Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sunday Salon: January 19, 2014

From the Sunday Salon's original website:  Every Sunday the bloggers participating in that week's Salon get together--at their separate desks, in their own particular time zones--and read. And blog about their reading. And comment on one another's blogs. Think of it as an informal, weekly, mini read-a-thon, an excuse to put aside one's earthly responsibilities and fall into a good book.  

Today's Weather:  Unseasonably warm.... a high near 60 degrees!  I think I might take advantage and go for a walk this afternoon, for they are predicting a high of only 21 degrees by Tuesday.

What's on the menu:  brunch with good friends.  Life prevented us from getting together much during the holidays, but today we are going to enjoy a leisurely meal.  I am sure talk will turn to our cruise trip, which is only three weeks away.... and we are all more than ready to set sail!

Highlights of the week:  dinner with a good friend on Tuesday, and then, quite honestly, Friday morning when I was home alone with no responsibilities of any kind (that hasn't happened much lately).  I did, however, meet the Princess for a quick lunch before she and her family embarked on a magical vacation to Disney World.  I anticipate many FaceTime calls over the next two weeks.

Teaching Overview:  A good week.... but I don't really expect anything less this semester.

Brit Lit began the study of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, and I am always curious to hear the students' reactions to the Bennet family and Mr. Darcy at the beginning of the book.  Since the original title for this work was First Impressions, I ask the students to not only pay attention to the character's first impressions of one another, but to also pay attention to their own first impressions of the characters.  I want the students to discern, if in fact, we as readers are a bit prejudiced as well.

English Comp is beginning the major writing assignment of the semester, the research paper, which is worth 50% of the grade.  In addition, they will also have to give a 20 minute multi-media presentation on the topic as a final project, which is worth another 15% of the overall gpa in the class.  Needless to say, they are a bit anxious... but I know they will do fine.  Topics have been chosen and research will begin in class on Tuesday.

Currently Reading:  I had some time yesterday, so I decided to once again catch up on library books that have been sitting on my shelf for quite some time.  Both of them have to do with writing.

The first one I read/skimmed was Outlining Your Novel by K.M. Weiland.  While the content is fairly basic, I was surprised how much information she packed into this relatively small book (176 pages).  It would be a fine resource to have in any writing library, and the author interviews at the end of each chapter give the reader a number of different perspectives.

The second book I finished was Writing and Selling the YA Novel by K.L. Going.  I am still not convinced that this is the genre that I am supposed to focus my writing endeavors, but I enjoyed the book and the insight it offered.  Each chapter is given the title of a course in high school (including gym and lunch) and the author gives a nice overview of how to properly target this audience.

In an effort to balance my non-fiction reading with fiction, I decided to tackle the historical fiction tome, New York by Edward Rutherfurd.  I used to live in New York City and I am still in love with that place.  I enjoy the author's writing style, identifying a few key families at the beginning of the city's history and then following them throughout the centuries.  I am reading the book on my Kindle, so the massive 800 page book is easy to carry and read whenever I have a spare moment.  Currently I am on page 120, which Kindle tells me is about 11% complete.

Writing Progress:  I am learning that writing progress is measured in baby steps, at least at this point in my writing career.  In an effort to get over my fear of letting others read my work, I have sent out about six copies of my rough draft manuscript to beta readers.  They are friends whom I trust, and I have made it perfectly clear that this is a VERY rough draft.  I know that they will be kind... but I am also hopeful that they will provide valuable input to help improve the plot, the characters and the overall writing.

My coaching session this week yielded a few more writing directions.

  • I am currently working on a theme for a memoir.  I have developed several key "defining moments" in life, and now the idea is to try to find the one thread that is common to all of them.
  • I have begun preliminary research for the upcoming cruise in an effort to write a few personal travel essays with the working theme of Traveling with the Saints (we are visiting the islands of St.  Thomas, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and  St. Maarten) 
  • I have also begun some preliminary research for a middle grade historical fiction idea that will blend the biography of Jane Austen with the story of Pride and Prejudice.  

In the meantime, I have been chastised for not keeping a writer's notebook (chastised in the most pleasant use of the word).... and have been instructed to begin using one immediately.  I am not sure why I have this hang up.  Perhaps it is because "real" writers use notebooks and I still do not consider myself a true writer.  Anyway, I am a good student... and I will of course complete this assignment.

Weekly Exercise: ah... best laid plans you know.  I know a large part of my problem is that I have not yet established a walking routine... and because of that, I always run out of time (or to be more honest with myself, I do not make the time).  This week I hope to discover a good time that works on a daily basis, and then institute it.

Artist's Date:  Well, not exactly an artist date, but last night my husband and I went on a date to see Saving Mr. Banks.  If you have not seen it, I would highly recommend it!  I did not realize that there are two parallel stories, one told with wit and good-natured humor, the other more serious and thought-provoking.  Of course, Tom Hanks is absolutely wonderful as Walt Disney, and Emma Thompson gave an outstanding performance.  I am anxious to purchase the DVD when it is available, and then my plan is to watch the original Mary Poppins before re-watching this behind-the-scenes tale.

The most significant quote from the movie (for me at least):  That's what storytellers do.  We restore order to imagination.  We bring hope.

Craftiness:  No craftiness but... I did take time yesterday to organize my space.  This is a necessary step for me to actually begin to work.  I cannot think in clutter and I almost feel claustrophobic.  I am hopeful that the clean desk, the organized stamps and ink pads, and the color coordinated papers will soon inspire me to create.

Photography:  Again, no photo sessions this week (although the nice weather today provides the perfect opportunity) but.... I have also organized my bookshelves and found a place to store all those "books and works in progress" close to my sitting area.  Travel writing and travel photography are in that basket.  See, my vision for this upcoming trip is not only to document Traveling with the Saints with written description, but also to capture the personality of the islands in photographs.

I know that in order to effectively (or at least decently) accomplish that goal, I need to practice before I go.  And of course, the more I practice the more I will improve.  So I hope to read the tips in these books today, and then find time over the next three weeks to go out and explore my own hometown through a 2.5 inch viewfinder.

What's on the Horizon:  Nothing... absolutely nothing out of the ordinary and I am thrilled for that.  Perhaps I will be disciplined enough to actually use this time to devote to crafts, photography and artist dates.

I wish you all a peaceful Sunday afternoon that I hope is filled with at least a few minutes of leisurely reading.


  1. It's sounds like you had a VERY full week! I love Pride and Prejudice and would love to go back to the first time I read it and have a wonderful teacher there to discuss it with! I hope your students enjoy it! Thanks for sharing your Writing Books. I've played with the thought for a long time, but don't know where to start. Looks like a good place in those pages!

    Have a great week!
    Suzanne @ Chick with Books

  2. Whew. Sounds like you've been keeping busy there.

    A few things: 1. I'm not very good at keeping a writer's notebook either or journal, but I'd like to be. 2. I think that idea of Traveling with the Saints sounds like a very good one. I'd be interested in seeing the photos as I'm sure would others. 3. Yikes, on the Rutherfurd book. As you might know, I like short books. :)

  3. The things you mention about your classes are the sorts of things I find myself missing more and more about school even though it's been 20+ years now. Maybe it's time to think about going back and auditing some classes just to dip a toe back in.

  4. We took two walks today -- closer to 50 here, though.

    I'm interested in reading London by Edward Rutherfurd with you, but we'll wait until you're done with New York!

    I bought a couple of kid's / teacher's books on writer's notebooks and still didn't get myself to use them (let me know if you'd like them). At the moment, this notecard system seems to be serving the purpose:

    Joy's Book Blog

  5. I struggled with finding time to walk until I decided to just get up early and get it over with. Now, I just roll out of bed and go.

  6. You always have so many points to comment on! I enjoyed Saving Mr. Banks from an Enneagram (personality type) perspective. The P.L. Travers character was such an unhealthy Type One, and Disney was such a high-achieving, likable Type Nine. I noticed right off the bat, first scene with Travers that she was reading Gurdjeiff (who originated the Enneagram), but nothing was ever said about him in the movie. Yet--the writers, of course, knew all about Gurdjeiff and the Enneagram, obviously, to create characters who were so obviously of those types. Didn't you just want to wring Travers's neck most of the time? Ugh. What a cranky woman.

  7. I've never been able to keep a notebook or journal or diary. I accepted long ago (like decades ago) that no matter how much I like the idea, it just isn't for me.

  8. Early morning walks work the best for me, but it's so hard during the winter with snow, cold, and darkness. The treadmill is really a last resort - it's just boring, even with a good audiobook. I never seem to walk as far indoors.

  9. Yeah Saving Mr. Banks is good. I liked Emma Thompson's performance!