Sunday, November 29, 2009

I made it! Last night at 1 AM I wrote my 50,000 word, went to the website to validate my word count, was told I only had 49,917 words, wrote some more, validated again, and lo and behold, I am a winner of NaNoWriMo 2009! (I get a printable certificate and a web badge.)

Winning, by the way, just indicates that I reached my 50,000 word goal. Actually, I have a few more pages to write to wind up my last plot threads, and I can go back to the site and update my word count if I finish any time before midnight on Monday, November 30th. But frankly, I am so excited not to be working on a deadline that I'm not sure any more writing will be done this week. Just to give you an idea of me working against the clock, I wrote 6,000 words between Thanksgiving dinner and returning to work on Saturday morning. I'm exhausted!

Hurrah for NaNoWriMo!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Book on the Side: Week 2

I've got to confess: I'm behind in my reading of The Thirteenth Tale. What with writing 50,000 words for National Novel Writing Month (current word count: 32, 000) and getting ready for Thanksgiving, it has just fallen by the wayside.

So, our idea is, let's continue with our reading of The Thirteenth Tale into December, which will give us a chance to catch up & not give us, or any of you, another reading assignment during the busy holiday season. We'll start afresh with a new book in January, so if you have suggestions, don't hesitate to start letting us know!

For those of you who have been diligently reading & looking forward to discussion, I consulted with Thirteenth Tale fan Elisabeth for some commentary:

Elisabeth doesn't like mysteries, but she liked this book--she found it to be a great psychological story, like Rebecca, dark & slightly creepy. Elisabeth thought Margaret was a bit of a cold fish and Vida was sometimes annoying but feisty & more likeable. She also liked the characters of the housekeeper & the gardener. The most interesting thing about Elisabeth's experience with The Thirteenth Tale is that she first listened to it on audiobook, but disliked the reader & was not very interested in the book. However, when her book group opted to read the book, Elisabeth tried reading it in book form & loved it.

Do you agree? Disagree? Inquiring minds want to know, we want to know!

What We're Reading...

We're librarians. We're surrounded by books all day. It's kind of like being a kid in a candy store. So, even though we're working all day & reading books for the library book groups all night, sometimes we just want to read something just for fun.

Joy just read Katherine Hall Page's The Body in the Sleigh, the latest book in her Faith Fairchild series. Joy's enjoyed following the adventures of Faith through the eighteen-odd books written about her. Joy was also tickled pink to see Ms. Page's Author's Note at the end of The Body in the Sleigh, which contains, in addition to the book's dedication to librarians (aw, shucks, you shouldn't have), the story of how this book came to be written and an explanation of what libraries & librarians mean to the author. Ms. Page won Joy's heart by starting off with a quote from Henry Ward Beecher (brother of Harriet): "A library is not a luxury but one of the necessities of life."

Joy recommends the Faith Fairchild series for those who like a good cozy mystery--with recipes, to boot! Over the years, Faith has come to seem like an old friend of Joy's & Joy hopes you'll feel the same.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Book on the Side: Week 1

How are you enjoying The Thirteenth Tale? We've been debating it amongst my co-workers. One didn't like the book--she found the characters too self-consciously odd, as though the author was trying too hard to make them quirky. Another did enjoy the book, particularly the mystery aspect of it.

Much of the novel takes place in two grand estates --- Angelfield and then Miss Winter’s. How are the houses reflections of their inhabitants?

As the story unfolds, we learn that Margaret and Miss Winter are both twins. What else do they have in common?

I've seen The Thirteenth Tale listed as 'having all the mystery of a modern day blockbuster' and as gothic fiction, in the tradition of the Brontë sisters. Do you agree with these classifications?

Margaret Atwood & Graeme Gibson

Thanks to Bookworks, the UNM Creative Writing Program, & the Forest Guardians I (& quite a few others) were able to attend a reading & book-signing by authors Margaret Atwood & Graeme Gibson.

Ms. Atwood spoke first, primarily about her new novel The Year of the Flood, which is, she explained, not a sequel or a prequel to Oryx & Crake but occurs simultaneously--in a Victorian novel, The Year of the Flood would be the "Meanwhile..." chapter, discussing events happening to characters in the book which seem to have nothing to do with the primary story until, later, the stories converge. Ms. Atwood read excerpts from her new book in the voices of each of her three narrators, Toby, Ren, & Adam One. She also played recordings that had been made of the some of the hymns from the book which had been set to music, including Oh Sing We Now the Holy Weeds.

Ms. Atwood also spoke about creating the character Jimmy in Oryx & Crake as a response to people who said she only wrote about female characters & explained that she did research to create Jimmy by having young men of the same age read the manuscript & comment.

Mr. Gibson then read from his new book, The Bedside Book of Beasts: A Wildlife Miscellany, with an accompanying slideshow. A review says of his book, "A fascinating exploration of the chain of life, of survival and mortality. In The Bedside Book of Beasts, Graeme Gibson gathers breathtaking works of art and literature that capture the power, grace, and inventiveness of both predators and their natural prey. The Bedside Book of Beasts evokes a profound sense of the eternal connection between humans and the creatures they endeavor to tame."

After the readings, Ms. Atwood & Mr. Gibson took a number of questions, including suggestions for those suffering from writer's block--Ms. Atwood has had to throw away 2 books due to writer's block, & Mr. Gibson 3, but generally Ms. Atwood suggested trying to change the person (e.g. first person narration to omniscient narrator) or change the tense (e.g. past to present) before throwing away your work. One questioner asked how Ms. Atwood felt to be a 'focal point for students', citing a paper the questioner had written in high school, to which Ms. Atwood had a spirited reply, reminding us that when we read her works, she's not there.

Ms. Atwood & Mr. Gibson, who are a long-standing couple, also fielded numerous questions about their relationship's longevity & possible collaborations. Both were easygoing & very humorous on these rather intimate topics. They don't collaborate, but Ms. Atwood sees Mr. Gibson's work in manuscript form, she joked, because she is the only one who knows how to use punctuation. Ms. Atwood's relationship advice included having a sense of humor & tolerance, which, Mr. Gibson quipped, he had.

Margaret Atwood books
Graeme Gibson books

Hear interviews with Ms. Atwood & Mr. Gibson!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

National Novel Writing Month: Day 15

Well, we're halfway through with National Novel Writing Month, & I'm behind in my word count, but doing better than last year. My novel is called (for the moment) The Dwindling Prophecy, and it's a satire/parody of various fantasy and science fiction classics like Lord of the Rings & Dune. It's fun to write so far, but 50,000 words sure is a lot, even with help from all the name generators, title generators, poetry generators and the like.

In the meantime, I've been trolling the NaNoWriMo site, & they have a lot of resources. Want to see a list of NaNoWriMo authors that have been published, including Sara Gruen? Feeling stalled and need a pep talk? Here's the pep talks from this year, including Peter Carey, Jasper Fforde, and Lynda Barry, & the archive of pep talks from past years, including Sue Grafton, Neil Gaiman, Janet Fitch & Meg Cabot. Forums include discussions on tips & strategies, life during NaNo, plus a list of resources & writing support, and check out the special offers, including a free proof copy of your book!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Today in History: 20th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall

I was in my German 101 class in college when we got the news that the Berlin Wall was coming down. Where were you?

Want to learn a little bit about the history of the Berlin Wall? Click here.

Want to find books about the Berlin Wall? Click here.

Find out latest news about celebrations of the anniversary of the Berlin Wall's fall here.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Rereading Wuthering Heights

Are there any Wuthering Heights fans out there? Talk to me. Please explain what makes this novel a classic. I just reread it & I still don't get it.

First, let me explain how I came to be re-reading the book. My reading often takes me on tangents. I was reading a book of essays by Judith Thurman called Cleopatra's Nose: 39 Varieties of Desire, which contains a great essay about Charlotte Brontë. This essay recommended a couple of biographies, including Unquiet Soul : A Biography of Charlotte Brontë, which I then read (& if you're interested in the Brontës, it's a very good biography). Reading a biography of one Brontë sister inevitably leads to you to others, and Unquiet Soul waxed eloquently about the mysticism of Emily and Wuthering Heights, so I decided to give it another try.

I mean, it's an interesting read, but I feel like I'm not getting what everyone else is getting. I have even picked up Wuthering Heights, Revised; An Authoritative Text, with Essays in Criticism. In between readings on the Gondal cycle of stories and Emily's poetry, I did find one excellent essay: "A Fresh Approach to Wuthering Heights," by Q.D. Leavis. (Please note that this approach was fresh in 1969.)

Q.D. (Queenie Dorothy) Leavis suggests that Emily "had some trouble getting free of a false start-a start which suggests that we are going to a have a regional version of the sub-plot of Lear." Leavis also posits that there "are various signs thatthe novelist intended to stress the aspect of her theme represented by the corruption of the child's native goodness by Society...", and, while this a "commonplace subject" of the Romantic period, it becomes "neither superficial nor theoretic because the interests of the responsible novelist gave it...a new insight..."

Leavis talks about the "genius devoted to creating Nelly Dean, Joseph, Zillah, Frances, Lockwood, the the two Catherines, and to setting them into significant action". Catherine is the real "moral centre" of the book, and Heathcliff and Hareton are giving only "very perfunctory attention..." (She also makes a lot of comparisons, based on the Catherine-Heathcliff-Edgar Linton triangle, with the movie Jules et Jim, which, given my case history, probably means I'll have to check that out in the not-too-distant future.)

I don't want to quote the essay here in its totality, but I have found reading it very useful & I'm considering tackling Wuthering Heights in all its confoundedness again. Leavis herself says, "Why does one feel that in spite of its intensely painful scenes-painful in a great variety of ways-Wuthering Heights always repays rereading?"

What do you think of Wuthering Heights?

Museum of Modern Art

Today is the 80th birthday of one of the country's most famous museums, the Museum of Modern Art or MOMA as it is sometimes abbreviated. Opened on November 7th, 1929, just nine days after the stock market crash, it is located at 11 West 53rd Street in New York City and has become a treasured stop for artists and non-artists alike when visiting the Big Apple. It is one of the biggest depositories of contemporary and modern art in the world with well over 300,000 items. There are several books in the library catalogue that MOMA has published through the years and are available for checkout. Some of the more interesting titles are an exhibition of work by Alberto Giacometti, a work on still life called "Objects of Desire: The Modern Still Life" by Margit Rowell and a work on the exhibition of Latin American artists titled
"Latin American Artists of the Twentieth Century" from 1993. The catalogue also has DVD's on modern art such as: "The Impressionists" by A&E Television and "The Life and Times of Frida Kahlo" narrated by Rita Moreno. It is a true testament of art lovers around the country that MOMA survived the depression of the 1930's and is today one of the premier art museums in the world.

Book on the Side: November

Our second Book on the Side read will be The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. Booklist Reviews has this to say about it: "Margaret Lea, a bookish loner, is summoned to the home of Vida Winter, England's most popular novelist, and commanded to write her biography. Miss Winter has been falsifying her life story and her identity for more than 60 years. Facing imminent death and feeling an unexplainable connection to Margaret, Miss Winter begins to spin a haunting, suspenseful tale of an old English estate, a devastating fire, twin girls, a governess, and a ghost. As Margaret carefully records Vida's tale, she ponders her own family secrets.Readers will be mesmerized by this -story-within-a-story tinged with the eeriness of Rebecca and the willfulness of Jane Eyre. A wholly original work told in the vein of all the best gothic classics. Lovers of books about book lovers will be enthralled."

The Thirteenth Tale is also available in large print and audiobook. There is no need to sign up for Book on the Side! Feel free to leave your comments and reviews for The Thirteenth Tale any time during the month of November. Leave your comments and reviews in the comment form of the blog. Don't forget to check back often to see what other readers are saying about the book!

Thank you for visiting abcreads! We look forward to discussing The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield with you.

Articles about Diane Setterfield & The Thirteenth Tale:

British Teacher Becomes a Literary Sensation in the U.S.

Debut Writer's Million-Pound Success Story

The Girl from Theale

Monday, November 2, 2009

National Novel Writing Month: Day 2

Ah, November. It's fall, the leaves are changing color, my family's trying to figure out where we're doing Thanksgiving dinner...& I'm going to try to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I started last night.

What is it? It's NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month--"a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30," explains the website. This crazy endeavor started out with 21 participants in 1999, and in 2008 there were over 120,000 participants. If you are interested in taking part, you can still sign up! The rewards you'll reap are mainly personal fulfillment; if you finish your novel, NaNoWriMo just puts your name up on their Winner’s Page and sends you a winner’s certificate and web badge.

The NaNoWriMo website has lots of starting tips, a "Procrastination Station" forum, & if, you sign up for it, you can receive pep talks in your email from established writers such as Philip Pullman & Sara Gruen. Also, if you are 17 years old or younger, you can still do NaNoWriMo as part of the Young Writers Program.

This is my second year participating but last year I didn't finish, so cross your fingers & wish me luck!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Book on the Side: Dreamers of the Day Wrap-up

So, are you all finished reading Dreamers of the Day? Did you like it? Dislike it? How did you feel about the characters? The plot? Do you like historical fiction that includes real people as characters? (I was at a book group recently where they were not fans of figures from history as fictionalized characters.)

Once again, here's a link to some discussion questions. Let us know what you think of the book or your Book on the Side experience! Don't forget to vote for November's Book on the Side!