Monthly Archives: July 2014

Turn Your Favorite Song Into a Poem

music typewriterWriting prompt:

Pick a song, one with lyrics that really speak to you, and turn it into a poem. Stay true to the meaning and the story but feel free to delete and add small parts. Reorder words, lines and entire paragraphs if you want. You can choose to stay true to the rhythm/rhyme scheme/point of view, or you can change it. As long as you focus on discovering and strengthening the parts that stir emotion within yourself, you can do whatever you want. 

I completed this prompt with the song “Monsters.” Written and performed by Timeflies, featuring Katie SkyWatch the music video here! 

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Rob Resnick and Cal Shapiro from Timeflies

 

“Monsters”

A poem by Sarah Schneekloth

based on a song by Timeflies

 

I know it can’t get worse than today,

sitting here

while she’s trying to rehearse what to say.

She’s in the bathroom, hoping I’m not in earshot.

A cup of coffee still steaming, staring back at me

and it’s blacker than the night.

I’m awake but still sleeping.

 

She’s getting used to the sound of her teardrops.

 

Splash,

it hits the towel.

 

I know it’s been awhile

since you’ve seen me smile and laugh.

I’ve been in denial since it happened.

I can’t explain this

so I keep it all inside,

wear my pain

but it’s masked by my pride.

She finally came to hold me and she cried.

She stared into my eyes and said…

 

“I see your monsters.

I see your pain.

Tell me your problems,

I’ll chase them away.

I’ll be your lighthouse. I’ll make it okay.

When I see your monsters I’ll stand there so brave,

and chase them all away.”

 

I can’t,

you won’t like what you see,

if you were in my head and had to hear my plea.

And could someone please shut off this fucking answering machine,

so I can stop leaving these messages that you will never get.

And all these cries for help you’ll never see,

you’ll never check.

But I guess it’s easy for you to leave.

But believe me, this isn’t something I’ll just forget.

I’m still sitting here wondering

who did it

while I’m staring out our front door, knowing

you’ll never walk through.

Said you’d come right back.

A blank stare as I stand so alone,

I know you’re never coming home.

 

I’ve got a heart made of fools gold,

All the promises I told, they keep chipping away.

It’s hard to get to know me

when I don’t know myself.

And it helps cause I felt I was down,

I was out.

Then you looked at me and said…

 

“I see your monsters.

I see your pain.

Tell me your problems,

I’ll chase them away.

I’ll be your lighthouse. I’ll make it okay.

When I see your monsters I’ll stand there so brave,

and chase them all away.”

 

Now I have to be so brave.

I’ll chase this away.

 

Book Review: This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Published in 1920.

Summaryparadise

This Side of Paradise follows the young life of Amory Blaine through the 1920s. Believing he has an extraordinary future ahead of him, the Minnesotan attends boarding school overseas and then goes on to Princeton. He leaves Princeton early and serves in World War I. The war and Amory’s time in the war are not described at all. What is described are the relationships he has with the people around him. We see him fall deeply and quickly in love, only to walk away from it a few days later. Knowing nothing about Amory’s father, we see him develop a father-son-like relationship with a man who believes Amory is his reincarnated self. The friendship between the religious monsieur nearing the end of his life and an adventurous young man who does not believe in god is an extraordinary one. Later, we see Amory fall in love again, this time to a woman who loves him just as deeply. In the spirit of the 20’s, the woman chooses to marry a man of wealth, choosing security and status over love.

The novel is known for the clear picture it paints of the 1920s. This post-WWI age was one where drinking, casual dating/kissing, jazz music and flappers were the new rage. Some critiques consider This Side of Paradise the first (and maybe only) book that truly captured the life and culture of 1920’s youth.

Scene vs Summary

Too much summary for my taste. Because of the extended timeline, a good amount of summary was needed but there were times when I would have preferred to jump into the scene and learned things for myself rather than be given an broad explanation of how events have been occurring. There were no flashbacks in the story and very little to no summarized backstory. Again, this was supported by the extended, linear plot line but it simply did not work for me. The life of the main character felt too normal. He wasn’t doing anything extraordinary, the people in his life were bland, ect. Although, I’m sure many would argue that the brilliance of the book is the way it explores ordinary life. I won’t disagree with the literary writer’s belief that every character’s life holds a story worth telling.

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Every writer alive has heard the phrase “write what you know” multiple times. I assume the same goes for the early 19th century when Fitzgerald wrote This Side of Paradise. If not, the phrase may have sprung into being out of this book!

Like his main character, Fitzgerald grew up in the Midwest, went to boarding school out east, attended Princeton, and dropped out to join the military. It takes place in the same years that Fitzgerald himself grew up and even a lot of the Princeton “clubs” mentioned in the book are actually present. The book is Fiction so we can assume details and characters are made-up, but I believe its safe to say that every writer portrays part of him/herself in their main character. In this instance, my guess is that Armory Blaine is an exaggerated version of the young Francis Scott.

1920’s language

There is no denying that Fitzgerald had a way with words but reading prose from nearly 100 years ago (published in 1920) can be jarring. I find it similar to reading a book written in exaggerated slang/accent or a strange structure; sometimes you fall into the grove, sometimes you don’t. I could not get into the grove of this book. Though I’m sure the language flowed beautifully in the 1920s, it was too choppy for me. The letters written between characters were specifically jarring. Is this really the way people talked to each other in the early 19th century? I suppose it was, but in 2014 it doesn’t seem realistic. So unfortunately, it threw me out of the story.

As The Great Gatsby is one of my favorite books of all time, I know this feeling does not encompass all of Fitzgerald’s work or classic literature in general.

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Overall

2 Stars. It was a decent book. Although I’m sure the language flowed beautifully in 1920, it kept throwing me out of the story in 2014. The plot line was not a very engaging, the side characters came and went too quickly, and the story as a whole failed to leave an impression with me (positive or negative). Therefore, 2 stars is all it gets. 

Discussion Point: Because the main character of This Side of Paradise is a teenager/young adult, would you consider this a young adult novel? Although a lot of stories with teenage characters don’t stay true to the typical young adult themes, they are often still placed on the YA bookshelf. What do you think?

Check out some of my previous book reviews: 

Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep

The Storm at the Door by Stephen Merrill Block

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

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Word Crimes Video

Any and all WORD LOVERS need to check out this video!

You won’t regret it! 

Word Crimes by Weird Al 

weird-al-grammar-hed-2014 word crimes1 WordCrimes

Question of the Day

Do you feel your life is taking place on center stage or beneath the bleachers? Which do you prefer? 

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Book Review on Doctor Sleep, sequel to The Shining.

Book Review of Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep. Scribner, 2013.dr sleep   10

If you’re an avid reader like myself, you undoubtedly have that handful of characters that never stray far from your heart or mind. Many of these characters are ones that have been with us for a long time, through entire series of books; others left their impression through a single story. In Doctor Sleep, King explores new territory by taking a well-loved character from 35+ years ago (1977) and reintroducing him as an adult, as if all that time really did pass.

**Before you continue on, I recommend reading my book review of The Shining, the 35-year-old prequel to Doctor Sleep.

Summary

Doctor Sleep reintroduces readers to Danny/Dan Torrance. Danny is the 5-year-old boy from The Shining who was haunted by his own paranormal/psychic abilities in the winter of 1977 when his father took on the job as winter caretaker of a historic (and haunted) hotel. Dan is a single, recovering alcoholic in his 40s who sweeps his supernatural gifts under the rug, only using them to help people pass on in the hospice where he works. That is, until he meets Abra Stone. When Abra, a girl in her young teens, hits a complicated, scary situation, she reaches out to Dan using her own supernatural abilities and discover their abilities are stronger when together then they ever could be alone.

When a pack of immortal murders senses Abra as a threat, they make it their goal to track her down, suck all the “Shining” out of her and, once she is good for nothing else, kill her. As the danger increases, so does the bond between Abra and Dan, creating a war between good and evil where neither side is willing to back down.

dr sleep quote

Characters

Like always, King has excellent characters. They are diverse and round with identifying features. They are true to their personality traits that are introduced from the start, and in this case, true to their history and family attributes as well.

To come back to a character that was so deeply loved and remembered had to be a daunting task. As King re-acquaints us with Danny Torrance, he runs the risk of disappointing the reader who thought they knew what was in store for him so many years ago.

Another risk with returning to the well-loved Danny Torrance 35+ years later is that he wouldn’t feel like the same character; he would just feel like a grown man with similar abilities to the young Danny. King does two things very well to avoid this: 1) He shows the reader short scenes of Danny growing up and becoming the man that he currently is. 2) Dan stays very true to his roots and to his family. By putting traits of Jack Torrance (Danny’s father in The Shining) in the adult Dan, King allows the reader to connect to that part of the Torrance family that they already knew. It’s no secret that many of us grow up to become our parents. 😛

Structure

The Shining the movie has been said to be one of the best films ever made, even though King didn't approve of many of the changes.

The Shining the movie has been said to be one of the best films ever made, even though King didn’t approve of many of the changes.

The novel has a typical structure where the reader is introduced to a few characters that seem to be unrelated but eventually, slowly, their paths collide. Keeping each character’s storyline interesting while slowing weaving them together creates a lot of anticipation and excitement for the climax of the story.

King tackles the large time gap between The Shining’s 5-year-old Danny Torrance to the 40-year-old Dan by showng the reader short scenes from his life between now and then. King shows only the relevant scenes, getting to the present of the story as soon as possible. This transition is a large part of why Dan still feels like the same character as little Danny Torrance.

Overall—4 stars

Although the novel was a great story and well written, it didn’t capture my attention like some King novels. Part of that was because there was too many unrelated supernatural things occurring. As I stated in my book review on The Shining, my favorite science fiction is that which is believable. Meaning with only a slight twist in our present world, the story could actually happen. The Shining may be the best example of that closeness to reality that I have ever read. Doctor Sleep, however, strays farther from our modern world. I never doubted the abilities that Dan or Abra uncovered within themselves, but I did doubt the supernatural abilities of the villainous group called the True Knot. As the book went along, this group seemed to have more and more unexplained abilities that would appear too conveniently. This stretched reality too far for my liking and lowered the level of suspense and horror. This could have been easily prevented by explaining near the beginning of the story that each member of the True Know possessed a different type of ability, and explaining a few.

Let me know what you thought about Dan in his 40s. Did he feel like the same character to you?

I’m taking bets: How long before they make a Doctor Sleep movie??

 

Graham Greene’s Edits of The Power and The Glory *Spoilers*

power-and-glory-greeneShitty first drafts; its a common phrase in the writing world and one that I personally cling on to as one of the main reasons I keep plugging away on my first novel. Editing is where the story really ties itself together. Therefore, the edits an author makes from the first draft of their novel until publication fascinates me!

Unfortunately, with the use of computers and word documents, these changes often disappear into cyber space, never to be seen or studied by anyone. BUT in 1939 when Graham Green wrote the first version of The Power and the Glory, he used good ‘ol pen and paper. That original, hand-written copy of the novel is still in tack (see pictures below!), allowing individuals to compare the original copy with the published manuscript.

See my book review of The Power and the Glory here. It may surprise you!! 

While doing a bit of snooping on the Internet, I came across this intriguing article by François Gallix, a professor of contemporary literature in English at the Sorbonne in Paris. Gallix had the privilege of looking at the original version of The Power and the Glory and in doing so, he found some meaningful cuts made to the text which he describes in his article. Click here for full article.

**Spoilers ahead** The most interesting cut Gallix pointed out is near the end of the novel when the main character, a priest in Mexico during a time when all religion is outlawed, was executed in the center of town. Gallix explains the passage as follows:

The published text runs as follows:

“Then there was a single shot, and opening [his eyes] again he [Mr. Tench] saw the officer stuffing his gun back into his holster and the little man was a routine heap beside the wall—something unimportant that had to be cleared away. [added on the manuscript and published: Two knock-kneed men approached quickly].”

After “cleared away,” Greene crossed out the following lines that were not included in the published version:

“But looking down Mr. Tench caught a look on the officer’s face—an uneasy look, the look of a disappointed man and it suddenly sunk to him, as the buzzards flipped down again after the explosion’s shot, as though the blood had been cleared away from a whole region of the world.”

Gallix explains this cut as part of Greene’s “purified minimalist style,” purposely leaving things open ended so the reader can interpret the work anyway he/she sees fit. Many authors incorporate this minimalist style into their writing, Raymond Carver as one of my favorites, but seeing the actual edits first hand is a unique experience. I’m very glad that I came across this article and have the opportunity to share it with you all! Please check out the entire article here. It’s not long and well worth the time!

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Title Page from Graham Greene’s manuscript of The Power and the Glory. © Copyright Verdant SA.

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Page from Graham Greene’s manuscript of The Power and the Glory. © Copyright Verdant SA.

Writing Prompt

She was a quaint woman, solid-colored skirts hovering just above the ground. I saw a child approach her once, asking to play a card game. She pulled a deck out of her apron pocket and asked if he’d ever heard of rummy? Well, she said, gather all your coins. A woman as old as I doesn’t waste her time on penniless hands.

 

Writing Prompt: Write an extremely short, yet vivid, character description. Include at least one specific scene. I was aiming for 50 words in this one and went a little over. No matter your word count, edit your first draft to cut out as much as you possible.

less is more

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