Monthly Archives: September 2013

The Case for Good Taste in Children’s Books – (reprinted by permission)

It has been very hard for me to “buckle down” and “just write”, likely because I feel used up in one way or another almost every day. I’m trying to get back into blogging more because I enjoy it and because I hope I’m posting things of help to you, my readers.

The following article is long but one worth sharing, and I’m doing so with permission. You can check out the publication in which it’s printed: here.

PLEASE NOTE: THIS ARTICLE IS NOT INTENDED FOR YOUNG READERS BECAUSE OF SOME OF ITS CONTENT.

The Case for Good Taste in Children’s Books MEGHAN COX GURDON has been the children’s book reviewer for the Wall Street Journal since 2005. Her work has also appeared in numerous other publications, including the Washington Post, the Washington Examiner, the San Francisco Chronicle, National Review, and the Weekly Standard. In the 1990s, she worked as an overseas correspondent in Hong Kong, Tokyo, and London, and traveled and reported from Cambodia, Somalia, China, Israel, South Korea, and Northern Ireland. She graduated magna cum laude from Bowdoin College in 1986 and lives near Washington, D.C., with her husband and their five children.The following is adapted from a speech delivered at Hillsdale College on March 12, 2013, sponsored by the College’s Dow Journalism Program.ON JUNE 4, 2011, the number one trending topic on Twitter was the Anthony Weiner scandal. I happen to remember that, because the number two topic on Twitter that day—almost as frenzied, though a lot less humorous—had to do with an outrageous, intolerable attack on Young Adult literature . . . by me. Entitled “Darkness Too Visible,” my article discussed the increasingly dark current that runs through books classified as YA, for Young Adult—books aimed at readers between 12 and 18 years of age—a subset that has, in the four decades since Young Adult became a distinct category in fiction, become increasingly lurid, grotesque, profane, sexual, and ugly.Books show us the world, and in that sense, too many books for adolescents act like funhouse mirrors, reflecting hideously distorted portrayals of life. Those of us who have grown up understand that the teen years can be fraught and turbulent—and for some kids, very unhappy—but at the same time we know that in the arc of human life, these years are brief. Today, too many novels for teenagers are long on the turbulence and short on a sense of perspective. Nor does it help that the narrative style that dominates Young Adult books is the first person present tense—“I, I, I,” and “now, now, now.” Writers use this device to create a feeling of urgency, to show solidarity with the reader and to make the reader feel that he or she is occupying the persona of the narrator. The trouble is that the first person present tense also erects a kind of verbal prison, keeping young readers in the turmoil of the moment just as their hormones tend to do. This narrative style reinforces the blinkers teenagers often seem to be wearing, rather than drawing them out and into the open.

Bringing Judgment

The late critic Hilton Kramer was seated once at a dinner next to film director Woody Allen. Allen asked him if he felt embarrassed when he met people socially whom he’d savaged in print. “No,” Kramer said, “they’re the ones who made the bad art. I just described it.” As the story goes, Allen fell gloomily silent, having once made a film that had received the Kramer treatment.

I don’t presume to have a nose as sensitive as Hilton Kramer’s—but I do know that criticism is pointless if it’s only boosterism. To evaluate anything, including children’s books, is to engage the faculty of judgment, which requires that great bugbear of the politically correct, “discrimination.” Thus, in responding to my article, YA book writers Judy Blume and Libba Bray charged that I was giving comfort to book-banners, and Publisher’s Weekly warned of a “danger” that my arguments “encourage a culture of fear around YA literature.” But I do not, in fact, wish to ban any books or frighten any authors. What I do wish is that people in the book business would exercise better taste; that adult authors would not simply validate every spasm of the teen experience; and that our culture was not marching toward ever-greater explicitness in depictions of sex and violence.

Books for children and teenagers are written, packaged, and sold by adults. It follows from this that the emotional depictions they contain come to young people with a kind of adult imprimatur. As a school librarian in Idaho wrote to her colleagues in my defense: “You are naïve if you think young people can read a dark and violent book that sits on the library shelves and not believe that that behavior must be condoned by the adults in their school lives.”

What kind of books are we talking about? Let me give you three examples—but with a warning that some of what you’re about to hear is not appropriate for younger listeners.

A teenaged boy is kidnapped, drugged, and nearly raped by a male captor. After escaping, he comes across a pair of weird glasses that transport him to a world of almost impossible cruelty. Moments later, he finds himself facing a wall of horrors, “covered with impaled heads and other dripping, black-rot body parts: hands, hearts, feet, ears, penises. Where the f— was this?”

That’s from Andrew Smith’s 2010 Young Adult novel, The Marbury Lens.

A girl struggles with self-hatred and self-injury. She cuts herself with razors secretly, but her secret gets out when she’s the victim of a sadistic sexual prank. Kids at school jeer at her, calling her “cutterslut.” In response, “she had sliced her arms to ribbons, but the badness remained, staining her insides like cancer. She had gouged her belly until it was a mess of meat and blood, but she still couldn’t breathe.”

That’s from Jackie Morse Kessler’s 2011 Young Adult novel, Rage.

I won’t read you the most offensive excerpts from my third example, which consist of explicit and obscene descriptions by a 17-year-old female narrator of sexual petting, of oral sex, and of rushing to a bathroom to defecate following a breakup. Yet School Library Journal praised Daria Snadowsky’s 2008 Young Adult novel, Anatomy of a Boyfriend, for dealing “in modern terms with the real issues of discovering sex for the first time.” And Random House, its publisher, gushed about the narrator’s “heartbreakingly honest voice” as she recounts the “exquisite ups and dramatic downs of teenage love and heartbreak.”

The book industry, broadly speaking, says: Kids have a right to read whatever they want. And if you follow the argument through it becomes: Adults should not discriminate between good and bad books or stand as gatekeepers, deciding what young people should read. In other words, the faculty of judgment and taste that we apply in every other area of life involving children should somehow vaporize when it comes in contact with the printed word.

I appeared on National Public Radio to discuss these issues with the Young Adult book author Lauren Myracle, who has been hailed as a person “on the front lines in the fight for freedom of expression”—as if any controversy over whether a book is appropriate for children turns on the question of the author’s freedom to express herself. Myracle made clear that she doesn’t believe there should be any line between adult literature and literature for young people. In saying this, she was echoing the view that prevails in many progressive, secular circles—that young people should encounter material that jolts them out of their comfort zone; that the world is a tough place; and that there’s no point shielding children from reality. I took the less progressive, less secular view that parents should take a more interventionist approach, steering their children away from books about sex and horror and degradation, and towards books that make aesthetic and moral claims.

Now, although it may seem that our culture is split between Left and Right on the question of permissiveness regarding children’s reading material, in fact there is not so much division on the core issue as might appear. Secular progressives, despite their reaction to my article, have their own list of books they think young people shouldn’t read—for instance, books they claim are tinged with racism or jingoism or that depict traditional gender roles. Regarding the latter, you would not believe the extent to which children’s picture books today go out of the way to show father in an apron and mother tinkering with machinery. It’s pretty funny. But my larger point here is that the self-proclaimed anti-book-banners on the Left agree that books influence children and prefer some books to others.

Indeed, in the early years of the Cold War, many left-wing creative people in America gravitated toward children’s literature. Philip Nel, a professor at Kansas State University, has written that Red-hunters, “seeing children’s books as a field dominated by women . . . deemed it less important and so did not watch it closely.” Among the authors I am referring to are Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss) and Ruth Krauss, author of the 1952 classic A Hole is to Dig, illustrated by a young Maurice Sendak. Krauss was quite open in her belief that children’s literature was an excellent means of putting left-wing ideas into young minds. Or so she hoped.

When I was a little girl I read The Cat in the Hat, and I took from it an understanding of the sanctity of private property—it outraged me when the Cat and Thing One and Thing Two rampaged through the children’s house while their mother was away. Dr. Seuss was probably not intending to inculcate capitalist ideas—quite the contrary. But it happened in my case, and the point is instructive.

Taste and Beauty

A recent study conducted at Virginia Tech found that college women who read “chick lit”—light novels that deal with the angst of being a modern woman—reported feeling more insecure about themselves and their bodies after reading novels in which the heroines feel insecure about themselves and their bodies. Similarly, federal researchers were puzzled for years by a seeming paradox when it came to educating children about the dangers of drugs and tobacco. There seemed to be a correlation between anti-drug and anti-tobacco programs in elementary and middle schools and subsequent drug and tobacco use at those schools. It turned out that at the same time children were learning that drugs and tobacco were bad, they were taking in the meta-message that adults expected them to use drugs and tobacco.

This is why good taste matters so much when it comes to books for children and young adults. Books tell children what to expect, what life is, what culture is, how we are expected to behave—what the spectrum is. Books don’t just cater to tastes. They form tastes. They create norms—and as the examples above show, the norms young people take away are not necessarily the norms adults intend. This is why I am skeptical of the social utility of so-called “problem novels”—books that have a troubled main character, such as a girl with a father who started raping her when she was a toddler and anonymously provides her with knives when she is a teenager hoping that she will cut herself to death. (This scenario is from Cheryl Rainfield’s 2010 Young Adult novel, Scars, which School Library Journal hailed as “one heck of a good book.”) The argument in favor of such books is that they validate the real and terrible experiences of teenagers who have been abused, addicted, or raped—among other things. The problem is that the very act of detailing these pathologies, not just in one book but in many, normalizes them. And teenagers are all about identifying norms and adhering to them.

In journalist Emily Bazelon’s recent book about bullying, she describes how schools are using a method called “social norming” to discourage drinking and driving. “The idea,” she writes, “is that students often overestimate how much other kids drink and drive, and when they find out that it’s less prevalent than they think—outlier behavior rather than the norm—they’re less likely to do it themselves.” The same goes for bullying: “When kids understand that cruelty isn’t the norm,” Bazelon says, “they’re less likely to be cruel themselves.”

Now isn’t that interesting?

Ok, you say, but books for kids have always been dark. What about Hansel and Gretel? What about the scene in Beowulf where the monster sneaks into the Danish camp and starts eating people?

Beowulf is admittedly gruesome in parts—and fairy tales are often scary. Yet we approach them at a kind of arm’s length, almost as allegory. In the case of Beowulf, furthermore, children reading it—or having it read to them—are absorbing the rhythms of one of mankind’s great heroic epics, one that explicitly reminds us that our talents come from God and that we act under God’s eye and guidance. Even with the gore, Beowulf won’t make a child callous. It will help to civilize him.

English philosopher Roger Scruton has written at length about what he calls the modern “flight from beauty,” which he sees in every aspect of our contemporary culture. “It is not merely,” he writes, “that artists, directors, musicians and others connected with the arts”—here we might include authors of Young Adult literature—“are in a flight from beauty . . . . There is a desire to spoil beauty . . . . For beauty makes a claim on us; it is a call to renounce our narcisissm and look with reverence on the world.”

We can go to the Palazzo Borghese in Rome and stand before Caravaggio’s painting of David with the head of Goliath, and though we are looking at horror we are not seeing ugliness. The light that plays across David’s face and chest, and that slants across Goliath’s half-open eyes and mouth, transforms the scene into something beautiful. The problem with the darker offerings in Young Adult literature is that they lack this transforming and uplifting quality. They take difficult subjects and wallow in them in a gluttonous way; they show an orgiastic lack of restraint that is the mark of bad taste.

Young Adult book author Sherman Alexie wrote a rebuttal to my article entitled, “Why the Best Kids Books are Written in Blood.” In it, he asks how I could honestly believe that a sexually explicit Young Adult novel might traumatize a teenaged mother. “Does she believe that a YA novel about murder and rape will somehow shock a teenager whose life has been damaged by murder and rape? Does she believe a dystopian novel will frighten a kid who already lives in hell?”

Well of course I don’t. But I also don’t believe that the vast majority of 12-to-18-year-olds are living in hell. And as for those who are, does it really serve them to give them more torment and sulphur in the stories they read?

The body of children’s literature is a little like the Library of Babel in the Jorge Luis Borges story—shelf after shelf of books, many almost gibberish, but a rare few filled with wisdom and beauty and answers to important questions. These are the books that have lasted because generation after generation has seen in them something transcendent, and has passed them on. Maria Tatar, who teaches children’s literature at Harvard, describes books like The Chronicles of Narnia, The Wind in the Willows, The Jungle Books, and Pinocchio as “setting minds into motion, renewing senses, and almost rewiring brains.”

Or as William Wordsworth wrote: “What we have loved/others will love, and we will teach them how.”

* * *

The good news is that just like the lousy books of the past, the lousy books of the present will blow away like chaff. The bad news is that they will leave their mark. As in so many aspects of culture, the damage they do can’t easily be measured. It is more a thing to be felt—a coarseness, an emptiness, a sorrow.

“Beauty is vanishing from our world because we live as if it does not matter.” That’s Roger Scruton again. But he doesn’t want us to despair. He also writes:

It is one mark of rational beings that they do not live only—or even at all—in the present. They have the freedom to despise the world that surrounds them and live another way. The art, literature, and music of our civilization remind them of this, and also point to the path that lies always before them: the path out of desecration towards the sacred and the sacrificial.

Let me close with Saint Paul the Apostle in Philippians 4:8:

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

And let us think about these words when we go shopping for books for our children.


Copyright © 2013 Hillsdale College. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the following credit line is used: “Reprinted by permission from Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College.” 

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Any comments? I’m interested in knowing your thoughts on this topic.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings! 🙂

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Are you up for a reading challenge?

Are you up for a challenge?

As you may know …

I   love   books.   I love to read books.   I love to collect books to read.

MY DISCOVERY

This week, when I did a search for the best books ever, I found a website with lists of books. Only lists of books!

Books you can’t live without.

Books that are best sellers.

Books that are the greatest of all time.

The list consists of a compilation of 13 lists of top 100 books, a list totalling 623 books! (It’s the odd number 623 because some titles were on more than one list so only mentioned once when the lists were condensed into one. Make sense?)

NOTE: Unfortunately, most of the 623 books are more for adults and only a few are for young readers.

I was disappointed and a little surprised to discover I have read only 21 books on that combined list! But, there are a few books I had started and didn’t finish (I have to dig those ones out and start over) and there are many more I want to read. 

I would be interested in knowing how you size up when it comes to what on the list you have read and if you plan to read others on there. Sooooo …. I decided to offer you a challenge!  Yes, a reading challenge!  Are you up for it?

Starting October 3, once a week a new part of the list will be here for you to see and let me know how you are doing. Until then I will be getting those posts of lists ready and scheduled. I also have set up the Milestone widget so you can see the notice and reminders of upcoming installments, and I will include links each week to past posts of the list in case you miss any.

I know this time of year is very busy for most of us, and I think we have to learn to de-stress. When you need a break for a little time to yourself what is better than curling up with a good book … even for fifteen minutes or half an hour?

Now that I think about it, I should take on this challenge myself! I have so many books on hand to read and some of them are on the list I will be sharing with you. Shall we do it?

Who is willing to join me in this reading challenge?

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings! 🙂

Sue Harrison’s “Writing the Third Dimension” – part 9: Sing out!

Welcome! Over the next many months we invite you to return here, specifically on the fourth Thursday of each month for the newest installment of Sue Harrison‘s teaching: Writing The Third Dimension. You can read all the segments by clicking on the page title WRITING THE THIRD DIMENSION, found under Writers’ Helps & Workshops on the drop-down menu. Please feel free to ask questions and leave comments for Sue. Now for the topic for month nine:

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“Writing the Third Dimension” – part 9: Sing Out!

Few things convey a writer’s skill more dramatically than Voice.  For something that is so important, Voice is difficult to define, but let me give it a try.  (You knew I would, right?) Voice is the “person” you hear talking in your head as you read a book.  I know that sounds rather strange, but that’s what Voice is to me – the narrator/storyteller/magic genie/ Pooh Bear/ crocodile who speaks to me from the pages. (Crocodile? Sorry. This was the best photo of a mouth that I could find…)

Gators_mouth

When a reader begins reading your novel, or agents or editors are taking that first look at your unpublished manuscript, a strong Voice will keep them reading past the first paragraph.

Here are a few quotes from authors who are gifted with strong Voices:

1.  “When Mary Lennox was sent to Misselthwaite Manor to live with her uncle everybody said she was the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen.” Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden. (A tongue-in-cheek sentence that foreshadows both the serious and the humorous sides of this classic children’s book. The lack of a comma after the word uncle carries a subtle message that this book and its characters don’t always obey the rules.)

2.   “Awake! For Morning in the Bowl of Night Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight: And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caught The Sultan’s Turret in a Noose of Light.” The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, translated by Edward Fitzgerald. (The meter and rhymes support the exotic, visual, and poetic nature of this work.)

3.  “Marley was dead, to begin with.  There is no doubt whatever about that.  The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner.”  A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. (Short to-the-point sentences and short phrases separated by commas tell the reader that the life portrayed in this novel is harsh, and that the writer is an honest man about to relate important facts and truths of life.)

So, how do we get there (writing with a strong Voice) from here (no Voice yet established)?

First, and most importantly, we need to decide what aura we hope to convey. Let’s consider the possibilities. Where is the novel set?  What type of speech will that location suggest to our readers? Do we want our readers to hear an accent in the narrator’s words?  Is the theme of the novel something soft or harsh? What is the genre? (Genres generally have a general type of voice. Detective novels often use a quick, to-the-point voice. Romances may have more flowery and flowing voices. However, exceptions sometimes make a novel noteworthy.)

Second, we should search out published books with a similar theme or setting or in the same genre. Then the fun part: read, read, read. Their words in our heads combined with our natural writing “personality” will help us choose the best devices to use as we develop our novel’s Voice.

Here’s a list of devices.  Long phrases or short phrases.  Lots of commas or a dearth of commas.  Long and short sentences and combinations thereof.  Alliteration of words; the rhythm of our sentences; creative punctuation. Fancy words, short words, old-fashioned sounding words, modern words, made-up words.  Short or long paragraphs. Following all the rules of grammar religiously, or breaking a few rules here and there. Contractions (casual) or no contractions (formal). I’m sure you can think of more.

With my first novel Mother Earth Father Sky, I spent a month working on the Voice and used my studies of Native American languages to help me establish a general rhythm (short, short, long — a poet would say “anapestic”) that follows Native speech patterns.

Then I wrote one page. I rewrote it until I liked it, and then I read that page out loud.  And rewrote again. And read it out loud again. For days, I worked on that one page until I knew that my narrator was “speaking” my novel with a distinct Voice that conveyed my theme, my setting, and my point-of-view characters’ mindsets. Then I printed out that page and kept it handy. Each time I sat down to write, I skimmed the page and settled that Voice back into my head. That’s what worked for me. Maybe it will work for you!

Any questions or comments? How do you develop a Voice for your work?

Sue

*Writing the Third Dimension, copyright, 2010 Sue Harrison*

Sue HarrisonBestselling author, Sue Harrison, has written two Alaska trilogies: The Ivory Carver Trilogy and The Storyteller Trilogy, and a middle readers’ book SISU. Prior to the publication of her novels, Harrison was employed at Lake Superior State University as a writer and acting director of the Public Relations Department and as an adjunct instructor in creative writing and advanced creative writing. For more information, click here. To inquire about booking Sue for workshops or speaking engagements this year, click here.

Thanks for joining us! Please feel free to leave your questions and comments. We invite you come back October 24, 2013, for part 10.

It’s Banned Books Week: here’s a list of 100 banned books

This is Banned Books Week. It seems the last time I posted anything about this was in 2010, so I think it is time to mention it again with a list of 100 banned books. I know if a book is banned … or challenged, as it is usually called in the USA … it is drawn into focus more than it would have been if left alone.

The following paragraph and list is from modernlibrary.com which you may wish to check out.

On July 21, 1998, the Radcliffe Publishing Course compiled and released its own list of the century’s top 100 novels, at the request of the Modern Library editorial board.

  1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  2. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  3. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  5. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  6. Ulysses by James Joyce
  7. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  8. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  9. 1984 by George Orwell
  10. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
  11. Lolita by Vladmir Nabokov
  12. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  13. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  14. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
  15. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  16. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  17. Animal Farm by George Orwell
  18. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  19. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
  20. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
  21. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  22. Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne
  23. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  24. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  25. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
  26. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  27. Native Son by Richard Wright
  28. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
  29. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  30. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
  31. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  32. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
  33. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
  34. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  35. Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
  36. Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin
  37. The World According to Garp by John Irving
  38. All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
  39. A Room with a View by E.M. Forster
  40. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  41. Schindler’s List by Thomas Keneally
  42. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
  43. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
  44. Finnegans Wake by James Joyce
  45. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
  46. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
  47. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
  48. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence
  49. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  50. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
  51. My Antonia by Willa Cather
  52. Howards End by E.M. Forster
  53. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  54. Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger
  55. The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
  56. Jazz by Toni Morrison
  57. Sophie’s Choice by William Styron
  58. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
  59. A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
  60. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
  61. A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor
  62. Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  63. Orlando by Virginia Woolf
  64. Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence
  65. Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe
  66. Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
  67. A Separate Peace by John Knowles
  68. Light in August by William Faulkner
  69. The Wings of the Dove by Henry James
  70. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  71. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  72. A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  73. Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
  74. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
  75. Women in Love by D.H. Lawrence
  76. Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe
  77. In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway
  78. The Autobiography of Alice B. Tokias by Gertrude Stein
  79. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
  80. The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer
  81. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
  82. White Noise by Don DeLillo
  83. O Pioneers! by Willa Cather
  84. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
  85. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
  86. Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad
  87. The Bostonians by Henry James
  88. An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
  89. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
  90. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  91. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  92. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
  93. The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles
  94. Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis
  95. Kim by Rudyard Kipling
  96. The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  97. Rabbit, Run by John Updike
  98. Where Angels Fear to Tread by E.M. Forster
  99. Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
  100. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

For someone who loves to read my record is poor: six I have read, seven I have seen as movies, eight I have on hand to read – four of those I started.

Have you read any of these? Do you agree with any of them being banned, or do you believe banning books is a bad practice?

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings! 🙂

We all should have a day to play!

Hello everyone! I’ve missed you!

You may have noticed I have been absent from blogging – and almost everything else that is not daily routine. I expect you know what it’s like to simply need to pull back for awhile.

Before I go any further, I want to say a huge THANK YOU to the talented Sue Harrison for continuing her helpful posts here for writers. Writing The Third Dimension is excellent teaching, I’m sure you agree. So, again, thank you so much, Sue, for sharing your insights and knowledge with us.

Are any of you are finding what Sue is teaching to be of help to you in your writing? Are you applying any of her suggestions? I plan to when I get back into writing my novel, especially the editing and rewrites where I believe Sue’s teachings will make a huge difference.

Life certainly has its challenges, doesn’t it? One can become quite weary when caring for a stricken loved one even if not always being the one on site. The fact of living one’s life between two households, and trying to keep so many things straight and in order, becomes wearying and stressful – even on the good days. Stress levels go up and down, and – unfortunately for me – with that can come the depression. That has been – and continues to be – one of my underlying challenges to keep managed. Most people can’t tell but it’s always there. It is a sadness, a disappointment with the turns and twists in life, but I am now trying to access ways to relax and find balance for myself.

Our daughter who lives in Alberta came for a visit in August. She was home for ten days, planned so most of it covered a week I am home, which was wonderful. The last time she was here was for an uncle’s funeral in February 2012, so it was so good to get my arms around her again.

We picnicked, eight of us went whale watching – which was completely THRILLING!, and we had family dinners and a time at the cottage. She went fishing with her dad and she and I enjoyed a play day together.

We all should have a day to play! My daughter and I beachcombed on three different beaches, nearly getting stranded in one place which was quite funny although it could have been a real problem. The tides of the Atlantic here in Nova Scotia are the highest in the world – for more information on that refer to this post.

I had just explained to my daughter how it was when I was a kid and we would go to Mum’s relatives’ home for summer vacations. They lived very close to the bay, in fact, it was a short few minutes’ walk to the shore. (What a marvellous place for a child to spend a week or two of one’s summer!)  My daughter parked the car, we walked up over a little bridge and onto a pebbly raised beach to start more beachcombing. After walking a few minutes I looked back and commented to my daughter, “Look how much the water has risen!” When she looked where I was indicating, she exclaimed, “Oh my gosh! Look how high the water is! We have to move the car!” Laughing as we went, we hurried back and waded through water where it had been dry only minutes before. We warned other people there, but the tide was coming in so quickly some may not have been as fortunate as we were. We hoped their engines weren’t under water by the time they could get to their cars, but we couldn’t stay to find out as we had to be elsewhere by a certain time. They weren’t left alone, though, as there were a few other people still there. I told my daughter most people don’t understand how quickly the tide comes in there; years before Mum’s cousin occasionally would have to go out in his boat and rescue people who had been caught off guard.

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The above shows low tide, and when the tide comes in you can step right out onto that boat.

Oh, how I love the ocean! I have a short, fun video clip of our little adventure but I’m disappointed that I can’t open it to put here to share with you.

Now please tell me: What fun – unexpected or planned – adventures did you enjoy this summer?

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂