Archive for May, 2012

‘You don’t put your life into books. You find it there.’

May 29, 2012 @ 6:04 pm | Filed under: Books

At a certain stage of writing, I have great difficulty reading other fiction. But this is akin to saying “I have great difficulty breathing oxygen.” And when, as now, the intense writing stage stretches out somewhat longer than expected, I begin to get…squirrely. I’m crafting my own story while holding my breath. I crave a nice deep inhalation of fiction. Ha—I didn’t even realize I was spinning an inspiration metaphor until now. Inspire: “to stimulate to action,” “to fill with enlivening or exalting emotion,” “to breathe life into,” “to draw in air.”

There are a few, a very few, works of fiction that can mist past the boundaries my working mind puts up against other people’s stories when I’m deep inside my own. The Blue Castle. Rilla of Ingleside. Sometimes, but not always, Anne’s House of Dreams or Anne of the Island. (You may detect a pattern.) Betsy’s Wedding and the four high-school Betsy books, but not Betsy and the Great World—all the travel, I suppose, too many absorbing new places to take in. I can’t accommodate so many setting changes when I’m rooted to my own fictional world. Curiously, Middlemarch works, and the first third of Portrait of a Lady (but as soon as Isabel meets that snake Osmond, I must bail). Never Austen. Austen is a reward for finishing a novel. Sometimes L’Engle, but I have to be careful with her: her characters have an archness about them, a precociousness that works beautifully in her prose but I can’t risk it seeping into my own, where it would surely be too much sugar in the peas.

(I think House Like a Lotus was the book that made me realize that L’Engle’s characters, much as I adore them, are not exactly real people. At least—Meg was real, with her prickles and that ribbon of cynicism in her soul. And Vicky Austin, so sensitive you’re almost afraid to look at her askance. (Oh how I love Vicky.) But Polly, oh my. You know that scene at the beginning of the international conference when the well-traveled workers gather and sing, spontaneously going around the circle, each crooning Silent Night in his or her own language? And Polly, not missing a beat, jumps in—in German? Yeah, that’s when I realized that much as I enjoy Polly and am rooting for her, I don’t find her relatable. Which is fine. Isabel Archer isn’t terribly relatable either, but she (like Polly) is interesting, and that’s plenty. But I digress.)

One book that works like a charm for me these days is Alan Bennett’s gem, The Uncommon Reader. In my desperate state of fiction-deprivation, I turned to it again two nights ago, and it was like coming up from underwater and drawing a deep breath of air. This is a book I’ve highlighted practically from cover to cover—so many quotable quotes. (Those are but a few. The title of this post is another.)

As the Queen of England (that most unlikely of relatable characters) finds her way into fiction (well, and nonfiction, too; for her the discovery is the absorbing, altering joy of reading itself—whereas my current troubles are only with fiction; I inhale reams of nonfiction with no difficulty), so, too, am I drawn back into the romance of The Other Person’s Story. And so it was that when I finished Uncommon Reader last night, I was immediately, almost in the next breath, able to fall headlong Elizabeth Goudge’s The Scent of Water—a book I started ages and ages ago, and set aside, always meaning to return. For me, Goudge is as Alice Munro is for the Queen:

‘Can there be any greater pleasure,’ she confided in her neighbor, the Canadian minister for overseas trade, ‘than to come across an author one enjoys and then to find they have written not just one book or two, but at least a dozen.’

Linnets and Valerians is practically woven into my DNA—the song to the bees rings in my ears every time I walk out to my garden—but the only other Goudge I’ve read, despite having collected and hoarded nearly a dozen of her novels over the years, is The Little White Horse. It was Lesley Austin, over at Wisteria and Sunshine, who brought Elizabeth Goudge back into my mind. This afternoon, when the orthodontist’s waiting room faded away and the little English village of Appleshaw formed around me, and the house with the green door, and Queen Mab’s hazelnut-sized coach in the collection of ‘little things,’ I knew I’d remembered how to breathe again.

The Story Huck Told Me Tonight

May 27, 2012 @ 7:10 pm | Filed under: Huck

“Me was talking to the moon. Me told him come down and give me a ride.”

“You did?”

“Yep.” He sighs. “Me had fun talking to the moon for a little while.”

:::melt:::

In Which Huck Poses for a Flip Book

May 27, 2012 @ 7:31 am | Filed under: Family, Photos, These People Crack Me Up

I know I already posted one of these photos last week, but as I was telling Tanita in the comments, I decided the whole series of photos really has to be viewed in sequence. I took these spying on him through the sliding glass door. He kept walking up and down along the row of flowers, deliberately letting them whack him in the face. This is fun how exactly?

Sunday Links

May 27, 2012 @ 6:15 am | Filed under: Books, Links

Well, I have no idea what happened to blogging this week. I wrote at least a dozen posts in my head; does that count?

I suppose it was one of those weeks when I spent more time reading the internet than contributing to it. Here are some of the links that caught my eye:

A great SLJ review of my friend Anne Marie’s new book, Vampirina Ballerina, which is coming out in August.

Girl Detective is hosting a summer reading project based on Lizzie Skurnick’s Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading. I enjoyed Skurnick’s book of essays, and the reading list for this project is a squee-inducing walk through memory lane.

• Speaking of summer projects, I might have to use this fun list of 80s movies by GeekMom’s Laura Grace Weldon as a summer viewing list for my family.

• Think liking a Facebook fan or brand page is enough to ensure you’ll see its posts in your news feed? Think again.

As always, my Diigo has the rest of my curated links. I shared many of these on my Facebook author page as well, if you prefer that format. (Although, according to the link above, less than 20% of that page’s followers actually get my updates in their news feed. You have to visit the page directly to be sure of seeing all its updates—that goes for any FB fan page, not just mine.)

New Post at GeekMom Today: The Importance of Braille

May 22, 2012 @ 6:16 am | Filed under: Education News & Issues, GeekMom posts, Special Education, Special Needs Children

I’m proud of my piece at GeekMom today: An interview with my friend Holly Miller, who battled her school district for three years to get necessary Braille instruction for her son, Hank. Hank, like my own Wonderboy, has oculocutaneous albinism—in Hank’s case, the effects on his vision are severe. He is legally blind. But the school district considers him a sighted reader and opposed teaching him Braille. Holly and her husband Jeff took the case to court—and won. I hope you’ll click through and read the article!

In a Digital Age, Braille Is Still Important | GeekMom | Wired.com.

Where the Weekend Went

May 21, 2012 @ 6:24 pm | Filed under: Assorted and Sundry, Huck, Nature Study, Photos


The eclipse through Scott’s homemade pinhole lens.


Eclipse shadows through the trees—lovely.


I watched him walk back and forth past my overgrown coreopsis for a good five minutes—walking deliberately close to them so that they repeatedly thwapped him in the face. This is fun because…why?


Scrub jay. Showed off for half an hour in various parts of the yard, preening, strutting, demanding admiration. We obliged. 🙂

wild and precious life

May 18, 2012 @ 7:52 pm | Filed under: Family, Photos, Poetry

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day…

—from “The Summer Day” by Mary Oliver

Astronomy Lessons Before Breakfast

May 17, 2012 @ 4:54 pm | Filed under: Books

It’s that episode of Little Einsteins where they’re wending their way toward the Crab Nebula. Rilla is apprehensive. “Mommy,” she whispers. “Can you look it up? The real one.”

I google obligingly. She ponders the images with troubled eyes.

“What…what harm does it do?”

Scott hastily explains. Stars, light, not a monster. Not a Giant Thing with Pincers lurking in outer space.

It’s always the preschool shows that scare the pants off you.

“He felt he had no choice but to side with the pencils.”

May 16, 2012 @ 7:52 pm | Filed under: Family, These People Crack Me Up

The Great Crayon-Pencil War of 1953. This. This is why I’m in stitches all day long.