Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Quick Tip for NaNoWriMo

Scribblers and Book Bandits,
I know it isn't Friday yet, but since NaNoWriMo begins tomorrow, this tip that couldn't wait. I read recently that it's helpful to know the genre of your story BEFORE you start writing it. This may seem like common sense; if so, know that you are smarter than I was the first time I tried NaNoWriMo! :) Figuring out your genre can be ridiculously difficult, so here's a helpful website that defines them. This website (Agent Query) is helpful for other things, too, which you can read about elsewhere on the site.
Best of luck, friends!

I got this resource from my professor, Dr. MaryAnne Diorio, who is also an author. Thanks Dr. Diorio!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Interview Part II: The Analysis, and My Opinion

Brenda! And me, squinting at my camera phone
in my backyard.

     Hey Scribblers!
     If you read last week's post, an interview of my artsy neighbors, you got a treat. Marc and Brenda Hooper kindly answered some questions concerning the aesthetics of art and literature. I analyzed their interview according to my Philosophy textbook, and they gave me permission to post the results on the blog!

     Marc and Brenda answered most of my questions in terms of societal ideals (how America should handle art) rather than by their personal preferences; both also favored a conservative form of "aesthetic subjectivism" by agreeing that “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Aesthetic subjectivism says that beauty is not a real quality that something can have. Art is pleasing to some people, and not others. Marc’s answers consistently aligned themselves with this subjective assessment, while Brenda’s were slightly more conservative. For example, the artist of the urinal display was trying to show that beauty is subjective. (As a refresher: an artist displayed an ordinary urinal, turned it slightly in one direction, and called it art. Controversial much?). Marc agreed with him, saying, “Some people might see it as art,” while Brenda flatly refused that interpretation. Both of their definitions of “art” were also very open, though. Marc said any life work can be artistic, using farms as an example.  Interestingly, they both felt that the media influences our perceptions of beauty, but that perception of beauty is still truly up to the individual. Marc especially seemed to agree with an opinion proposed by Madeleine L'Engle in her book Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith & Art: that “…to look at a work of art and then to make a judgment as to whether or not it is art…is presumptuous” (L’Engle 23). Brenda disagreed slightly, thinking beauty is not entirely a matter of opinion, which leads us to our next point.
When I asked Marc and Brenda about whether there are, or should be, standards  or censorship of art, they disagreed with each other. Brenda felt that there should be some objective standards, such as with the urinal art; too many objective standards, though, could be counterproductive to the artist. Marc’s answers took an interesting turn. He said that other countries control art more than America, and that art censorship scared him somewhat. He felt very strongly that we should not draw objective standards. His words brought North Korea to my mind as a scary example of over-the-top censorship: “Information is completely controlled…art, music and literature all feed the people in a constant stream of propaganda” (Nettleton 92&95). This terrifying situation in North Korea shows a good reason for his caution. After the interview, Brenda echoed this sentiment by giving me an essay called “Freedom” by E. B. White, which she said explained her views “better than she could.” The essay held fast to freedom of expression in America. “In this land the citizens are still invited to write their plays and books, to paint their pictures…to enjoy education in all subjects without censorship…[and] to compose music.”
            In regard to the moral assessment of art, both Marc and Brenda seemed to support ethicism, a middle ground view. Ethicism says, “moral attributes are relevant to, but not wholly determinative of, its aesthetic value” (Cowan 437). Brenda said the church should assess everything, but not ban it. In other words, we need to consider (and, probably respond to) it rather than burn it. Both Marc and Brenda agreed that for the sake of children, schools should be allowed to censor art, but that adults are able filter out whatever they need to. Mostly, they challenged parents to be the moral protectors of their children, not society. Their conclusion about adults suggested a slight lean towards aestheticism, which says “art and the artist are insusceptible to moral judgment” (Cowan 437). However, their attitude was probably based more on the idea that adults can judge for themselves, rather than needing to be controlled by society.
            I think that schools and private institutions should be allowed to ban art...However, people need free expression. Art shouldn't be banned from a society or country. You may have heard about the "Banned Books" controversy. My jury is still out on this particular topic, as it relates to children. It seems to make children more curious to read the books than anything. Adults being curious, though, is a fine thing. If people are curious, and they read a book, than they'll form an opinion of it. Some (stupid) people will revel in any evils they find; others, though, will discuss and dissect it. There's no use in hiding thoughts from adults. There should be limits on explicit things--like gratuitous violence, sex, etc--to public exposure. Most people will agree with that (although not all). Free expression is important. Free exhibition is not. I asked a wise friend, once, what he thought should be done about questionable content in books. He said we should all think and discuss it. It took a few years for the wisdom of this simple answer to sink in. Now I understand it. It's a very correct way of going about it. With children, more descretion is needed, I believe. Like Marc and Brenda, I think parents should be taknig care of this, though. Parents understand the development of their children better than anyone else. It's scary to think, though, that some of the best books out there have been banned from school bookshelves--To Kill a Mockingbird, The Lord of the Rings, and A Wrinkle in Time, for a few examples.
One of the only aesthetic guidelines scripture gives us is Philippians 4:8—to dwell on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, etc. Because the Hoopers answered the questions in terms of society rather than personal consumption, their views were difficult to analyze according to biblical and  and my Philosophy book's standards. My textbook did, however, state that some subjectivism in this area is normal, so despite my neighbors’ denial of aesthetic absolutes, their ethicism seats them somewhere in the wide realm of a Christian aesthetics.

Works Cited & Resources
Chesterton, G. K. “The Ethics of Elfland.” A Chesterton Anthology. San Francisco: Ignatious Press. 1985. Print.
            -I liked the thoughts in this essay.

Cowan, Steven B., and James S. Spiegel. The Love of Wisdom: A Christian Introduction to Philosophy / Steven B. Cowan, James S. Spiegel. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2009. Print.
            -This is my textbook. It has a wonderful section on Aesthetics, with  a great critique of
              general viewpoints.
L'Engle, Madeleine. Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith & Art. Commemorative ed.
Wheaton, IL: H. Shaw, 1980. Print.
-This book is wonderful. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Nettleton, P. Todd., and The Voice of the Martyrs. North Korea: Good News Reaches the Hermit
            Kingdom. Vol. North Korea. Bartlesville, OK: Living Sacrifice Book, 2008. Print. Restricted             Nations.

“Philippians 4.” The Bible. NIV ed. Web. 22 Sept. 2012.
Sayers, Dorothy L. "Towards A Christian Esthetic." The Whimsical Christian. New York: Macmillan, 1979. Print.
           -This was a wonderful essay. I highly recommend it to Christians.

White, E. B. “Freedom.” One Man’s Heart. HarperCollins, 1982. Print.
            -This essay was very thought provoking.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Aesthetics of Art and Literature Interview Part I

     Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing my very artsy neighbors, Marc and Brenda Hooper, on the topic "Aesthetics of Beauty." They do not claim to be experts on the subject matter, but sometimes it's nice to hear the opinions of thoughtful members of the American public. The questions centered on Art and Literature. Our discussion was so enlightening, I just had to share their thoughts with you, dear Scribblers and Book Bandits. 
     The "aesthetics of art and literature" is the philosophical side of entertainment. Really, who decides what is appropriate to watch or read? Or what is appropriate to create and display? And by what criteria? Although the interview may not have all the answers you're looking for, maybe it will get you started. Next week, I'll post my analysis of their thoughts, according to my Philosophy textbook. I'll also include a list of sources which you can check out for more information. I'm still forming my own opinion about all of these things, so I'm interested to hear what anyone may have to say in response to their thoughts.
     Here is what we came up with! :

1.) I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Do you think Beauty is a real quality of things, or just a matter of personal opinion? 

·         Marc: The media tries to influence our ideas of beauty, but it actually is in the eye of the beholder.

·         Brenda: At this point in my life, I recognize that it is in the eye of the beholder. Like many young people today, I might have aligned my opinion with the crowd when I was younger.

2.) What is a work of art? Can we define “art,” or just identify it?

·         Marc: A person’s life work is their art. I work in agriculture. When I see a beautiful farm, it’s like art. I’ve seen some ugly farms, too! Art is not restricted to fine arts.

My textbook includes an example of a man who displayed a urinal, turned it 90 degrees, and called it art. Would you?

·         Brenda: No!

·         Marc: It depends on your perspective. Some people might see it as art.

3.) Do you think there are standards, relative or absolute, for art? Should there be?

·         Marc: We have freedoms in America that other countries don’t have, like freedom of speech. America has relative rules, but other countries have absolute standards of what is and isn’t allowed. We need some standards, but not too many because they could get controlling.

·         Brenda: There aren’t many standards here, and I don’t think there should be.  Objective standards would take away an artist’s individuality.

Some people feel that Michelangelo’s nude statue of “David” is crude. They draw a line there. How do you feel about drawing these lines?

·         Marc: We shouldn’t.

·         Brenda: I don’t think we should go back to the Victorian Age, but I think our standards have been set too low, here. Lingerie ads like those of Victoria’s Secrets are ridiculous. I suppose we do need some standards.

4.) What is the proper relation between art and ethics? Can we make moral assessments of them?

·         Brenda: Sometimes the church needs to be woken up. The opinions of others can be hard to swallow, but we need to hear them. We can make moral assessments, and we do, but we shouldn’t always count things out. Honestly, if parents guarded their children, this might not be such a problem.

·         Marc: Moral standards are needed in order to protect children.

I see that you both feel the need to protect children. What about standards for adults?

·         Brenda: Adults can filter out whatever they need to, but children need help from their parents with that.

5.) How do you feel Christianity should manifest itself through art?

·         Brenda: There are certain things I would expect to see. I would hold a Christian artist to a higher standard; if you claim Christianity, you are claiming a higher standard.

·         Marc: Because you can teach your audience through art, we need to see their beliefs through it.

6.) Do you believe in any kind of art censorship?

·         Brenda: There should be some. Schools should be allowed to pick and choose what art goes on their walls, and what books go in their library.

·         Marc: Censorship scares me somewhat, but I think it’s important to protect kids.

7.) What kinds of differences would you expect to see in art by a Christian, as oppose to a non-religious person?

·         Brenda: There are definitely certain things I would expect to see. I would hold a Christian artist to a higher standard; if you claim Christianity, you are claiming a higher standard.

·         Marc: Because you can teach your audience through art, we need to see their beliefs in their art.

8.) How do you feel about profanity in Literature?

·         Brenda: Profanity is offensive and unnecessary in Literature and movies. I won’t stop reading or watching, usually, but I don’t like it.

·         Marc: Profanity sullies the quality.

A Christian friend of mine believes that in order to portray the truth, a writer must stay true to the speech of a character, which may include profanity. How do you feel about that?

·         Brenda: I disagree with it. We should try to understand why people use profanity, but if you want to effect a change, you can’t be drawn into it yourself. There are better ways to paint a picture of a person.

·         Marc: I disagree with that perspective. Cursing shows the poverty of their thoughts.
     Check out Part II for an analysis of their thoughts, and some resources. Thanks for stopping by!

Photo Credit: Engelsma, Chris. "A Sennheiser Microphone." Wikimedia Commons. 28 July 2009. 19 Oct. 2012.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

NaNoWriMo Time

     Who's going to do NaNo this year? I'm still deciding. Because I've finished it twice, I have two manuscripts which need some TLC. My revision process is pretty darn slow. But that's just where I am! That doesn't mean it's where YOU are.
     NaNo is already having it's old effect on me, like a friend calling my name. It's just. So. Much. Fun!
     If you are just getting started in writing, NaNoWriMo is perfect. It kicks up motivation and enthusiasm. It teaches writers what a day's work feels like. It's great practice.
     I think it's important to be prepared for NaNo, though. Perhaps I'm a bit skeptical of the "No Plot? No Problem!" theory. You will probably end up with a useless load of sludge, using that approach. I've compiled a list of professional opinions below about how to make NaNo a useful tool for the writing:

  • From Mary Kole, a literary agent, author of a popular writing craf blog "," and author of a writing craft book Writing Irresistible Kidlit, we have Happy NaNoWrimo, a realistic look at the benefits and downsides of NaNo. Mary Kole has also written many great articles on Revision, which I highly recommend for those who end up finishing NaNo this year. Mary Kole's blog was my first writing school! I will owe her forever.
  • Nathan Bransford, an insanely popular, internet sensation blogger, a former literary agent and current author of a children's book series called Jacob Wonderbar can officially claim the place of "Second School of Writing" for me. If you are considering participating in NaNo this year, check out Bransford's perspective and NaNoWriMo Bootcamp list.
  • Lisa Cron, an experienced story consultant, writes about how to avoid NaNo pitfalls.
  • Martha Alderson, the author of The Plot Whisperer Workbook with advice on Pre-Plotting your NaNo novel.
Have a blast friends! I hope you'll try it, if you never have before.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Goodies: Contest, Addendum, and Library Schedule!

Hey Scribblers and Book Bandits, We've got another "goodies" post, today.
     First of all, a contest! If you're sending out submissions to agents or magazines, it's always nice to have a list of places to send your stories. If you're checking out the market for children's books, you're in luck! Mary Kole of is giving away a free copy of Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market in a contest. Check it out here, second post down.
     Next, the addendum. Last week, I shared my opinion about whether college is necessary for writers. College is not the only venue to become a writer. After mulling over the post for another week, I thought I'd better add something. While a degree of any level in Creative Writing is not necessary, it's not a bad idea to get a taste of college--like an Associate's Degree. It's so much more work than high school. Even a few classes can teach you basic skills like research, study skills, critical thinking, and coherent writing. It's not even that expensive, if you go through a community college. I did! ;) Anyway, that's my two cents.
     I thought I'd throw in a little update about the Lascoux Flash Fiction contest I entered a few weeks back, since I  posted about it on the blog. I didn't win, but it was a great experience, and I learned something through it. First of all, if you didn't get to join this one, I encourage you to join the next! I post about every contest I hear of. Lascaux will be holding another contest in a few months. What I learned: I recommend entering all the free contests you can, until you start winning, or until you've gotten something published. Don't worry so much about the ones with entry fees. It's not worth your money, when you could just submit a piece to the magazine for free!
     Here is the promised schedule of events related to the library.
  • The Vineyard Run for Literacy (5K, 10K, & 5K Walk) is a great fundraiser. I may be running in it this year. Too bad it's during church, though! Hate that. Sun. October 14: 8:00 am registration, 9:00 am run. Steele Wines. Hwy. 29 & Thomas Drive., Finley. Register online at Call 263-7633 for more info. All ages allowed.
  • Literacy tutor training. Learn to teach adults to read. This actually isn't a "library" event, technically. I just know about it through the library. It's a great way to improve our community. Wed.10/17, 10,24,10/31.12:30—4:30 pm. The 3classes will be at Mendo. College in Lakeport. 1005 Parallel Dr., Lakeport. Wednesdays Oct. 17, 24, & 31. 263-7633. Adults Only.
  • Beginning Your Family History Search. Jan Cook presents a program on starting genealogy. This is a family event. Sat. 10/27 9:00 am at the Lakeport library (Ooooh, look, you get in early! The library won't technically be open, but they'll let us special...genealogists? in early!) Call 263-8817 for more info. Jan Cook asks that you call or sign up at the library ahead of time, if possible, so they'll know how many handouts to make.
  • “Proper Victorian Dress” Archaeologist Barbara White demonstrates Victorian clothing. If you're into Victorian era reading--Austen, Bronte sisters, etc.--you'll enjoy learning about the clothing of the period. I sure will! Family fun. This one is at the Lakeport library, Sat. 10/27 2:00 pm. Same day as Geneology class. Call 263-8817 for more info.
And one last thing: I'm asking you a favor. Could you tell me what information you like/appreciate the most from my blog?
     -library news
     -contest news
     -writing tips
     -book reviews.
     -workshops and classes
     -anything else!
I would appreciate hearing from you in the comments section below. Thanks a lot, friends!

FYI: Next week, there won'd be a blog post because I'll be swamped in finals. See you in two!

Photo Credit:
Tcc8. "Inside Pike Place Market." Wikimediacommons. 4 Feb. 2012. 4 Oct. <2012.>