Monday, April 27, 2015

weekend photo essay

what would you save in a fire?

a great little book of photos have been made and published about what people around the world would save in a fire, so i decided to walk around my home and take a photo of my choices. 
1) the quilt my great-grandmother made (background pattern)
2) grandma griffin's pinking shears
3) flash drive with photos and writing saved
4) white gold pearl ring
5) sketchbook
6) box of letters
7) prayer journal from a friend
8) locket of grandma & grandpa smith

i tried to think of things that couldn't be replaced.  obviously i can get a new french press coffee maker.  and i'm not thinking of survival tools necessarily either.  just up to your top 10 valuable objects...what are yours?

Friday, April 24, 2015

on church

(this poem woke me up, so to speak, so i wrote it down. 
i'd like to think that, if she read it, mary oliver might like it, too.)

on church
(colossians 1:12)

i should go inside.
my feet touch the floor now, but still
i squirm

instead i feel i must attend mass among the poppies
their faces upturned in praise where wind
and pollen together, like incense, green the meadow

nor can walls contain wild pounding waves of
ocean tide, sermon without words; meek hymns
of foam singing their way to sand

such inheritance of light ablaze for birds
and whomever else will rise to opening of
day not even an apple blossom can refuse

yes, i will always have a home among the trillium
where deer make sanctuary among the boughs,
Christ never more real.

ls 4.25.15

Thursday, April 23, 2015

confessions of a comma queen

so last night i went to powell's to hear mary norris talk about her latest book "between you & me:  confessions of a comma queen".

norris spent more than three decades as a copy editor for The New Yorker, so she knows what she's talking about.  smart as well as funny, she expounded on the proper (and improper) uses of dashes, hyphens, colons, semi-colons and, of course, commas.

who knew grammar could be so entertaining?

even though literature is more my thing, i tell my students to pay attention in their grammar classes. it makes all the difference between "let's eat, grandpa" and "let's eat grandpa". 

punctuation might just save a life.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

if the shoe fits

if you have a great-looking pair of shoes AND they fit, it's a win-win.  i've been thinking about writing content vs. vehicle/structure lately along these lines.  it's a lot the same.  for example, an author has a great idea for a story and how will they tell it?  book of letters?  flashbacks?  travelogue/recipe collection?  multiple points of view?  or, say they have a great structure but are still looking for a good story line (this is a bit like getting a dress to go with your shoes instead of the other way around).

either way, i'd venture to say it needs to be a good fit. "84 charing crossroads" works as a book of letters back and forth, but i think it would fail as a memoir.  "all the light we cannot see" really shines alternating between the present and the past, but might not be so effective in letter form.

a really creative author, as long as they don't overdo it, can use multiple vehicles within one novel, having a character write a poem or a song, for example (maybe the author was inspired and didn't know where else to use their verse).

it's the same with context since no one is an island.  you can have the same book and, read by 500 readers bringing their own personal narratives to the book, you have essentially 500 versions of the same novel.  you can't pluck one person, idea, painting or concept out of the historical continuum.

people have a choice:  to read as a consumer or a particpant.  the latter invites you to an experience with the author that by no means ends when the last page is finished.    

style + functional experience, now that's a beautiful thing.

Monday, April 13, 2015

a new way of seeing

i'm planning to see this and i'll report back what it's like...meanwhile, you can check for showtimes in this artist series coming to a theater near you!


i finish my book piles rather faster than i can get to the library these days.  this weekend's reads?  "fully alive" by ken davis, "plain and simple" by sue bender, frommer's NYC travel guide, behind the scenes coffee table book about the filming of downton abbey and a small local magazine called "edible portland" that taught me all about cultivars and truffles.

next in line?  "the paris architect" by charles belfoure and "suite francais" by the late irene nemirovsky (whose real life story is just as if not more gripping than her posthumous novel i might add!)  i'm also giving new author brooke davis a chance with her first book "lost and found".

for me, feeding my mind with books and my soul with beauty is just as important as the nourishing food i give my body.  the more good stuff i take in, the more nutrients i want...

get LIT at the beach

i knew about the author event "get lit at the beach" but dismissed it because of ticket price (teacher, remember? my paycheck comes in various forms of student enthusiasm). 

so imagine my delight when the bookshop owner told my friend and i about the FREE (emphasis mine) panel discussion featuring gail tsukiyama, karen joy fowler, jim lynch, terry brooks and nancy pearl.

they were witty amongst themselves and had good chemistry with us as an audience as well.  kudos to the tolovana arts colony for putting on such great events.  you can read more about it as well as preview upcoming events at

Monday, April 6, 2015

woman in gold

my brain is rather, at the moment, like someone who has overeaten without exercise.  it seems i've taken in so much richness and fodder for thinking but have failed to express myself about it all, and so i blog, in hopes of engaging you in dialogue of an intellectual nature.

i took myself to see "woman in gold" because helen mirren is one of my favorite actors, gustav klimt is one of my favorite painters, and the 1940's are one of my favorite historical periods. the film had captured my attention when i saw the trailer for it a few months back, but i couldn't remember what it was called.  then, when it came out last wednesday, i couldn't wait to see it.  i don't feel that way about many movies, and it was worth it.

(in the opening scene there is a close-up of klimt's hand cutting gold foil in the technique of the medieval scribes i just learned about!--and wrestled with myself, rather unsuccessfully). 

without giving a spoiler alert in case you see it , i will say it is based on a true story of an austrian woman's search for justice regarding a *portrait of her aunt that was looted by the nazi's in vienna at the start of WWII.  i thought it was very well done with appropriate flashbacks as she returns to the city where she grew up and was married, reliving the time when she had to part with her family and flee to america.

*the real title of the painting is her aunt's name "adele" but in the efforts to dehumanize the jews the painting was simply renamed, "woman in gold".  

if you've seen it, what are your impressions on the film?

first impressions

i've plowed through my book stack from the library...again!  i know i'm a lifetime learner and all, but what's gotten into me?  it's like an insatiable desire to educate myself deeply and broadly at the same time has hit me and there's no going back.

the last two novels:  "gutenberg's apprentice" by alix christie (which was historically written up and illustrated in donald jackson's book about the story of writing) and "first impressions" by charlie lovett.  this latter novel is also historical fiction, but about jane austen and her literary friendship with richard mansfield which the author weaves into a modern mystery, going back and forth between austen's time and present-day.

i never was a big austen fan (there is more to her than the pride and prejudice movie version of colin firth in a dripping white shirt, after all, but what!?) because of her run-on sentences. i've always preferred charlotte bronte's "jane eyre".  but i will hand it to her that she understood human nature (most likely from observation rather than direct encounter?)

both novels are new releases, which means they are non-renewable so in a sense i had to plow through them, but i would have willingly done so regardless and i highly recommend them.

Friday, April 3, 2015

letters as artform

my fascination with typography continues.  "the story of writing" book came from the library and on the inside i was happy to find, in his own writing, "oregon school of arts and crafts, donald jackson" (current calligrapher to the Queen of England and leader of the St. John's Bible project).  tempting as it may be just to never return the library book (i'm kidding), i took a photo instead.

here is my attempt at scribal art, "Lord of Hosts" with the scripture from 2 Corinthians 5:21.  afterwards, i did a modern form "Yahweh" sprinkled throughout the text in red.

even with the 6 steps of gold foil embossing before me, i struggled with the gold and silver leaf.  it doesn't show up well in the picture, but each letter is outlined or filled in gold with a filagree cross in the center flourish.

it unbelievably coincides with the novel i'm reading right now called "gutenberg's apprentice" by alix christie;  smart historical ficiton writing about the revolution in typeface as the printing press took over the work of scribes in order to print the first Bible.

and an amazing modern letter artist i was just introduced to via the internet?  seb lester.  his website is and it is well worth the time to watch a short video of him at work.