WWW Wednesday, 23-July-2014

23 Jul

I was so determined to finish a book for MizB’s WWW meme. I’m going on an audio binge for the next week or so, so I was glad to finish a physical book!

www_wednesdays4The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently reading:  I’m making steady progress through  The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien on my phone. I’ve had a lot more time to read eBooks this past week than I thought I would. On audio, I started The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe and I’ve made decent progress over the last week, which means I’m spending a lot of time alone in my car even though it was an Ozone Day on Monday (but I carpool so often!) Speaking of, my carpool buddy and I started Looking for Alaska by John Green and she is loving it, as am I. I hope we can finish it before it’s due back at the library! I started  The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen as I’d hoped to. I’m really loving it and forgot how much I enjoy books about royal courts. Yes, I do love Philippa Gregory. And because I love having more stories going than I can keep straight, I started an audiobook on my phone, Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick. I’ll listed to this while I’m cleaning and cooking around the house. I think that’s enough books to be in at once!

Recently finished: I finished The Coward by Kyle R Bullock over the weekend. I enjoyed it and I’ll have a review up soon, as I promised Kyle I would by the end of the summer, which sadly is fast approaching! I posted a review for The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson if you want to check that out.

Reading Next:  My husband and I are road tripping to New York this weekend, so I’ve got Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs on audio for us to enjoy. We’ll likely finish it on the way home, but if not we’re going camping the weekend after and will have another two hours in the car each way. I’m so lucky my husband loves stories as much as I do!

Does anyone else get really excited over road trips because of the audiobook potential? Or is it just me? What are your three Ws? Leave a comment and let me know and check out the original post on MizB’s blog!

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Book Review: The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson (3/5). A story that confirms living in North Korea must be terrible.

22 Jul

I made it through my second ebook! I never thought I’d read ebooks, but having these on my phone for the spare minutes of my life has been nice. I’m already getting into another, shorter, title on my phone that will cover a missing period for my Historical Fiction challenge. But I digress.

Cover image via Goodreads.com

Cover image via Goodreads.com

The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson

Pak Jun Do lives at an orphanage, but he’s not an orphan. His father runs the orphanage but treats his son like the other boys, sending them to work during the day and sleeping on the ground at night. Escaping that life, Jun Do works in a prison mine where he learns to fight in the dark with such skill that he’s used to kidnap Japanese citizens off the beach at night. His military career develops to being an English-speaking spy and later traveling to Texas to retrieve something for the Dear Leader. When his team returns unsuccessfully, Jun Do is sent to prison again and he never emerges. At least, he doesn’t emerge as Jun Do, but as Commander Ga: husband of the most beautiful woman in Korea and a close adviser to the Dear Leader. He only has one goal; to get his new family out of North Korea and into safety.

This book had so much going on. Jun Do’s life was never stable, always changing location, job, loyalties, and goals. The story is told from several perspectives; Jun Do, later Commander Ga, the interrogator trying to figure out Commander Ga’s story, and the daily loudspeaker announcements telling the citizens about Commander Ga and the terrible ways he hurt the country. Despite all the voices, locations, and times of his life, this book worked. It worked really well and won the Pulitzer Prize.  It took me a while to get into this book, but I think it deserves the accolades and praise it’s received. Johnson gave a voice to a part of the world most of us ignore and know nothing about. I was really impressed with his subject matter.

It’s hard for me to know how accurately Johnson has portrayed life in North Korea because it’s not something I’ve been keeping up on in the news. From what I do know of it, Johnson’s portrayal met my expectations and exceeded them in details. I suspected these characters would be scared, vigilant of their words and actions. I loved how the characters wanted to fight back and oppose the Dear Leader and did so in their own little ways. These small acts together amount to almost nothing but keep hope alive in the hearts of the people. Their actions seemed logical to me; trying to stay in line just enough to be stay out of trouble, but trying to enjoy every aspect of life that’s denied to them.

Jun Do as Commander Ga was my favorite character. I loved the idea that he’d taken over someone else’s life and was hardly questioned. That he could win that life in a prison fight is so contrary to the confines of North Korean oppression that it made me cheer for someone who was a murderer. I’m not sure if this makes sense, but I was glad he killed Ga. I didn’t like Sun Moon’s character very much because she was so moody and whiny. I wanted Jun Do’s accomplishments to be more celebrated and respected and Sun Moon seemed very bitter toward someone who’d eliminated her despised husband.

Adam Johnson Image via the Stanford News website

Adam Johnson
Image via the Stanford News website

I loved Commander Ga’s desire to see his family to safety. His compassion was commendable. He fell in love with Sun Moon long before meeting her but still wanted to keep her and the children safe. He had compassion for the rowing American as well and did everything he could to keep her out of harm’s way. I could relate to his desire to see his family safely to America while sacrificing his own life. He was a great hero.

The ending was my favorite: when Ga sneaks Sun Moon and the children aboard the American plane. I loved the sacrifice involved and the entire set-up the Dear Leader had to convince the Americans that North Korea was functioning better than their own country. The idea of giving Americans aid for their hungry was funny because it was juxtaposed with the hunger Ga’s family endured despite being upper class. The Americans were nodding along, trying to get out of Pyongyang as quickly as possible and the whole situation was comical to me. It was a great way to end the book.

I found the beginning of the book harder to get through. Jun Do’s time as a spy got repetitive for me. Toward the end, I understood how important it was because so many of the things Johnson revealed about Jun Do in those parts played a roll  in the ending, but I think it could have been shortened. It made me reconsider reading the book early on.

I saw two major themes in this book. The first is sacrifice. Even though Jun Do has finally realized his dreams, he has to sacrifice that life for Sun Moon. I think it’s a beautiful message and I love his devotion to her. The second theme I see is that everyone can change their life even in the dimmest circumstances. In a country where it’s almost impossible to move above his station in life, Jun Do excelled through his intelligence, physical prowess, and loyalties. I’ll say it again, he makes a wonderful hero.

Writer’s Takeaway: Johnson used a lot of writing styles in this one book. I think it was a risk, but it really worked out. A lot of writers will use a variety of styles in a book. In Fangirl, Rainbow Rowell used chapters from Cath’s fanfics between her prose. Johnson’s short chapters of radio announcements reminded me of this. I think this style can be really effective as long as there is balance. Johnson focused his novel on the story and less on the retelling of it. Rowell did the same. I think this style takes some practice, but can add a lot to a story.

I thought the book was a bit wordy for it’s message, but it was beautifully written. Three out of five stars.

This book fulfills Foreign Country: North Korea for my Where Are You Reading? Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
The Orphan Master’s Son ~ Adam Johnson | Thinking in Fragments
Adam Johnson: The Orphan Master’s Son (2012) | Books, Bikes, and Food
Adam Johnson, The orphan master’s son (Review) | Whispering Gums
Book Review: The Orphan Master’s Son (Adam Johnson) | the elephant on the roof

Book Club Reflection: Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan

21 Jul

I feel like I’m perpetually apologizing for how long it takes me to write these reflections but I love doing them. Not only do they get the most hits for my blog, it’s a good way for me to review the book one last time after my book review and put our discussions in a more logical order. Well, what’s logical to me at least.

We thought this was a slightly odd choice for a book club selection. There’s never as much to talk about for non-fiction books as there is for fiction titles. It’s hard to refute what someone does or says in non-fiction like you can in fiction. However, it’s a current bestseller, though we’re not exactly sure why. A lot of best sellers make you want to get up and tell everyone you see how life changing the book was and how you’re now inspired to do X or Z or how it’s changed your perspective on Y. But not this book. Don’t get me wrong, it was interesting and well written. It was easy to digest in short segments, much like short magazine articles. However, I’m not raving about it. If someone asked me for a book recommendation now, this would not be it. I was kind of neutral on the book and most of our members were as well. There were a few fans, but they were not the majority.

One of the questions in the back of the book asked us to consider the reliability of Cahalan as a storyteller. In truth, she had to do as much research to write about her journey as she would have needed to do on an event she wasn’t alive for. Luckily she was in near to people who remembered the time, but her research skills are commendable.

Another question from the book asked why the division into three parts and fifty-three chapters was meaningful. One of our members suggested that the three parts were like the three parts of the brain Cahalan addresses, as detailed on page 42 of our copies (Chapter 8); Frontal lobe, temporal lobe, and the brain stem. We likened the short chapters to the articles Cahalan is used to writing and suspect that this is a comfort zone of writing for her.

This book made us all feel vulnerable; like we could become deathly ill tomorrow and never recover unless we’re lucky to have access to some of the country’s top doctors. And the scary thing is that this is true of everyone every day.

Cahalan was very lucky to find Dr. Najjar. Her first doctor denied there was anything wrong with her, but he did get her admitted to the hospital which helped her along her path. In Chapter 23, Dr. Segal, her first doctor in the hospital, tells Susannah’s family that she’s been assigned to Dr. Najjar. While the family is at first upset, we think this showed a lot of bravery on Dr. Siegal’s behalf. He was big enough to admit what he didn’t know. Instead of trying to treat Susannah even though it was above his expertise, he knew to pass her off. It’s hard to remember that doctors ‘practice,’ not ‘perform’ because medicine is an art, not yet a science. There are times when it’s wrong and while that’s unfortunate, it’s the ugly truth.

We were all struck with how supportive her friends and family were, especially her boyfriend Stephen. We thought it was great that co-workers and cousins were making big efforts to come see her. Stephen’s commitment to her was commendable. The two hadn’t been together for very long and he could have left and no one would have blamed him, but he stuck around. I suggested that it’s almost better that they hadn’t been together a long time. Susannah said she never felt completely like herself again after the illness. If Stephen had been with her for a long time before the illness, he might find that he feels distant from the ‘new’ Susannah but because they were not as close before, he can see the changes and recognize them but can still adjust to her new personality.

It bothered some of our members that Susannah’s parents decided not to tell their son about his sister’s condition. Some of us understood more than others. On one hand, you would want to know if your sibling was sick. You would want to be there for them and help out in any way you could. On the other hand, there wasn’t much more that her brother could have done. He was away at college and the only thing he could do was sit beside her bed, which would mean he’d miss enough classes to need to drop out of school.

My university didn’t give us Labor Day Weekend off (which is a Federal Holiday in September for my non-US readers). Their reason was simple; retention. They found that Freshman were more likely to drop out if they returned home so soon after classes started. If they had one ‘bad’ professor or fight with their roommate, it might be tempting to stay home and leave that awful college thing behind. But by staying on campus, students had to figure things out for themselves and were more likely to stay in school. I think this is kind of what the Cahalan’s were thinking by not telling their son. They wanted him to stay in school.

We wondered if Cahalan did make the 100% recovery she thinks she did. She says she was changed as a result of this disease. Is part of that change not having the full mental capacity she had before she got sick? Even though she feels she has made a 100% recover, she has a 20% chance of the disease reappearing. If it does, it could damage her further, but knowing what the disease is might be key to getting her the treatment she needs quickly in the event of a relapse. We doubt she’ll ever completely recover her brain function, but she’s recovered enough to happily live the life she had before. I can bet that Cahalan is happier to be alive and healthy each day much more than I am.

Our book club meets again next week! We’ll be discussion Will Schwalbe’s book, “The End Of Your Life Book Club.” I really need to get a jump on that title!

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Prompt Group: Frenimies and Thunderstorms

17 Jul

I actually went to my prompt group! Yep, that’s right. I haven’t been going a lot lately because life has been super crazy but I went on July 1 (and took forever to post this).

Our fearless leader was absent so our friend John bravely took over. We did four prompts, which I’ll share here along with my response for two of them. I’ll list the prompts first and if you want to do them yourself, please pingback here so I can read them.

Prompts:

  1. Think of your favorite antagonist and the trait that makes him/her/it an interesting character. Write a scene with a character who has that trait (7 minutes)
  2. Last minute disappointment (3 minutes)
  3. An interrupting thunderstorm (5 minutes)
  4. How did it/he/she get that name? (3 minutes)

My Responses:

Prompt 1

“Caitlin, you can’t play with her at recess.”

I looked around, confused. The only person I was playing with was Ashley and as far as I knew, Hannah and Ashley were friends.

“With Ashley?” I asked, understanding that I wasn’t going to figure this out in my own.

Hannah glared at Ashley who shrunk under the glare. “Yes, with Ashley and her perfect baby-cut top.”

I looked at Ashley again; I hadn’t noticed her new shirt. It was a blue-green that matched her eyes and had a really nice cut.

“I don’t get it,” I said, really not understanding.

“She went out and bought the same shirt as me!” Hannah was mad, pointing her finger at the offending article. “She’s trying to copy me, to be just like me. How sad.” Hannah crossed her arms, continuing to glare at Ashley who was kicking the ground with her toes and tugging at the hem of her shirt as if she could change it.

“That’s not true, Hannah, you don’t know that.”

“My mom bought it for me,” Ashley pipped up in a weak voice.

“Shut up, Ashley. Don’t lie to me.” Hannah was glaring at us both; at Ashley for stealing her style and me for not choosing her side. What’s a girl to do?

“Hannah, it’s just a shirt; we can still play together.”

“I’m not going to be seen with someone who’s copying me. And I won’t be seen with someone who’s obviously not my friend!”

I knew the last bit was directed at me and I took a step toward Hannah. Hannah started to smirk and Ashley looked on the verge of tears.

“Is there a problem girls?” The tall shadow of the recess monitor, Miss Molly, loomed over us all.

“No, Miss Molly,” we all said in unison as if it was rehearsed.

“Just deciding what to do on this beautiful day,” Hannah said with a smile.

“Well, no need for the yelling. Run along.” She turned and walked away to take care of some boys pushing each other really high on the swings.

Hannah’s eyes turned dark again. “Let me know when you decide who your real friends are,” she said to me and turned away from us. I looked at Ashley, still not knowing what to do. I took a step toward Hannah and paused again. I wanted to be her friend, but I didn’t want to follow her.

Prompt 3

“What was that? Was that a gunshot?”

“No, baby, come back to bed.”

“But what if someone’s dead out there? Bleeding?”

“It was a thunderstorm; come back to bed. This was just about to get good.”

“How can you be thinking of anything besides the fact that there might be a dead dog out there?”

“Because of what you were just doing to me. Can we get back to that?”

“Not until you go look for the blood trail the poor animal is probably leaving through the parking lot.”

“There’s no dead dog, Jill.”

“You don’t know that!”

“I think you’re trying to get out of doing something.”

“How can you think of yourself right now?”

“You’re working yourself into a panic.”

“You’re working yourself into apathy!”

“Coma back to bed, Jill. What are you doing?”

“Looking for my shoes. I’ve got to get out there.”

“It’s pouring.”

“Then I’ll need to find my shirt, too.”

“If you didn’t want to, you could have said something.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Yes you do.”

“Well, maybe I do and maybe I didn’t know how to tell you but now I’m worried about this dog. So, I’ll be seeing you later because I’m about to storm out of here looking for that dog and I’ll probably jump in my car and go home after. Good night.”

 

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 16-July-2014

16 Jul

Almost in reaction to last week’s progress, I’ve got almost nothing to report for MizB’s WWW meme. I guess that’s what happens when you do a 120 mile bike tour over the weekend. So there is that, right?!

www_wednesdays4The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently reading:  I’m about halfway through The Coward by Kyle R Bullock. I’ve taken a bit of a break from it to work through the huge pile of Cosmo magazine on my bedside table but I’ll start it again tonight.  I’m making slow progress through  The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien on my phone. It seems so familiar I think I’ve read it, but i don’t remember it enough to stop. On audio, I just started is reading The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe, but I’m embarrassingly still on the first disk! I haven’t been doing a lot of driving besides to and from work and I need to step up my game. My carpool buddy and I started Looking for Alaska by John Green and she is loving it, as am I. We’re almost through the first disk and I think we’ll keep moving well on it.

Recently finished: Nothing finished, unfortunately. Not even much progress on the books I’m reading, really. I did write a review for A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers, so you can check that out.

Reading Next:  I’m still hoping to start The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen soon. This will fulfill the 1500s time period of my When Are You Reading? Challenge. We’ll see after that.

I’ve got a bit more time at home this weekend so I can do some reading. I’m making ‘The Coward’ my goal for the week. What are your three Ws? Leave a comment and let me know and check out the original post on MizB’s blog!

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Book Review: A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers (4/5). I can’t put my finger on just why I loved this book.

15 Jul

My book clubs have been amazing at picking books lately. This last selection was something I never would have considered and hadn’t heard of, but I absolutely LOVED it.

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers

Alan Clay is almost bankrupt and almost hopeless. His last chance seems to be selling hologram telephone equipment to King Abdullah for the new Saudi Arabian city he’s building on the coast. The only problem is, no one knows when the King will arrive. He hasn’t been around in ages and his plans change constantly. So there’s nothing to do but wait.

Alan finds several ways to entertain himself in the very foreign country. His co-workers are much younger than himself and he makes new friends; a foreign worker living on an ex-pat compound who is able to introduce him to illicit parties and a local cab-driver who invites him to visit a house in the mountains where old traditions still hold strong. Alan is fascinated with the country around him as he waits and waits and waits and waits….

I absolutely adored this book. Eggers writing was engaging and his characters were very unique. I loved how they all had two sides; the side they showed in public, and the side they kept hidden from the eyes of the Kingdom. I know several Saudis and while what’s in this book might be extreme, I’ve heard that it’s pretty accurate. I loved that I could relate to this book in that way. I guess my only complaint would be that not much happened, but that seemed to be on purpose. Our book club leader said that this was often compared to ‘Waiting for Godot’ and I can see the similarities. If you couldn’t guess, I adored ‘Godot’ as well.

My cultural knowledge about Saudi Arabia is pretty basic. I had friends who were from there in college, dating a guy from there (SHOCKER!) and have a friend who lived on an ex-pat compound during an internship. So I guess I know more than the average Joe, but I’m no expert. The characters Eggers described fit a lot of the impressions I had from my friends. I loved the Danish consultant who took him to ex-pat parties; this reminded me of stories from my friend who lived there. I liked the conservative cousins Alan ran into at Yousef’s house in the mountains; they reminded me of some of the Saudi’s I met at school while others reminded me of Yousef. I think they showed a pretty good spread of Saudi’s and other residents.

Yousef was my favorite character. I liked his story the best. He’d gone to college in the US, wanted to do something different from his family and went out on his own. I liked the insight he was able to provide to Alan on Saudi life. He reminded me most of my friends from Saudi. On the surface, they’re conservative but they harbor a desire to be radical; to experience something different and break a few rules. But, when pushed too far, they’ll revert back to the conservative upbringing they had. This is one of the aspects of Saudi culture I find most fascinating; the attraction to changing things, but the simultaneous desire to keep it as it is.

Dave Eggers Image via Amazon.com

Dave Eggers
Image via Amazon.com

I related to Alan’s uncertainty in the story. He seems to bounce between decisions constantly and I feel that way about my life some times. I struggle to make hard commitments and decisions and I saw this in Alan’s inability to write his daughter a letter and his reluctance to see a doctor about the growth on his neck.

The plot line with Dr. Hakem was my favorite. She was such a strong woman who defied stereotypes of woman from that region. I loved how bold she was, even if I didn’t fully agree with her infidelity. I loved how sure she was of herself and her medical skill was commendable. It must have been a struggle to put a strong female character in a book set in Saudi Arabia, but Eggers did it really well.

I’m not sure I had a ‘least favorite’ part of this book. It was really solid throughout. The only reason I didn’t give it five stars is because not much happened, but then again that was the point. In my mind, it reached its full potential.

Would you believe this book is being made into a movie? Starring Tom Hanks? It seems to be true.

Waiting for Godot was once described as,

“a theoretical impossibility—a play in which nothing happens, that yet keeps audiences glued to their seats.”
-Vivian Mercier, The Irish Times 18 Feb. 1956

I think A Hologram for the King is a literary equivalent. Alan does nothing of importance, accomplishes nothing, and kept me turning the pages as quickly as possible. I think this is very reminiscent of life; we go from day-to-day, doing something, but never really going anywhere. At least, we don’t know where we’re going and we don’t know when we’ll get there. The characters in most stories have a purpose; a drive, an adventure, a mission. Alan Clay had a mission, to make a sale, but he doesn’t do it. Moreover, he has to wait before he can even try to do it. In what world is that a mission? This book is memorable for its blandness.

Writer’s Takeaway: This book might be the worst example of a ‘Writer’s Takeaway’ section yet. I don’t think we should try to replicate this style. It’s a unique form to write a book like this and I don’t think many amateur authors (I’m assuming not many seasoned professionals are reading this) could pull it off. I think the best thing to take from this is that your character can always be doing something, but it won’t always lead to an end, but you can still make it interesting.

I adored this book. Four out of five stars.

This book fulfills ‘Foreign Country: Saudi Arabia” for my Where Are You Reading? Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
Dave Eggers’ A HOLOGRAM FOR THE KING | Bite the Book
A Hologram for the King. Dave Eggers Come Back, Please | Walworth Sentiments
Failure of a Salesman – Dave Eggers’ A Hologram for the King | Books and Bits
2012 National Book Award finalist in Fiction: Dave Eggers, A Hologram for the King | Vaguely Borgesian

Like this review? Let me know on Goodreads.

Saturday Writers Group: Names and Stanzas

14 Jul

Yet again, I’m way behind on getting these posts up. My Saturday group met on 7-June and this is just now being posted. I’m embarrassed!

One of our members is a talented poet, but she says the thing she struggles with most is stanza breaks in her poems, so this is something we always talk about with her work. The poem she brought had a series of illusions and we discussed if it was better to separate each illusion into its own stanza or to keep them in one stanza and let them bleed together. It the poem is about illusions, isn’t it good to let them become one and create an ultimate illusion? I feel there are some poems that work better in one stanza and others that need to be broken apart to clarify the meaning. When do you break a poem into stanzas?

Some books will have a character without a name, referred to as ‘the boy’ or ‘the mother.’ We talked about the effects of doing this. Does it give the characters a more universal appeal than ‘Brian’ or ‘Mrs. Horm’ would? Certain stories seem to need something like this where as others seem awkward when written this way. When is it okay to not name a character?

One of our members writes personal essays and this got me thinking. In real life, it’s likely that I have two friends named Cat (this happened in college). In real life, that’s fine; you create nicknames or say ‘Blonde Cat’ when talking about these people. But if I were to write a story and Cat and Cat appeared in it, should I change one of their names? Should I refer to one as Catherine and the other Cat? Is it okay to change people’s names to make a stronger distinction between them in a personal essay? When would you keep them the same?

I hope you like the shorter post! Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Library Writers Group: Flash Fiction

11 Jul

Another yay for the library writers’ group! We talked about two things this time; July writing goals and Flash fiction. So, I’ve decided to set a goal for the month. I’ll report on it in my posts and in the monthly wrap up. I’ve started already, so don’t think I got a late start. Here’s my goal, short and simple: EDIT! I have a huge pile of critiqued stories and poems on my desk that are doing nothing for me. I’m going to get through the pile and then start revising my NaNo. If you follow me, you know I finished reading through it a while ago and now I’m going to make it a point to re-write the first 20. Hopefully they come out to more like 35 pages, but we’ll see what happens. The story now is 96 pages, so this will be a good solid chunk of the editing. Wish me luck!

The second thing we talked about was flash fiction. We shared this awesome article from the New York Times. One of the main things we got from it was the Iceberg Analogy. In short, it says that only 10% of the story is written, the other 90% is implied. A good example is the one given in the article, Ernest Hemingway’s story:

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

We can get a lot from those five words. Why weren’t they ever worn? Were they the wrong size? Did the baby die? Were they stolen? We can make a story in our heads from that simple beginning.

Nicole commented how a lot of five-word stories like this are more poetic than they are prose. I can see this extending to short works because the Iceberg Analogy has to be used more. Poetry tends to give us less concrete detail and we have to rely on our imaginations to fill in the rest.

A member commented how he’s always been taught every story must have conflict and that in flash fiction, that was hard to do. But is implied conflict enough? There are several ways one could assume conflict in the example story. Does a writer have to state the conflict, or can it be implied?

We took a hand at our own flash fiction. I’ll share a couple here but I’m wondering if I should try submitting the rest to flash fiction magazines. We ere challenged to do stories no more than three sentences in length. Enjoy!

She measures, measures, again, makes a small mark, measures again, marked again, and finally with great trepidation, makes a short cut, defiling the polka-dot pattern with her will; her imposition. Again, again, and once more she repeats the process before she can lift up the perfect shape; the quilters’ ideal parallelogram with sharp edges which will ultimately be hidden in seams. With tears of joy in her eyes she lifts the scissors and ruler again to repeat and repeat and repeat.

Hearing that zipper finally go up makes me cry because the voice in my head is so loud as it screams, “YES! I DID IT!”

Do you write flash fiction? What do you think of mine?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Read Along With Me #1: The Maze Runner by James Dashner Chapters 39-51

10 Jul

ReadAlong1Maze

This is the second to last installment. Can you believe it?! I’m still trying to get over the fact some crazies joined me in reading this book. Thank you to all of you who are reading along, you’ve made this so much fun!

Question from Nicole: I wondered towards the end of this section if the Creators were aware of the boys and what they were on too. And if they did know what was happening, why didn’t they try to stop it or was this part of the “plan”?
There weren’t any mentions of Beetle Blades in these last chapters, so I’m not sure. I feel like the blades are spies for the creators so if they’re not around like they were when Thomas first arrived, maybe the Creators aren’t as aware. If they did know about the plan, their next step would probably depend on what the purpose of the experiment is.

Question from Ashlee: Do you think Theresa was the only girl who went through the special training? Or why weren’t more females thrown into the Maze?
They talk so much about variables, I wonder if all men was a way of removing the romantic variable. No women, no distractions. Kind of like Catholic high-schools. As far as Teresa showing up, I think that the part of the ending sequence she triggered threw a lot of variables to the wind. The doors weren’t supposed to stay open either.

Question from Sultana: Just one last chunk of reading left! General predictions, anyone?
As of writing this, I’ve finished it, but my prediction going into the last section was that Minho would die. He’s my favorite character and my disappointment in this book so far dictated that he would have to die.

Question from Barb: Why is Newt so negative to Thomas’s code breaking? There is no better option so why does Newt resist so much?
I think Newt was so new to being in control that he didn’t know how to act. He wanted to stay in control and be leading the boys, but Thomas had a monopoly on that for the time being. I think he resented Thomas more than he resented the idea of breaking the code.

Question from Lynn: Also, the people who have been through the changing – some of them don’t want to leave the maze as a result as they think the world out there will be much worse – how come Thomas isn’t feeling that?
I think Thomas somehow was raised apart from the rest of the boys. His memories are different, he has a different connection with Teresa, and he feels familiar in the maze. To me, all of these point to having been there before and having been involved somehow in design, which it seems obvious the remaining boys were not.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 9-July-2014

9 Jul

Progress, progress, progress! At least, it feels like it. Consider joining in MizB’s WWW meme if you haven’t before!

www_wednesdays4The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently reading:  I’m about halfway through The Coward by Kyle R Bullock. This is the last ARC off my shelf and I’m enjoying it so far. It’s strange to be reading this at the same time as The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. I’ve got to keep World War II and Vietnam separate in my mind! On audio, I just started is reading The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe, my next book club selection. It’s too early to tell how I’ll feel about this one.

Recently finished: I finally finished The Maze Runner by James Dashner Monday night. I wanted to throw the book at the wall. I get frustrated when a series doesn’t have good stopping points between books and this one sure didn’t! I can’t decide if I want to read the sequels or not. I also finished Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser on Monday (a big day for me). It was informative, well written, but not as captivating as I’d hoped for.

A big week for reviews as well! I covered O, Africa! by Andrew Lewis Conn as well as The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian.

Reading Next:  Still a good number. Looking for Alaska by John Green has yet to come in at the library so I hope to get that soon. And I want to start The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen soon. This will fulfill the 1500s time period of my When Are You Reading? Challenge. We’ll see after that.

The hubby and I are doing a massive bike tour this weekend so I hope to get something read before then! What are your three Ws? Leave a comment and let me know and check out the original post on MizB’s blog!

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,194 other followers