Friday, February 27, 2009

Yet another confession

Sometimes I feel as though this blog is my confessor. I get it all out in the open, and then somehow I am absolved of all my sins. Well, at least I face some of my irrational fears. This time I am confessing I hate Victorian and Gothic novels.


I know, when all of the girls in high school were reading Jane Austin, I fell asleep every time I picked up one of her books. While my sister raved about how wonderful Charles Dickens is, I had to listen to an audio book just to get through one of them. And forget about the Bronte Sisters.

So when I went to tutoring, I wanted to gag when the vice principal handing me a copy of Jane Eyre and asked me to read with a group of juniors. First, let me explain a little about the tutoring I do. I volunteer at an inner-city charter school for high-risk teens. That means many of these kids have been written off and are convinced school is pointless. So how was I supposed to read a book I HATED with a group of three African-American boys from D.C. and get them to enjoy it?

Needless to say, I didn't really succeed. I laughed with one of the boys about reading Spark Notes (I think I finally convinced him his teacher would notice). I kept threatening to read in a British accent at the top of my lungs so another of the boys would stop talking (he was sufficiently frightened at that prospect). We joked about reading the first three chapters, last three chapters, and first page of all the chapters in between so we wouldn't have to suffer through the entire novel. I think I might have waisted more time with them than actually encouraging them.

But the third boy kept telling the others to be quiet and get reading. He sat in a corner, reading to himself. He had fallen behind the rest of his class by not reading the first assignment, so he was kind of on him own. But pretty soon, he was ahead of his two classmates. When the bell rang, he took his time finishing the chapter and slowly put the book into his bag, letting his classmates leave without him.

I had to ask, did he like the book? Yes, he assured me with honest intent, he very much liked the writing style. We then spent a few minutes talking about the story itself. How it's about a woman who finds happiness in change. While she had a horrific childhood and little luck with love, she still became a compassionate person who was able to forgive and love. He liked Jane, and he understood her.

You know, I might like Jane Eyre a little more for the understanding that came from an unlikely source. I might not be totally converted, but maybe I too can change.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Georgia Grind

I was tagged in this meme a few months ago but never did it. It seems to be going around again and my brain is too fried to come up with anything else to post, so here is my life in iTunes.

1. Put your iTunes, Windows Media Player, etc. on shuffle.
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.

Help! by the Beatles—this is already going better than I expected…

When I kicked Harry Potter in the Face by Draco and the Malfoys

Tom Sawyer by Rush—I guess I go for the bad boys.

Let the Good Times Roll by Shirley and Lee—my iTunes thinks I’m having a better day than I thought I was.

Happy Birthday by Eddy Howard—I do like birthdays.

La Petite Poule Blanche/Fais Do Do by Michael “Beausoleil” Doucet—translation: Little White Hen/Traditional Cajun Dance Party. Basically it’s a song about a mother signing her child to sleep so she can go and dance. Er…I don’t have any kids, and I don’t really dance.

Disappear by INXS—this is just getting kind of sad.

Paquet D’epingles by Michael “Beausoleil” Doucet—(I swear, I really don’t have that many French songs on my computer) translation: Pocket Full of Pins. I suppose my parents really do want me to find happiness, even if it is with a poor boy who only has pins in his pockets.

December by Collective Soul—this makes perfect sense when you look at my purpose in life. My birthday is Dec. 4 after all.

Rhinocerous by The Smashing Pumpkins—I guess I’m just not a very nice person.

Thank God It’s Christmas by Queen—see motto and my thoughts.

Vespa! Rospo Maledetto! by Giacomo Puccini—I don’t know Italian, but I do know this song is from Madame Butterfly. I guess I’m waiting to come out of my cocoon.

Three Welsh Bird Songs: Mae Hiraeth Yn Y Mor by Charlotte Church—I wouldn’t mind having Charlotte Church sing at my funeral; it’s too bad I won’t be around to enjoy it.

Jingle Bells by Diana Krall—I’m sensing a theme here.

Partita No. 1 in B minor by Bach—have you ever listened to Bach? You’d be scared, too.

Ghostbusters by Ray Parker, Jr.—too bad this and the last song weren’t switched. That would have been cool.

Life of My Own by Three Doors Down—yes, but who ever really has their life all to themselves?

Happy Christmas (War Is Over) by Sense Field—this is getting ridiculous.

Georgia Grind by Louis Armstrong and the Hot Fives—good song. I can shake it east, I can shake it west, but way down south I can shake it best!

Maybe next time I play this meme I’ll have to use my iPod instead of my entire music library. Then I won’t get all these Christmas songs and French songs I only listen to while I’m writing and classical songs I downloaded when I was playing in orchestra.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Kathryn prefers to write in third person

I don't know why, but I like writing in third person so much more than first. I even like reading books written in third person. I guess I feel like first person needs to be justified--writing a diary, a report for school, a series of letters--while third person is like dropping in one someone's life and becoming an intimate observer for a time. I also don't have to worry about unreliable narrators in third person instead of worrying that a first person narrator is too close to an incident to be able to give an unbiased report.

Mostly I just over think things.

I really wanted to give myself a challenge and write something in first person. I had a manuscript I was working on a couple years ago that wasn't going anywhere, so I began re-writing it in first person. I couldn't believe when the story just started taking off! Now I can't wait for my SCBWI grant application to be mailed this week so I can really delve into my new character's head.

P.S. Can I just say how drool-worthy I think Hugh Jackman is? I loved him as an X-Man, I loved him as a cowboy, and now I love him as a song-and-dance man.

Monday, February 16, 2009

I really need to stop reading all these adventure books.

Into the Wild Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

I am not what you could really classify as the outdoorsy type. While I enjoy camping and swimming and hiking, I don't do it very often because I hate bugs and the cold and not being able to shower. My summer is usually filled with day-trips and picnics but nothing too high octane and never in the winter.

So why I insist on reading Jon Krakauer books, I will never know. I still remember reading Into Thin Air, a book about a deadly Mt. Everest climb, a few years ago and shivering in my bed beneath five blankets in September. While it might not be by Krakauer, I also read Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing that same semester. And then a few years later I read Shipwrecked at the Bottom of the World: The Extraordinary True Story of Shackleton and the Endurance by Jennifer Armstrong and Ghosts of Everest: The Search for Mallory and Irvine by Jochen Hemmleb, et al. I just can't seem to stay away from these books.

It should came as no surprise that I picked up Into the Wild a couple weeks ago and slowly began reading it. In the beginning, there's really nothing about the cold or anything like that, and from the first page, you know the guy starves to death in the summer and doesn't freeze to death in the middle of winter. After about a week of only reading five or so pages a day, I was hooked. This weekend, I couldn't put the thing down. And of course, yesterday I got to the part about Alaskan mountain climbing. I should have known Krakauer couldn't leave his own experiences out of the book. So I spent all of my reading time curled up in my bed, shivering. Can you blame me after reading a passage like this:

Night had nearly fallen by the time I emerged from the top of the serac slope onto the empty, wind-scoured expanse of the high glacial plateau. In shock and chilled to the core, I skied far enough past the icefall to put its rumblings out of earshot, pitched the tent, crawled into my sleeping bag, and shivered myself into a fitful sleep.

I think my body temperature dropped five degrees just typing that. But that is also what makes Krakauer such an amazing author and his books so hard to put down. You can be reading them on a tropic beach with palm trees arching up in the distance and the sun scorching you face and still feel cold. He pulls you into the story and refuses to let you go until the adventure is finished.

I will probably never climb a mountain nor hike alone into the Alaskan wild, but I will more than likely read another of Krakauer's books. I will shiver and I will cry, I will grow to understand a person with whom I have nothing in common and I will rage at the stupidity of high-adventurests, and I hope I can learn something from these men and women who have pushed themselves and the elements to the extreme.

View all my reviews.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

That great cookie monopoly we call the Girl Scouts

I will admit, I was once a cookie pusher for the Girl Scout of America. And I was dang good at it, too. So now I feel a sense of duty to buy cookies from whomever asks me. This wasn't a problem when I was working at a school where several of the girls sold cookies every year. I'd just buy two boxes from the first person who asked me and then one box from the next two or three girls. Then I would have a decent stash of cookies to share with coworkers, my writers' group, roommates, friends.

But this year it was like the night before a big storm when everyone high-tails it to the grocery store to stock up because who knows when the roads will be clear enough for you to make it to the store again. I was forced to buy more cookies than I care to admit from the first person who asked me because I wasn't sure anyone else would ask. And it's a good thing I did!

While only three boxes are pictured here, let me assure you that there are more where they came from. After all, I was just trying to support a good cause.

When I was a kid, Tagalongs were my favorite, but I think I like Thin Mints best now. Which is your favorite?

Do you think the GSA can supply me with cookies intravenously?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

I feel bad...

...for all these people who have free stuff to give away.

I was talking to a friend of mine who is doing a gift certificate give-away based on responses to a survey, and she was telling me the last time she did this, she printed out the list of people who took the survey (more than 600 names), cut them into strips, folded them up, put them in a hat and picked one. I couldn't believe all the effort she went into to pick one name!

And now, a bunch of people I know are having drawings for books and goodies, and they are pretty much going through the same process as my friend. And being the wonderfully nice person that I am, I'm going to help all you poor giver-awayers.

All you need to do is find out how many posts you have, assign them each a number and the internet will do the rest for you. Just make sure you set the "random integer" field to "1" of however many goodies you have to give away, and the value field should be set between "1" and however many people have entered you contest.

And for those of you who are judging among stories, videos and other subjective things? Good luck. I wish I had a random number generator for you.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

You are never too old to be read to

My roommate Corinna and I are big proponents of read-aloud books. It all started about four years ago when all six of us would sit in the living room of our college apartment reading different books. Friends would walk in and be totally freaked out because we would just be sitting there, all together, reading to ourselves. Eventually it got to the point that one of us would start laughing at something in a book and the others would be dying to find out what was going on. Thus started the apartment read-aloud book.

We read anything from picture books:

To memoirs:To "medical" books:To YA novels:This was a tradition I carried on with new roommates, and now, after three years apart, Corinna and I are roommates again and we had reinstated this age-old tradition. We began by reading Ally Carter's hysterical book, Cross My Heat and Hope to Spy.

We can't wait to read the next book in this series, Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover. (Okay, I can't wait.) And now Ally is getting ready for her book tour, which means she will be reading part of her new book aloud herself. So if you live in the DC area, click on the widget below to request that she comes. And if you don't live in the DC area, don't click on the link below and find your own favorite read-aloud author!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Super Bowl Edition

In high school, I was totally into football, in part because I was totally into the Green Bay Packers, but mostly because had a huge crush on one of the JV football players my freshman year who would sit next to me during all the varsity games and explain the rules and tell stories and stare longingly into my eyes. Okay, so maybe that last part was just my over-active teenage imagination. I went to all the school games, followed pro teams and even kept up on college stats.

Now I don't really care about football, but the Super Bowl is always a good excuse to get together with friends and eat junk food. Last night I was with a bunch of friends from all over the country (California, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, New York, North Carolina), and I didn't really care who won, so I said I was rooting for whatever team was winning. And for the majority of the night, I was a Steelers fan. And for a few minutes late in the fourth quarter, I was a Cardinals fan. And in the end, I was a Steelers fan and a Cardinals fan.

Best moments of the game:
1. The 100-yard touchdown by James Harrison. I totally got goose bumps when this happened, and then I thought I might see that poor linebacker keel over from a heart attach after that mad dash. I want to know why Harrison didn't receive the MVP award.

2. The Boss's kneel-slide into the camera. I'm not a huge Bruce Springsteen fan, but the best moment of half-time was when he knocked over the camera, shrugged off the flub and kept on singing. We were all just glad there wasn't a wardrobe malfunction at that moment.

3. Kurt Wanner's spectacular plays. You have to admire Kurt Wanner and his QB skills. He almost pulled it off, too. But while his team is lighter and faster, the Steelers just have far more experience and had overall better plays. I might just become a football fan again to see what this guy pulls off next year.

4. Larry Fitzgerald and the safety seen around the world. I couldn't believe he made it over the line of that 1-yard play! And then the 2-point safety, and then the break away, and then touchdown. I couldn't believe what was happening so late in the game!

5. Santonio Holmes toe-touching touchdown. Everyone was on their feet for that play, especially when just seconds before he had let a game-winning pass slip though his fingers, literally. I think his toes touched by shear force of will.

Seriously, this was the most exciting game ever. I think I am a football fan again. And maybe next year, I'll be supporting the Cardinals.