24 December 2008
20 December 2008
18 December 2008
- warmed up and ate leftover rice with vegetables
- put David Sedaris on my amazon wish list
- emailed the babysitter
- emailed Jaywalker, who I hope to meet for lunch tomorrow
- hid the freshly purchased xmas prezzies
- ate one miniature apple pie from the butcher (see link above)
- posted this
17 December 2008
16 December 2008
Mooses, for example. Ever since a friend (Leila Rasheed, if you must know), read out the Ted Hughes poem at a "soirée " a few weeks ago, I've been looking at poems again with a refreshed eye. It's exhilarating. I recommend it. Simple, strong, honest and unaffected... these are Hughes's stock in trade and I'm sure some major league poet has said it far, far better than I will but too bad, this is my blog, so there.
Thank you Ted and Leila for restoring my faith in poems.
Btw, Mooses was origninally printed in Under the North Star by Ted Hughes
12 December 2008
10 December 2008
One of my least favourite writing exercises asks the author to make a list of everything their character carries in his or her pockets. This is supposed to help you get to know your character better. But what if your character is a Bronze Age boy, with no pockets? Or an alien with no concept of pocket? Or someone who carries a bag instead? Okay, you could get around it by saying 'make a list of your character's favourite portable belongings.' But it's only in books that people are forever poring over old photos or lockets left them by their grandma. I doubt I could learn much about any of you by going through your pockets. What do people carry, anyway? Bank cards, keys, semi-used tissues, spare change, a phone.
I don't much like the exercise because it limits you to contemporary settings, and adults, and it all ends up feeling like a Sherlock Holmes short story, where the band on a cigar (anyone carry cigars with them?) tells you everything from the murderer's blood type to his relationship with his estranged dog.
Character is supposedly the holy grail of writing. Plot should develop through character, books are supposed to be about the development of character. A character-driven book is supposedly a Good Book, as opposed to a plot driven book, which is Dan Brown. For children's books, though, I think character is over-rated. Sure, there are lots of excellent children's books that star unforgettably original characters – Jack Gantos' Joey Pigza, the ADHD human pin-ball with a sad story behind him, or anarchic Pippi Longstocking. But for every crazy, plot driving character, you find another, just as unforgettable, about whom you know nothing.
Lucy, from the Narnia books, for example. What does she carry in her pockets when she's at school? Who's her best friend? Does she get on better with her mother or her father? What's her favourite book? You don't know and it doesn't matter.
She is a cipher, a character designed to step back so that the reader can take her place. Lucy comes alive purely through the reader identifying with her wonder and excitement at the world of Narnia. In adult books identifying with the main character is seen as rather an immature thing to want to do – you're not meant to identify with the character, you're meant to sit back, stroke your chin and go "Ah, a fascinating analysis of society as seen through the tragic yet incisive eyes of Olaf the one-legged Lithuanian plumber, such well drawn characters, didn't you think?" What fun. Pass the Tintin.
But children's books are often about identifying with the main character, and if that main character is too strongly drawn, too 'loud', they get in the way of the story. Of the four main Narnia children, Susan is grown-up, Peter is brave and Edmund is sly. They have characters, but Lucy, the main character, has little or none. If she had, it would limit the number of children who could identify with her. Harry Potter, too, is quite average – he isn't a swot like Hermione or an ogre like Hagrid. He's simple and open and easy to identify with, and that's why he's the hero. That's why boring Luke Skywalker is the hero. Sexy Han Solo would overpower the story.
Someone recently said to me that books could be divided into two categories: character driven and plot driven. It's not that simple, the interplay of character and plot is subtle, and sometimes it means consciously greying out your main character to allow the reader to be the most important person in the story.
09 December 2008
Check them out....
Confessions of an author
Sarah's writing journal
Salt office life
The Cerebral Mum
If they pass the test of time I will add them to my links list, right.
Was further delayed due to traffic backed up all the way from Place Flagey and extending out in every direction. When bus finally arrived, soon discovered cause of blockage likely was due to some fool having closed down Avenue de la Couronne.
Local place name definitions:
Place Flagey. Please remember to say "Plahce" not "Playce". In English this would be Flagey Square. Doesn't sound half as good does it? Place Flagey is famous for being the site of building works for approximately 8 years. The square is the site of what once was a pond, drained by King Leopold and used as a parking lot most of the time. The neighborhood was prone to floods so finally the square was dug up to install a new improved storm basin drainage thingy. An underground garage was built on top of this piece of cutting edge drain technology, although by the 7th year we'd already learned where to find parking in the area. And luckily, too, as it turns out, because the new improved storm basin drainage thingy leaks and there are concerns that the garage will flood, so the underground parking is unuseable for the time being.
Avenue de la Couronne. Crown Avenue. Not half as nice as its name. A dreary excuse of a road that connects other dreary, dirty, traffic-clogged roads. Personally, I avoid it.
Bus. Same as in English. Coming soon to an American city near you! (or would be, if local US governments had any foresight.) Wait 20 minutes, then look for them in groups of 3s.
08 December 2008
Food Standards Agency tells UK customers to avoid Irish pork amid fears of contamination with cancer-causing dioxins.
Last night Ireland's chief veterinary officer said "certainly less than 30" countries could be affected. France and the Netherlands have notified Dublin that they received contaminated shipments of meat or processed foods which turned out to have originated in Ireland. Belgium received contaminated by-products, officials said.Ew.
05 December 2008
04 December 2008
02 December 2008
It's fun to do WAD in the EP. We pass out condoms, both male and female, along with the ribbons. You know, for protection. Most people have never seen a female condom -- they are much bigger, and come with instructions printed on the back of the package. So that can be interesting. (If I was less lame I would find you an image of one, see previous parenthetical, above.) Most of the staffers are enthusiastic and inquisitive and overall prepared to wear a ribbon to raise awareness... I wish I could say the same of most MEPs.
After that it was back to the office, and then it was off to get Girls. Girl 2 had a flute lesson. It is only for 30 minutes. I usually sit there pretending to read. This time I did not fall asleep.
When I got home I had to go out again to forage for food, but after that, I put on my pyjamas. The Girls did their homework, and I made brownies. With a glass of wine I mused on the fact that the things I am best at doing have no market value...
But at least I am able to do them in my pyjamas. It's of some comfort, I've decided.