Thursday, December 30, 2010
Someone out there, I believe in the USA, created a Leaving Fletchville facebook page and there are about 50 people who are following it, or contributing to it, or something. I'd never heard of it until today when I got a google alert about it. I can't access it because I don't have a facebook cell-phone with SMS - (whatever that is).
Here is the link. If anyone can get into it please tell these nice people I'm so glad they liked the book. They can contact me via MisterS@accglobal.net
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
When I was in University getting my teaching qualifications one of the Profs handed out this story and asked if we could read it. We were pretty confused by it until someone pointed out it was the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears in an Italian-American accent. It's been in my file cabinet for thirty years, and like everything else interesting, it is also on the internet. If nothing else it is a good example of someone with a great ear. Cudos to the writer, whoever you are. By the way, the version I got back then was a sanitized version of what you see here...
DI TRI BERRESSE Wan suppona taim (once upon a time... you'll get the rest) was tri berresse: Mamma Berre, Pappa Berre, ena Bebi Berre liva inna contri nir foress. Naise aus. No muchegoaon. Wanna dei, Pappa Berre, Mamma en Bebi go byby, onie fughetta locche bacedor.
Bei enna bei commesse Guidelocchesse. Sci gadda notting tudu budde meichedetruble. Sci puche olladafud indamaude. No liva crome. Den sci goss oppesterres enna slips inna olladabeddse. Leise slobbe.
Bei enna bei commesse ohm di tri Berresse - Dei gaddano fud. Dei gaddano beddse. Ena wadda dei gonnado to Guidelocchesse? Tro erre aut inna strait? Culle pulissemens?
Dei wass Hitelien berresse, enna de nominda dei slippa onna floors. Guidelocchesse stei derre tri wics. Sci etam autta ausenohm. Den - guista bicose dei esccha erre tu meichedebeddse - sci sei: Gotuelle!
Ena rona ohm crainke tu erre Mamma, tellerre wat sanimabichese di tri berresse uer.
Waddaui gonnado? Go compleine Sitiolle?
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Review of 'A Thief in the House of Memory" by Tim Wynne-Jones, and 'To Rule the Waves' by Arthur Herman
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Friday, November 19, 2010
Monday, November 8, 2010
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
And so I began reading. Soon the attentive postures slumped, scabs were sought out for picking, tickle-fingers reached for friends and the whispers of more important topics quickly added to my serious reading voice: clearly the poem was not for them. I smiled and learned...
Many times over the years I have had students 'test drive' a new story long before any editor gets a look. They taught me much!
Now I need to borrow someone else's students to test drive the manuscript for Dan Time-Boy.
At Stockdale Public School I asked my good friends Kathryn Corbett (see blogs in Oct. & Nov of 09) and Dave Loucks to pass the manuscript on to a few assorted readers. Heather Yearwood, who splits her teaching duties between Stirling Sr. P.S. and Sir Mackenzie Bowell P.S. in Belleville, will do the same. (see blog 3/30/10) Heather's students were insightful readers of Leaving Fletchville last year and had great questions. Charlotte Armstrong, a former student of mine who now teaches at Percy Centennial P.S. in Warkworth will also pass the manuscript around. Her class was also very well prepped before my visit last year. (See Nov. 2009)
Getting some intelligent feedback from some adult friends and family members always helps me find clumsy stuff and typos. But adults will put up with writing that kids cannot follow, so comments from students of various grades and reading abilities are essential for me.
In a few weeks I will have a better idea of what I might want to keep / change / or add to the finished story before daring to send it for publication.
Waiting on your Writing...
When students ask me if their work is good I always tell them: put it aside for a few months and then look at it again. If it has problems you'll see them clearly. You'll groan at goofy metaphors or chafe at characters who are one-dimensional, and clench your teeth at cliche expressions. However, if it is really good you will see that too.
I have produced my fair of bad pieces of writing but also I have a few pieces of writing in a desk drawer that I will some day finish.
Getting rejections makes me wary of sending off manuscripts too quickly. I always proof-read for errors, but even if I really really like something I've written, it may still have scenes or characters in there which should have been deleted or re-written months before.
Live and learn!
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Dan went to work again.
When he was finished there was a scream. Actually two screams.
“Aaaah!” Wolfgang shouted, “Somebody touched me!”
Miss B. sighed, paused the Smart Board, and turned on the classroom lights.
Everyone looked at the two boys who were out of their seats, staring at each other.
Axel growled, “You pervert, how come you’re wearing my shirt?”
“But you’re wearing MY shirt!” howled Wolfgang. Sure enough the two boys were suddenly and unexpectedly wearing each other’s shirts.
The rest of the class started tittering.
Dan had a special grin on his face as the; “I’m going crazy, and “this is too weird” comments from the boys died down.
Boys and girls alike grinned at the two bullies’ red faces.
“What were they doing in the dark?” whispered a girl.
“This place is haunted...” is all Wolfgang could say.
Finally, Miss B. sent them to the washroom to change.
Miss B. was looking like she needed a weekend already and it was only Monday.
Of course Dan had stopped time, wrestled them out of their shirts, switched them and buttoned the others’ shirts up again, and dragged them back into their desks in the same pose they had begun with. The effort took a long time but it was worth it.
Friday, September 17, 2010
I am thinking deeply on these things since Wednesday. In the morning Shirley and I drove to Whitby to visit my in-laws. Shirley's dad Larry had invited us to help celebrate the 80th birthday of his wife of two years, June.
Larry had made the arrangements, ordered the flowers, ordered two cakes, invited the friends and enjoyed the morning celebration. He was talkative as always; enthusiastic about an upcoming hunting trip, a bit wary of his upcoming knee operation (for which his physical declared him to be in great shape), and looking forward to a bus trip this coming Monday.
Shirley and I left around noon. Within hours of returning home to Brighton, we got a tearful phone call that Larry had walked to the bank, suddenly felt ill, sat down and peacefully died.
The ambulance came and paramedics tried to revive him. At the hospital, where he worked many decades as chief engineer, they continued the battle to revive him but it was not to be.
It was his time.
We came to the hospital to find June devastated, surrounded by some of her children. Larry lay where he had died, still intubated and hooked up to I.V.'s. He face had a look of peace and surprise.
As a strong Christian he had no doubts about his destiny after this brief time on earth.
Enjoy the new adventure, Larry.
We'll meet you on the other side.
Sunday, September 5, 2010
I've gone back to Dan Time Boy and set a goal for myself to finish it (basically) by end of September. I hope that's a good idea. I'll let you know.
I'm enjoying the dialogue. Here's a sample;
(Dan, the main character, has just slowed down time with a magic timepiece he found. Everyone around him has slowed dramatically but he is moving at regular speed. Nobody knows he can do this.)
“O p e n i n g E x e r c i s e s, c l a s s. E v e r y b o d y s t a n d.
The class stood for the national anthem and Dan heard the notes of O’ Canada come slowly through the room. If he thought it was boring to stand so long before it was double that now since everyone was at half-speed...
O’ Canada, Our Home and Native Laaaaaand
True Patriot Love in all Thy Sons Commaaaaand
All around him his classmates shifted with elephantine sluggishness.
Dan watched Wolfgang reach a finger into his left nostril and pry out a little booger in there. He pretended to be wiping his nose but his fingers rolled the booger into a little ball and deftly flicked it down the aisle in front of him. Wolfgang must have thought he was moving with cunning swiftness but Dan watched every move with disgust.
Charlie noticed it too.
Charlie grinned, winked conspiratorially at Dan and then began leafing through his textbook with one hand while continuing to sing O’Canada in his off-key tenor. Miss Bentz was onto him. She watched him flipping through his book, but she didn’t say anything because O’ Canada was being sung.
After the opening exercises were over Miss Bentz’s words crawled through the morning air,
“Charlie please don’t read or study anatomy during O’Canada. It’s poor manners.”
“But Wolfgang was picking snot from his anterior nares in class and flicking it around the room,” insisted Gary.
“Charlie!” said Miss Bentz.
“Did not, but you’re dead anyway, putz,” threatened Wolfgang.
“Yeah? You and Axel don’t scare me.”
“…dead meat…,”continued Wolfgang.
“Someday you two will be mopping out my surgery and calling me ‘Doctor’.”
“I’m going to call you an ambulance if you don't shut up,” murmured Wolfgang.
“He’s going to need a hearse,” said Axel.
“Boys!” Miss Bentz had had enough. “One more word and I’ll see you all during lunch. Let’s try to get along, for once.”
Miss Bentz sighed and paused. Dan watched her face struggle to look cheerful and positive. He figured she’d feel a lot better if she took the yardstick off the chalk ledge and smacked a few kids with it.
It was time for him to freeze time and escape the classroom...
Monday, August 16, 2010
Sunday, August 15, 2010
I've been working on this novel Top Ten, for what? months? over a year? And it's only when I'm this far into it that I realize what it has needed from the very beginning.
Here's a story about a kid who loves to sing. He sings everywhere he goes when he is a kid and later on in life his singing gets him recognition, fame, fortune (and trouble!). So I'm making it longer and now I finally realize that what it needs, and what will make it much more readable for kids, is song lyrics...
Of course! Song lyrics all the way through it - they will illustrate moods he is in, reveal through the words hidden fears and feelings, & they will add humour to the story which is otherwise fairly serious in places.
So it's about a kid who is very short. Somewhere early on he will hear the "Short People" song by Randy Newman and be really offended about it; until someone points out that it is a not-so-subtle attack on prejudice.
I mean, check out the lyrics:
They got little hands
or catch Randy doing his thing on Youtube.
Another song which came to mind to use at a critical heartbreaking point of the story was the R&B song 'Return of the Mack' by Mark Morrison. The Internet is great, because as I was searching for this song, the only part of it I could remember was the refrain "You lied to Me" repeated over and over. Typing that on the search engine got me my results in less than a second and I found out (after listening to the same song on Youtube to be sure it was the right one) that he keeps saying "Return of the Mack" when I always thought he said "Return unto me"
Now I defy anyone to listen to the song and hear him saying "Return of the Mack". Go ahead and try it. (I'll wait right here for you. Here's the link.)
Now do you agree with me?
Anyway the internet is SO GOOD at finding little bits of things like song lyrics. Instantly.
How cool is that?
Monday, August 9, 2010
The weather is hot and humid and just right for staying indoors and working away on some new projects. I have gone back to rewriting Top Ten (the novel about the small-sized 'National IDOL' contestant) and the story seems to be coming easier this time. At first I was writing it for a very small niche market: mature-interest level (high school and above) with a low reading ability, and about 15 000 words. When I sent it off the editors thought the story line was overly complex for readers of that level of ability. I had too much happening and the span of time was much longer than the typical stories of that type. Succcessful books for that age/reading ability, such as what Monique Polak has been writing, typically take place over a few hours or days.
So I am re-writing this as a higher reading level novel, with the same maturity level (high school). It also has to become almost twice as long as it is now. Top Ten deals with the lure of personal ambition, sexual abuse, thoughts of suicide, with drug/alcohol excesses thrown in. This plot goes way beyond any problems I had growing up (I am thankful for a good home!) and I am travelling deep into the world of my imagination about other people's nightmares. Years spent driving a taxi, teaching school, listening and trying to understand people and the troubles they told me has given me a number of stories and situations which need writing out.
Typically our 'Republican' side cynically sees most unfortunates as victims of their own wrong choices. I often judge this way myself. But wait! There are genuine victims in this world. 'Sid', in this story is someone born in a very small body who never develops the way a 'regular' boy would. His social abuse is typical of the teasing and nasty treatment which happens to those who are different. His personality is modified into a 'survival' mode by these forces - he is initially suspicious of anyone wanting to be kind to him.
Luckily the ending is positive.
I like to write in such a way as to give somebody who is stuck in abusive relationships a way out.
And I hope I never tire of positive endings.
Monday, August 2, 2010
By the last night we drivers slept in the church, which was better. The drive back to Ontario was eventful. Gladys failed me! Well, actually we failed each other... I was lead car in a 5 vehicle caravan and seriously sleep deprived, though I didn't know how bad until I missed a critical exit in Grand Rapids, then the next alternate exit was under construction and couldn't be used. The third led us downtown to a tight corner where the truck & trailer behind me couldn't turn off. If we stopped just anywhere, one of the five car caravan would have been sitting across an intersection... Head spinning, I rejected Gladys's suggestions, which were changing every few seconds, and chose to go ahead. Somewhere. Anywhere! Drive on! my mind screamed. Kids in the car shouted "Turn right!" "Gladys says go right!" Somehow the brain froze and it was all I could do to drive the vehicle. After a few blocks I pulled over and insisted someone else take the lead. Linda, bless her heart, listened to 'Serena', (her GPS) and gradually we got ourselves out of the fix I had created. Nasty end for the male ego! The rest of the drive had fewer delays and mistakes, but it was still a 12 hour drive time before we arrived home.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Old southern plantations from the pre-Civil War era are scattered all over the South. We decided to visit the "Shirley Plantation", owned originally by relatives of Civil War general Robert E. Lee. "I guess you've heard of him?" asked a tour guide a little sarcastically when I told I was Canadian and ignorant of some American history. I was tempted to ask if she knew about Generals Wolff and Montcalm but thought better of it. The grounds were extremely tidy, very hot and dry. The fields are still farmed, but now with corn and not cotton.
The owner is a 13th generation descendant of the original family and offers tours, I suppose, as a way of keeping the place going. Lots of out-buildings were arranged geometrically around the grounds. The kitchen was a vast brick building larger than most houses.
Check it out.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Sunday, July 18, 2010
We had a free tour of the building and then ended up at an excellent natural history museum which had several full-size whale skeletons hanging from the ceiling. For some of us the greatest appeal was the air-conditioning inside the public buildings. North Carolina knows all about heat.
Here are more shots from Washington and N.Carolina.
Meghan Taylor tagging her uncle on Facebook.
The Vietnam Memorial
The morning will bring an early start and a trip to the Outer Banks and the beautiful sandy beaches and sand dunes there. While we are there we will visit Kitty Hawk, which was the closest postal address to where Wilbur and Orville Wright made their first powered flights and helped begin an amazing century of manned flight. There are more replicas of their first 'flyer' like you see in the photo below from the Smithsonian. The interesting thing is that at the time scientists were so convinced powered flight was impossible, or unmanageable, that what the Wright brothers did wasn't taken seriously. The U.S. government did not think it had much practical benefit, and the brothers went on to France to work with some aviation pioneers there. Similarly Alexander Graham Bell's work in testing Canada's first flying machine at Baddeck Nova Scotia was also considered foolishness at the time.
A replica Wright Flyer at the Smithsonian
Saturday, July 17, 2010
John pointed out the new WW-2 memorial, which was just built in 2004 during George W. Bush's presidency. Considering the cost and size of the war it was long overdue. The Vietnam Monument had engraved on it the names of all the soldiers who were killed or missing in action, in the order they were lost. There are names of students I went to High School in Illinois with on that wall somewhere, and it doesn't seem all that long ago that 'the draft' was a topic of conversation with all of us nearly 18 year olds. The Korean War memorial included life-size sculptures of soldiers on patrol. Despite the heat of the day (100 degrees F.) you could almost feel the damp misery of the men in ponchos marching. John pointed out that the media often forgets that soldiers choose to go into conflict, know what the risks are, and are willing to take these risks for the principles involved. Closer to noon we went indoors into the air-conditioned comfort of the Smithsonian Museum of Aviation. It had real and replica displays of some of the most famous aircraft, space craft & astronauts involved in the last century's aviation history. I wonder if there was any other time when 100 years made such a profound change in technology - man went from primitive and unpredictable powered flight to heavy-lift aircraft and space travel. Leaving in good time to beat the rush hour, which in Washington is legendary, we were a few hundred yards from the last subway station when some lunatic decided to walk off the platform onto the subway tracks. The train halted, retreated, and dropped us back 5 miles and the delay getting back to the car landed us smack into unforgiving D.C. traffic. Imagine everybody going the same direction and there is absolutely only one way to get there; no short-cuts, not round-abouts, no alternative routes, just gridlock for miles and miles and miles.
We left at 3:00 AM to continue to Shirley's brother's place near Raleigh North Carolina. More about that later.