I don’t like snarky. I am not a big fan of sarcastic. But when wisdom, insight, intellectual heavy lifting and heart combine in a column…well, I get a little giddy. You know, excited, weepy, goose bumps and hot flashes all rolled into one.
Frank Rich is usually the one that flips me into that altered state.
Back in June, I blogged about a writing weekend (Awesome Austin Writers’ Weekend) with my fellow Austin children’s book writers. We read, critiqued, supported and partied. As a writer, it is so gratifying to be part of a large supportive community because writing can be a lonely business. I feel lucky and glad to have this community right in my backyard.
When my November column in Good Life Magazine came around, top on my list of things I am thankful for is this community. So it only made sense to write about it.
I did not set out to compare A.A. Milne or Dr. Seuss to canned green beans but when I started talking about holiday shopping and buying local, I just couldn’t avoid the analogy comparing local writers to fresh foods, the classics to canned foods and the movie spin-off books to sugary cereals. It just sorta happened.
Check it out: Another Austin Treasure: Children’s Book Writers.
I wanted to write something about the upcoming election. The future of this country seems imminenetly tied to family issues. Also, I was acting out rather badly re the McCain Palin ticket. I would take Hillary’s strident “know-it-all-ness” any day over this woman being used for republican imaging. Yes, I know “willing used” but still…Anyway I was really absorbed and distracted by this election and wanting to write about it but I hadn’t found the angle yet. (Have I mentioned how awesome my editor is…he let my deadline slide for two weeks!) Then my friend Julie Lake called about her letter to the editor in the Atlantic and suddenly I found my way in…Ahh, the serendipity of life and writing.
My long time (seven years) tenants and friends, Andrew and Elizabeth, bought a home of their own. YEA! When they moved out, I got busy fixing up the little house. It will be ready for tenants on October 1, maybe even a bit before. It looks great. Completely renovated inside and out.
Check it out. Pass it on. Rent it.
Did I mention I was in school? On top of working and mothering, I decided to return to school and I am pursuing an MFA in Children and Young Adult Literature at Vermont College of Fine Arts.
Each month I read about ten books (from picture books to middle grade to YA), write two critical essays and produce 40 creative pages. It is fabulous, amazing and A LOT. You know that phrase: writing in the margins. Well it has new, deeper and more specific meaning for me as life has gotten bigger and the margins skinnier.
One of the books I read this month was Linda Sue Park’s Tap Dancing on the Roof. It is an illustrated (Istvan Banyai) book of Sijo, which is a type of poetry that originated in Korea. Sijo has a fixed number of stressed syllables, usually divided in three or six lines. It is like a haiku but it has more syllables and the last line is usually has a twist. Also the poems are about everyday events.
Here is one I love that Park wrote:
For this meal, people like what they like, the same every morning.
Toast and coffee. Bagel and juice. Cornflakes and milk in a white bowl.
Or—warm, soft and delicious—a few extra minutes in bed.
At the end of the book, Park gives specific pointers for writing Sijo. Re: the last line, she she says, “ I try to think of where the poem would go logically if I continued with the idea, then I go in the opposite direction.” Re: the syllables and stress count, Park encourages beginners to work with the 16 syllable count per line. Advanced poets can try working with stress count, which is a bit more complicated. Titles are optional.
I tried the beginner variety. Here is my effort:
A is for Alice
For her very first day of school, Alice puts on a brand new dress;
Hair fixed. Shoes tied, Pencil sharp. Back Pack on. She is ready to go.
Then she climbs into bed and sets the alarm. Eight more hours to wait.