I Won The Liebster Award

27 04 2013

liebster-awardThis award was a happy Monday morning for me last week. I know it seems like maybe I wasn’t that excited since I waited to post this huge and hearty “THANK YOU” to Zehira-blog until  now. Once you see all the requirements, perhaps you’ll forgive me.

The following portion are the guidelines for accepting the award, as presented in my nominator’s blog:

The Liebster Award is very unique in the fact it brings recognition to the smaller blogs of the ‘verse.  With that in mind, all of the nominated blogs will have less than 200 followers.

The rules:

1. Thank the Liebster Blog presenter who nominated you and link back to their blog.

2. Post 11 facts about yourself, answer the 11 questions you were asked and create 11 questions for your nominees.

3. Nominate 11 blogs who you feel deserve to be noticed and leave a comment on their blog letting them know they have been chosen.

4. Display the Liebster Award logo.

5.  No tag back thingys.

Here are the eleven facts about me that you never knew (and were probably glad you didn’t):

I dream I live in an isolated cabin on Mt. Hood with a horse and a bobcat. Spiders make me scream. Fruit pie and ice cream is my idea of a decadent breakfast. I’m a closet “cat lady.” I wanted to be an FBI agent when I was 12. I think exercise is the best drug in the world. My favorite place to be is at home. I could totally win Survivor, but I’d rather be on The Amazing Race. I am two inches shorter now than I was at 18. I despise wearing shoes. My hands and feet are perennially icy.

These were the questions that were posed to me and my witty responses:

(1) Which famous people living or dead would you invite to your fantasy dinner party? Mark Twain, Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, C.S. Lewis, Rick Riordan and Kristen Lamb would be present at the phenomenal dinner party and I would happily hang on every word they said.
(2) What is your favorite topic to Blog about? I really enjoy blogging about my family, writing and the struggles I have balancing work, school, family and writing.
(3) Do you have any guilty pleasures? The only one I can mention to all of cyber space is dark chocolate truffles.
(4) What three words would you use to describe yourself? Forthright, industrious, positive
(5) Who would play you in a movie version of your life?
Duh – Jennifer Aniston. Apparently, I have her eyebrows (says an esthetician who shaped them for me).
(6) If you were to write collaboratively with any author, who would it be and why? This is extremely difficult. I adore Rick Riordan’s writing voice and since he writes YA fantasy, he could really help me. Since C.S. Lewis is unavailable, I’m going with Mr. Riordan.
(7) Is the glass half empty or half full? Half-empty when it’s that thick fiber drink, but half-full the rest of the time.
(8) What is your greatest ever achievement?
Maintaining a 4.0 in college
(9) If you had your own theme tune what would it be? “Soak up the Sun”
(10) What is your favorite film?
This one always gets me because it really depends on my mood. One that I could watch over and over is “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.”
(11) If you could be an animal for a day, what animal would you be? I would be a black panther. I would sleep in the sun and then climb high in a tree and sleep there. Sleeping in the sun is my favorite pastime.

Now all of you nominees of mine, these are the questions you will answer when you “pay it forward” and award some other little-known blogs.

  1. If you were a book, what genre would you be?
  2. If you were a book, who is your author?
  3. Where in the world would you travel if time and money were unlimited?
  4. Your favorite food in the world is…
  5. What is your favorite flavor of ice cream (please don’t say vanilla!)?
  6. What’s your favorite season and why?
  7. Name the teacher that most deeply affected your life.
  8. The most important quality in a friend is…
  9. Describe your comfy clothes.
  10. Do you prefer it warm or cool in the room when you sleep?
  11. What would the title of your autobiography be?

And my nominees for this distinguished Liebster Award:

http://jcsprenger.com/

http://the-point-is-this.com

http://figuringoutfulfillment.wordpress.com/

http://afidgetywriter.wordpress.com/

http://50in50blog.wordpress.com/

http://findinghappinessandhealth.wordpress.com/

http://ithinkincomics.wordpress.com/

http://www.collegerebellion.com/organic-gen-ed/

http://ravens-writing.blogspot.com/

http://christianbookreviewblog.blogspot.com/

http://www.gooverseas.com/blog/best-international-education-blogs





Feeling Pressure: Learning to Perform under It

24 04 2013

Image courtesy of 123rf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“One of my professors assigned two papers that are due at the same time.”

This from my youngest son, a young man who believes he’s headed into the marketing industry. I’m sure once he’s there, his employer will never assign him multiple projects that share the same due date.

Yeah, right. What universe does he plan to live and work in? Certainly not the American one. Read the rest of this entry »





Dystopian Novels

20 04 2013

The Start of the Series

After completing Michael Grant’s Gone series, I began wondering why I’m drawn to dystopian novels over vampire stories or other types of science- fictional fantasy. I happily read Divergent and Insurgent during the summer of 2012 and will most likely buy a copy of the third book, releasing in August.

Since it is sitting in the library at my middle school, there are definite things I didn’t like about Grant’s series .

Too much graphic violence

When a kid got ate by mutated worms, I thought Grant had gone too far. It wasn’t a pretty mental image. In the latest book, a little girl lights other kids on fire while laughing gleefully. If there’s a more disturbing picture anywhere, I don’t want to know about it.

Sex =Love

Caine and Diana treat each other with criticism and cynicism. Eventually, they have sex and – BAM – they’re suddenly in love with each other. It’s slightly better with Sam and Astrid because their relationship was based on friendship and mutual respect before the physical side was added. Still, it gives emotionally and sexually charged young people the impression that love is sex or vice versa.

Too many characters

True, Grant had a huge world to run and his story needed bodies to sacrifice to the evil inside the FAYZ. I have too many middle school students who can’t keep track of more than six or seven characters, so these books frustrated them.

If he would have focused less on the intricacies of how things ran, he could have spared us the enormous list of characters. However, the thing I liked about the series is that I could imagine this place and it was believable because he hadn’t overlooked any administrative details.

Of course, I read the entire series. Obviously, I must have liked a few things about it.

  • I liked that he started right at the point of the inciting event and gave us the necessary backstory of the characters gradually.
  • I loved the protagonist, Sam, but I felt like Grant made him less heroic as the series progressed. Sam lacked confidence, which is fine at the beginning of the series, but the fact that he had a similar view of himself after a year of defeating all sorts of mutated creatures annoyed me.
  • I certainly didn’t want him to become cocky. Caine took the cake in that category. Most of the kids believed in him and relied on him, but he didn’t believe in himself. Of course, the way Grant let Gaia beat up on Sam while he acted helpless reinforced that self-image.

Defeating the big boss should have been a group effort. Instead, Little Petey saves the day. It makes logical sense that since he created the FAYZ, he would need to destroy it, but it was anti-climactic. Everything Sam suffered inside that makeshift world seemed pointless at the end.

Dystopian novels entertain me because the author’s use uninhibited creativity to present scenarios that suspend disbelief. We can imagine a huge underground shelter for a select few before the end of the world comes at the hands of man (City of Ember). Or that war might cause our world to become a desert of conflict, guided by the law of “only the strong survive” (Blood Red Road).

Scientists and government officials desire to manipulate us. If they created an enormous lab test in Chicago, it might look exactly like Divergent. If the government decided to segregate the population even more, it could look like The Hunger Games.

Shouldn’t seeing all that could go wrong with society be depressing? What is the draw? If you like dystopian fiction, I’d love to hear from you.





Is a Power Point without a Presenter Worthwhile?

17 04 2013

Isn't this a beautiful slide?

Isn’t this a beautiful slide?

Once again, one of my online professors has assigned a Power Point project. While I have no problems researching and designing these presentations, I wonder at their effectiveness.

What is the point of a presentation? It should display facts and media that informs or persuades an audience.

Can a slide show do that without a human presenter? I’ve seen musical displays that evoke deep emotions. Recently, the teacher I work with showed one about the 9/11 terrorist attacks in our reading class. I was choked up and teary-eyed. The music helped the pictures evoke an emotional response.

This would hardly be the point of my presentation about the major themes in A Visit from the Goon Squad. In fact, it has no sound bites whatsoever. Although it contains sound information in an appealing format, it seems dull and lifeless to me.

Even with my voice file giving the presentation, the Power Point I designed to “sell my skills” for a class last term seemed to fall flat. To me, these slides are a visual enhancement, but as the speaker, I’m the main attraction.

Am I looking at this all wrong? I would love to hear what my readers think about a Power Point presentation standing alone.





Book Review: Rebel Heart

13 04 2013

rebel heartSince I reviewed Moira Young’s first novel here, I thought I’d check in with readers about the sequel. The series is called Dust Lands and it looks like it will be a trilogy.

The book starts from Jack’s point of view, which is a good choice on Young’s part. He’s said to “betray” Saba in the flap copy, so seeing where that begins gives the reader sympathy for him. Later, more evidence piles up against him and Saba “sees” his betrayal with her own eyes. Her goal in this book is to find Jack, just like finding her brother was the goal in the first novel.

Saba disregards everyone – pretty much like before – to set out on her rescue mission. Of course, her brother and sister refuse to be left behind (did she really think she could leave them?) so they end up facing danger with her.

This time, the dystopian adventure goes awry. Through foreshadowing, the reader expects Saba to make another connection with Demalo, who is now the leader of New Eden and a new movement to remove the aged, infirm and unsavory from the planned Paradise. He’s put a price on her head, but she keeps dreaming about him.

It would have been nice if Saba could have kept one redeeming quality by the end of this sequel.  Unfortunately, I was sitting with Tommo by the campfire, sharing his spiteful thoughts: “Hurt. Betrayed. Decieved.”

As I write this, I’m rethinking my earlier assessment that Saba blows Katniss out of the water in terms of heroic qualities. It seems Young goes just a little too far trying to give Saba flaws. By the end of this book, only Jack is still talking to her, and we’re all imagining he wouldn’t be if he knew how she had betrayed him.

If you read the book, please chime in here and let me know what you think. It isn’t that I didn’t enjoy reading it; I was just frustrated that we still didn’t figure out Lugh’s issues and that Saba acted like a self-centered, lovelorn teenager, and she seemed so far above that in the first book.

Source: Young, Moira. Dust Lands: Rebel Heart. New York: Simon & Schuster Children’s Pubishing Division, 2012. Print.

 





Analyzing Literature

10 04 2013

circling sharks

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve read a prize-winning novel, and now I have to analyze it for my Seminar in American Literature. My analysis should run six to eight pages in length.

What is making this paper so difficult to write? I have two answers for this question:

  • I didn’t like the book – I did like the writing and I was amazed by Egan’s ability to break so many rules and still win a Pulitzer. There was no struggle to keep reading because I kept thinking, “This is all going to make sense in the end.” Wrong! This is what I didn’t like about it. Sure, that made it gritty and realistic, but I expect more from a book. I can get all the bad news I want from the newspaper – or my classroom. A writer needs to deliver closure in some form, even if it isn’t a happy ending.
  • Focusing in on loss of innocence is depressing – It sure hasn’t added any happy moments to the past five weeks. Even without writing about the “failed” characters in my paper, I couldn’t offer much hope or cheer. Since my thesis states that every bad choice is redeemable and no dream is unreachable, I forced myself to narrow my view to those characters that were able to turn it around. Still, it’s not a happy picture.

Actually, I think my difficulty might be because there is no way to support my analysis. Since the book is so new, there aren’t any journal articles published that deal with it. I can find book reviews, but that’s not the same sort of analytical thinking that comprises those peer-reviewed journals.

I feel like I’m in the middle of the ocean, fully dependent upon an orange life jacket. Swallowing the sun, the horizon stretches for eternity. Somewhere below me, I’m sure the sharks are gathering.

In this scenario of sink or swim, it feels like swimming will zap all my energy, and the end result will be the same. Shark bait Slipping beneath the salty waves to sleep forever.

Wow, a paper that makes death look restful.





What Makes a Pulitzer Prize Winner?

6 04 2013

Established by Joseph Pulitzer, prize-winning journalist, this award has become a coveted prize among many novelists. I dreamed I would be the winner after I wrote my first book in fourth grade. Did I mention I’m unpublished?

According to the Huffington Post (link below), “The Pulitzer Prizes are awarded for achievements in journalism, literature and musical composition. They were established in 1917, and are run by Columbia University.” In 2012, the board at Columbia deemed “no book worthy” for the second time, the previous non-winning year was 1977.

This term, I’m responsible for reading two Pulitzer winning fiction books, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, the winner in 1961; and A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, the 2011 winner. As part of my analysis, I hope to find common ground between these two novels so I could submit my “shortlist” of qualities that make a novel worthy of this distinguished prize.

These novels are light-years apart in theme, character, story and basic concept. However, I did manage to find some broad common denominators between these acclaimed novels.

1.      Unique Writing Voice

Lee writes solidly from the perspective of Scout. Her voice is child-like and authentic. Egan jumps from point of view to point of view but every new character has his or her own distinctive voice.

2.      Strong POV Characters

Scout is a beloved character in literature. Even though she sacrifices her childhood, she gains insight that many adults have never acquired. Egan switches between first, second and third person and most of her characters garner reader sympathy or powerful commiseration. Some of them are stronger.

I was most surprised by her chapter written from second person. It was convincingly written and I felt like I was inside that character, even as he shoved at me with “you” and “your.”

3.      Character Arc

If characters don’t change, learn or grow, a story has been wasted. Although Egan’s character arc was difficult to follow because of the non-linear way she organized her book, the major characters did grow and change. From drug-addict to kleptomaniac to respectable mother of two, Sasha overcomes obstacles I’m happy to have never faced. Learning that friendship is more valuable than prestige, Bennie suffers through many losses but ends up emotionally ahead in the end.

4.      Theme: Timeless but Pertinent

Like all good books, both of these novels have numerous themes. I will focus on the one I found to be most relevant in any era.

One thing Atticus re-emphasizes with his children is the fact that empathy leads to compassion and true understanding. In the end, Scout comes to the same realization. Gossip and speculation cause people to form erroneous assumptions, but from the porch of the Radley house, Scout understands empathy is the road to ultimate truth.

In her novel, Egan shows that no one is unredeemable. Failures and detours mark every character in the story. No one is unscathed. In the end, there has been a small victory for each person.  Not that it’s a happy ending, but the reader walks away with a tiny glimpse of hopefulness.

The Two Pulitzer Winners

The Two Pulitzer Winners

I think I was more surprised by the things that didn’t seem important. In this case, there were literary elements I felt a Pulitzer novel should include, but either one or the other of these authors fell short of the mark.

In my mind, a literary prize should include:

  • A linear plot line (or at least a clear plot)
  • Beautiful language
  • Strong structural elements

In fact, A Visit from the Goon Squad failed to include any of these three items. I will concede that Egan used her words well, sparingly and effectively, but I wasn’t enthralled by any particular turn of phrase.

On the other hand, Lee uses all of these elements in her winning novel. Many pithy turns of phrase made their way into my Reading Journal.

Is the committee starting to relax their standards? Is there no strong writing being produced in America that’s worthy of this prize?

Source:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/16/nobody-wins-pulitzer-prize-fiction-2012_n_1429357.html








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