angelou on MSNBC. She was talking about writing a piece in honor of the day {as well as how hard it is to “create on demand” as we well know}… She mentioned how powerful poetry and creative writing in general is on the culture and on the population. To summarize, she pointed out that what may not be understood when read as a law or in a textbook becomes more accessible and impressionable when expressed as poetry or lyrics. People remember and relate to poetry, and those words last, often longer than the laws or the texts.  I have been thinking about writing a piece too, and after hearing her speak I feel even more motivated. If she had not been interrupted by the perky television hostess, she may have made a similar call.

Monday has also been declared a Day of Service in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. which isn’t a bad thing to implement [hopefully that continues beyond this year]. What I am thinking about is a little different though. As writers, we have the gift of being able to contribute to the culture, and to history, our words. If we can not give any other service this week, or even if we can, we should, I believe, at least offer this service. Use some downtime tomorrow or Tuesday [or really anytime] to reflect on these moments, to record your feelings and thoughts, or even to gripe about the hoopla [which also has its place in the history books]. We can share our creations, on our blogs, sites, here or in our communities. Or even just tuck it away for the grandkids to find someday… whether you like poetry, essays or any other form of art,this is the kind of occasion that inspires creativity and expression. And this is our gift which we have to offer.

I have turned to poetry many times in my life when I want to express my opinion and feelings, remember a moment or honor figures important in my life. I think this event covers all those factors. Besides, even if poetry is kept personal, never shared with another reader, it is also a personal record, of one’s own history. For this really is an occasion being shared and experienced by all of us, beyond politics, beyond age, race or gender. Our nation, and our culture is going through a fundamental shift and we are never going to be quite the same again. That concept alone has to inspire the poet in all of us.

ipeace05

I was very happy to find the iPeace site this week, especially because I was in time to participate in their first “iPeace Day”. There are some physical gatherings occuring around the world and a lot of virtual events happening too. I could say a lot about the idea of peace, though I believe that most people already get it, or refuse to try to get it. I have been contemplating what to write the past couple of days. I can say little about living in war, because I have lived the privileged life of the suburban American- privileged in that war is seldom in our backyard. I do have friends and family who have been closer to the physical tragedies and I was raised as an Army BRAT. The area I live in is a military region and I think often of everyone affected, on all sides. The truth is that war and violence does affect us all, no matter how much or little we see in our lives. The truth is that we are all living in a constant state of war. iPeace has many activists, artists and writers working and sharing the same goal and hope. There are many blogs and resources available there, and all over the net which I encourage you all to explore. I can say little to add to the conversation, but I am happy to add my voice to the crowd praying today, tomorrow and every day.

It is hard to watch images of the Gaza Strip, Iraq or any war-torn area, but it is harder to ignore them, at least for me. I have always considered myself a pacifist and most people who know me irl would agree. I also have  a tendency to take the pain to heart and worry, stress, despair. It is not healthy and I am “resolving” to get back to my youthful activist ways. Though I have become a bit of a keyboard activist in the last couple of years, it does not feel like enough. I do want to dedicate my writing to positive change, including peaceful activism.

The thing I am dancing around is that I was struck by something else yesterday. I do want to work for peace in this world, but I must also work on my own Inner Peace. I learned yesterday of an old friend’s death and it is hurting my heart. He took his own life, after years of inner turmoil, loneliness and possibly alcoholism. He tended to keep to himself, living alone and, the saddest part of all, he was not found for a long time after his suicide. That part breaks my heart. We were friends in Florida, but now I am in VA and he ended up in HI. Obviously these things happen in life, as our paths meander and cross and diverge. I believe he is at peace now and I am remembering several others lost this year, as we tend to do on The Last Day of the Year.

My point is, as much as I want world peace, and want to work for peace, it really does begin with me. We all have to make peace with ourselves, with our friends and families, with our Inner Critics, demons, etc. Most of the people dying in the wars, massacres and daily violence do not choose to die as my friend did. Most of us would choose to live rather than the alternative. How we choose to live is solely up to us.  If we could all truly find make peace with ourselves, perhaps we could achieve that goal of world peace too.

As somber as this post seems, I do refuse to give up hope and I do want to send out lots of blessings to everyone for 2009. New Year’s always seems like a chance to start again even though most of our struggles and strains keep going regardless of the calendar page. So have fun tonight, count your blessings and keep shining, for tomorrow is another day. Love and peace to all, all ways <3 j

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