Friday, October 31, 2008

Nanowrimo and The Bloody Chamber

I am not a writer.

I am a reader.

A lover of the real and the bizarre, great plots and even better sentences.

But since I think everyone should get step out of their comfort zone for a minute, I'm participating in this year's Nanowrimo, otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month. Nanowrimo starts every year on November 1st and for the whole month, thousands of people will write a novel, word by word, while trying to accomplishing their total word count. The prize: the ability to say honestly that you wrote a novel.

This will be the third year I've participated and I am determined to accomplish my word count of 50,000 words. What is my book about or its title, you ask? I have no idea. I barely have my protagonist's name.

But that will not stop me.

I will write word after word until I reach my goal despite tests, studying, family, and life in general. I will get to 50, 000 words by writing 1,667 words a day. I just have no idea what I'm going to reward myself with at the end. Maybe with a nice book.

It's Halloween night and not one child has knocked on my door. I'm glad I'm not the one who bought the candy this year. But no worries; I have Angela Carter's fairy tale masterpiece The Bloody Chamber to keep me company on this spooky night.

I heard about Angela Carter through a review by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings. Then recently I read a great essay called "The Angela Carter Workshop" in Tin House. The essay's author, Ricky Moody, described what it was like to be a student in one of her workshops and to have an ongoing correspondence with her.

Carter went and retold old stories in a way that leaves the reader in awe. I know I held my breath several times while reading "The Company of Wolves," a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. Once I finished reading it, I had to read the story over again. Highly recommended.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween and the R.I.P. Challenge

All Hallows Eve is almost here and so is the end of the R.I.P. challenge hosted by Carl. This was my second time participating in the challenge and I had so much fun. I signed up for Peril the First, which was to read four books of any length, but I read a little more than that. My only regrets are that several of the books on my list I'm still waiting for my library to get in and that the weather is finally starting to feel like fall. Today started out so cold and foggy but then the sun came out late morning and a cool wind started to blow. A lot of Californians call it "earthquake weather" but I call it fall.

I read:

  1. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight - The Pearl Poet
  2. The Halloween Tree - Ray Bradbury
  3. Gloom Cookie - Serena Valentino
  4. Wanted - Mark Millar
  5. The Sisters Grimm Volume 1 - Michael Buckley
  6. The Bearskinner: A Tale of the Brothers Grimm - Laura Amy Schiltz

I just received today The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter and Death with Interruptions by Jose Saramago from the library. Both books go perfectly with this challenge. I'm spending the next week devouring both while studying for a test.

I'm still waiting for Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book and Y: The Last Man Volume 2. But until then, I will spend the rest of winter reading the books on my list.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Martel-Harper Challenge

My favorite blogger ever, Dewey, is hosting The Martel-Harper Challenge. The M-H challenge is a mini quarterly challenge that lasts three months and you only have to read two books. It's based on the books that author Yann Martel sends Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper every two weeks.
For the October-November-December quarter I plan on reading:
Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

Monday, October 27, 2008


Woke up this morning with
a terrific urge to lie in bed all day
and read. Fought against it for a minute.
Then looked out the window at the rain.
And gave over. Put myself entirely
in the keep of this rainy morning.
Would I live my live over again?
Make the same unforgivable mistakes?
Yes, given half a chance. Yes.
Raymond Carver, All of Us: The Collected Poems

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Writer's Block

Even though I should be writing an essay for my English class and studying for upcoming tests, instead I am reading all that I have not been able to read because of midterms. Studying for midterms gave me the worst case of reader's block; you know the inability to finish any book you read or to even try to muster up the desire to even look at a book.
Last weekend I took my siblings and kids to the main library to check out as many Halloween books as possible. Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, second only to Thanksgiving. I love the feeling I get when I first walk into a bookstore or a library for the first time in a while. It's like going on a date with someone you really like and feeling butterflies.
So this week I sat and read. I read while waiting for the bus to take me to school or pick me up from it, I read while walking down the street (which is really dangerous considering that I could have walked into a pole,) read while the kids took naps and sleep. I even read when I should have been studying.
If you don't know, the cure to reader's block is reading children's picture books. The cure is guaranteed. I read so many children's books this week and felt so good doing so. I started with In A Blue Room by newcomer Jim Averbeck, the story of a young girl whose mother is putting her to sleep using her favorite things. I also read Neil Gaiman's The Dangerous Alphabet. Once you read one Neil Gaiman book you try to read as many as possible.
Oliver Jeffers is a favorite in this house, having wrote How To Catch a Star, The Incredible Book Eating Boy, Lost and Found, and his newest book The Way Back Home, about a boy from Earth and a boy who is a Martian being stuck far from home on the moon.
Because I am a voracious reader, I am trying to slow down and smell the pages. I can devour a book in a matter of hours. Though I can remember the plot, sometimes I read so fast that I can barely remember the character's names! So I started reading Francine Prose's Reading like a Writer. It's such a helpful book. I see how much I have probably skimmed over reading, so I'll probably spend Thanksgiving and winter breaks reading my favorites all over again. I already started re-reading The Best American Spiritual Writing 2004 edited by Philip Zaleski.
One of my favorite essays in the anthology is "Word Hoard" by B.K. Loren about the decade he spent being unable to comphrend words. It is a great story with Loren illustrating throughout the essay how important words are to convey our desires and needs.
Once, I was aphasic. The condition lasted, to some extent or another, nearly ten years. When I came back to words I came back like a lover who'd had a mistaken affair. Once the damage is done, it's done. But there's a carefulness that follows. You don't take things for granted. You speak from the soles of your feet, a current of meaning running through your body, each word carrying with it is history and the intimate mouths of your ancestors speaking it. Their lips touch yours as the word leaves you.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Weekly Geeks #19

This week's Weekly Geeks we have to make a list of our favorite reads that were published in 2008. Sad to say, I didn't like most of the books I read that were published this year. But my favorites:

1. The Book of Other People: short stories edited by Zadie Smith
2. The Geography of Love - Glenda Burges (memoir)
3. The Way back Home - Oliver Jeffers (children's)
4. What now? - Ann Patchett
There are several 2008 books I expect to read this year:

1. Awesome - Jack Pendarvis
2. Just After Sunset - Stephen King
3. The Graveyard book - Neil Gaiman
4. Best American Short Stories 2008

5. A Broom of One's Own: Words on Writing,
Housecleaning, and Life - Nancy Peacock
6. Death with Interruptions - Jose Saramago
7. The Entropy of Aaron Rosclatt - James Sandham
8. Fables Vol. 11 - Bill Willingham
Did you see that? After giving up so many challenges this year, I went and made a list. It's a very flexible list but still, it's a list.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

After a long break . . .

I am finally back after taking weeks off to study for my midterms. I think I did pretty well. Now I can finally get back to reading.

The read-a-thon was a disaster for me; I was too busy worrying about tests to enjoy myself and read. But now I can.

I have several books on hold at the library including Alan Bennett's novella The Uncommon Reader. I'm #1 on the list for The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. I'm trying not to buy it until my library finally gets it in. (Which can be forever.)
But until then, I will just relax and try to at least catch up on my magazine reading. Happy reading!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Read-a-thon picks

Dewey's Read-a-thon is this Saturday, October 18th. For 24 consecutive hours, starting at 5 am pacific time, participants will read as much as they choose while cheerleaders and others cheer them on. There will be mini-challenges and great prizes to win.
For the last Read-a-thon I read short stories, children's books, poetry, plays, and graphic novels. This time will be no different. By reading short works I keep the fun going and the pressure off though I will not be online this time.
My reading picks are:
Sinners Welcome - Mary Karr (poetry)
6 short stories from The Best American Short Stories of the Century
A Midsummer's Night Dream - Shakespeare
Repair - C.K. Williams (poetry)
2 short stories from Alice Munro's Runaway
6 short stories from The Better of McSweeney's
3 short stories from The Best American Mystery Stories 2007
This year's batch of Tin House magazine that I had not read though I subscribe faithfully to it
the rest of The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
The Shiniest Jewel - Marian Henley (graphic novel)
I predict that I'll get halfway through this list.