Friday, November 7, 2008

After a VERY LONG DAY, finally home to discover:

I received this e-mail; somehow, it makes it worthwhile to be so fruitless sometimes:

Subj: Thanks
Frm: Director Sabraw

Hi Lacey,Great blog. I tried to leave a comment on your mention of my article, but couldn't make it stick.I have taken your blog address down because I am going to be teaching a class on improving writing through blogging. I will read your earlier posts!

Thanks for the mention of my article about cliches.


More on the day later. I have to go to bed.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A06: Artistic Interactivity

Hm. In writing this post, I find myself at a bit of a cross-road. Do I talk about my interactions with the blogs from this class? Should I talk about the search for outsider literary blogs and what I have uncovered? Or should I post about a literary website that I have linked but not talked about? There's a lot of ground to cover on the net-scape; though I am only one person, there are distinct virtues to be had in any of these discussions. I suppose, then, that I should discuss all three! Now, the order: I will get to the real meat and bones talk later in the post, starting backwards from my aforementioned topics and ending up at the blogs from 332:60.

Even though the month has already started, I can't resist the urge to talk about Nanowrimo. It's a literary website in which you can actually write and publish your novel online. The catch? You only have one month to complete it. For some writers, this pressure helps in the writing process; those authors who sit on a book for months because they know there isn't a deadline and allow their characters and the emotional attachment they have to the plotline to get dusty, the authors who painfully labor over each word above and beyond what would be logical even for someone like Joyce, etc etc. For newer authors especially, the time constraint can help to bypass angst on things like form, allowing them to do the hardest part: get the idea down on a page. There are also lots of tasty little additives on the site such as actually getting to meet up with other authors! How cool is that? Imagine, a website dedicated to the sorts of things you can get out of a class, workshopping and literary discorse. How utterly awesome.

Continuing in that thread, I suppose that is what makes or breaks outsider literary blogs for me - accessibility and what the reader can actually get out of the experience. Is is interactive, in a sense? Does it make the reader truly think?? It could just be "This is my poem/story/etc. Have fun." That, to me, isn't exactly what I want to hear. I could just buy a book for that. What I yearn for is literary discussion, to talk about the things that people write and why they write them. I also love to hear about the dissection of everyday literature, the things that most people take advantage of or just don't even notice. I love the forgotten themes of life. One blog that I stumbled across while clicking the "Next Blog" option on the banner at the top of my blog's page was Cheri Block Sabraw's Notes From Around the Block. (Interestingly enough, she was also chosen for the Blog of Note distinction, which I guess is why it came up within the first 20 of my "New Blog" clicks.) She writes about things that she, as a teacher, sometimes comes across as well as general literature-related issues. I suppose I will link to her most recent post, as it pretty well illustrates my prior points anyway (Prof. Quinlan, you might like this, if you haven't seen it already.): it's titled Cliches are a Dime a Dozen. Neuroscience, the bloody task of grading papers, and small children spearing a teacher with a good point: what's not to love?! Oh, a PS if you actually read that post (which I sincerely hope you do) - we Southerners are just fine and dandy, thank you very much; no mutated DNA here!

Speaking of spearing people with good points, on to the blogs of 332-60! [If you are not from this class, please see the blog list on the rightmost side of this page.] I can't say enough how great it is to be able to read about the thoughts of my classmates on their writing and the writing of others, to see how these literary ideas take shape and livable, breathable form for my classmates. I have had a few really good back-and-forths with classmates on their blogs as well as on my own. I would probably advocate for all classes to require this if I didn't think it would involve my assassination somewhere down the line or at the very least my being ostracized. Anyway, I also like being able to see how different personalities and priority sets affects the writing process as well as what things in the world we choose to pick out. As a future teacher, I suppose one of my biggest likes for this whole blogging thing, in terms of reading all of yours, would be that I am able to understand why some students might not like an assignment or a certain genre. I think it might actually help me a lot later on down the line. With that, I hope this was read with the knowledge that I actually and to the bone appreciate being able to see what everyone else in the class thinks about the process of writing as well as some of the finished product.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A05: Oh Lord, Won't You Buy Me A Good Book or Two

Have you ever read a book, story or poem that saved your life?

That's the question that I have been sitting on like a mother duck for about two weeks. It's difficult to answer. What does that even mean, to have something save your life? Can something save your life at one certain time, only to have something else save your life later on? Is it possible to only conquer one danger to your life, one aspect of threat? If that is the case, we could be saved millions of times over.

Maybe I overthink things sometimes.

In that vein, I was laying in bed doing my nightly wet-matter arranging. This, for me, entails a mental list of the things I had needed to get done the present day, picking out what was not completed or not touched at all, a list of what needs to be done the next day, tacking on whichever tasks from the present day seem important enough to roll into a new day, and a general cleaning out of old thoughts and feelings; I turn them over like a found penny and look for usefulness, bits to wipe off, and the year on the front (or the significance, where it fits in with all the other crap lodged in there).

So, I was thinking about being on vacation from work this week and how I will spend the days before school each night when I remembered my outstanding blog suggestions from Prof. Quinlan's page: the one on literary excellence and this one, on which piece of lit has saved my life. I laid there thinking about it and tried to get past what had been giving me such a headache since I read her post, which really comes down to: how many times did something save my life? That question lead me to other places, like why I needed to be saved or how I was saved (as in which part of me/my mind), etc ad infinitum. I guess the difference tonight was realizing it would probably be best to go back to the start, because nothing can not start at the start.

I can't remember too much of being little. There is a lot, yes, but it's all fragments. Here-and-there's of kindergarten and things that people who read this blog really don't need to know. Pictures, snapshots. Enough, I'd say, for me to be who and what I am. I reviewed what I could call to mind and I think I can definitively say I have pinpointed when I first stopped floating, if that makes sense, at least in my own personal world.

My family moved around extremely often, so I was a newcomer at least twice a year. There were also a lot of months between first and fourth grade that I flat out didn't go to school; we were just too much in flux. Anyway, I guess this one teacher (I'm pretty sure it was third grade but it might have been earlier... I really can't remember) saw how much I kept to myself and how little I knew to interact with the kids around me and in contrast to everyone else she didn't force it on me and she didn't ignore me, either. She gave me the gift of finding another way out. Or in, if you prefer. The teacher gave me a Ramona Quimby book.

There was a nice inscription in it that she'd written for me. I read that inscription over and over before I even cracked the first page of the book. I remember looking at the inscription better than I remember which grade I was in. I remember how the teacher looked when she gave it to me. I also remember how I felt as I read it. Unfortunately, I can't remember the inscription (I can see the script on the page in my mind's eye, it's red and very beautifully graceful, but I don't have total recall and can't focus the words exactly). During one of our moves in high school, it was, unfortunately, left behind. The timing, I guess, tells you exactly how much I loved that book, and that teacher. I kept tabs on it until that move, which I wasn't even around for. (I was at summer camp and wasn't involved in the weeding and sorting of possessions.)

When I started to read that book, something just sort of slid into place in my mind. Beverly Cleary, I can say now, is a pretty good author for a little kid; the images and the characters were fleshed out vividly enough. A lot of showing, a lot of clear descriptions. I'm not saying I found anything incredible in Ramona Quimby, it's just that I didn't have to think about the things that were going on around me in the same way that I could think about Ramona and her father, Ramona and her school. I could spend so much time thinking about those things, that nothing else could have room - at least, nothing that was unwanted. That teacher, for better and definitely not for worse in my opinion, gave one scrappy little kid the most precious thing for kids like that: a place to hide.

I guess it's from that simple act of kindness that everything else grew. I started looking for better imagery, longer sentences, bigger words, more characters; I started reading more and more, trying to challenge myself to find an even better corner of the world. Because of that teacher and her infinitely wonderful gesture, I was given a chance to improve myself... Probably the only real chance I had. I really do believe that. If it weren't for her, I might not have wanted to read, I might not even have realized exactly how precious knowledge can be or where you can go if you have it.

That teacher, I am telling you, was one smart cookie.

I don't hide in books anymore - not like that, anyway. I still find it quite easy to "lose myself" in a book, to be so deeply engrossed that I forget that my lunch hour is close to being up, that I have a class in a few hours, or that laundry needs to be done... But I think that the savior quality of books has run its course for me. Have there been other versions of some piece saving my life? Surely. But nothing, I think, so significant. Things like that, I think, matter more when you're young. Besides, it's no good to hide from the world when you're older... You get too big for under-the-bed habits. Something else taught me that, but that's another story entirely.