Thursday, September 26, 2013

Sweet Talk

My wonderful, sweet (despite what she says) friend Vijaya gave me a "sweet award," and as I'm somewhat drawn to questionnaires and interviews and such (ha, probably for the same reason teen girls like quizzes), I'll play. And the rules are easy! Answer the following five questions having to do with sweets and then nominate five more bloggers. Okay, well, I usually have a problem finding people who haven't already played these things, so we'll just see how I fare with the second requirement. Anyway:

1. Cookies or Cake? No, no, no. The question is pie or ice cream, to which the answer is:
What? Instructions? I should follow? Okay. Cookies. I love a good chocolate chip or oatmeal raisin, Oreos, graham crackers with frosting on them, and I'd say probably the best basic all-around ice cream flavor is cookies and cream, closely followed by cookie dough.

2. Chocolate or Vanilla? Chocolate. Dark. But pure vanilla is also wonderful. And caramel. Good caramel is heavenly.

3. Favorite Sweet Treat? What? I have to draw you a picture?
4. When do you crave sweet things the most? Probably anytime from lunch onward is fair game.
5. Sweet Nickname? When I was a child, my best friend's dad called me Marshmallow.
Five bloggers to pass the sweets to. Okay, I'm gonna give this my best shot. Of course, feel free to play or not, as you choose.
And now, if you'll all excuse me, there's something in the freezer calling my name...

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Quoth the Writer

In this quote round-up, instead of giving quotes from many different writers, I'm going to quote a few favorites more at length. Hope you enjoy these:

From Lucy Maud Montgomery --
  • I am simply a 'book drunkard.' Books have the same irresistible temptation for me that liquor has for its devotee. I cannot withstand them.
  • Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It's splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.
  • I am very careful to be shallow and conventional where depth and originality are wasted.
  • Truth exists, only lies have to be invented.
  • Don't you know that it is only the very foolish folk who talk sense all the time?
From Madeleine L'Engle --
  • Some things have to be believed to be seen.
  • Inspiration usually comes during work rather than before it. 
  • You can't be a writer if you're not a reader.
  • Creative scientists and saints expect revelation and do not fear it. Neither do children.
  • It takes too much energy to be against something unless it's really important.
From Louisa May Alcott --
  • She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain.
  • The power of finding beauty in the humblest things makes home happy and life lovely.
  • Love is a great beautifier.
  • Strong convictions precede great actions.
  • Some books are so familiar that reading them is like being home again. 
Which of these do you like best? Do you have a current favorite quote?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Boy who Loved Math, by Deborah Heiligman

Now, I don't normally profile picture books on this blog, but this is about math, people! As soon as I heard the title, I knew I'd have to read it.

I love everything about The Boy who Loved Math, starting with the fact that Deborah Heiligman thought the life of mathematician Paul Erdos (born in 1913) was an important, and doable, subject for a PB biography. (I'm not able to reproduce the characters properly here, but this is a Hungarian name pronounced AIR-dish.) I love that though she could have portrayed him as a downright misfit, she portrays him as a joyous soul who creates a life for himself that works. This is a man who, as a four-year-old boy, could ask you your birthdate and instantly calculate how many seconds you've been alive, but who literally did not learn to butter his own bread till he was an adult.

I love this look into the fascinating mind of a genius, who flew all over the world meeting with other mathematicians and proving theorems, stayed in their homes, played with their "epsilons" (their kids, so called because in higher math epsilon represents a very small quantity), laid the groundwork for today's computers and search engines, gave money to the poor, endeared himself to many as "Uncle Paul" -- and yet couldn't drive a car or keep house for himself, and thought the way to open a juice carton was to stab it with a knife. (As one who is near-hopeless at opening many sorts of containers, I feel a weird, slightly scary identity with this.) I love the artwork by LeUyen Pham, who has built all kinds of math into her portrayal of early-20th-century Budapest. I love the author and illustrator notes that explain their research and give further information on Erdos's life. I love that when Paul Erdos passed away (in 1996), it was at a math meeting. I love that Paul imagined there was a book in which God kept all the most elegant proofs.

This book is outstanding for encouraging an early positive opinion of math in children. For more on Paul Erdos, adults might be interested in The Man Who Loved Only Numbers, by Paul Hoffman, and Bruce Schechter's My Brain is Open, which title is taken from the phrase Erdos used when announcing to colleagues, at any hour of the day or night, that he was ready to do math. Readable and delightful.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The BIGGEST Writing Mistake(s)

You've probably heard people discuss "the biggest mistakes writers make," or even "THE biggest mistake (singular) writers make." Maybe you've heard some of the following named as that big/biggest mistake, and I think they do all vie for the position.
  • The biggest mistake writers make is not knowing what a story is. I run into a lot of beginning writers who think an incident is a story. Or that an idea is a story. Or that, even, the plot is the story, which sounds truer, but I would say this: the story is the character growth. It's how the MC changes as a person after she's taken her goal or desire, battled all the odds (gone through the plot), and arrived at win, lose, or draw. At any rate, a story is more than "This happened, then this, and then this; the end," even if the sequence of events is amusing or really happened.
  • The biggest mistake writers make is not realizing it's about the writing. As a teacher, I see good stories paired with so-so or outright weak writing WAY more often than I see wonderful writing and a weak story. In fact, I can't think of when I've run into the latter. I've found that top-notch writers will have a good story, too, maybe because their excellent writing helps make their story great. But merely having a good story predicts nothing about the level of writing.
  • The biggest mistake writers make is not persevering. On the surface, this one almost needs no commentary. Most beginners have no idea how much work and time they're signing on for, either to learn the craft or to get published, and they have to slog through both. Honestly, though, I think some should quit. There's no shame in giving it a try and deciding it's not for you. That's true in any pursuit; why not also in writing? Yes, writers make a "mistake" in quitting too soon when they otherwise might have made it, but I think most writers who remain writers and really are writers simply cannot quit. In a sense, they cannot but persevere, so I look slightly askance at this "biggest mistake" claim.
  • The biggest mistake writers make is not writing. No doubt: this is a biggie. Writing requires, wait for it...actual writing. If everything else in your life comes first, and you want to make significant progress as a writer, you need to switch things up and give writing a high priority in your life. My opinion is that it needs to be no lower than 4th, assuming the first three are God, family, and day job. I've said this elsewhere, but "God" is not equivalent to "church work." "Family" is not equivalent to "satisfying their every whim." And this does mean housecleaning and all that other good stuff rank from fifth place on down.
  • This one might be my favorite, and it partly stems from the one just above: The biggest mistake writers make is to consider writing "something I do for me" instead of "career development like any other." Yes, I believe the biggest mistake is a wrong mindset. If you want to write and publish as a career, you can't think like a hobbyist. Agents and publishers don't take on hobbyists. You have to be as serious about your writing as your next-door neighbor is about getting her nursing degree. The Bible says that as we think, so are we. So I want to think right.
What do you think about these? What mistake(s) do you think are a writer's biggest?