Monthly Archives: September 2015

Challenge the Banned

The week of September 27 – October 3 is banned books week. Twitter has been filled with funny tweets from publishers and readers alike. Libraries have set out the books banned in the past, front and center for you to read a “banned book”.

It seems ridiculous really, the idea of banning a book, to me anyway. In school, had I been told that I could not read a book, the first thing I would have done was have my mother find it for me so that I could read it. My mom knew better than to tell me that I couldn’t read something, because then I would have had my grandmother go out and find it for me so that I could read it.

We can look back at the past and laugh on the idiosyncrasies of the times before us. They were naïve, they didn’t know any better, or it was just the world they lived in.

But.

Even today, we have schools and parents who challenge books. You can find a list of them here. In a world that parents turn a blind eye and let kids flaunt themselves in public, on social media, they get their pants in a twist because their children could be reading something that would dirty their minds.

Preposterous.

I understand censoring for age-appropriateness, I wouldn’t read to my six-year-old a book in the age group for my 12-year-old, nor would I read a book full of sex to my 12-year old. As their parent, that is my job. Emphasis on the word my.

The world is a fishbowl of situations and people. We do not all fit into a mass mold, and we cannot expect our children to come from the same generic template either. They have to be able to read about situations that they ever never had to experience firsthand.

It seems the books on this list were banned because the subjects/topics that were written about made someone uncomfortable. Let’s take To Kill a Mockingbird for example (it is the most recent that I’ve read); it has been called degrading, full of profane and racist language and actions, and so much more.

This book was so much more than about race; it was also about the integrity of the human race – or lack of in some cases, prejudice, poverty, discrimination and the fact that we struggle to see past our own front yard some days.

But it was a good book. Not because it was full of happy go lucky times, not because it took me to a different time and made me feel good. No, in fact, many scenes made my stomach twist up in a sickening rage. It took me to a time and a place that was uncomfortable. It made me see things through a different point of view.

This hasn’t been a book that my eldest has had to read for school yet, I wonder if it will be on the list at some point. There have been others that bring light to uncomfortable circumstances. It is not taught so that they grow up and become like what they read in the book. No, it is to bring light to situations that are gritty and controversial so that maybe our kids can learn from them. Be better because of them.

I will never understand the idea of banning or challenging a book. Everyone needs to be able to read an experience for themselves. The idea of a school or a person telling me what my kids can or cannot read would tick me off.

The idea of being told what I should or should not write about would tick me off. The world isn’t a neat little package, wrapped up waiting for us like on Christmas morning. Therefore, we shouldn’t have to write like that either. And by banning a book, isn’t that what they are trying to say/do? Tell us that we shouldn’t have written about that.

Check out these websites to view the different lists of banned or challenged books.

Here is a list of Banned Books that Shaped America: (The bolded ones are books that reside on my bookshelf.)

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain, 1884

The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Malcolm X and Alex Haley, 1965 (Grove Press)

Beloved, Toni Morrison, 1987

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Dee Brown, 1970

The Call of the Wild, Jack London, 1903

Catch-22, Joseph Heller, 1961

The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger, 1951

Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury, 1953

For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway, 1940

Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell, 1936

The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck, 1939

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925

Howl, Allen Ginsberg, 1956In Cold Blood, Truman Capote, 1966

Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison, 1952

The Jungle, Upton Sinclair, 1906

Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman, 1855

Moby-Dick; or The Whale, Herman Melville,1851

Native Son, Richard Wright, 1940

Our Bodies, Ourselves, Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, 1971

The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane, 1895

The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1850

Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, Alfred C. Kinsey, 1948

Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein, 1961

A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams, 1947

Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston, 1937

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee, 1960

Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1852

Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak, 1963

The Words of Cesar Chavez, Cesar Chavez, 2002

 

What is your favorite banned/challenged book? Let me know down in the comments, we’d love to hear from you.

Till next time,

~AJP

Check out these websites to view the different lists of banned or challenged books.

http://www.bannedbooksweek.org/

http://www.loc.gov/bookfest/books-that-shaped-america/

http://www.ala.org/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/

Brings Back Memories

My family and I just recently tried a local restaurant, Babes, famous in the area for down-home fried chicken and all the fixins served family style in a really homey setting. As soon as we walked in, the smell alone brought back memories of meals shared at my grandmother and grandfather’s house. The food was pretty yummy, but couldn’t quite compare of course to what I had growing up.

It is just remarkable how the smell or taste or sound or sight or feel of something can carry such a powerful memory. The smell of the food took me back to sitting in the kitchen while my grandmother fried chicken. I could have been sitting at the small table next to my Paw-Paw cutting up small bites of potatoes to boil and cream to go with the chicken, which by the way we always snuck a few bites of the raw potato when my grandmother wasn’t looking.  Did anyone else ever do that?  I could see the tomatoes fresh from the garden sitting on the shelf behind the kitchen sink that we might cut up to go with dinner or just sneak a bite of as a snack while we were waiting. I could hear the pop of the grease as my grandmother would put a new piece of chicken into the pan. I was back in those moments with just the little smell of the food at the restaurant.

When I write I have to be careful to remember details like the tomatoes on the shelf, or the kitchen sink facing a window that looks out to the garden, or the process of cutting up the potatoes. I don’t want to get lost in the details, but those type of little sensory details can help paint a much larger picture in a simple way that the reader may later color in with their own memories.

I could also fill in a character’s backstory with what he/she may remember based on a certain taste or smell or other sensory detail. Does the character deal with grief by listening to a song that he used to listen to with his wife? Does the character buy the house that is the setting for our story because the yard makes him think of the one he had growing up? Does the character hate the taste of beans because that’s all she ate growing up since beans and rice was all they could afford? Sensory triggers could be a starting point for a whole character sketch.

A solid go-to writing prompt can be taking one of the five senses and throwing it at your character. What is my character smelling in this scene? How does that smell affect her? Does the smell make her think of anything? It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it could be. How might your character react to the taste of a dish offered to him? And why? Does your villain try to torment your character with the sound of a certain song? Why might that impact your character?

For me, I am going to think some more about the beauty of the simple moments like sitting in my grandparent’s kitchen and wish I could somehow take a time travel moment back in time to be with them again. Perhaps someday I will write about that. 😉

What sensory details always trigger memories for you? Is there a certain smell or taste that takes you back? Have you ever read something that really did a good job capturing a sensory detail? Do you try to include these details in your writing? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. 🙂

Thanks for stopping by. Have a great week!

 

~CJ

To Blurb or Not To Blurb

I subscribe to a blog called The Passive Voice, and if you are a writer you should be subscribing and reading this fantastic blog. Yesterday there was a post about blurbs that I found fascinating.

What is a blurb?

blurb    /blərb/
noun
a short description of a book, movie, or other product written for promotional purposes and appearing on the cover of a book or in an advertisement.
or
verb
write or contribute a blurb for (a book, movie, or other product). 
The article was about the second definition.
What we’re basically talking about here are endorsements from other authors and/or celebrities, those compelling “reviews” popped onto a book’s back cover or first few pages, to get the reading public to buy the book.
For a self-publishing writer these acclaims can help sell books, and when you are talking about having to self-promote, every little bit helps. Including blurbs.
For example? Go Google The Martian by Andy Weir. Completely self-published beginning as an online serial then going onto Amazon at $.99 then selling 35,000 copies in four months in 2013. That’s when it got Hollywood’s attention. In March of 2014 the book was no. 12 on the New York Times bestseller list, and by November that same year the book sold 180,000 copies. A huge coup for self-publishers.
But what happens when you get people to read your book and leave reviews on sites such as Goodreads and Amazon?
This became a huge concern of mine just before summer. You see, Amazon, in all its amazing glory, decided to take down any reviews if it was discovered that these reveiws were written by friends of the author. I have put up reviews for writers who, at the time, were not my friends. I met them through blogging and became a source to them for helping their promotion efforts. Eventually, through further interaction we did become friends but does that make my blurb/review of their work any less credible?
What about those well-known authors who seem to write blockbuster after blockbuster? Do blurbs really help them since they are well-known already in the industry? I mean, honestly, what more can you say about a famous author that hasn’t already been said, or read? Critiquing their current work is one thing, but seriously, how many times do we need to hear how he/she is today’s  Tolstoy, Austen, or Shakespeare? And let’s be honest, they aren’t those writers, and their writing resembles the classics the way a goose resembles a swan. They may be birds and have feathers and can swim and fly, but one look tells the truth.
Personally, when I buy a book, whether it is self-published or traditionally published, I ignore the blurbs. I don’t care for them. I’m looking for word of mouth and my own interests. If someone I know tells me I should read a certain book then I am more likely to do so than reading an endorsement from a celebrity or well-known author. Those people do not know me, but my friends and people I talk to often know my tastes or can guess easily. And if there are people I know personally endorsing a book then you can bet I’ll be reading that book. In fact, I have a lengthy list of books on my Goodreads Want-To-Read list thanks to those friends whose books I have read and heartily endorse.
To blurb or not to blurb, that is today’s question? Should blurbs be done away with and the writing stand on it’s own? Or do we like blurbs and think they are a useful marketing tool? Sound off in the comments.
Jesi

When real life intrudes

There are times when real life simply hits you over the head and keeps beating on you. This week has been one of those for me. Between trying — and the emphasis is on trying — to do physical therapy in prep for surgery on my Achilles tendon to having to call 911 for my mother and spending the better part of the week at the hospital to the husband of one of my best friends being in the hospital, there has simply been no room for writing, editing or much of anything else. I’ve turned to re-reading books that are comfort reads for me.  Mom is home now — thankfully — and doing better but things are still in flux and I simply don’t have the brain cells for a solid post today.

So here’s the deal. I’m going to toss the floor open. You can suggest topics for me to cover over the weekend. Or you can ask questions you want answered. Or how about listing your comfort reads or watches (TV or movies)?

I’ll be back tomorrow with a real post. For now, I am going to fall face first onto the bed and collapse for a bit, or until AT&T gets here to try to figure out why my services have decided to be flakier than usual.

I’ll be back

Today’s post will be a little late. Real life has been kicking my butt and I have to take care of something first thing this morning. But check back later this morning/early afternoon. I promise to be back as soon as I’m home and the phone company gives me reliable internet.

Writing And The End Of The World

 

end of the world

Well, I’m sitting here wondering whether or not I should complete the novel I’m working on. Not because it isn’t good. I’m very happy with it, so far. It’s just that…well, the world is supposed to end on Sunday evening. Or Monday morning, depending on where you live. So, you can see that there isn’t much point. I mean, not unless I can finish it and get it published within the next couple of days. The way I write, though, that isn’t going to happen.

It has something to do with the blood moon that will occur that night. Or that morning. This is supposed to be the one, everybody. I had just stopped worrying about the asteroid that was supposed to hit and destroy most of North America on the 28th of this month. NASA decided that wasn’t going to happen. Whew! What a relief. Now I read about this moon thing. For Pete’s sake!

Seems that I’ve heard this before, though. Remember Y2K? People were stocking up on water and buying guns so they’d be ready for the collapse of human civilization. What happened there? And I was sweating out that Mayan calendar issue, let me tell ya’! The Mayans were pretty smart. If they tell you that time is going to end on a certain day you know they are going to be right. Well, okay, they were wrong.

And there have been plenty of other predictions of our demise by various people and groups. Nostradamus has been a favorite amongst the doomsday types. He has predicted our end several times according to those who study his “quatrains.” There’s something about this kind of thing that people just love. I think it’s the same reason that they get on a roller coaster even though it frightens them to death. They enjoy being scared. It makes life a bit more exciting, I guess.

So I don’t know. Considering the accuracy of all of the past predictions maybe I should just keep writing. At least it will take my mind off of the end of the world. And besides, I read another article right after reading the ‘Blood Moon’ story. It seems that a monkey named Naruto, way over on a wildlife reserve in Indonesia, managed to take a selfie of himself with someone’s camera. The picture of Naruto wearing a big grin went viral. Now PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) wants to sue the wildlife photographer who released the photo to the public. Naruto, they say, is the sole owner of the picture and releasing the photo was a copyright infringement. Yes, they are actually saying that, “Naruto has the right to own and benefit from the copyright to the same extent as any other author.” They are taking this to court.

So I’m not worried anymore. I think that maybe the world should end.

A Creator of Words

“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to Live.” – Albus Dumbledore

  

This past weekend, I skipped my writer’s group meeting so that my husband and I could take our kids to see a showing of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in theatres. I know, I know, skipping a writing meeting is generally unheard of.

But… Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was showing in the theatre. That hasn’t happened since 2001!

Now, my kids have grown up with a mother who absolutely loves all things Harry Potter, so this was not the first time that they have seen this movie. Nor was it the second, third, fourth, or… you get the idea. But it was the first time they were able to experience it on the big screen.

And they were amazed.

The first time I saw this movie was the weekend that it was released. My husband (then fiancé) and I were joining part of my family for a movie night, and at the time this was the only interesting kid friendly movie showing. I had never heard of this Harry Potter and his magical world and just needed something that my (under ten) siblings could agree on. They are now in their 20’s and probably do not even remember going. Later that same weekend, I drug my mother and another younger sibling to see it. After that, the rest was history.

We immediately went out and purchased the first book. As in the next day. A few days later, we bought the second. And so on. The movie had been spectacular, but the books were/are better. By the time the series was fully released, I had babies of my own. My son has his own collection of the books and the movies, and I have a collection of the books saved for my daughter for when she is able to read them on her own.

Now, I am sure there is someone out there that didn’t care for the series, but I haven’t met them yet. As I am also aware that there are plenty of people who liked the series, read them, even watched the movies and that was that. It was just another book/movie for them.  I have read or listened on audio to the series more times than I care to share with you.

Everyone is different. There are those who fall back on Shakespeare, Austen, Fitzgerald, Tolkien; there is a creator of words out there for anyone and everyone. You just have to be willing to find who speaks the loudest to you. Me, I’m just a Rowling girl.

One day, one of us might become one of those authors for someone. One never knows.

Who/what speaks the loudest to you? Let me know down in the comments, I’d love to hear from you.

Till next time,

~AJP

Writing to Come Alive

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because  what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman

I saw this quote this week and just loved it. “Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that.” It seems simple enough, but how many of us find a way to do this?

For me, there are quite a few things that really make me come to life. My family, of course, is my life in many ways, and in moments with my family I come alive. Traveling has also always made me come alive and I know this is something I would love to do more often. But one of the things that has always consistently allowed me to come alive has been writing.

Whether I am re-tooling a current work in progress, or creating something entirely new, writing helps me come alive. Whether the work is poetry, or prose, or even a new blog post, writing helps me come alive. Whether I write for five minutes or several hours, writing helps me come alive. Whether the writing is good or downright awful, writing helps me come alive.

I imagine I am not the only one who has felt this way. If you are a writer, I suspect putting pen to paper has a similiar effect for you as well. I’ve seen quotes from writers that lead me to believe they have felt the same as well. Here are some of my favorites.

Gloria Steinem:

Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.

Russell T. Davies:

“Writing isn’t a job that stops at six-thirty…It’s a mad, sexy, sad, scary, ruthless, joyful and utterly, utterly personal thing. There’s not the writer and then me. There’s just me. All of my life connects to the writing. All of it.”

Anne Frank

I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.

Neil Gaiman

“Tomorrow may be hell, but today was a good writing day, and on the good writing days nothing else matters.”

(And one more because I can’t resist and love it so much.)

William Wordsworth

Fill the paper with the breathings of your heart.”

Can you think of something in your life that makes you come alive? Is it writing, like those of us “Twisted Writers” who share our writing adventures and thoughts with you here? Or is it something else? Painting? Yoga? Music? Monster Truck Rallies? 🙂 Feel free to share with me in the comments.

Thanks for stopping by and have a great week!

~CJS

The Problem With Poetry

“Hang there, my verse, in witness of my love.”

~Shakespeare, As You Like It

I love poetry. Everyone who knows me can tell you that, and those who don’t know me, well, they learn that fact quickly. The ironic thing is that I don’t go around quoting it or throwing lines around like they’re party favors. For me, poetry is something I hold gently inside to ponder in awe at its beauty, then release back into the world in my own way. I try my best not to force it on those who don’t appreciate it as much as I do. But oh, how my heart beats wildly when I meet someone who “gets it.”

But I have an issue with you self-acclaimed poetry dislikers. Stop apologizing to me for not liking it. I don’t expect you to get it. We live in an age where poetry is not looked upon kindly. The majority of people do their very best to avoid it if they can. So I don’t expect you to like my poetry, and I don’t expect you to change your attitude about it. I do, however, expect you to respect that poetry is writing, and not something separate and vile and “not real writing.”

Poetry gets a terrible rap because most poetry that we’re taught in school uses outdated language that’s hard to understand in our society. Who wants to try and figure out what hidden meanings might lie behind all those “thee’s” and “thou’s”? Why can’t it be written in plain English?

Because it isn’t prose, poetry seems to fall into the same category as, say, finger painting compared to Van Gogh’s The Starry Night. Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating. Nah…it really does seem to be pushed off into that comparison sometimes. Ask a perfect stranger on the street what the last poem was that they read then pay close attention to the look that crosses their face. Was that a look of horror, or perhaps they were bemused? Wait, did they actually laugh out loud?

Not all poetry is hard to read. In fact, some can be rather fun. A lady in my writing group wrote a poem about coffee. I myself have written one about a sore throat. Some poetry does contain meanings, both abstract and concrete, but most comtemporary poetry isn’t hard to understand anymore. For example, read We Real Cool by Gwendolyn Brooks. Better yet…listen to it. Today, Amanda made a statement today in group that poetry is like Shakespeare in that it wasn’t made, really, to be read but to be seen and heard. That’s a fairly accurate statement. Poetry was not usually written down but memorized and performed then passed down verbally. Most was accompanied by music. Which is why I find it incredibly amusing when people tell me they don’t like poetry. What do you think songs are? They are poems set to music. Granted, they are not all that great but what do you make of these lyrics?

There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I’ve loved them all

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more

Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more

In my life I love you more

This is poetry. And I bet you didn’t make it through it without the music chiming in your brain.

And the idea that poetry is dead amuses me to no end because poetry was never on its deathbed. It hasn’t breathed its last yet. It sits quietly in the background, patient and observant. Its disciples seek it out, and, sometimes, it sneaks up on you when you least expect it. Sometimes it hits you with the force of a sledgehammer, while other people are led to it through the love of something, or someone, else. But it isn’t dead.

So stop apologizing to me for not liking poetry. If it doesn’t speak to you then I’m okay with that. But do not make the mistake of telling me it isn’t “real writing.” Because I will take up the gauntlet you throw down.

Jesi

Waiting ‘Til The Last Minute…

WHO THE HELLcaptainThis week’s post was supposed to be the wrapping up of my Captain Cliché cartoon. Instead it is humbly turning into the evils of waiting ’til the last minute.

I’ve been pretty busy, but I’ve managed to get my posts out on time by doing them days in advance. Sometimes a week ahead.. Uh…not so, this week.

I kept saying “tomorrow” until it was finally today! Well…last night, of course. I get out the Wacom drawing tablet that I use and….IT WASN’T WORKING! Noooo! Not now!

So, I’m Googling my butt off to find the problem. It took a while but I got it going. But it’s getting late so I better get to work. I start to draw, but I can’t get the cartoons to resize, now. I found this out when I started posting them. They’re all different sizes and I can’t get them right. I decided to post a couple to show you what was going wrong.

Now, if I’d done this a few days ago I would have had time to fix it. But noooooooo…I waited ’til last night! It was finally at around eleven thirty or so that I gave up. I considered doing a reblog but thought, “No! be a man, dammit! Show the world that you effed up!”

So, I learned a lesson. They say that if you can’t serve as a good example, then at least be a fair warning.