Month: August 2014

The Public Library: A Photographic Essay by Robert Dawson

The public library is a refuge for many. For those that love to read, it is filled with books that are ready for exploring. I think most of the people reading this blog are of the book-loving kind and can relate to the magic of a good library.

But the public library is in danger. The oldest public library in the country, located in Delaware County, is in danger of closing.

And, sadly, this is not the only public library whose funds have been cut and may see themselves closing down. The Huffington Post has an entire page set aside to advocate for the continuation and funding of public libraries.

Books for Feminists – Big and Small, Part 1: Small

Are you a feminist? Actually, let me rephrase that. People get mixed up in terminology all the time. Do you like women? Do you think women are capable beings that deserve independence and equality under the law? Good. You are a feminist. It’s as simple as that. Now that we have the terminology out of the way, let’s talk about books.

There are many books out there that depict women as helpless, in need of saving, one dimensional characters, objects of lust, and/or incapable of action. These books aren’t on this list. The books here are ones that depict women as individuals capable of the vast array of human experiences rather than using women as an object in a story or a plot device.

While I think these books are great for girls and women to read, boys and men are more than capable of enjoying these stories too. The success of books like The Hunger Games trilogy shows that well developed female characters have appeals to audiences of all gender.

Children’s Books

Image Source: Wikipedia.Org

The Paper Bag Princess

This children’s story is considered a modern classic. It reverses the role of princess-prince in the game of being rescued from a devious dragon. It’s full of humor and shows that girls can be just as strong as boys and that boys can be in need of a little rescue every now and again.


Image Source: Amazon.Com

The Ride: The Legend of Betsy Dowdy

Now, most people have heard of Paul Revere and have heard the poem about his famous ride to warn Americans that the British were coming. Betsy Dowdy was another rider, who not only rode on the same night as Paul Revere and helped out with the American Revolution, but she rode for longer and went further than Revere did. Why don’t we have any poems about her? This book is a start.


The Blurry Line Between Fiction and Creative Nonfiction

Sometimes it’s difficult to tell where the line between fiction and nonfiction exists—specifically creative nonfiction. When we read a textbook or a biography of some dead president or washed-up celebrity, we expect what we’re reading to be factual. For it to have actually happened. And if the names change (more than likely to protect someone’s identity) we are accepting of that. But with creative nonfiction, when stories read more like novels, when, you think, there’s no way they can possibly remember each of these experiences with as much detail as they’ve just conjured, it’s easy to forget that this “story” was actually someone’s life.

In case you have no clue what creative nonfiction is (I wouldn’t blame you), Lee Gutkind, the founder of Creative Nonfiction Magazine, has said it’s “true stories well told.” That’s the most succinct definition you’ll find. It’s not made up. It’s fact. But the telling of those facts reads like fiction. There’s dialouge. Description. A narrative arc. But as Gutkind reminds us, there is still a cardinal rule present in creative nonfiction and that rule is that the author can’t make “stuff” up.

So that’s the line then, I suppose. Only it’s more complicated than that (of course it is). In a piece the journalist Roy Peter Clark wrote for Gutkind’s magazine, he says, “To make things more complicated, scholars have demonstrated the essential fictive nature of all memory. The way we remember things is not necessarily the way they were. This makes memoir, by definition, a problematic form in which reality and imagination blur.”

Literary Paraphernalia: Bookish Aromatherapy

With school around the corner, I know that, come fall, I’ll need to find ways to decompress after a long day. And since my apartment lacks a bath tub to soak in, I think that candles, perfumes, and other literary scents might be just the trick to calming my nerves. You’d be surprised what goodies you can find on Etsy. Everything from roll-on perfume with the scent of old books (for book sniffers everywhere) to candles that smell like Dobby’s socks (which I did not include in this list, because you couldn’t get me to take a whiff of anyone’s socks, not even Dobby’s).

I’m still not convinced that the real Dharma Bums from Kerouac’s novel didn’t simply douse themselves in a barrel of patchouli, but regardless, I am certain that any book lover can find something on this list. And if not, check out our Pinterest for more literary loot.

Old Books Roll On Perfume

Wuthering Heights Oakmoss & Amber Goat’s Milk Soap

Pride & Prejudice Earl Grey and Lavender Soy Candle

Butterbeer Scented Soap

Horton Moves on From Whos

You didn’t hear it here first, but I will say,
A new Dr. Seuss book is on the way!
When I was a child, I loved to read.
I had the desire and I had the need.
I could sit for hours and find,
That books were the only thing on my mind.
I read Aesop’s fables, and books with little bears,
All in the comfort of my favorite chair.
But I had a favorite author, as many kids do –
A man who rhymed Horton with Who.
Dr. Seuss was always in my house,
And I was never one to say no to green eggs with a mouse.
I regularly hopped on pop and talked to Mr. Brown,
And visited Whoville at Christmas when the Grinch was in town.
All these memories I have and more,
From the time I was little to a time even before.
While some words were nonsense, they all made a fun sound,
And that kept my interest and my heart around.
And as my heart grew three sizes or more,
I learned to love life like never before.
Children’s books teach more than lessons to kids,
They show children life lessons and how to become big.
Adult literature does this too,
But life lessons are best learned by someone that’s new.
As an adult I can look back and say,
That Dr. Seuss was there for me everyday.

Story Shots: Vodka

SS_Circle

Story Shots started off as an ode to tequila—that golden liquid that impairs us so perfectly. While tequila seemed to be a party liquid that made us think of margaritas and concerts, vodka has a very different relationship with our writers. Vodka for some is a social lubricant, but for others, it has a much darker connotation.


“Are you from Los Angeles? You look like you’re from Los Angeles,” he said.

“I don’t know if that’s a compliment or an insult,” I replied, taken aback by his strange, intuitive remark. “How did you know?” I asked.

“You look like you put thought into your outfit for tonight,” he replied with his voice flat.

Your outfit looks premeditated, too, I thought to myself. He wore an Arab keffiyeh around his neck, a black and white checkered scarf, and a thin layer of eyeliner beneath his eyes with his hair perfectly coiffed to the side.

I shifted my body from the awkward tension.

“Again, I don’t know if that’s a compliment or an insult.”

“It’s an observation. See, that’s exactly what I mean. People from Los Angeles are always worried about what people think, or what they mean. Who gives a fuck? I used to live there. That’s why I moved here.” He glanced around the San Franciscan apartment and returned his eyes to mine, as if summing up his statement. I didn’t see the conversation going anywhere further. Wherever he was, I didn’t want to be. He had a point that I didn’t want to mull over, in fear of losing my buzz.

I walked into the next room, which was supposed to be the dining room. Instead, the oak dining table had been converted into what looked like a mountainous collection of red Solo cups.

Someone whispered into my ear, gently tingling the soft fuzz around my skin. When I turned to admire my boyfriend, I was abruptly startled by the crass voice of one of the roommates making an announcement: “Seriously, no one wants to fucking play?”

“What are we playing?” said my boyfriend.

“Oh! So you’re in! It’s just like beer pong. You know the rules of beer pong, right?”

“You just throw the ping pong ball into the cups?” he replied.

“Yeah, sorta. Except we’re using vodka.”

I chimed in, “Vodka? Are you kidding me?”

“We don’t have enough beer. The cups are empty. No one wants to drink from a cup with some nasty ping pong ball that just fell on the floor. You score, we remove the cup and drink a shot of vodka. You can chase it, if you’d like.”

I looked around the room, spotting my flattering, yet undercutting scarf-wearing friend, and shrugged, “Alright. I guess I’m in, too.”

“She’ll drink for my shots!” declared my boyfriend.

Again, I shrugged the declaration off, assuming we were in the game to win it.

He missed the shot. In fact, we both missed all the shots. The other team, like some dauntless heavy weight champions made every single shot and I, as a result of poor ping pong throwing skills, drank all the vodka. In the morning, my nineteen year-old frame laid stiff on a deflated air mattress due to my inability to figure out how to use the air pump in my drunken stupor. I managed to stand up, twisting my back from side to side, becoming increasingly nauseous with each movement. I stopped, seemingly, while the room kept moving. And when the room settled and I was on the brink of hating myself for venturing out with enough brazen confidence to play a vodka-pong tournament, I inhaled and thought to myself, “Who gives a fuck?” Then, all sudden-like, that rumbling feeling, like an internal landslide, loosening age-old gravel, free from it’s tightened and rigid past. A moment of invigoration. All at once. And then I puked.

–Lauren Sumabot


I was nineteen. I shouldn’t have been drinking, so my drink of choice at the costume party was simply vodka and cranberry juice. The party wasn’t very intense—it was a bunch of twenty-somethings, plus one nineteen year old, drinking and watching scary movies. That all changed when there was a knock at the door. The party had officially been crashed.

These uncostumed men were older and cousins of someone living across the street. I was dressed like an angel—irony, I thought, because of my atheism. It wasn’t a sexy angel, either. I was wearing a long white robe, sandals, and wings.

After my third drink, I had to pee. I went to the downstairs bathroom only to find it occupied. That was fine. I wandered upstairs. One of the men followed me up while the rest of his crew stayed downstairs and turned the music up.

I was a little fuzzy, so as I was washing my hands I splashed a bit of cold water on my face and looked up. I was makeup-less. I was wearing a baggy white sack. I was there with my bros. The night was a little scary with the new additions to the party, but they weren’t bothering me any so I was fine. Or so I thought.

I opened the door and he pushed me back into the bathroom and closed the door behind him.

“Hello,” I said, confused.

“You’re pretty,” the drunk, probably thirty year old, said.

“Thanks, I guess,” I replied as I went past him and to the door to unlock it and leave.

He pinned me against the sink counter and tried to kiss me. He started clawing at my chest.

“No,” I breathed.

He ignored my words and my struggle and continued to try to kiss me. I wiggled out of his grip and walked towards the door again. This time he pushed me into the large bathtub. I continued to push him off of me and fight his advances. As I struggled against his large body, I felt it. His gun. He was armed.

He didn’t reach for it, though. Maybe he didn’t remember that he had it. Maybe he genuinely thought I was playing hard to get and he wasn’t trying to rape me. I got away once again and got to the door before him. I ran downstairs. He followed, casually, and found his friends had left.

“You missed it!” my friends cried.

“What?” I said while eyeing the man that had assaulted me in the bathroom.

“Dude, the cops came and one of the crashers pulled a knife on him. The cop slammed him down and arrested him. The rest of the guys left.”

“Fuck,” said my assailant. He walked out the front door.

I took off my wings and sat on the couch. I stared at my sandals.

–Anonymous


Author Spotlight: Sandy Hall

AS_Sandy_Hall

Sandy Hall is a teen librarian from New Jersey where she was born and raised. She has a BA in Communication and a Master of Library and Information Science from Rutgers University. When she isn’t writing, or teen librarian-ing, she enjoys reading, slot machines, marathoning TV shows, and long scrolls through Tumblr. A Little Something Different is her first novel.

9781250061454
Buy the book here:
Powell’s
IndieBound

The Poetics Project: Describe your novel in ten words or less.

Sandy Hall: A girl meets boy story told from everyone else’s perspective.

TPP: What inspired you to write A Little Something Different?

SH: I was inspired by the Swoon Reads website. I’d been working on a completely different book, that had no romance in it. Then I saw an article about Swoon and I decided to try my hand at writing teen romance.

TPP: What was the most difficult aspect of writing your novel?

SH: Editing! Without a doubt. The writing comes easy, it’s the re-writing and editing that’s tough for me.

Motivational Movies for Writers, Part Three

This final installation of movies for writers is brought to you by Missy Lacock, Insecure Writer Extraordinaire (at least this week). And I needed these motivational films just as much as the next poor writing sap.

First: It’s easy to NOT write—even for writers. And observing and thinking creatively is still not writing, people. Tools like these movies remind us we can’t improve or have a product to publish if we don’t actually produce it. Only writers are dumb enough to forget that.

Second: Like the editor-in-chief of this blog pointed out, writing’s the only activity with a “block” (there’s no such thing as “athlete’s block“); we need inspiration anywhere we can get it. Our jobs are to express something new, contribute something significant, but we need material and the creative fortitude to say anything at all.

And lastly: The life of a writer is a constant fluctuation between thinking we’re the best damn writers on earth and realizing we can’t even spell “attached” correctly. And since the craft is entirely subjective and—let’s be honest—doesn’t have any rules we can’t break, there’s no measurable validation we’re good at what we do. Not only that, but to write is to be rejected and edited, which means our egos are always taking a hit. That, my friends, is the life of a writer.

That is also why we need tools to remind us we’re not alone, that even the greats suffered insecurity and failure and rejection and writer’s block and lethargy, that what we do takes commitment and self-belief.

Adaptation

Synopsis: This movie follows two stories. 1) A writer researches orchids and writes a book. 2) A neurotic screenwriter struggles with insecurity as he adapts the orchid book for the big screen. And, uh, things get a little crazy for a movie about flowers.

Live vicariously: Land a screenwriting job for a major motion picture; use a typewriter; explore even a boring topic in interesting and eloquent prose; have our books optioned.

Quotes:

  • “Screenwriting seminars are bullshit.”
  • “There are no rules, Donald. And anybody who says there are…those teachers are dangerous if your goal is to do something new.”
  • “The only idea more overused than serial killers is multiple personality [disorder].”
  • “Because I’m pathetic. Because I have no idea how to write. Because I can’t make flowers fascinating. Because I suck.”

Themes: writerly neurosis, movie options, project obsession, writer’s block, insecurity, low self-esteem, writer-agent relations, and deadlines.

I Hate Twitter, But It’s Good for Writers

I don’t like Twitter. Now, I do have a Twitter account—two actually! But I never use the damn things. Why? Because I hate it. I feel like I never have anything worth saying in 140 characters. I talk a lot. I write a lot. I’m a wordy person and I love my words.

And that’s exactly why Twitter would be good for me, if I so committed myself to use it. Wordiness is an issue in my writing, and Twitter would be a great way for me to practice being concise with my diction.

I won't be winning any popularity contests any time soon.
I won’t be winning any popularity contests any time soon.

Being concise is a good thing for a writer. I know it’s fun to create intricate yet grammatically correct clauses that make your reader go “wait, what did I just read?” But there’s something to be said for being short and to the point when it comes to what you write. Academia especially appreciates this trait. As a writer, it’s good to know your grammar and how to manipulate a clause, but it’s also good to get to the point.

No, Not Only Introverts Are Writers

Last week, Tiffany Shelton and I took the Max towards Beaverton, hopping on the 20 and letting ourselves off in front of Powell’s. Not the maze-like Powell’s in downtown Portland, but the slightly smaller yet wide expanse that sits inside a mall. We went for a panel featuring five young adult authors. (The author’s names aren’t really relevant to this post, but they were Amy Tintera, author of Reboot; Debra Driza, author of Mila 2.0; Kasie West, author of On The Fence; Lisa Schroeder, author of The Bridge from Me to You; and Shannon Messenger, author of Let the Storm Break.)

To be honest, I haven’t read a single book by any of the authors I listed above. I went because Tiffany asked me to, and I’ve learned that you have to get out there and be a part of the “book world” if you want to be the author sitting at that table one day. Or even if you want to be the publisher who produced that pretty little book displayed proudly in front of them. This is the soil you’re trying to cultivate and the culture you’re trying to make last, so don’t fall victim to your introverted, bookish ways—get out of the house! (Yes, I am talking to YOU). Plus, you get to take cool pictures with authors like Shannon, like Tiffany did (see below).

photo

Since coming to Portland, the amount of people who have told me I’m an extrovert is a bit staggering, really. Because I never thought of myself as one, and even now, I’m reluctant to concede. When I was a teenager, I spent a lot of time in my room, scribbling angsty poetry into spiral bound notebooks and living vicariously through the three generations of Sims I had created like a god. I sometimes told my boyfriend I was sick and couldn’t leave the house, because I didn’t know how to say I need space to do absolutely nothing yet. Now, I simply mutter “go away” and keep my eyes locked on the words on the screen, and he flees the room.

People say “writers are introverts” like it’s a thing. Like that’s the only way to successfully be one, but I don’t buy it. And neither should you. That night, as I watched five women speak for an hour, I could only safely say that one of the women—the only brunette, actually—was truly an introvert. In the lightning round, the women were asked what their favorite smell was, and when the mic was passed to Kasie West she burst into a fit of laughter that spread throughout the panel. She had been stopped, in the airport security line, for attempting to carry on a scented bottle of massage oil that was a little bit bigger than the allowed three ounces. Her face turned bright red as she tried telling the story to the audience. I felt like I was stuck in an inside joke I couldn’t relate to, but the image of a TSA officer lifting up a bottle of lube with their latex-covered hand had a small smile forming on my lips. It was too perfect—something you might read in one of their books. Amy Tintera wasn’t laughing though. She was like me, with that small smile on her face as she waited for the laughter to die down. When it was her turn to speak, she explained that the four of them—minus Lisa—often travel together on book tours. That this happened a lot and she often sat there with the same lost expression on her face. “We call it the three blondes and the introvert tour,” she said.