The Miracle of Reading

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I had another post prepared for today… but then a miracle happened…

I showed up at Tornado Boy’s house for two days of “Grammy Time.” Kindergarten doesn’t kick off until Tuesday and preschool ended early, leaving mom and dad in a lurch. When I walked in the door, I received my usual whirlwind of hugs, but the first question out of the tornado’s mouth was, “Do you want me to read a book to you?”

Not Legos, no request to build a spaceship or visit the park, no plea to use his old grammy as a jungle-gym. Nope.

“Do you want me to read a book to you?”

“Why, sure,” I replied, fully expecting a play by play narration through a picture book or a four-pager of his own creation.

I sat on the couch, and he climbed up beside me, tucked in tight, and opened Dr. Seuss’s Hop on Pop. Then page by page, he read me the entire book.

As I listened, I saw the world open up to him, a new superpower revealed, a lifetime of learning and adventure, of Treasure Island and Harry Potter, of Vonnegut and Cussler, Tolkien and Homer. He read to me slowly, sounding out the words, and he didn’t want my help when he got stuck. He was reading, and he too knew that something momentous was happening. He too recognized the magic in the letters and their sounds.

Just ask Jennie Fitzkee (A Teacher’s Reflections) about the power of reading aloud. We’ve read to Tornado Boy since the day he was born, and the local library has become a place of endless exploration. It’s paid off as another child discovers a world of imagination within his grasp, the miracle of words.

Grammy was so happy she could have cried. Then we played Legos, built a spaceship, went to the park, and wrestled. And he read Hop on Pop to me two more times.

Some favorite quotes about reading:

A book is a gift you can open again and again. —Garrison Keillor

To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark. —Victor Hugo

Books are a uniquely portable magic. —Stephen King

I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves. —Anna Quindlen

Wear the old coat and buy the new book. —Austin Phelps

I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library. —Jorge Luis Borges

Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read. —Groucho Marx

 

Caught #Writephoto

photo from Sue Vincent

She is bruised on the outside.

Broken on the inside.

And her feet stretch up over her head into the air as the swing reaches the height of its arc. Bare toes blot the daylight rustling through the canopy, and the sun winks through a hole in a tree. A kaleidoscope of light sparkles across her eyes, a vision of angels, a flash and gone.

The swing descends, legs bend, and she leans in, sailing backward.

Long ago, her father had shimmied along the high branch to knot the ropes. When he’d loved her. As a father. As a child.

The ancient maple creaks beneath her weight as she flies forward. Its branch bends and lifts. A rhythm, steady as a heartbeat, slinging her so high that for a moment she is weightless, suspended in green, stretched long, head back, the world upside down, crazy and dangerous.

Then the inevitable fall. The curl inward and backward into another opening, a weightless inhale.

These trees once gathered her dreams. When she was whole among them, a wisp and wish of the world in girl form. She belonged. They are unchanged, sheltering, safeguarding, inviting her to swing. Only she is different. The swing rushes down, catches her, and propels her forward and up. The sun flares through the tree’s round eye.

She lets go of the ropes and flies into the light, a flash and gone.

***

This is a piece of fiction is in response to Sue Vincent’s Thursday #Writephoto prompt

Are You Ready to Rodeo?

I played in last year’s Carrot Ranch flash fiction rodeo and found it immensely fun. And challenging! Charli Mills, the Carrot Ranch chief buckaroo, has announced this year’s rodeo, and I encourage anyone who’s up for a wild ride to give it a go!

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

To a buckaroo community, the annual rodeo was a chance to show off skills of the trade: reining a cow-horse, throwing a loop and dallying a rope, wrestling a steer to the ground, and tying a goat. Yours truly was the Goat Tying Champion of a long-forgotten rodeo.

I still remember the smell of horse apples condensed in the stalls where all the ranchers and buckaroos boarded their horses during the three-day event. My red hair sported gold yarn bows at the end of each braid, and I had a brand-new felt hat the color of a chocolate lab.

I’d been practicing with the migrant children down at the barn. We could all toss a goat with the same ease our fathers and uncles could take a steer to the ground — it was all about mastering leverage. After practice, we’d eat pinto beans and tortillas. Someone would pass around…

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49 Days In 1988: Week 32 – Rumours!

I’m over at Hugh’s today sharing a song from the 80’s and pitching a book, of course. If you get a chance, stop by to say hello, and read his 3-decades-past diary entry – the kick-off to the post. While you’re there, check out Hugh’s site – amazing blogging tips, wonderful stories, and a kind person on top of that. ❤

Hugh's Views & News

Click here to read the first week of this feature, and follow the links at the end of each post.

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London – August 25th, 1988

A week ago, I wrote that Simon and Rod were facing a problem I came across the week before. Today, that problem came hurtling into my life again when Marcus told me that on November 1st we will all be given one months notice here at Grassmere Road. 

Apparently, he heard the rumour from Anthony,  who had got it from Mr & Mrs Summer. Although it hasn’t been confirmed yet, something tells me that this bad news is real. The end is in sight for us that remain here at Grassmere Road.

This put me in such a down mood for most of the day. However, thinking about it on the way home from work this evening, it’s still too early to start arranging…

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Hunting Waterfalls and a photo challenge

Toketee Falls

I’m back from my technology-free vacation. I didn’t take my computer with me, didn’t watch a minute of television, and I read a real honest-to-goodness paper book. It was heaven.

Sarah, over at Art Expedition, offered up a 7-day B&W street photo challenge of people. Well… erm… here are my 7 color, non-people, no streets, nature photos of my trip. Sorry, Sarah, for not following the rules very well at all. I encourage everyone to browse her lovely artful blog and give her challenge a hearty try.

I’ve lived in Oregon for 7 years and haven’t explored this big state. It was about time. Randy and I traveled downstate into the dense smoke of forest fires, detoured to the Pacific coast and headed north in the fog. So much for “seeing” the state. But I gathered a few photo-memories nevertheless.

We hiked along silver rivers…

…found waterfalls…

We traveled on to Crater Lake. Looking down from the crater’s rim, you can see the thick blanket of smoke. Yes, that dark layer in the background isn’t land – it’s solid smoke.

The view of the lake was hazy with light smoke.

With scratchy throats and eyes, we headed for the coast. The Oregon shore is cold, windy and foggy.

 

And a B&W picture of a person… still no street.
I’m doing the princess wave by the waves.

I have a ton of catching up to do, but I shall visit you all shortly. ❤

Hunting Waterfalls, and other stuff

It’s August and the summer is flying by!
My backyard is beckoning.

It’s time for a technology break
as my hubby and I hunt Oregon waterfalls.

We need to get some yard work done too,
and honestly, these guys aren’t much help.

Time to join neighbors for the picnics and festivals
that we cram into our itty-bitty summer.

Wishing you many lovely days ahead.
I’ll “read” you in two weeks!

Gardeners and Architects

I’m working on the outline for my new trilogy, and it’s not going well. Summer is such a distraction, isn’t it?! The muse is not amused. I dug this post out of the 2015 archives to give me some inspiration. I hope you enjoy it.

***

When I plunked down to write my first book, Myths of the Mirror, I was on a mission of discovery, led by the muse and sheer inspiration.

I had no plot in mind beyond a mental sketch of a couple things that could happen maybe sort of somehow. It was all incredibly vague, but what did I know? Nothing. I wrote like a woman obsessed, relishing every moment of my creative forage and traipsing along behind my characters down whatever path they chose to wander.

Halfway through my journey, a secondary character whom I was in the midst of killing off stood his ground. With the unwavering support of his companions, he argued that he should not only survive but should become a main character. “Oh, okay,” I said, and skedaddled back to the beginning of the book to start over. That happened a lot.

A year later, once every character had their say and did as they pleased, my masterpiece was almost 190,000 words long. Ta da! Ready to celebrate, I enlisted a few courageous readers.

Uh oh.

For the next two years, I peeled away words, sentences, paragraphs, scenes, and whole chapters! Deleted. Recycled. 65,000+ words forever gone. I felt as though I’d been flayed.

Then an editor wielded a red pen and lopped off another 4,000. After all the anguish and suffering, I had to finally admit it – I had a much better book.

Nature-Multicolor-Flowers-Garden-Summer-Bees-Depth-HD-PhotoGeorge R. R. Martin separates writers into Gardeners and Architects. Gardeners are discovery writers, planting seeds and digging around in the dirt of writing because they can’t wait to see what grows. They thrive on a process that is full of surprises and let their stories develop organically. To them, outlines feel like straitjackets, stifling the natural unfurling of character and action.

images (22)At the other end of the spectrum, Martin’s architects are outliners. Structure is key. Charts, graphs, and spreadsheets abound. Every step is planned in advance: the story’s try/fail cycles are mapped, the hero’s journey arcs through its phases, the turning points and pinches are set in stone. For outliners, the steps of each plot and subplot form the stairwells in a skyscraper. An architect has an eye on the penthouse and knows how to get there.

awesome-tree-houses-to-live-in-plextm4bAfter my trials and tribulations as a gardener, I brushed off my hands and applied a bit of architecture to my stories. I wouldn’t say I engineer skyscrapers – that’s still too much concrete for me. In my mind, my method is more akin to building tree-houses, leaving plenty of space for nature and play.

I plot out the story’s threads and set the characters off on their journey, letting them be who they are. Occasionally we have to negotiate and backtrack, but overall they cooperate. It’s collaborative; they know their goals and I know mine.

My guess is that most authors engage in a little gardening while they construct their cottages, fortresses, and stone towers. Or they have a few fences to keep the growing things safe from rabbits. How do you bring stories to life? Are you a Gardener? An Architect? A builder of tree-houses?