Jo, Meg, Beth or Amy

Last week I gave you assignment: read “Little Women”.  So now that we’re up to speed…

Ok- I really didn’t expect the six of you who haven’t read the book to go out and get a copy…but for all of us who have read it, I noticed a common theme.  Whether it was my book club or the blogverse, every woman who reads LW identifies with one of the four main characters, Meg, Jo, Beth or Amy. I think this is what makes the book universally appealing, to see your traits show up as one of the March sisters. So today, I want to know how you define the characters, and which character you think you are. (I know some were pondering this question last week)

I looked up SparkNotes to get some ideas for character description.

Meg: Oldest daughter.  Responsible. Kind. Mothers her younger sisters. Small weakness for luxury and leisure. Gentle.  Loving. Morally vigorous

Jo: Wants to be a writer. Temper. Quick tongue. Tomboy. Doesn’t like limits placed on girls and women. Hates romance. Strong willed. Impetuous.

Beth: Very quiet.  Very virtuous. Tries to please others. Musical. Sweet. Moral compass.

Amy: Youngest daughter. Artist. Adores beauty.  Materialistic. Pouter. Whiner. Can have temper. Vain.

When I first read the book a hundred years ago, I thought if myself as Beth.  But more the shy quiet Beth as opposed to the virtuous part.  I guess this is how I would define my younger self: quiet, out of the way, wanting to please others.  Thank gosh I got over the pleasing others part…

I think everyone wants to be Jo.  She is the protagonist and the strongest character in the book.  But, we can’t all be Jo…

So….how else would you describe the sisters?

Which sister are you?

Are there other literary characters that you identify with?

I know a woman who was named after Amy: were any of you named for one of these characters?

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Sorry- It’s About Blogging

I read and subscribe to a lot of blogs.  This has been an unexpected pleasure of becoming a blogger- meeting people from all over the world. A           nd I enjoy reading blogs, but sometimes it gets hard, like when I was sick.  I wasn’t really reading much, except for a few light reads, so I’m playing catch up on blog reading.

Boy- WordPress does not make it easy to catch up on blogs.  Reader doesn’t include all the posts you subscribe to on a good day, much less weeks.  So I read some blogs on email (trust me- this is not a good method for me.  I currently have 65m unopened emails in my waking account.  I’m going to have to open up an email for people who are trying to reach me directly- sorry to all of you who have tried to reach me and have not received an answer) I tried searching blog names and reading blogs that way.  Again, this was not easy because you really need to have exact blog name and such in order to find it.  This was frustrating- I mean G Sandwich shouldn’t be that hard to search for…Then, if someone liked or commented on my blog, I would go back to look at their posts that way.  This was probably the best way to scroll the archives, except for the amount of times I unfollowed someone accidentally because I hit the unfollow button instead of the blog name.  Then, because it’s WordPress, I would have trouble refollowing them.  Sorry Muddling and Nana for the confusion, but I finally got you guys back on track. Side note: you have no idea how many times I read Part 6 before I read parts 1-5…

I also have this weird “fairness” thing going on in my head:  I would only read one blog from one reader at a time.  I thought it was “fair” to try to read as many of my friends as possible.  This is one of my OCD type tendencies- to get locked into a particular mindset.

But lets skip to another blog aspect: people that want you to read their blogs and follow them.  I used to do the quid pro quo thing when it came to blog follow: if someone followed me, I followed them.  I remember what it was like to be a beginning blogger and not have anyone following me- I’m willing to give anyone a chance. But then I realized that many of these blogs would get me to follow them and then unfollow me.  I mean really.  Not everyone can be as stupid as I am and keep unfollowing people as I try to read them.  So I stopped following people blindly.

Skipping again.  What about the different types of people that follow your blog?  Now, as I’m a “middle aged”, married Mom who wants to be a writer, i get all of the people that check off at least one of those boxes.  But as I am more than that, I understand followers that are cooks, organized, minimalist, movie fans, readers, photographers- because theses are all my hobbies.  And honestly, if a twenty something guy from India wants to follow me- well fine.  Maybe he has some of my interests.  But recently, a blog promoting Pilipino Women as being the best brides found it’s way to my blog.  They liked my post  about my new planner and chose to follow me.  Now, I guess if you’re in the mail order bride business you need a good planner, but I don’t know if you need to follow me, especially with my views on relationships…

And them there’s everyone’s favorite: the people who add to your comments- “Please follow me at http://www.ithinkthisisthebestwaytoattractfollowers.wordpress.com”.  For the record, if one of you reads this post before you like it and add this message, I will report you as spam if you do this to me, because as far as I’m concerned, this is SPAM.  You neither like me or my post- Do you know how to get followers?  Write well.  End of story.

Take aways?

  1. I’m still catching up on Don’t feel bad if I missed something.  I’m getting there.
  2. Don’t follow me and them unfollow me
  3. Don’t ask me to read your blog without giving me a compelling reason for me to read it

Choice A or Choice B

I recently got a letter from author Jessica Knoll.  I also received one from author Curtis Sittenfield.  No, not real, stamped in an envelope real, but rather a generic email sent via Goodreads.

Dear Waking,

Hope you enjoyed my last book.  I just wrote a new one.

Love,

Best Selling Author

So, here’s the question: do emails such as this work as a marketing tool?  Upon receiving this email, does one get all aflutter and immediately put the tome on their TBR?  Or does the email go directly to the symbolic trashcan?

Which brings us to the next question: How do we choose the books that we read?

I am a hands on sort of girl.  I love trolling around bookstores- the real brick and mortar ones.  I love to walk the aisles, look at the covers, read the blurbs. The blurbs are very important to me- I can usually get a pretty good idea if it’s a book that would interest me, and if it’s the type of book I’m in the mood for. I peruse the staff favorites, the new and notable, the best sellers.  I find most of my new reads in this decidedly old fashioned method.

Another way I find new books is the newer age Amazon.  I punch in a book that I enjoyed, and I scroll down to the section that shows other books similar in style and/or genre.  And then I go back to the blurb method- I read the paragraph summary.  I also check the star rating- I like to see a solid “4”.  While we’re in this paragraph, let’s chat about the recent headline that Amazon reviews should be further reviewed.  How can one trust a review?  I try to use common sense:  too many 5’s is a red flag that something is a plant.  I almost never give out a 5 star review: there are practically no books that I consider perfect.  I am also wary of too many 1’s.  Really?  The book was that bad?  I look for books that have the majority of their reviews somewhere in the middle.  That seems more reasonable.

So, since many of my blog friends are reviewers, you’re thinking:  Does she read reviews.  Yes.  I do read reviews, BUT I am really careful of the reviewer because I don’t like spoilers.  Basically, I want to know if something was good, bad or indifferent- I don’t want to be told the story- I want the story to unfold naturally.  But, I am an avid reader of reviews AFTER I have read a book.  I love to see what someone thought was important, or interesting, or worthless.  I like reviews because I like the discussion aspect of a book (as evidenced by my participation in two book clubs, and being always open to talking about a book)

My yearly reading goal is 50 books, about a book a week.  But here’s an odd little fact: I have a relatively short TBR.  I think I have about 5 books on my Goodreads TBR, and maybe three or four pages ripped from the NY Times or magazines.  If I like a book enough to jot it down,  I read it fairly quickly.  I get excited when I find a book that interests me, and just want to get on with it.  I know this is a departure from the average avid reader.

So, because it’s Friday, and I am not looking forward the weekend because I have family obligations, I am hoping you all make my weekend better by telling me your methods of choosing books.

Do you read marketing emails?

Blurbs?

Recommendations from friends?

Reviews?

Throw a dart?

Also: how long is your TBR?

 

 

 

Definition: Good

I feel like I’m working with the whole chicken/egg dilemma today.  My original thesis was, ‘does a book need to be good to be important’.  And then I thought, well, what makes a book ‘good’?  And the more I thought about it, the more intertwined the ideas became.  So how do I broach this topic?  Do I want to broach this topic?

Let’s start with an example.  I recently read “Origin” by Dan Brown and “The Immortalists” by Chloe Benjamin.  I did not consider these books to be particularly well written.  I thought there were plot inconsistencies and gaps that brought me out of the story.  I thought some of the dialogue was tedious and repetitive.  I thought the characters were a little too stereotypical, yet behaved in illogical ways.  I did not think these books could be defined as good.

But…

Both of these books left me thinking about them after I had read them.  I wrote a post about the main plot line of “The Immortalists” because it was so thought provoking.  I have discussed these books with people and journaled about them.  I have spent more time talking about these books than books that I labeled ‘good’.  I think I’m going to remember these books. So, doesn’t that make them good?

Now think about this: can you think a book is good yet not like it?  Can you like a book but think it’s not good?  Or are like and good too intertwined?

I know there are books that I thought were well written but I did not like. (Handmaids Tale)  And if I thought about it I’m sure I could find a book that I thoroughly enjoyed yet no one would ever call it a good book (my novel).  But how many people differentiate?

So. here’s todays thought points:

  1. What makes a book good
  2. What makes a book important
  3. Do you think of these things when you are reading

Yes.  I am asking you to write my blog for me this morning because I am in a quandary.  What do we look for in a book, and why.

Discuss:

A Proper Education: A play in 1 act

The Setting: A restaurant in New York City

The Players:

  1. Parent- Resides is affluent suburb of New York City, which has a top rated school district.   Mother of twins who are about to enter 7th grade.  Twins have always attended public school, but after first year of middle school, parent did not like the education they were receiving and has enrolled them in private school.  They will begin classes after labor day in new, expensive school.
  2. Me- I hope you know a little about me by now
  3. Father in Law
  4. The Husband
  5. The Daughter
  6. Husband of Parent

Players 3-6 are present, but for the purpose of this play, imagine them eating.

Parent- When I went to camp visiting day, I found out Twin Girl used audio book for her summer reading assignment.  Isn’t that clever?

Me- She did what?

Parent– You know- audio book.  She didn’t get to choose the book and she was really bored by it, so she got audio book.

Me– What….What….What book was it?

Parent-  “The Outsiders”?  I think that’s what it’s called.

Me- SE Hinton?  The Daughter had to read it in 6th grade.  Didn’t you read it when you were a kid?  Pony Boy?  It’s not a hard book.  It’s actually a pretty good book.

Parent– Is that the movie with Matt Dillon and Rob Lowe?

Me- Well, yeah- the movie.

Parent– Oh maybe she should watch that when she gets home (types what is assumed to be a reminder into her phone)  But don’t you think it was smart of her?  I couldn’t think of a good reason why she shouldn’t listen to the book.  Because she didn’t get to choose it.  Her other summer reading book was fine.  She didn’t need audio book, because she got to choose it.  She wasn’t bored by it.

Me- Ummm- she probably should start, you know, actually reading things.  Because she’s going to get assigned reading as the grades go up, and really, she needs to like look at the words on the page and…you know understand them, because what’s going to happen…..

The Protagonist (or antagonist- you choose) turns to the audience:

Me: WTF?  She was bored?  She didn’t get to choose?  You’re putting her in private school because she wasn’t being educated?  It’s school.  It’s about education.  Part of education is learning about things you don’t know.  Wait- isn’t that the definition of education- to learn about things you don’t know?  How are you supposed to grow as a person if you never go out of your comfort zone?  If you want to read something of your choosing, read in your free time instead of playing on your phone, with snap and insta and whatever other app is out there.  Sometimes we are bored.  So what.  Is there a job that is exciting every minute of every day?  Why is our society so fixated on not being bored?  And listening, while sometimes a lost art, is not the same thing as reading.  It’s just not.  Nor is watching the movie.  The object is to look at the words on a page.  Visualize what the author is saying- get the mental picture.  Look at the words- the structure- the punctuation.  These are a fiction writers tools- these are the things you need to look at.  It’s why it’s assigned.  And…speaking of…the teacher gave an assignment in good faith.  They are expecting you to read the book.  What gives anyone the right to not listen to a teacher when the teacher has realistic goals of a student?  I’m going out on a limb and saying that reading a book is a realistic goal.  And how can you, as a parent, say to me “Isn’t that clever?”  No.  It’s not clever.  Clever is writing a book.  Clever is inventing something.  Clever is creating an awesome science fair experiment.  Using audio book is not clever.  It’s lazy. AND….let’s not forget my favorite statement: “I didn’t see anything wrong with it.”  REALLY?  REALLY?  How about, there is not one thing about her using audio book that is right.  Nothing.  She has perfect vision- there is no impairment.  She knows how to read.  (I assume this because she does use snapchat- so there is some proof that she knows the alphabet and that letters put together form words, and word form sentences….wait- I’m actually not sure if she knows that, as she usually speaks emoji) How can you say she wasn’t getting a good education at the public school?  Does she know about work ethic?  Does she understand giving 100%?  Does she understand that you need to learn things in stages?  That education is starting with a base layer, and then adding, and adding and adding?  That reading a book is about completing a task?  And if she thinks “The Outsiders” is boring- what is she going to think about some other classic works of literature?

The Protagonist turns away from the audience, and looks back at the parent:

Me– When do the kids get home from camp?

 

Blog Type: Decoded

After spending a few months writing, and reading, blogs, I have ascertained that there are 6 general types of  writing based blogs: (though I do realize that sometimes a blog can be more than one type)

  1. Opinion– I appreciate and respect all opinions, whether I agree with them or not.  My only caveat is that the opinion be logical, well thought out, and based on valid reasoning.  I do not like opinions such as “I hate opera” when the person speaking has never actually seen or heard an opera.  A person with this type of opinion is stupid, based on the fact that, you know, they’re stupid and the reason is stupid.
  2. Personal– These are my personal favorites.  These blogs share a piece of someone’s life.  I think the writers of these are brave for sharing their stories and struggles.  I also appreciate the honesty and humor of these posts.  I like when the writers personality shines through.  Thanks  Mojo for the inspiration on wording, also one of best personal blogs I have read. http://momentumofjoy.wordpress.com/
  3. Reviews– You know- someone tells you their impressions of a book, movie, whatever.  Reviews are a tricky thing for me- I prefer recommendations.  When I read a book review, I look for genre, one line plot summary, and a rating.  I don’t like spoilers.  However, after I have read a book I love to go back and look at the reviews. Same with all other things that are reviewed, except food, because I will go to a specific restaurant for a specific dish.
  4. Instructional-How to’s- recipes, DIY, tips on organizing (this is my favorite type of instructional- I could get lost in a sea of organizing blogs)- Basically anything that gives you a roadmap on how to do something.
  5. Fiction- Flash, short story, poetry- anything that tells a story in a fictional way.
  6. Fact Based- These are blogs that explain things based on research.  There is evidence to support the claims in these blogs.  And they are factual.  Or at least they are supposed to be…..

Now here is where I begin to rant….be forewarned…….

I grew up on Long Island,  in a SUBURB of New York City.  For the better part of 30 years, I have resided in Manhattan, a BOUROUGH of New York City, mailing address, New York, NY.  Of these facts I am certain.

I read a blog the other day about New York City.  The writer stated that Manhattan was a suburb of New York City.  This made me irrationally angry.  If you are going to write a factual piece about a place, get the details straight.  I commented, telling the writer that things written were factually incorrect, (and for the record I did not say- hey- check the definition of suburb and explain to me how Manhattan, with a population of about a gazillion people can be a suburb, and then what would the urban area be) and gave the correct information.  Of course, the writer neither approved my comment, nor corrected the post.

So here’s my opinion: if you are writing a fact based piece, it is your responsibility as a writer to make sure your facts are correct.  When you have an error, and this error is pointed out to you, it is your responsibility to correct it.  By not doing these things, everything you write, that is fact based, comes into question.  How can a reader trust you?  Where is the integrity?

Let the commenting commence: