Sunday, October 7, 2018

Reading (Paper) Books

A picture the 5yrold took from a Plants Vs. Zombies book
As you might have guessed, I like books. Even though my career as a primarily online writing teacher takes place on the computer screen, or perhaps because of that, I prefer paper books. I like to hold the book in my hand, turn the pages, make notes, and even just carry it around. I like to look at the books on our bookshelves and think about the books I've read and the ones my family has read. 

Sure, I've read some books on the Kindle app on my phone, especially since they are easier to carry on vacation. I can't say that I really enjoyed reading the books like that. 

Our child likes to hold his books, rearrange them on the shelves, sometimes put them out on the table to "play library" and make recommendations to us. The best part recently has been when he takes "grown-up" books off the shelf and looks at them. For a while, he was pulling down comic books and looking at them. Last week he noticed that we have cookbooks with pictures and recipes we could try. Sometimes he notices the art books and flips through the pages. 

Having physical books around make a difference for us and our child. In the New York Times Article, "Our (Bare) Shelves, Our Selves," Teddy Wayne writes, "Were I a teenager in 2015, I may not have found “Lovely Rita” or acquired an early taste at all for the Liverpudlian lads. The albums stacked up next to the record player, in plain sight for years, would be invisible MP3s on a computer or phone that I didn’t own. Their proximal existence could have been altogether unknown to me." Replace the albums for books and this is what we hope to offer to our child.

We read regularly to our child, sometimes choosing the books for him and mostly letting him choose the books. Since he's five, it is hard to model reading, at least serious reading, in such a way that he can watch us read. But he clearly likes his books and we enjoy reading with him. Sometimes we can read a page or two of our own books together. One day we'll be able to read much more. 

His favorite series right now is Plants Vs. Zombies. I honestly find them hard to read and follow, but he loves them. He'll look at the pages himself, ask us to read them, and then he takes pictures of the pages, acts them out and draws some of the characters and new scenes. Since we're in the camp that any reading is good reading, we encourage this by taking the these books out of the library.

If you're looking for recommendations, you might follow me on Goodreads or visit your local, independent bookstore or library. A Mighty Girl has great kids' books recommendations and Common Sense Media is also helpful. 

Do you read paper or e-books? Share your thoughts in the comments section. 

More on reading paper books and keeping books at home: 

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

ICYI: The Birthday Tradition That Costs Nothing, But Means Everything

Thanks to Scary Mommy for publishing my piece, "The Birthday Tradition That Costs Nothing, But Means Everything." For five years now, we've been keeping a birthday letter throughout the year for our son. We write down not only the places we go and the things we do, but also funny things he says, what he's interested in and more.

Click through to read the whole piece. 

Monday, September 24, 2018

Walking Out @ 1 pm

Sexual misconduct and assault happen regularly to women. This has been the cost of being born and living as female in the United States.

I don't want it to be like this for the next generation.

Today at 1 PM I'm walking out.

I'm walking out because I don't want our daughters to grow up afraid and told to: check the back seat of her car before getting in; avoid empty subway cars; sit near the bus driver just in case; think twice about entering into a car alone if someone is sitting alone in the next car; never tell anyone on the phone that she is "home alone;" check behind the shower curtain in a hotel; carry keys between clenched fingers if she is out in the dark; think twice about wearing a pony-tail that someone could grab; take self defense classes; stop being hysterical, avoid wearing any clothes that might be interpreted as, "asking for it"; check a quiet public bathroom before going into a stall; be aware of anyone anywhere near her; accept anything from someone who might think that means she is saying, "yes" to sex; smile; not smile; never travel alone; stick with friends after dark; know her place; watch her drink; stop being a bitch, avoid eating out alone; avoid running alone; stop being so aggressive; avoid going into a store alone; avoid groups of men on the street; avoid a single man standing on the street; avoid listening to headphones; avoid looking at her phone; avoid eye contact; make eye contact so "they think you are human;" not ruin the good man's life (#whyIdidn'treport).

What if our sons grow up learning to: treat other people, especially women, with respect; ask for consent; never, ever hurt anyone; take responsibility for anything they do; believe women when they speak their experiences.

Information from Facebook:
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez have bravely come forward and shared their stories about sexual misconduct and assault at the hands of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Even though Dr. Blasey Ford has repeatedly stated her desire to testify and bravely share her story, Senate Republicans are doing everything they can to shame, bully, and force her to testify under their unacceptable, inappropriate conditions.

At 1 p.m. EST Monday, join us for a national walk-out to show our support for Dr. Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez. All you need to do is wear black and walk out - of your home, your office, your classroom, wherever you are - and post a picture to your social media with the hashtag #BelieveSurvivors.

If you can’t walk out, you can show your support by posting a video or a picture to this event. Help spread the word: we believe Dr. Blasey Ford. We believe Deborah Ramirez. We believe survivors. And we won’t stand for Senate Republicans’ despicable attempts to strong-arm a sexual assault survivor.

If you're in Washington, D.C., join dozens of organizations in the Senate Hart Atrium at 12:30 pm EST. At 1pm EST, we'll walk out of the atrium to the Supreme Court for a National Speakout.

The event is co-hosted by:
Alliance for Justice
Alianza Nacional De Campesinas
Be A Hero
Center for Biological Diversity
Constitutional Accountability Center (CAC)
Center For American Progress Action Fund
Center for Reproductive Rights
CREDO Mobile
End Rape on Campus
Girls for Gender Equity - GGE
Know Your IX
Indivisible Guide
Jobs With Justice
Justice for Migrant Workers, J4MW
Lambda Legal
Legal Aid at Work
Me Too Movement
NARAL Pro-Choice America
National Alliance to End Sexual Violence
National Domestic Workers Alliance
National Organization for Women (NOW)
National Partnership for Women & Families
National Women's Law Center
People For the American Way
Planned Parenthood Action
Progressive Turnout Project
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
The National Center for Lesbian Rights
The National Women's Health Network
The Opportunity Agenda
The United State of Women
Women's March

For more: 
5 Ways to Raise Boys Who Truly Understand Sexual Consent
A Mighty Girl
Not that Bad by Roxane Gay

Monday, September 17, 2018

Writing As Process

Close up of drawn apples with numbers and letters in the center.
The Kindergartener has colored some in with  different colors
and drawn a frame around them in yellow. 

Our Kindergartener is learning how to write letters by first learning to control his marks on paper. There are coloring and tracing exercises. Sometimes he writes uppercase and lowercase letters. The focus is on practicing and learning through repetition and approaching the material from different angles. I don't think anyone is telling him he's done something wrong, only to continue on and try his best. The focus is on the writing process rather than the outcome. Watching him play with crayons, markers and pencils on blank paper and worksheets reminds me of how artists create.

A focus on process is a good approach to take when you draft a new piece of writing or even edit something you've gone over many times. By lessening the importance of the final product, you might learn something new by looking at it differently. Try rewriting a piece in the second person or the first person if you wrote it in the third person. Change the tense to the past tense if you started in the present tense. Maybe you could try to take someone else's point of view. These exercises, whether they end up in the final piece or not, are all a part of the writing process.

No writer becomes famous if their work remains unpublished. There are good reasons to prize final drafts. But we should also prize how we arrived at that final draft. The active process of writing, revising, renewing and reviewing our work is a part of the final process, even if it is invisible to a reader.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Telling Your Story

Frame Designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany c. 1905 - 1920 from the Metropolitan Museum's art in the public domain 

Dear Reader:
I'm going to make some assumptions about you. 1. You've had at least one argument in your life. 2. After that argument, you and the other person disagreed about how the argument went.
I thought so. Most of us have been in that situation more times than we want to admit.

How can you avoid this happening in the world you create on the page? It is your job to craft sentences, plot and tone that lead the reader through the same journey you intended, not the one that she set out to have. Sure, every reader will enter your piece with her own experiences and biases, but you want to do your best to make your writing as clear as possible.

Let's say your character is sick, dropped her car off for service, went to the pharmacy, and then waited for a ride home in the rain. You might say that this character is having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Or, maybe instead of simply stating what happened, you can add in some texture that makes it clear the character is happy she has a job to pay for her car service and medicine, not to mention is excited to try out her new raincoat. Adding more details will help to clarify the character's mindset and experience, which is information that teaches the reader more about the character and the piece's overall plot.

This isn't just a "cup half-empty" discussion, but a scene-setting exercise. You can use tone and description to present a series of events (the plot) in a number of ways. It is all about how you frame the events themselves.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Monday, August 27, 2018

Upcoming Book Festivals in the Washington, D.C., area

Pile of picture books, mostly from the DC Public Library system,
by authors who will be at the National Book Festival.

I'm excited about the upcoming book festivals in the D.C. area. This will be the first year that I take our child, now five, to hear some of the children's book authors at the National Book Festival. We've been reading some of the authors and are excited to hear Dan Santat read. Maybe we'll see you there? 

Below are the links to the upcoming National Book Festival and the Fall for the Book Festival. For more area readings, check out the Folger Shakespeare Library's O.B. Hardison Poetry Series 2018 - 2019,  and Politics and Prose Bookstore's events, as well as Beltway Poetry Quarterly for more listings. 

What readings are you excited about attending this fall?

Saturday, September 1 at the Washington Convention Center. 

October 10 - 13 at George Mason University and other Northern Virginia locations