Thursday, September 29, 2011

Banned Books Week Part II

Isn't it interesting that books that some people enjoy, others would like to have banned from bookstores, libraries and classrooms? This is Banned Books Week, which ends Oct. 1.

To me, for the most part, the act of censoring and banning books is an individual matter. There are always exceptions, but for the population in general, I believe a person can make that decision on whether or not to read a book. I don't need some self-righteous person or group deciding for me.

In the marketplace of ideas, if word gets around that a book may be questionable for a certain age group, or the general populace, people will look at it a bit more closely to see if it deserves the label. And that's more democratic.

When my wife and I raised our two sons, we always had books in the house. While I can't think of any books being banned from our home, it certainly would have happened if there was something we didn't  think was appropriate for them to read. That's not to say that they didn't read "controversial" books outside the home -- without our knowledge.

Hey, I did the same thing. Most folks I know hid books from their parents, and they all survived and became responsible citizens. For my generation, those books included "Lolita," "Candy," and "Peyton Place." After sneaking around to read them, most of us said, "What's the big deal?" I bet our parents, grandparents, and others in our distant past found racy magazines and pulp fiction to satisfy their curiosities about all sorts of things about the human condition.

Other books that titillated citizens through the years, and angered government and self-imposed censors, include "Madame Bovary," "Tropic of Cancer," "Brave New World," "Fanny Hill," "Naked Lunch," and "Howl." Wikipedia has a list of books banned by governments that you may find interesting.

Until the next time...

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Banned Books Week

Are you looking for something interesting, and perhaps controversial, to read this week?

This year marks the 30th Banned Books Week in the United States. It runs from Sept. 24 to Oct. 1. Its mission is to promote the "freedom to read and First Amendment" as well as "free and open access to information."

Through the years quite a few books have been banned and/or challenged by individuals and groups. Among them are "Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl," by Anne Frank; "Slaughterhouse-Five," by Kurt Vonnegut; "The Catcher in the Rye," by  J.D. Salinger; "Brave New World," by Aldous Huxley; and "Push," by Sapphire.

According to the American Library Association, the primary reasons for objection include sex, profanity, and racism.

Recent titles include Sara Gruen's "Water for Elephants"; "Will Be Here for the Rest of Our Lives," by Paul Shaffer (the conductor from the David Letterman Show); and "Speak," by Laurie Anderson.

Here is a list of the top 10 books of 2010:
1, "And Tango Makes Three," by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson;
2, "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian," by Sherman Alexie;
3, "Brave New World," by Aldous Huxley;
4, "Crank," by Ellen Hopkins;
5, "The Hunger Games," by Suzanne Collins;
6, "Lush," by Natasha Friend;
7, "What My Mother Doesn't Know," by Sonya Sones;
8, "Nickel and Dimed," by Barbara Ehrenreich;
9, "Revolutionary Voices," edited by Amy Sonnie; and
10, "Twilight," by Stephanie Meyer.

Check here for the top 10 by year for the past decade. And click here to find out the reasons the 2010 books were challenged.

This might also be a good time to read Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451," about a future society where reading is banned and books are burned.

Until the next time...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Time to Get Carded

Many of you may not know that this is National Library Card Sign-up Month.

As public libraries are recommending, it's time to get carded. The library is one of my favorite places -- for books, research, and other activities. Baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. is the spokesman for American Library Association's national effort.

I like what the International Reading Association says about the library card on its website, calling it a passport that "permits its owner to travel to other places and times through the pages of a book."

Of course, those who frequent a library know that a library is more than a place for books (in my opinion, that's still its primary purpose). Not only can you check out books, but also CDs and DVDs; use computers; access the Internet; attend functions such as book discussion groups, author readings, story hours for children, and art exhibits; visit the used book store  and much more.

At my local library -- Paul Sawyier Public Library -- residents who sign up for a card this month can get discounts from area businesses.

The month may be over soon but it's not too late to sign up for a library card. It's really never too late. If you're busy this month, then drop by in October and get your card.  Just get one. It's one of the best bargains you'll find anywhere.

Until the next time...

Monday, September 19, 2011

Beginning of the End

While speaking to a group I was asked how I knew when I was finished with a novel -- the happily ever after part on the last page. The last two words that read: The End.

First of all, I told her that the story is over when all the conflicts have been resolved. Unless, of course, the intent is to leave some loose ends so that there could be a sequel. Or maybe the author plans a series. No doubt there are other reasons; just ask other writers you may know.

She then asked me if I knew how the story was going to end. I told her I had a general idea how it would end but that it was subject to change -- or changes -- as I progressed through the  story. I said that novelists approach stories in different ways.

For me, I usually work the story in my head for several weeks, perhaps even months, before I put down a rough draft on paper. I get to know the characters, but I get to know them even better during the course of writing the novel. I know where I want the novel to end, but sub-plots enter into the equation and take the story in different directions until I reach the end.

Until the next time...

Friday, September 16, 2011

Home Again

Thomas Wolfe's novel "You Can't Go Home Again" doesn't apply to everyone. I'm sure if you wrote something nasty about your hometown or committed a heinous crime, it might be difficult to return to your roots.

But  for writers, I think going back to one's previous home, or stomping grounds, can be important. I recently visited Campbellsville, Ky., where I lived from 1959-65, those coming-of-age years that are so important in one's life.

I was in Campbellsville to talk about my latest novel and writing. About 10 or so folks showed up and we had, at least in my humble opinion, a very enjoyable session. Some of the discussion brought back some old memories for me.

I believe writers should make occasional visits to the places they lived (unless they wrote something bad about the town or committed a heinous crime!), simply to find things that might be lost in one's memory.

I know I'm looking forward to a return trip to Campbellsville to remember other parts of my life before they are forever lost. 

Until the next time...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

In Remembrance

It's hard to believe that 10 years have passed since the terrorist attack on America. I still remember where I was at and what I was doing when the news broke about a plane striking one of the twin towers in New York. I would imagine that most of us have a ready recollection of that moment when we first heard the tragic news.
At lot has transpired since 9/11/01, touching our individual lives, our communities, our nation, and the world we live in.
I know many people watched television today --  reliving that horrendous day through the images, personal recollections, and memorial ceremonies. Newsweek and Time magazines devoted current issues to 9/11, focusing on the past, present and future of our great nation. Sunday newspapers dedicated a lot of space to those deplorable events.
I've read several stories about some of the heroes who paid the ultimate sacrifice to save lives -- those brave  first responders at the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington -- as well as those courageous passengers on Flight 93 who brought down a deadly plane in Pennsylvania.   
In Facebook and other Web sites  people expressed their heartfelt thoughts about a day that is seared into our collective psyche. I am still deeply moved by all that happened on 9/11. That will never change.
Much like the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and the assassination of  President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963,  the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, is a day Americans will "never forget, always remember."
Until the next time...

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ramblings: No More Excuses

Ramblings: No More Excuses: I'm back to working on a novel. My past two posts have been about folks making excuses for not putting fingers to the keyboard and producing...

No More Excuses

I'm back to working on a novel. My past two posts have been about folks making excuses for not putting fingers to the keyboard and producing words, sentences, paragraphs, and chapters.
I've been guilty of that as well, for various and sundry reasons. Some of them have been good (at least I thought they were) and others not so good. So last Sunday, the day before Labor Day, I began work on a new young adult novel.
I've written every day since then (I know, only three days, but they add up over the weeks and months). As with my other novels, I intend to write every day, be it 30 minutes, an hour, or longer, if time permits. But I'm going to find the time to write each and every day until I've completed the first draft.
Several years ago I read a book by Wayne Dyer called, "Excuses Begone!" I liked the book. So much in fact that I bought several copies and gave them to people I thought could use the motivation to move on with their lives. Needless to say, I recommend the book.
Thinking about the Dyer's book, I realized that I was making excuses for not writing. As noted by many authors, writers write. And I needed to start writing again. No more excuses!
This isn't going to be a long blog. Why? Because I need to go work on my manuscript.
Until the next time...

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Labor Days for Writers

I've given some more thought since my last blog about finding the time to write.
Sometimes I think writers have built in excuses for not writing. Hey, I'm guilty at times. Writing isn't as easy as it appears. I know it's not easy. I believe writers know it's not easy. But there are other folks who think there's nothing much to it other than putting down a string of words.
But I digress.
I mentioned in the last blog about how I prefer to write in the mornings. I'll usually go through a mental and physical ritual of turning on the computer, fixing a pot of coffee, and doing other things before I put fingers to keyboard. It's a way I get focused on the task at hand.
You might say it's kind of like the baseball batter who goes through all sorts of things -- spitting on hands, glancing at the third-base coach, stepping into the batter's box, stepping out of the batter's box, rubbing hands again, look again at the third-base coach, step back into the batter's box, step out of the batter's box (ok, you get the idea) -- before waiting for the pitch. And then he goes through the same thing before the next pitch.
I don't believe writers need to waste time. They need to step up to the plate and start  swinging. But saying we need to have things just right, we're simply making excuses for not writing.
As hitters hit, writers should write. It shouldn't make that much difference what time of the day. Of course there are ideal times. But when we get the moment -- the right pitch -- we should be ready to take a big swing.
Until the next time...