Censorship

When I posted a brief review of a children’s book and mentioned that parents should beware because of some of the language, I didn’t expect I’d have to explain myself.

The book in question is sold to children between the ages of 7-12. That is a wide range, but classification of readership depends on the child’s reading abilities. Every child develops at their own rate.

I don’t believe in censorship.

I do believe in parental responsibilities.

Deciding when I child should be exposed to language the use of which might just get them a trip to the principal’s office is a decision for each child’s parents or guardians. It’s a parent’s job to determine when their child is mature enough for certain language.  At the very least a parent needs to inform/educate a child that some places are more appropriate for that sort of language than others. This is not censorship so much as it is self-restraint.

As a reviewer, my job is to supply the parent with what he or she needs to make an informed decision. It’s not up to publishers, critics,  or even teachers. It’s a choice each parent makes, and I’m sure it’s not an easy one.

 A few curse words are fine when used in a correct responsible manner. I’ve never believed it should be peppered throughout a book–even an adult book–unless it’s an inherent part of the character in question.

By the same token, I am reminded of something Sid Caesar once said. “If you use that sort of language just to say hello, what do you say when you’re mad?”

 

 

 

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Author Events This Week at Barnes & Noble

Hello all,

There are three authors appearing at the Barnes & Noble in Neshaminy Mall this week. First up is Garth Nix. Then Claire LeGrand and Victoria Scott. Check out my Literary Events page for details and spread the word.

 

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Book Review: The Girl in the Well is Me by Karen Rivers

I’ve reviewed another children’s book! Check it out on my book reviews page. It’s a beautifully written story that’s both serious and fun. I think a lot of people are going to enjoy this, and though reading about a girl stuck in a well sounds more like reading the news, kids and parents alike will enjoy getting into the head of this well written and believable character.

Are You a Planner or Pantser?

Do you plan your story meticulously or write by the seat of your pants?

 

Broadly speaking, those of us who pursue the writing life fall into two camps: those who plan (planners or plotters), and those who write by the seat of their pants (pantsers). Both approaches are perfectly valid, but vastly different. Not to say these are the only two approaches, but most others are variations of them.

 

I’ve written by the seat of my pants for years. I always had a vague notion of an idea, sat down, and wrote. As I was usually writing what I consider short fiction or short non-fiction—articles, short stories, scripts—this worked fairly well. I generally worked on projects ideal for the sort of creative freedom such an approach provokes.

 

When it came to planning or plotting, I worried that to notate and research everything I could about my story, my characters, my setting and—horror of horrors—create an outline, could only hinder my creativity. I recall feeling certain that if I worried at an idea too long I’d wring all the life out of it before I could get it all down.

 

It was never a conscious decision, but one day, I began to plan. I carried a journal with me everywhere. I jotted down every little notion I had and watched my idea change and grow over the months until everything began to solidify into a coherent whole.  I even wrote out entire scenes with dialogue and description if I needed to see how a particular moment would work.  As the details of the story grew more complex and believable, I realized I was hooked on the process.

 

Could I have done this all electronically? Yes, of course. I do have extensive documents on my computer, but the journals were for brainstorming. I wrote down ideas and answered questions as they came to mind without worrying about format or organization. It was an informal method. I wrote to myself and for myself with no thought that any other soul would ever see the journals. Later, I transferred everything onto my computer dividing character details, background, world building, politics, and plot summaries into their own documents. I keep the journals  in case my computer, my backups, and my brain all fail at once. I don’t want to be unable to recreate it all.

 

What surprised me most was how rewarding it was. I began to feel like I was accomplishing something. I began to see my story take shape. This made me want to pull out the journal more and more often. I wrote during breaks at work in waiting rooms at doctors’ offices and car repair shops, and banks. Anywhere I had to wait, I used the time to further my story. The more I planned, the more questions I answered about the world I was creating, the more my confidence grew.

 

I became immersed in my writing in a way the freewheeling approach hadn’t allowed and after months of planning, I sat down to write.

 

Now, writing from an outline sounds like a chore, but I think that’s because most people assume that they’re tied to the outline. Tied, chained, yoked, imprisoned…I know that’s what I thought. The truth is the outline isn’t carved in granite. You can revise it as many times as you need. Start writing, and if the scene you thought was going in chapter twenty-two would work better in chapter five put it there. If it doesn’t work at all, delete it. Move on to the next idea.

 

What I learned doing this is that the planning makes you a more confident writer. Being confident that you know and understand the story you’re writing from the very first sentence means you have less of a tendency to come to a complete halt in the writing process just because a question comes up that you hadn’t considered. Even if that happened, you know you can deal with it because you’ve been doing just that for months.

 

None of this means I’m never going to write by the seat of my pants again. I will probably do just that from time to time. I’ll decide project by project. The liberating thing about this is that I’ve broadened my approach. I have more options than I ever did before. So am I a planner or a pantser? I can honestly say I’m both.

Yes, I read another Doctor Who novel!

I’ve gone ahead and read another Doctor Who novel. Check out the review on my Book Review page. I didn’t start out to review another Whovian title, but the book was so good that I just had to mention say something. I’m reading several other books now, so I’ll review something soon. What that will be will depend on what I finish reading first, so I can’t make any promises. I’d like to read more quickly, but I’ve been busy writing and there are only so many hours in a day. If you have a book you’d like me to review, please let me know.

 

Children’s Book Review

I’ve done my first review of a children’s book! I do love children’s literature. Like Meg Ryan says in You’ve Got Mail, and I’m paraphrasing since I’m writing this from memory, kids books become a part of you the way nothing you ever read later in life does. This is so true. When you love a book as a child, it stays with you. Even if you’re not like me and don’t reread them once in awhile, you remember them. You want to share them with the kids in your life either by passing on your own well-worn copy or by buying the latest edition. When you see a familiar cover or hear a favorite passage, it brings on a special kind of joy that, emotionally, puts you right back there to the first time you ever read it…it’s like time travel! When I’m feeling particularly nostalgic, there’s nothing like reaching for an old friend from childhood whether it’s Little Women  or The LoraxThese books teach more than we think they do, but they do it while they become our dearest friends and our best memories. Check out my review on the Book Reviews page!

Here I go, a-Caroling!

A Christmas Carol 1            Christmas has been on my mind since July, which is when I typically turn my mind towards the preparations, the music, and the Hallmark ornaments. With The Big Day only about an hour away I thought I should talk about my all time favorite books A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

            This is a beautiful novella, and I dare say it’s as close to perfect as anything can be. There are few writers who use language as well as Dickens, and this book is proof of that. There’s nothing to cut, no extraneous words, nothing that doesn’t further the story, describe the characters, or set the tone The unique voice of the narrator comes through as a friend or confidant relating the story as only a close friend can, with humor, wit, and passion.

 

Dickens’s prose elicits a smile from me every time I read about the “wisdom of our ancestors” being in the simile and how Dickens’s “unhallowed hands shall not disturb it or the Country’s done for” and only Dickens can describe a house as “playing hide and seek with other houses” while every page holds some line or phrase that I can only describe as delicious.

 

Aside from the beauty of his prose, the story itself is full of emotion. There’s no denying the jollity of the Ghost of Christmas Present. There’s no hiding from the familiar gaiety of the Christmas celebrations, even if they’re populated with games and pastimes a modern audience doesn’t recognize. It’s plain that the Cratchits really understand Christmas and why it’s celebrated and that Nephew Fred has the kindest, most patient soul of any character in literature.

 

What most people do recall, if they’ve read the novella or just seen one of the myriad retellings, is that there is a strong moral to the story. Ebenezer Scrooge is on a journey not to learn that he should perhaps not begrudge his clerk a day off, but rather that there is a deeper meaning to the Christmas celebrations. People only familiar with the films or other adaptations may not realize that in the book, Scrooge goes to church perhaps for the first time in his life, and certainly for the first time in many decades. At its heart, this is a story of second chances, and, while it may seem cliché, the book is anything but. It does seem sobering that even in Dickens’s time, Christmas celebrations could lose their focus. The true meaning of the holiday, it seems, has always been in danger of being lost. Dickens, of course, was trying to preserve tradition as well as influence society, and he took his little book to heart with the hopes that it would have a positive impact.

 

I can’t read the scene where the Ghost of Christmas Present reveals the two children hidden in his robes—Ignorance and Want—without wondering why no one has learned anything about dispelling these things since the 1840s.

 

If you’ve never read it, or haven’t read it in a long time, I urge you to pick up a copy or dust off the one that’s been sitting on your shelf for years. Even if you’re familiar with the on screen adaptations, then you don’t know the story nearly as well as you think you do. It’s worth reading.

 

Watch this space for another blog in the next few days on the myriad adaptations of this brilliant story. Merry Christmas, and God Bless Us, Every One!