Interesting Finds

Since it’s summer I decided to keep the list light this month. Enjoy! And try not to melt in this heat.

I shared this on Anxiety Ink too because it needs to be shared everywhere! It can’t be a shock that I’m sex-positive. Or that Kushiel’s Dart has moved up my to-read pile. Bonus: this article starts off quoting one of my favourite writing books, The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, and one of my favourite sections therein. http://www.tor.com/2017/07/19/kushiels-dart-is-the-sex-positive-fantasy-we-need/

I love the idea of a women’s history museum. This piece features info about a solely American museum, but it’s a start. http://msmagazine.com/blog/2017/07/18/carolyn-maloney-womens-history-museum/

This article is rather alarmist but it raises excellent points about branding and Amazon in general. Since Amazon directly affects artists now it seems relevant here. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/amazon-going-kill-your-brand-job-jr-little?trk=eml-email_feed_ecosystem_digest_01-hero-0-null&midToken=AQHTbzDnBqWmog&fromEmail=fromEmail&ut=0dfKthMwwrCDQ1

Follow up to a link I shared a while back about The Man’s Right to Know Act. http://msmagazine.com/blog/2017/07/20/turning-the-tables/

A Book with Something to Say: The House of the Scorpion

Recently I’ve been reading a lot of joyless books. They’ve been excellent, thought provoking reads, but they’ve left me a bit saddened and appalled over what humans can do to other humans. Not to mention what humans can do to everything else. I’m not sure how this trend came about, but after my current read I am picking up something fluffy. Very fluffy.

In the midst of these reads, I happened to finish Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own; therein, she mentions that women writers, since that is the focus of the essay, should not strive to write a book that speaks to those who criticise women writers. On page 73 of my version*, and in other parts, Woolf notes that the stories that speak to something more than the story the writer is trying to tell are not nearly as grand as “pure” novels. When writers try to write about something specific, like the treatment of women by men, they lose the art of storytelling.

My Woolf comments may seem like a random aside, but I’ve encountered these thoughts in recent years. On the one side, there are writers who refuse to admit that they have a social responsibility when it comes to their work. On the other side, there are readers who think books about social issues are boring. There’s even an entirely different set of people who think fiction can’t teach them anything.

I call bull on all of them. There are numerous writers who handle major issues adeptly and integrate them into their stories so that some readers don’t even know they’re being educated.

This brings me to Nancy Farmer’s The House of the Scorpion. This is a book geared towards the 9-12 crowd. It’s a coming of age story about Matteo Alacrán who we meet when he’s three years old and leave when he’s fifteen. It’s a futuristic, science fiction tale. It’s a horrific depiction of human selfishness and cruelty. And it also happens to be a book about sociopolitical, ethical, and scientific issues that were in serious debate at the time of its writing (2002), specifically cloning, pollution, immigration, and the treatment of migrant workers.

Compared to other books that try to teach, which can be extremely heavy handed, Farmer weaves these issues into her story seamlessly. I recently finished Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Lathe of Heaven, which concerns itself in large part with the issue of global warming. However, the problem came up so often in such a not-so-subtle fashion that I couldn’t help rolling my eyes towards the end. For me, the difference was learning about these sociopolitical issues through Matt’s eyes and ignorance versus having a narrator say it to me repeatedly.

The fact that Farmer writes for kids likely influenced her treatment of the lessons she was trying to impart. There’s a reason people told kids fairy tales to keep them safe. Kids are much better at intuiting the lessons of a story that entertains them than listening to repeated lectures.

As someone interested in science, I usually enjoy stories about cloning. It hit me reading The House of the Scorpion that every book, regardless of genre, that I’ve read that contains clones sees them treated horribly by the rest of humanity. I was young when Dolly the sheep hit the scene and I have no idea what the general response to her existence was. Personally, I have a pretty strong grasp of science, especially genetics, so the idea of cloning doesn’t bother me one bit. I might be an oddity.

In regards to immigration and the treatment of migrant workers, it saddens me that the future Farmer depicts is extremely relevant now fifteen years after her story was published. Anyone who does not believe slave labour exists in this world, or even on our continent, is grossly mistaken.

Overall, as a reader, Farmer’s novel has given me a new appreciation for books that say something. As a writer, I feel educated about dealing with heavy topics now that I’ve read books that handle it well and not-so-well. I highly recommend The House of the Scorpion, but fair warning: It is a difficult read. The pages fly by, but the horror depicted is hard to digest in big chunks.

What’s the last book about a serious topic you enjoyed or felt changed your outlook on something?

 

*Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One’s Own. Annotated by Susan Gubar. Harcourt: NY, 2005.

Boredom is Contagious, and Malignant

I don’t know about you, but I am not a person who handles boredom well. It’s slow season at the day job, and I’m out of make-work projects because I’m too efficient. This means I’ve been doing a lot of standing around lately. A lot. And I’m starting to see the toll it’s taking on my ability to focus when I want to.

Having absolutely nothing to keep me busy makes my days drag, and I find that once I’m out the office door I can’t shake off the drudgery. My feet drag 24/7. What’s worse is that I can’t figure out what to do about it.

I have a to do list a mile long, books I want to read, shows I want to watch, other things I want to do–but I’m swamped in apathy and I can’t find my motivation. Maybe it’s the heat. Maybe it’s the long days which have messed up my sleep. Maybe it’s my intense desire to find a new job. Maybe it’s my current feelings of aimlessness. Maybe it’s all of these combined and I just need to snap out of it.

Honestly, I wish typing that would cure me. Alas. I have a bit of time to myself at the start of August; it might be in my best interest to use those as vacation days from writing and to-dos so that I can truly recharge and refocus. My next school course starts at the end of this month, which is lousy timing, but I have no control over it.

When I’m done reading my current non-fiction book, I’m pulling The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People off my shelf and making some deadlines.

What do you do to rediscover your motivation? Do you find you drag in the summer or are you too busy to notice?

Interesting Finds

Poof and June is gone! I can’t believe we’re actually in summer now. I don’t have as many links to share this month since I’m sure you want to get back to the great outdoors.

I strive to be as good a persona as this woman is. I like to think I’d chase after my 15 year old son into the desert to save him. http://msmagazine.com/blog/2017/04/05/peace-heroes-iraqs-fatima-al-bahadly/

This is a very interesting look at the interplay between gender and the environment. Eco feminists have been trying to make their voices heard for a reason. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/climate-change-feminist-issue-generational-too-celine-charveriat

This is a must read since we just learned here in Canada 1 in 2 Canadians will get cancer in their lifetime. The caregiver role is a complex one, and I don’t anyone has any right to judge someone who alters what that role means for them and their spouse. http://msmagazine.com/blog/2017/04/26/the-good-wife/

13 Reasons Why has really been talked out, I missed the mark on this. I don’t believe in shielding kids from difficult subject matter because we all learn eventually and books/shows like this provide an ideal opportunity. Plus, these kids show they’re not as dumb as adults think—they acknowledge the show has problems, but it got them talking amongst themselves. http://nymag.com/thecut/2017/05/teenagers-explain-what-adults-dont-get-about-13-reasons-why.html

I’m pretty sure you don’t have to disclose to a new employer what a previous one paid you…or didn’t pay you. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/federal-court-rules-that-employers-can-pay-a-woman-less-as-long-as-her-old-boss-did-too_us_5903435de4b0bb2d086d4481?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000046&utm_content=buffer99296&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

The Dog Days of Summer Have Arrived

According to the news broadcast I watch, or at least their weekend meteorologist, today (June 20) at 10:24 p.m. summer officially starts. Hello solstice!

As much as I love waking in sunlight and having light in the evening, I find these long days exhausting because they throw me right out of whack. I stay up too late because my system is not in let’s-get-ready-for-bed mode when I should get moving and then it’s awful trying to haul my sorry butt out of bed. The good weather also means more socializing because I can travel about without worrying that a flash blizzard will happen. Having a life further disrupts my routine.

There’s a reason the school systems give us the summer off.

Still, it’s not all bad. I love reading outside when it’s quiet enough, I enjoy grilling on the BBQ, and I’m a sucker for flowers and food in the garden. I also adore butterflies and bees. My spider friend is hanging outside my bedroom window again. There are lots of upsides, despite my laziness.

With the peak of daylight behind me, I’m hoping to get more things done. Early in the year I deliberated giving myself the warmer part of summer off to see if that would help long term, but that was before my quick decision to enroll in courses. Now I don’t think my stories can handle the time off. Either way, I really need to get in a productive frame of mind here.

I used to find the summer so inspiring. I need to get back into that head space and get some words on the page! I think I need a change of scenery and a long weekend. Canada Day is coming up and I’m hoping to catch up on some sleep. Perhaps I’ll use the time to find a new writing spot for the next couple of months.

What do you do to stay writing fit in the summer? Do you get more done or take a break and attack things in the fall?