Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Kind of Poem

This is the kind of poem I wish I'd written.  We read it today in my English class.  It's hilarious but still insightful. I love the ending a lot.


By Billy Collins

You are the bread and the knife,
The crystal goblet and the wine...

-Jacques Crickillon

You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.

You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker,
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.

It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general's head,
but you are not even close
to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.

And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the boots in the corner
nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.

I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman's tea cup.
But don't worry, I'm not the bread and the knife.

You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and - somehow - the wine.

I love the way this poem makes fun of romantic poems. It doesn't do it by going overboard, but by understatement. "There is just no way you are the pine-scented air."

My teacher, Mr. Jones, has us read a lot of Billy Collins because he likes his poetry. I've found I've enjoyed a lot of it too. But my current favorite poet is T.S. Eliot. I recently discovered his "Four Quartets" and have been reading them slowly. They take more than one reading to even begin to understand.

These are the kind of poets I want to be like. I want to be humorous and understated and ironic like Billy Collins, but I also want to be rhythmic and deep and beautiful like T.S. Eliot.

I want to paint with words.

Do you have a favorite poet? I'd love to hear who it is!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

March is Dying...

I just realized that March is nearly over. That means April is beginning, which means only 3 days until the A-to-Z Challenge.

Since apparently, blogger is getting a "new look" in April (the dreaded Updated Interface) I have been hastening to finish (or at least mostly finish) my scheduled A-to-Z posts before then.

I've heard some bad things about the UI. Apparently it's difficult to edit HTML in the posts, you can't turn off CAPTCHA for comments (unless it's already turned off), and it's hard to navigate.

Also I accidentally switched over to it, panicked because the white screen with the orange text was blinding me and I couldn't find any of the buttons, and then somehow found the go back to old interface button and selected it. The world then proceeded to return to normal.

I guess I'll have to learn how to use it if it becomes permanent, but for now I'll stick with the much more functional and easy-to-use old interface.

So for the first week of the A-to-Z challenge I'll be posting every single day. I've tried to keep the posts writing or blogging related, but sometimes I've lapsed into non-relevant posts - like the letter K, for example.

I have my first post all ready and scheduled for Sunday. For those of you who will be at church or elsewhere on Sunday, you can read it Monday or on my A-to-Z Challenge page.

I'm very excited for the challenge! It will be neat to read everyone else's posts (well, as many as I can manage), and also to see 26 posts for the month of April in my blog archive.

Oh, and in case you wanted to join, it's not too late to sign up.

Have you tried or used the updated interface? Have you joined or thought of joining the A-to-Z Challenge? Let me know by commenting!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

To the Authors of Multiple Books

Dear James Patterson, Karen Kingsbury, Agatha Christie, Janet Evanovich, Stephen King, Dorothy Sayers, Alexander McCall Smith, and other authors whose names I can't recall but to whom I am extremely grateful,

Thank you for writing so many books. You have no idea what a relief it is to us poor library shelvers when we come across your books on the carts. This means that we don't have to spend time scrutinizing the shelves to find the right place to put your single novel.

When I come across an entire shelf (or two, or three) filled with your books, I silently thank you for making my job easier, even if I have never and most likely will never read your novels (excepting Dorothy Sayers and Agatha Christie. And even I have never read all of Agatha Christie's novels.)

So, thank you. Thank you for writing so many books.

My only request would be this: could you maybe title your books with names like 'A,' 'B,' and 'C?' That would make sorting the titles of your multiple books that much easier as well. Then it would be "A goes before B," rather than "The Lonely Life of Anna goes before The Lonely Life of Brianna."


A Grateful Library Shelver

Friday, March 23, 2012

Review: Mockingjay

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed the Hunger Games trilogy. Real or not real?

Perhaps my four-star rating will tip you off.

Mockingjay opens with the Districts in open rebellion against the Capitol. Katniss is in... a place which I won't name because I don't want to give it away, along with refugees from her district and the rebel leaders. They ask her to become the face of the rebellion - the Mockingjay. Meanwhile, Katniss struggles with PTSD, numerous injuries, her worry over her friends and family, and a feeling of helplessness in the face of the war between the rebels and the Capitol.

The blurb on the book asks the question "will Katniss become the Mockingjay?" which is a much harder choice than it seems.

If Katniss becomes the Mockingjay, that implies that she agrees with everything the rebellion is doing, which she does not. If she refuses to become the Mockingjay, she risks not only being responsible for the loss of the war and the loss of morale, but for anything that happens to her family because of her refusal to join the rebellion.

To top it all off, Peeta Mellark is being held prisoner by the Capitol, and Katniss cannot seem to work out her feelings for Gale.

I think Mockingjay might be my favorite out of all of the books (even despite the violence). There's so much to talk about that I liked, so I hope this review won't be too long/boring.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Snippets of Story [March Edition]

Katie from the blog Whisperings of the Pen hosts the monthly "Snippets of Story" event. It's a time to show off short little bits of your work-in-progress.

My main WIP is just a sloppy first draft right now, but I thought I'd post a few snippets anyway, with the disclaimer that they may not make it into my final draft.

I've also included some snippets from my short stories, both completed and in progress.

Here are a few of mine:

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

So I'm Reading the CLEP Guide to American Lit...

...and the first sentence I come across in the section on the Realist and Naturalist writers is this:

"I am making a slight change to the dates that the College Board (creators of the CLEP tests) states in its literature."

Um, Dr. Stratman? I appreciate your emphasis on correctness in regards to dates, but I really would like to pass this CLEP test.

He then goes on to say:

"Some scholars believe that realism as a literary movement began closer to 1870, but many more scholars point to the beginning of the Civil War as the beginning of American literary realism."

Okay, that's great, but which date do I need to know for the test?

Guess it's time to do some research.

I couldn't help but laugh after I read the plot summary of Ethan Frome by the naturalist Edith Wharton. Basically, this guy named Ethan has this crippled wife named Zeena who's not very nice. She has a cousin named Mattie whom Ethan (of course) secretly loves. At the end of the novel, Zeena sends Mattie away. But, on Ethan and Mattie's way to the train station:

"Mattie convinces Ethan to run their sled into a tree so they may spend their last moments on earth embraced."


"Unfortunately for them, they survive."

This is where I burst out laughing.

"The end of the novel shows Ethan entering the home, twenty years later, and quickly attending to two aging, crippled women."

Wow. Not Romeo and Juliet, that's for sure.

Below is one of my favorite quotes from the book. Picture taken (and edited in Snapseed) by yours truly. Which explains the blurriness. The poem is by Stephen Crane.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What's the Point?

Daniel over at The Anonymous Antagonist just did a blog post about point of view (which I suggest you read.) Actually, POV is something I've been thinking about for a while.

When I'm writing, the point of view I choose depends upon the story. Some stories need to be told in third person, while other stories just have to be written in first person. It's a matter of what best fits the story, what adds the most emotional or dramatic impact.

The Hunger Games couldn't have been written in third person - it needed the up-close, emotional right-inside-the-action punch of first person present to make us really care about Katniss and really worry about her. Harry Potter, on the other hand, worked with the third person limited. It focused on Harry, of course, but third person gave us a wider scope to his world, a range in which we could feel more part of Harry's world.

Of course, each POV has its pitfall. First person narrators can begin to sound all alike if you're not careful. To write a story in first person you need a character with a really strong voice. That doesn't mean you necessarily need a character with a strong personality, but it does mean you need a very real, three-dimensional character.

Third person, on the other hand, can distance a reader from the characters because you can't see their actions as clearly. A hard-to-love character (think Mr. Darcy) is dislikable partly because at first we don't know why he is the way he is.

Sometimes switching POV when you're writing can be good for writers block, or if you're unsure which tense fits the best. But when a story is written in a point of view, it's told that way for a reason. Find your reason for writing in a certain POV, and that may just bring you closer to the reason you're telling the story in the first place.

And yes, I know I've left out second person. The only reasons I can see for writing in second person are if:
a) You want to shock or surprise the reader with something different.
b) You're trying to remind someone who has lost his memory of his past life.
c) You're writing a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure story.
Actually, I did use second person in a story once. The story started:
You open this book and are instantly transported to a cold, gray tunnel.
From there, "you" are guided around the story by a "literary guide" who explains everything to you.

I never finished it, though.

Do you have a favorite or preferred point of view when reading or writing? Why is that?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Fantasy Novelist Exam

I came across this post on the blog Visions of Other Worlds today. It's The Fantasy Novelist's Exam, a "rip-off tip-off" sheet for all aspiring fantasy writers. Basically, it's a series of questions (sometimes sarcastic) by which to measure your fantasy story against.

Here are a few of my favorite questions from the exam:
2. Is your main character a young farmhand with mysterious parentage? 
8. Does your novel contain a character whose sole purpose is to show up at random plot points and dispense information?
17. Do any of your female characters exist solely to embody feminist ideals?
28.Is this the first book in a planned trilogy?
36. Do any of your main characters have apostrophes or dashes in their names?
46. Do inns in your book exist solely so your main characters can have brawls? 
47. Do you think you know how feudalism worked but really don't?
63. Is your hero able to withstand multiple blows from the fantasy equivalent of a ten pound sledge but is still threatened by a small woman with a dagger?
70. Does your main villain punish insignificant mistakes with death?
74. Is your book basically a rip-off of The Lord of the Rings?
75. Read that question again and answer truthfully.
I would add:
76. Is your first book basically a rip-off of Star Wars? *coughcoughEragoncough*
Answering yes to any of the questions "results in failure and means that the prospective novel should be abandoned at once."

A little harsh, yes. I think a fantasy writer can get away with answering yes to one or two of these questions, but when you answer yes to more than seven (like Eragon. I say more than seven because after that I stopped counting) it's definitely time to rethink your story.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, I did evaluate one of my fantasy stories using this checklist. The only one I said yes to was number 71. And in my defense, my bard doesn't play the lute. He... well, actually, all he can do is sing. And be used as a decoy. Yeah.

How does your fantasy story measure up to the exam? Any favorite questions?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Speech of the Day: On Humor

I'm taking a Rhetoric class with Veritas Press, and recently we were assigned to do encomiums on (speeches in praise of) some abstraction or virtue as part of our speeches of the day. It was supposed to be written out beforehand, and then we were to read it out loud in class. The time limit was ten minutes, but the speech could not go below seven minutes and thirty seconds.

The speech I wrote is only about a thousand words, so the night before I gave it I rehearsed it over and over to try to get it above seven minutes. I kept coming in at six minutes and thirty seconds. Finally, after at least four times reading it, I got it to stretch out for seven minutes, fifty-six seconds.

The next day, in class, I had a timer going the whole time so I could see how long I was taking. I had read about three quarters of the speech when I realized that I still had three minutes left if I wanted to get it to eight minutes. I started to panic a little. But I was coming up on the second longest paragraph, so I read that one incredibly slowly (probably slower than I needed to). It must have taken about two minutes to read, because after I finished it I only had a minute left. I came in at a little over eight minutes.

And today I got my grade back: 100 %!

I've included the speech text below. I chose "humor" as my subject.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Friday at the Library

I saw this in the YA section and for some reason it made me smile. I went around the library grinning and trying not to catch anyone's eye. Below it are a bunch of pamphlets that say "like the Hunger Games? Then you might like these books!"


What is up with these college students and their enormous drinks? I saw a girl with a giant economy-sized jug of Kirkland bottled water that she was pouring into a smaller pink waterbottle. The jug was almost gone, and she was the only one drinking from it.


I have decided that I will never write a book with the word "Christmas" in the title.


Sitting at one of the desks by the window was a Japanese college student who was studying on his iPad. I can see why he would bring an iPad instead of a computer. It's a lot easier to carry around.

While I was shelving in the row opposite him, he got up from the desk, stretched and walked away. Just walked away, leaving his iPad right there on the table. My first thought was - isn't he worried that it might be stolen? I could have walked over there, grabbed it, and been out of the library in under two minutes, and he would never have known. Of course, he might have had it locked. But still... I had a backup plan for if someone tried to take it. I would say:

"Hey! Stealing is a crime!"

Or something else obvious like that, and if the thief tried to run I would ram him with my cart. Er... at least I would try (this is all a hypothetical situation, remember).

But nothing happened. The Japanese guy returned to his desk and resumed working on his iPad, with no idea of the worry he'd caused me.

So I kept shelving.

I think one of the prerequisites for a rock music album cover is that it must either be hideously ugly or make no sense at all. 

This also made me very happy:

They're new, and I like them because a) they look very professional and b) they don't have that weird buzzing noise whenever you walk through them.

The reason they don't make the buzzing noise is because they're for RFID tags. They work on radio waves (RFID stands for radio frequency identification). The self-checkout stations are different as well. Instead of the scanner and the tray there's just a big black square. You scan in your library card, and then put your stack of books on the square and it checks them out all at once. It's pretty neat.

That was my Friday afternoon. How was yours?

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Hunger Games

Usually I review books on Goodreads and then click the "post to blog" button. But this book is special enough that it deserves its own post.

It seems like everyone has been doing a review on the Hunger Games lately. Here are just a few I've come across:

Rose at Read Room

Josiah from Biblical Beginnings

A guest post at Scripts, Scribbles and Such

I'm still waiting for Daniel's review (which I believe he promised us).

It's also the most read book on Goodreads right now.

The Hunger Games was first recommended to me by my friend Micah. She's a huge Doctor Who fan, so I knew I could trust her on sci-fi recommendations. Then I read Rose's review, and then my mom downloaded the ebook, and I knew I had to read it. Besides, I wanted to see the movie when it came out in March, but not without reading the book first.

I got three chapters into the book and put it away for a couple of days. I mean, the first sentence isn't exactly thrilling.

When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold.

Also, the fact that it was written in first person present was a major turn off for me at first. But I was determined to read it, so I plowed through the next five chapters.

And then I was hooked.

If there's one word to describe this book, it's suspenseful. There is almost no way you can't read it in one sitting.

From the moment the tributes enter the arena to begin the Hunger Games, the action is nonstop. I stayed up much too late flipping each page quickly with no thought of putting it down. There were several heart-stopping moments (no, no, no, this can't be happening!) and almost the entire part of the arena is edge-of-your-seat action. At some parts I remember thinking (my heart pounding) how on earth is she going to get out of this? Or, run, Katniss, run!, or oh no, they're coming!

And when I say it's edge-of your-seat thrilling, I do mean edge-of-your-seat. Like, if you go watch the movie then expect to fall out of your chair. I just know there's going to be at least two or three of those parts where everything goes quiet before someone jumps out of the bushes. I will scream.

But back to the book. It's a hard book to review, because there's really not much you can say without giving the plot away. I can say it was suspenseful, and it was thrilling, and I didn't really like Katniss until the end, and that I liked Peeta from the beginning. That it's excellent storytelling, and that I could see everything that was happening so clearly that I'm excited to see what the movie portrays it as. Actually, from what I've seen in the trailer, it looks very close to what I imagined.

But I think that, without giving it away, I can also talk about the violence. I knew from the premise (twenty-four kids get stuck in an arena and are forced to kill each other) that it was going to involve death. I guess I just didn't expect how much there would actually be. We don't see every one of the tributes die, but the ones we do see are either very sad or somewhat gruesome. Katniss is not cold or callous to the deaths, which is good, although having grown up watching the Hunger Games, like she has, I don't quite see how you couldn't be.

Of course, there's the dilemma of the morality of killing to stay alive. There can only be one winner of the Hunger Games, which means every other contestant is an enemy. Everyone must be dead for one to live. It's this kind of suspense that drives the book. Everyone's out to get Katniss. It also left me thinking - what would I do in this kind of situation? Most likely I would try to hide somewhere until everyone else had been killed. I don't think I could kill anyone. Not even to win.

With the dilemma in mind, I liked the theme that Peeta brings up.

      I want to do something to show them [the Capitol] that they don't own me.

What's interesting is that the whole point of the Hunger Games is for the Capitol of Panem to show the other districts that they are in charge. That they can murder their children any time they want, and they enjoy watching them die. That the districts should not, and cannot rebel. It's almost an Assyrian way of government.

Most likely in our lifetimes, civil disobedience will never bring as grave consequences as the one the children in the Hunger Games faced. But it's good to ponder what we would do if we had to face such a choice - conscience against survival. We are not owned by the government. As Christians, we are redeemed by the blood of Jesus, and our citizenship is in Heaven. We cannot serve two masters, and to fully serve one we must sometimes disobey the other, insofar as their decrees contradict those of our true masters.

It's good to think of in the light of the recent contraception mandate controversy. Here are Catholic Bishops who would rather disobey the government then violate their consciences. It's sad, because it should not happen in a country that values religious freedom. We've been blessed to be free from this kind of tyranny. But if it does come to that choice, if we do have to choose between obeying the government and doing what we know to be wrong, or disobeying and risking the government's wrath, I hope we're prepared for that choice. The Hunger Games, though it never provides a direct answer to that question - what should a right thinking person do in that situation? - is a good start to thinking about and pondering this dilemma.

I haven't read the entire series yet - I'm still trying to find a copy of Catching Fire, the second one - so I can't comment on the trilogy as a whole. But I can recommend the first one. It's a thrilling, suspenseful read, and a thought-provoking one as well.

(You can read my review of Mockingjay here.)

If you still aren't convinced that you should read the book, then watch this trailer. It's very well-done, and just might change your mind. Oh, and the actor who plays Gale is the younger brother of Chris Hemsworth (Thor!)

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