Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Banned Book week

September 25- October 2 is ALA Banned Books Week. The week is about the freedom to read what we want to read. Yes, even if what we want to read is Twilight by Stephanie Meyer which was one of the top ten challenged books in 2009.
Looking through the list of Frequently Challenged books I feel like I've read a lot of them.
One of my favorite challenged books has been on my mind lately. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year.
I love this book for many reasons. Scout and Jem are raised by their father with the help of Calpernia, the maid. My mother and her brother were raised by their mother after their father died. Seeing Scout grow up with the perspective of only one parent (a parent who was respected in the community) gives me some idea of what growing up with one parent must have been like for my mother.
I was in ninth grade honors English when I first read this book. It was the first book we read that year. I would have gladly repeated ninth grade English just to read this book again.
I've been thinking about this book lately because I was working backstage on The Scottboro Boys during its run at the Guthrie. The play is about the nine African-American teenage boys who were riding a boxcar and were pulled off the train and accused of rape. Despite a lack of evidence including one of the accusers changing her testimony in a later trial the verdict kept coming back guilty.
I heard an interview with John Kander saying how this trial was always in the news when he was growing up.
It made me think about Harper Lee and how this trial would have been a part of her childhood especially growing up in Alabama with a father who was a lawyer.
Reading the book I can see the influence of this trial in her story as well. In To Kill a Mockingbird Atticus Finch is defending Tom Robinson, an African American who is falsely accused of rape by Mayella Ewell. Atticus takes his duty of defending Tom seriously. He points to the lack of evidence, that Mayella was never taken to a doctor. He even shows that Tom Robinson could not have bruised Mayella's face where she was bruised. The kids, Jem, Scout and Dill are sure that Atticus has won but then the verdict comes back guilty.
So to celebrate Banned Books week I'm reading my favorite, To Kill a Mockingbird again.

What about you? What are your favorite challenged books? How are you celebrating banned books week?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Books to Movies- Percy Jackson- The Lightning Thief

A couple weeks ago I started reading The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. A couple people recommended them to me and when my friend, Montana, saw I was reading the first book in the Percy Jackson series she loaned me rest of the series.

For some reason I added the movie The Lightning Thief to my Netflix. This was a mistake. I was talking with a child actor at work who told me the movie wasn't true to the book. He said it was Annabeth's hair color. In the book she is blonde in the movie brunette.
After watching the film it is so much more than that. I came to the conclusion that this film is a poor adaptation of the book. There are scenes in the film that never happen in book. Characters/plot points are left out of the film. Then there is the fact that the kids in the film are like 16 or 17 while the kids in the first book are 12.

I talked with the kid actor at work who admitted that the first time he watched the movie he walked out. I think this is probably a true reaction. Kids are tough customers. If they read a book and then go see a film based on that book I think they expect that it will follow the same action of the book.

I'm going to finish reading the Percy Jackson series but I recommend that if people like these books they avoid the movie version.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Censorship sucks

I’m a writer.

But before I was ever a writer I was a reader.

When I was in high school I took a journalism class. Then I joined the newspaper. See I wanted to be a writer even back then.

The first thing Miss Christensen taught us before we wrote a single word was The First Amendment. She made us know and love our right to free speech. She taught us to protect our right to free speech and expression. We had to sign a pledge to protect the First Amendment when we joined the paper. Even though my paper I signed my pledge on is long gone I still take my pledge to defend the First Amendment very seriously.

Needless to say book banning makes me angry and upset. To me banning books is a violation of the First Amendment.

I don’t think anyone has a right to tell me what I can and can’t read.

I believe in the power of books. The books we read help us navigate our way through childhood and adolescence and even adulthood.

When I was a kid the characters in books helped me realize I wasn’t the only kid who had divorced parents. I wasn’t the only kid confused about religion and wondering where God was.

So yesterday when I read Laurie Halse Anderson’s blog about a guy, Wesley Scroggins trying to get her book, Speak taken out of the school library in Republic, MO I was upset.

The Scroggins piece claims that parents and taxpayers need to be aware of what kids are reading and learning. I have to say I pay taxes and I don't have kids but I would still want kids to be allowed to read this book or any other book that is written with children and teens in mind. If I was a parent I would want my kids to have access to a book like Speak or any other book that has been challenged.

Scroggins also has a problem with the school's sex education program saying that children are learning about reproduction in the forth grade and sex in eighth grade. I distinctly remembered getting on a bus and going to the Catholic School Central to learn about reproduction in forth grade.

I have to admit I haven't read this book. I read Anderson's book Wintergirls recently and this book was on my list of books I would get to but now I am reading it. I was planning on reading To Kill a Mockingbird during Banned Book Week but now I am reading Speak instead.

I will post more of my thoughts on this book later. But for right now I think it is a good book. I am still early on in the book and the character, Melinda is depressed and withdrawn and her only escape in high school is art. Even though I wasn't this girl in high school I knew girls who were like her. Girls who were depressed. My sister was depressed and withdrawn during her teen years. I wish a book like this had been around when we were in high school.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

This year is a super lucky fall for me. For the first time my schedule works out and I'm going to be able to go to the Minnesota SCBWI conference.

I'm really excited because I've never been to one of these. I usually go to the Loft Conference in the spring.

I even submitted my picture book manuscript for a manuscript review. This is way out of character for me. I blame the fact that I made this decision in the morning. Morning is not my time. I can't be held responsible for decisions I make before 10 a.m.
I'm actually kinda shy. But since the class I was going to take got cancelled and since I really want this manuscript to be awesome when I send it out I submitted it for review.

In other news I finally joined the new era of movie rentals and signed up for Netflix. Why? What finally convinced me? My mom. She told me "You can stream Netflix on you Wii. I don't know why you're not doing that." I tried to explain to her about my loyalty to my neighborhood video store but just hearing my mom talk about streaming movies was too much. I couldn't let my mom be more tech savvy than me. If my mom can stream netflix then so can I.
The thing is this has been kinda great. I'm catching up on movies I missed because they come to my mailbox or to my Wii or computer. It is genius.

Do you have any fall writing events lined up? Classes, conferences? Any movie recommendations for this Netflix newbie?

Thursday, September 09, 2010

I never thought I'd...

That is the subject of Real Simple's annual essay contest.

My non-writing friends alert me whenever a magazine they read of having a writing contest.

Usually I don't do anything with it because I find out two weeks before it is due or the previous winning entries are too intimidating.

But this year I'm entering.
I've spent the summer working on my entry. I took a class on writing essays.
But two weeks until the story is due and I was still stuck. I didn't feel like my story was compelling.
So I wrote in my journal. And I did other exercises in my journal trying to figure out what was really important in my story. The exercise I used I learned about in my essay class.

I wrote the things my essay is about on the surface and feelings associated with each of the things until I landed on a feeling I didn't know was there before and it turns out that is what the essay is really about.

I've kept a journal for years. Probably longer than I realize really. They are instrumental in my writing.
What about you? Do you journal? How does it help your writing?

Monday, September 06, 2010

If you can read this...

I've been slacking on the whole blogging thing. I blame the State Fair and the kitten invaders.
It is super hard to write or blog or anything when a kitten may run across the keyboard at any moment.
Unlike my 20 pound cat these little kittens move fast. If my cat was going to walk across the keyboard I would know it but I can not anticipate the movements of a kitten.
The kitten house guests have gone home now so I feel safe using my computer again.

I'm bummed about the ending of summer but plan to go to the State Fair one last time.

Recently I've been trying to run again. I haven't run much since I get in my car accident last fall because well running is hard on my neck. But running helps me do everything else in my life better.
I spent most of the spring in a little bit of a funk and I thought it was just the fact that there was a lot of change in the lives of my family. But now that I'm trying to run again I feel like maybe part of the reason I was bummed was because I wasn't running. Running gives me endorphins. I'm sort of an endorphin junkie and running is the most efficient way for me to get my endorphins.

Running also helps me in my writing. Since I'm not fast and I'm not going to win any races I just run for myself. If I was running in 5Ks I would want a shirt that says "If you can read this you're going to be last." But it builds my confidence because for me running feels like an accomplishment. Right now running two miles feels like a big deal. That surge in confidence carries over into my writing. If I can run then surely I can write.
Running helps me deal with rejection in my writing as well. The fact that I'm not going to win any races doesn't stop me from running because I run for me. (I do hope to win races when I'm older. Like when I'm 80 I may win my age group because there won't be that many people in m age group running) When I get a rejection I remember that I write for me. That like running I get so much out of writing that can't be measured. I remember that the finish line is always there even if it takes me twice as long to get there as the fast people.