Wandering Bards

Okay. Before you read any further, stop! And click on this link
That’s a recording of my most influential college professor, Dr. Luke Reinsma, reading the Prologue of The Canterbury Tales–in Middle English. 
Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote
The droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote…
That cadence takes me back to cozy firesides in the British Isles, where I was studying abroad three years ago. (Three years! How is that possible?) 
Assigned to read The Canterbury Tales in Middle English for our Medieval Literature class, most of my classmates and I felt overwhelmed. Middle English is similar enough to modern English that it can mostly be understood–but it takes a lot of effort. Medieval non-comprehension set in. Frustration set in. 
And so Dr. Reinsma began hosting semi-weekly reading sessions. His background is in medieval literature, and he reads fluently in Middle English. And so we students would sprawl all over hostel couches, chairs, benches, carpets (sometimes beside an English fireside so quaint it looked like a painting) and listen to The Professor read. 

It’s amazing what reading aloud can do for your appreciation of books. One of my earliest memories of literature is hiding under the couch cushions when my parents got to the part about Black Riders in The Fellowship of the Ring. It was a rite of passage when I got to take a turn in intoning the passages of Little House on the Prairie. And even in college, as an adult living in another country for three months, having The Professor read aloud took me back to that childhood place. 
A human voice reading does not just transmit information–it conveys experience, wisdom, and a passion for life. We learn from being read to, but it’s much more than an academic exercise. The vocal rhythms whisk us back to a time when wandering bards passed down ancient traditions–history, legend, theology–through oral song and story. 
To read aloud from a book proclaims your investment, both in the book and in the person being read to. Now that I am an adult, reading aloud to my students is one of my favorite parts of our lessons–getting to use my voice and presence to bring alive the literature I believe in. It’s a manifestation of care through quality time, combined with the wisdom and learning contained in the book itself. 
Though The Canterbury Tales may never be my favorite work of literature, listening to the recording of it today brought tears to my eyes. Much more than a homework assignment, reading aloud became a memory. 
Do you ever read aloud? Have any special memories of someone reading to you? 

Bookmarks

Complementing my love of reading is my love of reading gadgets.

Most notably, bookmarks. I keep a ziploc baggie of them, and when I start a new book, sometimes it’s a real, time-consuming task to choose just the right bookmark to pair with it. Hey, people spend that kind of time on wine/cheese pairings. I think this is at least as legitimate.

Bookmarks are also my souvenir of choice when I travel. I couldn’t hunt up some of the more exotic ones, because they’re dutifully marking a page somewhere (since I’m reading so many books). But by my way of thinking, bookmarks are a) portable, b) memorable, and c) genuinely useful. Unlike a touristy keychain, baseball cap, or stuffed bear. These are from Maui, Gettysburg, and the Avenue of the Giants here in California.

Below are some of my favorites from Britain. L-R: the Bodleian Library, Oxford *swoon*; Edinburgh, Scotland; and Trinity College, Dublin (home of the Book of Kells).

I also have some bookmarks from other people’s travels. They’re presents that get used often but never worn out. They make me feel like I’ve traveled to Nicaragua, Honduras…and maybe even Middle-Earth.

Do you have a favorite bookmark? What does it look like? OR: locate the weirdest bookmark you can find on the Internet and link to it in the comments!

So Many Books…

So…I did it again. 
Yes, I am reading all of these books. At the same time. Count them. There are fifteen. One-five. 
Nearly 16 months ago, I wrote this post, getting my knickers all in a twist over reading *gasp* seven books at a time! Today, my past self would be shocked and probably horrified. Fifteen is a lot of books. 
It’s also a lot of inches. Maybe I should start measuring my reading that way. 

When I’m reading this many books at a time, my progress advances infinitesimally. Some of these titles have been on my bookshelf for a year. 
Tsk, tsk. So read fewer books, you say. 
But which ones to choose? 
For spiritual growth, I’ve got Philip Yancey’s Prayer and Disappointment with God, Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas, C.S. Lewis’s The Problem of Pain, and Me Addiction by Rick Brown &c. 
On the topic of relationships, there’s His Needs, Her Needs by Willard F. Harley Jr., Sacred Search by Gary Thomas, and an old favorite: Boy Meets Girl by Joshua Harris. 
Halfway there. 
Now, for creative inspiration, we have Alan Jacobs’s biography The Narnian, about C.S. Lewis. There’s The Imagineering Way, by Disney’s team of Imagineers. And a particularly fascinating one called Imagine by Jonah Lehrer, about the process of creativity (a great loan from my knit-designing friend Audry). 
Some books for discussion with my tutoring students: The Library Card by Jerry Spinelli and Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards (yes, the actress of Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music also wrote a children’s book!). 
And finally, some just for fun: Foundling by D.M. Cornish and “The Courtship of Miles Standish” in a beautiful 1893 edition of Longfellow’s collected works (a find from my latest library sale). 
Oho. But wait, there’s more. 
Now I can read even more  books at a time. Being the die-hard fan of paper books that I am, I held out a long time on an e-reader, but finally caved when my family gave me a Kindle for Christmas. Now I realize that, while I may always be partial to the smell and feel of paper, I don’t have to choose which method to love.
More methods of reading means more books 🙂 

Kindle reading does come up smaller by the inches method, but I’ve already got more in-progress titles on here, including Dreamwalker and Mourning Cloak by writer friends Angela Wallace and Rabia Gale
*Sigh* Maybe I need this on my wall: 
Library Wall Clock So Many Books, So Little Time

How about you? What are you reading? 


Turning the Page

Well, good morning, 2013. I’ve been underground for a while. Nice to see you.

Time to get a new year of blogging up and running with a post about New Year’s Resolutions. Someone told me recently that they don’t bother with resolutions at New Year’s–if they see a need for change in their life, they’ll get on with changing it immediately. I respect that, and I don’t hold much stock in resolutions either, but last year I talked a bit about my philosophy about resolutions vs. goals. I do like the opportunity afforded by a new year to turn a page in life. If 2012 beat down your idealism and best efforts and dragged you through the mud, it’s okay. Wipe the slate clean. Cancel the debts. Start fresh. Tomorrow is another day.

I like to start by glancing over my shoulder at last year’s goals. It’s a bit encouraging, a bit dismal, and a bit amusing to remind myself of what I set out to do in the last year:

1. Get to know God better by reading the Bible through in chronological order

Status: in process (forever). I made it about halfway through the Bible before this year’s hurricanes got in the way. I’m hoping to pick up the other half and finish it this year.

2. Have the second draft of my novel completed and be ready to start looking at literary agents by June

Status: in process (hopefully not forever). The second (and third) drafts of my novel are done (yay!) but I’ve learned a lot about the process of publishing since last January. I decided to recruit a squad of test readers, primarily 9-14-year-olds, to read the manuscript and help me identify its weak spots. That process is now winding up, as the last few of these loyal secret agents send me their invaluable files of comments. Armed with these, I plan to troubleshoot the manuscript one last time and then apply to some literary agents. I’ve also learned more about the increasingly attractive and accessible process of self-publishing, which may be another possible route for my book.

3. Take a 2-month class on blogging and social media for authors

Status: done! One down! I learned so much from this class, taught by Kristin Lamb. We may not agree on every issue, but it definitely got me thinking about writing as a business, kicked me into gear on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Google+ (yipes!), and most importantly, got me connected with a network of other writers who are working toward the same goals.

4. Buy a car

Status: also done! My sweet silver ride still makes me smile. Ever since we met back in July, it’s been love for Baby and me 🙂 Incidentally, I’ve also learned how to check PSI, buy a pair of windshield wipers, and refill wiper fluid in the engine (hint: you can use plain water :)).

5. Read Gone with the Wind, Othello, and The Kite Runner

Status: 2 out of 3. None of these are especially happy books, but The Kite Runner was just too intense for me by the time I thought about it in mid-August. Othello–forgive me, Shakespeare–was not my favorite play ever. The conflict felt contrived and the female lead was just downright wimpy. Othello wasn’t exactly a genius, either. I think the best role went to Iago’s wife, who told everybody what was what (before dying in the last scene, of course). Gone with the Wind was the best of the bunch–a soaring, operatic panorama in a style that reminded me of Les Miserables, but was much easier to read. The characters are fiery and unforgettable, and the portrait of the antebellum South was detailed and dramatic. A great book, if you’ve got time for a long one.

And now for some new goals. We’ll see how these fare in the year to come 🙂

1. Grow closer to God

2. See my novel accepted for publication or self-published

3. Work up to a monthly income I can live on

4. Learn the craft of bookbinding. Okay. How cool would THAT be??

File:Restore.jpg

What are your goals for 2013? 

11 Questions for a Real Live Author

Ever wondered what a day in the life of a published author is like? Does the muse sing gracefully while fingers race on the keyboard to keep up? Or is it more like piles of coffee cups and shredded drafts? Do published authors have second jobs? What are their geeky secrets? And what do they think about e-books vs. paper?

Free image courtesy of stock.xchng and nkzs

Well, today we’re lucky enough to find out, because I’m doing my first author interview on this blog! Local author (and my good friend) Angela Wallace has just self-published her 5th title, an urban fantasy called Earth Tones, which is the third in her Elemental Magic series. She is now sitting in my virtual living room, ready to reveal her secrets. Muahaha.

I mean, welcome, Angela.


1. Let’s talk about book love (since that’s obviously one of my favorite topics). How old were you when you fell in love with reading? Can you remember what book/ books inspired you? 

I fell in love with reading the moment I learned how. I’d go to every Scholastic book fair and read enough books to get a prize every time. Some of my favorite books were Tamora Pierce’s quartets Song of the Lioness and The Immortals. They started with a young child with dreams or special powers, and the books followed their growth into young adulthood. I loved the journey. And the fantasy worlds. 😉


2. What was the first story you ever finished about? 

It was a YA sci-fi about a teenage rebel group in a post-apocalyptic United States. I guess the correct term would be dystopian, but it was heavy with space pods and ray guns. I wrote it when I was ten.



3. If you could have lunch with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why? 


A. W. Tozer. I love his book, The Pursuit of God, and I imagine it would be an extraordinary conversation.


4. Juggling jobs is one of my biggest challenges. How does a published author support herself? Is writing your only job? 

I’m also a sign language interpreter. I work at a couple local colleges interpreting classroom lectures. It’s great because I get to keep learning new subjects, but don’t have to work for a grade!


5. What is the geekiest thing about you? Because we have to know 🙂

I know how to write a form of Tolkien’s elvish runes. I used to exchange letters with a friend in high school written in them. It also makes a very handy code to keep passwords in.

6. What are some of the weirdest ways you’ve gotten story ideas? 

Dreams, for one. I’ve dreamed a few complete story plots from beginning to end, though they don’t often get written down. If I could just dream about the novels I’m actually working on, I could save time!


7. Now that you can look back on the completion of your latest book, Earth Tones, what was your favorite part of writing this book? 

Hm, I think it was getting to know a new main character, plus getting to play with a new element. There was a lot more opportunity for Nita to communicate with animals, and the earth wielding in fight scenes was fun too.


Angela’s latest book, Earth Tones, is the third in her Elemental Magic series.

8. You publish both paper books and e-books. As an avid reader yourself, which do you prefer, and why? 

It depends. I do like paper books, seeing the cover on the front, seeing my progress as I turn the pages. But some of them are really fat and it hurts my wrist to hold them, lol. Then I like e-books better because it’s much lighter to carry around.

9. Online self-publishing gets a lot of media attention these days. So what do you like about self-publishing? 

I like keeping control over my story. (Yes, I’m a control freak.) I also like working at my own pace. I can be a drill sergeant on myself, but am well aware that “life happens.” It’s easier to give myself permission to be flexible than it is to ask for it from someone else.


10. Anything you don’t like about it?  

The marketing, lol. Though, traditionally published authors have to do much the same. Putting together this blog tour was a big step for me!


11. Are there are any fun scenes in Earth Tones that didn’t end up in the final draft? 

There was this cute scene I wanted to use, but it just didn’t fit anywhere in the story. Nita and her boyfriend Keenan are leaving the house when they find a moose on the porch. I learned that this is a very dangerous situation and that people are actually trapped in their homes until the moose decides to leave on its own. Now, Nita could just tell the moose to get lost with her earth magic, but instead she says they’ll have to put their plans on hold, and with a suggestive smile, hints that they can figure out something else to fill their time with.

Thank you for your time and insights, Angela! 


If Earth Tones captures your fancy, check it out on Amazon

And watch the book trailer on Youtube (trailers aren’t just for movies anymore)! Authors nowadays–especially self-published–are Jacks and Jills of many trades, and Angela turned moviemaker to promote her new book. Check it out.  


You can also read the book description:


Nita Young doesn’t know if she has a future with college sweetheart Keenan Donovan—two star-crossed lovers of opposing elements—but she invites him up to Alaska to see if Earth and Water can rekindle their old flame. When a series of wild animal attacks strike the inhabitants of Yakutat, Nita has to put her romantic plans on hold. Mangled bodies are turning up, and a mysterious black panther has been spotted in the woods. Fur, scales, and a venomous bite suggest the cat is supernatural in origin—and evidence indicates that someone not only summoned it, but is using it to target those Nita cares about. It’s the perfect murder weapon: no fingerprints, no evidence. And in a town this small, the killer is someone she knows. Nita’s strength will be put to the test as she faces losing her friends, her town, and the man she loves.


To connect with Angela:
Angela Wallace loves gun-toting good boys and could have been a cop in another life except for the unfortunate condition of real blood making her queasy. Good thing writing gun and sword fights isn’t a problem. In her books you’ll find the power of love, magic, and redemption. 

Blog: http://angelawallace.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Angela-Wallace-Author/232511253453440
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AngelaRWallace

I hope you enjoyed this interview! If you leave a comment to this post, both Angela and I will be answering them today. Open Q&A time. Hint, hint 🙂

Writer/Editor

My business card says Alina Sayre, Freelance Writer/Editor. 
It doesn’t say that those two halves of my brain have separate personalities. 
But before you ship me off to the asylum with multiple personality disorder, I’d like you to meet them. 
The writer in me is named Cordelia, after Anne from Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (played by Megan Follows in the 1985 film). At her first meeting with her new guardian, Marilla, eleven-year-old Anne introduces herself this way:

“Will you please call me Cordelia?” she said eagerly.
Call you Cordelia! Is that your name?”
“No-o-o, it’s not exactly my name, but I would love to be called Cordelia. It’s such a perfectly elegant name.”
Cordelia is a dreamy, imaginative person with plenty of capacity for feeling and believing. She watches the habits of people and observes the world with eyes hungry for detail. No nook or cranny is too obscure to find wonder there. Sometimes she gets carried away with wild schemes, like dyeing her hair green, or flies into unexpected rampages, but overall she is a poetic and reflective person. She lets beauty “soak into her soul” and makes up stories about herself, her family, the neighbors, and any interestingly unsuspecting person. Consider yourself warned.
The other half, Madame Editor, is a middle-aged Victorian woman named Aunt Josephine (played by Meryl Streep in the film version of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events). Her watchword is:
“Grammar is the greatest joy in life, don’t you find?”

Aunt Josephine’s idea of a good time is an afternoon spent adjusting commas in accordance with The Chicago Manual of Style (16th ed., of course). She flinches at the improper use of their/there/they’re and goes into raptures over a sentence that diagrams correctly. Her ideal man is one who says, “Why…grammar is the number one, most important thing in this here world to me” (even if he turns out to be a sham fisherman). 

How these two people co-exist inside my head is a mystery to me. They certainly don’t get along very well. Both are high-strung and occasionally fly into a temper when their opinion is contradicted. I’ve learned that the key to a happy mental life and successful writing sessions is to keep them apart. Do not cross this line. Do NOT cross this line. 

When I’m writing, usually Cordelia gets to come out first, because Aunt Josephine isn’t actually very good at coming up with original sentences. Cordelia, by contrast, could gush out words until the moon turns blue. With over 500,000 English words to choose from and an innumerable number of life observations and human subjects to choose from, she can imagine herself into any world she chooses at any time of day. But eventually it’s time for her to come away from the keyboard and give someone else a chance.

Then Aunt Josephine comes out to play. While she may look like an ogre as she ruthlessly slashes away, cutting out whole words, sentences, and paragraphs, she actually has a huge respect for writing and language. She simply believes that language forfeits its full power if it is overused or improperly used. Brevity is the soul of wit, and good grammar doesn’t hurt either. Sometimes she bosses Cordelia into submission, but when the dust settles, they usually agree that the end manuscript is better for their joint efforts. 

I saw a cartoon where a pencil point and its eraser were having dinner together. On the phone, the pencil point says, “Can I call you back? I’m having dinner with my editor.” Life in my brain is like that. As long as the two halves of the pencil work separately and respect each other’s abilities, they continue to co-exist safely and (sometimes) happily.



Does your brain have multiple sides to it? How does it help or hinder your creative process?

Flying Books

Well, I’ve got my nose to the grindstone in the midst of book-writing, proofreading, and tutoring, so today this video is going to do the talking for me 🙂 
This animated movie, produced by Moonbot Studios, won the Academy Award for Best Short Film. It’s entitled The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. Moonbot’s website describes it as “a love letter to books…about the curative power of story.” 
Interesting, because it’s wordless. 
Enjoy!

What do you think? How did you react to this film?

A Splendid Supply of Surprising Sweets

The adventurous and interesting Tami Clayton invited me to play a game of letters (my favorite kind). The rules: reveal 10 of your favorite things that begin with a certain letter of the alphabet.

My letter (in case the post title didn’t give it away): S!

Ready?

Stories: Escape into magical worlds. Power to change the real world. What I want to spend my life writing and reading.

Spices: Cooking has never been so interesting!

Sliding ladders: Ohhh, I want one so much!! Or I could just move into a library that has them.

Shakespeare: The love of my literary life (minus the earring). The genius bard of the Western world. Themes as relevant today as they were in the 16th century. Need I say more?

Sunshine: Just one of the many great reasons to be living in California again!

Scotland: The windswept land of bagpipes and legends, monks and poets, caber tossing and lovely accents–my second-favorite place in the world (after home, of course).

Springtime: My favorite season of the year!

Singing: I like to shatter windows with the high notes. (Actually, I just like imitating Hayley Westenra in the shower, on my church praise team, and when I have the house to myself.)

Sincerity: One of the characteristics I value most in friends (and in literary characters).

Socks: These are not my feet. But I kind of wish they were. My favorite Tinker Bell pair got a hole in them, but I do have a pretty awesome pair of knee-high blue-and-green argyles.

What are your favorite S-things? If you have a blog and want to play the letter game, leave me a comment and I’ll send you a starting letter via Facebook or Twitter!

Middle Earth, Dr. Seuss, and Shakespeare?

Hello, Monday! It’s time for a book-themed interview game, courtesy of Angela Wallace and her tag party
Rules:
1. Post the rules.
2. Answer the questions.
3. Pass the questions on to eleven people by tagging and linking to them.
4. Let them know you’ve tagged them.
If you could live in a fictional world, where would that be?
Somebody else’s fictional world? Middle Earth. But of course I’d love to visit my own if that were allowed 🙂 


Fiction or Nonfiction?
Definitely fiction (although nonfiction has its uses).


Do you read in noisy or quiet places?
Quiet places, with peppermint tea and scented candle preferred. But reading in noisy places is also something I’ve learned to do, thanks largely to my brother’s early influence 🙂

Do reviews influence your choice of reads?
Probably only if they’re by someone I know. Or if a large number of reviews are unanimous. The trouble with reviews is that people have all sorts of motives to say things, true or not. 

Audio books or Paperbacks?
Paperbacks. I have a horrible audio retention rate. Plus I like to write in my books 🙂 

What was the first book you ever read?
By myself? The first one I can remember is One Fish, Two Fish by Dr. Seuss. My preschool teacher informed my parents, “Um…did you know your daughter is reading?” 


Favorite author?
J.R.R. Tolkien…we fell in love when I was 8. Check out my Good Reads page for a list of my top 10. 

Classic or Modern Novels?Oh, definitely classics. Though there are a few moderns I like rather a lot. 

Have you ever met your favorite author?
I wish. The trouble with loving classics is that almost all of my favorite authors are dead (some for 200+ years)…

Book Groups or Solitary Reading?
Hm, both? I relax by reading alone, but after 4 years of college English classes, I find a good book discussion very stimulating. 
If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Ack! What a horrible question! Definitely the Bible. But if we’re talking other literature…probably the Collected Works of Shakespeare (that’s not cheating, right?) 


Tag, You’re It! Have fun!
11. Carrie Daws 


Feel free to jump in: how would you answer these questions? What’s your weirdest book factoid?

Magical Literary Destinations

Why, hello!

It is Monday, and yes, I am posting.

One of my goals for the month of March is to blog not once, but twice a week! Monday posts will feature short, fun tidbits to be found around the internet (blog recommendations, photos, videos, etc.), for just a moment of inspiration, thought provocation, discussion, or a good laugh. Fridays will continue to be the article-style reflections to which you’ve become accustomed around here. I hope you’ll feel free to comment on those, too–even if it’s to play devil’s advocate or argue the other side!

Today I would like to send the bibliophile in you on a trip to the 20 most beautiful bookstores in the world (click on the link to see the article).

This article gave me a terrible, wonderful case of the sighs and almost made me start hunting for international plane tickets.

As long as there are magical places like these, I don’t think e-books will ever entirely dominate the world. 

Do you?