November 17, 2010

Did you konw?

Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

November 10, 2010

The Move to the Digital Age

Recently, my inbox has been flooded with stories about, and advertisements for, online books. The newest trend is Amazon's Kindle, which enables the reader to purchase and download books that can be read from a small, but convenient, computer-like screen. Now, Apple has caught on and has redirected it's advertising for it's iPad, now their ads focus on online books. I can't help but wonder how convenient this new-aged media venue actually is.

When I trudge to the nearby pool this summer, am I risking an electrical shock via the splashes from the overweight public-pool users? Of course with an e-reader my pages will not be wrinkling from the salt water while I visit my aunt at the beach, but are they sand and sun proof? And while I'm snowboarding this winter and riding the 45 minute lift ride to the top of the mountain for each run, will my e-reader freeze up, no pun intended, or frost over? While this seems to be the future for books (trust me, I'll be holding on tightly to all of my books, just like the vinyl record collecting junkies do now), how convenient is this really?

Because of my various doubts, I did some research and came across this article about the future and success of e-readers. What I found was scary, thus explaining to me that maybe (if I ever have children), I'll be that old, lame mom clinging to her wrinkled and torn copy of "Catcher in the Rye," while my kids are telling me to "get with it."This will be just like what I told my mom about text messaging when she insisted on still sending handwritten letters to my dorm. God help me.

Here's some of the research I gathered, thanks to "The Slatest."

 "Only 7 percent of online adults have ever read an e-book, but the market is booming, and virtual book sales will easily hit $966 million by the end of the year. And once the billion-dollar mark is broached, consumer strategists predict that things will only happen faster: By 2015, sales are expected to reach $3 billion. Additionally, digital book sales are not only growing, they're growing among readers. E-book aficionados '[read] the most books, [spend] the most money on books, and [consume] 41% of books in digital form'—whether or not they own an e-reader. According to Mashable, this jibes with recent Amazon and Apple statements celebrating strong sales of Kindles and iPads. For Forrester's James McQuivey, this isn't just a reflection of a good sales year, but a sea change in book publishing. 'Not only do publishers need to take digital seriously, they must make it the new default for publishing,' McQuivey writes, 'preparing for a day in which physical book publishing is an adjunct activity that supports the digital publishing business.'"

November 3, 2010

Online Publishing: Friend or Foe?

Today, well about a half hour ago, I finished the process of publishing my own book through the website Since I'm a student, I found this to be extremely helpful and a great way to display my writing; this like a portfolio. I carefully edited and revamped all of my writing since my first day of college, and bam, 70 pages later, I had all of my favorites in a cute little book. Although this was very beneficial for me, as a student, I am contemplating the idea of this as a whole. Is this taking the credit away from authors who may have spend years trying to get their work published? I feel that maybe this is so. Through lulu, and other sites like it, any fairy tale or non fiction drama I concoct can be published that day if I wanted to. Do books through the lulu publishing site sell like any other "professional" publishing company? Of course not. But still, the idea of easy, breezy, beautiful, publishing seems a tad too easy and unfair to me, that is, unfair if your lulu book hits the New York Time's Best Seller List the next morning. I am an inkling it may not. What do you think?

October 27, 2010

Children's Books

I Was So Mad by Mercer Mayer of the Little Critter 
series, both my and my mom's favorite.
As we grow older, the more we seem to forget about children's books, unless we have children of our own, that is. Even though I am childless, and plan on staying that way for a while, I know the importance of reading books (or being read books) as a child. When I was young, my mom always read to me the series "Little Critter," by Mercer Mayer. Did it impact me you ask? The answer should inevitably be yes; and on that note I would like to add that I still keep each individual book in mint condition, and continuously keep up with Mayer's happenings and most current work. I also plan on reading every book to my child (or--gasp--children), whether they like it or not, when ever that will be. While researching this topic, I came across an array of wonderful articles on the effects of reading to children--your child, or children in general--and I found one in particular that I would like to share. This article is entitled "Why Reading is so Important for Children," and it's written by Barbara Freedman-De Vito, a writer for

"Why do we tell children to read?
We're always telling children that books and reading are good for them, but have we ever really thought about why that's true? Exactly what do older children get out of reading novels? What do younger kids get from being read to? Does reading matter?
The purpose of this article is to say that, yes, it's true, reading really is important, and that there are some solid reasons why that is so. Let's begin with the practical benefits and then move on to the less tangible rewards of a life filled with reading.

Books help children devleop vital language skills.
Reading is an important skill that needs to be developed in children. Not only is it necessary for survival in the world of schools and (later on) universities, but in adult life as well. The ability to learn about new subjects and find helpful information on anything from health problems and consumer protection to more academic research into science or the arts depends on the ability to read.
Futurologists used to predict the death of the printed word but, ironically, Internet has made reading more and more a part of people's daily lives. The paperless society is a myth. The computer's ability to process and analyze data means that endless variations on reports and other types of documents can be and are generated. Internet, itself an enormous new source of information and recreation, is based on the humble written word. To effectively utilize the web and judge the authenticity and value of what is found there, both reading and critical thinking skills are of prime importance.
The more children read, the better they become at reading. It's as simple as that. The more enjoyable the things they read are, the more they'll stick with them and develop the reading skills that they'll need for full access to information in their adult lives. Reading should be viewed as a pleasurable activity - as a source of entertaining tales and useful and interesting factual information.
The more young children are read to, the greater their interest in mastering reading. Reading out loud exposes children to proper grammar and phrasing. It enhances the development of their spoken language skills, their ability to express themselves verbally.
Reading, by way of books, magazines or websites, exposes kids to new vocabulary. Even when they don't understand every new word, they absorb something from the context that may deepen their understanding of it the next time the word is encountered. When parents read aloud to children, the children also hear correct pronunciation as they see the words on the page, even if they can't yet read the words on their own.

Reading can open up new worlds and enrich children's lives.
As mentioned above, reading opens doors - doors to factual information about any subject on earth, practical or theoretical. Given the wealth of available resources such as Internet, libraries, schools and bookstores, if children can read well and if they see reading as a source of information, then for the rest of their lives they will have access to all of the accumulated knowledge of mankind, access to all of the great minds and ideas of the past and present. It truly is magic !
Through books, children can also learn about people and places from other parts of the world, improving their understanding of and concern for all of humanity. This, in turn, contributes towards our sense that we truly live in a "global village" and may help us bring about a more peaceful future for everyone. This can happen through nonfiction but, perhaps even more importantly, reading novels that are set in other places and time periods can give children a deeper understanding of others through identification with individual characters and their plights.
Through stories and novels children can vicariously try out new experiences and test new ideas, with no negative consequences in their real lives. They can meet characters who they'll enjoy returning to for comforting and satisfying visits when they reread a cherished book or discover a sequel. Books also give kids the opportunity to flex their critical thinking skills in such areas as problem solving, the concepts of cause and effect, conflict resolution, and acceptance of responsibility for one's actions. Mysteries allow children to follow clues to their logical conclusions and to try to outguess the author. Even for very young children, a simple story with a repetitive refrain or a simple mystery to solve gives a confidence boost. Children can predict the patterns and successfully solve the riddles.
Children are influenced by and imitate the world around them. While a steady diet of violent cartoons may have a detrimental effect on children's development, carefully chosen stories and books can have a positive influence on children, sensitizing them to the needs of others. For example, books can encourage children to be more cooperative, to share with others, to be kind to animals, or to respect the natural environment.

Reading can enhance childrens's social skills.
Although reading is thought of as the quintessential solitary activity, in certain circumstances reading can be a socializing activity. For example, a parent or grandparent reading a story aloud, whether from a traditional printed book or from an ebook, can be a great opportunity for adult and child to share some quiet, relaxed quality time together away from the rush and stresses of the business of daily living. They share a few minutes of precious time, plus they share the ideas that are contained in the story. In addition, older children can be encouraged to read aloud to younger ones as a means of enhancing their relationship.
At school or at a library story hour, books can bring children together and can be part of a positive shared experience. For some preschoolers this may be their primary opportunity to socialize and to learn how to behave around other children or how to sit quietly for a group activity. Make the most of this experience by encouraging children to talk about what they've read or heard.

Reading can improve hand-eye coordination.
It may sound funny, but ebooks can be a way for children to improve their fine motor skills and their hand-eye coordination, as they click around a childfriendly website or click the backward and forward buttons of online story pages. They may also be picking up valuable computer skills that they'll need in school and later in life.
Reading can provide children with plenty of good, clean fun!

I've saved the most important point for last. Reading can provide children with endless hours of fun and entertainment. All of the pragmatic reasons above aren't at all necessary to justify reading's place in children's lives. Stories can free up imaginations and open up exciting new worlds of fantasy or reality. They allow children to dream and may give them a good start on the road to viewing reading as a lifelong source of pleasure; so read to your young children every day.
Inspire your older children to read. Give them access to plenty of reading material that they'll enjoy and discuss it with them. Sample everything - traditional printed books and ebooks on Internet, classic children's novels and fairy tales, as well as more modern stories.
If a child wants to hear the same story over and over again, don't worry about it. Children take comfort from the familiarity and predictability of a beloved story that they know by heart. There's no harm in that. Reread old favorites and, at the same time, introduce your children to new stories. Your child's mind and heart have room for both.

So reading really does matter after all!
There are so many ways in which reading continues to be both a vital skill for children to master, and an important source of knowledge and pleasure that can last a lifetime. Nurture it in your children. Make the most of all the resources that are available and waiting for you: printed books, online books, magazines and so forth. Encourage follow-up activities involving creative writing skills and the arts, as well, so that your children can reflect upon or expand on what they've absorbed and, at the same time, develop their own creativity. As you help your kids appreciate the magic of reading, you'll find that there's a whole wonderful world full of children's literature out there that YOU can enjoy too."

Thanks mom, for always reading to me! Would I have become such a die-hard reader and writer if you hadn't? I guess we won't have to find out.

October 20, 2010

21st Century Literary Expression

Along with the new age of literature is the new age of expressing one's self. More than ever, it has become popular to not only get tattoos, but to get literary tattoos. As the owner of a few tattoos, this idea intrigues me. As a writer, I know that expressing myself in other mediums besides print can be an overwhelming task, thus, I feel the idea of tattooing the work of a favorite author sounds sensible, and just as intimate as if it were my own prose. It has been proven time and time again that the writing of others can, and has, impacted almost everyone. I retrieved some work from two of my favorite literary tattoo sites (tattoo and, and I'm excited to share them. Although not all of the tattoos are strictly in the genre of 21st century literature, the idea of literary tattoo art, to me, is amazing.

 Inspired by: Allen Ginsberg’s An Eastern Ballad.

Inspired by: Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five.


Inspired by: Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer.

Inspired by: Shel Silverstein’s “Invitation”

Inspired by: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

Inspired by: Charles Bukowski, from the 
book The Flash of Lightning Behind the Mountain.

Inspired by: George Orwell’s novel 1984.

Inspired by: Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.

Inspired by: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage 
Journey to the Heart of the American Dream by Hunter S. Thompson,

Inspired by: Sharon Olds' I Go Back to May 1937.

October 13, 2010

2010 National Book Award Nominees

The 2010 National Book Award winners to be announced in New York on November 17.

Complete list of finalists:

Barbara Demick, "Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea"
John W. Dower, "Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, 9-11, Iraq"
Patti Smith, "Just Kids"
Justin Spring, "Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward"
Megan K. Stack, "Every Man in This Village Is a Liar: An Education in War"

Peter Carey, "Parrot and Olivier in America"
Jaimy Gordon,"Lord of Misrule"
Nicole Krauss, "Great House"
Lionel Shriver, "So Much for That"
Karen Tei Yamashita, "I Hotel"

Young People’s Literature:
Paolo Bacigalupi, "Ship Breaker"
Kathryn Erskine, "Mockingbird"
Laura McNeal, "Dark Water"
Walter Dean Myers, "Lockdown"
Rita Williams-Garcia, "One Crazy Summer"

Kathleen Graber, "The Eternal City"
Terrance Hayes, "Lighthead"
James Richardson, "By the Numbers"
C.D. Wright, "One with Others"
Monica Youn, "Ignatz"

The Uglies: A Pretty Story.

One of my passions is to read into and dissect the deeper meaning of a story in young adult literature. The Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld is one of my favorite options when I'm looking for an easy read, and a not so easy subtext. 
Yes, it's a wonderful story of a courageous girl named Tally, who, through various situations and obsticals, changes to adapt to situations. But, does her society and governmental mindset see too far off? Will our children's kids be facing the same predicaments and surgeries that Tally does? How far off the map was Scott Westerfeld when he wrote this? Before I indulge too deeply into this subject, I'd love to hear from you.
This is actually a well written review I came across about the series. I feel like this portrays the work in the right light, and may be a great starting point to dissecting exactly what Scott Westerfeld meant by his specific use of, "The Dorms," "The Specials," "David," "New Pretty Town," etc. and what they really represent. 

Book Review: Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
by R.J. Carter

Publication Date: February 8, 2005
Publisher: Simon Pulse
· Scott Westerfeld
Grade: A+

When the people of the world all know beauty as beauty,
There arises the recognition of ugliness.
When they all know the good as good,
There arises the recognition of evil.

-- Lao-tzu (604 BC - 531 BC), The Way of Lao-tzu

Tally Youngblood will soon turn sixteen, the age she's been waiting for her entire life.

At sixteen, Tally gets to have the operation that will make her pretty.

Scott Westerfeld's novel, Uglies, is a dystopic vision of the future along the lines of Shirley Jackson and Pearl S. Buck. In Tally's world, everyone gets the operation that makes them pretty when they're sixteen, when they leave the dorms at Uglyville and move to New Pretty Town with the other new pretties. They get wider eyes, healthier skin, fuller lips. It's all according to the formula of asthetic attraction written in our genes by biology, all the things we instinctively look for in another.

What could possibly be wrong with that?

But not everybody wants to have the operation. Sometimes, they run away, out into the ruins of the Rusties--the civilization that existed before, the one that chopped trees and burned oil and laid down steel and concrete, and tinkered with the natural order of things until finally it outsmarted itself and became the civilization that exists now: Uglies and Pretties.

Tally's new friend Shay is an ugly who doesn't want to have the operation. She sneaks Tally out at night and shows her the ruins of an old amusement park, and tells her of a friend she has met out there that takes runaway uglies to a hidden place, a place away from being pretty--a place known only as "The Smoke." Back in Uglyville dorms, Tally can't even get Shay to experiment with the computer screens that give potential glimpses into what her new pretty form would look like:

     "Shay! Come on. it's just for fun."
     "Making ourselves feel ugly is not fun."
     "We are ugly!"
     "This whole game is just designed to make us hate ourselves."
     Tally groaned and flopped back onto her bed, glaring up at the ceiling. Shay could be so weird sometimes. She always had a chip on her shoulder about the operation, like someone was making her turn sixteen. "Right, and things were so great back when everyone was ugly. or did you miss that day in school?"
     "Yeah, yeah, I know," Shay recited. "Everyone judged everyone else based on their appearance. People who were taller got better jobs, and people even voted for some politicians just because they weren't quite as ugly as everybody else. Blah, blah, blah."
     "Yeah, and people killed one another over stuff like having different skin color." Tally shook her head. No matter how many times they repeated it at school, she'd never quite believed that one. "So what if people look more alike now? It's the only way to make people equal."

On the night Shay runs away, she visits Tally one more time to convince her to come with her. Tally refuses, but Shay leaves a cryptic note in case she ever changes her mind.

Tally won't change her mind. Tally turns sixteen in days. She wants to be pretty.

But when she's picked up and taken to her operation, there's a sudden problem. And Tally learns the world is more than Uglies and Pretties. There is a third set, a population of beauty that is advanced and cruel: Specials. The ones who police the entire thing through a barely-believed organization known as Special Circumstances. They've been monitoring the runaways, and have decided they want them back. They want "The Smoke" to disappear.

And until Tally makes the journey to find Shay, and there activate a special tracking device to alert Special Circumstances, she will never be made pretty. Ever.

Rarely do great beauty and great virtue dwell together.
-- Petrarch (1304 - 1374), De Remedies

Given no choice, Tally agrees. After an arduous and adventurous journey, Tally attracts the attention of the Smokies--including Shay and the legendary leader, David.

The Smoke turns out to be a wilderness camp of sorts. People live off the land, salvaging the steel and iron leftover by the Rusties. They make their own clothes, cook their own food which they hunt (which appalls Tally) and have their own communal economy.

And they have books. Books from hundreds of years ago, magazines too, which show what the world was like during Rusty civilization. In an environment where everything is done by computers and all necessities break down into recyclable components as soon as they're done being used, something as tree-wasting as a book is shocking to Tally.

But there's something else about the Smokeys that prevents Tally from immediately activating her tracking device. Specifically, there's something about David, their charismatic leader. As he and Tally grow closer throughout the weeks Tally spends in their camp, David works up the courage to take her up the mountain, to meet his parents, Maddy and Az--two doctors who used to do the operation, who were once pretties themselves... and who discovered something that forced them into exile:

     "I'm sorry, Tally," Maddy said. "But this secret is very important. And very dangerous."
     Tally nodded her head, looking down at the floor. "Everything out here is dangerous."
     They were all silent for a moment. All Tally heard was the tinkle of Az stirring his tea.
     "See?" David said finally. "She understands. You can trust her. She deserves to know the truth."
     "Everyone does," Maddy said quietly. "Eventually."
     "Well," Az said, then paused to sip his tea. "I suppose we'll have to tell you, Tally."
     "Tell me what?"
     David took a deep breath. "The truth about being pretty."

When Tally learns the secret behind being pretty, she makes up her mind where her allegiances lie. But even the act of defiance against her orders from Special Circumstances won't sever her ties to the Specials. And suddenly everything begins to fall apart, for the Smokeys, for David's family, and for Tally's entire world as all her lies finally tumble upon her with tragic consequence from which admirably heroic actions are born. Tally's final sacrifice is not merely the blood-chilling climax of the book, it's the clothes-rending, primal-screaming discovery that the reader is being left hanging off the springboard for the sequel, Pretties, which won't be published until November 2005.

Part The Lottery, part The Matrix, and part The Wave, Uglies is the first of a trilogy that shouts from the rooftops of literature why Westerfeld is a master of his genre. If Uglies isn't considered for a Hugo for 2006, then either Westerfeld got robbed or this will just have been an uncommonly good year for science fiction output. The pinnacle of speculative fiction for teen readers that does more than deliver pulse-pounding adventure but also forces introspection into the way we perceive ourselves and others.

Very highly recommended.

the reviews domain.