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slatts July 9 2014, 11:46

9 JULY 2014





I NEEDED SOMETHING TO WORK ON if i was going to attend "The YA Sisters'" Work/Lunch.

While I was working on the "Saint Paul" illustration (I blogged about on Monday), I discovered an error that would require a slight rework to the lyric. But it was slight. Not enough to fill an hour before lunch if they were "seriously going to work."

And they were very serious about working before lunch—it turns out.

So, fortunately for me, I had made a scan of my in-progress illustration. After positioning it "as is" in my layout, I took that image into Photoshop and "penciled and paint-bucketed" some color that I could later finish with my colored pencils.

It was enough to give a good visual idea of where I can take this finished illustration and the page layout.

Not a bad hour's work before a very nice visit and lunch!





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soniag July 9 2014, 10:38

A view of the Camera



I love seeing the dome of the Radcliffe Camera when walking through the Deer Park and Old Quad of Brasenose College, but this is the first time it's seemed like a face peering over the wall -- am I the only one who thinks this face vaguely resembles the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man?

Yesterday was rather cold and wet, but today the sun is shining. I'm looking forward to dinner at The Trout with the Oklahoma alums who currently are enjoying the Oxford Experience, but first I really need to get serious about the work I brought with me...

Or maybe I'll take a walk with Steve. It's just too gorgeous outside!
kellyrfineman July 8 2014, 13:41

Two things on a Tuesday

1. Over at Guys Lit Wire I have a post about a poetry collection entitled Letter Composed During a Lull in the Fighting by Kevin Powers. It's an awesome collection, and I've excerpted two poems as part of that post. You should read them, if you have time.

2. I'm on retreat this week. It's a solo sort of thing, and not a fabulous week spent with other writers. (On the one hand, I love the retreats I've done with other writers; on the other hand, right now being all by myself is what I have the energy for. But I hope to set up a retreat with friends later this year.)

I'm spending the week working on revisions. And by revisions, I include a bunch of new writing, as one does. I am working on several (something like 4-5) picture book manuscripts in various states of disarray, and on a new take on my Shakespeare poems, because I was reading some aloud at a reading last month and thought a couple of them were a bit stilted. And stilted is not a word I really want attached to my work.




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debbierfischer July 8 2014, 12:13

My tweets

kimmiepoppins July 8 2014, 06:02

Force Me to Tell You My Secret Hobby

Originally published at Kimberly Sabatini. You can comment here or there.

Today I’m blogging over at YA Outside the Lines and this month we are taking about our hobbies and how they inform our writing. I’m spilling the beans on my secret hobby, so you might want to pop over there and check it out. 

 

Here’s your teaser…

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Do you have a secret hobby? If you do–I want to hear about it.

carriejones July 7 2014, 18:01

Books and Sleeping and how Julie Berry has Ruined my Life. In a Good Way.

Part of being a writer is reading books. Well, at least for me it is.

Why?

It's good to study books because when you are studying how other authors write, you study:

1. How they make you cry or laugh or feel or care about the character.
2. How they ground you in the story.
3. How they use words, sentence structure, paragraph to shape the story and experience.
4. How they manipulate the heck out of you to make you feel something.

But sometimes, I forget this when I read. I forget to study craft and I get completely carried away with the story.

This happened with my friend, Julie Berry's book, All the Truth That's in Me. My whole sleep schedule is off because of Julie Berry's book, which I stayed up until 2 a.m. reading and sobbing and reading and sobbing and sighing and wailing.... And possibly the neighbors heard me. And possibly the neighbors thought of calling the police to report a hysterically sobbing woman. But fortunately, I think they were asleep.

Anyways, I am so sorry, neighbors. So terribly sorry. This book just killed me.

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This is a selfie of the book killing me. See how I am faceless? This is because THIS BOOK ATTACKED ME with emotion. Whenever I read it, my face is a big, puffy mess of red sadness and then joy and then hope and then horror and then sadness and then joy again.

And I really have to apologize to Sparty, too. He is used to being the king of the bed, the non-human that I snuggle. And he's having some anger issues/jealousy problems with all the time I have spent with this book. I found him with it on the bed.
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Since it was upside down, I am assuming that he wasn't trying to read it, but it was drooled on. His paw was inside the cover. So, I think he was trying to eat it.

Unless....

Unless....

Yeah. You got it. The dog and the book have found new loves. Each other. And I'm cool with that. Spread the book love. Read this. It's amazing.
soniag July 7 2014, 12:18

Postcards from the City of Dreaming Spires


We're back in Oxford!

I want to do a better job of keeping in touch while we're here, and therefore my goal will be to post at least four photos a week. Virtual postcards, you might say. And I'll start with the above -- a view from our evening walk through Christ Church meadow (enhanced with the "blue pill" filter from Camera Awesome).

More to come . . .
debbierfischer July 7 2014, 12:11

My tweets

slatts July 7 2014, 12:06

7 JULY 2014




Today is Ringo's 74th birthday. On February 9, 1964, I was a nine year old kid with no real interest in music. At least the music my mother and my grandmother played on their record players and radios. And certainly not the silly songs the nuns taught us at school. But suddenly that night, THIS is what I wanted to do! And scanning those four musicians performing on our black and white TV, the "job" Ringo had seemed to be the one that appealed to me most. He didn't sing. And drums looked like something you could just sit down at and start playing.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, RINGO!



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jbknowles July 7 2014, 11:09

Welcome Teachers! :)

Hi, everyone, and welcome to Teachers Write!!!!

This is such an exciting day. I love the thought of all you teachers all over the country writing together and putting your stories into the universe. It's a beautiful thing.

My role in Teachers Write is to provide a weekly writing prompt to all of you to help get you warmed up for the week. These prompts are meant to be fun, but also inspiring. I will try to help you think more deeply about your work: your intent, your stories, your characters. I hope you'll stop by each week to check in, try the prompts, and share how things are going!

To start you off, I want to ask you to think about finding the beauty in your work, no matter what your story is about. Why beauty? Every year, I choose a theme to try to live by, or live up to. It helps me stay grounded on hard days, and it helps remind me of the big picture when little things get me down. This year, my theme is "Finding Beauty". You can read more about what I mean by that here: http://jbknowles.livejournal.com/480410.html

Even in the grittiest, saddest, hardest stories we read (or live), there is almost always a glimmer of hope somewhere. It's what makes us read on, or live on. And that's the point. In fiction, this glimmer, this promise, is the heart of your story.

Often when we start writing we give our characters a big conflict. Even in picture books, the theme is to try fail, try fail, try fail, succeed! What's the beauty there? The willingness to keep trying after each failure. The beauty is hope.

The beauty in our work is why we write in the first place. It's why the story called to us. It could be triumph, it could be love, it could be survival. Joy. Discovery. Truth. Understanding. Forgiveness.

Many of you are beginning your stories today, so you may not even know exactly what you'll be writing about, or where your character's journey will lead. But you can still think about the themes that are important to you, and how underneath that, lies something beautiful. It's where the heart is, or will be, pumping life into your story.

Today, I ask you to consider the work you plan on doing this summer for Teachers Write. First, think about the over-arching story. Then, think about why this story is important to you. What's calling you to write this particular one? What do you think the beauty of it will be?

I hope you'll share in the comments. But I also know that sometimes, these are the things we want to keep close to our hearts. (And if that's the case, I hope you'll just say hi.) But do keep it, either way. And revisit what you've written as you write your story, and especially when you get stuck, as an important reminder of why you are doing this, and why you must keep going.

Good luck everyone! And next week, we'll get to more specific exercises/prompts as you dig deep into your stories. I can't wait!!!!

Love

Jo
cynthialord July 7 2014, 11:02

Teachers Write


Note taking for Half A Chance

Today is the first day of Teachers Write, a free online summer writing camp for teachers (or anyone!) who wants to work on their own writing this summer with some fun prompts and activities.

I wrote a post last week on Facebook, talking about what it takes to add writing into your life. Kate Messner who is one of the organizers of Teachers Write asked to copy it to their blog. You can read it here if you'd like. Life Doesn't Permit.

And each day, you can check the blog for the lesson or Q&A or whatever the day's activity is. Today's is about setting and the activity is to go outside and isolate one sense at a time.  You come, too.

I always set my books in real places for just this reason. You will go past the common details that everyone would think of. Real places have contradictions and history and surprises. In my school visit presentation, I tell kids that when I am writing details, this is my rule for description:

The surprises that you couldn't have imagined often become the gold in the description.


Here's a photo of a setting from Rules. If I had simply imagined a parking lot for that scene where Catherine and Jason go running, I never would've imagined the hard things that Catherine would've had to deal with in relation to the wheels of Jason's wheelchair. Rocks, sticks, pinecones, the sewer grate--and because I live in the north, SAND. I would've imagined a flat parking lot, but the real parking lot was much more complicated. She would've had to look out for all those things and they would've shaped her decisions.



"Jason’s head and shoulders shake as I bump him over cracks in the tar. There’s so much to look out for: holes and rocks and sand near the side of the building. "

It's a simple mention, but it carries an unmistakable truth.
deenaml July 6 2014, 16:33

Frozen Memories (103)

THE LAKE OF DEAD LANGUAGES by Carol Goodman
After her marriage fails, Jane Hudson returns to Heart Lake School for Girls where she was a student twenty years before and becomes the Latin teacher; there she relives the deaths of her two roommates with the help of someone who has her senior year journal and won't let her forget what really happened. The icy cold Adirondack lake setting is perfectly foreboding. While the tension would've been amped up if Jane's daughter had remained with her at the school, it was nice that she wasn't used as a cheap pawn. A solid drama combined with mystery and flashbacks that adults and older teens will enjoy. (Ballantine, 2002)
debbierfischer July 6 2014, 12:10

My tweets

melissawyatt July 6 2014, 02:04

Answering the Critics of Tarsem Singh's The Fall

NOTE: Long time, no blog, I know. But I needed a place to publish this, so old friends, don't feel you have to read or comment.

I recently fell head-over-heels in love. With a movie. If you know me, that won't shock you. What might shock you is that it's a relatively recent movie. From 2006, visionary director Tarsem Singh's labor of love, The Fall.

It instantly rocketed to the top of my favorites list, which is saying something considering my top ten hasn't changed in about twenty years and most of the films on it are more than sixty years old. I hadn't been so transported by a modern film in years. Not only that, but it has changed the way I view my role as a writer and storyteller, a quantum shift.

Needing to connect with the opinions of others, I searched out reviews on-line and was staggered by how poorly this film had been received by mainstream industry critics. It has only a 59% aggregate rating on Rotten Tomatoes, ranking it significantly below such cinematic treasures as Talladega Nights and Jackass: Number Two.

So I began to carefully read the negative industry reviews in an effort to understand what it was that the people paid to professionally understand film did not, in fact, understand about this particular film. And what I discovered was this: they are Philistines.

Yeah, I'm sorry, but they are. There's something very wrong when people who make a living watching movies almost willfully misunderstand a film that is all about understanding, provided you have a basic grasp of the universal language of symbolism and metaphor and creative narrative structure. And you would think a film critic would have something of a nodding acquaintance with those things.

What follows under the cut is my defense of the film against the most often-cited issues raised in those reviews. If you haven't seen the film, this won't make much sense. If you have and didn't like it, maybe it will inspire you to try again. In any case, spoilers abound.You have been warned.Collapse )
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What you have to understand about this film first and foremost is that it is a testament to the power of storytelling. You can't go in expecting a slavish attempt at realism. You know why? Because stories aren’t real. They’re how we help ourselves understand the real by taking reality and turning it on its head in a place removed from ourselves where we can safely examine it.

So now we know this is a story about stories. And we also know—or at least we should—that stories function through the language of symbolism and metaphor. This is how storytellers connect their own thoughts and feelings to those of their audience through shared experiences. I can tell you that a man is like an oak tree and you will understand that I don’t literally mean this man is an oak tree. But because, like me, you have also seen an oak tree, you will instantly have a feeling about this man that I want you to have. That is the language of story.

The best stories add to this a language of their own and require the audience to learn that language in order to participate in the story. This film is such a story and one of the criticisms stems from those who were either deaf to that language, weren’t aware that they were expected to pay attention to it or were too impatient to do so. These are the critics who found the film to be "empty eye candy" when, in fact, it speaks a rich, symbolic language.

It’s not a difficult or obscure language and the storyteller (director Tarsem Singh) isn’t holding it out of your reach. He helps you to understand, if you are willing to participate. And because there is a theme here of shared storytelling, it is right that you should. The storyteller even tells you so with the defining lines of this film: “It’s my story,” the hero says. And the heroine counters “Mine, too.” It is a compliment he is paying you as well as a hearkening back to the very roots of story.

In written story, the storyteller has only his words and his belief that those words will create the images he intends in the minds of his readers. In film, the storyteller makes use of actual images, visuals that help him connect the intent of his story with his audience. But that still requires the willing participation of that audience. It still requires that you understand the language—not just of words but of the things that he will show you.

So the director is the storyteller. He can use the camera in many different ways to direct you to see what he wants you to see and feel what he wants you to feel. In this film, our director/storyteller uses his camera as an open door into his vision. But he does not abandon you in this world of his. He stays with you, telling you what to notice. He even tells you he understands that you will not get all of it by making his heroine someone who barely understands the language around her. Like her, you will learn. But you have to listen to him and you have to remember.

Perhaps most importantly, you have to step away from the conventions of more realistic films and back into that language of story. Because in the real world and films that try so hard to ape it, randomness occurs regularly. But in symbolic story, nothing is random. Everything is important. And so it is, here.

Because we are in the hands of one of the great virtuoso visualists of our time, the wealth of symbolism contained in this film can be overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of the images. That is a valid criticism but it’s what we call a high-class problem with a simple solution: watch it again.

It’s like when you’re learning to speak French and you encounter a native French speaker and you are so entranced by their beautiful accent that you miss half of what they’re saying. You have to ask them to repeat themselves. So go back. Take another look. Pause the DVD if you need to.

When you learn a new language, you start with the basics. And that’s where Tarsem starts, with love notes, elephants and butterflies. Love notes because at heart, this is a love story, but it is also a passionate love letter to storytelling. He is telling you this right up front as his heroine, 5-year-old Alexandria, writes a love note. But love does not always lead us where we intend and like a butterfly, her note flutters through an open window and into unexpected hands.

Alexandria’s love note will appear again throughout the film, a reminder of its strength and power. And we will see her take up her crayons again later, as she literally tries to draw the hero out of his unhappiness. There is power in her creative expressions as there is power in story.

But back to those opening scenes. Everything is important and that includes Alexandria’s seemingly dull, uninteresting costume. Notice that she wears a gray sweater and because her left arm is in a cast, one arm of her sweater hangs down. What does that remind you of? Maybe nothing just yet but keep paying attention.
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When she meets Roy, the accidental recipient of her love note, she shows him her box of treasures and the first thing he draws out of the box is a small elephant. Remember that our storyteller director is Indian. While elephants are universal symbols of good luck (you knew this, I hope), they are particularly so in India, where they are identified with water, of the greatest importance in a hot, dry climate. Water is the stuff of life. The Hindu god Ganesh is sometimes represented as an elephant. He is the remover of obstacles.

As Roy begins to tell Alexandria his “epic tale of love and revenge,” he has stranded his characters on a desert island, a hot, dry place surrounded by water. But the hero of his story, the Masked Bandit cannot swim and must be rescued by an elephant.

And so we have Alexandria, the baby elephant with her gray sweater sleeve trunk and her stubbornness, which we will see later. Obstacles do not get in her way. Alexandria arrives to save Roy from his desert island of despair.

See how easy this is once you think about it for a minute? And it’s all there, presented to you like the treasure box Alexandria carries. You only have to care enough to root through it and see what’s inside. Let’s try another one.

Butterflies. Because they change from their earthbound caterpillar form to winged creatures of the air, butterflies are symbols of the soul. In the classical myth of Cupid and Psyche, Psyche is often symbolically connected with butterflies and her name is the Greek word for soul.

This film is full of butterflies. One of the most often mentioned sequences is the transition from the iridescent blue butterfly to the Butterfly Reef where the bandits are stranded. But that is so much more than merely a cleverly beautiful camera trick. You might need to shake yourself out of the spell of beauty this film so easily casts and think a little harder. Butterflies everywhere. Souls everywhere. Souls in peril.

Because that is what’s at stake here. Later on, it will be said outright, but for now, the storyteller is building intricate layers of symbolism so that when he comes out and tells you “Here is a soul in need of saving,” it will have the added depth of meaning and connection that art brings to life. By asking you to participate in "collecting" these symbols, the storyteller places his story into your hands through your shared understanding. You and the storyteller are collaborating. At that moment, it becomes yours as well as his.

But we’re not done with the butterflies. When the villain of the piece, Governor Odious, presents a rare butterfly to Darwin (one of the company of bandits), the butterfly is stabbed through the heart, and we learn that Roy’s heart has been stabbed through in much the same way.
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Darwin himself wears an outrageous fur coat. Considered more carefully, the pattern of “eyes” on his coat mimics the defense mechanisms of certain butterflies.

Later on, when Nurse Evelyn appears in the epic, she wears a gasp-worthy costume that again, can overwhelm with its artistry so that you might miss its symbolic importance. The fan-like screen of her headdress resembles a butterfly, and Darwin even gives voice to this. “Just like a butterfly,” he says. But she is only “like” a butterfly. She is faithless, without a soul. Even in the “real world” hospital sequences, her caring is only superficial. The clue to this is when she can’t be bothered to retrieve Alexandria’s note when it goes astray.

When Alexandria draws a butterfly on her belly, she identifies herself as the Americana Exotica, the immigrant soul that has to find a way to live in this strange place.

Oranges are another heavily used symbol. Oranges are loaded with vitamin C. Vitamin C promotes healing. Oranges are delivered by the crate-load to the hospital, this place of healing surrounded by orange groves, where Roy and Alexandria have come to recover from their falls. Other patients are seen consuming the oranges but never Roy because Roy is not healing. Alexandria, already associated with bright and hopeful things like butterflies and elephants, is such an exuberant messenger of healing that she throws oranges about. She has herself emerged from the very groves where oranges grow.

A quick eye will spot oranges in other places. In the epic, there is a bowl of oranges on the terrace where the Masked Bandit and Evelyn are resting. Alexandria buries the false teeth of the old man in an orange. (Teeth being another fascinating symbol, this time of strength. As Alexandria’s teeth grow in, so her strength of spirit grows.)

I could go through this film frame-by-frame and identify many more symbols but let’s move on to another problem some critics had with the film.

Other films have employed the conceit of having a real world frame story where one character tells another a story that takes place in a fantasy world. If you go into this movie thinking “Oh, this is going to be like The Princess Bride or somesuch,” you will be confused. You might think that the epic sequences don’t make sense. That the epic doesn’t stand alone as its own story. That the epic, in fact, is not a very good epic.

And you’d be right. But you would also be missing the point. The epic isn’t meant to be its own story. It isn’t meant to make sense. It isn’t meant to be a—well—an epic. At first, it is just a bunch of nonsense this unhappy man is pulling out of the air, on the fly, to entertain this little girl. From Roy’s perspective, it begins as an idle diversion, develops into a manipulative tool and ends as a warped and dangerous weapon.

What you need to remember is that Roy is not a storyteller. He is a broken, desperate man. Physically and psychologically wounded, in physical pain and clouded by morphine, he strings together seemingly random elements from his “college man” background. His words grow into the vivid, sweeping images, colored by Alexandria’s imagination and her own experiences. The inside lid of her treasure box is the handbill of her imagination.

That is what sets the structure of this film apart from those with which it is most often compared. The real world story and the epic are inextricably linked. They inform on each other. The epic reflects what is going on in Roy’s battered mind. Another frequent criticism is the disparity of the five bandits and their lack of development as individual characters. This is a lack of understanding of the role of the epic in the larger story and what the five bandits represent.
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Each one is an aspect of Roy’s fractured psyche. Without realizing he is doing it, Roy reveals a great deal about himself through them.

First, there is the Masked Bandit, who is of course the dashing hero Roy wishes he could be, who he tried to be. It is a fantasy he cannot sustain when later in the epic and in the real world, Alexandria puts him too firmly in the position of hero and the Masked Bandit crumbles.

Then we have the Indian who has lost the only woman he has ever loved and has vowed never to look at another woman again. The Indian represents Roy’s broken heart.

Next we have Luigi, the explosives expert, who represents Roy’s suicidal tendencies, which ultimately prove to be impotent. Note that Luigi’s bombs never go off until the end, when he still does not achieve the release Roy sought through suicide.

Otta Benga, the escaped slave, is Roy’s desire to escape the physical bondage of his disability. Governor Odious has killed his twin, his other half, in the way that Roy considers himself, as a paraplegic, half a man.

And then there’s Darwin. Darwin is Roy’s calmer intellect, his kindness and ironically, his spirituality. Alone of the bandits, Darwin has no weapon. He stops Luigi from blowing open the door of the castle with a more thoughtful solution. He is the one to invoke God when the Masked Bandit attempts to execute Evelyn. And he is the one, through the Mystic (who represents Alexandria), to warn that swallowing the morphine tablets was a mistake. He is Roy’s voice of reason and he is the first to go when Roy starts killing off the bandits. In his final desperation, he must silence his own inner voice of reason. Darwin is the side of Roy we care about, the Roy we hope will win in the end.

So no, the bandits are not developed as individual characters because they are not individual characters. Like the epic itself, their function is to help you understand Roy.

The film takes the storytelling conceit to another level by allowing Alexandria to alter the epic. She is no passive listener or static receiver of story. She participates. She exerts her own influence over the story, at first in small ways and without understanding the significance, such as stating that she doesn't like pirate stories and so Roy turns it into a story about bandits (inadvertently supplying him with a term and concept he uses later for his own purposes. "Be a good bandit." Steal for me.) Or when she pushes for romance and kissing when Roy doesn't want them. And going so far as to change the main character from her father (who she informs Roy—in the poignantly matter-of-fact way of children—is dead) to Roy, with whom she has fallen in love. Roy becomes her hero, though he is so wrapped up in his own misery, he misses the significance of this moment until it is too late.
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Later on, when the story takes a turn that is too dark for her, Alexandria alters it in the most dramatic way, by inserting herself into it. At first, she makes a heroic effort—even so far as dressing herself in her imagination in the same costume as her hero—and it seems like she might succeed. But even this stubborn little Ganesh is powerless when Roy succumbs to the three real morphine tablets he has swallowed (along with the placebos.) She can’t waken him and she must walk away.

This is where the epic shifts from the idea of shared storytelling to something of a tug of war or a battle between the two of them. After her second fall, when Alexandria pushes Roy to finish the epic, he turns it into a weapon, using it to strike out at her and make her understand why he feels he needs to die, to kill the hero image of him he has unwittingly helped build in her mind. Her influence has become so strong, he is aware that she can alter not only the story he has been spinning for her but his own choices. He tries to silence her. In the epic, she is gagged, and in the hospital, he speaks over the things she tries to tell him. But she has also become aware of the true nature of the epic and what is really at stake and she will not give up. Note here that the tables have been turned and it is Alexandria in the bed and Roy in a chair by her side, the storyteller roles reversed.
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And that is what this film is telling you. We connect with each other through story and story can be more powerful than we can guess. There is a great responsibility we take on when we invite people into our stories, regardless of our agenda. Roy did not begin his epic believing or even hoping that Alexandria would save him by changing the course of his own story. But that was the unpredictable risk he took by inviting her in.

Is it a perfect film? Of course not. There is no such thing as any perfect work of art. But you don’t look at the Mona Lisa and say “The perspective of the background on the left does not match the perspective of the background on the right. This thing is crap!” No. Why? Because you are transported by the creative power of the rest of it. And maybe you are even a little touched by its flaws. Perfection is achieved by machines. Flaws are human. Humanity is who we are, and that is beautiful.

So some of the writing is clunky, some of the supporting performances awkward, and something is a bit off in the climactic sequence. The most troubling problem is that of Roy’s motivation. The reason for his great despair is not established well enough to support the ultimate resolution. But I believe these flaws are born out of the creative passion of the storyteller, and I will take flawed, risk-taking passion over carefully calculated flatness or a string of polished CGI tropes any day. Beyond the justly celebrated dazzling imagery of this film, what it gets right is loving, generous, and human. It is a rare and unusual combination of flamboyance and bombast alongside tender intimacy. It is a love note in astoundingly beautiful gibberish that will reward you over and over if you take the time to learn its language.
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deenaml July 5 2014, 21:26

Will Appeal to Fans of WONDER by RJP (102)

ABSOLUTELY ALMOST by Lisa Graff
Albie's starting at a new school for fifth grade where he's put into the math club even though he doesn't understand math and he fails his spelling tests and overall doesn't quite feel smart enough to please his parents, but when he gets a not-a-babysitter and figures out some problems on his own, he might just earn that he is perfect the way he is. The short chapters and concise scenes make this a good choice for reluctant readers seeking reading milestones. Albie is a lovable main character who makes great strides through the novel, is completely sympathetic, and very relatable. A smart family, school, and friendship story about learning to love yourself. (Philomel, 2014)
authorwithin July 5 2014, 17:00

Saturday Stuff and Recent Reads Review

Happy 4th of July weekend (for those in America who celebrate Independence Day)! It’s been cloudy and rainy. YAY!!! No really, I’m excited about the rain. It’s monsoon season for us here in AZ and we’ve been praying for rain since it sort of got a late start. There have already been forest fires in AZ this season, so we’ll take any rain we can get. Plus, the rain and clouds help cool things down. It hasn’t been as hot here in my part of AZ as it has in Phoenix, but we’ve reached triple digits here and that’s way to hot for me. Of course, I’m a wimp so when it’s in the nineties, it’s too hot for me. LOL

In addition to the benefits of helping keep forest fires down and cooling things off, the rainy weather puts me in a writing mood. I don’t know what it is about it this year, but in years past it hasn’t been this way. Usually the rain is a deterrent for me, making me want to stay inside and read or something, but this year, it makes me want to be out in my office writing. Not a bad thing. I’ve written and revised a couple of picture book manuscripts, started a chapter book/MG (not sure which direction I’m going to take it at this point, but I’m leaning toward chapter book), done some work on writing a past MG that I’d set aside, and jotted down some notes for a couple of YA (one I’ve started in the past and one new one). So, bring on the rain!

When I haven’t been writing, I’ve been reading or cleaning house. Believe me, I prefer the reading. Winking smile I recently finished Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige. Here’s my review:

As a reminder of my scoring system, I’m using emoticons. Here’s what they mean:

Open-mouthed smile--WOW—I loved this book and will talk/have talked about/shared it with others.

Smile--Not totally in love, but this was a great book and I may talk about/share it with others.

Thinking smile--This was okay. I enjoyed reading it, but it’s not my favorite.

Sad smile--This wasn’t for me. I stopped reading and couldn’t bring myself to finish.

Steaming mad--How did this get published?

If you happen to be the author of one of the books I review, please remember this is my honest opinion. Don’t hate me if I don’t give your book a great big happy grin. I am only one reader in the whole wide readership and I’m sure there are those who’ll love your work—it just wasn’t me.

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

Rating--Thinking smile

The Story—Amy is a girl from Kansas who dreams of going somewhere else to escape a mother who’s an addict, a father who left to start a new family, and a school life that pretty much sucks. So when a tornado whisks her away to Oz, she isn’t too heartbroken—confused and unbelieving for a while, but not heartbroken. But the Oz Amy ends up in isn’t the same one Dorothy left.

For starters, Dorothy has returned to Oz, and that’s part of the problem. Dorothy isn’t the same happy, sweet girl from Kansas that she used to be. This Dorothy craves power and gets power from magic. The magic of Oz is being harvested by Glinda the-not-so-good witch for Dorothy to use as she pleases.

Dorothy has displaced Oz’s true ruler, Ozma, and taken over as queen. She rules with an iron fist, torturing anyone who might get on her bad side. The Tin Man, Lion, and Scarecrow aren’t what they used to be either, and nothing will stop them from being loyal to Dorothy. Well, almost nothing.

Amy is “recruited” by the Wicked—the witches formerly good and bad who have banded together against Dorothy. Amy’s job? To assassinate Dorothy. But will she be able to do it?

My thoughts—First of all, I had seen this book in my local Wal-Mart. It sounded interesting, but I had no intention of picking it up. My oldest daughter, on the other hand, did pick it up and asked me to buy it for her. Who am I to deny the child reading material? So I did buy it for her. But then I had some doubts and told her I needed to read it first (that’s how I am—I try not to let my kids read things unless I’ve read and approved them first). So I took it that night and read most of it, leaving off when I was so tired I couldn’t take it anymore. I picked it up early the next morning and finished it, returning it to her before she had even crawled out of bed.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to let her read it because it has a few “f-bombs” in it. It seemed to be contained to the beginning of the book, but I could have lived without them, and don’t like my kids reading such things. So, even though I love books with all my heart, I will admit to taking a pen and inking over the bad words (gripe at me all you want, call it censorship or whatever, but it was either that or not allow her to read it at all—which I’ve done in the past).

But the “f-bombs” alone aren’t enough to determine rating. I’ve given great big happy faces to books that used the “f-word” before. So why the lower rating? Many reasons. This book was LONG. I enjoyed the concept, and there was lots of excitement, but it was all basically set up for future novels. I know, I know, the first book in a series is always set up, but it should also contain it’s own complete story. For me, this one just didn’t. The ending was too abrupt. Ending right in the thick of things. Yes, she had accomplished a task that needed accomplished, but it wasn’t until the end of the book that we found out there were things she’d need to do first before she’d be able to kill Dorothy. Yeah. Like I said, this was all just one big long set-up—kind of like a super long prologue.

Still, I did enjoy the concept, and I enjoyed it enough that I’ll probably pick up the rest of the series, or at least the next book to see how it comes along. Hopefully the next book will be the last one though. I can’t see dragging it out over more than one novel. At least I hope not. I want it wrapped up and concluded—I like closure.

So that’s my opinion. I liked the book. I didn’t love it.

Write/Read/Weekend on!

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