Monday, October 29, 2012

End of October Updates

Well, it’s almost the end of October, and to be honest, I’m grateful. I’m about to have a lot more time to devote to not only the blogs (Which means I could finally respond to your comments! So sorry it’s taking so long), but the Facebook page, Etsy, booking shows, writing, submitting works, etc.

Here’s what’s currently going on:

- Continuance of the Senior Seminar posts with the addition of plotting my final paper
- Figuring out my school plan (so close to done!)
- Show prep for the 4th Annual Romeo’s Lion’s Club Craft and Vendor show (Please feel free to come!)
- Been doing NaNoWriMo prep! Come back November 1st when I discuss my prep work and keep an eye out for updates in throughout the month.
    - Feel free to add me as a Writing Buddy  on the site so we can compare,  contrast, and commiserate .   
- I’ll soon be posting more actual fiction pieces from poetry to short plays to stories, all of which may be read via Youtube if you’re unlucky enough.
- The Facebook page will be more friendly for commission options (showing more item options and customization options) as well as just showing more projects and images of finished products.
- Tentative Cooker will be getting more updates, despite the current neglect. Apple Chili any one?

I’m sure there’s more, there always is, but these  are the definite things to look forward to as we go into November. October was a long month with very little updates to here or the Facebook page. That just happens sometimes when life competes for attention. See you more soon!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Adult Writers: Teaching our Youth (Week 8)

First off, let me apologize for my rambling, maybe a bit off-kilter blog last week. After two 10-11 hour works days in a row and balancing the rest of the week, occasionally add up to really late night and spaced out blogging. Tonight might not be too much better: I've been fighting a migraine since last night and can't seem to shake this throbbing in my head. However, at least it won't be 3 AM, and baby, I'm not lonely.

Alright, enough with the 90s song references.

Like most of the literature we've read so far in my Senior Seminar course, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor is not the stereotypical children's book. When we think children's literature, we think Dr. Seuss and See Spot Run and The Bernstein Bears collections, but in reality, those aren't
really what children read and if we think about it, we know that. We all read books like Little House on the Prairie and  The American Girl book Collections. So why do these come to mind and not books like Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry which is focused on the racism in a small town?

Maybe it's because we see childhood as a world of innocence that we would rather not tarnish. All we want to see is Spot chasing after his ball, but children are looking for more in their literature. People writing for children understand this. Kelly McDowell states early on in her article ("Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry: A Culturally Specific, Subversive Concept of Child Agency"), that an "adult writer" instructs "the child how the adult world desires her to be" (Pg. 214) through their works. We discussed the same thing when it came to faery tales and it still rings true in modern works. We've seen it in Little House when Laura questions the world and is considered the bad one and Mary, who is subservient and quiet, is considered the good one.

I could point out in everything we've read that could children learn (including disembowelment and thievery), but in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry I think children learn a much harsher lesson than in the other books. They learn the terror of racism in a descriptive and powerful manner. Men get burned to death and lynchings are barely avoided let alone the fact that children on the end of ugly teasing (harassment?) dig a ditch to trap a bus full of children in it. Through out this book violence and vulgarity seem to breed the same. The characters on either side of the race argument are tearing at one another in any way the kind in a small town civil war of sorts. These are hard things for children to handle and a part of me wonders what they take out of this book. Is it violence as an answer? Or do they see the destruction in the hate and seek out ways to handle society in a productive manner? I like to think the author is pointing out how the world shouldn't be, but will children take it that way?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Rewriting Our Past [Or maybe just a rabbling notion about historical children's literature] (Week 7)

As much as I've enjoyed our last two weeks of class reading, which included Laura Ingalls's Little House on the Prairie and Louise Erdrich's The Birchbark House, I can't help, but wonder about how rewriting history (in this case, their families' past in a fictional format) does to our understanding of the events. Do they actually help children learn about the times and question them? Or rather, do they mask the issues children need to learn? More importantly: Are they really a child's story? Or just grown-ups playing make believe?

Roni Natov seems to cover this as she can in her article Child Power in Louise Erdrich's Fiction for Children. She very fittingly points out that children can understand more than we give them credit for, saying, "Children are aware of much that goes on outside their ability to articulate and evaluate complex problems".  Natov also points out that in Little House, Laura does ask the hard questions about the territory they live in (if it's Native American land, if the government will make the Native Americans move, etc). However, Ingalls was an infant at the time this actually happen, meaning when she "rewrote" her past, she added these adult questions. Erdrich's situation in writing isn't much different, but she makes a much different decision in how she portrays a childhood knowledge of the world, the "child's power" as Roni points it out to be.

Erdrich shows how children do comprehend: not through the same words adults would, but by instinct and feeling. Omakayas, our main character, doesn't necessarily know what adults are talking about or what really is happening, but she does know when it's important or not. Once she notes it's importance, she holds onto it and finds herself referring back to it. While both are children's actions, this one seems much more childlike than Ingalls's version of herself in her series of books.

It is difficult, understandably so, to write from a child's perspective. It seems especially hard to do so while telling a historical tale that gives all the information of the time. It's much easier when one is writing from a child's perspective for adults, like John Connelly seems to do on a regular basis, or when one writes purely for children, like most children's books.

For those interested in writing from a child's perspective, here are a few links to help: 
Best Line: 
"Furthermore even if the writer does a very, very fine job of imitating a child, there will almost inevitably come a point where something rings false; a word or a phrase or a thought will be wrong or very difficult to attribute to a child. "

 Child Narrator's in Adult Fiction
Take note of the suggestions of where to pull the ideas and look at the long list of recommended reading (which even includes the child narrator's age). The format is a bit messy, but worth the long read.

How to View the World from your Child's Perspective
  Not necessarily a traditional writing tips article, but think about it: if you can learn how to see through a child's eye than that's about as helpful as any writing tip when it comes to writing from a child's perspective.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Romeo and Juliet: Glorifying Suicide?

Recently in my Advanced Shakespeare class, we briefly mentioned Romeo and Juliet while in the process of our current project (Editing and modernizing The Merry Wives of Windsor). It was said that Romeo and Juliet "glorified" suicide and that since it was because of/for love, suicide is okay. I personally think that if we have to put a message on the suicides, that it is downplaying suicides. Romeo kills himself thinking that Juliet killed herself, which shows that Romeo was acting impulsively and rashly. That says that suicide should not be done without thought or by instinct. Then Juliet kills herself when she finds out Romeo has killed himself (because he thought Juliet killed herself when she didn't), this ultimately brings the families together. While the suicides do have a meaning in the long run, the only reason they do have a meaning is because it is so shocking and heartbreaking to the families. Which I don't necessarily think is "glorifying" suicide or making it a romantic notion. A shocking act leads to a large revelation normally and these suicides give Shakespeare the shocking act he was looking for. Much like getting a well deserved (and needed) slap to the face or kick in the rear.

Plus, would Shakespeare have been able to bring the families together other wise? If the two ran away together, each family would blame the other family's child for kidnapping, witchery, etc. It wouldn't be a tragedy if the two had a big marriage to bring the family together. With that ending, it would be done better as a comedy, but as currently written, it obviously does not fall into that Shakespearean category which means there must be death in the end.

Thoughts? Glorifying, not glorifying, doesn't matter? Could this end differently and still plausibly bring the families together?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Similarities in 20th Century Literature (Week 4)

Admittedly, Kim by Rudyard Kipling was much different from our earlier readings (fairy tales, script-like pieces, etc.), but not very surprising in general for the time period. This was the time of Peter Pan, Wizard of Oz and Anne of Green Gables. In fact, I spent the whole time reading it comparing it to other pieces of the time.

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett was one of the books. While this book was written a few years after Kim, they still have a quite a few similarities/parallels. While Kim is about an orphaned boy who is forced into a world of English lifestyle that he does not want (he would rather stay with the Tibetan Lama), A Little Princess is about a little English girl who goes to a bordering school while her father is a soldier, but when he dies the little girl is forced into being a house servant. Both are brought back to their original worlds by the end of the books, each having learned something different. The format is very much the similar. I’m sure I would find more similarities if I read them side by side.

There’s another similarity between books of the time that I pointed out at a very young age after my mother had read me a series of books (A Little Princess, Anne of Green Gables, and A Secret Garden):

“Does every book have mommies dying?”

And really they do: Kim, A Little Princess, Anne of Green Gables, A Secret Garden, Wizard of Oz, Peter Pan, etc. In each of these books, one or both parents have died leaving the children to deal with the deaths and the circumstances that follow in different  fashions. It is an interesting notion that might a variety of reasons behind them. It gives the main characters something that needs to be worked through emotionally, it gives reason to a change in circumstances, etc. 

Has any one else noticed this with reading from that era?

(While normally I add links, this time I was running a little short on time and did not. I'll place a book list later this week for those interested in these pieces. )