Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #493: Rumor

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Jane

She kept a fake diary,
posted fictitious status updates,
& started outrageous rumors about herself–
all so no one would ever be able to answer the question:
Who was Jane Gault?

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 493

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Book Review: Night Job

Night Job

As part of my Post-K Summer Reading Boot Camp:
https://sarahleastories.com/2019/06/08/post-k-summer-reading-boot-camp-2019 

Night Job is the touching story of a little boy who accompanies his dad to work the third shift, cleaning up a middle school on Friday nights.  The idea of “take your child to work day” is a cool concept–it’s good for children to see how hard their parents work to provide for them, though I was surprised that the dad was able to bring his son because of liability issues, but that’s another lesson for another age.

Books that highlight the special relationship between fathers and sons touch my heart, for it is from dads that boys learn how to be men, including how to treat women.  No mother is shown in this, so I assumed the dad was single. I also inferred that this little family is impoverished–from the dad’s vocation as a custodian, eating egg salad sandwiches, and living in what looked like an extended stay facility–but the author does a splendid job of showing that their poverty is only limited to material things, not in adventure or love.  

However, this book was much too short; we see the gymnasium, the cafeteria, and the library, but not the classrooms and not enough of the exhilarating ride on the motorcycle, capturing the city when it’s sleeping.  There weren’t enough background details in the book–I couldn’t make out the name of the middle school or the particulars of the newspaper they were reading (much more detail was given with the baseball game). Details such as these would’ve added interest to the pages; a few more sensory details (touch, taste, smell) would’ve made it shine like a full moon.

I didn’t care for the building sighing and the chair whispering, Come–it didn’t fit in with the rest of the story, which is very Point A to Point B in its storytelling style.  This was realism, not escapism. There is also some odd wording, such as “a ring of keys as big as the rising moon” (moons don’t rise) and “from stem to stern,” which is nautical terminology.  

On recursive readings, I realized there was no dialogue–just the little boy telling a story–but it worked.  There is no conversation between the dad and his son when they’re having lunch; though the fact that there was conversation is probably understood (i.e. they didn’t just sit in the courtyard eating in complete silence), it would’ve been nice to mention what they talked about (e.g. baseball, cafeteria food, etc.) 

Though the dad is often busy working, the boy is always with him, not wandering off by himself–shooting baskets in the gym, listening to the radio in the cafeteria (rather than half-watching a television), reading his dad a story before falling asleep in the library, and even pitching in by helping clean the hallway floors.  

I also liked that it showed them doing lots of reading–the boy with the books, the dad with the newspaper, and not vegging out in front of a TV after a long night’s work.  (It was also nice to see an apple core instead of a snack cake wrapper in the lunch box.) It doesn’t show the dad playing with his son but just being there for him and with him, which is what a lot of parenthood is actually like.  Kids like to entertain themselves more than adults realize.  

Other goodreads reviewers mentioned that the language was too advanced for the boy’s age, such as “dusky highway” and “rising swell of dreams”; I agree.  I love the imagery these words evoke, but it must fit the character. To make such language more believable, the author would’ve had to tell the story in the third-person, and it would’ve lost so much.

The illustrations aren’t beautiful, but they tell the story beautifully.  The fact that most of them are gray-hued to fit the nocturnal atmosphere makes them perfect.

Overall, Night Job is a sweet book about a simple life–a life a lot of kids could probably relate to.

Suggested activity:  If your job offers a “Take your Child to Work Day,” take them up on it.  If this isn’t a possibility, find books about your profession or trade.  Even if your job is considered an “unskilled job,” reiterate to your child that all jobs are important and detail their purposes.  This will teach them to respect all those who put in an honest day’s work.  In relation to this book, tell them what the school would look like without someone to clean it.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38256476-night-job

#Micropoetry Monday: The Faultlessness of their Stars

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When the learned astronomer went blind,
he hired a foundling—
a lost soul hovering between heaven & hell.
A wealthy intellectual
(which was an oxymoron, for some),
he asked the boy to be his eyes,
to describe everything he saw.
And it was through the eyes of the blind,
that the learned astronomer’s apprentice,
through service to another,
reached his potential.
When the learned astronomer closed his eyes
for the final time in earth-space,
the boy’s eyes had been opened,
for there’d been nothing he’d ever had
that had been of value to anyone,
except to the learned astronomer
whose last sight was feel of the boys’ wet face
in his hands.

She bicycled, upcycled, & recycled,
burning calories,
not waste.
Her collar had faded from blue to white,
only to deepen into green.
She planted herself where she would grow the most–
an environment where she could be her most creative.
And with every ripening
& every reaping,
there would not be an uprooting,
but a replanting,
for she would leave a seed in her place–
ready to help the next person grow
in that place.

As Angel & Demon walked side by side in a parallel universe,
they came upon an impressionable human being
hitchhiking their way through the galaxy–
now standing before that split in the wishbone.
These 2 otherworldly beings were on a mission:
the former,
to gain a soul,
the latter,
a lost one.
The Demon told this being
that all their senses would be heightened
to anything they had ever experienced on Earth;
the Angel said that what they would experience
beyond the mythical pearly gates
would transcend all senses.
When the human being chose the planet
of the sun rays & the moon beams
over the one of candlelight & firelight,
they realized that they’d been to this place before,
& that the life they’d known had been a scavenger hunt–
where only a minority had figured out
that it was not themselves they were looking for,
but the Ticketmaster with the unlimited tickets
that had already been paid for.

Book Review: The Girl Before

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This book was absolutely unputdownable.  It also had a strange effect on me:  It put me into decluttering mode, bigtime, and I’m already a minimalist (which is not about having nothing but about having just the right amount).  The Girl Before made me think of all the clutter in my life, including the clutter inside my head as well as virtual clutter.  

The questionnaire scattered throughout was a novel idea (no pun intended)–a nice change from opening a chapter with a quote that someone else said.

Here is just a glimpse of the great writing in The Girl Before (p. 170):  Sometimes I have a sense that this house–our relationship in it, with it, with each other–is like a palimpsest or a pentimento, that however much we try to overpaint Emma Matthews, she keeps tiptoeing back; a faint image, an enigmatic smile, stealing its way into the corner of the frame.

Any book that gets me to learn a new word must have something going for it.  

I found it interesting that there were no quotation marks in Emma’s story, and even more surprising that it look me halfway through the book to notice this.  Is this a UK thing? I remember reading Harlequin Presents (a long time ago, so don’t judge) when apostrophes were used instead of quotations.  I am curious what the symbolism was concerning this.

Edward Monkford (what a pretentious name) evokes an image of Howard Roark from Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead; other goodreads reviewers have said Christian Grey (I’ve seen the movies but never read the books and don’t care to).  His crazy house rules were fascinating–like the technology that controlled the house was fascinating. The concept that a house can change the way you live–actually help you live a better life–was fascinating, but Monkford himself was not.  He was a pig–just a well-spoken, better-dressed, affluent pig. (I guess you really can put lipstick on a pig, if you got enough to smear it with.)  

The women, Emma (THEN) and Jane (NOW), are both incredibly stupid because they think with their sex and not their brains.  Emma seemed like a closet hoarder who called her paramour “Daddy” (ew) and liked angry sex (even when the anger was directed at her).  She was a freak (yet we are told that she has charm). 

Compared to her, Jane was milquetoast.

Even though the women were not portrayed positively, it’s fairly realistic as a lot of women choose to have babies with losers (because they don’t need a man and think their sons and daughters don’t need a father).  Sometimes, they even marry these losers and put them above their children. It’s incredible how many male inmates (who are in prison for murdering women) get fan letters from women–women they’ve never even met.  

I never knew whether Emma’s last story was for real but it doesn’t matter.  THEN & NOW were both enjoyable.

But, back to Monkford:  A lot of women like egotistical, controlling men because they see it as take-charge masculinity.  Monkford is one of those ruthless corporate types who is also a temperamental artist (an explosive combination) who would blow up a perfectly decent development that would provide affordable housing to families if it had his name on it, but there was something about the aesthetics (just like the idealistic, anti-hero Roark) that didn’t align with his vision.  Furthermore, Monkford uses women until he uses them up (after all, he finds them so easily). He is incapable of love, for he can’t even love his own, imperfect kin. He likes his women damaged (and in the beginning anew stage), so he can turn them into blank canvases he can manipulate. His structures may be beautiful, but I didn’t get the impression they were very green.  All that extra, empty space has to be heated and cooled.

Monkford was such a commanding presence in the book that the other male characters barely registered.

The ending was weak, but the journey was so intriguing, the destination didn’t matter (it just knocked off a star).  It had the mysterious feel of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, which I appreciated, but the nightshades of Gone Girl came out of the blue, for there was a turn in one of the character’s motives that wasn’t led up to or hinted at in any way.  I understand the author doesn’t want the reader to figure out everything too soon–in case the reader loses interest, but if the writing’s good, your reader won’t; a well-written story always trumps a twist ending.  What’s more, when the true villain is revealed, it’s anticlimactic, for it seemed I found out at the same time the author did.  

Jane could’ve used a little more to wrap up her story but then we’re introduced to Astrid, and the story stops (and, I’m sure, begins again there).  I did, however, like the tie-in to the title in the last part of her story. Nicely done!  

Besides being unputdownable, The Girl Before has immense readability.  

One gripe that has nothing to do with the book:  I don’t like authors going by different names.  What is the point of this? Are they not allowed to cross genres with the same name?  There is another author who does this, and I find it irritating.  

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28016509-the-girl-before

Summer Writing Mini-Workshop: Writing Truths

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Third-person pronouns are often a mask for the word “I,” as they allow us to invade our own privacy and air our dirty laundry without anyone knowing to whom it belongs.

Engage with other writers, but never at the expense of writing, editing, and submitting.

When we take the time to self-reflect, we pursue a path to self-actualization. https://sarahleastories.com/2018/02/11/writing-prompt-the-symbols-of-your-life/

Nonfiction is hot; creative nonfiction, even more so.

Inspiration may not always come to you; sometimes, you must seek it out: https://sarahleastories.com/2017/03/25/33-poetry-themes-&-forms-to-spark-creativity/

Be versatile in your writing, but remember, it’s the specialists that make the money.

We can live a century in a lifetime, a lifetime in a day. https://sarahleastories.com/2015/09/09/writers-digest-wednesday-poetry-prompt-322-theme-10-lines-or-fewer/

You can learn as much from reading a bad book as you can from reading a good one.

Sometimes all it takes is one word: https://sarahleastories.com/2016/07/28/writers-digest-wednesday-poetry-prompt-3-theme-one-word-you-might-use-to-get-someones-attention/

Reading old periodicals is like opening a time capsule. It’s the difference between watching a movie made in the fifties versus a movie made today, set in the fifties.

 

#Fiction Friday: #Micropoetry from the Book

mormoni

Because Jesus had paid for my sins,
I could not short the Lord–
I had to pay Him back through tithing,
through prayer & scripture study,
through keeping His commandments,
& through good works that surpassed any good
that had ever been done to me.
There was no question that I would pay;
the only question was: Gross or net?

If my answer was different than theirs,
I wasn’t praying in the right spirit,
so I let them believe my conversion was to their Church
& not to their version of the God they claimed to serve.

God’s favor wavered–
the God who wasn’t always fair
but just,
as many Christians claimed.
It would take me many years to realize
that I was glad God that wasn’t fair,
for if He was,
then I would’ve had no place with Him
in the afterlife
for all the misdeeds I’d done.
It wasn’t fair that Jesus had to die,
but God had let Him know that it was the only way
so that Jesus had no choice,
for what was autonomy when you could only escape
the sting of death
by letting everyone else burn in hell forever?

The Word of Wisdom
was not the word of the wise.
It was an admonition to abstain from strong drink–
hot drinks & alcohol–
but fried food & all the chocolate cake you could eat
was just dandy.

I lived the law of chastity,
& that seemed the greatest law of all,
but it was through default
& not being devout
that I was still a virgin,
for just being with David
in a non-Biblical way
had always been enough;
he had kept me pure.

Book Review: Lena’s Shoes are Nervous

Lena

As part of my Post-K Summer Reading Boot Camp:
https://sarahleastories.com/2019/06/08/post-k-summer-reading-boot-camp-2019 

I did not have strong feelings about this book either way, but once was enough, as I was a bit confused by the premise–Lena wasn’t nervous about school but her shoes were, though only because the author tells us this; her dad cements the idea of “nervous shoes” by putting it in his daughter’s head.  Suddenly, all her clothes start taking on personalities of their own.  

Had the shoes been animated (they had as much personality as a sponge), this could’ve been a cute little coming-of-kindergarten-age story.

That business about her shoes not getting along with her dress–because her shoes splashed into a puddle and got it all muddy–didn’t make sense either.  Wouldn’t it be the dress who was pissed at the shoes rather than the other way around? And why is the headband such good friends with the shoes? Or better yet, why doesn’t she just wear a different dress–one that her shoes like? 

What’s more, how did Lena know the shoes were willing to be brave?  Did the shoes tell her this? Such is never shown/explained. I know I’m overthinking this, but I don’t think kids who are the target age for this book are going to get the idea of first-day kindergarten jitters projected onto inanimate objects.  Kids like stories that make them laugh or stories they can relate to. This story should’ve focused on Lena’s feelings, not imaginary shoe feelings.    

There was no mother in the picture, but a nuclear family doesn’t always have to be portrayed as this was as much about a father’s relationship with his daughter as it was about a child being nervous about her first day of kindergarten.  That said, I thought the dad was the mom at first because he said, “Oh, dear.” (That doesn’t sound like a phrase a man would say–I’ve, in fact, never heard a man say that.)

However, a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea was showing Lena being afraid of the big dog only for the dog to lick her face; this book should’ve shown Lena being wary around strange dogs and avoiding letting any dog lick her face.  After all, they lick their butts.  

The illustrations were reminiscent of Syd Hoff’s style (e.g. Danny and the Dinosaur, Sammy the Seal, etc), but his drawings were livelier and more consistent.  In Shoes, we bounce around from close-ups to zoom outs (i.e. multiple scenes on a page) to what I would call standard; we also go from black-and-white with spot color to full color.  What I loved, however, was the fact that Lena’s bedroom had a little library (in a bookcase shaped like a dollhouse) as well as a telescope (but no TV); the fresh fruits and flowers in the kitchen were also a nice touch.  Little details like that show (rather than tell) that Lena’s home is a healthy, nurturing one.  

Lena’s Shoes are Nervous was not the best but certainly not the worst.

Suggested activity:  There are many activities you can do that have something to do with shoes, whether it’s reading The Wizard of Oz (it really was all about the shoes), play horseshoes, match certain shoes with certain activities (bowling shoes, ballet shoes, etc; I’ve done the same thing with different types of balls).  

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36495841-lena-s-shoes-are-nervous