Friday, October 29, 2010

Freaky Friday: It's All About Me Edition

I'm back to work after an eight week sabbatical, I woke this morning to find my car was egged in the night, and the Halloween party I was going to attend on Saturday was cancelled. Stellar morning, yes indeed.

So this installment of Freaky Friday is all about me, me, me. In the face of adversity, I choose narcissism, or something like that...

1. Now that I have nothing to do on Saturday night, I'm going to have a little no-Halloween movies netflix film festival. My choices? Klute (Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland = perfecto) and A Home at the End of the World (Colin Farrell. Colin Freaking Farrell.) No spooky movies for me. I watched Amityville Horror once and couldn't sleep for three nights because my apartment was 20 miles from the real Amityville. So close! Too close! (Yeah, I'm a wimp.)

2. My friend Alexa, photog extraordinaire, is going to take professional photos of me this weekend. I'll post the results. I've gotten a lot of good tips from friends regarding how-not-to- look-like-a-complete-moron in front of the camera, and Stina Lindenblatt coincidentally posted some tips this week on her blog.

3. I am convinced I can write a decent steampunk novel. OK, more than convinced, I'm obsessed. (I've actually only read one. But I'm a 19th C. history chick and the idea just appeals.)

4. HARRY POTTER is coming. I've already bought my tickets. Is it wrong to think Harry is a hottie now? He's a wee one but so cute. (I almost deleted seems a tad icky, no?)

5. I've got some Borders bucks burning a hole in my pocket. I'm definitely going to buy this, and this. Any other suggestions?

Have a good weekend, everyone! Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cold Comfort

Oooh, Chicago is truly a windy city this week and people are NOT happy. I saw a litany of complaints on twitter (too cold! too rainy! too fallish!) and all I could think was, bring it on! I love cold weather, rainy days, wind whipping against the windows--I love it all (OK, maybe not power outages and moldy leaves, but almost all.)

Maybe I love everything that accompanies inclement weather. Sweaters. Wellies. Movie days. Especially movie days. Sometimes I like nothing better than to curl up on my sofa with a mug of tea, remote in hand, ready to catch some classic on an obscure cable channel--because it's one thing to have a film on DVD and quite another to catch a favorite by luck when scrolling through the guide.

If one of the following pop up on a random rainy Sunday, I stop everything, curl up with a blankie and watch:

1. Four Weddings and a Funeral

2. Pretty in Pink

3. Bridget Jones's Diary

4. Hannah and Her Sisters

5. Charade

How about you guys? What are your comfort movies?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Freaky Friday--Girlcrush Edition

This week I'm loving the goes:

1. Sarah Dessen--You all know about my love of The Dessen. But did you know she has her own book-inspired racecar? It's pink and white and all kinds of gorgeous. Check here for photos.

2. Helena Bonham Carter is my new style icon. I mean LOOK AT HER:

And check out these photos of a dressier HBC, if you can stop drooling over Colin Firth for 10 seconds.

3. Judy Blume & Co. are filming Tiger Eyes!! Right now! In New Mexico! Be still my 12 year old heart!

4. I'm guessing most of you have seen this post by Libba Bray already, but if you haven't, reserve a little time to give it a read. Have Kleenex nearby.

5. I sent my revised second novel off to my beta chicks. Oh, how lucky I am to have them. Thanks gals!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

This is the end...well, sort of

I just finished a (mostly) fantastic YA mystery. The story was compelling, the voice incredible, the plot kept me on my toes. I kept thinking, I am LOVING this! Yay!

Until I got to the end. If one can even call it that. When I was almost done, I could feel the scant pages left and I wondered how in the world the author was going to tie everything up.

I shouldn't have given it a thought, because--I kid you not--the last page read to be continued.

Loose ends were not tied, the threads were simply cut. If I want an explanation, I need to buy the next book. Which, let's face it, I probably will. So, from a marketing perspective, the technique worked.

As a reader, I'm not sure how I feel about this. On one hand, I'm pretty angry. I feel manipulated. On the other hand, I'm intrigued, and still thinking about the book overall.

So what do you guys think? Does the writer have an obligation to the reader to complete the story? Should books in a series stand alone?

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Thursday, October 7, 2010

RIP Burning Dan

I never met Dan Gordon-Levitt. Yet, when I heard about his death yesterday, I felt a deep sense of loss. I wrote about Dan on this blog a few months ago. He taught fire dancing and flow arts to everyday folks. He describes how he came to this profession on his web site:

"The first time I saw anyone spin fire, I was transfixed and inspired, but it was so far removed from my vision of myself that it didn't occur to me that I could do it. Subconsciously, I thought that Other Kinds of People do crazy things like that.

Six months later, I went to Burning Man for the first time. I found myself in a supportive, encouraging, inspiring community that helped me break through that myth. I realized that there are no Other Kinds of People. Anybody can do anything. I can do anything. YOU can do anything."

I love this message. In teaching this art to others Dan helped to unleash the creativity within each student. Watch him dance--isn't it easy to imagine the flames as words or music or paint? The process is so freeing.

His life's work made total sense to me.

Being dead at 36 doesn't make any sense at all.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

From the Vault

My husband and I had kind of a schizophrenic honeymoon: we (and by we, I mean our entire wedding party) went to Vegas for him, and San Fransisco (just the two of us) for me, so I could visit City Lights Bookstore (side note: I think this why we've been happily married for 13 years. IMHO, it's more important to find someone who respects your interests than someone who shares them.)

Visiting City Lights was a religious experience. And I don't mean that in a funny or ironic way. I'm not even sure how long I was there. Hours? Days? I do know the hub, after watching me wander the shelves in a semi-hypnotic state, retired to Vesuvio, the bar next door, where he sat on a barstool that could have once held Bukowski's butt, or even Kerouac's. After I sucked up as much of the atmosphere as possible in City Lights, I joined him...

...and capped one of the greatest days of my life by drinking Campari and soda, my newly purchased copy of HOWL on the bar next to me, my new husband on the other side.

It wasn't, however, my first copy of HOWL. I scored that one in the 80s. 50 cents at the Salvation Army. I devoured it, let the words invade my soul (c'mon, I was fifteen) just as I had with ON THE ROAD, a book that's had more influence on me than any other.

Shortly after reading it for the first time, I found out HOWL was the focus of a famous obscenity trial. Lawrence Ferlinghetti, owner of City Lights Bookstore, found himself on trial for daring to offer HOWL to his customers. If the prosecution had won the case, it would have been against the law for anyone to sell Ginsberg's masterpiece.

So what was it about HOWL that could damage my fifteen year old brain? Some sex, particularly references to homosexuality. Some drug references. Um...nothing I hadn't read about already.

What damage could have been done to my person had I not been allowed to read HOWL?

After finding out about the trial, I researched the political climate of the 1950s, independently and in far greater detail than the watered down Joe McCarthy lecture given by my high school poli sci teacher. I studied the House Un-American Activities Committee AND the American Civil Liberties Union (It supported Ferlinghetti.). I read. I learned. About history and art and human nature. This is what we want of our kids, is it not? Knowledge gained by the very desire to learn. To know.

I now teach a 20th Century survey course. We spend significant time on the Beats. I lecture on Ginsberg and Kerouac and Ferlinghetti and Snyder. I'm able to give my students a clear understanding of the time period because I understand it so well. And these kids, who are too young to identify the members of New Kids on the Block, well, they LOVE it.

And to think the book I owe so much to might have been kept from me...well, honestly, that makes me a little sick.

For more info on the HOWL trial, read the fantastic HOWL ON TRIAL: THE BATTLE FOR FREE EXPRESSION. Also, currently in theaters AND on cable (if you have On-Demand viewing) is a cinematic version of the Ginsberg/Ferlinghetti obscenity trial, starring (swoon) James Franco and (double-swoon) Jon Hamm. You can watch the trailer here.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Freaky Friday

Bits of the random:

1. My brain was too shell-shocked from revisions to write a blog post for Banned Books Week. I didn't want to do a half-assed job, and I still don't, so I'd just like to name some titles of books that were still being banned when I was young enough to have them taken away from me. I read these books during my school years and I don't think I'd be the person (or writer) without them: DEENIE by Judy Blume, THE OUTSIDERS by S.E. Hinton, HUCKLEBERRY FINN by Mark Twain.

2. Once a week my fifth grader takes the a.m. junior high bus for district band practice. He's still young enough to want me to stand at the bus stop with him (yay!). It takes my son a minute or two to settle into his seat (He plays the euphonium), and during that time I stand on the corner while the 7th and 8th graders stare blankly at me. I tried waving once and got nothing. Once in a while we take it up a notch and engage in a highly competitive staring contest, but this week offered an upsetting new development. Two girls gave me the slow once over, coldly assessing my outfit--yoga pants, an olive oil stained sweatshirt and Keen mary-janes so old I've worn through the bottoms--and obviously found me lacking. One pointed, the other laughed, then, mercifully, the bus pulled away. I shouldn't care. I am above that...right? I'm three times (thrice!) their age! But honestly, all that's really going through my head is I need a makeover. Sad, huh?

3. Cool contests: Amy is giving away some gorgeous bookishly decorated wine bottles at Hello, Moon. Nancy, Jo, and Sara over at NC Literary are giving away some awesome books.

4. Sometimes I can't read other books while I'm editing, other times I read like a fiend. With this revision it's been the latter. I've read: CLOCKWORK ANGEL, YOU, RETURN TO PARADISE, and THIS GORGEOUS GAME. For this weekend I picked up PERSONAL DEMONS, which I've heard is great. What are you guys reading? I need more, more more! Feed the addiction!

5. Have you guys been watching the new HBO series, Boardwalk Empire? I've seen the first two shows and I'm not quite sure what I think. I love my Scorcese,'s a bit slooooow, isn't it?

Anyhew, have a great weekend!