Saturday, January 31, 2009

New Drew - Who Knew?

I've just begun reading one of the newly released Nancy Drew mysteries and I can't believe the difference. In the ones supposedly updated in the early 1980s the characters still sounded  like people from the 1930s. That was my mother's generation, so I recognized the speech patterns even though there had been minor changes like substituting a convertible for Nancy's roadster. But the new book really sounds like it was written recently - at least so far.  I'm just getting into it and, if you'll excuse me, I'll stop blogging and read on to find out what happens next.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Public Speaking

Many conference speakers and books about writing tell us it's necessary for authors to do public speaking to promote their books. I'm always amazed to see the statistics showing what a high percentage of people find that terrifying. I enjoy public speaking a lot. Of course the fact that I used to be a substitute teacher might help, even though I couldn't give misbehaving audience members a time out. But I've never had anyone cause trouble in one of my classes or workshops, and, like most people, everyone I've spoken to publicly has been nice. 
If you're a writer who feels uncomfortable about public speaking I suggest you read about the Stanislavski method of acting. The basic idea is that the audience sees what the actor is thinking and feeling, so actors need to think and feel what their characters would. 
When I speak to groups I don't worry about what they will think of me, but concentrate on how I can meet their needs and best communicate the information in my notes.  Sharing that way is fun and certainly not scary. Try it; You may like it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Words On Onwords

I'm frustrated! I signed up for Google Alerts to let me know when people access my website or this blog, or add something relevant to their own. Unfortunately there are an amazing number of people who don't know how to spell the word, onwards, and use "onwords" instead so I get notified about their misspellings. 
The title of this blog was intended to be a play on words, combining the idea of writing on the topic of words with the concept of moving onwards. I've always loved language humor. The bun may be the lowest form of wheat, but the pun is far from the lowest form of wit. 
Up words!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Nancy Drew

Lately I've been reading some of the original Nancy Drew mysteries, the ones updated in the early 1980s. I don't remember any of the plots from reading them as a kid, but I miss Nancy's roadster, which has been replaced by a blue convertible.  The cover art is a bit irritating because the text says Nancy has "titian" hair and the artist apparently didn't know that word means auburn, not blonde. 
The mysteries are full of unbelievable coincidences and Nancy frequently does things like breaking and entering that should get her arrested, but I'm enjoying them a lot anyway. They are both exciting and comforting because, of course, I always know Nancy will solve all the problems. It's easy to see why kids are still reading these books, even this many years after they were written.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Same Kind of Different as Me

In this moving book Denver Moore, a homeless black man, and Ron Hall, a rich white man whose wife encourages him to help in a soup kitchen, overcome their prejudices, become friends, and help each other. As a result they also help many others. Lynn Vincent does a great job of combining the information given to her by both men into an inspiring whole and, as a result, she too is touching many lives. Readers of "Same Kind of Different as Me" may go on to do the same. I recommend it.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Baby Language Learning

I just saw an article in Science Daily about a research study at the University of Delaware saying children begin learning language as early as ten months old.
They're crazy! Kids start learning language much earlier than that.
When my daughter was born we had deaf foster kids and used Total Communication. That's signing and talking at the same time and was encouraged by the school our foster kids attended.
Our daughter began making up her own signs at about five months,. When she wanted her diaper changed she'd hold her feet up in the air and when she wanted to nurse she'd pull my shirt up. A week or so later she began lifting her own shirt or skirt to signify that she wanted to nurse. She used her first legitimate sign at about seven months, and started using spoken words soon after that. By the time she was a year old she had a vocabulary of 30 words and signs, but refused to use a word for something she knew the sign for and vice versa.
You may think she was unusually advanced, but babies born into deaf families often start using legitimate signs at about four months. Our daughter's learning was probably delayed because she was learning two languages at the same time.
Many people are using sign language with their babies now, but if they don't use it all the time to communicate with each other as well as with the baby it won't have the same effect. (And if you want to teach your baby Sign language please use real ASL, not made up "Baby Signs." You wouldn't use a bunch of nonsense syllables and call them "Baby Chinese" or "Baby Spanish.")
If you want to read about the study you can see it at but don't believe everything you read just because scientists say it's true.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Green Glass Sea

Okay, here's yet another book review. I keep reading such interesting ones I can't resist sharing about them.
The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages is about a young girl who goes to live at Los Alamos New Mexico where her father is working on developing the atomic bomb.
 Klages does a great job of making the time and setting seem realistic, but there's more to the book than that. It isn't just another historical fiction novel with a story that's sort of an excuse to teach about history. The believable  characters would have made entirely different choices and had different concerns if the setting were not the same. No wonder the book won the Scott O'Dell award for historical fiction. 
Klages never mentions the problems Los Alamos families experienced because of the radiation, but perhaps she goes into that in the sequel.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Time to Read

Happy New Year!
Nearly every culture in the Northern hemisphere has some sort of important holiday near this time of year. When the nights get longer and the weather gets colder  I guess people need something to cheer them up.
But celebrations aren't the only thing to enjoy. Several years ago I moved from the San Francisco Bay Area, where light snow may arrive about every ten years, to the Sierra foothills where Winter snow is a given. I love it, as long as I don't have to drive.
Both rain and snow can be beautiful, but in both places I especially love spending a winter day indoors, curling up with a good book. Several people who know me well gave me books for Christmas and I've already read and enjoyed some of them. 
If you're feeling gloomy and need some cheering up, I highly recommend heading to your local library or bookstore and stocking up on hours of pleasure to enjoy during the stormy days yet to come.