Wednesday, January 20, 2010


If you were a man named Tom (as in: the one who has a penchant for peeping) and you were clinging to the limb of our pear tree so as to better see into our house, you'd see a living definition of techno-spasia. It happens almost every night at our house. I wonder if it happens at yours. Here's how it goes:

After coming home from work, kids do homework, Jared pulls out the evening's toys, mom puts off her workout and instead starts dinner/grades papers/does a couple loads of laundry, and dad stokes the woodburners/chops wood/plays with Jared. After dinner and dishes are done, mom and kids retire to the family room to find dad already plugged in. Plugged into what? you may ask. Good question. The answer is headphones and youtube. Usually, an episode of something along the lines of Survivorman or Man vs. Wild. That seems to be the general signal for everyone else to follow suit. Lauren pops open her netbook and does some virtual window shopping. Jared gets sucked into either the TV or a video (current favorites: Dinotopia, Up, and Kung-Fu Panda). Mom often reads, but sometimes she finds facebook a magnet she can't deny. Jonah flutters between Jared's show and other pursuits, ostensibly waiting for me to finish with the computer so he can look up tips for lizard care and play computer games.

My question is: how many other families spend their evenings separately together? At least we're all in the same room; that should count for something. But we're following different pursuits. Some of us have plugged our ears with sound and we can't even participate in a conversation that may occur. But what else do we do? Despite Lauren's desperate wishes, we're not a board game family. We watch movies together often enough (maybe once a week). Is talking a requirement for family time, or do we get enough bonding at the dinner table--and during prep time and clean up?

I'm not really complaining, just wondering, is all...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A confession

Have you ever noticed that sharing guilty pleasures is okay in some circles and taboo in others? I guess it depends on the guilty pleasure. Good bread: most would agree. Chocolate: nothing to feel guilty about there. Wearing the happy pants as often as possible: certainly acceptable. But I have one guilty pleasure I have never shared with my fellow English teachers or with other writers. Why? They would laugh themselves silly at me. And I don't much like to be laughed at.
But it's a New Year, and I'm feeling brave. And I just got done re-reading one of my favorite series. So here goes: I LOVE reading fantasy. Good fantasy. And finally, I am not ashamed to admit it. Here are books that qualify as good fantasy, in my opinion (in no particular order):
1. The whole Deathgate Cycle by Weis and Hickman
2. Anything by Ursula leGuin, especially the Wizard of Earthsea series
3. Ditto for Jane Yolen
4. The Exiles series by Melanie Rawn (which I would like even better if she'd finish book three and publish it! I want answers, woman!)

5. Illusion by Paula Volsky
6. Madeleine l'Engle. Period.
7. The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper
8. Harry Potter. Seriously.
9. Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan

10. ANYTHING by Patricia McKillip (especially, though, Ombria in Shadow)
11. The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud

This is why I like fantasy. In any other fiction, the author can take for granted the fact that the reader has heard of the setting, has some general knowledge of place. The rules for that setting have been created; hence, the author needs only create plot and characters. (I say only as if this is an easy task; I know it's not EASY, but bear with me.) In fantasy, the author must not only create the plot and characters, she must also create the world. She must consider geography, social customs, food, names, history, racial tension, the rules of magic and so much else besides. Clothing, money, food, foreign languages, modes of transportation. It's amazing. And whilst juggling all these creative ideas, the writer of good fantasy (like those listed above) also are masters at plot and character development.
I don't know why my fellow teachers and writers turn up their noses at fantasy. Some say it's not "real" literature, that it is too new as a genre, that the plots are too predictable. Whatever. Hogwash.
And here's something better: I AM going to start writing again, and this time, it's going to be fantasy. So there. I have been percolating an idea (percolating: I want more coffee) for a few months now, and I think it's past time to dust off my new notebook and get back to writing.
Keep me honest, dear readers. Check in on me. And thanks for listening.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


...oh, sorry...did you say something? I can't hear you...too busy reading...