Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Author web presence

One of the pluses of the Internet is how easy it makes networking and keeping in touch with other writers. Joining writing groups helps in that department. I am a member of two - Inscribe Christian Writers Fellowship and The Word Guild. Both offer much to Canadian writers who are Christian.

Last week on our yahoo discussion board The Word Guild, our president Denise Rumble invited us to talk about our blogs. Not surprisingly the invitation was followed by a blizzard of URLs. Kimberley Payne - Word Guild member and encourager par excellence - has compiled them into a tidy list and shares them with us at the group blog The Writer's Crucible.


But is all that blogging, facebooking and twittering helpful?
"Now that just about every writer has a Web site, blog and/or MySpace, Facebook and GoodReads pages, are they finding the effort of keeping up with it all worthwhile? Do authors even need a Web presence?"

Maybe you too have asked the question with which Judith Rosen begins her Publisher's Weekly article "Finding Value in Author Web Sites." Read the entire article here.

h/t Joanna Mallory

Monday, December 29, 2008

Book Review: Until We Reach Home by Lynn Austin

Title: Until We Reach Home
Author: Lynn Austin
Publisher: Bethany House, October 2008
ISBN: 978-0-7642-0495-1
ISBN-10: 0-7642-0495-1

The only way 19-year-old Elin Carlson can make sure her sisters are safe from Uncle Sven is to keep them in sight every moment or move away from their Swedish farm. When Uncle Lars sends tickets, she knows moving to America is the solution. But how will she convince shy 16-year-old Sofia and willful 18-year-old Kirsten that leaving home is best – without sharing her own dark secret?

All through the long voyage, she encourages her stubborn and despondent sisters with dreams of how wonderful life in America will be. But when they arrive and things only get worse, the girls’ bonds of sisterly loyalty and love are tested almost to breaking. In Until We Reach Home, Lynn Austin tells a tale of three Swedish sisters coming to America in 1897. Will they every find their place, a place that is as much a home as the one they lost when Mama and Papa died?

Austin tells the story from the viewpoint of each sister. In this way we get to know them equally well and are privy to their secrets, secrets that affect their behavior and have them acting like typical siblings -- from snippy to loving -- towards each other. A few despicable secondary characters, romances found in unlikely places, and an ending as neatly symmetrical as a Shakespearean comedy make Until We Reach Home a satisfying read from beginning to end.

Besides being complex, realistic and interesting, I found Elin, Kirsten, and Sofia the most sympathetic of all characters I’ve met so far in Austin’s books. Their vulnerability and innocence had me worried about their safety. Their flaws helped me identify and sympathize with each

I like the way Austin’s writing doesn’t get in the way of her storytelling. Her style is clear, direct and often vivid. And even though she moves from sister to sister to do the telling, I was never confused about whose head I was in. If a piece of fiction’s job is to give the reader an experience of a different time and place, this book certainly succeeds. Here, for example, we experience the ship to America through Sofia’s eyes:

Sofia tried to make the best of it for the next couple of days, but no matter where she went there were always hordes of foul-smelling people reeking of perspiration packed tightly beside her like herring in a barrel. In good weather, everyone crowded up on deck and the men smoked pungent cigarettes, making it impossible to breathe the clean ocean air. Sofia had taken the aroma of sweet, fresh air for granted all her life, but now she hungered for just a tiny whiff of hay or pine trees or even the barnyard.
Austin explores the themes of family and finding a home. Three women characters fighting and winning against adversity send a message of women’s empowerment. She underlines, through Sofia, the facts of God’s love and forgiveness. The story also gives insights into Swedish culture and how difficult being a non-English speaking immigrant must be. The way Austin depicts the American Swedish community in Chicago felt altogether believable with its old-world village mentality.

If you’re looking for a captivating read that will whisk you away to a time and place 100 years ago, Until We Reach Home fits the bill. At 428 pages you might even be able to stretch it out over several days – if you can bear to set it down.

More review of books by Lynn Austin:

A Proper Pursuit

A Woman's Place

Gods and Kings

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Poem - Christmas embers

American Life in Poetry: Column 195

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

Here is a poem, much like a prayer, in which the Michigan poet Conrad Hilberry asks for no more than a little flare of light, an affirmation, at the end of a long, cold Christmas day.


Christmas Night

Let midnight gather up the wind
and the cry of tires on bitter snow.
Let midnight call the cold dogs home,
sleet in their fur--last one can blow

the streetlights out. If children sleep
after the day's unfoldings, the wheel
of gifts and griefs, may their breathing
ease the strange hollowness we feel.

Let midnight draw whoever's left
to the grate where a burnt-out log unrolls
low mutterings of smoke until
a small fire wakes in its crib of coals.

- Conrad Hilberry

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c) 2008 by Conrad Hilberry, whose most recent book of poetry is "After-Music," Wayne State University Press, 2008. Poem reprinted from "The Hudson Review," Vol. 60, no. 4, Winter 2008, by permission of Conrad Hilberry. Introduction copyright (c) 2008 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Poem - more than one way to do math

American Life in Poetry: Column 194

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

Father and child doing a little math homework together; it's an everyday occurrence, but here, Russell Libby, a poet who writes from Three Sisters Farm in central Maine, presents it in a way that makes it feel deep and magical.


Applied Geometry

Applied geometry,
measuring the height
of a pine from
like triangles,
Rosa's shadow stretches
seven paces in
low-slanting light of
late Christmas afternoon.
One hundred thirty nine steps
up the hill until the sun is
finally caught at the top of the tree,
let's see,
twenty to one,
one hundred feet plus a few to adjust
for climbing uphill,
and her hands barely reach mine
as we encircle the trunk,
almost eleven feet around.
Back to the lumber tables.
That one tree might make
three thousand feet of boards
if our hearts could stand
the sound of its fall.

- Russell Libby

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c) 2007 by Russell Libby, whose most recent book is "Balance: A Late Pastoral," Blackberry Press, 2007. Reprinted from "HeartLodge," Vol. III, Summer 2007, by permission of Russell Libby. Introduction copyright (c) 2008 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Friday Poem - Winter white

American Life in Poetry: Column 193

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

The first two lines of this poem pose a question many of us may have thought about: how does snow make silence even more silent? And notice Robert Haight's deft use of color, only those few flecks of red, and the rest of the poem pure white. And silent, so silent. Haight lives in Michigan, where people know about snow.



How Is It That the Snow

How is it that the snow
amplifies the silence,
slathers the black bark on limbs,
heaps along the brush rows?

Some deer have stood on their hind legs
to pull the berries down.
Now they are ghosts along the path,
snow flecked with red wine stains.

This silence in the timbers.
A woodpecker on one of the trees
taps out its story,
stopping now and then in the lapse
of one white moment into another.

- Robert Haight

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c) 2002 by Robert Haight from his most recent book of poetry, "Emergences and Spinner Falls," New Issues Poetry and Prose, 2002. Reprinted by permission of Robert Haight. Introduction copyright (c) 2008 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Read about writing

Some excellent reading about writing in these links:

Write a scintillating blog posts.
"Blogging is about writing"
Toque-tip: Belinda at Whatever He Says

What are teens reading these days?
"On the Edge: Teen Reads"
Toque-tip: NJ at Blue Collar Writer

Write a Christmas poem. My newest Poet's Classroom column has 16 poem prompts to help you write fresh Christmas verse.