Reading Life 12

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson

Kirby says as much in her author's note at book's end, that readers will find obvious parallels between WWI states' side and today's war on terror, since much of the research for the book and much of the writing happened smack-dab in the middle of today's events, including The Aftermath (September 11, 2001, as if there can be any other event in our lifetime that merits such reverence). The date itself, September 11, comes up in the story. Maybe a bit heavy on the sybolism, but how cool it is to be able to call this a post-9-11 book. Inspite of this maybe too obvious connection, boy oh boy, the story is one great story. Funny at times, inspiring more often, Larson has a knack for introducing a character and allowing her to take charge of the outcome. From chucking rocks at a cow-tail-eating wolf, to flailing arms full of petticoats and skirts to scare off wild horses, to standing up for a fellow citizen, to tearing into the earth and waiting and waiting on rain, then witnessing one's harvest torn to bits by hail, to witnessing the oh so unfortunate passing of an innocent, "our little magpie." (Kirby, what wonderful magic you have to make my eyes tear up and my heart to grow heavy for this family, for our hero, for this generation.) All in all, a wonder of a book! I will take my yellow highlighter and color in the silver sticker on my copy of your book.


Writing Life 6

I met with my editor in D.C. not long ago (we were there for ALA), and I promised Wendy I'd have a completed manuscript (a novel on AD and adoption) by summer's end. That was a month ago, and since then I've added at most five more pages of story to the 20 (+/-) pages I already had. Now I've got what? 100-150 pages to go in the next couple of weeks, maybe a month? What's been keeping me from writing? I'll tell you: two things: first, I'm teaching two classes this second summer session, way busier than I could imagine; second, I grabbed a ton of reading material walking up and down the aisles at ALA and have been reading almost non-stop since. Sure, busy as it is, I'm loving the teaching. I've got some awesome grad students who are making the few weeks' worth of classes go by so very quickly; and sure, reading is so useful to me as a writer (I tell young would-be writers that reading the work of others, both good and bad, is part of the writing process; mentor texts is what I've heard people call these titles), but man, if I pick up a great book, I can't stop. I've got to finish it. And in so doing I sacrifice my own writing time. Oh well. But I have promised my good friend at Random House, Adrienne Waintraub, that I will finish reading Kirby Larson's Hattie Big Sky and that'll be that for reading, then I'll hit the blank page hard, both fists grabbing hold tight to pencils. Okay, pens. I have gotten used to working on the computer, but this morning, during my run/walk/pick up aluminum (to sell at a recyle place for, what I'm calling, The Boys' College Fund (and my brother jokes: "So, they'll be on the slow track? The old 12-year 4-year degree?--funny, my brother)) I heard Annie Dillard on NPR talking about the process for her, and she convinced me to go at it sans computer. She says on the computer we tend to go overboard with words, too prolific, we type too fast. We overtype our stories. We waste words. We don't take the time necessary to go over the language, the story, the characters, etc. I'm paraphrasing very loosely there, but that's what I took from her interview. So I found me a blank journal in a box in the garage, and I plan on picking up on page one of the journal where I've left off on the computer. Maybe I should even write longhand in the journal what's already typed onto the hard-drive? I'll reread it at least. More on the progress later.

Larson, I feel, should've won the Newbery. Nothing bad about Patron's book, but I think Larson's is on the heftier side. And if you liked Zusak's The Book Thief, you've got to pick up Fighting Ruben Wolfe. Don't think you'll read the same story or even similar writing technique and form. This guy, as I've said before to a few folks, is a writer's writer. Never the same thing twice. Fighting is slow-going at the outset, but when you get maybe a couple chapters into it, the story takes you on a wild ride.


Life 2

Happy 4th of July to our Nation and to all of you! Lukas calls it America's Birthday party. At 3 1/2 that's pretty good.


Reading Life 11

Harmless by Dana Reinhardt
Best friends Anna, Emma, and Mariah tell a little white lie (that is not so little and not so white really) to get out of a world of trouble with their respective parents. As happens with lies, big or small, a person either comes clean at the outset and suffers immediate consequences or she lets it go and the lie takes on a life of its own; out of the liar's control, that original lie grows and grows and eventually the liar feels, as do the girls in this story, that it's too late and too impossible to fess up. After all, they (meaning their parents, their schoolmates, the police, the community in general) will let it go. But they don't let it alone: there is a violent offender out there who needs to pay for having attempted to assault the girls, and someone will pay. Is it the man accused of the crime or the girls who end up paying? This story will keep you on your literary toes with twists and turns. The girls, each of whom relates the story from their own point-ov-view, falls deeper and deeper into this pit. Each of them suffering in their own ways. An awesome book! And and awesome writer!