Archives for March 2011

Children will read if….

 

Children will read if they see Mum and Dad doing it.

 

When I read statements like this “The Telegraph”  headline, I can’t help but wonder, is it true?
 
My beach bum father was brought up by English speaking parents in a beachside town and was little more than a functional illiterate although both his parents were literate. He could read road signs, sign his name, read the headlines of papers if he concentrated and the TV guide, but picking up a book to read for the pure pleasure of it?  Read me a bedtime story? Never happened.

My mother was raised by dirt poor Polish immigrant parents in an English speaking country who were fully illiterate in both languages. Not even newspapers that were stacked hip deep in the corner of the kitchen were read; they were used as an outer wrapper for the cartons of eggs they sold to the neighborhood to make ends meet. School was the only place in which books were ever read to her. As an adult Mum would borrow books from the library every few weeks; staggering under the weight of a stack of books from the library door to the car. It was a weekly routine that my mother would go to the news agency every Monday to buy her three favourite magazines, which were devoured over the course of the week. 

Potentially the chances of me turning out to be a bookworm were 50-50. Obviously it only takes a moment to look at this blog’s themes to know that I agree with the statement that if children see even one parent reading they too will read. And I applaud British MP Michael Gove taking a stand and setting the goal of getting children to read 50 books a year.
 
Seriously folks, that’s less than one book a week. There is talk about people’s attention span being reduced due to the social media swirl that everyone seems seduced by. Tweets are only 140 characters (characters – not words!) long. Instant gratification or it’s given the flick. Heaven knows my posts are probably too long according to the rules governing how to develop a popular blog. 

    In this household we don’t own any gaming machines, although Bronwen’s  father does play games on his computer that she enjoys in small doses and she does love going to a friend’s house and playing on the Wii Fit. This past week I’ve introduced her to chapter books, reading “The  Wishing Chair Collection” (Enid Blyton) to her at night. We go to the library truck every week and load up my backpack to the point that the zippers strain to close. Sitting together on the floor next to the ‘library bookshelf’ and reading several picture books is a normal event. Have you ever read “Jake Goes Peanuts” by Micheal Wright to a child…? See if you can guess a six year olds favourite page.  I’ll give you a hint; there’s toilet humor in it!

I cannot imagine a life without books, without reading. I cannot imagine missing the pleasure of being taken to another life via the imagination of a good writer. Not sharing this joy, this affordable form of entertainment with my child seems a weird idea that my mind cannot wrap itself around. The idea that Victoria Beckham admitted that she hadn’t read a book in her whole life fills me with a kind of terror.

Asking the question ‘do you read to your children? Are they readers too?’ seems too simplified.  Do you think that parents reading to their children, or just being seen to be reading has an effect on the attitude children take to reading themselves? Is the goal of 50 books a year impossible, too easy or just plain ridiculous?  And how, if shrinking attention spans are true, do we make reading more attractive to not only children, but people of all ages?

PS. My laptop computer has died so if entries are few and far between over the next little while, its because I’m going spare, looking for an affordable replacement, writing sporadically on Bronwen’s fathers computer and suffering withdrawl  without my instantly gratifying window to the world and all things literary.

Real Life Words #6

A regular feature with no long explanations… just photos of real life words….

There is a little girl who loves visiting the library truck almost as much as I do.

Real Life Words #5

A regular feature with no long explanations… just photos of real life words.

The joy of  Scholastic book clubs is the same from generation to generation, country to country

Stranger than Fiction is my Red Letter Day

If I’m serious about becoming a writer, it means putting my writing out there in competitions, literary magazines and the like and come what may.

Easy, right?

Well in fact, it’s been something I’ve reeeeeally struggled with.

But now March 10th 2011 is a red letter day in my writing career. I found an online competition with CBC Books and thought,  “Yeah…. I can do that.” I can write 250 words and enter it into a competition that has a Sony Digital Reader as the lure/prize. 

I kept my story to 226 words, asked my writing group friends to give it a look-see and then sent it off via the mysterious ways of cyberspace before I could second guess myself. 

So finding the next competition to enter is sure to be a cinch… ha!

Dating Disaster

We were the yin and yang of relationships.  People couldn’t help but comment on the symmetry of our being.

Our ideals, ambitions, hopes and future career paths all meshed together flawlessly. A match made in heaven.

Slate blue eyed, honey blonde hair, just right against my twinkling green eyes and dark auburn tresses that blended together in a soft mess of curls.

Even the age gap was text book.

But the church Leadership did not agree with his choice of a girl from the wrong side of the tracks. “She’ll pull you away from your God-given calling.  You’ll never reach your true potential,” they warned.

Strongarmed, church Leadership challenged me to reconsider my affection. Called it impure for not putting his obvious calling at the forefront of my choice.

A choice never acted upon.

We drove to the picturesque village of Sassafras to share a meal of stone scones and salty tea.  The word ‘date’ technically forbidden.  Across the table we held hands but never said the word goodbye. 

He married a girl from the ‘right’ kind of family. Left his calling nonetheless and never reached his expected potential.

I married a man who knocked me on my arse and knocked my tooth out.  I made the choice to flee;   to survive.  Audaciously began to thrive. 

Yet my heart still longs for what should have been.

Real Life Words #4

A regular feature with no long explanations… just photos of real life words…

Inspiration, wisdom and education all in one stack…..

Ranting that Writing is an Art Form….

writers paradise?

I have been told by other writers that Ireland reveres its writers so much, that they allow them to live tax free in the Emerald Isle. Now I’m not sure if this is true or not, and perhaps some investigation is in order, but if that rumour  isn’t reason enough to love the country, I don’t know what is!

It seems to me that often than not, if you are an art-tist  in almost any field of creativity, you are given special treatment by the people around you.  Fashion – especially haute-couture is seen (by its loyal followers) as art.   In fact, it takes something as drastic and hideous such as an anti-Semitic  rant to push society, who has forgiven your foibles such as rudeness and temper tantrums over the collective edge and tell you your behaviour is totally unacceptable, because, well, as an art-tist you are highly strung.   Although, as an aside, if Natalie Portman hadn’t been the shoo-in for the Academy Award this year, garnering her so much media attention, would her statement of shock and disgust, that appeared to be the nail in the coffin for Mr Galliano’s career at Dior, have had as much strength behind it? And, just for the record, where is the news coverage of all the other shocked and outraged Jewish actors and actresses? What is the truth behind this story? Has this drunken, slurry rant, that allegedly occurred not long after Galliano’s lover had died, been around on a mobile phone for several months and only now just released at such an appropriate time as to best get rid of a designer that a fashion house had been struggling to set itself free from? Or am I just seeing conspiracies behind even hedge?

                                          

Visual modern art works, (Barnett Newman’s Voice of Fire  or  Jackson Pollock  Blue Poles) even if the work looks, to my obviously uneducated eyes, like paint splatters or vaguely of a war medal, that my six year old can do and it is considered high art. Misogynistic or bimboette music stars are considered artists and paid millions for their work. As are people in Hollywood for pretending to be people  they really are not, doing things they really cannot.

 But ask the average punter what a writer is, and the term ‘artist’ is one that they will more than likely not be the one to out with. In fact, whilst reading of the demise of a favourite book store back home  I was stunned to read in the comments that some people hold the opinion that books were not works of art. They were simply blocks of bound paper printed in the tens of thousands for the making of a profit.

Contrary to Corrie Perkins, I don’t see books being “works of art”. Art is a one-off creation; books are printed in their tens of thousands, by companies, for profit. They are indeed commodities. Authors such as Bryce Courtney, Wilbur Smith, Jackie Collins, etc are not artists, they write for a living, and often to a formula.  au contraire | nsw – February 23, 2011, 8:09AM 

 

I’m sorry….? Stories aren’t works of art? Excuuuuuuuuuse me?  Unless you have spent hours in front of the computer researching, writing, editing, and sweating the small stuff such as word counts; if you have not poured over books and websites researching how to get an agent interested in your work (much less a publisher,) you have no idea of how hard a writer has worked for that piece of ‘non art’ you read for enjoyment or learning. Even the formula ones.  And is there no greater sin in the book reading world than to be a profitable, commercial writer? Must all writers be starving, wondering when their next paying six month column gig in a local news rag will come along? Have a look at how much actors, actresses, music stars, reality television stars are commanding for their ‘art’ and see if there isn’t a hint of profiteering in there. And don’t get me started on the whole profiteering of artist’s such as Monet or Van Gogh with jigsaw puzzles, paint by numbers, bags, tea towels and whathaveyou!

All this ranting from reading one innocent article in the Irish newspaper,  The Independent?  Well thank goodness somewhere out there a nation sees writers as artists and worthy of being treasured.  And  phew –    just imagine if I had planned to get up on a soap box and preach!

Real Life Words #3

 

A regular feature with no long explanations… just photos of real life words…

 English and French days and months of the year……

February Book List

After almost four years and 100+ books, Canadian writer Yann Martel has given up his self appointed role of literary mentor to the Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper.

                                    

For years Martel has been sending books every two weeks to the Prime Minister in the hopes of getting him interested in great literature. And not just picking up any old book on sale at the local ChaptersIndigo book store…. noNoNO. Martel has taken the time to write about why and how the particular pick for the fortnight has impacted the world, readers and brought new ideas to the fore.

Unfortunately, I do not have the luxury of more time than I am giving towards the Random House Inc reading challenge than I am already giving. Indeed, I may end up with less time if I manage to score a job in the next little while. For what its worth I am applying for a job in a bookstore – does the proverb letting a child loose in a candy store spring to mind anyone?

So here are the lucky nine books that I’ve managed to read in the month of February.

Read the first Merrily Watkins book last month and couldn’t wait to start another one. The book I read was out of order of the series, so this one is heading back as far at the Ottawa Public Library will allow me to go.  Easy to read mystery book that mixes faith with mystical and comes out with an enjoyable read for this bookworm.

This book was easy to read. It was enjoyable and I did finish it (I often give up on a book if there are no redeeming features at all) but I wouldn’t go out of my way to read anymore by Susan Lewis. Quite honestly, it felt too obvious.
 

I recall seeing the launch of this series (‘Extraordinary Canadians’) on television a while ago, so I was excited to read  the book written about Lucy Maud Montgomery.  I liked that it wasn’t a ‘she was born on a cold winters day… she lived and died eventually’ kind of  outline for the book, but rather Jane Urquhart took different themes on L.M.’s life and wrote about it in its entirety, and then moved onto the next big theme.  Interesting, thought provoking and a good read.

I read “Moral Disorder” a year or so ago and hated it! Swore up and down to my writing group that I would never read another of her books. But then I read about Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban using a gestational carrier to have their second daughter, and over the course of a few weeks, a furore broke out about the use of women to carry a baby for another couple in this manner. How access to a surrogate of any kind is really the privilege of the rich. That it demoralises poorer women who tend to be viewed as doing it because their uterus the only thing of value to society. And the reference to ‘The Handmaids Tale’ was made. I had to read it, and will be eating humble pie. At least this slice of the Atwood pie was tasty.

I read this on my e-reader. I love my e-reader. I hate how expensive e-books are when they are not tangible objects. I cant wait for e-books to become cheaper. But I love J.K. Rowling and I can’t help but love that my daughter was telling me on Saturday night that Harry Potter was calling her on her (broken) mobile phone, and that Voldermort had managed to get into her phone and wipe out all her messages!  Yeah for characters that become real things to children.

OK. So I read yet another of the Merrily Watkins books. And I have two more sitting on my shelves right now for the March book list. I’m hooked.  Any author who can wrap Prince Charles, The Knights Templar and gruesome murders together in a story that moves along at a decent pace deserves to be read.  

I decided to read this book on the strength of the David Nicholls book ‘One Day’ which I  loved. I didn’t love this one quite as much. I didn’t feel the attachment to the characters who were self absorbed, boring twits and were, in a manner, repulsive. An interesting idea of  ‘behind the scenes’ of fame and what it takes to get there (and are you willing to do it), with some humorous points, but on the whole, no, it really didn’t grab me the way ‘One Day’ did.

I really enjoyed this book…. until the end. The end was so abrupt I actually checked for the telltale signs of jaggered paper to make sure nobody had ripped out the last chapter of the book. They hadn’t. It was just a strange place to end. Very ‘European film-ish’ in that there is no nice wrap up at the end. No comeuppance for the jerk, no happily every after for everyone…. just… life goes on. Still, I liked the characters and wanted them to get their happy endings, so I can imagine it for them – right?