Thursday, May 31, 2007

Goal Accomplished

I attended an eighth grade graduation tonight. My son was one of the graduates. But he's not the only one I cheered for. In 2005, I taught language arts to many of his classmates as well. They're a great group of kids.

I was already proud of them, but I felt an extra something as I read through the graduates' list of goals. One of the girls said she wants to write Islamic fiction.

They were times when I wasn't sure they were learning anything from me. It's always great to know that the kids are listening.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Need Suggestions

I started this blog to do two things: talk about writing; and talk about my books. I've done both, but I feel I need something more now.

What should it be? I'm open to all reasonable suggestions. Just make sure it has something to do with writing.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Is American literacy decreasing?

I sure hope not. But it does seem that Americans are reading less. The bookstore owner who burned books in Kansas City claimed no one wanted the volumes. I've taught high school students who have difficulty finishing a simple novel. Other people are amazed when they see my boys read.

It's not only a loss of education. The emphasis these days is on math and science. When I've told parents that their students are good writers, I've received blank stares or even disapproving expressions. Language is not where the money is--unless, maybe, the child becomes a high-powered attorney. Otherwise, it's medicine and engineering all the way.

As writers, we need to be very concerned about literacy. Are we losing readers to video games? Will the younger generation value books? Are we about to become irrelevant?

Books were burned. That's not a problem. It's a symptom. The nation needs to take this very seriously.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Burning Books

A used bookstore owner in Kansas City, a town I know very well, set fire to some of his inventory. He said it was in protest over his inability to sell or even give away the books.

I don't know what books he burned. I'm probably better off not knowing. I don't want to think about the cherished volumes he turned to ash. It would make me too upset.

I agree with him that there is a problem. Books seemed to have lost their value. But why did he have to burn them?

I'm sure many schools would have welcomed a donation of his books. Maybe nursing homes. Maybe he could have sent them overseas. In some countries, books are like gold.

But not here. Now we neglect them and, when we have too many, we burn them. What else do you expect in the land of affluence?

I'm upset with the bookstore owner. But his actions point to a larger problem which I'll discuss tomorrow, insha Allah.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

I Must Be Insane!

Last November I thoroughly enjoyed my NaNo experience of writing a novel within a month. The novel still waits for my revisions. I'll let you know when it's ready to see the light of day.

I visit the NaNo site once in a while, and I knew about the screenwriting/script writing challenge in June. I had no intention of joining. But I did.

I had a high school English teacher who taught us some basics about screenwriting. I remember some of her lessons. Other than that brief experience, I'm at a complete loss.

But I'm looking forward to the challenge. I'm ready for something new.

On the other hand, we're moving next month. Packing is going well, but it's far from finished. Once we arrive in our new home, there's the little task of unpacking. I have my work cut out for me.

So I signed up for a new challenge. It makes no sense. But I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Have you ever noticed that when you're in your perfect job, the one you were always meant to do, you feel comfortable with other people performing that job?

That's how I feel about my fellow writers. (But don't expect me to get sentimental.)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Monday, May 21, 2007

An Inspiring Read

For the last few days I've been reading a novel, and I have a hard time putting it down. I will probably finish the book tomorrow, in spite of its bulky 509 pages.

The novel is Lisey's Story by Stephen King. I've never read Stephen King before, but the synopsis of this book piqued my interest. I picked it up at the library last week.

There are, of course, several different story lines. The one which interests me the most is King's dissecting of the personality of a writer. The main character, Lisey, is the writer's widow. Through her memories, her husband lives on every page.

I won't delve into the central plot. The reason I'm mentioning this book is that it makes me want to write. I want to sit down and write a novel better than anything Lisey's husband, Scott, could have written--or at least something he would enjoy reading.

I think this is the first novel I've written which truly speaks to the writer in me. If I could, I would begin a new book tomorrow. That will have to wait, though. I'm sitting on the couch, my view partially blocked by the rows and columns of boxes stacked in our livingroom. I've barely touched the garage and basement. There's so much work to be done--and we only have three more weeks before our move.

So my inspiration will have to wait until we get to Kentucky. I'll unpack the essential boxes, do a little decorating, explore the city a little. Then I will sit down at my desk and write. I wonder where this next book will take me.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Writer's Block

This is one of the most commonly discussed topics among writers. Like hiccups, writer's block is annoying and has several cures which may or may not work. Everyone has an opinion, and some claim to never have suffered this malady.

I hadn't until recently. The fog is gradually lifting. The cause, I think, is that I have too much on my mind. Once some obligations are fulfilled, I expect my fingers to leap onto the keyboard and hungrily type out one story after another.

My question is, What do you fo for writer's block? Have you ever experienced it, or are you among the lucky few who seem to be immune?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Progress? Hardly

I'm working on my short story challenge, but it's not going well. Does anyone have a suggestion?

I have a few different plots in mind. One is a killer, and it's already half written, but the flow is all wrong. Another has promise, but I'm afraid it will become too cliche. A third is a little off-beat, but not strange enough to make it interesting.

Writing novels is easy for me. I decide on a character, and a basic situation, and I write. Everything comes together--not necessarily in the first draft, but eventually. The characters become part of my family. I can sit down and write without much thought to where I'm going. It's instinctual.

This isn't happening with the story. I struggle, and nothing sounds right. Nothing feels right.

Can anyone let me in on the secret?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Personal Challenge

I have never written a satisfactory short story. I've dabbled, at least, in every other form of writing--books, poems, articles, plays, even a screenplay and a song when I was in high school. I tried short stories too, back then, but they left much to be desired.

So here I go. Insha Allah, 2007 will be the year of the story for me. I began something today. I also have four other stories begun, but never ended.

I need to do this, just to show myself that I can.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Emotional Brevity

In reviewing my next book, Ripples, today, I came across a few emotional passages. I hadn't read these in weeks. They still moved me. That's a good sign.

I noticed that the most powerful lines were some of the shortest. Wordiness doesn't create an impact nearly as much as brevity. Short and direct delivers.

A good lesson to remember in all we do. I'm stil working on it.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Gameel Hammadi

Gameel will make his appearance in Ripples. An Egyptian, he came to the U.S. to study, fell in love with an American woman, and stayed in this country. Gameel is middle-aged now, the father of two college students. Faisal is studying pre-law. His twin sister, Faiqa, is majoring in pre-med.

Gameel has a good life. Years ago he started a company to provide organic products. Now the demand is high and business is very good. But, of course, I won't allow Gameel to escape difficulties.

And I won't say any more. You'll have to wait for Ripples.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Islamic Fiction

Over the last several days, I've had an on-going online discussion with fellow writers about Islamic fiction. What is it? Is it allowed?

I was amazed to hear secondhand reports about those who consider Islamic fiction to be lying. The stories aren't real, and neither are the characters, but the storylines illustrate what it means to be a Muslim. Stories can convey ideas much more easily than sermons or essays. When I was a child I learned the parables in the Bible. No one ever insinuated that Jesus was lying. He used the familiar to explain higher concepts.

I consider Islamic fiction to be a mirror. I give back to the reader the inages I carry. They may be somewhat distorted, because they have been filtered through my own perceptions. That can be said of anything ever written by man or woman.

Is Islamic fiction allowed? I don't see why not. To read stories about people who face the samr vhallenges I do, and see how they confront their problems. This is uplifting and reassuring. Why would there be harm in it.

Anything new is initially resisted. Islamic fiction is not exempt. But I envision the day when my granddaughter will write a story, freely and without doubt. I hope she will look at her grandmother and my colleagues as pioneers.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Body Language

I had another interesting discussion with my sons today about character development. We were talking about distinguishing characters through their vocabulary and speech patterns.

Somehow the conversation turned to body language. The boys hadn't thought of that yet. I use it extensively.

When Joshua is angry or upset, his face turns red. Chris speaks in a low voice. Brad rubs the back of his neck. Joshua might yell and shout, but never Chris. As he gets older, Brad turns more to reasoning. All are brothers, but all have different ways of expressing themselves.

Of course, we use body language daily in our interactions. I have found it to be very useful in defining my characters too.


Remember, the Innocent People sale ends on May 14.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Back in the Day

While packing boxes and crates today, I came across my old lime green canvas binder. The one I used in 9th grade. The one I doodled on during class.

The binder contains articles I wrote for my journalism class. I was surprised. They were better than I remembered.

Somewhere I have other old writings. A play. A novel. Several poems. Maybe some short stories. I was quite prolific in my teens, before adult responsibilities slowed me down. None has ever been published. Today's encounter gives me new hope that, perhaps, I will find something worth sharing among my old writings.

Writers progress. We must. But it's nice to know that I wasn't totally hopeless as a kid.

P.S.--Remember the Innocent People sale, which ends May 14.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

My Writing Life

I received a very nice email from a fellow writer yesterday, asking if she could interview me for her blog. I would like to share the interview with you.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Books, books everywhere--but no time to read or write

Did I mention that we're moving? In the middle of June, insha Allah. To another state--about 400 miles from here.

So I'm packing. Box after box. They're piled neatly against a livingroom wall. And 90% of them contain books.

I love books. I always have. You never know what secrets you may find inside the pages.

I still love books, even after packing hundreds of them. I'm almost done.

I think I'll start buying fewer books.