A Nerdy Girl, or But Then What Is Normal?

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MinerDa, by Lyn Fairchild Hawks and Robin Follet

I’ll admit I’m way out of my league here. Graphic novels and junior high/high school bullying, while the stuff of teen culture in the new century, aren’t in my wheelhouse. But I thought while I’m emphasizing Kid Lit, I’d take this one on. After all, who doesn’t like a challenge?

Ms. Hawks and Mr. Follet have joined forces here to depict one of the greater social issues of teens – bullying. Minerva is a girl who’s smarter than the other, properly dressed and coifed teen girls – or at least she could care less about covering up her smartness in school subjects. All girls this age need a BFF, though, and all Minerva gets is the nerdy play on her name and lots of abuse from the other girls. She wants to fit in and desperately needs a BFF.
Then, personifying a prayer answered, a new kid, Diana Lucy Woods, shows up, and PRESTO! Minerva has her BFF.

Then the book switches off the graphics and finds Minerva in high school, where she’s able to summon the nerve she wishes she’d always had and gains a modicum of revenge. Slowly, it seems, Minerva is beginning to live the old maxim that living well its the best revenge.

Hawks and Follet have collaborated here on a hybrid literary genre that’s part short story, part graphic novel, and part social broadside against teen bullying. Where this experiment will carry its progenitors is anyone’s guess. But such tinkering on the edges of tradition have always borne good literary fruit.

My rating: 18 of 20 stars

 

Visit my website here, where you’ll find more information on books. There’s also a Facebook fan page if you can find it. On both you’ll find more on ideas and events that matter to me — and possibly to you.

Kiddies Can Be Curious

This week I’m beginning something new – something I’m barely aware of – books for kids, i.e., kid lit. I’m starting it off with a new series begun by a civil engineer from Atlanta – Sammy Powell. In my estimation Powell has natural storytelling skills for this age group, and as a result he’s a pretty darned good writer. If you can’t support his books directly, please tell your friends who can to see this website.

Thanks, Bob

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The Fox Tree – The Amazing Adventures of Sara Rae and Little John Polk, by Sammy Powell

One carry-over from our evolutionary roots is our innate curiosity. We learn by instruction at home, at the office, at school – and as do animals, by forays into the seemingly unknown worlds manifested by curiosity. Fledgling children’s books author, Sammy Powell, plays up this theme in the first of his The Fox Tree Chronicles.

Sara and Little John Polk discover a pair of magical arrowheads and wonder how they work as they turn them, rub them. Suddenly they find themselves in a time warp – but in the same place as before. They are quickly taken captive, afraid they’ll be half-hanged and beaten near death. But through youth’s wits and pirate dumb-foundedness they once again seize the day and end it at home with an extraordinary tale they can entrust to no one. Still, curiosity pushes them on toward Book 2.

Mr. Powell has crafted an artful tale for people in the 6 to 8 year-old age bracket; doubly impressive for a first effort. His vocabulary challenges but doesn’t intimidate, his story line makes it easy to travel in that fey world, but doesn’t overwhelm, as a barrow full of hobbits might. Powell, a working civil engineer, who moonlights with a rock band, has yet another talent to add to his resume.
My rating: 18 of 20 stars

 

Visit my website here, where you’ll find more information on books. There’s also a Facebook fan page if you can find it. On both you’ll find more on ideas and events that matter to me — and possibly to you.

Revolutions and Writing

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It’s been said that the best creative writing comes from periods when political and social revolutions are happening. I suppose the drama of a revolution is a part of that, and the intellectualizing or rationale for the revolution generates situations and characters that writers can easily work with. But a quick survey of modern revolutions and their run-ups reveals different sorts of creativity.

Nothing much in the way of literature came directly out of the American revolution, but in its aftermath, as American society began to settle in, we had novelists Melville and Hawthorne, poets Whitman and Dickinson. The French revolution? Here think foremost of Hugo and Marat, who wrote their stories amid the revolution’s action. And similarly in Russia, the great writer Tolstoy. However, preceding the Soviet Union’s dismantling – a relatively gentle revolution – we have firebrand novelist Solzhenitsyn and poet Yevtushenko.

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In later years, the literary medium changed. The Cuban revolution and the U.S.’s almost-revolution of the fifties and sixties brought a new form of creativity to the fore: songs. Things were happening so rapidly, in the U.S. particularly,  that songs quickly written, recorded and put on the airwaves were the best way for energy to coalesce about the day’s drama.

In South Africa, the grander literature preceded the revolution outright, in the novels of Coetzee, and Gordimer, to name a mere pair of many.

And so we see the great fertile literary periods of the twentieth century were in times of ideological change and consequent revolution. What will this century bring, with its social media and blogs – something new and as yet undeveloped?

 

Visit my website here, where you’ll find more information on my books. There’s also a Facebook fan page if you can find it. On both you’ll find more on ideas and events that matter to me — and possibly to you.

Kirkus Speaks About Intimate Things

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Coincidentally, today’s the day I received a review of In This Love Together – Love, Failing Limbs and Cancer. When you’re writing about things as intimate as a marriage, inseminated deeply with love, you’re never sure if you see the width and breadth of the forest for at least one of the trees comprising it. The review seems a good one, but a couple of twisty phrases had me unsure. (This is quintessential writer’s insecurity – comes with the territory.)

So I felt the need to gather a second opinion, from the one person who had almost as much to do with the book’s compositions I – Connie May Fowler. Connie’s opinion? It’s a rave review – you should celebrate! So to kick off the celebration (to be followed by a very necessary, spring cleaning scrub-down, fore and aft, of my condo), here’s what Kirkus has to say about the memoir:

Mustin (We Are Strong, But We Are Fragile, 2014, etc.) offers an emotional, articulate memoir of his late wife’s fight against cancer.

The author, a longtime engineer, had already gone through a rocky marriage and a sour divorce when a former co-worker, Becca, reentered his life. She was an outdoorsy, practical, and attractive environmental specialist who was still healing from a previous marriage herself, and the two began seeing each other romantically. As Mustin notes, dating in middle age isn’t very different from the blissful giddiness and insecurity of dating in one’s 20s, and eventually he and Becca married at a courthouse on a workday afternoon. But 17 years later, his 64-year-old wife developed a cancerous tumor on her tongue. “My thoughts resist the linearity of chronological order,” the author says as he explains his abstract narrative, which starts the book with the onset of Becca’s illness, backtracks to the day that they first met, intersperses well-researched facts on cancer, and weaves through events in the couple’s marriage with the randomness of human memory. It’s a brilliant storytelling device—the reader struggles to understand new contexts, details, and narratives, just as the author himself struggles to make sense of a maddening terminal illness. Mustin’s love for and frequent awe of his wife is evident in every detail of this remembrance. Even when he frankly points out her shortcomings, such as her somewhat taciturn air and her difficult relationship with her mother (which he discovered during a particularly uncomfortable holiday visit), his reverent tone gives his words a rosy, warm hue. The details of Becca’s squamous-cell carcinoma are unsparing, yet the author balances them with delicate, loving vignettes of their life together, including unexpected moments of romance, which gives the book a disarming eloquence. Their relationship was not perfect, as Mustin makes clear; their flaws, insecurities, and reluctances often got the best of both of them. Yet as he writes their story, he articulates how their difficult journey revealed their true love, in spite of it all.

A memoir that balances clarity, precision, and emotion while telling a tragic story.

 

Visit my website here, where you’ll find more information on my books. There’s also a Facebook fan page if you can find it. On both you’ll find more on ideas and events that matter to me — and possibly to you.

The Memoir Of A Beloved

The death of a beloved is an amputation.
~ C. S. Lewis ~

I’m fortunate. Not many writers are in a position to have two books launched at about the same time. While things are being worked out with Omonomany Publishing for final publication of my WWII fictionalized biography, The Third Reich’s Last Eagle (some early readers wanted maps included in order to follow the advances and subsequent retreats of Germany’s Wehrmacht), I’m the daddy of a memoir.

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The memoir, In This Love Together – Love, Failing Limbs, and Cancer, is perhaps a final honoring of Becca, my deceased wife. A brave soul, she subjected herself to too many radiation treatments of her squamous cell carcinoma for later chemo treatments to do her any good. She lived for many months with a feeding tube and tracheostomy in order to stay alive. A most giving person, she made cookies for the cancer doctors and technicians in her last months.

One day she stood before the kitchen counter where we generally prepared food, intent on her batter, occasionally rocking side to side. She hadn’t fallen yet, but I knew it was coming.

“You don’t have to do that,” I said. “For crying out loud, they don’t expect cookies from you.”

“I know.” She didn’t turn, kept working her dough.

“Okay, so why do it?”

“I want to.”

For a second she swayed like a pine on a breezy day. “You okay?”

“I’m okay.”

“What can I do to help.”

“Nothing.”

I sighed, softly, so she wouldn’t hear it and claim petulance on my part. “Just be careful. Sit if you need to.”

“I will.”

The oncologist who had urged her into a second round of radiation, the radiation that proved insufficient to stop her cancer, but which had destroyed the surrounding tissue, graciously accepted her portion of the cookies, along with a scarf Becca had woven. After she died, I received a too-late card of thanks from this doctor.

Following Becca’s death it was my turn: heart surgery, followed by replacement of a failed knee replacement, and several months of physical therapy, which did little to aid the leg, which had atrophied in the interim. Romance entered my life again, then fled rather than see me through my mourning. And just as engineering work had gotten me through an earlier divorce, writing – this memoir, in particular – got me through the long months of loss.

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I had an odd bill of hers to accommodate as the months passed, but the nettlesome item was returning again and again to the cemetery management to have them honor their agreement to put Becca’s death date on her gravestone. It took two-and- a-half years to accomplish that, and as I stood before the completed gravestone, I had an odd realization. Somehow the fates had aligned to free me from my mourning.

I’ve heard from older, wiser persons that once you love someone, that love never goes away, and now I know the truth of that. But love does strange, counterintuitive things, too. Somehow, standing before her grave, I could swear she was whispering to me that it was time to move on.

 

Visit my website here, where you’ll find more information on my books. There’s also a Facebook fan page if you can find it. On both you’ll find more on ideas and events that matter to me — and possibly to you.