Saturday, December 27, 2008

Reading (and Writing) Along With Satia

I’m determined to rid my life of the clutter of books on writing and to that end, here’s a list of books I have that either need to go or which may be of interest to someone out there to work along with me. I won’t say which of these I’ve already read or anything. Rather, I’m just letting others choose for me. This list is done in alphabetical order by author. The Practice of Poetry: Writing Exercises from Poets Who Teach by Robin Behn and Chase Twichell is a book I picked up when I was in college and remains one of those texts to which professors turn time and time again as a primary resource for teaching poetry. This can’t be a coincidence and I am confident I would learn a lot from this book. (Many of the exercises are for a group which is why I have never read it. I guess it would be best for me to find a group that wants to do this with me or just skip some of the exercises. We’ll see how it goes.) The Joy of Writing Sex by Elizabeth Benedict is about writing sex scenes that rise above the mundane. My recent nanowrimo attempt has some sex scenes (including a rape) and I would like to make sure that what I wrote is more than merely titillating. I also need to make sure that I don’t fall into my own safe patterns of writing, using the same images or ideas in various scenes. (First he does this then she does that and this is how they respond . . . blah blah blah formulaic blah blah blah.) Escaping Into the Open: The Art of Writing True by Elizabeth Berg is always appealing because I love Berg’s books. They are a safe place, the sort of book that makes me feel and feel good by the end. I would love to write stories that are less dark but that apparently is not my forte. In any event, being a fan of Berg’s writing means I am naturally drawn to her book on writing. (I think Berg may be one of the few women who writes for women who doesn’t make me want to hurl the book across the room.) The Writing Diet by Julia Cameron is appealing because I am trying to lose weight and I love her Artist’s Way although I am still skeptical if she can even come close to the quality of what she did in that book. (I have acquired quite a few of her other books and they remain on my bookshelf, unread, including The Right to Write and God is No Laughing Matter as well as her sequels to The Artist’s Way.) Writing Creative Nonfiction: Instruction and Insight from Teachers of the Associated Writing Programs by Julie Checkoway is a book I bought to be used in a writing group to which I belonged. Unfortunately, the group broke apart before we started and I have had it sitting on my shelves ever since. (No doubt, given the quality of contributors who are also AWP members, this book will be both inspiring and challenging.) The Writer’s Idea Workshop: How to Make Your Good Ideas Great by Jack Heffron appeals because I have several good ideas but am not sure they are great. If I could make them great, however, that would be something! Also, I have enough on my desk requiring revision that I’m in a position to explore some ideas for the next big project while revising the past ones. (With an awareness that I’m already focusing on a couple of projects for January, if I were to do this book then I’d be preparing for the one to follow the more immediate projects.) In the Palm of Your Hand: The Poet’s Portable Workshop by Steve Kowit is high on my list because I have two semi-polished chapbooks and three very rough draft chapbooks in my files waiting for me to get busy. I have a hard time revising my poetry and I keep hoping to learn more. (I also find that my prose has improved most from my trying to improve my poetry. The truth is, the more I learn about how to write poetry, the better my prose has become.) Writing Your Heart Out: Exploring & Expressing What Matters to You by Rebecca McClanahan has a sort of gentle sound to it and I ponder how biting it will actually be. However, there are some writers referenced/quoted in the book (after checking the index) and these indicate that the quality of this book may exceed the lightness of the title. (Of course, one would have to assume that I have a heart to begin with but I guess this book will reveal to me one way or the other whether or not I have one.) Wring in Flow: Keys to Enhanced Creativity by Susan K Perry, PhD is the one about which I feel some skepticism. I am not sure how a book can teach an experience. It’s like reading a book on enlightenment and expecting to have an epiphany or ecstatic experience. Unlikely but you never know. (As prolific as I am, one would wonder if I ever write without flow. I know I’ve had moments when writing feels like pulling teeth.) Memoirs of the Soul: Writing Your Spiritual Autobiography by Nan Phifer is an obvious choice because so many people have been asking me to write about my vertigo and this book includes exercises which I think will be conducive to my at least initiating some ideas on what to write and how to focus my ideas into something cohesive. (One of my hopes is to infuse my vertiginous experience with the spiritual lessons I have acquired along the way.)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Holiday Puppies

So I thought that I had taken some pictures of the dogs and sent them to myself but they were lost in cyberspace. Not a surprise but a little disappointing. And since nobody else took any pics of the puppies, we don't have any of them wearing their holiday collars. Oops. Maybe next year . . .
This is what Snowdoll wore. It has no bells but I added three to it myself. Ha! So she jingled as she trot trot trotted all over the house.
This is Romanov's collar which has four bells on it that have a lovely sleighbell tone. He mostly made noise when he stretched and shook. We actually have a pic taken when he was wearing the collar but his fur is so thick around his neck you can't see the collar. Oh well.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is one of those iconic pieces of literature that can only happen at the right time, in the right place, to manifest into something brilliant and powerful. What more can anyone say? All the superlatives have already been properly applied and my praise would be just like any other. What I kept noticing are the rules Marquez consistently breaks, the ones that every writer learns from reading Writer’s Digest and books on writing. Do not use passive voice. Do not give more than one character a similar name. (If possible, do not even give them names with the same first letter!) Break up blocks of exposition with dialogue. And keep the prose simple. Whatever! Marquez hasn’t followed any of these rules and breaks them not only with impunity but to such excellent effect it makes me wonder if the rules are right. Then again, the rules are probably there for writers who do not have Marquez’ brilliance. Odds are, breaking the rules in the hands of anyone other than a master would result in a mess of words on a page that aspire to be more than a disaster.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Living Yoga: Creating a Life Practice by Christy Turlington

Living Yoga: Creating a Life Practice by Christy Turlington surprised me with its depth and breadth. A pretty book, I expected it to present yoga in a superficial manner, a sort of Yoga-Lite bit of fluff that would dumb down the deeper experience of yoga itself. Instead, Turlington is thorough in her explanation of the tenets of yoga, describing the various schools, the roots for the teachings, and explaining Sanskrit in laymen terms. It helps that she has studied comparitive religions, no doubt, and as a result her wisdom shines through the pretty pictures and poses. Interspersed with elegant photos of Turlington in a range of yoga asanas, from the simple to the challenging, the book condenses a lot of information without leaving the reader overwhelmed. Where this book soars is when Turlington allows herself to share her life’s path. She does not indulge in the behind the catwalk backbiting or gossip which is wonderful. Instead, she shares only herself—her sometimes destructive, often confused, always compassionate choices. The book ends with an odd abruptness. I turned the page and was startled to find the glossary of terms. This is unfortunate and complimentary. I wanted more. I want more. I hope that Turlington will choose to share more of herself and her spiritual path in future books.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares is a cute book about four friends who share a pair of jeans one summer, their first spent apart. One of the girls goes to Greece. Another goes to visit her father. A third goes to soccer camp. The fourth stays home, working a typically demeaning summer job. Ultimately, the novel is typical chick lit. There are so many predictable moments that only someone who hasn’t read many books could find the plot points surprising. Fortunately, this is a young adult novel so odds are the readership hasn't been overly exposed to predictable plot points. In some ways, it seems to be a sort of coming-of-age but the feeling that there is more story to tell is evident even when the summer has come to a logical (and obvious) conclusion. In other words, this book screams "There's a sequel coming!" Sweet without being cloying, slightly sentimental and unsurprising, it is one of those perfect quick summer reads, a bit of mental fluff that feels like a warm fuzzy hug when the last page is turned. Will I read the sequel? I don’t know. I’m tempted but I doubt it would be even as slightly satisfying as this first novel. This one was fulfilling in the way fast food can curb your hunger but doesn’t necessarily provide nutrition. In this case, what we have here is a cute young adult novel that doesn’t give the reader much food for thought.