Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Thank you, Mr. Stefan

As part of my reading goal this year I've decided to read the complete works of William Shakespeare, so today I pulled off my slightly dusty copy of an anthology of his works. That's when I remembered what, or I guess it's really who, showed me how to love Shakespeare - Mr. Stefan.

In junior high I was not the drama-type at all, I was more interested in art you hung on the wall. It was ninth grade before I entered Mr. Stefan's classroom. Not that I hadn't heard stories about him and his room from my older sister, but until I entered his class I didn't get it. But that first day of Shakespeare class I had an eye-opening. Mainly because what she told me was true - the potty pass was indeed a toilet seat hanging by the door. If anyone was ever forced to use it, I don't know since I have no recollection of anyone in my class attempting to leave.

Mr. Stefan didn't have the best teaching techniques - we sat for hours that year listening to videos and filling in the blanks about life in the Elizabethan era, and watching movies based on Shakespeare's plays (sadly Leo's version of Romeo and Juliet hadn't been released, yet).  But what he lacked in teaching skills he made up for in personality.

The year I took his class (1993) was the same year he starred in a local production of Fiddler on the Roof. His beard was a magical thing. He was no ordinary teacher - he was an actor, a singer - someone who knew theatre and lived it. I can still see him standing on stage, with that magical beard and I knew if he loved Shakespeare so would I.

Almost four years later, I had an opportunity to spend a few months in the UK and took the train to Stratford-upon-Avon. I toured Shakespeare's reconstructed home, walked the same sidewalks he once tread and saw a production of The Merchant of Venice at The Royal Shakespeare Company.

There's a reason it's taken me so long to break open the anthology and it has to do with the question of "Will I like it?". Part of me thinks that if I don't I'll lose just a bit of the sweetness to my memories of Mr. Stefan. But I read a blog post today by Nathan Bransford (click here) that got me thinking of how to approach this without losing anything. Don't ask "Will I like it?" but  "Did the author accomplish what he set out to do?".

So, thank you Mr. Stefan for standing at the back of the class and pressing play on those videos, for growing that beard and for showing me how to love Shakespeare (even if I'll never completely understand it). RIP 

On my iPod:

Rasputin by Boney M

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Sequel Begins Again

I've finally reached a point with The Evolution of Janie that I'm doing nit picky fixes and need to get my arse in gear and put my query out there. With the first book done I now have pulled out my sequel. I already have the first four chapters done but after the major revisions I made to Evolution I have some fixing up to do. 

Having those first four chapters done is great because it's really helping me stay in Janie's voice and mindset. What's hard is catching a bunch of little details that once meant something else entirely, such as Justin's car smelling after being in the shop at the end of Evolution. Well, my idea was that there was actually something dead in there, left by Neil when he put Justin's car out of action. Scrap that now. I may have it stink just because it's Justin and he needs a bit of aggravation :) But the mystery and connection to the previous story must come out.

So, my plan right now for The Reconstruction of Janie involves school, but in a new town. A town where no one is a shifter except for those (good and bad) that follow Janie to keep an eye on her. Rachel will be a bigger part of the story from start to finish and we'll get to meet Cassie, Janie's other half-sister. I do have some really cool ideas for the effects Janie's blood will have on Marcus and her own development in her new life as infected.

The best part right now is that I feel as if I'm revisiting old territory and just need to see what's new.

On my iPod:

Daydream Believer by The Monkees

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Death of the Hardcover

Are Kindles and iPads the kiss of death for the hardcover?

I've always considered myself the middle of the road tech savvy kind of person. I'm computer literate and love surfing the web, but I also tend to resist certain aspects of the technology advancing world. When mp3s and iPods became popular I said I'd never do it. I just couldn't see the point. Well, now I have an iPod touch and can't imagine going to the gym without it.

But get rid of my books? I can't see it. Not for me. I actually already do a lot of reading online as part of TheNextBigWriter.com . But that's a different kind of reading. While I'm online I'm reading, reviewing, editing and evaluating every words that crosses the screen and yes, I enjoy what I'm reading otherwise I wouldn't bother with it. But when I want to veg out, relax and read for pure pleasure, with no thought on what the author could have done, I curl up on the couch with a book. An honest to God book, with real paper pages and occasionally smeared ink.

Maybe, just like the iPod I'll cave one day and start buying ebooks but for now I will resist with every fiber in my body.

On my iPod:

Every Subway Car by The Bare Naked Ladies

Friday, July 16, 2010


I was searching my bookshelf this morning and came across one of my favorite books Genie: A Scientific Tragedy by Russ Rymer. I first read this book as a reading assignment in a Linguistic Anthropology class in university. The intent was to examine whether language is innate or learned.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Genie's story she was a feral child, a 13 year-old girl discovered living in a cage, severely abused and neglected by her parents. She didn't speak, walk properly and wasn't potty trained. When she was first found she was the size of a 7 year-old. Genie became a project and a pawn. Her doctors were more interested in exploiting her than in helping her. They saw her as an opportunity to test their theories about language. Could they teach this child who had no verbal skills, who's family had never spoken to her, to speak and communicate. Passed between foster families (where abuse continued in some cases) and doctors, Genie was lost again.

The book itself is written by one of those doctors, yet it manages to capture the pure horror of her situation and the sense of frustration in the system that let Genie down. Imagine David Pelzer's A Child Called It mixed in with textbook research. It raises a number of good points, about the rights of parents, the condition of the foster care system, the objectivity of doctors, and the origins of language. Still the question remains is language innate or is it learned. Researchers had the opportunity to learn from Genie, to see if they could teach her, but they were too caught up in the possible glory of their discovery they forgot that she was not an animal there for them to study. She was a child lost.

Ten years ago Genie inspired me to write my one and only poem.


They had no understanding

Of what they had found.

A mystery or Simple Simon

Or was it just a science?

From a barren room to Disneyland,

They tested her repeatedly.

They tried to teach her everything

As she began again.

Just a little bunny,

She cowered in the corner

Until they pulled her out

And tried to make her dance

To decide, just who was right.

She gave herself to them

Complete and utter trust.

They poked and prodded

Until she stopped in time.

Not satisfied with what they found,

They turned around,

Shoved her farther back than before

And turned the key behind them.

They didn’t want to see

The people they’d become.

And the Genie disappeared

Leaving her where she’d been found.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Motivated by a Movie

Last weekend was the opening for the third installment of the Twilight. And yes, I did go see it. :) I had lowered expectations and I have to admit it was better than the first two. I get why the story pulls in the young girls. the books may not have been the best, I am seriously, did they not have the money for an editor to cut those books down and two thousand words? And the movie script is entirely filled with stinky cheese. But the essence of the story is there, and that is what is  selling those books and tickets.

So how does that effect me? Well, it's motivated me. If millions can be made off that book, if legions of adolescent girls can fall in love with those characters, that story then there's hope for my work, right? Since seeing the movie, I've managed to edit 8 chapters, completing my latest round of edits for The Evolution of Janie (Still working on a new title!). A bit ironic that the Twilight movie was my motivation to finish since it was the reason behind the majority of my edits. Despite having no vampires or werewolves, just shape shifters, I got the same feedback from a few agents - too Twilight!!! ARGH!

Now there's no school and her boyfriend is much more normal. Well, as normal as a shape shifter gets. :) 

on my ipod:

Holiday by Green Day