Friday, November 30, 2012

Momentous Day

Thursday, November 29th is the birthday of Madeleine L'Engle, C.S. Lewis, and Louisa May Alcott. How lovely to think that three amazing writers share the same day. I was particularly encouraged to read this write-up about L'Engle in The Writer's Almanac; her Wrinkle in Time series I adore and have reread several times:

A Wrinkle in Time

It's the birthday of novelist Madeleine L'Engle (books by this author), born in New York City (1918). She worked for a while as an actress, and she was performing in the play The Cherry Orchard when she met her husband, the actor Hugh Franklin. She published a novel, The Small Rain (1945), and decided to give up acting and focus on writing and raising her kids. But while she was in her 30s, her career as a writer was going so badly that she considered giving up.

Then she read a book that made her change her mind. She said, "I read a book of Einstein's, in which he said that anyone who's not lost in rapturous awe at the power and glory of the mind behind the universe is as good as a burnt-out candle." She was so fascinated by Einstein's thinking that she kept reading about theoretical physics, and ended up writing a science fiction novel for young adults based on those ideas. L'Engle's three children loved the book, but it was rejected by 26 publishers; many thought it was too hard for children, and others thought that a science fiction novel shouldn't have a female as a main character. So L'Engle gave up on the book.

That year, her mother visited for Christmas, and L'Engle hosted a tea party for her mother's old friends. One of those friends was in a writing group with John Farrar of the publishing house Farrar, Strauss, & Giroux. They didn't publish young adult fiction, but the woman insisted that L'Engle meet Farrar and at least show him the manuscript. He published L'Engle's novel, A Wrinkle in Time (1963). It won the Newbery Medal; during her acceptance speech, she said: "I can't possibly tell you how I came to write it. It was simply a book I had to write. I had no choice. And it was only after it was written that I realized what some of it meant." A Wrinkle in Time has sold more than 10 million copies.

Her other books include A Circle of Quiet (1972), A Swiftly Tilting Planet (1978), and A Ring of Endless Light (1980).

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Sound and Fury remember, during a fit of frustration in a poetry course in college, thinking that I wanted to do an experiment: I'd show individuals the same poem as ask for their responses. Half of them, I would tell that it was an original work by a student. I'd tell the other half that it was a well known work by a very famous poet. I'd still like to see that experiment--I'd bet money that the people who were told the poem was already "good" would respond far more favorably.

I felt the same stir of doubt and irritation when I began Faulkner's famous work The Sound and the Fury and found myself wading through the (nearly) audio-only world that is Benjy's point of view. The temporal shifts I could handle (and rather enjoyed) once I got the hang of them, but not knowing who anyone was or what was going on for pages took some getting used to. And did I mention Benjy's chapter lasts for 70ish pages? And that Quentin's voice echoes Benjy's enough, semantically, that I distrust the author?

I'm enjoying puzzling through the book, and I won't make any (more) judgments until I finish, but here's the thing. If the book had been a self-published ebook by an unknown author, rather than the famous work of a nobel-prize winning American Great, I wouldn't have read more than two pages before closing the book and moving on. As it is, I trust that Faulkner is leading me somewhere worthwhile. Still, found this comic strip amusing.

Monday, November 26, 2012

living punctuation
The turkey is just about eaten. Our Thanksgiving guests left just this morning after a week-long visit. The house is back in order (thanks to the help of said guests). Now I find myself feeling, well, ho-hum. A bit sad, a bit now-what?

It's the let-down day. 

My Mom is the one who pointed this out. Sentences don't make sense without commas and periods telling us when to pause. Paragraphs can only go on so long and still keep our attention.

Why shouldn't our lives have punctuation, too? We had visitors, bustle, good food, things to look forward to. And there are good things to come, as well. Advent starts on Sunday, and everyone's eyes (if they have not already) will adjust Christmas-ward (if you celebrate). But not yet.

So today marks the end of the paragraph. A bit of rest, a bit of reshuffling. Whatever I get done today is bonus. Tomorrow we'll start anew.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Recently, I've had several people ask me what my favorite books are. It's not a question I can answer, but I can list the best books I've read in the last two years. These books make my list because
  • The writing was beautiful
  • The story made me want to keep reading, and stuck with my afterward
  • Reading them made me want to write
The best adult-audience books I've read are
  1. The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obrecht
  2.  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer Ann Barrows
  3. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

  1. The Name of the Wind and sequel by Patrick Rothfuss

For Young Adults:
  1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  2. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
  3. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
  4. Scarlet by A.C. Gaughan
Middle Grade:
  1. Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Friday, November 16, 2012


Yesterday I gave a poetry reading, then taught a poetry writing class--both in the space of 4 hours, located half an hour apart. A bit on-the-go, but what a wonderful day! My groups for both were far smaller than I would have originally liked, but what they lack in number they made up for in enthusiasm. Small and mighty.

I must confess, before I go to a reading or lecture I do pray for a large group of people. But--far more valuable--I pray "let it be the right group of people." In my experience so far, that has always been the case. I'd rather have people come who are truly touched by my work, who stay afterward to converse, who get excited about poetry or perhaps their own creative projects (and I'm certainly happy when they buy my chapbook, too!)--than people who will simply be bodies in seats.

It's been a season for me of enthusiastic rejections: editors who take the time to write me individually to say they liked my work, even though they're not going to publish it. I had one editor tell me that a story of mine made the short-list, that it was "totally publishable," but it just didn't fit with the overall collection that emerged. I've compiled literary magazines before--I certainly understand that. And I truly do appreciate their comments. But--it would be nice to open up my inbox and read, "I really liked your work AND I'd like to publish it." I keep hoping, every day.

Just when I was starting to get particularly frustrated, I talked with a friend I'd known since high school. I was looking for poems on the theme of giving thanks, and she said "what about the one you wrote for me in high school?" I'd forgotten about it, but as she read it to me, I remembered crafting every line. We both nearly cried at the end. She reads it regularly. "I suppose it doesn't have anything to do with giving thanks," she said when she finished. "But it makes me grateful."

That set me straight. It's easy to forget how things take on a life of their own. This poem, read in a magazine, that act of kindness...we don't get to know how others we respond. Goodness knows there are stories I remember years after having read them, but I've never let the author know that.

I do keep hoping and praying for more readers, and I'm sure I always will. But I am so grateful for the ones I have, for the way people take a poem and make it their own. Art is a joy.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Here's one of the poems I'll be reading tomorrow at LOLA. I used to keep a copy of it on my desk at work.

i thank You God for most this amazing
by e e cummings

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any--lifted from the no
of all nothing--human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Review of Scarlet

The first thing you notice about Scarlet is the language. Ms. Gaughen has invented her own rough-streets dialect for Will Scarlet that gets in your head and promises to stay there all day. The language slows the reader down just enough, inviting us to settle ourselves into her version of the Robin Hood story. And the key character here is Will Scarlet, though here the "Will" part is just for show, and the nickname "Scar" is both literally and figuratively applicable. Scarlet is  a girl, taken in by Robin Hood two years prior to the start of the story, when he caught her trying to steal from him in London. She's the little band of four's best thief. She's one of the guys, more brass in her language than any of them, just to prove that she can take care of herself. But Guy of Gisbourne is coming to town, and he knows a secret from her past that could threaten everything she has worked so hard to forget.

I love the Robin Hood story in nearly all of its forms. Ms. Gaughen's imagination of it is familiar yet original enough to help us fall in love with the characters yet again.  Rough-around-the-edges charmer Little John feels like someone I could know, and Rob is, as always, the kind of guy every girl has a crush on. Scar's got demons of her own that we discover slowly, and of course there's the action and romantic tension that keeps us turning pages.

Yes, there is a bit of characters running surprisingly long distances through the woods while injured, fueled by perhaps limited amounts of food. It was my one complaint in the story; then again, action movies often suffer from the same. So you chalk it up to adrenaline/suspend your disbelief, and just settle into this wonderful story, which just begs a sequel...

Friday, November 9, 2012

a lovely little stumble-upon

In preparing for my reading next week, I was happy to stumble across this lovely collection of "Poetry for a Grateful Living." Check out

Thursday, November 8, 2012

upcoming reading at LOLA

If you're reading this in the northwoods area, please join me at my poetry reading next Thursday. LOLA has a fantastic reading space lined with beautiful original artwork made throughout the area.



Emily K. Bright, Poet

“Giving Thanks”
An afternoon of original poetry and old favorites.
Thursday, November 15
4:30 – 5:30 P.M.

LOLA Center for the Arts
4262 County Road B
Downtown Land O’ Lakes
Light refreshment will be served.
For more information call, 715.547.3950

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Why I won't quit my day job

Pepper #2 (out of three plants). Several times larger than the last. Did I mention that it's from a green bell pepper plant? And bitter? I tried. I took enormous pleasure in watching them grow. But the aphids won in the end, and I have no lady bugs living in my house to counter them. So, now the plant is in the compost pile. (I suppose that means the aphids lost....poor aphids. It's snowing today.)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

You know you live in Northern Wisconsin when

"If I had free Packer tickets [for a weekend during hunting season], I wouldn't use them. That's how much I love hunting."

Yup, you can't get much more North-Wisconsonian than that.