Friday, January 29, 2010

Leaving Gee's Bend

Irene Latham: Leaving Gee's Bend
Publication date: 7th January 2010

A young girl sets out to save her sick mother and records her
adventures in quilt pieces.

Ludelphia Bennett may be blind in one eye, but she can still put in a good stitch. Ludelphia sews all the time, especially when things go wrong.

But when Mama goes into labor early and gets deathly ill, it seems like even quilting won’t help. That’s when Ludelphia decides to do something drastic—leave Gee’s Bend for the very first time. Mama needs medicine that can only be found miles away in Camden. But that doesn’t stop Ludelphia. She just puts one foot in front of the other. What ensues is a wonderful, riveting and sometimes dangerous adventure. Ludelphia weathers each challenge in a way that would make her mother proud, and ends up saving the day for her entire town.

Set in 1932 and inspired by the rich quilting history of
Gee’s Bend, Alabama, Leaving Gee’s Bend is a delightful, satisfying story of a young girl facing a brave new world.

This was a touching story told through Ludelphia's unique and authentic voice. I had no previous knowledge of Gee's Bend, but I'm a seamstress too and the quilting attracted me from the beginning. But once I got to know the main character, it was her view of the world surrounding her that charmed me completely. Beautifully written. Ms. Latham uses the Southern vernacular to create a very authentic atmosphere, her descriptions of nature and everyday life are equally convincing. Despite never being to the South, it made me feel like I was there, seeing the characters, places and events. A very good read.

Reading Challenge

The Story Siren

So I decided to sign up for the 2010 debut YA author challenge. I've never done anything like this before and I'm not sure how many books my time will allow me to read, but I hope I can manage 12. Here's my list (I will add and change it a bit in the future as I haven't really checked out all the books yet):

1. Irene Latham: Leaving Gee's Bend
2. Jennifer R. Hubbard: The Secret Year
3. Julie Kagawa: The Iron King
4. Lauren Oliver: Before I Fall
5. Holly Cupala: Tell Me A Secret (22.6.2010)
6. Kristina McBride: The Tension of Opposite
7. Suzanne Young: The Naughty List
8. Anna Jarzab: All Unquiet Things
9. Jandy Nelson: The Sky is Everywhere
10. Stephanie Perkins: Anna and the French Kiss (2.12.2010)
11. Alyssa B. Sheinmel: The Beautiful Between
12. Amy Brecount White: Forget-Her-Nots

Also, if you'd like to join the challenge, go here. You'll get all the additional information and a sign-up post.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Amazon sellection

While I posted yesterday about my favourite few books from last year you can read on the Amazon blog about the most influential YA writers of the decade. Laurie Halse Anderson, Scott Westerfeld, Stephenie Meyer and John Green are mentioned among others. I think it's a fairly good sellection, each of the authors left their impression on YA literature.

I'm still waiting on my copy of The Secret Year. I'm sure this'll be one of the YA books we'll all talk about in 2010.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Best of 2009

Last year I read 65 books which is actually 15 more than the year before that. Eight of those were nonfiction, 17 were YA, 5 were sci-fi or fantasy, 5 comic books, 12 were literary fiction. Here are some of my favourites out of those.

First, a YA novel, Two-Way Street by Lauren Barnholdt. The book is teeming with conflicts, tension and UST. I devoured it in a few hours. A girl is dumped by a guy, but then has to go on a car ride across the country with him to get to college before the term starts. Nicely drawn characters and jam-packed with tension.

Second, Jose Saramago's Blindness. This one left me speechless. At first I was a bit dubious because of the style of writing which is something like this without the sentences ever ending and it includes even direct speech without marking it in any way but once you get used to that and delve into the story it completely sucks you in it presents a very scary scenario of everyone going blind similar to the swine flu at the moment but the whole thing refers to our metaphorical blindness the narrative is so compelling and real I often found myself confused when I stopped reading for the day because I had a hard time getting out of it.

Third and fourth, Jim Beaver's Life's That Way and Michael Ondaatje's Divisadero. One is fiction, the other is very much based on (sadly) real life. But both tell a painfully intimate story. Divisadero is my favouirite book by Ondaatje so far, and I certainly hope Jim will write more books (with happier subjects though).

Thursday, January 21, 2010

To speak or not to speak

The use of dialogue in fiction seems to be one of the few things about which a fairly definite rule may be laid down. It should be reserved for the culminating moments, and regarded as the spray into which the great wave of narrative breaks in curving toward the watcher on the shore. this lifting and scattering of the wave, the coruscation of the spray, even the mere material sight of the page broken into short, uneven paragraphs, all help to reenforce the contrast between such climaxes and the smooth effaced gliding of the narrative intervals; and the contrast enhances that sense of the passage of time for the producing of which the writer has to depend on his intervening narration. Thus the sparing use of dialogue not only serves to emphasize the crises of a tale, but to give it as a whole a greater effect of continuous development.

This is a passage from Edith Wharton's The Writing of Fiction (included in Dorothea Brande's Becoming a Writer.)

This passage fascinates me, not only because it uses such a beautiful metaphor but because it deals with something that I often wonder about. How much dialogue and how much of the 'intervening narration' to use.

I like writing dialogues, I like to think I'm good at it, and for me it's also much easier to write a page of dialogue than a short paragraph of straight narration. I believe good dialogue is necessary to have a good conflict in the story, and I can show the conflict more easily by putting certain words in my character's mouth than by describing it - I'm bound to make the descriptions insufferably dull. But I suppose this is where the difference between literary fiction and all other kinds of fiction comes in.

When the main conflict is of the invisible kind, an issue that the protagonist struggles with internally, dialogue may seem redundant and perhaps awkward. The plight of the character must be revealed through his or her actions and thoughts, to a lesser extent through their words. While my characters, too, experience internal conflicts, they're also faced with very obvious external ones, often in the form of a nemesis or rival. Describing such situations would lead to protracted and tedious story, in my opinion. Dialogue, on the other hand, introduces animation and vivacity and, I believe, a sense of athenticity. And that feels relatively important in YA literature - the ability to keep the readers interest and not scare them away with lengthy stream-of-consciousness passages.

Finding the balance between dialogue and straight narration seems tremendously important when writing for younger audiences. You don't want to water down the story by making it all very superficial, but by making it too boring you also won't do yourself (nor the readers) a favour.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


This morning I received a wonderful surprise in my mailbox. Actually it wasn't in the mailbox, the postman handed it to me while asking how was my trip to Australia. I suspect he rang the doorbell just so he could ask me that. He's a very nice guy, though, so I don't mind chatting with him.

Well, back to the surprise. It was a package from Irene Latham, including her first novel Leaving Gee's Bend, a cute pot holder, Ludelphia's sewing kit and a few postcards! It made my day.

I'm looking forward to reading her book. I only have to finish the ones I'm reading at the moment (Love Life by Kluun, The Book Thief by Zusak, and Becoming a Writer by Brande).

In keeping with the topic of books and publishing, here's a very good open letter to Bloomsbury Kids on the issue of publishing house using white models on books with black protagonists. One wonders what exactly pub execs are thinking ... But read the letter, the author explains her arguments very eloquently. And spread the word, of course.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Tough choice

It's time to sign up for the next post-grad unit at Swinburne. I have four more units to finish, two are core subjects and two are choice subjects I can sellect out of the three offered units. The ideal thing would be to do all five units as they're all interesting and very exciting. But I can't really afford that without winning the lottery - or penning a bestseller in a very very near future (read: yesterday).

So I have to choose between Electronic writing where the materials deal with such fascinating topics as cyberfeminism, cyborgs and nanotechnology, globalisation etc.; Script Writing with characterisation, storyboarding, plotlines, Harry Potter etc,; and finally The Writerly Self with discussions about writing in another language (which is very topical in my situation), thesis writing and publication.

Tough choice ... Perhaps I should do all three anyway. I probably won't need another vacation for the next three years after I spent last month enjoying myself Down Under.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Four Seasons

Although we're deep into winter already (or summer on the southern hemispehere where I just came from), my poem Autumn has been published at Foundling Review this week. Have a look and let me know your thoughts.

Below the poem there's a few words on how the poem came about and what it means to me. I think that's a nice feature the Foundling Review editors came up with because whenever I read someone else's work I do wonder why they wrote about that particular topic or how they feel about it. Because let's face it, all works are open to interpretationa and particularly with poetry it's impossible to be sure you're interpreting the author's words exactly the way as they intended. Stuart Hall, anyone?

Here are a few snapshots from Down Under ... I miss the sun already, although snow's kinda cool too.