Archive for the ‘Culture & Education’ Category

Anne of Avonlea (Anne of Green Gables, #2)Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this as much as the first in the series. While Anne is now older and not nearly so humorous a character (after all, as a schoolma’am she must act in a somewhat reserved fashion)–except for a hilarious predicament she gets herself into involving a china platter and a less than stable roof–the author has introduced some new characters–chiefly the little boy, Davy–to fill the bill. Montgomery certainly has an understanding of little boys and not necessarily the stereotyped version. I loved how life-like the characters of both Davy and Paul were and yet they had almost nothing in common. The romance in the story came somewhat unexpectedly and in unforeseen places, but the ending was perfect and only left me wanting to read the next in the series.

One more note: This is a story that will appeal to anyone, but is a particular must-read for those about to begin teaching for the first time. Several passages contain words of comfort and/or wisdom for first-time teachers looking with a good deal of trepidation at having to face (alone) a classroom of strange little people for the first time.

View all my reviews

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I’d forgotten how enriching the words of J.K. Rowling could be until the recent surge of interest in her new Pottermore website led me, inadvertently, to a commencement speech she gave three years ago at Harvard. As I listened to that speech, I came to understand far better why the scope of good and evil in her Harry Potter series rang so true…and why the ultimate victory at the end of each book of good over evil was so empowering to me as a reader. If you haven’t yet heard her speech, here it is:

J.K. Rowling Speaks at Harvard Commencement from Harvard Magazine on Vimeo.

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I am not an artist. I think I had potential as a child, but I pursued language instead. (By language, I mean writing.) I have tremendous admiration for those who can do both, for both are forms of storytelling. I love this video in which David Wiesner explains his creative process. Wiesner is a three-time Caldecott medalist and he was named Illustrator of the Year at last night’s Children’s Choice Book Awards. This video shows how art can lead to story and words:

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When you send out queries, it’s a very good idea to research your targeted agents as much as possible. There are two reasons for this:

1) You want to show the agent you’ve done your homework and find some little tidbit or morsel of information that will tie your work to her/him in particular so that she/he will be inclined to ask for a partial, if not a full.

2) You want to find out if this is really the right agent for you.

Now, while the first reason is important, in the long run the second reason is what matters most. Is this a person you can really connect with? Do you share similar interests or standards professionally, if not personally? Will there be mutual respect? And even…do you speak the same language? (Notice how this is beginning to sound like a search for a marriage partner. I’ll be blogging more about that on Friday over at ANWA Founder & Friends.)

In all of my research the past few weeks, I came up with a particularly interesting possibility for me, given my experience with the Middle East and intention to write more novels based on that experience. So I dug deeper into some of her blog postings and found a hidden treasure. Besides her interest in that part of the world, Jessica Papin of Dystel & Goderich has a thing for unusual words and she expanded my vocabulary in one of her posts. How many of you have heard of the word reify? (To save you the trouble of looking it up, it means “make (something abstract) more concrete or real.” She wrote:

Whenever I run across it, in a reaction either Proustian or Pavlovian, I am instantly transported back to the days when, as a distraction from wrestling with the works of theorists whose books appeared to be in English but were not, I kept a running list of words that seldom occur outside of graduate school. My favorite was “reify,” but others included “problematic” when used as a noun, or “problemetize” (a verb); “vexed” (usually describing an idea), e.g.”The narrative is a vexed one…” foreground” but only as a verb, as in “I’d like to foreground the problematic…”and “fraught” but only when unaccompanied by “with,” as in “The text is fraught.”

Perhaps I should spend less time researching agents and more time studying the dictionary.

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While I can’t afford to attend this next one, the American Night Writers Association is putting on a pretty impressive writers conference in February, and I encourage all of you writers (LDS or not) to check out the list of presenters. If you’re as impressed as I was, and either live nearby or can afford to travel, please consider registering. Here are all the particulars:

The 2010 ANWA Writers Conference, Saturday, February 27, 2010.

Open to all writers

Register at http://anwa-lds.com/conference.html

The Best Western Dobson Ranch Inn

1666 South Dobson Road

Mesa AZ 85202-5699

480-831-7000 or 1-800-528-1356


If you are serious about your writing, and ready for the next step,

this is the place to be!

J. Scott Savage, author of the “Farworld” Series is the Keynote speaker.

Other presenters are:

Aprilynne Pike, New York Times best-selling Author of “Wings”

Doug Johnston, Publicist Extraordinaire

Nancy E. Turner, Author of “These is My Words”

Dr. Pamela Goodfellow, Writing Coach, Editor and Owner of Goodfellow Publishing Services

Sara Fujimura, Author and Magazine Writer

Helen Bair, Counselor and Author of “Finding the Healer in Me”

Arizona’s very own illustrious Marsha Ward, author of the “Owen Family” Series and experienced in e-book publications

Book signings at end of conference

For writers travelling a far distance, follow these instructions for hotel reservations at a special ANWA Writer’s Conference discount at “Dobson Ranch Inn”


Call our Front Desk toll-free – 1-800-528-1356.

Refer to either Group Name: “ANWA” or Group Number: 804341

This will allow our staff to make your reservations for you to receive the ANWA Conference group rate.

Internet (available to book online starting Wednesday, Dec 9)

Go to the hotel website at www.dobsonranchinn.com

At the bottom of the  “Reserve Your Stay” box, click on “Groups”

Enter the password – ANWA-Dec

Complete your reservation

For questions contact, the ANWA 2010 Conference Chair Person, Cindy R. Williams at cindywilliams@q.com or

Conference Registrar, Krista Darrach at kristadarrach@yahoo.com

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My daughter is majoring in Elementary Education at BYU. Now, according to her former elementary school principal in Riverside, California (who is not a member of the church), she gets some of her best teachers from BYU, so I’m not one to second guess their program.

However, I have long felt that our entire education system needs a major overhaul because we educate our kids as if one size fits all…and that’s not the way they come! These days, particularly, with all the emphasis we put on standardized testing and teaching to those tests, we are turning off the creative juices in so many of our young people.

I’m fortunate. I found my creative outlets early (writing, music, and drama) and happened to have two very creative parents who encouraged the arts in our home. But many children don’t have that kind of nurturing and so, as a society, we need to make certain that, at the very least, our schools don’t squelch whatever creative impulse exists in the minds and bodies of our youth.

Please watch this video of a presentation by Sir Ken Robinson, an expert in creativity, at the 2006 TED Conference to better understand what I’m talking about. It takes 18 entertaining and very enlightening minutes…well worth the time!

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Over the past two months, I have gotten back into my reading mode. This means the TV has been on less (a LOT less since the Writers Retreat a couple of weeks ago)–a good thing. But it also means my husband is still not getting the attention he deserves–not so good. (I WILL make it up to him.) I haven’t neglected my son, though, because every afternoon, as part of his homework, I read to him.

We got through To Kill A Mockingbird (what a classic!) and are now in the middle of Black Like Me (I never read that in high school…that’s what comes of finishing high school overseas, away from America’s race problem). I love reading aloud, just like my mother, only I believe I do it better, complete with accents and different voices for each character. But this past month has had its challenges in terms of language.

I have about had my fill of the Deep South, what with Jason’s assigned reading and my completion of this year’s release, The Help (about black maids in Mississippi during the 60’s, when everyone was in an uproar over civil rights). All three books included swear words. Reading The Help to myself, I could easily skip over such offensive language, but reading the other two books aloud to Jason has proven challenging. Try as I might, when I come to those words in the text, I can’t help pausing slightly. Do I censor or don’t I? As an author, the idea of censorship is disturbing. I am not one of those LDS mothers who refused to allow my son to read Of Mice and Men at the beginning of the school year. After all, they teach it at BYU. So, when we began reading the much tamer To Kill A Mockingbird, I forged ahead, enunciating every word in my fake southern drawl.

But Black Like Me has been more of a challenge. I have come to several passages where I simply wanted to skip ahead, if not for language, then for content. At first, inevitably, my son picked up on my hesitation and jumped up to see the offending words for himself before I could move on. Often, I was relieved to hear him suggest a less offensive alternative. But now that we’ve entered the portion of the account in which the writer has to unwillingly endure sexual conversation with white men, I’ve become very adept at skipping whole phrases, sentences, even paragraphs without hesitation (the trick is in using your Southern accent to draw out a word while you scan ahead). Censorship or not, these are things my son does not need to know to be fully informed of what it meant to be a black man back then.

Leaving the deep South, I moved on to familiar territory for my personal reading last month: World War II. I’m not sure why, but I’ve always been fascinated by the European part of that conflict. So I read the highly acclaimed epistolary novel, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I’ll admit it took the first third of the book before I finally began to feel hooked. After all, it was nothing but letters. Gradually, though, those letters revealed the whole story of this group of Britons and their dealings with the Germans…and in a very captivating way.

After returning from the Writers Retreat a couple of weeks ago, I was ready for something new. Anything but the book I’ve been trying to slog through during the course of the last year–Galileo’s Daughter. I was never good at science and it shows every time I pick up where I last left off in that book! It requires absolute silence and no interruptions, so I’m waiting for my husband’s next business trip to Hawaii in a week and a half to finish the final two thirds of the book.

Fortunately, I came home from the retreat with three books to read. The first was actually the galley proofs for Dawn’s Early Light, the third in a series by Laurie LC Lewis. It’s coming out by early November, so I got to reading it right away. It was engrossing and I finished it in about five days. I plan on reviewing it here tomorrow on my blog.

Perhaps the most compelling book I’ve read recently was one I finished today. It will no doubt have LDS blogs in an uproar in the weeks to come. It’s a memoir by 27-year-old Elna Baker, who is a stand-up Mormon comedian in New York City, and it’s titled The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance. I am certain it will offend some (maybe even many), but I challenge anyone to show me a book written by a member of the Church that is more truthful, particularly with regard to the YSA scene. The way she describes that visceral pull between the world and her faith is often humorous, sometimes poignant, and no holds barred. If you’re not bothered by some bad language and frank talk of longings for intimacy, then it would be easily worth your time.

Now, I need to read the first draft of a YA fantasy by Bonnie Harris (a good friend I made at the retreat), as well as Marsha Ward’s Trail of Tears and Liz Adair’s Counting the Cost (nominated for a 2009 Whitney Award).

Then I’ve always got a slew of other books, including three by Barbara Kingsolver, to get through. I hope my eyes last!

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