Wednesday, December 30, 2009

So Many Books, So Little Time

yes, yes, absolutely, you're right: lame-o blogger, haven't posted in weeks. Though, between the end of the semester and the whole holiday thing, those were some pretty intense weeks. Lots of things went by the wayside: correspondence (email, FB, LinkedIn, and otherwise), tidyness around the house and office, excessive attention to grooming, etc. Don't get me wrong, I took showers - almost everyday, in fact. Just wasn't rat-tailing the bangs or buffing up the nails. Course I don't do either of those things anyway, so that didn't save me so much time. Let's just say that I kept myself presentable, just not dolled up.

So the blogging suffered. But my family is happy and I'm still employed; what more can you want? Time, of course... mostly for various writing projects. Which is another reason the blogging is on the back burner. This week off  has been an opportunity to woodshed, as the jazz-cats say, out in my garden-shack studio. Helps that it's been raining, too. Easy to stay inside.  It's been raining in my novella, too, come to think of it.

The library project is on hold for now. In an attempt to meet their slashed budget, the Sonoma County Libraries are closed all this week. I know they have little choice, but these are sad times.

On the upside, I've been able to indulge in some fabulous reading: The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery (translated from the French), a book that had been recommended to me several times. And with damn good reason. This is some book. I haven't finished quite yet, but almost; I'm at that point where I'm slowing down, so it lasts just a teeny bit longer.  I'm completely impressed with the author's ability to mess around with philosophical ideas and yet keep a compelling tale going. Not only that, but there's been few words I had to look up in the dictionary, like incunabulum. I  love it!  The French can be like that, though. I highly recommend it; has anyone else read it yet?

This is Barbery's second novel but the first to be published here. Her first novel, Gourmet Rhapsody, has subsequently been published on this side of the pond and it's next on my list.

Some of the rest of the list:
The Help by Kathryn Stockett...I want to see what the fuss is about.
Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver, 'nuff said.
A Gate at the Stairs, by Lorrie Moore, ditto
Too Much Happiness, by Alice Munro, ditto, ditto.
The Art of Subtext, by Charles Baxter as suggested by Cliff Garstang on his blog Perpetual Folly, a blog to check out if you're of the writing clan.

Prep, The Man of My Dreams and American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld. One of the faculty at Napa Writers Conference this summer; I like to be prepared. It's that Inner Scout thing.
Long for This World, and Coast of Good Intentions, by Michael Byers, for the same reason.

Woman's World, by Graham Rawle, a novel written using text (words, phrases) entirely cut out from women's magazines. This is an Xmas gift from my bookseller daughter--she knows her stuff.

Well, that's a good start. Here's some links, if you're interested in other good book lists. Kathleen O'Hanlon
S.Krishna's Books  authors from South Asia and a whole bunch of places not America; includes book reviews and reading challenges. A great place to be introduced to unfamiliar authors.

With that, I think it's time to pack 2009 away and get ready for 2010.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Significant Mention

So today, Significant Objects commented on my comments about them and posted a link to my blog and the story I had created from one of their SO's. How cool is that?  Yep, just about that cool.

No matter, here's the might have to "read more" to find me. Then cruise around and check out their current project, Significant Objects 2, which is raising funds for 826 National, which I realize now, duh, is 826 Valencia gone national.

And then, writer-ettes, find an object of significance and write its story.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Significant Sauce

Sooo ...apropos the previous post about Significant Objects and their usefulness as writing prompts, here's the narrative I wrote using the pictured object as a prompt, which was originally posted here.

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She brought it back from Kansas City, because he loved bar-b-que so much. A token of gratitude for being so agreeable about her mandatory sales managers conference scheduled on the weekend of their third anniversary.

"Doesn't hold enough sauce to cover a chicken wing," he growled. He stood up, grabbed his beer, went to watch the news, leaving the jar, barely three inches high and the dour color of baked beans, on the kitchen table where he'd unwrapped it.

Soon, however, he didn't have enough scruples to come home every night or hide the emails or even pretend he was looking for work anymore.

She left for good after coming home early from a horrendous day at work to hear a voicemail from the third girlfriend in as many years, accusing her of being the "other woman," of wrecking his happiness, of holding him back. He was nowhere to be found, maybe out buying more beer, maybe just out. With sudden swift arcs of her arms, she swept everything off the kitchen table, reveling in the clatter and crash of the breakfast plates, coffee cups, empty beer mugs, catalogs, cutlery, a jelly-jar of pens, the chipped cow-shaped butter dish his mother had given them for a wedding gift.

Only the miniscule bar-b-que jar survived, dancing around in the middle of the table, the top off and rolling, the brush-bristles stuck to its underside describing wacky circles. She grabbed it, put the top back on and placed it in the exact middle of the empty table. She stuck this message to it: "This holds just enough sauce to coat your teeny-tiny heart as I roast it over the spluttering flames of your entrails on a spit made from the long bones of your legs."

He boxed the jar up and mailed it to her at her sister's house, a scrawled note rubberbanded around it. "This will hold all the money you'll ever get out of me."

She folded an SASE envelope in half and rolled it around the bristles, stuffing it all back into the jar, and mailed it back: "One check for half your gross worth in the enclosed envelope? Good enough for me. Never seeing you again? Priceless!"

He returned it: "You'll see me, alright - in court."

When the new keys to their old house arrived, she put them in the Bar-B-Que jar, tucked upright around those bristles that had never seen any sauce.

A few months later, she put the hefty check from the sale of the 3BR/2BA, vault ceils, hrdwd floors, gd neighborhood (and nicely appreciated) house into her new bank account.

At least that's the way she'd tell the story at our Single and Sassy meetings.

Lazy Blogger & the Significance in Objects

Yes, it's been weeks, almost a month, something like that, since I've dropped by my own blog. I've become that bane of the bloggerdom, an irregular correspondent. Some of that was due to having a good time: a short trip with friends to the mountains (close to Donner Summit, well before the snow flew), and after that, a longer, more solitary visit to Wellspring (in Philo, CA) for a writer's retreat.

And then some of it's due to the pile-up of work: registration for the Spring 2010 semester started last week and it's been a wang-dang doozie from the get-go. In between was the Thanksgiving holiday, with folks hanging out here, food prep and a day or two of recovery, and so there you have it.

Meanwhile I've been playing around with S.O. (Significant Objects, honey, not Significant Other, this is a family-friendly blog). Significant Objects, as noted in previous post, is a coalition of folks who ran an experiment in the value of desire, as I interpret it.

These folks decided to discover if increasing the significance of an object would increase that object's desirability, as measured by an increase in price on eBay. The set-up was to purchase tchotchkes on eBay for a song or a song-and-a-half, then ask writers to provide a narrative that created and illuminated significance for that particular object. They then reposted the object on eBay, accompanied by the narrative and kicked back to see what happened.

Boy, did it happen. They've completed one such project of 100 objects and you can see the results at the website, as well as checking out the objects, stories, charts and figures.  It definitely shows the power of narrative.

I, of course (you did, too, I bet), thought right away what cool writing prompts these objects would make for a malingering writer, looking for a jump start. But that's the gist of another post.