Tag Archives: literature

NaNoWriMo: It’s Alive!

1 Nov

NaNoWriMo officially started at midnight last night and I was all geared to go, had my writing utensils and tablet to hand and was getting in the Halloween spirit by catching up on this season of The Walking Dead.

I was alseep before we hit midnight in my time zone, down for the count because of the excess of Halloween treats I had consumed.

Therefore today NaNo has been all I’ve been thinking about until I’ve got some free time to really sit down and write.

For those of you unfamiliar with NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, the goal is simple. Write. That is the one commandment. If you reach 50,000 words by the end of November you are officially a “novelist.” For many, this is a chance to try something new, a new way to approach writer’s block, or a simple way to pound out 50,000 words worth of post-secondary essays.

For me, it really set a deadline on something I’ve wanted to accomplish my whole life — to create the skeleton of a novel that I could later come back and revise. After all, the 50,000 words don’t need to be good words.

However, I didn’t want this exercise to be fruitless. So I’ve spent the last few weeks trying to flesh out the plot and characters that my NaNo will be based on and I’m happy to say that I got a lot more done than I thought I would. I am still nowhere near where I would like to be, but hopefully by the end of the month I will have hammered out that 50,000 words and will be able to continue forward with the monster I have created.

So look forward to some somewhat irregular updates on my progress and setbacks, or at least a place to commiserate with fellow NaNos.

Word Count as of 2013-11-01: 1536

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In Defense Of The Things I Like and How That Translates Into The Classroom

22 Apr

I just spent the last few days reading Tess of the D’Ubervilles. I was asked why. Then I moved on to Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy Series. I was asked why. I read Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects. Asked why. Was reading the Wikipedia entry for The Uncanny Effect. I was asked why.

My questions to my enquisitors — “Why do you want to know why?”

I receive blank stares. Their response, “Is it for school-related research? Is it for a new job? Did someone ask you to research this?” Depending what they are asking me the answer can range from yes — reading many YA novels will hopefully help me out when I get a position as a high school English teacher — to no — I’m just curious. What astonishes me is the response I get back from people. They are absolutely astonished that I would “waste” my time on some of these things.

I currently hold a position at the Royal Alberta Museum staffing the admissions desk. A major part of my job is answering questions regarding past, current, and future exhibits. This past weekend I answered a visitor’s question about the current exhibit. I fired off some facts and had my coworker turn to me in surprise, “How did you know all of that?” 

I actually went into the exhibit and read about it.

It boggles my mind that people aren’t more curious about things. I’m inquisitive by nature, I used to (still do!) drive my parents insane with the amount of questions I ask. I will spend three hours researching a topic that I came upon tangentially on the internet. I will go to the bookstore and purchase books at random from the non-fiction section because their subject matter caught my eye. I have read the majority of J.R.R. Tolkien’s legendarium including the many volumes of the History of Middle Earth and The Silmarillion. I have read some of the correspondence between F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway during their heydey.

Why? Because I can. Because it interests me. I’ve had more than a few people suggest that I may have A.D.D. And maybe I do (which would explain a lot).

But whether I enjoy the occassional Miley Cyrus song, the bombardment of twitter, LOLCats, gifs, the Wikipedia random button, viral youtube videos, and television shows broadcast by a certain network *cough* The CW *cough.* Or if I like to play jazz, read research articals out for peer review, peruse the New York Times, or only watch the news, does it really matter? I enjoy all of those things. Among many, many other things.

So when I am in a classroom and I hear a student or teacher tell someone why they shouldn’t be interested in what interests them, it really bothers me. You are taking a golden opportunity to interact with the student or with your class on a base level and wasting it. Everyone likes to talk about what interests them. So to create a dialogue with students, friends, coworkers, anybody — I always try to ask them about their interests. It gets them talking, and engaging, and interacting with one another, which often doesn’t happen if you just stand up at the front of the classroom and lecture at them.

Review: Ready Player One – Ernest Cline

29 Jan

 

readyplayerone

(4 out of 5 stars)

I first picked up Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One at the suggestion of Megan from BookBrats.Com. I was waffling between Daniel H. Wilson’s Robopocalypse and this novel and I am glad that I ended picking this one up first.

As a child of the 80’s who loves dystopians, this novel was like a grab bag of my favorite things. 80’s references? Check. Set in the near future where everything has gone to hell? Check. Hero quest? Check. Hint of romance? Check.

The novel opens with the aptly named Wade Watts and he gives us the deal. James Halliday (a combo of Mark Zuckerberg and Willy Wonka) has become rich and famous after creating a free online game called OASIS. Society has become so dependent upon the OASIS that almost all interactions occur within its virtual walls. Upon his deathbed, Halliday has created a hunt for an ‘egg’ that will allow the winner to control the OASIS and the accompanying fortune it has amassed. The egg hunters, or gunters, have to find three keys and pass three gates to reach the egg, all while testing their knowledge of the 80’s, James Halliday’s version of a golden era.

Five years have passed and no one has gotten any closer to even finding the first key until Wade does, under his OASIS username of Parzival (a nod to the Arthurian quest for the Holy Grail).  Close behind Wade is some of his gunter friends, his best friend Aech, the crushworthy Art3mis, and brother duo of Shoto and Daito. However, close on their heels is the evil corporate IOI Sixers, named after their employee numbers — all of which begin with the number six — who are after control of the OASIS so they can start charging for it’s use.

Some of the 80’s references are esoteric and eclectic, but like I said, as a child of the 80’s most of them I was at least familiar with. The plethora of references might alienate younger readers but I found that there was enough explanation of said references to allow them to be at least accessible if not giving you a solid wink of being in the know.

“It is on!” Aech shouted into his comlink. “It is on like Red Dawn!”
I found the quest format entertaining (I can’t resist a good quest), but at the same time predictable. At the beginning the quest is so daunting and vague, Wade and other gunters have studied for years with no success until Wade links a series of clues together. The hints that lead Wade and the other gunters from stage to stage are equally vague unless you are really up on your knowlege of the 80’s and James Halliday.
Continue your quest by taking the test
Yes, but what test? What test was I supposed to take? The Kobayashi Maru? The Pepsi Challenge? Could the clue have been any more vague?”
But this is where Wade and his friends excel. They have the time and the motivation to study up, because the reality of their situation (and many other OASIS users) is unfaceable.
“You’d be amazed how much research you can get done when you have no life whatsoever.”
 
—–
“Dilettantes,’ Art3mis said. ‘It’s their own fault for not knowing all the Schoolhouse Rock! lyrics by heart.”
By the end of the novel, Wade has completed his quest. James Halliday says,
“I created the OASIS because I never felt at home in the real world. I didn’t know how to connect with the people there. I was afraid, for all of my life, right up until I knew it was ending. That was when I realized, as terrifying and painful as reality can be, it’s also the only place where you can find true happiness. Because reality is real.”
This is an essential theme of the novel, and a good one (and it also fits in with the online course I am taking from the University of Edinburgh – E-learning and Digital Cultures). Where do we draw the line between online and offline? If virtual reality has become more real than reality what hope is there for future generations? Wade learns that even though all of his relationships exist inside the OASIS, that doens’t make them any less real, but we musn’t dwell too long in fantasy, lest we neglect reality.

On New Adult

17 Jan
Jessica Darling Novels

Jessica Darling Novels

Lately, New Adult (NA) is a term that’s being tossed around the book world. The good people over at NA Alley have put together a great post entitled, “What Is New Adult?” which lays it all out. NA Alley’s view of NA:

We view New Adult fiction (NA) as a category of literature—meaning, it gives readers content expectations, but it does not dictate genre-based criteria. Typically, a novel is considered NA if it encompasses the transition between adolescence—a life stage often depicted in Young Adult (YA) fiction—and true adulthood.

Protagonists typically fall between the ages of eighteen and twenty-six, though exceptions may apply. NA characters are often portrayed experiencing: college, living away from home for the first time, military deployment, apprenticeships, a first steady job, a first serious relationship, etc.

Allegedly, NA was first tossed around in 2009 by St. Martin’s Press and the term has been on a steady rise since then. Trawling around some NA book lists, most of what you find are contemporaries. Though the term has been kicking around since 2009 what I consider to be NA has been around for quite awhile.

When I was in high school Megan McCafferty published Sloppy Firsts in 2001. I was OBSESSED. Jessica Darling was me. To this day there is not a single literary character that I have connected with more. Jessica had some triumphs and difficulties along the way and she felt real. So I eagerly awaited each book, following Jessica throughout the rest of the series (Second Helpings, Charmed Thirds, Fourth Comings, and Perfect Fifths) and am gleefully awaiting the prequel series, “The It List.”

So when I hear “New Adult” being tossed around, I’m not surprised. These were the types of books I liked to read in high school (heck, I still do). New Adult encapsulates a very difficult transitionary time for many teenagers and new adults. I’m twenty-six and I’m still not completely sure what I want to do with my life. So I’m glad that NA is getting more press and recognition, because in my opinion, it is a separate genre from children’s, YA, and adult literature.

And then she taught!

A journey through the nooks and crannies of Secondary Education with a lady who sometimes misplaces her maps.

arklechamp

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KATERINA ANDREA

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