Friday, October 29, 2010

Invocation to Ingenuity: Poetry Friday

This is my first Poetry Friday post. Toby Speed's cat Kashi,
at A Writer's Armchair, is this week's host.
I didn't plan to use one of my own efforts--it seems a bad way enter into new company, to be honest. But I had time for

And for a hundred visions and revisions, 
Before the taking of a toast and tea. 

Invocation to Ingenuity

I am prepared to paint my door blue
or yellow to welcome you in.
I will not paint it red with the blood of children.
(I have my limits.)

Neither the smell of solder
nor the impression of a transistor on my sole
will make me banish you.
(I may yell out in the darkness, but I will love you still.)

Generosity you will find at my table,
Although the apples may be hidden
under the day’s junk mail.
(Use those envelopes to make your marks and draw your maps.)

Enter into us and make our hands
your hands.
Help us turn copper wire into spiders.
(Or at least robotic spiders.)

Nourish our aberrations
as we nourish you,
and lead us not into the neurotypical but to a new kingdom.
(A kingdom where there is no king at all.)

Unwind my stacks and my secrets.
Find me when I am lost,
but don’t assume I want to go home.
(I am not Ulysses. The world has never seen me before.)

Ignore commands; override
directives; move the plot along.
What we knew was almost always wrong anyway.
(Especially when we had faith in it.)

Translate me out.
Send me like a drawing and disk on Voyager
or the May 4th,  1957 broadcast of  Huntley and Brinkley.
(But please let me say “Good Night” before I wave goodbye,)

You know we are Nothing
and Nobody without you.
and with you--only a notion.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

KidLit Con 2010: Dandelion Syrup

This is the Swan Garden. It is a repurposed dog kennel near my house. Sometimes the Swan Gardener installs new artificial flowers and rearranges the swans, but mostly the swan garden finds its own way through the year. 
The first and most important thing I learned at KidLit Con was the same thing I always need to learn: Wherever I go, there I am.* I am not an excellent reporter--but I am an indexer, so I can point you to information that may be of use. Your best first stop is the list of recaps at the KidLit Con site that will be growing as further recaps are posted.

Here are a few annotated entries. (Note: Some of these blogs may be at LiveJournal. Someone referred to Live Journal as a "gated community" because there are barriers to access.)

Stacked: librarians. reviews. meyhem  Excellent summaries of the sessions supplemented with crisp personal observations. I had a chance to talk a little with Kelly J. and Alea

The Writer's Armchair with Toby Speed  Many links to sites of other attendees. Toby is one reason I'm inspired to start participating in Poetry Friday on my blog (more on that later).

Maggie Stiefvater The "poster child of blogging" gave the keynote where she shared Eight Things about Blogging. She is also one of the Merry Sisters of Fate who presented a panel discussion on critique partnerships.

Rasco from RIF Carol Rasco, the CEO of Reading is Fundamental, shares her five takeaways. I find it reassuring that she is also striving to make her blog serve its mission and audience.

So what does any of this have to do with dandelion syrup?

The recipe came up in a wonderful conversation. Like all the best conversations, I had no idea what was going to happen, but mom/blogger/poet Amy of The Poem Farm made me deeply happy when she told me about her children gathering bowls of yellow petals, of boiling them down and adding "so much" sugar, and of the result, concentrated and beautiful. I'm more OK with myself now: My lawn isn't a monoculture and my life isn't either--my blog is true to that.

Finally, I know some of you are not on Twitter, but I want you to know that you can use Monitter to dip a toe in the tweetstream. I discovered it when Twitter was the best source of news about a gas explosion that demolished Main Street Bozeman. If you want to follow a person or a topic, try it. It's totally free--and no commitment at all. Meanwhile. . .

Greg Pincus at The Happy Accident posted a transcript of the Twitter traffic at #kidlitcon.

- - - - -

So, what am I going to do? Well, I'm going to participate in Poetry Friday, hosted this week by Toby Speed. I'm going to tweak my this blog's commenting feature so it's easier to have a conversation in the comments. (Threaded comments, that's the plan. I'm pursuing the most flexible, idiot-proof system. I'm a fine test case for idiot-proofing.) I know that one of the tags I'm going to start using will be economics, but that can't scare you anymore than it scares me. I'm grateful for your support. If you have questions, please ask--I'll try to point you to a good answer.

* There is no escaping me, at least not for me--the rest of you can flee on foot. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Antlers, Barnacles, and Cottonwood Fluff

Alas, I am not a leaf on the wind, my geekeje beloveds. 
A  I am an antler.
Everything sprouts in front of my eyes.

B I am a barnacle.
I depend upon what floats by to sustain me.

C I am cottonwood fluff.
The breath of a starling can alter my course.

That sums up my life on the web.* To paraphrase: Branching paths, filtering, random influence.

I'm going to KidLit Con in Minneapolis, and I may return a better denizen of the web--a better, more useful blogger.

I've been floundering, to be honest. It was all fun and games two years ago when I aspired to be as the pumpkin. Now people are actually taking time to show up.

I know I don't want this blog to be about writing--there are many excellent sources of information about that. I am not an excellent source of information. I don't know any secret formulas. My efforts, like Hieronymous Bosch: On the Problem of Audience, aren't exactly actionable advice.

I also know that it can't really be a book review blog. It hurts my brain to even think about that. Many people are doing that brilliantly. I love them for it. I can't do it.

I don't want this to be a diary-found-on-a-bus-seat, either. It happens, like in my My Mother's Obituary.

But I'm being very stupid about this: The expert I really need to ask is you. What are you looking for when you come here? Do you ever find it?

* It takes some discipline not invent epithets D to Z. I'm an abecedarion at heart.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Haunted* from the outside aka Obsessed

 obsession Look up obsession at

1510s, "action of besieging," from L. obsessionem, noun of action from obsidere (see obsess). Later, "hostile action of an evil spirit" (like possession but without the spirit actually inhabiting the body). Transferred sense of "action of anything which engrosses the mind" is from 1670s. Psychological sense is from 1901.

--Definition from Online Etymological Dictionary. An excellent resource for all people who like words. Without it, how would I know the word "Grübelsucht" ?

Today's post is about obsession, the particular kind of obsession known as "special interest" or even "the dreaded special interest."

For the past six months or so, hot air balloons have been in ascendency around here. We have launched solar balloons made out of a wacky amount of tape and black plastic garbage bags. We have had long discussions about why the Montgolfier brothers bothered to include a chicken and a duck as the first passengers--after all, as birds they have a heritage of flight. The sheep, on the other hand, was completely reasonable from an experimental perspective. At least that the consensus around here.

Finally, because we could, we sent the heart of our obsession to the 2010 Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. There can be much joy in surrendering to obsession, as is evidenced in the photo.

Here are a couple of links I find interesting...

Non-Fiction and the Hatred of Fiction , which is number 11 on the list of Stuff Asperger People Like blog. It's especially interesting to me because I'm committing fiction.

... and, apropos of nothing, this amazing story The God of Cake on Hyperbole and a Half. You can learn more about Allie, the artist responsible, here.

Finally, because I have no idea how to write queries, but some people want advice on that front, here's Kristen's My Query Letter Manifesto: Part 1, which is as useful as anything I've read on the subject.

* This is not about ghosts. I do not have enough personal experience with ghosts to write about them, which is fine with me. My father was plagued by ghosts and it didn't make his life any easier. Judging from my observations of him, ghosts are upsetting. So, no ghosts. Look elsewhere for specters.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Mouse Turd Theory of Popularity

A mouse photo by coxy

Mice, given many alternatives, almost always opt for a path that other mice have gone down before. I know this because I read scientific research.*  Part of the experiment involved presenting the decision-making mouse with many inviting openings where only one hole had been "seeded" with a mouse turd. The turd-seeded passage was the most popular choice. (I could call them bio-organic communication bundles, because that's what they are. Turd is shorter. If I were more diligent, I could probably turn turd into a meaningful acronym related to communication.) 

Few were the out-lier mice who would just shrug their little mousey shoulders and go in any ol' hole. 

I don't pretend to be one of those boldly-go-where-no-mouse-has-gone-before mice. I trust the turd myself--particularly when faced with the delightful surplus of books to read, music to hear, films to watch, video games to play, apps to use...all those choices. I read reviews. They help me make my decisions.

That brings me to my new situation. My work is at the receiving end of reviews. They are not always glowing. 

Last night I dreamed† that one of my first-year-of-college-housemates had read The Freak Observer and really didn't like it. She had a lot to say. The book is depressing for one thing--and she hates the main character: "She won't change anything. She could at least change her name. Something like Weezie Geazer would be good."

This is a perfectly legitimate review of my book. So are the negative reviews that appear here and there in the waking world. Some mice would not enjoy reading my book; they deserve fair warning.

But other mice will find it delightful. If I'm lucky, those mice will leave a little invitation to other like-minded mice.

For my part, I am committed to spreading some invitations around here and there. It's part of my mousey responsibility.

*I will not be giving you the citation because I read this a very long time ago. Also, I am not compelled by the ethics of proper behavior at the moment. But I did read it. This I am not making up.

†It was not my only dream of the night. Here are a couple more: 1) An earnest looking boy with a clipboard wants me to sign on with the future wave of Feminism. He says, "We have nine months to recover 270 months of change." 2) I'm hiking when I encounter three gorillas. I have the presence of mind to shake the bushes and hoot at them. Apparently that's the recommended course of action because nothing bad comes of it.