Thursday, January 30, 2003

Look! A Post Two Days in a Row!

Well, I read a book a few weeks ago. Good for me. Philosophy Rocks by Stephen Law is a discussion of philosophy written for young people. When it was originally published in England, it was called The Philosophy Files, a far better title, in my humble opinion.

Philosophy Rocks doesn't try to cover everything about philosophy. Even someone who knows as little about the subject as I do was able to figure that out. The author seems more interested in trying to give young readers an idea about what a philosophical question is and how philosophers think. Most chapters end with the question "What do you think?" I would have liked to see more answers, not because I think young people need them but because I do. But that definitely was not Law's point. His point is the process. To illustrate this process he uses kids arguing about things or aliens trying to understand what's going on on Earth. I know that that was an attempt to make the concepts discussed more interesting to the reader, but I started skipping them and cutting to the chase, which came later in the chapters. As a result, I now know something about Plato and have thought about how definitions impact philosophical questions. (Read the book.)

Though I respect what Law is doing here, I wonder if this isn't one of those kinds of books that adults think is a great idea but kids won't actually read. Like using scripture in picture books.

Law has written a follow-up book, published in England, called The Outer Limits: More Mysteries from the Philosophy Files. He has a very readable article on why philosophy should be discussed with children called Natural Born Philosophers at The Humanist website.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

How Did I Do?

Remember that class I took last fall on Creative Nonfiction? Sure you do. Well, I got an A on it.

Since I still can't really define creative nonfiction for you, here are a few sites with info:

The Age of Creative Nonfiction This is an interview I found very interesting because a lot of what the interviewees had to say pertains to any kind of writing. I say the same things to young writers.

Creative Nonfiction The website for the hard copy journal of the same name.

Writing Links: Creative Nonfiction Links to sites related to creative nonfiction, of course.

Thursday, January 23, 2003

Running with the Muse

I did not plan to write about cartoons, comics, and graphic novels today. I didn't actually plan to update this blog today, either. I was supposed to do it last night. However, as a result of something that happened this morning, everything has changed.

I was working on a character for the new book (the really new book--the one that hasn't been written yet, which should not be confused with the new book that is coming out in June). The character is an art teacher. I thought it would be funny to have him teach only one thing--cartoons. So I went on-line to do some research, got all kinds of ideas, and found some interesting sites that I will now share with you.

Cartoon Art Part of "Art of Illustration" at the National Library of Canada's site


YA Talk Graphic Novels Part of the Booklist site

I think I'm going to have this character write a graphic novel, since I have a modest interest in the genre (see Nov. 13, 2002 and Jan. 6, 2003 entries).

Friday, January 17, 2003

Glad That's Behind Me

I gave The Ethan Allen Connection presentation for the first time yesterday. The audience was 160 sixth graders. That was a little older group than I usually speak to and quite a bit larger. They were so mannerly I was afraid they'd all dozed off from boredom. Usually I have kids raising their hands and wanting to ask questions or offer comments during the talk. Yesterday there was none of that. Zip. Nada.

Maybe the problem is mine. Why do I assume something is wrong if people are being polite?

Saturday, January 11, 2003

The Real Story

The real story on the January 6 entry is that it wasn't the January 6 entry, it was the January 2 entry. I was talking with someone on Instant Messenger while I was writing it, I went to reduce the blog screen so I could bring up the IM screen and somehow lost the whole thing when I was halfway through. So I rewrote the entry, this time finishing it, and when I went to publish it I got a message about the action being cancelled and everything was gone again. So then I rewrote the whole thing in Word but didn't have the guts to try to cut and paste it into the weblog for 4 days. The whole series of events was rather traumatizing, which explains why it has taken me another 5 days to write anything. This is being written directly into the weblog so we'll see what happens.

I'm well on my way to having the new presentation ready for Thursday. I practiced once, the timing seemed great; I practiced a second time and the thing seemed to run 15 minutes longer. I say "seemed" because I don't actually remember when I started. I've begun writing the speech for the lunch crowd. I've decided to speak on the subject of "profanity." It could work.

Monday, January 06, 2003

I’m in Trouble Now

I received a message from the library telling me that if I don’t return The Best American Nonrequired Reading toot sweet someone there will send the book nazis after me. So I am highly motivated to write this entry.

The Best American Nonrequired Reading is an anthology of articles and stories from “magazines, newspapers, and zines that publish material either for or of interest to readers ages fifteen to twenty-five.” I think the age range is interesting since older teens, in my experience, share interests with adults, which people twenty to twenty-five are. Or should be.

Nonrequired Reading is part of a series that will be edited by Michael Cart, a well-known YA editor. I’ve heard of him, at least. Oh, okay. I’ll come clean. He wrote a very nice review of one of my books a few years ago. This first volume of the series was edited by Dave Eggars of McSweeneys website and publishing fame, and just plain fame in general.

I like the concept behind the title—that here is what we read when we don’t have to. And I liked the way pieces with unusual structure were included in the selections. There is a graphic story, two journals, and a chapter from a “parenting” book. But the line between “creative” nonfiction and fiction is very fine, sometimes, and in this book I often had trouble telling which was which. I’m sure “Why McDonald’s Fries Taste So Good” is nonfiction. I think. But I’m not at all certain about “My Fake Job.” Some journals and anthologies have started classifying their pieces as “Essays” and “Short Stories” for the benefit of folks like me. Nonrequired Reading could have benefited from a little of that.

I also found some of the selections a little predictable. You could see that there was an adult mind working away in the background. That would explain, it seems to me, including a couple of the “arty” huh? stories we’ve come to expect from mainstream (adult) literary journals as well as traditional fiction about “my awful parent” and “my tough, professional grandma.” Some of the works here seemed to be instructional. There were two good essays about other cultures. While I actually enjoy the whole multicultural thing, I wonder if it isn’t a subject that’s been beaten to death as far as the age group this book is addressed to is concerned. Even an essay by David Sedaris (I love David Sedaris) seemed to have an improving quality that isn’t particularly representative of his work.

I think The Best American Nonrequired Reading is a great idea. I just hope volume two gets a little less adult. Perhaps Michael Cart should try finding a younger editor for the next book. I hate to say it, but perhaps Dave Eggers, being in his early thirties and all, is a little too long in the tooth to be selecting reading for fifteen to twenty-five year olds.