Thursday, September 30, 2010


Few things are more frustrating to me than hearing about people banning books or threatening to ban books. First of all it's the age of the Internet. Do these people seriously think they can control all the information people are accessing by banning a book from schools or libraries? Seriously?

One of my favourite parts of hearing about people trying to ban a book is the inevitable backlash. They always seem to underestimate this. It's fun to watch the sales of the threatened book soar. I'm sure Speak's sales have been pretty good over the past week or so! :)

This ALA list of banned and threatened books blows my mind. I have about 30 of these in my Grade 5/6 classroom. Some of these books are among my favourite books of all time! Everyone needs to read The Giver and To Kill a Mockingbird. Those books are full of ideas, love, honesty, integrity, passion, strength, the beauty of the human spirit. They teach invaluable lessons about the Power of One. They remind me of the wonderful quote by Margaret Mead:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.

I've read several books from this list aloud to my students over the years. The Giver is always a favourite. As are Harry Potter, Julie of the Wolves, A Wrinkle in Time, Killing Mr. Griffin, Bridge to Terabithia and The Face on the Milk Carton. If I taught older students, Fahrenheit 451 would definitely be on my list. Bradbury's brilliance needs to be shared.
The last thing we need to do is limit our students' experiences and choices. We need to teach them to think for themselves, to analyze, evaluate and critique. Taking away their right to choose teaches them nothing.
Sometimes people want to ban books because they feel the topics are inappropriate for the age of the target audience. I wonder how many people of the target age they really know and are really able to speak with. Kids deal with a lot. And a lot of it on their own. They already think and wonder. Why would we not allow them to read about these issues, learn new ways to approach and deal with problems? Why would we want them to think they're alone?
What's your favourite book that's been banned or threatened?

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Great Blogging Experiment

Elana, Jen & Alex - the blogging trifecta - came up with the idea for the Great Blogging Experiment. They want to prove that each and every one of us will come up with a unique perspective on one topic. The topic for this challenge is Writing Compelling Characters. So here goes...

For me, reading is about the people I meet inside the covers of the book, so writing had better be the same. I'm a very emotional person - probably not a big revelation there. :) I want... actually I need an emotional connection with a character. Otherwise why bother reading? Why bother writing?

So how to do that?

I like to write in 3rd person and tend to alternate the scenes between the male and female leads. Each gets his/her own scenes from his/her pov. Both characters get to reveal their thoughts and feelings. We get to know them both from within themselves and from the view of the other main character. I think -- okay, I hope this helps the readers to really know and care about the characters.

Of course throwing them into life-threatening perils and twisted plots helps as well :)

And if all that fails, I'll just write about these great Steampunk Disney characters. That's gotta work!

How do you make your characters compelling?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Top Ten TV Shows Blogfest

Alex Cavanaugh is doing it again! The Dirty Dozen Movie Blogfest was such a hit, he's hosting one now for Top Ten TV Shows. Again I couldn't resist. There are so many great TV shows I've enjoyed over the years. Top Ten though is HARD! After (not so) much internal debate, here we go...

11. My bonus pick. Okay it's not in the rules but I needed at least 1 more pic! Bablyon 5 was another close one, but for my bonus pic I'll go with Sliders - so many fun alternate dimensions.

10. Stargate Atlantis/SG1 - Love the gate! Love the blend of characters & emotions on these shows - so much great humour! And who doesn't love a good wraith or replicator?

9. X-Files. I didn't catch this show the first time around. I thought it would be too scary because I am a bit of a wimp. I have nightmares pretty much every night anyway, I didn't want to make them worse. But Scully & Mulder drew me in. There are so many great concepts in this show - so many possibilities. Love it!

8. American Idol & Canadian Idol. Yeah, I know - doesn't really match the rest of the shows on the list. But I love music - always have. I can't handle the audition rounds very well, but I love the Hollywood section where they have to work in groups. I love harmonies and when these kids do them well, it's amazing! :)
7. Bones - I'd read several of Kathy Reichs books and fallen in love with her characters Tempe and Ryan well before the TV show started. I like how the books and show have gone in slightly different directions but stay true to each other. Having the author involved probably makes that a little easier. :)
6. Star Trek: The Original Series. This series had to go on the list because it's the series that I think inspired me to write. One day I stumbled across the show in reruns. No one in my family enjoyed any kind of science fiction or fantasy so this was my first exposure. I got sucked in immediately. Loved Spock! Fascinating. :) I spent hours, usually at night when I should have been sleeping, creating scripts in my head. I kept at it until the settings, dialogue and blocking were all how I'd want them. I never wrote them down, but I probably created dozens of scripts over the years.
5. Star Trek TNG - The Next Generation really caught my imagination too. The cast was more modern and I thought the Data character was brilliant. Casting a comedian as a straight-faced, 'non'-emotional android was so smart!
4. Fringe - Fringe Science is so much fun. More alternate universes - more weird science and endless possibilities! Walter is awesome :)

3. Torchwood - Wow! Awesome. Dark, flawed, complex characters with all kinds of troubles and issues trying to keep the world safe. Fantastic.

2. Battlestar Gallactica. This remake was SO different from the original. Starbuck's a girl! I love the characters and the whole Cylon concept. Slave races will never be content to remain slaves forever.

1. Firefly - I actually didn't catch this when it was on TV either. Joss Whedon is a master. This show is set in the future in space, but it's more like the Wild West frontier. Okay, that sounds cheesy. It's actually brilliant and well worth a watch!
So, there you go. Definitely skewed towards the sci-fi end of the realm. Gotta thank my science-fiction-hating family for that one. We only had one TV for most of my growing up years, but I always got to watch Star Trek - although everyone else always found things they wanted to do elsewhere. It was great!
Thanks Alex! Make sure you check out his site :) (I've got meetings after school today - but I'll try to get around to a lot of the posts in the evening!)
So, what's your #1, absolute favourite TV series of all-time?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Why do Writers Write?

Why do writers write? Because it isn't there.

- Thomas Berger
I love this quote!
Isn't it a wonderful image? I get such a great visual of a writer pounding away on a keyboard with clouds and clouds of images filling the air. The clouds for me are filled with hazy characters in all kinds of situations. Some peaceful, some suspenseful, some happy and some terrifying.
And we take those hazy images in the clouds and pour them onto paper. That sounds easy. It most certainly isn't!
It's the possiblities in the quote that make me smile. The fact that we can and do make so much from nothing at all. Like all of the arts, writing is incredibly creative -- and incredibly exhausting. I think this quote showcases our compulsions with a little bit of humour as well.
What's one of your favourite quotes about writing?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Read Alouds

I recently finished Ric Riordan's The Lightning Thief. Fantastic book! I'm teaching Grade 5/6 this year - 10 & 11 year olds. I think this book will make a fabulous read aloud for them.

I also read Ranger's Apprentice Book 1: Ruins of Gorlon this summer. Another great choice for read aloud!

No matter what grade I teach, I always read aloud to the kids for pleasure. Each class has their own favourites and I've had students come and talk to me years later about their favourite books. In grade 8 I usually read And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie and I've had so many kids come back to tell me they continued to read her stuff.

When I read The Outsiders, there's never a dry eye in the house when Johnny dies. Total silence. Heartbreak. Devastation. And every single kid will look for another book to give them a similar emotional impact.

This past year the favourite book by far was The Giver. Sometimes it's Underground to Canada, Maniac Magee, Hatchet, Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, Invitation to the Game or...

None of my teachers ever read a book out loud when I was in school and I think those teachers missed a great opportunity. Kids are so engaged when I'm reading - they love that time of day. It's one of the best ways to create readers and writers. And thinkers.

Did your teachers read aloud to you? Did you enjoy it? What was your favourite book?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Steampunk Haiku???

Stephanie Thornton over at Hatshepsut: The Writing of a Novel is hosting a Haiku blogfest. Here's her description of the event:

I know a lot of you like blogfests, but don't have time to write a 500 word piece or you don't want to post excerpts from your WIP. I feel your pain. Some of you like to write poetry, but like me, you don't think you're very good at it. But haikus are a piece of cake, just three lines with 5, 7, and 5 moras respectively. Easy peasy!

"Easy peasy," she says. Ha!
I've written and taught my fair share of poetry over the years. I enjoy poetry. I even have favourite poets -- Margaret Atwood, Dennis Lee, Shel Silverstein, Robert Frost. Three of those poets write rhyming poetry - 2 write silly, fun rhyming poetry. One writes thought-provoking free verse ranging from serious to bizarre.
None of them write haiku. I've never taught the haiku form of poetry. I've never written a haiku.
But Stephanie's a sweetie and she was very convincing. So I clicked on the linky thingy. And proceeded to forget about it. Until now. After much fiddling I've created 3 that represent my book & the characters. Duck out now if you like - I'll never tell :)
So after all that rambling and avoiding and procrastinating, here are my haiku...
Orphaned and alone
Searching the streets for answers
Finding them and worse
Nico's mentor's dead
Killers still want what he made
He won't let them win
In Steampunk England
Tinkerings to assist them
Looking for killers

None of them give the exact feel of the book, but each of them highlights a small part. Not quite what I was hoping for, but at least I didn't come up blank!

So how are your haiku skills? Do you write them? Any haiku horror stories from the past to share?? :)
Don't forget to click on Stephanie's link to visit all of the other entries!