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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Saturday's Quotation to Inspire: Gratitude for Happiness

"Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom."-- Marcel Proust

My best to you all,

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Writer Wednesday: An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving

Hello! It's time for Writer Wednesday, when I discuss another author and his or her work. Today's post is about Louisa May Alcott (of Little Women fame) and her short story, "An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving". This is a short work, perfect to read in between the festivities of the season. Just like the Thanksgiving dinner that the characters try their hand at creating, there are layers of richness included. Humor, goodwill, and a mix-up or two lend themselves to this holiday caper.
What particularly interests me is the title. An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving. What exactly does that mean? Alcott of course wrote in the past from us and so it is an old-fashioned Thanksgiving. But, even when she wrote it, she did not call it a Contemporary Thanksigving, which to us has now become old-fashioned. Part of the story even is a tale within a tale about the 1600s and the pilgrims. The layers of history are woven together. That seems to be at the root of Thanksgiving, remembering past times while creating new memories. Perhaps, it is finding something familiar in the past that appeals and perhaps, this is in part, some of the appeal in historical fiction.

My best to you and Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thanksgiving Part Two

Last week, I started my discussion of Thanksgiving talking about Jamestown, VA. Today, the story progresses.  In 1606, the same year that the authorization of Jamestown happened, pilgrims began congregating and worshipping in the town of Scrooby, while still in England. Facing threat, they fled to Leiden, the Netherlands. Why did they leave Leiden? Their children were growing up speaking Dutch and becoming more Dutch and less English every day. Unwilling to accept this change and suffering financial difficulty, the Pilgrims set out for the New World and landed on Plymouth Rock. The pilgrims were on their way for a destination farther south, when they were blown off course to the north. A complete passenger list with their stories is listed here. http://mayflowerhistory.com/mayflower-passenger-list/ After a terrible winter, the pilgrims were starving. Thanks to Squanto and other Native Americans, the pilgrims learned how to fish, how to plant crops and celebrated their harvest with a three day festival- the first Thanksgiving in 1621, nearly four hundred years ago.

Thanksgiving predates the independence of America and was observed unofficially, but it did not become a federal observance until it'd been celebrated for almost 250 years already! Abraham Lincoln is well known and beloved for a myriad of things, but do you connect him to "Turkey day"? You should! Thanksgiving became a national holiday under President Lincoln.

My best to you all,

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Saturday's Quotation to Inspire: Heart's Treasures

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” --Thornton Wilder 

My best to you all,

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Writer Wednesday- Scientific Firsts


It's time for Writer Wednesday, where I discuss another author and his or her work. Today, I'd like to talk about scientific firsts. This year, I've read two works that explore some of the first scientists. 

The Movement of Stars by Amy Brill is a work of historical fiction that explores the fascinating story of Hannah Price, a fictitious person who is based on Maria Mitchell, the first woman to discover a comet. 
The second book, Roger Bacon: The First Scientist by Brian Clegg, is a work of nonfiction and discusses the 13th century academic and scientist Roger Bacon. Both explore scientific discovery, examine what compels one to seek knowledge and tell captivating stories of persons who broke the bonds of those before them and championed science to new heights. In reaching for the stars by pursuing the challenges of new discoveries, knowledge and the height of humanity can be grasped. Reading and writing capture a bit of that spirit of discovery and ignite sparkling encounters with such figures as Maria Mitchell and Roger Bacon.

My best to you all,

Monday, November 18, 2013

Thanksgiving Part One: Jamestown

Plymouth. That is where the pilgrims were. Why then am I starting the story of the history of Thanksgiving hundreds of miles south in Virginia? Jamestown, VA was the first permanent English settlement in "the New World" and was established in 1607.

Aside from being in Virginia instead of Massachusetts, what were the major differences between the settlements of Jamestown and Plymouth? Primarily, it was the settlers. Jamestown was first populated by men, fortune seekers and adventure seekers and those that set out on behalf of the joint stock companies that funded the missions to VA.

 Massachusetts pilgrims by contrast sought religious freedom after clashing with the religion of a changing England. The settlement at Jamestown grew and it became the capital of VA, before moving to Williamsburg and then Richmond. For much more information about Jamestown, visit http://www.historicjamestowne.org/history/ Here you discover the true stories behind the famous names of John Smith, Pocahontas, and James Rolfe as well as lesser known historical figures. Jamestown is important to the history of Thanksgiving, because if it had not survived as the earlier Roanoke Colony had not, there would have been no precedent for a lasting and successful English colony for which the pilgrims to build upon. The story continues next week.

My best to you all,

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Saturday's Quotation to Inspire: Autumn as Artist

"Fiery colors begin their yearly conquest of the hills, propelled by autumn winds. Fall is the artist."--
Takayuki Ikkaku, Arisa Hosaka and Toshihiro Kawabata, Animal Crossing: Wild World 

My best to you all,

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Writer Wednesday: Turgeon's Fairy tales

It's time for Writer Wednesday, when I discuss another author and his or her work.
Fairy tales capture the imagination and transcend borders. They are often the first foray into another culture.

In traditional fairy tales, the lesson is often that if you encounter wonderful circumstances, then you can be removed from the ordinary and become something of value.

Carolyn Turgeon has rewritten fairy tales to paint a larger, often darker version of the stories. I have read two of these recently. Godmother tells the story of Cinderella's godmother cast into New York City after the encounter at the ball goes terribly wrong. The Fairest of them All tells the story of what happens when Rapunzel grows up and the very famous stepmother that she becomes.

What strikes me most about Turgeon's work, a theme that goes across both of these books, is that she puts not only fairy tales on their head, but this entire crux of traditional transportive fairy tales. She asserts that no matter what circumstances or events happen to you, you never lose your value.

Wonderful circumstances give value- tradition
Terrible circumstances don't take away value- Turgeon

Perhaps, Turgeon has been the fairy godmother who has given us the best and fairest moral of them all.

My best to you all,

Monday, November 11, 2013

Armistice and St. Martin

Today, we pause to remember the veterans. On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, the guns of the first world war fell silent in armistice. War that had entangled the world because of a series of diplomatic treaties forever changed the landscape of the European fields and trenches that the war was fought in, but also the psyche of humanity. Pages could be written alone on the war and its remembrance, but I'd also like to talk about something else today.
It is also St. Martin's Day, a holiday that is still celebrated in Germany through the creation of lanterns, a parade led by a man on a horse, and the eating of sugar pretzels beside a bonfire.  So, who exactly was St. Martin? He was a Roman soldier who tore his cloak to give half of it to an old beggar man on the street. St. Martin and veterans have much in common. St. Martin shared his cloak with the beggar in need, laying down his comfort and his warmth as the soldier set aside his own comfort in the trenches and the fields. A sacrifice laid down for another is a mark of both St. Martin and the soldier. St. Martin's day lanterns will line the streets of Germany tonight and candles, a flame of hope and remembrance, is lit in tribute to those who have gone before. Perhaps, the greatest act of remembrance to veterans and in honor of St. Martin is to reach out our hand to those in need, even in small everyday acts of kindness.

My best to you all,

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Saturday's Quotation to Inspire: Shakespeare's Autumn

"That time of year thou may'st in me behold,
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,-
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang."
--William Shakespeare Sonnet 73

My best to you all,

Friday, November 8, 2013

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Writer Wednesday: The Book of Secrets

It's time for Writer Wednesday, when I discuss another author and his or her book.

Pst! Want to hear a secret? Just like that, an audience is drawn into The Book of Secrets. 
Yes, this is a book about secrets. A lot of secrets. Some of the secrets are certainly dark, but Arnold seems to be sending an even more powerful message- sometimes it's the keeping of the secrets, rather than their contents, that is darkest.

This is a book about secrets, but it is also a book about books. It has been said that this book is a love letter to literature. That's certainly what drew me into the story. I enjoyed how each section was written for a different book- beginning with The Chronicles of Narnia, but also including Shakespeare, Crusoe, and Poe among others.

It's also about people's interactions with others and about perceptions. At its heart, that's one of the strengths of fiction: allowing us to see the world from multiple vantage points. 

But, if you want to find out all the secrets in this book, you'll have to read it for yourself.

My best to you all,

Monday, November 4, 2013

What is NaNoWriMo and How'd You Get Your Writing Start?



Other than alphabet soup, what exactly does this mean?

National Novel Writing Month

Each November, people try their hand at writing a novel (or, at least 50,000 words) within the month.

Personally, I've not participated in NaNoWriMo, but it did get me thinking about how I got my start in writing, since this is the time when many people who are not ordinarily writers "make the plunge".

When did I write my first story?
I was three and I couldn't write yet, so my mom recorded the story for me. It was about a bunny giving flowers to a queen.

When do I remember writing my first story?
I was eight and I remember writing stories in the backyard about the pioneers. I took my cue from The American Girls books.

When was the next big writing adventure?
In fifth grade we had to write a story and mine was a mystery about twin sisters in an old Native American city. This time I was influenced by Nancy Drew and The Boxcar Children books.

In my stories today, I still write historical fiction, often with a good dose of mystery and suspense thrown in.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Where do your influences come from?

My best to you all,

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Saturday's Quotation to Inspire: Resolution for Success

"Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing."-- Abraham Lincoln 

My best to you all,