Friday, November 23, 2012

The Master's Master Class

The master's master class
The commonest [tool] of all, the bread of writing, is vocabulary.
Stephen King
On Writing:  A Memoir of the Craft

I've never really read a Stephen King novel--perhaps a short story or two; horror is just not my genre.  But you cannot argue with the sheer  volume of his body of work, nor his sales numbers.  So, it's not surprising that Stephen King's autobiography would tell a great story.  There's more to the story than just the story.  Like the teacher that he once was, King's memoir includes a master class on the craft of writing.

Like all good teachers, King demystifies writing.  He admits it is hard work; with hard work, at some point, it becomes craft.  In addition to word choice, King offers advice on grammar, sentence structure, and storytelling.  He lays the foundation for each skill, offers exemplars, then goes onto the next.  By the time you're through, you cannot wait to apply the lessons King has so generously offered.

Just prior to King's memoir, I had read William Zinsser's classic about writing non-fiction:  On Writing Well.  It was an interesting comparison because I found King echoing much of Zinsser's straightforward advice, especially on adverbs--avoid them.  Any writer would do well to consider that, and the rest of their advice.

Do I recommend this book?  Of course.  Buy it.  Keep it.  Mark in it.  Read it again, and again.  Then write.

Friday, October 19, 2012

A Year in a Garden

Why did I not read this book sooner?  Beautifully illustrated, and perceptively written, Montrose:  life in a garden by Nancy Goodwin is a gardener's joy.  More than a botany primer for gardeners, it is a journey of the joys and frustrations experienced by one of America's premier gardeners in one of America's premier gardens.  Goodwin's journal is informative and engaging, and Ippy Patterson's sweet illustrations grace many pages.  It's a beautiful book with a beautiful soul.  It has earned a place on my bookshelf.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Meeting New Old Friends

A good read on any day!

What a fascinating, informative, and entertaining read!  More than just a gardening book, Lynn Coulter's Gardening with Heirloom Seeds tells the stories of Mother Nature's crown jewels before hybridization.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Book That Makes Me Want to Shout!

Speaking out
Read this book.  Period.  If you deal with introverts on a daily basis, read this book.  If you have a family member who is an introvert, read this book.  The book is Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain.  As a life-long introverted "nerd" (or "geek" or "egghead"--only a few of the intellectual epithets hurtled at me through the years), I have found in this book a strong sense of affirmation, finally, that I'm not weird. I, as well as other introverts, am different from the extroverts who look at introverts as if they're from a different world. We are from a different world; we are nourished by the world that lives in our heads. Extroverts just don't seem to "get it."

For too long, introverts have been characterized as weird and counterproductive in a society that rewards the talker, the shouter, the person with the most Facebook "friends," and the braggart.  This bias has left many introverts either (a) withdrawing permanently from society to a quiet place, or (b) effecting an extrovert facade so they can "pass" in the extrovert world.  If an introvert does (b), they must also do  (a)--at least sometimes-- or face serious health and emotional consquences.

Like the lawyer that she was, Cain builds her case for the legitimazation of introversion as an acceptable personality mode.  She cites new interpretations of existing research, new functional MRI (fMRI) research findings, as well as personal anecdotes in support of her thesis.  As a person whose careers (I'm on my third) required high levels of social interaction, I found the story of Harvard professor Little especially salient (an introvert who teaching style is extroverted).  I, too, am "passing" as an extrovert.  Like Little, I can maintain the extrovert facade for a time, but must have silence to recharge. 

I am left wondering how this does pertain to education.  While anyone who thinks that the purpose of education is to produce industrial workers is just NOT paying attention, the encroachment of business theory into education is undeniable.  Cooperative learning is championed because the "research" affirms the practice and, coincidentally, that's how business is perceived to work.  (It doesn't really work that way in my experience.)  Educators may give lip service to the value of individual achievement, but loud, busy classrooms, coupled with a near-abandonment of homework (hopefully done in a quiet environment), leave the introverted students in a state of frustration.  I do believe in the value of multi-sensory, active learning, but, as an introverted student, I often found myself wishing the teachers and other students would just leave me alone so I could explore, process, and synthesize the subjects at hand.  When can the introverts in the classroom do that???????

As much as I am bolstered by her argument, I find its logic a bit too simplistic in the sense that she ascribes to introverts an intellectual bent that I don't always see.  She claims that introverts seek out intellectual and emotion intimacy, but many seem to have given up hope of finding it.  She also seems to treat extroverts as more shallow than I've experienced.

So, I'm sharing this book with my friends and family.  The introverts need the affirmation, and, maybe the extroverts will finally acknowledge that the introverts actually need the quiet time they so desperately avoid.

See Susan Cain's TED talk here.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Bounty of Wisdom

Women of the HarvestToday, women are the fastest-growing group of people buying and operating small farms.  While the number of American farms has dropped 14 percent in the past 25 years, the number of farms operated by women has increased 86 percent!  At this rate, some predict that within another 10 years, women may own as much as 75 percent of the farmland in the United States.
~MaryJane Butters in Women of the Harvest:  Inspiring Stories of Contemporary Farmers

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Divine Miracle of Humanity

The Jesus We Missed : The Surprising Truth About the Humanity of Christ, Patrick Henry ReardonAn adequate Christology, then, affirms that the Word's becoming flesh refers to more than the single instant of his becoming present in the Virgin's womb.  He continued becoming . . . a particular human life. (28)
Patrick Henry Reardon
The Jesus We Missed:  The Surprising Truth About the Humanity of Christ

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Filling in the Blanks

Just when you think all the territory has been covered for Holocaust novels, along comes Ann Clare LeZotte's 2008 poetic novel T4