Little Woman Review and Thoughts

A couple of years ago I hosted a Little Women Read-Along event here on the blog and…

*sigh*

I never really closed up the event.  It’s not really in the best interest of the blogger to begin a post in this negative fashion but I have to be honest.  However, this kind of neglect is going to work on my favor because I’m going to talk about a topic in the framework of my favorite piece of literature.  I’m going to spend the next several few lines talking about literature, translation and communication. Aaaaaaannd even though I have written about this book before, I’ve never properly reviewed it so I thought I’d knock out a few thoughts on the story as well and count this as my official review.  This will be quite different than my usual review format but stay tuned, it’ll be fun!

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Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Rating: 5.0 – 5.0

My Thoughts:

Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women is an American literary treasure that has been a favorite of mine for over a decade.  The story of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March is centered around themes of family, coming of age, friendship, life pursuits, heartache, and cherishing those things that are most important to us.

The story begins with the four sisters coping with the challenges of life in Civil War America.  While they’re used to a comfortable life, they now face the struggles of scrimping and pinching to help their mother, affectionately called ‘Marmee’, maintain their household while their father serves as a chaplain in the war.

The experiences of these four sisters are not so unlike those girls face today.  Meg and Amy deal with desires to be popular, pretty and well-liked.  Beth learns to come out of her comfort zone and stay diligent.  Jo, the heroine of the book and my literary doppelgänger, struggles with patience, social awkwardness, and finding a place for herself in the world.

Throughout the mishaps, tears, and triumphs, Marmee keeps the girls grounded and focused on what’s important.  She challenges them to do their best in life and rise above their weaknesses and struggles.  She encourages them to embrace their womanhood but also push past society’s narrow and sometimes silly expectations.  She values simplicity, hard work, and truthfulness and wants her daughters to do the same.  The story’s heroine may be Jo and the title may be Little Women but the woman behind these girls is a mother whose heart and soul helps to shape them into beautiful people.

And it would do no good whatsoever to not mention Laurie, the lovable boy next door and Jo’s BFFL.  He’s got his own set of coming-of-age challenges that I totally appreciate and enjoy reading about.  If you’ve read the book, you understand the struggle when it comes to Jo and Laurie.  I don’t need to say more. It’s been over ten years and I still struggle sometimes even though I completely understand why.  If you haven’t read the book, well, I’m not going to spoil it for you :).

I love, love,  love this book and will never tire of the book or the movie adaptations (there are 4 that I know of).  It’s very sweet and charming.  It’ll make you laugh, cry and may make you a bit angry at times but hey, that’s what a good story does right?  If it’s not there yet, I urge you fellow classic literature lovers, add it to your list of books to read!

Okay, let’s switch gears in the discussion for a minute and talk a little history and language.

This is a very American story.  Four young women growing up in a turbulent society and while the book isn’t at all about the Civil War or its aftermath, it can’t be ignored that these girls are finding their wings in a time in history when America was redefining so much of its own identity.  A lot was going on in the second half of 19th century America, including the world of literature.  Alcott’s father was a transcendentalist.  This was an American philosophy explored by several authors of the day including Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau.  Transcendentalists believe in the idea that people have knowledge about themselves and the world around them that transcends what we see, hear, taste, touch, and feel.  A transcendentalist believes that they can trust themselves alone to decide what is right and wrong.  This is not a philosophy I subscribe to but I recognize its place in American ideology, especially in this time period.

So what happens when a story so engrained in it’s culture is translated into another language and culture?  What must carry over into the new language in order for the story to retain its identity?  I don’t know anything about translating literary works but I do know this – there’s more to a story than just the words on a page.  If a translator can capture the life between the lines of a piece, then that is a job well done.  After all, we read literature not just to consume words strung together one after another, we read literature to capture a piece of another time or place than where we are.  Alcott’s Little Women evokes homey, cozy feelings in me as well as inspires a desire to pursue life to the fullest and do work that matters. That’s the beauty of a well-told story and each language, each culture does this in it’s own unique way.

The woman who read and loved Little Women when it first hit the bookstores is quite different from a woman like me who reads and loves it more than a century later.  But even though we have completely different lives, we both share an experience with the story.  The same should go for a translated work.  Little Women could be translated into any other language but the reader should still experience the warmth, the sense of home, and ‘Americaness’ that I imagine Alcott intended her readers to experience.

I think when groups and cultures share their stories, we not only become better intercultural communicators, but we also become more empathetic in our dealings with one another and better apt to treat each other with understanding and respect.  Translations of great works of literature, online content and conversations, and businesses can open people all over the world to wonderful experiences and add incredible depth to life.  After all, we were made to communicate with each other, right?   If the heart and soul that a writer or communicator puts into their work can be translated along with the words, translators and translation services like Smartling have extended the gift of that experience to those that the author could not originally reach.

And that, my friend, is a beautiful thing!

Happy reading y’all!

peeled | book review

I’m sneaking in this review. I should be doing a myriad of other things but I have a looooong list of reviews dating back to reads from last summer (oi vey!) so I need to get on it!

I read this book a few years ago and last year enjoyed the audiobook.  Joan Bauer became one of my favorite JF novelists when I was a teenager and I still enjoy revisiting her teen stories every once in awhile.  This one is no exception.

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Peeled by Joan Bauer

Rating: 4.0 – 4.0

Hildy Biddle is a reporter for The Core, her high school paper, and has big dreams of being a journalist like her father. When the happy apple town of Banesville, New York is hit with the biggest story of the year, she and her friends are swept into the drama of lies, sensationalism and…ghost sightings?? Yeah, someone or something seems to be haunting Banesville and The Core is determined to find out who.  But when the heat gets turned up and the town becomes more fearful, Hildy questions whether she’s cut out to handle the truth.  She is, after all, just a kid and the bad guys have more power.  How is she supposed to fight through all the lies? How can one group of kids prove that it’s all just a big hoax when the story keeps getting deeper and deeper, feeding the public’s fear? How can they fight when the fear is hitting them too? One thing’s for sure, if they lose, their town will never be the same again.

I love Joan Bauer’s stories because they deal with great issues and her characters work through the challenges and overcome their fears and hang ups. This book deals with greed and yellow journalism.  Hildy is a determined girl who will not settle for anything less than the truth. She works toward excellence in her writing and takes advice and criticism from those who are older and wiser.  These kinds of qualities made her endearing to me when I first read the book and caused me to come back for another visit.

This book is geared for junior high aged kids.  I was a little old for it by the time I read it but I enjoyed it anyway. Probably called out to the writer in me ;).  It’s a fun book with great characters and dialogue – just as I’ve come to expect from Joan Bauer.  She never disappoints!

Woot!  I can cross off this review from my list :D

Happy reading, y’all!

15 Book Blogger Challenge | Days 12, 13, 14, & 15

Here we go! I’m going to knock out the rest in one final post!

15-Day-Challenge

[12] How do you fight off blogger fatigue?

I’m not the best person to ask this question because I’m not great in this area.  However, I will say that I’ve become more aware of one fact lately – I write pretty decently under pressure.  School papers with looming due dates have forced me to squeeze out ANYTHING related to the essay prompt and then somehow mold it into a readable paper for submission to my professors.  So far, not bad!  I think that’s one very great way to fight blogger fatigue – you just have to take it seriously and do it.  Answer a prompt, write a list or how-to, ramble about your day.  It’s not getting graded so don’t worry about it being fabulous! And sometimes you have to crank out a few mediocre posts before you come out with something you really like.

Writing posts in bulk also helps a lot! That’s what I’ve been doing with these challenge posts.  I wrote them ahead of time and scheduled their posting.  This way I can write when I have time and/or when I’m in the mood and have material for the next few days!

But there is something to say about stepping away and taking a break. Take a walk, a nap, a snack break, a sabbatical, or whatever you need to clear your mind and refocus on what your priorities are!  You come back to your blog refreshed!

[13] Describe one under appreciated book EVERYONE should read.

bible3All I know is that I don’t appreciate the importance of the Word and too often shove it in the corner to read at a ‘later time’ that never comes.  Everyone should read this book be it for religious or literary purposes – there is no way your life won’t be affected by the wonderful words contained inside!

[14] Tell us your deal breakers.

  1. Unsatisfactory endings.  Have you ever seen Hitchcock’s Vertigo? Yeah, I hate endings like that.  Or Steinbeck’s East of Eden.  I don’t remember the ending…but I remember I wasn’t satisfied. Everyone has their version of  what ‘unsatisfactory’ is. I don’t necessarily need happy, but I need closure or resolution or something!! Gone with the Wind didn’t end with any closure but I was so done with O’Hara that I was like, “Whatever, good riddance!!” I was satisfied with Rhett’s decision.
  2. Bad Grammar. No explanation needed.
  3. Rambling. Even if it’s a great story, if there’s too much description and rambling, chances are I’m going to start skimming until someones starts dialoging!
  4. Boring.  You’ve got to grip me or I’m not interested!

 

[15] Who are your book blogging mentors?

Ummmm…I don’t really have any :P.  I kind of just flounder and figure things out in bits and pieces!

FINISHED!

Well that was fun!

I’m still behind on many book reviews and some housekeep-y things but I’ll get to it slowly but surely!  For now, I’ve got school assignments beckoning me!

Have a beautiful day!

 

 

15 Day Book Blogger Challenge | Day 7

 

15-Day-Challenge

Trying to get back into my blogging groove! Here’s the next prompt.

[7] Talk about your blogging quirks

Considering the fact that it’s been a good long time since I’ve blogged on a regular basis, I had to think about this for a bit… Here’s what I cam up with:

1. I’m a blog surfer.

I love discovering a great blog and getting ideas and then going to Pinterest and figuring out how to implement technique.  Sometimes I spend too much time surfing and not enough time coming up with my own original ideas :P.

2. The desire comes in waves.

I know I’m not the only blogger who deals with this. Like anything, the desire to create comes in waves.  Some days I’m brimming full of ideas and can’t wait to write and other days stare at a blank post and have no idea what to write and no desire to figure it out.

3. I tend to obsess about the wrong thing.

Things like themes and widgets and color and type take my attention away from actually writing blog posts. This happens especially when my brain is fried and I can’t come up with decent copy.

4. I re-read old favorite posts.

Sometimes it’s just what I need to give me a jump start to write!

What blogging quirks do you possess?

you are a writer book review//nerdy non-fiction 2013

I mentioned in my Betsy-Tacy book review (below) that all I’ve been doing lately is study for school and read.  I haven’t read so much in one month in a very long time and it feels so good!  I just need to crank out the reviews while I can (I may get three done today!!).

So here’s my first completed title for the Nerdy Non-Fiction Challenge 2013 :).

I must say that so far, this book, by Jeff Goins, is probably my favorite!

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After reading his Writer’s Manifesto (and you can read my thoughts on that here),  I knew I had to check out Jeff’s other books.  This was totally worth more than the $3 I spent in the Kindle bookstore!!  In this book, Jeff addresses the fears that writers have when starting out.  We don’t want to say we’re writers cause we haven’t been published yet or the few posts on our blog haven’t given us permission to assume that title.  We seek perfection and success first before we think ourselves worthy of such a bold statement as, “Hi, my name is Elyssa and I’m a writer.”

Jeff says to quit it.

You’re a writer, he says, you just have to write.

This makes sense when you consider the fact that feelings don’t have to determine one’s mood.  For example, I can choose to be in a good mood by putting a smile on my face and keeping my words positive.  Sooner or later, whatever negative feelings I had begin to dissolve and I begin to feel good and I’m in a positive mood!  The same can be said for writers.  Say you’re a writer.  Now act on it.  The more you act like a writer, the harder you work at your copy, the more intentional you are about making a name for yourself, little by little, the more skilled you become and the more you’ll be taken seriously by yourself and others.  It takes a lot of time but it’s worth it!

If you want to be a writer.  If you are an aspiring writer.  If you are a writer, (old habits!) then YOU NEED TO READ THIS BOOK!  I want to elaborate more but I don’t want to give the whole book away.  Just read it.  Seriously, go to Amazon now and download the ebook.  You won’t regret it.   It’s inspiring and practical.  It offers advice and writing tools as well as the necessary kick in the pants some of us need to get going!!  I loved it and will probably be referring back to it for the rest of my life!!

And If you haven’t yet, you can check out Jeff’s blog at Jeff Goins Writer. Sign up for his email list and you can get a free copy of his Writer’s Manifesto which I also highly recommend!!

Y’all have a blessed day =)

the virginia woolf writer’s workshop//book review

266205027945822409_ZJyljIao_bLast month I read this delightful little book by Danell Jones called The Virginia Woolf Writer’s Workshop: Seven Lessons to Inspire Great Writers. In it the author creates an imaginary writing class conducted by Virginia Woolf.  She uses lines directly from Woolf’s diaries, essays, and letters to teach seven lessons to, as the title says, inspire great writing.

Through conversation between Woolf and her students, Jones teaches the following lessons:

  1. Practicing
  2. Working
  3. Creating
  4. Walking
  5. Reading
  6. Publishing
  7. Doubting

My favorite lesson was the first where Woolf tells her students to keep a diary or journal.  She explains that in her diary to practice her scales and experiment with creating different effects. When a student questions what Woolf means by practicing scales, Woolf replies,

“I mean, she says her voice rising with enthusiasm, just write. Write “nonsense by the ream. Be silly, be sentimental, imitate Shelley; give the rein to every impulse; commit every fault of style, grammar, taste, and sytax; pour out; tumble over; loose anger, love, satire, in whatever words you can catch coerce or create, in whatever metre, prose, poetry, or gibberish that comes to hand. Thus you will learn to write.”…”The habit of writing thus for my eye only,” she says was “good practice””

While I didn’t agree with all of Woolf’s ideology or even methodology, I did take her advice and decided to take the writer’s notebook more seriously.  When I finally decided to quit editing myself, I was able to write freely, something that I’ve struggled with for years.  It’s hard to keep from making sure every ‘i’ is dotted and every ‘t’ crossed but it’s completely necessary when getting your thoughts and ideas on paper.  When I made the conscious effort to just let myself write, I was able to crank out twenty pages in one day, something I hadn’t done in a long time!  It felt wonderful!!

The rest of the book was amusing and well put together.  Again, I didn’t agree with everything Woolf writes but I was able to reap great bits of advice.  If you’re a writer and need a pick-me-up, this book is worth a read.

What books have you read to inspire great writing?  I’d love to read your thoughts!

Y’all have a blessed day =)

in which i ramble about the writer’s manifesto

I have a problem.

A serious problem.

And I’m going to confront it right now.

My ailment manifests itself in daydreams.  Wonderful dreams where my name graces the cover of a book or at the beginning of a magazine article.  You know what I’m talking about?  Those of you who are writers and bloggers can relate, I’m sure.  You sit in front of your computer screen trying to crank out clever copy and slowly, your mind wanders off and you fantasize about what it’d be like to be read.  To have your words devoured by a famished reader somewhere afar off.  Then you look at the few lonely sentences on your screen.  How utterly depressing!  You begin dreaming again.  Someday someone is going to read your work.  And they’ll love it!

Oi, oi, oi!  This is dangerous!  I spend so much time thinking about being read, I never get any real writing done!  *hand on forehead* Erg! It’s a rather frustrating place to be cause all that’s waiting to be written kind of piles up inside and clogs up my creativity.

Then I found The Writer’s Manifesto.

writers-manifesto-cover

It’s like it was written just for me.  Don’t you love it when you read something and you’d swear it was written just for you?  Like when I’m sitting in church and feel like the pastor is speaking directly to me?  Or when I’m reading the Word and it’s like God hand picked the verses I needed to read that day.  And I know He does that cause that’s how cool He is :D.

But I digress.  Jeff Goins’ ebook, The Writer’s Manifesto is exactly what I needed to read.  In it, he tells writers to “Stop writing to be read and adored.”

It was like having a bucket of cold water sloshed in your sleep-weary face.  WHA!?!  My purpose as a writer is really more like my…ulterior motive?  You mean the less I care about being read, the better I’ll become at actually writing?  Exactly.

Someone inside my brain just went, “Duh, Elyssa!”

Okay, it sounds simple, but until you let it slap you in the face a couple of times, it’s easier said than done.  Who doesn’t want to be admired and appreciated for their work?  That’s what every artist wants right?  Well yes…and no.  Perhaps what every true artist desires is simply the room and freedom to create.  To express what’s dearest to their hearts regardless of who listens or reads!

Give me a moment while I let that sink in…

So now that begs the question: Am I writing just to write?  Or do I actually have something to say?

More cold water in the face.  *splutter splutter*

Of course I have something to say!  I always have something to say!  Be it poetic or prosy, a writer has something they want to say to the world.

Well that’s just hearts and flowers but when you’re as painfully punctilious as I am and you want that perfect copy the first or second time around, you don’t allow yourself the beautiful mess of experimentation.  Another draft.  And another.  And another.  Man this writing stuff is hard work!  I already have to work hard to finish my degree.  Who has time to sit around and sweat over word choices and sentence structure?  Who has time to experiment with creativity?  I want to be good at this now.

So I daydream.  I dream that someday, somehow I’ll get there.  And I’ll be read and adored.

(I have time to dream, but not to write.  Cause that makes perfect sense…o.O)

This, then, begs further questioning.  Is what I have to say worth fighting for?

*splutter cough splutter*

Am I willing to work hard at saying it the best way possible?

*splutter cough cough splutter* Enough with the cold water already!

After some consideration, and second reading of the The Writer’s Manifesto, the answer is a resounding YES!  I do have something to say and I am going to work hard to put it into words!

*sigh of relief*

The fact that Jeff Goins wrote this piece proves that I’m not an oddball.  Turns out there are other more-than-slightly distracted writers out there and we all need a shove in the right direction…and maybe a little cold water in the face!  Phew!

So where, you may ask, can you check out this wonderful little piece?  Easy.  Just click here.  You can sign up for Jeff’s newsletter updates by e-mail and get a free copy of The Writer’s Manifesto (that’s what I did ^.^), or you can purchase a copy for $0.99 on Amazon  for your Kindle or Barnes & Noble for your Nook.

December’s all about organization in my life.  This is one place that needs some shaping up. This ebook is short and sweet and the perfect place for me to start ^.^.

Y’all have a blessed day =)

And check out Jeff’s blog, Jeff Goins, Writer. He’s got some great stuff!!

off the cuff

I might regret this later on but for now, well, I don’t even know how to respond to what I just did.

I just joined NaNoWriMo.  That’s right, I’m going to attempt a novel in a month.

Baha!  Somewhere in my brain there’s a flashing, neon sign that says, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?  My thoughts at that moment are a bit vague.  I suppose I can chalk it up to my own crazy version of YOLO (as much as I hate trendy, abbreviated catch phrases, or whatever you call these things!).  I mean, I will always be busy!  I will always have something else to do.  But I won’t be young forever and I can’t let life pass me by without enjoying and exploring and creating.  As I quickly browsed the National Novel Writing Month website, I was transported back to bygone days when I’d sit with a pen and a spiral-bound and write and write and write.

I craved it.  Oh, how I craved it!!  Maybe it was the breeze that’s wafting through my open window that transported me back to sunny, carefree, childhood days.  I don’t know.

I just signed up.

I already know I’m not going to reach the 50K word count.  I just want to see if I still have it in me. The ability to create and put dreams and ideas into words.  I haven’t done that in such a long time…

I will keep ya’ll posted!

Meanwhile, I’m already 6 days behind schedule!!

i write in the morning

I write in the morning when the sun peeks through the trees.

When the air is brand new and the world revived.

When my words are fresh, when my slate it clean.

I write in the morning.

I write when there’s a song in my heart.

When His Word is foremost in my thoughts.

When birds sing.

When wind blows.

When all is peaceful.

When all is well.

I write.

i write in the laundromat//poetry

Great piece by Marcy Sheiner (=

I Write in the Laundromat

I write in the laundromat.
I am a woman
and between wash & dry cycles
I write.

I write while the beans soak
and with children’s voices
in my ear. I spell out words
for scrabble while I am writing.

I write as I drive to the office
where I type a man’s letters
and when he goes to lunch
I write.

When the kids go out the door
on Saturday I write
and while the frozen dinners thaw
I write.

I write on the toilet
and in the bathtub
and when I appear
to be talking
I am often writing.

I write in the laundromat
while the kids soak
with scrabbled ears
and beans in the office
and frozen toilets
and in the car
between wash & dry.

And your words
and my words
and her words
and their words
and I am a woman
and I write in the laundromat.