Thursday, October 25, 2007

Lorna Landvik at Live from Prairie Lights

Jill, Marlinda and I went to Prairie Lights to hear Lorna Landvik tonight.

It's very intriguing to hear how an author works. To hear how a story unfolds. Lorna described how two characters kindly visit her imagination along with the title of her book. She obliges them by telling their story. She made it all sound so cheerful and possible.

Later she described what she went through to publish her first book "Patty Jo's House of Curls." She wrote the book in long hand then retyped it all. She found her hands were wet as she finished typing the story on a stormy May night. She thought that there was a leak above her - actually she was crying...the final death scene still moved her.

Then she followed 'the book' on getting published. She mailed query letters to dozens of agents before one accepted. Then after 4 years and 30 rejection letters she was accepted by a tiny publisher with ties to big newspapers.

It all sounded so difficult - but she was so positive...

She was also really funny! She does a one woman improve show in the Twin Cities. She did voices and told funny stories of her life pre-writing.

So - what does that mean for aspiring writers? I think it means you need to listen to your inner voice. You need to trust your instincts. You need to laugh. And you need to give candy to all those in your life who want to know more about you!!

I"m so glad that we went...

And I bought her new book - "The View from Mt. Joy"

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

This was one of those books I just couldn't put down. It's a historical epic about the building of a massive cathedral in 1100 England.

The book follows four different characters and their families as they cross paths over many years. It opens with a disturbing hanging and a curse called down by a distraught woman....

From there it follows the path of Tom Builder and his family as they travel on foot from town to town looking for work as a stone cutter and builder. Times are difficult and the family experiences terrible tragedy when Tom's wife Agnes dies. But, their luck seems to change as they happen into Kingsbridge the same day the wooden roof of the old tumble down church burns down. The church is completely destoryed and Tom helps Father Phillip, the head monk of the small village, decide what to do to begin to solve the church's problem. So begins the building of the most amazing chuch rural England has ever seen.

Follett makes the reader appreciate the intricate detail and incredible work that the ancient builders experienced when creating their masterpieces. I'm not a builder, but I enjoyed the description of the hand labor that was required.

This incredible creation of beauty is surrounded by the squalor of the living conditions of many peasants of the day. The dicotome ( great word, right) of these two lives comes into play as Aliana enters the tale. She is the spoiled daughter of an Earl who loses his position when his castle is overtaken by William, a bully and a thug. This is allowed because of the political times. As William comes to claim the castle he also claims Aliana for his own by brutally raping her. Aliana and her brother Richard are penniless and lost. Yet, Aliana is resourceful and devises a way to regain some of their wealth by gathering the wool of the local farmers and taking it to market. Only to find that the sellers will not deal fairly with a young girl. Enter Father Phillip, he becomes the go between for the wool. And both Aliana and the Prior at Kingsbridge become very wealthy.

All of that takes about the first 100 pages of a 900+ page book.

It is so worth it!! I was enthralled from beginning to end! This is one I would gladly recommend for those who want to be lost in another time and life. It made me appreciate my hot shower, warm food and privacy!!

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler

This is our October Book Club book.

I must admit it was really hard for me to get into this book. It actually took until the banquet for me to care at all about these people. It seemed to jump into the midst of their lives and I didn't really care about them.

Then during the banquet when we actually heard many more details I really got to like them. I finally figured out who Bernadette was and loved her stories of her life and times - especially when I realized it was all just a story! I cared about Jocelyn and her need to control everything and her extreme discomfort when she couldn't control the car trip with Grigg. I cared that Sylvia was having such a hard time deciding what to wear to the first real outing where she would see her estranged husband and his new girlfriend. And I cared about the life and falls of Allegra her daughter.

Anyway - I wouldn't say this was a favorite of mine - and I probably wouldn't even recommend it - but I am glad I read it.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott

Traveling Mercies is one of the first books that I read with a pencil in my hand, by choice. I underlined and wrote quotes on the inside of the back cover because there were so many things that I wanted to remember.

This is a book of essays taken from Anne's life. That in itself is not remarkable - what is remarkable is the way she interacts with the Lord as she walks through her life. It isn't the pious, everything is peachy relationships that authors sometimes portray. Instead - it's life. She is messy and real and jealous and negative and nasty and profound all in the same moment. And God is there too!

Her honesty was what slapped me in the face again and again. I have stayed away from most churchy books, because I read them and fall so short of the way the writers see God. Anne seems to see the very same God I do!

The other thing I kept thinking about is - she was a writer before she was a 'christian author.' That seems to take her essays to a completely different place..

Here are some of my random quotes...

"After we jump into the darkness of the unknown, faith lets us believe we either land on solid ground, or learn to fly."

Talking about making the decision to become a christian..."I held my breath- and then I crossed over."

Recalling a story of a childhood friend who had become lost - a policman was driving the little girl around town and she didn't recognize anything until she saw her church...
"This is my church and I can always find my way home from here."

"Church is a path and a little light to see by."

Her pastor's words on faith...
"We in our faith work stumble along toward where we think we're supposed to go, bumbling along, and here is what's so amazing---we end up getting exactly where we're supposed to be."

"I can't imagine anything but music that could have brought about this alchemy. Maybe it's because music is about as physical as it gets: your essential rhythm is your heartbeat; your essential sound, the breath. We're walking temples of noise, and when you add teneder hearts to this mix, it somehow lets us meet in places we couldn't get to any other way."

I loved her irreverant talks with God - her notes written on scraps of paper and placed in God's in box - and replaced when he hadn't gotten around to answering her. It all made God so real - so here - so now.

Hers is a faith that wraps in and around herself and is her - not one that is shined and looked at and admired on the shelf. Hers gets a bit dirty and scuffed from throwing it on the ground in moments of frustration. But, the dents and scratches guide her on to new places. That's the faith I want to learn to wear!!

I would strongly recommend this!!