Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Quotable CS Lewis

Do writers and quotes just naturally go together? I don't mean are all writers eminently quotable; I mean do writers just need quotes in some way? To help us jell a theme, characterization, concept, or key moment in a plot or character arc? Do they help us get at the essence of truth? I think they do; at any rate, I know that when somebody nails a good statement it's as if I admire the idea, the verbal acuity, and feel that I've gotten a gift and made a connection, all at once.

Here are some quotes from CS Lewis, whom I'd definitely nominate for membership in Most Quotable Club, that have done one or more of these things for me:

"Friendship is born at that moment when one says to another: "What! You too? I thought that no one but myself..." Who can't recall moments like this? Aren't they golden? Wouldn't they make a great "moment when I knew so-and-so was my friend" in a story?

"Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give it to now one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness." Ouch. How true is that?

"A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest." Has friendship been born, or what? :) (See the first quote.) The honest truth? I'd like to tell this to a few people on Goodreads.

"Atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning..." I have nothing to add.

"The homemaker has the ultimate career. All other careers exist for one purpose only -- and that is to support the ultimate career." This is a Lewis quote that I never saw before until a week ago. We have to remember that the man died in 1963, back when you could say this. But this is exactly what I thought when I was a kid growing up. On an endless string of winter mornings I'd wake up to the radio my dad already had playing softly as he got ready for his day, and it would sing: "It's Cream of Wheat weather, we repeat; so guard your family with hot Cream of Wheat." And I'd think, "Oh, no, it's morning already, and it's Cream of Wheat weather on top of it!" I had to get up and get ready for school. My sister had to get up and get ready for school. My dad was already up getting ready for school. And we all had to leave the house with our snowpants and our mufflers and even our bag lunches if it was so bad we couldn't go home for lunch (which most kids did, but we did not walk uphill both ways, I promise, and I should add that my dad got to drive). My mom got up, too, and saw us off, made sure we had everything we needed, and got her own day started. But she didn't have to leave the house, and she was her own boss. Maybe it takes an introverted writer to really get off on this, but I knew which one of us four had the best deal. Mom the homemaker, I was completely convinced, had the ultimate career. And how I would love, love, love to believe that the other careers that exist are still in support of the homemaker, and the sacrifices s/he makes, and the very real financial risks s/he takes.

And all this helps answer my questions about quotes, I think, because when I began this post I had no idea I was going to write the above.  Good quotes are the pickaxes we need to tap into a fiction writer's ultimate goldmine: our emotional truth.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Next on the Steering Toward Normal ARC Tour is...

Oh, my bloggy friends, you are all so dear that I wish I could send the ARC to all of you!

So I turned to my impartial friend,, and R.O says the ARC of Steering Toward Normal is steering toward... FAITH!!!!!!!!!

Which is not a bad book title either, is it? :) Next stop, Connecticut!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

"Steer" Here for a Chance to Join this ARC Tour!

This contemporary MG novel is due out in May, 2014, from Abrams/Amulet. In Rebecca Petruck's debut, Steering Toward Normal, there is humor. There is heart. There's food for thought about what it means to be father and son, and what it means for 13yo Diggy to discover that one of his classmates just happens to be his half-brother. There's small-town, rural life, 4H, and the competitive raising of prize steers to show at the state fair, with a 12K purse at stake. There are plenty of April Fool's pranks. There may possibly be cow pies. 

I have had the fun of being involved in Rebecca's ARC tour. I got the ARC from MG writer Kim Van Sickler. Rebecca asked us to take a photo or make a short video with the ARC, and said that we get bonus points for involving a steer. Okay -- do you think this counts as "involving a steer"?

Now for the continued fun: the ARC needs to go to a new reader. Because state fairs figure prominently in the story, it would be great if the ARC could visit as many states (especially ones that have state fairs!) as possible. Here's all you have to do to get your chance to be next in line:
1. Comment below, using either the word "STEERING" or "NORMAL" in your comment.
2. You need to live in the US for this one (sorry).
3. Live in a state OTHER THAN: North Carolina, Ohio, and Wisconsin, seeing as how the ARC has already pranked toured these states.

That's all there is to it. So, comment away! Winner will be announced TUESDAY, February 18.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Doll Bones, by Holly Black

I have to admit, when I first heard this was a book about a doll made out of the bones of a murdered girl, I wasn't interested. I believe I shuddered, actually. But curiosity, the fact that this is done for a MG audience, and Newbery buzz combined to make me pick it up. And I'm glad I did.

Zach, Poppy, and Alice have been friends forever, and even though they are now twelve, they continue to role-play with action figures to the point that their fantasy storyline has gotten very elaborate and absorbing. They are not just misfit kids who have no other friends, though. Zach, the POV character, is also an up-and-coming basketball player, growing up into a handsome kid (though he doesn't see this himself), and loves the sense of belonging he gets from his teammates. Zach's dad, who is suffering hurts of his own, decides that the time has come for Zach to put away childish things, and since Zach isn't inclined, he'll do it for him: He throws out all Zach's action figures. Zach, angry, embarrassed, and suspecting maybe he should be ashamed, refuses to tell the girls what happened. Instead, he turns his anger on them and tells them he can't play anymore. That's it. The end. Finis. It's when Poppy gets The Queen -- her mother's antique doll made of bone china -- out of its glass case in a dramatic attempt to get Zach to change his mind that ghostly things begin to happen. In short, the doll convinces the kids, particularly the loud and dramatic Poppy, that she is the bones and ash of a murdered girl, and unless they take her to her grave, where the rest of her remains are buried, she will make their lives miserable.

From there, they go on a road trip in an effort to accomplish the quest. I'm not going to detail the plot much more, to avoid spoilers, but this book is at heart a friendship story. Where the novel really shines is in its delineation of the relationships between all three kids and how each one is changing and fears change in the others. The adventurous plot is a wonderful vehicle for this exploration, and there are some great quotes such as the one by Zach's dad when they reconcile: "I thought you needed to be tougher. But I've been thinking that protecting somebody by hurting them before someone else gets the chance isn't the kind of protecting that anybody wants." I'm also fascinated by the history of bone china, which is touched on and may or may not have been the impetus for this story.

I had a couple of minor quibbles with the book. It absolutely turns on the fact that Zach wouldn't explain to his friends why he wouldn't play the game anymore, and I wasn't fully convinced he would keep that secret for as long as he did. And, for me, the quest portion bogged down a bit until it suddenly got irresistibly exciting. In fact, I came this close to putting the book down, but I'm really glad I didn't. A very good novel, worthy of its Newbery Honor.