50,000 can be a daunting number, but I’m here to bear witness that it can also be an achievable number. Last year, for the first time, I successfully crossed the National Novel Writing Month finish line, pounding out 50,000 words worth of original writing during the month of November. I followed that up with securing a lucrative publishing contract and a nationwide speaking tour. Okay, the previous sentence was fiction. What I did gain was a sense of accomplishment, greater confidence in my writing abilities and the sense that doing a big thing is possible if you devote yourself to it regularly. Continue reading “Writers, Start Your Engines: National Novel Writing Month”
On September 18, 1937, the world was introduced to Zora Neale Hurston’s novel, “Their Eyes Were Watching God.” The world didn’t pay adequate attention, and the title went out of print for years. A 1978 reprinting brought the book recognition as an American classic. Alice Walker and Zadie Smith both cite Hurston as an influence.
Hurston grew up in Eatonville, Florida, a town established and run by African Americans. It serves as setting for much of her novel. She went to New York for an anthropology degree from Barnard College and stayed for the Harlem Renaissance, with trips back to the south for story collection and research.
“Their Eyes Were Watching God” was groundbreaking for its time — written by an African American woman and portraying African Americans interacting primarily with each other. Janie Crawford is one of the most fully realized characters you could wish for in under 200 pages. Continue reading “Their Eyes Were Watching God: Eighty Year Anniversary”
“The elephant is loved, revered and respected by people and cultures around the world…”
World Elephant Day is August 12. But why do elephants get their own day? They’re just that cool, for one thing. And they’re endangered. WorldElephantDay.org explains: “The elephant is loved, revered and respected by people and cultures around the world, yet we balance on the brink of seeing the last of this magnificent creature.”
Elephants are highly intelligent, with excellent memories and the ability to recognize themselves in reflections. They develop strong bonds with each other and live together in communities. Female and juvenile elephants herd together in groups led by matriarchs, while adolescent and adult males form their own separate herds. Elephants work collectively to protect their young, and they appear to mourn their dead. Continue reading “World Elephant Day”
On Monday, August 21, Mid-Missouri will experience the most anticipated two and a half minutes of the century, as a total solar eclipse engulfs the region. All local hotel rooms have been booked for months, and events are taking place throughout the area to celebrate our plunge into the dark.
Though totality will last for only a couple of minutes, the whole eclipse, start to finish, will take about three hours. The moon will begin its journey across the sun at 11:45 a.m., eclipsing it entirely at around 1:12 p.m., and finishing its business at 2:40.
“Where can I learn more about the eclipse?” you might ask. At your library, of course. DBRL will hold events at all three buildings, featuring Dr. Angela Speck, a professor of astrophysics. Continue reading “Eclipse Fever”
In the spirit of the Summer Reading theme “Build a Better World,” your Classics Maven has chosen to discuss a master literary world builder – Ursula K. Le Guin, winner of the Nebula and Hugo Awards for her 1974 science fiction book, “The Dispossessed.”
“The Dispossessed” is a book about walls: physical, psychological, social. The story begins with Shevek, a physicist from the moon colony Anarres, breaking seven generations of tradition by crossing the wall around the space port where ships come and go with cargo. This wall contains the only “No Trespassing” sign in all of Anarres, a utopian anarchist society where everything is shared. Continue reading “Classics for Everyone: “The Dispossessed” by Ursula K. Le Guin”
John Steinbeck said, “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called ‘Huckleberry Finn.’”
That’s right; our state produced the father of American letters. And don’t think we don’t know it. Take a look at our state map: Mark Twain National Forest, Mark Twain State Park, Mark Twain Cave. Never mind that Samuel Clemens (Twain’s real name) moved away as an adult and did his writing in other locations; it’s obvious his Missouri boyhood influenced his career. A visit to the cavern now named after him leaves no doubt it was the setting for Tom Sawyer’s underground adventures. Continue reading “Literary Day Trips”
“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” – Carl Sagan
Let me take this opportunity to express appreciation for science writers who open the universe of incredible discoveries to the rest of us. For those of us who are fascinated by scientific discoveries, but have neither the training nor desire to get information from academic journals, popular science books fill a need. Several outstanding titles have been published in the last year. Here are a few:
“Mask of the Sun: The Science, History and Forgotten Lore of Eclipses” is a timely work for Mid-Missourians who reside in this year’s total solar eclipse zone. The book opens, in fact, with a page showing the coverage of upcoming August 21 eclipse. Author John Dvorak provides explanations of the science aspects of eclipses and delves into the human history and beliefs surrounding these celestial events. This includes some significant changes in religious doctrine over the years. Continue reading “Popular Science Reads”
As a teen, I thought history was only about presidents, generals and Henry Ford. Perhaps that had something to do with the textbooks in use back in the day. I didn’t realize the biographies I loved to read — Amelia Earhart was a favorite — also counted as history.
For more than thirty years, the National Women’s History Project has tackled the “important work of writing women back into American history.” March is National Women’s History month, and the theme for 2017 is “Honoring Trailblazing Women in Labor and Business.” Let’s learn about some of those women. Here are a few titles to begin with:
“Grace and Grit” is Lilly Ledbetter’s story of working at Goodyear. After nineteen years as a manager, she discovered she was making forty percent less than men in the same position. She spent a decade seeking legal redress, sticking with the case all the way to the Supreme Court. Though she lost on appeal, her efforts led to the signing of the 2009 Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Continue reading “Women’s History Month: Women in Labor and Business”
The history of school desegregation in the United States did not start with the well-known 1954 Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education. A legal precedent had been set years earlier in a case involving Columbia, Missouri. In 1938, the Court issued a landmark ruling stating that the University of Missouri Law School could not deny a student admission based on race. The student in question was Lloyd Gaines, a Lincoln University graduate who met every other qualification for entry. Though he won his suit and paved the way for others, Gaines mysteriously disappeared without enrolling.
In their book, “Lloyd Gaines and the Fight to End Segregation,” MU professors James W. Endersby and William T. Horner delve into the historical context of the case and explain how a Missouri college student of modest means came to be in the center of an action that helped lay a foundation for future civil rights gains in America. Continue reading “Lloyd Gaines and the Fight to End Segregation”
I like a good nail-biting thriller, one that keeps me sitting bolt upright as I read. Sometimes. Other times, life itself is challenging enough, and I don’t need added stress from my fiction. On those occasions, I prefer a kinder, gentler novel, one in which the main character is never threatened by assassins.
Following are a few gentle reads I’ve enjoyed over the past couple of years. These books contain minimal violence, minimal raunch and no serial killers.
“Love in Lowercase” by Fransec Miralles
This is a story of quiet revelations and subtle, but life-changing events. Samuel is a professor of linguistics who has little human contact outside of his classroom lectures. One day a mischievous cat appears and leads him to places he’s never been. The upstairs neighbor’s apartment, for instance. And the vet. Samuel meets new people, he encounters a long-lost childhood crush, his life expands. He accomplishes the monumental human task of overcoming loneliness. Continue reading “Gentle Reads for Adults”