Friday, June 11, 2010

Analysis of a tagline

I've always wondered about my blog name, The Education I Never Got. Maybe it was ending the sentence with the word 'got' that made the sentence seem... abrupt. So I sought the advice of The Sentence Sleuth. Bonnie Trenga was kind enough to post a portion of my email on her blog with a request for reader opinions. With some positive comments, I feel much better about the title of The Education I Never Got.

I use Bonnie's book, The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier: How to Solve the Mysteries of Weak Writing as a reference for my own work. Anyone who wants to improve their writing can benefit from reading and studying this book. It is not a simple, dry list of grammar rules. Set in the context of a mystery story, the book tackles passive voice, weak verbs, vague words and other common mistakes. Bonnie says in her introduction that she wants to help people build better sentences. Even the book layout is easy to follow. The Sentence Sleuth website is filled with information, too. Check it out if you want to improve your own writing.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

17 Months later...

Has it really been that long? Reignited blog coming soon.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Review of Dark Pursuit by Brandilyn Collins

I just finished reading Dark Pursuit
by Brandilyn Collins. This is the first fiction book by Collins that I have read. I have her non-fiction writing book, Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn From Actors
so I was especially interested to see how she developed her characters.

I was not disappointed. Aside from a few character quirks that seemed textbook to me, the characters were well developed. Some of their actions were slightly unbelievable but they worked with and helped move the story forward.

The story was fast-paced and suspense was held high through the story. Overall I enjoyed the book and give it 3 1/2 stars.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Review: Twilight saga and other books

The end of summer countdown is on! I spent much of the summer reading since having the kids home makes it harder to concentrate on productive endeavors.

On the reading list was the Twilight saga: Twilight (The Twilight Saga, Book 1), New Moon (The Twilight Saga, Book 2), and Eclipse (The Twilight Saga, Book 3)all by Stephenie Meyer. These books are all large but were so good that I finished each of them in less than 2 days. Meyer writes in such an unassuming way that I just wanted to see what was going to happen next. The characters are so realistic going through teenage angst that I can see why these young adult books are so popular. The fourth and final book of the saga, Breaking Dawn (The Twilight Saga, Book 4), is due out Saturday and I look forward to seeing if Bella stays with Edward and becomes a vampire or if she ends up with her werewolf friend, Jacob.

Before the Twilight saga I read Atonement by Ian McEwan. Yeah, it's been out a while but it got such good reviews and I want to watch the movie soon so I finally read it. I had a hard time getting through the first quarter of the book; it seemed to drag a bit for me. I am glad I persisted (I read ahead to see if I wanted to continue and yes, I did). I also knew there was a twist at the end but I got into the story and forgot about it so when it came, it really shook me. This book stuck with me and I will reiterate - I am so glad I stayed with it. The descriptions of World War II's Dunkirk evacuation sent me right to Wikipedia to learn more. Atonement is highly recommended.

Another book I enjoyed was Keturah And Lord Death by Martine Leavitt. It's premise is reminscent of 1001 Arabian Nights: A young girl, Keturah, stays alive by telling Lord Death a story each night, never revealing the end to live another day. This book even made me sympathize with Lord Death, whose description of what each man sees when he dies ("There is no hell...") is thought provoking. Most of all, it is a story of love. Experience it.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Poetry for everyone, Pt. III

I can hardly read about poets and their work without trying my hand at writing poems. If you are interested in writing poems, here are a few books and sources that can help you get started and stay motivated.

• I've already mentioned The Discovery of Poetry: A Field Guide to Reading and Writing Poems by Frances Mayes. The last section in the book, A Poet's Handbook, discusses writing and rewriting your poems. It includes exercises to get started and gives information on getting your work published.

• A neat little e-book is How to Write Poetry & Get it Published. This "guide for emerging poets" presents tips and shortcuts to writing and revising poems with the goal of publication. By the end of the fourth paragraph in the first chapter, you will have done an exercise that provides the foundation for a poem deeply rooted in the five senses.

• The first book I turned to when I wanted to write poems was In the Palm of Your Hand: The Poet's Portable Workshop by Steve Kowit. Early emphasis is placed on showing with details that allow the reader to see, feel and hear what the poem is about. Says Kowit on pg. 18: "It is more important to remember that the power of poetry rests to a large degree on the emotional intensity it generates." Then he takes you through exercises and example poems so you can practice and improve your own writings.

• Along the same lines, Josephine Nobisso's Show; Don't Tell!: Secrets of Writing, is considered a juvenile book but is for all ages, especially 7 & up. As it says on the back cover, "Don't be thrown by the format! For older ages, too." This picture book invokes the senses through touch (fabric), scratch n'sniff, and sound (I won't tell you what it is, but you have to push a button in the back of the book) all while teaching about nouns and adjectives. It's a fun, light book that is great to help young readers write descriptively.

Word Painting: A Guide to Writing More Descriptively by Rebecca McClanahan starts with how you see the world - the eye of the beholder - and progresses to putting what you see into words then into a story. Again, more exercises to clarify these concepts.

• Another gem I have on my shelf but not delved into as much as other books is The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets by Ted Kooser, the 13th Poet Laureate of the United States (two terms, 2004-2006) and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2005. I like this book because it's accessible. Kooser says in About This Book, "Poetry's purpose is to reach other people and touch their hearts. If a poem doesn't make sense to anybody but its author, nobody but its author will care a whit about it." He uses recently written poems as examples because today, in the now, is when you are writing. Kooser also says, "I believe with all my heart that it's a virtue to show our appreciation for readers by writing with kindness, generosity, and humility toward them." Thank you, Mr. Kooser!

The Writer magazine's Poet to Poet column is good for monthly inspiration.

• It is always interesting for me to read about other author's thoughts. I enjoy reading the acceptance speeches of Nobel Prize winners at The Nobel Prize in Literature, many of which are poets (like Seamus Heaney and Pablo Neruda). Also, as I talked about before, writers' journals or diaries give great insight into the creation of great works. One only has to read a few entries in The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath to see how a writer struggles to find the right word.

• It goes without saying: Read! Find poems you connect with. See previous two posts.

• Finally, inspiration often comes from experience and self-knowledge. I am a visual person and can be stirred by seeing a simple picture in a magazine. Seek out opportunities that move you.

If you do end up writing a poem after these posts, let me know. I may just publish it on this site!

Poetry for everyone, Pt. II

Hopefully you indulged in reading some poems for National Poetry Month.

It's funny how one can run across a poem and be transported. Several times I have seen a line or reference to a poem and promptly Googled the poem or author. More often than not, I have either found the poem or a body of works by the author on the web.

A few of my favorites:
• Richard Lovelace, esp. "To Althea, from Prison" ("Stone walls do not a prison make, Nor iron bars a cage")
• C.P. Cavafy, esp. "Ithaka"
• Edna St. Vincent Millay, esp. "First Fig"
• Rudyard Kipling's "If"
• Robert Frost's "Nothing Gold Can Stay" (The Outsiders, anyone?) and "The Road not Taken"
• Pablo Neruda
• Sylvia Plath (I adore her kid's book, The Bed Book. It is out of print; I found a used edition)
• George Gordon, Lord Byron, esp. "The Prisoner of Chillon" (I have seen Byron's carving in the prison of Chillon Castle on Lake Geneva in Switzerland. More on Byron later.)
• Seamus Heaney (I got through Beowulf with Heaney's audio translation)

And on, and on...

There was something in each of these poems that resonated with me. And I think that is the key to enjoying poetry: finding the works that you connect with. The more you read, the more you find these connections.

One of these days I will continue on to The Poets and Their Poems section of The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had by Susan Wise Bauer. It starts with The Epic of Gilgamesh, which I have. The Well-Educated Mind also gives a good review of reading poetry.

What are some of your favorite poems?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Poetry for everyone, Pt. I

April is National Poetry Month so it seemed appropriate to admit that reading poetry has always been a struggle for me. I think I have at last determined why I have a hard time with poems: I am a fast reader. I've always read a lot but am more of a skimmer than deep reader. And poetry is not to be skimmed. It is to be savored and experienced.

I have always felt that there is a lot to learn from poetry. I once read a comment from author Linda Sue Park about how writers should be readers of poetry. Still, I was intimidated. The first poem I remember really liking was Sick from Shel Silverstein's Where the Sidewalk Ends: Poems and Drawings along with his poem Hug O'War. Another poem I have in school papers is John Donne's A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning. I'm sure this became a favorite in high school when my friends and I wrote reams of bad poetry reflecting the turmoils of teenage years.

In college there were the usual suspects - The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot or Elizabeth Barrett Browning's How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Otherwise, few poems caught my attention. They were simply too much work; too hard to understand and I felt undereducated for not "getting" the meaning of a poem.

Later, I pressed on determined to "get" poetry. I purchased The Classic Hundred Poems edited by William Harmon. I do love this book. I love the poems in this book. There is a reason these poems are the all-time favorites. And I like the notes at the end of each poem that help explain it. I also enjoy my little book, The Sonnets: Poems of Love by William Shakespeare.

I attempted a Barnes and Noble online poetry class several years back. The reference for the class was The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms by Mark Strand and Eavan Boland. This is a great book for examples of types of poems.

But the book that helped me get over the mysticism of poetry was The Discovery of Poetry: A Field Guide to Reading and Writing Poems by Frances Mayes. Yes, the same Frances Mayes who wrote Under the Tuscan Sun. This book, The Discovery of Poetry: A Field Guide to Reading and Writing Poems, will open your eyes to the joys of poetry. In the prologue of this book, aptly called Invitation, I discovered why to read poetry. As Mayes says, "...reading a fine poem makes me rediscover the bright freshness of creation." And for writers, she says that poetry is the language art: "Learning to see precisely how words work pulls you closer to what you want to write..." The rest of the book is a how-to - how to read a poem and what to look for, including the practice of paraphrasing, and the useful advice to not bring an overly serious mind-set nor to "fear that complex meanings must be wrung from the poem like water out of a dishrag."

If you've ever struggled with poetry, The Discovery of Poetry: A Field Guide to Reading and Writing Poems is the book to get.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Rethink your Lifestyle

While I think on the whole value concept, I do want to pass on one of my favorite books right now: The 4-Hour work Week: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferriss. This book isn't about working less, it's about working smart! And living the way you choose to live, whether it's traveling or spending more time on worthwhile activities. Just the chapters on The End of Time Management or The Low-Information Diet will get people rethinking their way of getting stuff done.

Ferriss has a great web site, Experiments in Lifestyle Design, that is filled with ideas such as creating a paperless office - check it out at How to do the impossible: create a paperless life and never check voicemail again.

Something of Value

I have not posted because I want to provide value. What I did on summer vacation is not of value to most people. Value is created with thought and meaning. It is created with the reader in mind, not the writer. So, look for some changes coming soon.