Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Summer is for Reading Emily Dickinson

Hi Everyone,

I just posted a review over at Kate Brauning’s “The Bookshelf” for a delicious novel entitled Nobody’s Secret.  (Chronicle 2013.) Written by Michaela MacColl, the story stars America’s #1 reclusive poet Emily Dickinson as a lively, driven young girl out to solve a murder (!) about a dapper young fellow she happened to meet.  (No—he was not a snake in the grass sort.)  I really enjoyed reading this book and wanted to share it with you.

Of course reading the novel lead me to reading E.D’s poetry and what can I say but it is a balm for the soul.  An elixir for my word-weary brain, the way she just lays everything out there, so neatly simple, like a well-made bed with a cool, hand-stitched quilt and artfully arranged pillow-shams. One just wants to revel in her word-choice. 

I shall refrain from even trodding the well-worn path of discussing her poems, for I fear the glare of scholars everywhere peering down their noses at my sophomoric attempt to expound upon her poetry’s merits.  Instead, let me offer you a painless link, where you can go and dabble your own feet in her cool stream of thought.

Summer is for reading Emily’s poetry.  Which is your favorite?


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Victoria's Secret Garden: The hidden message behind YA book covers

Over the past week I’ve read a few blogs about YA covers, and how many are gender-biased and geared for girls—thus excluding boy readers.  Maureen Johnson posed an interesting challenge in an article for the Huffington Post asking authors to re-imagine non-gender specific book covers, and the results are quite thought provoking.

I was surprised, though, that in all of these articles, no-one took objection to the caliber of covers now gracing many of our YA books targeted for girls.  I can’t help but notice that nowadays there seems to be a trend for “girls’” books to have the prerequisite saucy supermodel glaring at me from the cover.  A perfect Revlon face, airbrushed to the nines, billowing hair, pouty lips straight from a lipstick ad.  And the dresses!  (or level of UN-dressed, as the case may be.) I mean, I can appreciate a pretty dress as much as anybody, but enough already.  (I considered posting some of these covers for illustrative purposes, but decided against it.  My purpose is not to single authors out.  Besides, you know these covers when you see them. Suffice it to say, Frances Hodgson Burnett would be shocked.)

Do we really need to fill our young girl’s minds with these unrealistic images?  Aren’t they bombarded enough as it is with this ideal of the perfect female form in every movie, commercial and magazine ad? I thought books were supposed to expand the mind, not brain-wash readers into society's warped idea of perfection.  My twelve-year old reads these things, fer Cripe’s sake!  And more and more often, I find myself leaving my YA book face-down if I find myself reading one of those books in public.  It’s embarrassing!  Writers put their hearts blood into developing a main character and in the end it's all reduced down to a hot girl in an awesome dress.  Not to mention--what types of lasting impressions do these images leave with young minds? This surface-level selling of the female form has a name, and the twenty-dollar name for this practice is “the objectification of women”.  Sex sells.  On all levels, it seems.

So I leave it to you, my (wanna be) published comrades, let's consider well the future covers we choose to grace the labors of our pen and heart.  Represent our story well--and leave the booty-call to those who lack an imagination.
~Just Jill

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Support for Insecure Writers Everwhere!

Greetings Insecure Minions!

Today, I will not be posting any apprehensive, self-loathing type ramblings about my writing for two major reasons:  1.) My last blog, entitled “What if I just suck?” pretty much said it all, and 2.) I just feel too damn good about things to complain about it anymore.

I figure I hit the height of my insecure arc about a week ago.  It came around, bogged me down, turned me into a mooning whiney-ass and so I, in my cathartic-artist way wrote about it.  And you, my loverly blog-mates—well,  you just pulled me right out of it.  Thank you.  You have all become the best friends and neighbors I don’t know.   So, today I shall provide the double-D support in “Insecure Writers’ Support Group”.  Prepare to be showered in goodness, warm-fuzzies and rose-colored yummies because you deserve it!

“Start early and work hard. A writer’s apprenticeship usually involves writing a million words (which are then discarded) before he’s almost ready to begin. That takes a while.”
-David Eddings


All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives lies a mystery. Writing a book is a long, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. –George Orwell

Ummmm.  Okay.  Maybe that’s not where I wanted to go.  No warm fuzzies on the motivation-meter here.  I am actually considering never writing again.  How ‘bout this one?

There is nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.  Ernest Hemingway

Okay.  Thanks Ernie.  Now please go back and sit down at your desk and try not to bleed over all over the floor.  Someone has to clean that up. 

Wow.  These writers are a optimistic bunch aren't they?  I think I need a drink.  But wait--here's another one!

The quality which makes man want to write and read is essentially a desire for self-exposure and masochism.  Like one of those guys who has a compulsion to take his thing out and show it on the street. James Jones
Oh.  So is that why I like to write?  Well, thank you Mr. Jones for that little bit of information.  And I mean-- that very little bit.  There must be something here to lift everyone's spirits!  Some cheer to rally the anxious and quiet the self-doubting.
Every stink that fights the ventilator thinks its Don Quixote. Stanislaw Jerzy Lee
Crap.  I don't even know what that means!
I give up.
People--Listen up!  Get up from your silly box and go outside into the summer day waiting outside your window.  Watch a baseball game.  Go for a walk where there is no path and let your weary eyes rest on slim-lines of branches heavy with vibrant green.  Get your hands in the dirt.  One cannot possibly be downtrodden or gloomy with dirt under your fingernails and the smell of freshly-turned loam in your nostrils.  Plant something.  Weed.  Water.  Watch as Nature in her infinite beauty slowly draws up from the earth a variety of wonders we could in winter's grip only dare to dream about.
Then go write about it.
A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people. Thomas Mann
~Just Jill

P.S. Just completed my first book review for Kate Brauning's "The Bookshelf".  The review is for "Will Sparrow's Road" by Karen Cushman.  Link here.


Back to IWSG here!