Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Favorite Quotations On Writing

Writers, unsurprisingly, come up with the best quotes.

Some of my favorites:

“Most grown-up behavior, when you come right down to it, is decidedly second-class. People don’t drive their cars as well, or wash their ears as well, or eat as well, or even play the harmonica as well as they would if they had any sense …[F]or the serious young writer who wants to get published, it is encouraging to know that most of the professional writers out there are push-overs.” –John Gardner, The Art of Fiction

What quotes about writing do you like?

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

By The Book

I’ve been volunteering at a local school through a program called Read Houston Read. If you’re looking for a volunteer opportunity, I’d recommend it.

You spend a half-hour each week reading with each child.

I think the kids, first-graders who are as cute as buttons, like it.

Read Houston Read books are about things like a boy in Africa who saves up his money to buy a bicycle so he can help his mother or a Chinese-American boy who gives his New Year’s money to a homeless guy with no shoes. There was one about the life cycle of a butterfly.

That’s fine, they’re well-written and their illustrations are well-done, but … meh.

This week, there was a book fair going on in the library, blocking access to the Read Houston Read books. The librarian suggested bringing books from home. So, I did: some of my own kids’ favorites.

One of my students picked My Life with The Wave. The other picked Elbert’s Bad Word. I also brought Sweet Dream Pie, Seven Silly Eaters and Harvey Potter’s Balloon Farm and, in case they wanted something to read to me, Dragon’s Fat Cat by Dav Pilkey, author of the Captain Underpants books.

When my own kids were small, we used to go to the library and check out piles of children’s books, whatever caught any of our fancies. Many turned out to be “meh,” but some fascinated my kids, we read them over and over. Those ones we bought to keep.

These books tended to trust the children more. Their story lines were more complex, contained magical elements and were told with wry humor. They didn’t hit you over the head with “life lessons,” but my kids, now 22 and 19, and even my husband still remember them. They were better.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

There Are Good People Out There

I write for a group of super-local, small magazines, called The Buzz Magazines, here in Houston.

I do it for fun and I also like to think that, maybe, something I write ends up being helpful to someone.

And the people I like best to talk to, and whom I admire so much, are people who are willing to talk about their own struggles, problems and dark times, in the hopes of helping others.

The latest time I did that was for this month's article on young adults and alcoholism.

But I also admire the people I spoke with about finding your birth family, having learning differences as an adult, dealing with dementia in yourself or in a family member, trying to find a functionally disable family member a happy life and dealing with a devastating illness.

In this dismal time, when so many seem to be afraid of and in competition with everyone around them, grabbing all they can for themselves, like starving dogs, it's nice to know there are still good people around. :)

Highway to Hell

Highways freak me out.

I also have no spatial sense.

I am possibly the worst person in the world to write this article, about a major highway construction project in Houston. But I did and I obsessively triple-checked my facts, so I think it turned out OK. :)

The magazine, quite rightly, wanted more than just the standard "Here's the basic facts about the construction," surrounded by lame jokes about how much everyone's commute is going to suck during it.

Their commutes are going to suck during it, don't get me wrong.

But there is a lot more to the subject than that. And I enjoyed the people I talked to: the man who wrote the book on the history of Houston highways, which is actually pretty interesting, the 94-year-old former mayor of the city/neighborhood most directly impacted who can remember when the Houston freeways first went in, the engineers who work on these unbelievably complex plans.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Body Language

Yoga teachers walk around the class, doing “adjustments” or “assists.” This is when they touch someone to correct their pose or help them take that pose further than they could on their own. There is a lot to this.

And sometimes, during shavasana, “corpse” pose, when you are lying there at the end of class, eyes closed, “letting everything go,” they will pick someone, glide over and give them a massage. Shoulders, neck, forehead.

They’ve done that to me. And the two or three times they have, without fail, it’s been a day when I’ve been under stress. Maybe I am waiting for a medical-test result. Maybe I just found out my dog has cancer. (Yes, that happened.L)

“How do you know?” I asked one of my yoga teachers after a class when she gave me one of those (totally awesome) massages.

The teacher just smiled and scrunched up her shoulders till they were up around her ears.

Body language. There are many articles on the internet giving “tips” about how to read body language. I think there is a limit to how much of this you can put into words. I also think that people who try to manipulate body language, like that salesperson who keeps staring into your eyes and touching your arm, aren’t as good at it as they think. This article seems particularly good because it does address the limits of what you can know (it’s not as simple as “legs crossed” = uncomfortable).

And you know what? That quick little massage by the yoga teacher works. And it’s not just my imagination. Medical studies have shown all kinds of measurable effects from what is called “supportive touch.”


Thursday, February 1, 2018

Monday, January 15, 2018

Cheap Wines Are Just Fine

I used to write – a tiny bit – about wine.

But my husband is under strict orders not to tell anyone … because then wine snobs (there are always some) will want to debate/compete.

I liked the wine professionals I met. One demonstrated to me the difference between “old world” and “new world” wine styles. If you taste a French white wine by itself, say a chardonnay, which is called a Burgundy (after its region rather than its grape varietal, because it’s French), it will taste thin. A California chardonnay, drunk alone, will taste better. But put some salt on your tongue and the French wine will taste a lot better. That’s because French wines are meant to be drunk with food, while California wines are meant to be what the wine person called “a cocktail-party wine,” often drunk alone.

Sommeliers told me the cheapest wines on their lists don’t sell because no one will order them. If they find a great deal, they often have to raise its price to sell it. That’s why I like a pal of mine who, with a great flourish, will tell a waiter, “Bring me a glass of your cheapest chardonnay!”

One wine guy told me syrah (or shiraz) wines – syrah is a red grape varietal grown mostly in Australia – are always good, though cheap.

I discovered vinho verdes at a Portuguese restaurant. These “green” or “young wines” have a slight sparkle, taste like the wine version of beer and cost $4 a bottle at my Kroger.

Which is where I search the lowest shelves (cheapest wines) for funny names and labels.

Because, really, most wines are just fine.