What Do YOU Read?

Posted by Kathy on April 3rd, 2012

books 003My husband found me reading a book this weekend, something I’m mortified to say I haven’t done in about a year.

“Oh, a book! Nice to see you reading again,” he said.

I told him that my friend Julia sent it to me as a gift.

He asked, “Murder?”

“No. ER stories,” I replied. “Written by doctors and nurses in the trenches.”

He wasn’t surprised. “You do love your death, disease and disaster.”

I’ve always been a fan of non-fiction. The more incredible and hard-to-believe, the better.

Someone once told me “You read non-fiction? How boring!”

To the contrary.

I’ve always found true stories about courage, overcoming adversity and survival more compelling than any fiction. Throw in a true crime story and the occasional freak medical mystery and I’m happy.

So do you have a favorite genre? Or do you read anything you can get your paws on?

Mama Always Said

Posted by Kathy on January 7th, 2012

scolding Today my sister Marlene and her husband treated me to lunch at a place I’ve only ever gone to before for ice cream.

When we pulled up to the place, I asked Marlene if instead of a real meal, I could just have ice cream for lunch.

She shut me down before I could make my case for chocolate chip cookie dough as an entree. “No, not unless you eat something healthy first.”

Poop on you!

I said “Yeah, that’s like Mom always said when I wanted junk food. Remember? She’d say ‘First you have to have meat, cheese, tuna fish or egg.’” Apparently, protein buys you cookies later.

“No, I don’t remember and how specific is that? Geesh,” Marlene replied.

I told her I loved Mom’s stock answer for its nonsensical quality and if I ever wrote a book, that’s what I was going to call it. Meat, Cheese, Tuna Fish or Egg. It doesn’t make any sense without explanation and surely, anyone reading the title would be compelled to pick up my book and flip through its pages.

And then they would laugh themselves silly reading random portions of the gem in their hands, be in awe of all the rock star authors who gave it rave reviews and wonder why my creation was deep in the bowels of the bookstore, when it should be right at the front door all by itself on an easel, with a spotlight shining upon it and a velvet rope around it.

A dreamer I was.

What I want to know from those with mothers who say weird things…. let’s have it.

Tell us your favorite motherly sayings, admonishments, crazy rules or regulations that you remember to this day.

The less they made sense, the better.

Go!

Harry Potter, As Told By the Only Person Alive Who Hasn’t Read the Series or Seen the Movies

Posted by Kathy on July 23rd, 2011

Harry_Potter_and_the_Philosopher's_Stone They ask me how it’s possible.

How is it that I’ve missed out on the greatest story ever told this side of the Bible?

How is it that I don’t know Harry Potter?

Part of the reason is that when my sister loaned me the first book in the series, I didn’t make it past the first 25 pages or so.

Why?

Because poor Harry was locked in a closet under the steps by mean relatives after his parents were killed. Or something.

That’s as far as I got before I was too sad to continue. Despite encouragement from friends and family to give it another shot – and that I’d be well-rewarded if I did – I never picked it up again.

I also never saw a single Potter movie.

So I missed the multi-bazillion dollar franchise that even newborn babies knew about because their mothers read them the books while they were pregnant.

I do know bits and pieces of the story because you can’t avoid hearing about it unless you’ve been in a coma for 15 years.

So here is the story of Harry Potter, as told by someone who doesn’t know Harry Potter.

Harry’s parents are killed by some mean guy. Voldemort? I think he’s the guy they call “He Who Shall Not Be Named.”

An owl visits Harry at the house of his mean relatives and tells him to go to a train station. If he blasts through a wall at just the right spot, he’ll be transported to Hogwarts, a school for wizards.

Harry is a wizard.

We know this because there’s a lightening bolt tattooed to his forehead. I think it makes him extra special, right?

Harry also wears big round Carol Channing glasses.

He meets a red-headed kid on the train on the way to Hogwarts.

They meet a chick, Hermaine.

Is Harry sweet on her? I do not know.

Everyone at the school wears black graduation gowns and carries wands.

They do wizardy things at the wizard school.

They fly. Do they fly? Yes, I think they fly.

They also morph into animals and other things when the situation warrants. Maybe? I do not know.

mugglesThere are muggles. I don’t know what muggles are, but they sound like furry slippers to me. Are they furry slippers?

Some gigantic, hairy man tells Harry he can avenge his parents’ murder by … by…. I do not know. Killing Voldemort?

How does he do this?

All together now! I do not know!

I’m sure there was some other stuff in between all that. Five, six, seven books’ worth and maybe one million words? I missed a few.

And thus concludes my knowledge of Harry Potter. How’d I do?

Are you mortified I don’t know the story? Is my life incomplete? Do you want to nail me down to a chair and make me read it, at least until I know what a muggle is?

Are there any of you out there who are Harry Potter-ignorant like me?

If I Say It, I’ll Have to Do It

Posted by Kathy on May 21st, 2010

writing This post is more for my benefit than yours.

I’m taking a two-week vacation in early June. Everyone who knows it asks me where I’m going.

While I’d like to say I’m jumping on a plane to take me to some faraway place, the truth is I’m headed to a dark, dank corner of my basement.

I plan to lock myself down there for at least the first week so I can finally get my book off the ground.

No sunlight.

No fresh air.

No email.

No cats.

No husband.

No TV.

No distractions.

Just me and my laptop.

I’ve been wanting to write a book for the last couple of years and I settled on the subject matter only recently. You’ll probably all be mad at me for not telling you what it’s about, but I’m superstitious and feel that if I tell you, I’ll jinx myself.

I also feel if I announce publicly that I’m going to venture into book territory, I’d better actually DO IT.

So send me your good vibes that despite being surrounded by dusty old Christmas decorations, furniture we don’t use, kitty litter boxes and bugs falling on my head, I will still feel creative enough to knock out a few thousand words a day of decent book material.

I consider this venture the hardest thing I’ll ever do, but probably the most rewarding.

If you’ve ever tried to write a book, I’m open to advice and suggestions, but I’m scared you’ll all tell me it’s a waste of my time.

You know what?

Lie to me.

I’m Such a Problem Child

Posted by Kathy on February 25th, 2008

stiff My pal Lee over at Tar Heel Ramblings tagged me for the very simple 123 Book Meme. This meme asks you to complete a kindergarten-level task and report the results. It’ll give you a good sense of what I like to read when I’m not blogging. It might scare you, but if you’ve been here before, you’ve been scared plenty already and this won’t faze you a bit.

So why am I a problem child? Because the meme didn’t work on my first try. It’s always something with me.

Here are the meme rules:

1. Pick up the nearest book ( of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people & post a comment here once you post it to your blog, so I can come see.

I have a few half-read books in the pipeline, but as instructed, you have to pick the book nearest to you. That book is Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing.

I opened it up to page 123 and what should I find? Almost nothing. It was a chapter title page: Shooting Haiku in a Barrel. That’s it. No fifth sentence to find. No three sentences to list after that. It would figure I’d pick a book with a faulty page 123.

So onto Plan B. Pick another book. This time I chose Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach. Before you ask, yes, I’m really intrigued by stuff like this. I don’t want to actually see a cadaver or be a cadaver, but I don’t mind reading about ‘em!

Page 123 and the fifth sentence: The researchers concluded that the planes had broken apart at altitude, spilling most of their human contents into the sea.

The next three sentences: To figure out exactly where the fuselage had broken apart, they looked at whether the passengers had been clothed or naked when pulled from the sea. Sir Harold’s theory was that hitting the sea from a height of several miles would knock one’s clothes off, but that hitting the sea inside the largely intact tail of the plane would not, and that they could therefore surmise the point of breakup as the dividing line between clothed and naked cadavers. For in both flights, it was the passengers determined (by checking the seating chart) to have been in the back of the plane who wound up floating in their clothes, while passengers seated forward of a certain point were found floating naked, or practically so.

That’s just lovely, isn’t it?

If this doesn’t give you a fear of flying, reading this might. I live directly under the flight path of an airport located three miles west of me. As a result, I have regular and terrifying nightmares about planes crashing into my neighborhood. The nightmare I described isn’t all together horrible, as it involves The Three Stooges. Even in my nightmares, I have to laugh a little.

I won’t tag anyone, but if you would like to crack open a book and do the meme, have at it! 1-2-3 Go!

My First Meme!

Posted by Kathy on November 17th, 2007

I’ve just been tagged for a meme. A meme (rhymes with "dream") is a set of questions that are answered by one blogger, who then "tags" another blogger for that meme. That blogger then answers the questions posed, tags another and the process continues. Memes give bloggers an opportunity to write on a subject they might not have otherwise considered.

My pal Mike, author of the Mr. Grudge blog, tagged me for a Five Things About Blogging meme. I was glad for the tag because I thought at some point I might write about my blogging experience so far. What better time than now?

Thanks for the tag, Mike. On with the meme!

How long have you been blogging? I started my blog three and a half months ago. It’s been a highly satisfying experience so far. Although The Junk Drawer is a small fish in a big pond, I’ve developed a decent following in a short time and hope for greater exposure as I get better at marketing it and new readers find me.

What inspired you to start a blog and who are your mentors? Over the years I’ve written some short humor stories just for the fun of writing them. I’d e-mail them around to family and friends and get responses like "You need to publish this," or "Why aren’t you writing for a living?"

I always took these remarks with a grain of salt, until I sent out a funny story about a one particularly hellish tech support experience I had with my 82-year-old father. The response was overwhelming. "Will you please do something with your writing already!" I made a half-hearted attempt to submit the story to some traditional media outlets, but quickly realized that route would get me nowhere. Thinking it’s better to self-publish than not publish at all, The Junk Drawer was born.

While not a mentor in the sense of handing out writing advice, my husband is always there for me and so it feels right to mention him here. He’s thrilled I took up blogging, and the man thinks I’ll get a book published some day. He believes 100% I am capable of it, and his unwavering faith in me allows me to think for a moment that the idea isn’t so ridiculous.

Are you trying to make money from your blog, or just doing it for fun? Without a doubt, just doing it for fun. I see no money from this in my future. Since I’m averse to most forms of advertising, you’ll never find any ads on my blog.

Tell me 3 things you LOVE about being online. First and foremost, I love my readers. It amazes me that I have a group of loyal readers who keep coming back every day to see what’s new in The Drawer. I hope I can live up to their expectations whenever they visit. Second, I love this method of writing — sometimes fast and furious — because it forces me to write with a sense of immediacy and purpose. My goal is to post every day. Sometimes that’s difficult, especially for a humor writer. If I have a bad day, it’s tough to write funny. Lastly, I love the blogging community. I rub shoulders with some amazing and talented writers, and their success helps keep me motivated and challenged to write my very best.

Tell me 3 things you STRUGGLE with online. First, the numbers. There are well over 100 million blogs in existence today, and I’m competing with all of them for attention. Second, marketing myself is a job all its own. In addition to trying to write a quality post every day, I’m trying to get the word out about my blog. It’s a tedious process, fraught with pitfalls and stumbles. Sometimes you cast your line out to various social networking sites and blog directories and no one bites. I wish I had an assistant for just that kind of work. Lastly, it’s a struggle to find useful information about blogging that doesn’t involve how to make money. It seems to be the primary focus of many blogs, and finding help for non-commercial blogs takes a good amount of research and patience.

Thanks again, Mike, for inviting me to do this meme. Now I get to tag someone else. Kev over at Special Kind of Stupid, you’re it! Kev’s is one of the first great humor blogs I stumbled upon after I started blogging. I’d like to read his take on the 5 questions. Now get crackin’!

Sunday Reflections

Posted by Kathy on November 11th, 2007

Like everyone else, I enjoy kicking back on Sundays, reading the paper, puttering around and generally being lazy. It helps to take the downtime and rejuvenate my spirit before the craziness of another week begins.

I don’t recall where I read the following passage, but I jotted it down and tacked it up on my refrigerator, reading it on Sundays or whenever I feel the need for calm. Be sure to read it slowly and carefully, visualizing it for the greatest benefit.

Picture yourself near a stream. Birds are softly chirping in the crisp, cool mountain air. Nothing can bother you here. No one knows this secret place. You are in total seclusion from that place called “the world.” The soothing sound of a gentle waterfall fills the air with a cascade of serenity. The water is clear. You can easily make
out the face of the person whose head you’re holding under the water.

I’ve Been Accused of Plagiarism

Posted by Kathy on October 18th, 2007

You read that right. I have been accused of plagiarism, but not as a blogger. I have plenty of juice left. In fact, I’m just getting started. I have no interest in copying others, mostly because there’s no fun in that. And, oh yeah. It’s illegal.

But since I do wonder if anyone is plagiarizing me, I use a site called Copyscape, where you submit your blog URL and it crawls the web for places where your work has been duplicated. Stolen, actually. I did find one site that took my entire The Day I Didn’t Die post and translated it into German. It’s a junk site plastered with ads. Evidently, they lift posts to drive you to their site and try to get you to buy garbage when you get there.

After discovering Copyscape, I was reminded of the one time in my life that I was officially accused of plagiarism. I was a sophomore in high school and in danger of failing music class. I don’t understand music theory, I can’t read sheet music since the symbols look cartoony to me, and of course, I can’t carry a tune to save my life. I was failing on all cylinders.

My teacher offered me an opportunity for extra credit so I could pull myself up to a passing grade. I gladly took her up on it. She gave me a few options and I chose to listen to a piece of classical music, then write a story about what I thought the music was trying to say.

I can’t remember what piece I wrote about, but I do know I listened to it over and over in the living room one weekend and knocked out not a story, but a poem, about what it meant.

The piece began with a very peaceful melody, then gradually progressed into a cacophony of what sounded like every instrument in the orchestra, later relaxing and making a soothing exit. I thought it sounded like a storm rolling into a valley, shaking things up, and then rolling out. That’s what my poem was about and I was pretty happy with what I’d written.

And then I turned it in.

While we were taking our final exam, I noticed her reading it at her desk. When the class was over, she called me up and asked me point blank "Did you write this?"

I told her "Yes, this weekend."

"It doesn’t sound like you wrote it. It sounds like you copied it," she protested.

"But I did write it. I listened to the piece all weekend and that’s what I thought it said to me."

"Did anyone see you write it?"

"Yes, my parents did. You can ask them."

"I will."

Now, you might think I should have been insulted and horrified to be accused of plagiarizing someone else’s work. But I wasn’t. It was the most flattering thing I’d ever heard since my English teacher suggested I go to a creative arts camp the summer before. It was the first time in my life that I thought I might have a talent for writing. I left the class on Cloud 9, when other students might have left in tears.

My teacher did get confirmation from my parents that I wrote the poem myself. She might have felt bad afterwards for accusing me of stealing, but she was only doing her job. The accusation left a marked impression on me. If she thought my work was so good it couldn’t have been my own, maybe — just maybe — someday I could call myself a writer.

Someday is today.

If you were stranded on a deserted island…

Posted by Kathy on September 2nd, 2007

The results are in! I polled readers on what tech toys they couldn’t live without and I was a little surprised by a few things. First, here are the items in order by popularity:

  1. Internet
  2. Books, cable TV (tie)
  3. DVR
  4. Cell phone/iPod (tie)
  5. Digital camera

I’m not at all surprised by Internet’s first place finish. I know the weekend I had to go without it made me wonder what I did all those years in its absence.

What did surprise me was the lower ranking of the ubiquitous iPod. I thought I was the last person on earth who didn’t have one and is thus not hopelessly addicted. I also think I’m the last person who hasn’t read the Harry Potter series or watched an episode of American Idol beyond the first couple weeks when the worst singers perform. That’s gold!

I’m also surprised that cell phones weren’t first on the list. I know few people who don’t have theirs within arm’s length at all times. I have one for work purposes, but not for personal use. Perhaps part of that is because I don’t have children, so I’m not in need of constant communication with people who need to know when I’m picking them up and what’s for dinner.

I’m not entirely shocked that video games didn’t get a single vote. It may indicate that no one under 20 years old reads my blog, except for my niece who just thinks I’m so cool for having one. Even she places her iPod and cell phone above video games. You know, they don’t make enough video games for girls. There must be a shortcut on programmers’ keyboards for "blood" and "more violence!" since that seems to be what sells best. And girls are just not into that.

My heart warmed to see books so high on the list. With all our digital paraphernalia it’s nice to see people still love to curl up with a good book. You don’t turn it on, it doesn’t need to be recharged and it won’t crash or be incompatible with anything.

By the way, I highly recommend Crashing Through by Robert Kurson. It’s a riveting story about Mike May, a man blinded by a chemical accident at the age of 3. May gets a chance to see again through revolutionary and risky surgery. May’s experience isn’t at all what you’d expect for a person who regains his vision after a virtual lifetime of blindness.

Thanks to all those who participated in the poll. And if I didn’t list a gadget or technology that you can’t live without, comment below and tell me what it is!

It ain’t Shakespeare…

Posted by Kathy on July 30th, 2007

Well, the 2007 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest winners are out. Make that bad fiction. The annual contest judges submissions for the best opening sentence "to the worst of all possible novels." Here’s the overall winning entry:

Gerald began–but was interrupted by a piercing whistle which cost him ten percent of his hearing permanently, as it did everyone else in a ten-mile radius of the eruption, not that it mattered much because for them "permanently" meant the next ten minutes or so until buried by searing lava or suffocated by choking ash–to pee.

Jim Gleeson
Madison, Wisconsin

My personal favorite is the winner in the Children’s Literature category:

Danny, the little Grizzly cub, frolicked in the tall grass on this sunny Spring morning, his mother keeping a watchful eye as she chewed on a piece of a hiker they had encountered the day before.

Dave McKenzie
Federal Way, WA

See the entire list of winning entries here: http://www.sjsu.edu/depts/english/2007.htm