Friday, December 31, 2010

What's a good year?

This is the USA hockey team at the IIHF World Junior Championship in Buffalo, New York last night, after their win against team Germany. We've had so much fun watching the tournament in OUR town :)

A good year = family + friends + good health + good food + good books + hockey

Best wishes to all of you for a happy and healthy 2011!!!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010 miscellaneous

I can't rely on memory to recap 12 months, hence this blog! But I will try to tie up loose ends, well, at least the ones I remember!

NaNoWriMo - My official novel word count achieved was 8195. No, I didn't reach my 10,000 word goal, but the story is complete. I have a few ideas for next year's novel! One is based on a friend's musings about how we would survive right now if all modern conveniences (supermarkets, running water, etc.) failed. I've noted often that my story ideas tend to live in the real world despite my love of reading fantasy and science fiction, so I'm interested to try something new. November writing starts well for me, but the Thanksgiving holiday sinks me. My students all achieve their word count goals with NO problem whatsoever because their writing routine is completely scheduled by me, but I don't have any routine for my writing. I need to institute a rule like "do not disturb your teacher in any way when she's writing in class", maybe three times a week? I lament that there's no similar writing challenge during those leisure summer vacation months, but the truth is I wouldn't bother writing without the pressure of students asking ME "how many words do YOU have?"

BOOKS! I use a Facebook app "Visual Bookshelf" to keep track of books read - very easy to write and post a short review - so I will consult that as reference. A quick check of this blog shows I haven't mentioned specific books since the school year started - is that possible??? In reverse chronological order (of when I read them):

The Lost Hero: The Heroes of Mount Olympus, Book One by Rick Riordan - LOVED it, but it's soooooo serious, not nearly as laugh out loud funny as the Percy Jackson books. As in, Harry Potter serious. Like, here's your quest, you'll probably fail, everything good in this world will disappear, good luck. I only remember one truly funny scene in The Lost Hero, whereas almost every monster that Percy encountered made me laugh. CAN'T WAIT for the next book! (This book is too long. It helped me reach the conclusion that many students have tried to tell me, longer is NOT better.)

Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson - I have the highest regard for all other books written by this author, just not this book. The protagonist's struggles about college seem (to me) completely within her control to resolve, and her neighbor was the proverbial kitchen sink, as if the book said, "This girl really doesn't have a problem, so throw in some real problems and see what happens." Why bother? Just write a story about the neighbor girl, skip this whiney, self-important, angst-ridden (for not many good reasons) teen. I struggled with the difficult subject matters in Speak and Wintergirls (see review below), but those stories and characters gripped me from beginning to end, and there were very real and honest questions to answer. I was mostly indifferent to Catalyst, which means it was a waste of time.

Marriage on the Street Corners of Tehran by Nadia Shahram who is a local attorney and advocate for Muslim women - absolutely GREAT work of fiction that is based true facts and 100 interviews the writer conducted in Iran a few years ago. A coworker organized a book group to read then meet the writer during a bookstore reading. If you have the least bit of interest in this subject matter, please find the book and read it!

Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher - I have been curious about the many banned and challenged Young Adult books and writers that I didn't already know, and this book came across my path. The "small town high school misfits band together as swim team" story is FANTASTIC but very raw, the protagonist engaging, smart, and funny, and I wish I read more books like this (instead of Catalyst, which addresses similar topics but pales in comparison). Considering the harsh subjects contained within (domestic violence, racial violence, homicide, profanity, just to name a few), I haven't recommended it to any of 7th or 8th grade students yet, but I have shared it with colleagues.

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. Just like Speak, Fever 1793, and Chains, the subject matter (anorexia and mental illness in general) did NOT appeal to me, but Anderson's writing brings the character to life, and the story seems very honest. I couldn't put down the book until I finished it, and one question burned in my mind while I read: what went wrong and how do I prevent this from happening to my 9 year old daughter?????

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson - It doesn't seem possible that I haven't mentioned this book before in this blog. I don't like to explain what this book is about because that would ruin the best suspense - I just want to say READ IT!

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater - sequel to Shiver is even better than the first book! To say "werewolf series" does not even come close to the essence of this story. It's one hundred times better than Twilight, much shorter (see what I mean about length?), slower pace, lovely blend of poetry into prose narrative.

Am I done yet?! I don't know! But I have to stop writing this post to fix dinner! If I don't manage any more posts before the new year, I hope you all enjoy the rest of 2010!

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Snow day!!!!!!! Some activity choices:

- Read Boneshaker by Cherie Priest. I started last night, seems promising. (Btw, Cherie Priest is a very cool name for a writer of steampunk novels!)
- Keep up with flooding basement. Not sure what to do. Something about the sump pump.
- Christmas shop. No snow in my area or in direction of outlet mall.