Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Oceanic Oregon

No photo can compare to the real thing when you are talking about the Oregon shore. It was hard to see all that beauty and not want to capture it. On my Exploritas trip to Lincoln City, Oregon, there I was, snapping away at the ocean views like any other tourist trying to take the quintessential shot that would always connect me to that time and place. This was my longest exposure to the Pacific Ocean and I'm done for. I've truly got not only the Pacific Ocean bug but the travel bug! I may have retired all of eleven months ago, but only now do I feel deeply renewed, like I let out that one great big breath that truly signals relaxation and release. Although I am something of a homebody, I discovered I need to get out and about to new places more.

The official name of the junket was: Women: Learning, Walking & Writing on the Oregon Shore. All of those elements spoke to me, but I have to admit the biggest draw was simply the beach scenery. Ever since I was a kid, the oceanside has been a magical place. Growing up on Long Island, my family frequented Jones Beach for swimming and fishing. There were three or four summers of Girl Scout camp in East Hampton, as well as weekends and sometimes even weeks in Sag Harbor at a dear friend's summer house. Although I love to swim in the ocean, I've become more of an off-season beach nut. Give me a deserted beach anytime, and I am simply happy to be there, walking, observing the waves, beachcombing.

As for the creative writing element of my trip, that too was fun. One of the exercises asked us to draw a floorplan of a house we lived in, and then to freewrite from the memories spurred. Being rather visual, that really worked for me. In another exercise, we listed beaches we had been to and then wrote about one or more of them. We were also treated to presentations from Oregon authors, among them Michele Longo Eder (Salt In Our Blood, Dancing Moon Press, 2008, winner of the the 2009 WILLA award for creative nonfiction) and Ron Lovell (Murder in E-flat Major and other Thomas Martindale mysteries, Penman Productions). Mr. Lovell passed out opening paragraphs from famous mystery writers such as Tony Hillerman and Agatha Christie and had us try mimicking their styles. There were also sessions devoted to family history and memoir writing.

We stayed at the Inn on Spanish Head, a lovely hotel right on the beach. The view from my balcony was fantastic at any time of the day or night. The food, as on any other Elderhostel trip I've taken, was terrific. Exploritas is no longer just for for oldsters. Under their new name of Exploritas (explore + veritas/truth), the once 55+ age requirement has changed. As long as your are age 21 or older, the door is open. There were two mother/daughter pairs in our group of twenty-four, but most participants were at least middle-aged. As in other trips, many friendships were forged. We inspired each other in both conversation and writing. I'm a big believer in women's circles. Time away from the home front with other women is always inspiring; decompression and rejuvenation sure to follow. I'll be saving my spare change for another Exploritas trip in the near future!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The first TLA Lariat List: Recommended Adult Fiction

If you are a library geek or fiction addict, join me in celebrating the publication of the first-ever Texas Library Association Lariat List. A task force of some dozen assorted Texas librarians discussed and voted on the titles for this list at our conference in San Antonio April 13 - 17. Our criteria was that the titles be a pleasure to read, as well as diverse in genre and appeal factors. I would have uploaded it sooner but I was traveling in Oregon (more about that in a future post). Having spent much of a year reading stacks of 2009 titles, I was happy that many of my favorites which I've blogged about here made it onto the final list. Also, I was pleased that Wilda Williams, Fiction Book Review Editor at Library Journal, wrote about our List in her April 21st "In the Bookroom" post.

Here is the Lariat List in its entirety:

Amick. Steve. Nothing But a Smile. Pantheon. WW II America brings struggling Wink and Sally together making artful pinup photos. Affection becomes romance as they build a business, outrun the mob and fall in love.

Bazell, Josh. Beat the Reaper. Little Brown, and Company. Time is running out for a doctor and former hitman in the Witness Protection program. The lives he saves may include his own. A dark, bizarre comedy.

Caputo, Phillip. Crossers. Knopf. Brutality and beauty on the Arizona-Mexico border. A sweeping saga exploring how the power of the past shapes the future.

Castillo, Linda. Sworn to Silence. St. Martin's Press. A serial killer terrorizes an Amish community forcing Police Chief Kate Burkholder to confront a dark secret from her past. Gripping suspense.

Cornwell, Bernard. Agincourt. Harper Collins. A retelling of the famous battle from the viewpoint of an archer. A harsh world is brought to life with intricate detail as complex characters fight to survive.

Dallas, Sandra. Prayers for Sale. St. Martin's Press. In a warm and satisfying Depression-era novel set in a Colorado mining town, two women forge a friendship based on heartbreak, loss and a passionate love of quilting.

Dunant, Sarah. Sacred Hearts. Random House. The tranquil life of a Renaissance convent in Italy is thrown into turmoil by the arrival of an unwilling novice. Sensuous and spellbinding.

Duncan, Elizabeth. The Cold Light of Mourning. Minotaur Books. Manicurist Penny Brannigan, living in North Wales, is drawn into the mystery of a missing bride. Colorful characters and appealing village ambiance.

Fortschen, William R. One Second After. Forge Books. After an electromagentic pulse strikes the U.S., all technology fails. With no transportation, communication, food or medicine how would you survive One Second After?

Hart, John. The Last Child. Minotaur Books. A young boy is on a mission to find his missing twin sister. A dark mystery cloaked in the claustrophobic atmosphere of a small town.

Higgins, Kristen. Too Good to Be True. HQN Books. Featuring imaginary boyfriends, Civil War reenactments and a sexy neighbor with a past, this humorous contemporary romance has both humor and heart.

Keane, Mary Beth. The Walking People. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. When three young Irish immigrants arrive in New York in 1963, destiny keeps them interconnected despite a huge, divisive secret. Rich, masterful storytelling.

Kim, Eugenia. The Calligrapher's Daughter. Henry Holt and Co. During Japan's brutal occupation of Korea, Najin rebels against traditional culture by pursuing education and love. An enduring tale of heartache and loss of faith.

Koplan, Gerald. Etta. Ballantine Books. A fictional biography of outlaw Etta Place. Fast paced with famous faces on every page and a heroine who plays second fiddle to no one.

Larsson, Steig. The Girl Who Played With Fire. Knopf. Lisbeth Salander, genius hacker, meets Mikael Blomkvist, crusading journalist. People die and Lisbeth is implicated. Could Lisbeth kill? Yes. Murder? Maybe.

Lynch, Jim. Border Songs. Knopf. Shenanigans on the U.S./Canadian border as uncovered by an ungainly new rookie Border Policeman, Brandon Vanderkool. Ragtag characters and quirky plotlines.

Maynard, Joyce. Labor Day. William Morrow. When 13 year-old Henry befriends an injured stranger, he learns how to throw a baseball, the secret to a perfect pie crust -- and the power of betrayal.

Morton, Kate. The Forgotten Garden. Atria. The mysteries surrounding an abandoned child found on an Australian dock, her only possession a rare book of fairytales, confound generations to come. Mazelike multi-layered suspense.

Parkin, Gaile. Baking Cakes in Kigali. Delacorte Press. A grandmother's colorfully decorated cakes bring healing and understanding to her Rwandan neighborhood. A gentle read touching compassionately on modern African issues.

Quinn, Spencer. Dog on It: A Chet and Bernie Mystery. Chet the Jet, K-9 school drop-out, runs the Little Detective Agency with his human, Bernie. Sharp plotting and Chet's charming worldview are a treat.

Stockett, Kathryn. The Help. Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam. In the early 1960s, a young white woman persuades the black maids of Jackson, Mississippi to tell their stories for publication. Suspenseful and inspiring.

Tropper, Jonathan. This Is Where I Leave You. Dutton. Judd Foxman learns of his wife's affair, then his father's death. His estranged, resentful, dysfunctional family gathers to sit Shiva. Hilarious, bittersweet, emotionally true.

Turgeon, Carolyn. Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story. Three Rivers Press. In this fairytale gone wrong, Cinderella's godmother is banished to the human world. Can she redeem herself and return tot he fairy world?

Walls, Jeanette. Half Broke Horses: a True Life Novel. Scribner. Lily Casey Smith narrates her spectacular story through a rough, audacious life in the early 20th century Southwest. A vivid story told in an unforgettable voice.

Wilson, Kevin. Tunneling to the Center of the Earth: Stories. Ecco Press/Harper Collins. An offbeat and intriguing collection. These stories share a message of hope in a unpredictable world.

The two day process of discussing all the books we read and then voting on each one was fascinating, kind of like a marathon book club meeting. Typical exchange: one person says they couldn't put a book down, that is was just great . The next person says "Well, I could put it down. I put it down after the first few pages, tried again in the middle and at the end. I put it down and never wanted to pick it up again!" There were some clear winners and others which remained tied until the end. We also spent a considerable amount of time writing the short annotations (my kind of fun!). I have one more year of Lariat reading service to go and then I am free to rejoin the free choice reading world. I have enjoyed getting to know the other librarians in our group. And I sure hope this list finds an appreciative audience! Hopefully as the years go on, the Lariat List will become a rich resource for all who do reader's advisory work.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Spring Fever 2010

A few months ago, Houston experienced frost at a colder level than most winters past. Our lemon tree looked dead, the ferns died, as did one tomato plant I put in too early. But things are coming back, and the almost bare yard was a good excuse to on a shopping spree at Buchanans Native Plants and other local nurseries. And as many of you know, our two chickens Betty and Scarlett had done some serious damage on the greenery when we naively let them forage freely to their hearts' content. Now they are corralled in a large area towards the back and one side of the garage, so about a month ago it was such a relief to begin replanting. (I do feel sorry for the hens' lack of greenery so every day I pick an assortment of clover and grass and nasturtium leaves for them to snack on - do they have me hornswoggled or what???)

Anyway, since I am very busy finishing up my reading for the Lariat Award task force before the Texas Library Association conference in San Antonio next week, I have no time for a lengthy blog post and beg your forgiveness for this mostly photographic entry, which happens to be blog post 150! My spring fever revives itself every time I go out to the yard, and is a welcome relief from reading and agonizing over the Lariat choices. To quote Margaret Atwood, "In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt."

Photos by KAO:
a thriving Juliet tomato plant,
galvanized tub of chard coming up
blooming assortment next to garage,
pruned Meyer lemon tree coming back,
white ranunculus,
and galvanized tub of flowers, Spring 2010