Thursday, December 3, 2009

Booking Through Thursday – But, What About Me?

Today's Question:
What's your favorite part of Booking Through Thursday? Why do you participate (or not?)
 My Response: 
I love BTT for the same reason I love book blogging in general. I like reading participants' responses, finding out about books and other readers' thoughts about them. I don't get to have a lot of book-related conversations in real life these days, so it's fun to indulge in a little book talk with other passionate readers. I also love the self-reflection that BTT inspires. Some of these questions force me to evaluate my reading habits and consider why I like or don't like a certain book or genre.
Now it's your turn. What's your favorite part of BTT or book blogs?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Everyday Use

Yo-yo quilt by made by Faye Fletcher

I haven't been blogging lately because I received word on November 16 that my grandmother had been admitted to the hospital. With Zoe as my furry sidekick, I made the two-day drive from Texas to Ashe County, North Carolina, in the Appalachian Mountains (where my cell phone and mobile Internet are useless). Unfortunately, I did not "win" NaNoWriMo, but  I don't really care. I am so glad I was able to spend time with my grandmother and help make her more comfortable, and that I was able to be with my family during this time.

My grandmother passed away on Friday.  Her memorial service was held in the same small country church were my parents were married over forty years ago. The family cemetery where she is now buried stands on a hill overlooking that church, a small creek, and the house where my father was raised. Just down the road is the hollar (hollow) where the house my grandmother was born and raised in once stood. 

Granny was a school teacher. Several of her former students who attended her memorial service shared their memories of Miss Faye teaching them to read from a Dick and Jane reader. I can remember her reading to me from the same book when I was young. I also remember how much she loved to read. When I was little she would read a short novel and work an entire book of difficult crossword puzzles just about every day. I am certain I get some of my book nerdiness from her. She also taught me how to sew, cross-stitch, crochet, make fabric yo-yos and a hundred other skills I use every day.

Detail of Embroidered Table Cloth with Crochet Trim Made by Faye Fletcher

Over the years she and the members of her quilting circle made hundreds, if not thousands, of quilts. They gave many of them away to people in the community, and a few of them keep their loving descendants warm each night. Granny was also famous for her pound cakes and left drawers full of handwritten recipes. We are also left with fond memories of her quick wit and fierce independence, and her examples of unfailing kindness and generosity to try to follow.

In the days since she became ill, my brother has made several cakes using her recipes, trying to make one that tastes as good as hers did. I have crocheted a scarf for each of my nieces, and am teaching them to knit and crochet just  like Granny taught me. When I think about my grandmother and her life, I am reminded of Alice Walker's short story, Everyday Use, which is about truly appreciating one's heritage and family traditions. The things my grandmother taught us – about reading, cooking, quilting and life – are her legacy.

So it touched my heart when I got back to the Interwebs yesterday and learned that a blogger in Guam had linked to my article about making yo-yo quilts and had made some cute fabric yo-yos for herself and her daughters. My grandmother, who spent most of her 95 years living alongside that one-mile stretch of creek that runs through those North Carolina mountains, left a creative legacy that now reaches farther than she ever imagined. If she knew, she would just smile a little and say, "Well . . . " And then just go on about her business.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Booking Through Thursday – Too Short?

The question:

“Life is too short to read bad books.” I’d always heard that, but I still read books through until the end no matter how bad they were because I had this sense of obligation.

That is, until this week when I tried (really tried) to read a book that is utterly boring and unrealistic. I had to stop reading.

Do you read everything all the way through or do you feel life really is too short to read bad books?

My response:

I used to try to suffer through a book even if I wasn't enjoying it, but I think reading So Many Books, So Little Time by Sara Nelson convinced me it is okay to give up on a book. So Many Books is the chronicle of Nelson's attempt to read and write about 52 books over the course of a year (It's a really fun read.) One week in February, she just can't get into a particular book on her list and writes about giving up on books:

"Allowing yourself to stop reading a book—at page 25, 50, or even, less frequently, a few chapters from the end—is a rite of passage in a reader's life, the literary equivalent of a bar mitsvah or a communion, the moment at which you look at yourself and announce: Today I am an adult. I can make my own decisions" (55).

This sentiment has stuck with me, but I'm still a recovering member of what Nelson calls the "book equivalent of the Clean Plate Club" (56). There are some books I have started and just wasn't in the mood to finish at the time, but that I still intend to finish reading them one day. Usually these are the ones that others have raved about, so I feel they deserve another chance: Pride and Prejudice, Anna Karenina, Reading Lolita in Tehran are three that immediately come to mind.

But maybe my desire to finish these books also has to do with the fact that they are considered serious or "important" books. I once tried to read Confessions of a Shopaholic to critique for a literature class project, and I just. could. not. do. it.  I didn't feel bad about that one bit.  I also gave up on reading Eats, Shoots and Leaves earlier this year because, while it was really funny and informative, I just grew tired of the author's condescension and penchant for calling people who make grammar mistakes "stupid." I don't feel bad about not finishing that one either.

In short, I have found that allowing myself to stop reading a book that no longer interests me is very freeing, but I can't always bring myself to give up on it entirely.

Anyhow, what about you? Do you finish what you've started reading even if you don't like it? Or do give it up and move on to something better?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The First Rule of NaNoWriMo

is don't talk about NaNoWriMo. Just write.

Okay, not really. It's more like: Just write.

I meant to post a NaNo update at the end of week one, but I didn't want to lose momentum by blogging about NaNo instead of writing my draft. I have written 20,139 words of fiction over these past ten days. I have even managed to stay 1-2 days ahead of the daily word count goals because I don't want to fall behind.

My novel is about events in a small town. That's all I can say for sure at the moment, and even that is subject to change without prior notice from the Muse.

Is all (or even most) of what I have written good? Definitely not. Am I proud of myself anyway? Very much so.

This draft is the longest piece of fiction I have ever written. Weighing in at a chunky 62 double-spaced pages (1-inch margins, 12 pt. font,) this project blows all of those old college papers and even my senior thesis right out of the water in terms of length – and I'm not even halfway done yet.

Yeah, I know, I'm all optimistic and cocky after only 10 days. I don't mean to sound smug, really. I think, at the end of this month, my novel will be a big ole pile of crap, but it will be a finished pile of crap and I will have learned a lot about how to write a novel (or at least a first draft of one.) I'll be able to say I set this goal and accomplished it, and I motivated myself to meet a ridiculous deadline. Then I will take my steaming pile of word crap and edit it into something better and I will learn from that, too.

That's all for now. To anyone else out there NaNoing: even if you're behind on your word goals, it's okay. Just write and you can catch up. Even if you don't finish before Nov. 30, so what? Go at your own pace. Just write.

I would love to hear about your NaNo experiences and your tips on writing first drafts.

(Photo credit: imelenchon from )