Josephine's Dream Reading

Josephine's Dream Reading
Trying to look like Josephine Baker - and failing miserably!

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls
Conquering the Beast

Friday, January 15, 2010

Discovering The Railway Children

When I was very young I loved the Famous Five series by Enid Blyton. Naturally, when my son was young I wanted to share the experience with him. I began reading one of the books to him at bedtime, but to my amazement we both found the story a bit plodding. How come I hadn't found the prose plodding when I was nine? I thought, 'Okay, maybe it's because they were written in the 1950s, and I had a better attention span then.' But then later my son and I started reading the Just William series of books by Richmal Crompton, written in the 1920s, '30s and 40s. Not plodding at all! In fact my son and I found them hilarious and clever, despite some extremely difficult sentence structure. In fact the complexity of the prose is partly what makes the stories so funny, as if they'd been written by P.G. Wodehouse and Oscar Wilde.
Now that my son is 19, and won't let me read to him anymore - more's the pity - I've been reading The Railway Children, by Edith Nesbit, to myself. I'd never read it before because years ago I'd seen it on tv. I know it's a classic, and I should be ashamed of myself, but I'm already ashamed of myself for never being able to get past page three of War and Peace without falling into a deep and dreamless sleep. So there's no room for more literary shame. However, now that I'm so old that I can't remember much about the tv series of The Railway Children I've finally picked up the book. It was first published in 1906, and, surprise, surprise, it moves at a good clip. In fact the pacing is perfect. It's funny and poignant and almost modern in parts. Timeless, I believe one might say. I don't find myself muttering, 'Come on, get to the point.' I've been reading it on the bus, the train, and in the waiting room at the doctor's office. You know you're reading a good book when you're on the bus and almost miss your stop.
Now I'm not denying that Enid Blyton wrote good stories. Obviously her Famous Five books once inspired in me a love of reading. Also, Noddy in Toyland was the first book ever read to me, and I loved Noddy so much I collected the entire series. What I'm saying is that the best books stand the test of time, so it really doesn't matter when they were written.
To be honest, I'm glad I'm discovering - late in life - some of the books I didn't read years ago. It's like travelling in a new and interesting country.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Raining Cats and Dogs

Well, of course, this is Vancouver, so naturally it's raining. But the cats and dogs are actually characters in a story I've had on the back burner for a few years. I might have mentioned it before, I'm too lazy to check my previous blogs. If this looks like a repeat, you can sign off. I won't be offended. The story mainly involves one dog and one cat (and a fish, if you must know). In fact, I've had their story on the back burner for so long, that the dog(s) and cat in question are, I regret to say, now deceased. There was no fish, at least not in recent history. I might have to get one for inspiration. About fifty years ago, or more, I had a goldfish named Billy. I kept him in a small bowl. The bowl was so full of 'toys' that poor Billy had no room to swim, poor chap. No wonder he always looked a bit glum. He was followed by Genevieve and Oscar. Also glum.
I'm sure you've all had a pet at one time, or your neighbours have. Did you notice their personalities? Odd habits maybe? Quirks even? My mother in law's two dogs gave me the inspiration for this particular story, but for my story I blended the two dogs into one dog. A couple of years, or months, will go by, and then, as happened this week, a burst of inspiration will send me to the computer and off I go again, back to the dog story that never ends.
So here's your writing exercise. Watch your dog, fish, cat or rabbit - or someone else's. Make notes. Put one of them front and centre in a story.
Quirky creatures to inspire you: My husband has relatives in Greece who kept chickens. The chickens actually flew up into a tree to sleep at night. My uncle had a dog that would begin to bark as soon as her master got off the bus - three blocks away. And there was a parrot in the Athens National Gardens that, many years ago, taught my son rude words!

Friday, January 1, 2010

It's 2010. Resolution: Read More/Write More

Happy 2010 everyone! May it be a year of good writing and inspiring reading for all. For those who didn't buy a copy of 'Sadie the Ballerina' when they had the chance, you can still find it in the special Scholastic Canada collection 'Merry Christmas: A Canadian Keepsake Collection.' Five stories in one big book. Rush out and buy it if you haven't already.
Today is New Year's Day and last night, instead of being a party girl, I re-worked a short story I'd written many years ago. I also did some work on my ongoing smuggling story. Then my husband called upstairs to inform me that the hockey game on tv was over, and it was safe for me to enter the tv room. We watched a couple of black and white, Thin Man movies. Love them.
Today I visited a friend who is now 95 and lives in an old age home. She's one of the most interesting people I know, and always has something to tell me that could one day be useful in a story. In fact, another friend phoned me this morning to wish me happy new year, and she also told me something about her family history that I've put in a little drawer in my head. It's all material. I can never stress that enough. Every conversation you have with someone contains a story starter - or finisher.
It's going to be a busy year. I've finished the final draft (well, maybe there'll still be tweaks) of the picture book that's due to be published in the Fall of 2011. The publishers have not found an illustrator yet. I'm also hard at work on the story I'm adapting for a short children's play. The pressure is on, but maybe that's what I need to motivate me.
Right at this moment I'm being creative in another way. I'm baking a turkey breast for Shabbat dinner, but I've smothered it in some kind of Indian sauce (I do this to fool guests into thinking I'm terribly inventive in the kitchen. I might have mentioned this before, but my son once said, "Mom, when I say we should have something different, I don't mean just change the herbs on the chicken"). I really have to put that in a story one day.
I'm reading two books (not at the same time). Just finishing 'Bootleg' by Alex Shearer - a very funny kids' book, with rather an important message, I think. And I've just started a murder mystery about the intrepid librarian Helma Zukas, who solves crimes in between helping library users. This one is called 'Catalogue of Death,' by Jo Dereske.
Read, write and be merry. Yours in creative blogdom - Joan