Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Books

Today is World Book Day (WBD), and it's celebrated in many countries and languages. Created by the United Nations to promote reading, publishing and copyright, WBD provides a particular opportunity to think about, enjoy and share books.

Many people love to read. Many people don't like to read at all. Many, many others rarely or never get the chance to read.

I am one of the lucky ones because I learned to read as a little girl. I remember the Dick and Jane stories that got me started and, as I write this, can feel the pleasure of sounding out the words. A bonus for me was that my oldest brother is named Dick, and my middle name is Jayne (I allowed myself to ignore the "y" in my name), so somehow the books felt even more like mine.

I remember consciously feeling the pleasure of the words, stories and pictures. As I got older, that love extended to Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys and great stacks of biographies and autobiographies I'd cheerfully lug home from the library. (Don't get me started on how much I love libraries.)

At this stage of my life I recognize factors that I didn't as a child. In university I did a project called "Sexism in Children's Literature." It was rampant. A few years ago, I gave my Early Childhood Educator students an assignment to look for sexism in children's books. Some things have changed on that front, but we have a long way to go in our still-male-dominated societies.

I've also come to see how racially slanted many books are. The images that meet us in most magazines and advertisements still sport mainly white faces. The stories reflect primarily white experiences. Of course, many stories are universal in their themes of struggle, love, victory and strength, and it's good that this is so.

Yet the contexts for those experiences are so different for so many. Fortunately, more and more people of all races, genders, abilities and ages have access to the publishing world and to the writing that is produced.

How can you help move us all along? Write. Read. Tell the stories you live and imagine. This way, we all learn and grow.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Snow day!

Today I was slated to go to my very part-time job at one of the local newspapers. I work in production (mainly proofreading), and I love this little gig. I enjoy the people I work with, and on my breaks I run into friends I don't often see otherwise. I worked at this paper years ago, having done proofreading, cutting and pasting (back when that was the only method available), writing and even selling ads. But after a while of doing the last job I suggested to the owner/friend that he might want to find someone else to sell ads; I was simply no good at "encouraging" people to buy ads if I sensed the slightest hesitation. No saleswoman, me.

Yet today is such a welcome respite! Not from the Monday job but for a day to write and stay in my comfy clothes and...just...not go out unless I feel like it. When I knew last night that my co-worker would take my shift (she lives in the same town as the office), I felt a little thrill of excitement and nostalgia.

When my sons were in public school, my job was in education, so if they had a snow day I did, too. It was like the best gift for all of us to get to stay home and just hang out...usually in our pajamas until at least noon. Maybe even right up until bedtime. Snow pants can be worn over pjs, you know.

We might watch a (very rare) daytime movie, read to each other (usually Chronicles of Narnia or The Lord of the Rings) or just doodle. One of the boys is an artist, so he loved having hours to draw without interruption. At some point we might throw on our outside gear and go play in the fresh new snow. Then back inside for hot chocolate. With marshmallows, if we were lucky.

It was a sad school year when we didn't get at least one snow day. And even though I work from home, and even though I enjoy my Monday gig at the newspaper, today is a special treat day for me to hunker down and get a few things done that were going to have to be squeezed into the rest of the week. Best of all I get to simply meander through this snowy bonus day.

I am blessed, indeed.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

#WordWednesday

I am inspired, if that word can possibly be used in this context, by the completely ridiculous nature of the weather in my part of the world. It's snowing. It's April 11. That, my friends, is ridiculous. It's supposed to be daffodils and jonquils time, boots&jacket-in-the-basement time, bright-colours-of-spring time. Instead, my boots and jacket are nowhere near the basement, and I don't see any pretty colours out there at all.


So, having muttered, "Ridiculous!" a couple of times to no one at all, I decided to abort the original #WordWednesday mission for today and look up the origin of the word I was muttering.

I didn't learn anything terribly exciting (and, so, therefore, you won't, either), but at least writing this has kept my mind and hands busy. SO! What do we know about this amusing little word? Well, it goes back as far as the 1540s, so at least it has a venerable history. It was spelled ridyculouse at the time, having hatched from the Latin ridiculus, meaning "laughable, funny, absurd."

Absurd and not remotely funny. Ridiculous.

Friday, 6 April 2018

A Punny for Your Thoughts

According to the brilliant Alfred Hitchcock, "Puns are the highest form of literature."

I'm not sure I'd go that far, but puns are certainly a clever, entertaining and stimulating form of literature. They invite us to dig around for subtle meanings, sounds, rhythms and broader implications. This is good for our brains. The fact that the result is fun adds greatly to the benefits of these word clowns.

As many people know, Archie Bunker was a master punster (thanks to his own wit and that of his writers). Here's one of his that no one (especially Edith) would argue with: "My doctor tells me I got a communications disease."

A more current form of word play that I enjoy are the #Hashtag Games on Twitter. Here are two of my favourite ones that involve punning:

#Vegetable Quotes
Frankly, my dear, I don't give a yam.
The pen is mightier than the gourd.

#Home Improvement Movie
Look Who'd Caulking

I like puns because they make me slow down, root around in my vocabulary and try to send out a zinger that will make somebody chuckle. It doesn't always work. Sometimes puns just bring on a groan of agony at their lameness. But even a groan is more fun than nothing. To add to that, I really love it when somebody can throw one out at exactly the right moment. That's just so choice!

And since having fun with words is a big part of what I'm about...well, it goes without saying that a good pun will always get me either grinning or groaning in depreciation.

Friday, 23 March 2018

What is a Story 101

The cat sat on the mat is not a story. The cat sat on the other cat's mat is a story.
                                                                                                                      – John le Carre

This is such a perfect, straightforward illustration of what a story needs in order to be engaging -- in fact, to be a story at all because a story is "a factual or fictional account of an event or series of events."

A story requires at least one character, a setting, conflict and resolution (or the intentional absence of resolution).

So in Le Carre's example we have:

* two cats
* two mats (inside or outside, doesn't matter at the moment. We might find that out later, or we might not.)
* one cat takes over the other cat's territory (or is given permission or is even forced/tricked for some reason we don't yet know)
* We have no idea how this story will be resolved, but that's the fun of writing....and of reading, of course.

The writer gets to mess around with the character(s), their world, their problem...and then all of that leads to some resolution.

Cool.