Thursday, December 17, 2009

Happy Holidays

I'm traveling for the holidays and wont be back until January. While I'm away, I thought I would leave you with a few winter photos from last Christmas. Don't you wish you had a fork lift so you could build 15 foot tall snowmen too?

While I'm gone, please vote in my why are you reading this blog pole.

Joke of the Day

Not only do I own a forklift. But I used it to build a 15' snowman. Aren't you laughing yet?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Why are you reading this?

2009 is almost over. I’ll spare you a holiday greeting card version of my annual highlights. But since I started this blog in January, it seems like a good time to step back and assess this blog. Mainly I’m currious what people want to read.

I think that most of my readers fall into one of three catigories: people who know me, other bloggers, and people who google dyslexia jokes. But I’m wondering what you all want to read.

When I started this blog, the idea was to write about dyslexia. The problem is that there’s only so much to say about bad spelling. After a couple months, I ran out of ideas and started blogging about what ever I felt like.

There are three other dyslexia related blogs that I’ve found. If you are here because you’re interested in dyslexia, you might want to check them out. Dyslexia Advantage runs bios on famous dyslexics. They tend to have one post every week or two. Teh Dyslexic Storyteller posts dyslexia related news articles and commentary of special education advances about once a week. And Eide Neurolearning Blog posts about once a week mainly research results from learning style studies. As far as I know, I don’t have any cross-over followers with those blogs. And for the most part I expect very few if any of my readers care about dyslexia. Well except for the readers who like to make fun of dyslexics, but we’ll get to that later.

The vast majority of people who “follow” this blog are other bloggers. I know that I have a lot of annonomous readers that don’t publicly follow because they don’t have blogger accounts. But let’s be honest. There are a lot of wannabe writers on blogger, and a lot of us follow each other. In addition to being a dyslexic, I’m also a wannabe writer. I’m actively querying my second novel (my first novel was more of a learning experience and I doubt anybody wants to read it). I’m 25k words into the first draft of my next novel (this is the one I started two weeks ago). I am also slowly tinkering with a memoir, about dyslexia – hence the creation of the blog.

There are A LOT of blogs about writing. Tips on writing. Tips on the publishing industry. Horror stories of aspiring writers trying to navegate the publishing industry. The list goes on. I haven’t tried to make this into a writing blog, just 'cause I don’t want to be the same as everyone else. But if most of my readers are other writers that like reading writing blogs, maybe I should add more writing related posts. Is that what you want?

I do read a lot. Well that’s kind of a lie. I listen a lot. In 2009, so far I have read 27 books, and I have listened to 80 books, for a total of 107 books consumed, and I still have two more weeks to go. Since I spend so much time reading/listening, a lot of what I think about is influenced by what I read. So this blog has included a lot of book reviews. Do you like them?

Then there are the jokes. Back in June I did a post of dyslexia jokes. It’s never recieved a single comment, and I didn’t think anybody cared about it. Then in September I finally broke down and signed up for google analytics. It turns out 40% of the people who view this blog find it by googling the words “dyslexia jokes” – I’ve made it to number one on recomended pages for that search. To appease my joke loving readers, I’ve started including a joke of the day with my regular posts. But only 10% of the people who read my dyslexia jokes go on to read any other posts. So I’m not sure if anybody cares about my joke of days. Do you like them? Or can I stop scrambling to come up with new jokes all the time?

So I’m just gonna ask you. Why do you read this blog? (Note: this pole is now closed. The results are listed next to the choices. If you would still like to vote, please leave your response in the comments section.)

Do you care about dyslexia? (36%)
Do you care about writing? (21%)
Do you enjoy my book reviews? (5%)
Do you like my jokes? (11%)
Are you my mom and you just like me? (11%)
Do you even know why you’re reading this blog? (16%)

I’ve posted this pole in the side panel. Please vote! If you are reading for an unlisted reason, please let me know in the comments section. Now that I’m approaching my second year of blogging, I want to give my readers what they want. Thanks for your input.

Joke of the Day

Two friends are discussing politics on Election Day, each trying to no avail to convince the other to switch sides.

Finally, one says, "Look, it's clear we are opposed on every issue. Our votes will cancle each other out. Why not save ourselves some time and both agree not to vote today?"

The other agrees enthusiastically and they part.

Shortly after that, a friend of the first one who overheard the conversation says, "That was a sporting offer you made."

"Not really, this is the third time I've done this today."

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Gift of a Great Story

I was thrilled when my brother suggested, “Let’s just all give each other books this year for Christmas.” Even if you don’t have relatives dictating that you give nothing but books, a great novel can make a great gift – and can fit into most budgets. I tend to read a lot. So far in 2009, I’ve read or listened to 106 books. I will spare you a complete list. But here are a few of my favorites if you need some help with your holiday shopping.

For the young artist on your gift list: A Day With No Crayons by Elizabeth Rusch – This beutifully illistrated picture book is about a young girl who colors on the wall and has all her crayons taken away. She then learns how to see colors everywhere in the world around her and creates art out of everything she touches from leaves in the park to old shoes in her bedroom. Combined with an assortmant of creative art supplies, A Day with No Crayons is the perfect gift for the budding artist in your house.

For the young adventurer on your gift list: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan – This middle grade adventure novel is the first of five books in the Percy Jackson and the Olympian’s series. This exciting series perfectly blends modern Manhatten and Ancient Greece in the next chapter of Greek mythology. The movie of the Lightning Thief comes out next spring. Help the demi-gods in your family read about the magic of Olympus before they see it on the big screen. See a longer review of the series here.

For the rapidly aging teenager on your gift list: Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen – This YA novel is the opposite of the classic coming of age tale. An 18 year old girl who grew up to fast goes on a quest to live an entire childhood in one summer. The story encourages teens to hold onto their youth, while acknologing the complexity of growing up. See a longer review of all nine of Sarah Dessen’s novels here.

For the Science Fiction buff on your gift list: The Host by Stephanie Meyer – This is the first novel in Meyer’s next series. Instead of staring Vampires on the Olympic penisela, it’s about an invading parisitic alien species that takes over the Earth, and one sympathic alien that goes native and finds a home among a cell of rebel humans. I enjoyed The Host a lot more than the Twilight series, and can’t wait until the next book in the series is released. (Note: Unlike Twilight character’s in this story are adults and while teens can enjoy it, this is not a YA novel.)

For the bleeding heart on your gift list: Grace by Richard Paul Evans – This heart felt tale of a modern little match girl is sure to bring a tear to your eyes. When a fourteen year old boy discovers that one of his classmates is being physically and sexually abused by her step father, he helps her run away from home and hide out in the clubhouse in his backyard. The story might be set at Christmas, but it doesn’t have a happy ending.

For the unussal thinker on your gift list: Look Me in the Eye by John Elder Robison – This is a memoir by a very interesting man with aspergers syndrome. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing several people with aspergers in my life, but still learned a great deal by reading this book. I hope the memoir I’m currently writing about my life as a dyslexic will one day come close to the caliber of this book.

For the know it all on your gift list: A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson – This non-fiction book is a cliftnotes version of all scientific history. It begins with the big bang and ends with the evelusion of man. It doesn’t cover anything in detail, but provides a nice refresher to basic scientific study of the last few centuries.

For the partier on your gift list: I Like You by Amy Sedaris – This humerous hospitality book includes great recipies and party throwing tips that will have you rolling on the floor with laughter. Combined with a sporting apron, it’s the perfect gift for the consument host.

Joke of the Day
A guy bought his wife a beautiful diamond ring for Christmas.
After hearing about htis extravagant gift, a friend of his said, "I thought she wanted one of those sporty four-wheel-drive vehicles."
"She did," he replied. "But where was I going to find a fake Jeep."

Friday, December 11, 2009

Look Mom, I Can Spell - Almost

Lately I’ve been impressed with the quality of my own spelling. When I started this blog, I decided not to run spell check, so that my non-dyslexic readers could experience the pleasure of sounding out everything they read. While my spelling isn’t always accorate, I did endure nearly four hundred hours of one-on-one phonix training as a child. So my guesses are always phonetic.

But here’s the thing. My spelling has improved. A lot. By cutting Wednesday’s post into word and running spell check, it appears I misspelled 10 out of 477 words. 98% accuracy isn’t perfect, but if that post was a spelling test, I would have gotten a high A. And the words that I did misspell were all really close. Spending 30 seconds running spell check, and I could have been error free.

I’ve noticed my improved spelling in my fiction writing too. I completed the first draft of my first novel about eight years ago. At that time, I misspelled about 25% of the words I attempted to write. I would have to stop and correct my spelling at the end of each sentance. And it would often take me ten or fifteen minutes to figure out the correct spelling of the words I wanted to use. But I can’t even remember the last time I made it to step ten in the dyslexic’s guide to spell check. Now my fiction is just as accurate as this blog. I type a couple paragraphs, zip through spell check, and move on.

I know that I still misspell a lot of words that the average twelve year old can write with no problem. But I railrly feel self concious about my spelling. I can limp along well enough to get my point across. And my failures tend to fall close enough to the mark that they are easily corrected.

So I was a bit shocked when my husband started making fun of my grocery list yesturday. It turns out, of the fifteen items I put on the list, two were spell correctly. His favorite was pretselz. Apparently that isn’t how it’s spelled.

I’m not sure why I can spell revelation without problem, but I still haven’t learned how to spell cheeze. My guess is practice. I’ve been spending more and more time writing. And after correcting the same word a hundred times, my guesses slowly move closer to the mark. But I never worry about making my grocery lists legible. Perhaps I just need to write a cook book. Then I might figure out how to spell orenges.

Joke of the Day
A boy asked his teacher, "How do you spell ichael?"
"Do you mean Michael?" the teacher asked.
"No, I already have the M down."

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Background Music

I tend to be a pretty good listener. The whole not knowing how to read thing, forced me to hone my listening skills as a kid. For years, I had an almost perfectly audographic memory. I no longer remember everything I hear, mainly because I no longer try to remember everything I hear. Still I’m always very concious of the sounds around me. Things like buzzy lights drive me bonkers, and I’m always eves dropping on the conversations of straingers.

In order to block out all the unwanted noises in my life, I spend a lot of time plugged in. Unless I am engaged in an active conversation with another person, I’m almost always listening to my I-pod. That's the main reason why I’ve listened to more than 80 audio books in the past year. But I do have several thousands of songs on my I-pod too.

I normally don’t like to read anything while I’m writing. I get very involved in the books that I read, and I never want my own prose to be influenced by the works of others. So I just yo-yo between reading/listening to 5 books a week, to listening to nothing but music and writing my own books.

Oddly, it is easier for me to ignor background music than electronic white noise. But music does effect my mood. So when I am actively writing, I like to have a soundtrack to my life. I’ve met several other writers who create playlists to write to that put them in the proper state of mind while writing. But I’m more interested in making a writing playlist to listen to during the parts of my day that I can’t write – like when I’m at work.

My last novel Camp Life centered around a production of Romeo & Juliet. It isn’t West Side Story, but I still felt like listening to show tunes was a good way to put me in a properly theatrical state of mind. The result, I listened to show tunes 24/7 for almost a year. I’ve memorized the scores to quite a few shows I’ve never even seen.

Now I’m writting a new novel staring a bunch of geeky college kids. So what do modern nerds listen to? I’m thinking alternative rock. I’ve started to assemble a playlist of Cobra Starship, Belle & Sebastian, Weezer, and Bowling for Soup, but I’m not sure what else to add to it. What obscure tunes do I need to track down in order to keep myself in a properly geekalisious state of mind?

And what about you? What do you like to listen to while you’re writing? Or living?

Joke of the Day
How many punk rock musicians does it take to change a light bulb?
Two: Once to change the light bulb and the other to smash the old bulb on his forehead.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Bit by the Writing Bug

When I wrote Camp Life (the YA novel I’m currently querying) I was super OCD about it. I wrote an average of 3-5 hours a day, not only when I was working on the first draft but also while revising. As a result, eight months after I wrote the opening sentence I completed the fifth draft. I like Camp Life. It was a fun story to write, and when I come back to it almost a year after I finished it, I still enjoy it.

But what about this past year? I haven’t written squat. I mean, yeah, I do have almost 45K towards the rough draft of The Giant in the Attic. But it’s still rough, and it isn’t even finished yet. And I’ve been working on it longer than it took me to finish writing and editing Camp Life.

In November I decided to start writing a new fiction project. The Giant in the Attic is memoir. I have lots of story ideas floating around in my head. So I figured if I just picked one and started writting the OCD behavior would return. But it didn’t work. I couldn’t get into the story I was trying to write, so it felt really flat and boring. Writing fiction was suddenly even more of a chore than writing memoir. So I gave up on that project and decided to just wait until a new project slapped me upside the head and forced me to write it.

Well, on December 2nd that happend. Things like NaNoWriMo don’t seem to work for me. When I want to write, nothing can stop me. So word count gimics really don’t add much modivation. And when I don’t want to write, I can’t get excited about gimics. But in the past five days I’ve written 13,000 words towards my next novel.

I’m not going to tell anyone what it’s about yet, because I’m totally pantsing this. I really don’t know what it is about. I have no idea where I am going with these characters. I’m only 50 pages into it, so I’m still meeting the characters. But I’m back to writing during every free second I can find. And I’m back to loving writing. Sometimes it’s good to be OCD. And even without any stupid gimics, I'll probably hit 50K well before months end - not because I have to, but because I need to.

Joke of the Day
A visitor to a certain college paused to admire the new Hemingway hall that had been build on campus. "It's a pleasure to see a building named for Ernest Hemingway," he said.
"Actually," said the guide, "it's named for Joshua Hemingway. No relation."
The visitor was astonished. "Was Joshua Hemingway a writer, also?"
"Yes, he wrote a check."

Friday, December 4, 2009


Last night while most Oregonians were busy watching the Ducks beat the Beavers in a civil war fight to the Rose Bowl, I was watching Holidazed. Holidazed is a twisted christmas play currently showing at Portland Artist Repretory Theater. It’s a sometimes heart warming and always hilarious story about a middle class family who takes in a pegan street kid for the holidays.

Last night was the third time I’ve seen the show. I also watched it twice last year. Even the third time around, I was moved from belly laughs to tears. I would highly recommend this play to anyone living in the Portland area. And if you don’t live in pdx, I recommend talking to your local theater company and suggesting they buy the rights to show Holidazed next season. I know the writers are interested in expanding to other cities.

I know this, because I know the writers. Holidazed was co-authored by Marc Acito (author of the novels How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship & Muscial Theater and Attack of the Theater People) and C.S. Whitcomb (screen writer of more made for TV movies than I can list). I’ve met Cynthia at a number of local writing events, and I know Marc because I took a ten week writing class from him last fall. The reason I saw Holidazed twice last year is that one of our classes overlapped with the dress rehearsal, so we got to take a class fieldtrip to the show.

Marc is one of the funniest people I have ever met. I want to share one thing he taught me about comedy. Laughter open’s people up – literally when you’re laughing, your mouth is open. Be it a book, movie, or play, audiences tend to stay somewhat detached from the story. People can be entertained, without being moved – until they start laughing. Laughter opens an audience to the possibility of a deeper emotional tie to the characters, because they are already feeling something.

That’s why I’ve cried all three times I’ve seen Holidzed. Because I was laughing first. So when the story took a serious turn the tears couldn’t help but flow. And when in the next sceen it bounced back to comedy, I just laughed even harder. If Holidzed was a totally straight play without a single joke, it could still have been touching, but I doubt my emotional response would have been as strong.

Not all people are funny, and there is nothing worse than bad comedy. But when serious topics, like homeless twelve year olds at christmas, are addressed through comedy the emotional responce can be amazing. In my own writing, I need to work more on making my readers laugh before I ask them to cry. Speaking of my own writing, I just started a new book. I’ll give you more details on that later.

Joke of the Day

What does a snowman eat for breakfast?
Frosted Flakes

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

November Reads

At the beginning of November I set a goal to not read or listen to anything for the entire month. I didn't exactly survive the experiment. Over the course of the month I listened to 6 books. But In October I listened to 18 books, plus I read 6 others. So while my fictional fast may have been a bust, I at least got a fictional diet. The six books I listened to this month weren't bad, so even though this will be a shorter post, I figured I'd still give you an end of month book review.

These are the six books I listened to in November in the order I listened to them.

The Host by Stephanie Meyer - Science Fiction - This was also the last book I listened to in October, and it is a really great book. Out of the 100+ books I've read so far this year, this book was my favorite. It is the first book in Meyer's new series, which means the ending leaves the door wide open for future adventures. It isn't quite Snape killed Dumbledore now wait two years to find out why, but I still recomend waiting until after the entire series is published before diving in if you suffer from impaciants like I do.

When I first started not reading, the only characters I could think about were the ones in "The Host". I spent about a week thinking about all the things that could happen in book two of the series and cursing the fact that I had started a series before book two came out. Then I just broke down and desided to relisten to book one again, a week after I had listened to the first time. I think I sort of have it out of my system by now, I haven't listened to it a third time or anything. But I will likely be in line at a bookstore at midnight on the day "The Sole" (book 2 in this series) comes out.

Jinx by Meg Cabot - Young Adult - I keep trying to be a Meg Cabot fan, but it really isn't working out that well for me. I did like Avalon High, but The Queen of Babble was only okay and How to Be Popular was sadly predicable. I would probably give Jinx about 3.5 stars out of five. It isn't a horrable book, it's just kind of cute. The teenage witch who doesn't want to be a witch has too normal of a life - for a witch that is. That's the main problem I have with all of Meg Cabot's books, her characters are all nice - sort of like vanilla ice cream. Sure nice is a great characteristic among actual people, but normal life is boring which is why we read books. And when I pick up a YA novel about a cursed teenager who is a witch but doesn't know it and causes all sorts of havic on her friends and family, I want Harry Potter and not the Princess Diaries. And lets face it, Meg Cabot's most famous novel is the Princess Diaries, and everything else she writes is just as nice.

The Shack by William P. Young - Spiritual - I read this book more out of curiosity than anything else. It is the latest thing to rock the christain world since the NIV bible, and I wanted to know what all the hype was about. I ended up liking it a lot more than I expected to, and I felt oddly pleased that so many christians are getting excited about it. Because it presents a version of god very close to what I've always believed in, and I rarely think of my religious views as main stream. A longer review of this book is available here.

Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld - Young Adult - This book stressed me out. Maybe it is overstating things to blame all my stress on this book, because I was under a huge deadline at work at the same time as I was listening to it. But my anxiety was high the entire time I listened to this book and for several days after I finished it. The narator of this book is a total doormat who has a lousy life and it is entirely her fault because she never does anything about it, and I do think her high anxiety level helped to boost my own. I thought about this book a lot for about a week after I finished it, so I can't really say that it was bad. Causing an emotional response in the reader is normally very good. But I mainly just wanted to slap the MC upside the head and tell her to grow a backbone, so I guess I didn't really like it all that much either. Plus feeling super stressed out isn't exactly the emosional response I hope for when picking up a YA novel.

The Imimitable Jeeves by P.G. Woodhouse - Classic/Comedy - I listened to this book to help cheer myself up after my "Prep" induced panic attack. There really isn't anything stressful about Barty Wooster, so I think Jeeves was a good listening choose until things calmed down for me at work. I've read several of P.G. Woodhouses books, and they are all basically exactly the same. The situations are slightly different, but not very, so everytime I pick up another of his books I spend the first three chapters asking myself, "did I read this two years ago?" Still frivalis comidy can be great for ones mental health when facing a major deadline.

You Suck by Christopher Moore - Comedy - Once I finished the project that was driving me bonkers at work, I sort of lost the desire to listen for a while. I spent almost two weeks just day dreaming about the characters in my old novel and listening to music and generally embracing reality before I got around to listening to any books again. When I did, the first book I picked up was You Suck, which I blogged about on Monday. I don't feel the need to rehash it again, except to say that it is really funny and holds true to the classic vampire lore while being absolutely nothing like any of the other vampire books currently topping the best seller lists. It is actually a sequil to Blood Sucking Fiends but I didn't realize that until I was half way through the book, and it works perfectly well as a stand alone. But if you do want to read it, starting with the first book might not be a horrible idea. It at least makes more sence then reading the books in reverse order, which is what I'll likely do.

Joke of the Day
Why does the elephant use his trunk as a bookmark?
So he always nose where he left off.