September 28, 2005

The Joys of Short Stories and Other Musings

Okay, here's the thing. I wanna be in an anthology. Yeah, I know, cool people like Seren are in anthologies, and it should be enough that my friends are so cool, but nope. It's not doing it. I couldn't write a story about fruit and New Jersey for Mei's anthology either, so I'm kind of stuck - I love reading the things, and short stories are pretty fascinating, when done well, and I want to be the kind of writer who leaves readers dying for more. So, anthologies.

And, here, offered to me in a really cool package - the first short story contest ever! And the winner wins -- inclusion in that sought after anthology!! And how could I not be jazzed? Oh, wait. There's that little matter of actually writing a YA short story, huh. Sad, but true - I'm beginning to really resent Raymond Carver. Seriously.

The fact is, there are ten million books of commentary on how to write a really good short story. There's theory about 'pyramid structure,' there's conjecture about situational writing (i.e., get a man up a tree, throw stones at him, get him down), but the fact is, modern short stories kind of ruined the simple stuff. It's not good enough to just have a story... that's...short. Now there's all this enigma and stuff. I'm not sure I can do that.

Actually, I'm pretty positive I can't. I'm not enigmatic. Is young adulthood enigmatic? Was mine? I was reading a comment from A.Fortis the other day where she mentioned hearing publishers asking for stuff that was described as "nasty" (as in brutish or dirty, I couldn't tell ya) when talking with writers at a recent conference. That word lacks, um, subtlety. So, am I completely pursuing a wrong rant, here? Is subtlety not needed in YA shorts?

This is all in the service of actually keeping me from attempting to write said short story. I'll admit it -- I'm struggling to convey something pertinent in 8000 words. It seems like that should be enough words, but I'm going to have to edit, I see. Sharply.

As usual, when in doubt, I try and read something. I've heard that Kelly Link's Stranger Things Happen is a really good read, and that she's one of the best short story writers writing for this age group. I've been reading short stories for weeks. Something's got to give, here!

Wish me luck and I wish the same to you. Enter the contest!

September 24, 2005

News Tidbits from SCBWI

In my latest SCBWI e-newsletter was the news that Scottish writer Julie Bertagna had won the Eco-Prize for her young adult novel Exodus, set in a future version of Glasgow. The book sounded interesting enough on its own for me to want to scrounge my library for it. But then I visited her website and loved reading her comments about her writing process--things every writer can relate to:
I mustn't waste time. But I do. I drop my daughter at school and tell myself I must grab a coffee in Little Italy to jump-start my brain. Staring out of the window at the traffic and flicking through a newspaper or a book is essential. I used to feel guilty about this until a friend told me work rituals are a warm-up for your brain, so now I do it with relish and think smugly of everyone else stuck in their offices and classrooms!

Also, here's a link to First Book's Hurricane Katrina Book Relief Campaign, where you can sponsor a new book for as little as 50 cents.

September 22, 2005

Getting Unstuck

Lately, after a longish and very irritating bout with writer's block--or writer's demotivation--I thought about how I got un-blocked and moving again. There are probably just as many ways to get unstuck as there are writers, but I thought I'd share a few in case my experiences can be of help to anyone out there who's having trouble facing their computer or notebook or even canvas.

One thing that worked for me recently was trying something new and unusual. I was revising a short story and didn't like the way a particular section was flowing. I liked lots of individual parts, but it just wasn't coming together in a way I was satisfied with. I didn't really know how to continue. Should I trash and rewrite? Should I just leave it alone and hope I'd done enough to make it passable? What I decided was to print out a copy of that section, take out my scissors, and chop it up into those little parts or scenes that I saw as the building blocks. Then I moved them all around to see if a new chronology could solve the problem. And you know what? It really helped. I saw what I'd already written in a fresh way, and was able to fill in some gaps I hadn't been able to see before because I just couldn't see the forest for the trees after staring at it for so long. So next time you're at a sticking point, don't be afraid to be drastic--just keep a copy of your original draft in case you decide it's okay after all...

Of course, having an encouraging and productive writing group is also an excellent way to keep from being unstuck. I can speak from experience here--your group, even if it's just a few of you, can be cheerleaders for each other, critics, and even idea-generators. A related un-sticking factor is guilt. If you have something you're supposed to submit that week to your writing group, and by hook or by crook, you're determined to do it, that can give you a little extra motivation to power through anything from writer's block to pure laziness. Again, that's my personal experience talking. Many times over the past year, it's only been my writing group that has kept me going--the mini-deadlines, the regular dialogue on what we're all writing and the process itself.

Lastly, for getting unstuck--don't forget good old-fashionedinspiration. And don't forget to look for inspiration in unexpected places. I try to let myself get inspired by anything and everything, mining the world around me for ideas. Even books and television (what's that famous quote? Supposedly Lionel Trilling said "Immature artists imitate. Mature artists steal.") can spark things in your brain, as long as you go on to develop those ideas into something of your own. So, go get unstuck!

September 21, 2005

Shaking Up YA Writers & Readers Around the Bay

Litquake Rocks!!!
Thanks to the ever fab Tara Weaver, our humble Finding Wonderland writers are getting a primo chance to be involved with Litquake, San Francisco's fun and flighty literary festival. For the first time since their beginning in 2002, YA writers will be really represented, and a will be featured as a stop on the infamous toddle down Valencia Street, Lit Crawl.

Five fabulous YA writers will be reading selections from some of their latest works October 15th from 5-6:15 pm at Valencia Street Books in San Francisco, as part of the much anticipated Lit Crawl. They are: Mills College professor and mystery writer Kathryn Reiss, reading from SWEET MISS HONEYWELL'S REVENGE, the talented Gennifer Choldenko, reading her newly released AL CAPONE DOES MY SHIRTS, the irrepressible Joyce Maynard, reading from THE CLOUD CHAMBER, Katherine Sturtevant reading from the complex and thoughtful novel AT THE SIGN OF THE STAR, and thought-provoking historical novelist Michael Cadnum, reading from STARFALL. (These books have not yet been reviewed on our sister site! Read them? Let's hear about them!)

Hosted by our own A.Fortis, this event promises to be exciting and inspirational to all of us fledgling and would-be writers. Why not catch more of the Litquake '05 events if you can? Check out their website now!

September 19, 2005

Random Booknotes

This month's Book Page had a great feature on Jane Smiley's new book 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel. This book sounds a lot like what we might have read in Micheline Aharonian Marcom's class at Mills, since she's all about making lazy readers into better writers by requiring them to really dig into some tough novels they might normally just set aside. Smiley's book talks a bit about what makes good novels and what makes escapist novels. She overviews 100 novels that more or less span the history of literature -- from the obscure to the popular, a sort of Best Novels canon. What did she discover? Serious novels, says Smiley, don't allow you to escape. Instead they ask you to reconsider what you were thinking about in a new way. Sounds like a book to look into to me.

Wow, what a rush it must be to be Christopher Paolini. Paolini, just 19, wrote Eragon, the first book he'd ever written, as a first novel in a trilogy when he was just 15. Yeah, this, after having read all the books in his local library and graduating from high school that same year... He finished and self published at 17. Of course, it helps if your parents have a publishing company, but what a rush when you skip college to write a book that not only sells, but sells 1.5 million copies in North America alone, and remains on the bestseller list for eighty-five weeks. An even bigger rush might include the film rights being optioned, and Ed Speeler, Jeremy Irons and John Malkovich shooting it in Budapest! It's due to be released in 2006.

But surely - the greatest buzz of all? In its third week on the
NY Times bestseller list, Eldest the second volume in the Inheritor trilogy, has passed the latest Potter epic to take its place at number one. Granted, Harry has been on top for nine weeks, but this is quite a feat for someone under 20, who hasn't yet made it to college, and has only written two books in his life thus far. Go Chris Go! We ain't seen nuthin' yet, obviously!

Carolyn Keene, the imaginary writer who won't die: Strangely located on the Style page of the Chronicle is a review of a new book on Carolyn Keene, the composite pseudonym of several writers behind the celebrated Nancy Drew series. Melanie Rehak, whose first book Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her, became completely intrigued with the pre-feminist history of this literary character when she heard the NPR obituary of Mildred Wirt Benson on the radio one day. She wanted to know who the 'real' Nancy Drew really was. Fans of the plucky blonde sleuth will thrill with all the attention being paid to the reborn 40's teenager. From a new Manga-styled cover art to more modern character sketches, Nancy Drew seems fated, at 75, to be here to stay...

We have more writers wandering through the SF Bay Area than we know what to do with. Here are a few highlights of who's in town this weekend:

Though this isn't really a YA book, the protagonist of Jim Lynch's The Highest Tide is thirteen, and growing up in a wonderful autumnal coming-of-age book. There's a great luncheon planned in Pleasanton with the author at 11:30 a.m. this Thursday (9/22) It's $10/lunch; $28 lunch and book. Towne Center Books, 555 Main St., Pleasanton. (925) 846-8826.

Wouldn't it be the coolest to have a dad who worked on Alcatraz Island in 1935? Okay, maybe not. But if the warden's daughter was cool... how much fun could you get up to? Okay. Fun is another name for t-r-o-u-b-l-e. But that's the schtick in this well spoken of YA novel of historical fiction called
Al Capone Does My Shirts. Author, Gennifer Choldenko is having a meet-n-greet next Saturday at 2 p.m. Crissy Field Center, Bldg. 603, Mason and Halleck streets, the Presidio, S.F. (415) 561-7752. Also don't forget that Pratchett's in town this week, too!

Autumn arrives this week. Celebrate with a new book!

September 14, 2005

Odds 'n' Ends

I'm going on a little vacation at the end of the month, and I'm not taking my computer. I'm going to try and write some snatches of atmosphere -- descriptions of countryside, cityscapes, and more. I'm going to try some old-school writing techniques and take lots of notes to hopefully find some great scenes to stick in books someday.

I feel like I'm going back to grad school and sitting down in coffee shops, writing down conversations I overhear...

REMINDER: The Kimberly Colen Memorial Grant, established by SCBWI and the family of Kimberly Colen, honors the memory of this children's writer by helping authors and illustrators publish their first book. Two grants will be awarded in 2005, each for $2500, along with transportation, lodging and tuition to the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York. One grant will be for a picture book and/or an early reader book, but the other will be for a chapter book for middle grade, and or a YA book. Applicants must write a 1-page letter (250 words maximum) about the book they propose to write, and include their an excerpt from the book, and their contact information. The letters must be put in a #10, business-sized envelope, postmarked no earlier than October 1, and no later than November 15 mailed to:

SCBWI Kimberly Colen Grant Letter
Box 20322 Park West Finance Station
New York, NY, 10025-1512

The 24th Annual Delacorte Press Contest is open again for submissions October 1 through December 31! First time writers may submit book entries between 100 to 224 pages in length, suitable for readers aged 12-18, and Delacorte is specifically asking for stories with contemporary settings.

Writers, start your engines!

September 13, 2005

A Devil of a Bear

"In my land we have a saying," said the pilgrim. "A man should not care if a bee buzzes in his ear or if a child babbles at his feet."

"I don't think I care for that saying," said Clovermead. "The tone is very superior, very lofty. It sounds very silly coming from a young man who can't be much older than I am. Did people say that a lot to you when you were younger? It must have been very annoying to hear it from a grown-up on a regular basis."

David Randall's Clovermead: In the Shadow of the Bear is the story of the most complex twelve-year old characters I've come across in recent readings. Verbally astute one moment, infuriatingly hyperactive another, Clovermead is the innkeeper's only child, and the darling of the poky old village of Timothy Vale. Clovermead wants nothing more than adventure, and she forever pesters the pilgrims who pass on their way to Snowchapel, the high mountain retreat, to tell her about their lives, about the fighting further South, about anything. She longs to be a spy, a fighter, a thief -- and one day, she gets her wish.

I like Randall's characterization of this indomitable cub who roars and rips her way through the pages of this book. Even as she realizes that the life she's known has all been a lie, even as she is betrayed, fearful and angry, her spirit is an indistinguishable spark. She is known to herself, and her internal wisdom knows that she is strong. The choices she makes are because of who she is. Clovermead makes a deal with evil, in the form of Lord Ursus, a bear, because she longs for the power of bears, the ability to make others afraid. She hates being a little girl who is only lied to and shuffled around. It would make life easier if she could bite.

Ultimately, Clovermead chooses to bite - but Randall grants her grace with giving her the ability to change her mind and to know her own heart. Just because we give in to it once, evil doesn't always win forever. With the lightest hand possible, Randall makes the point that choosing wrongly isn't always a permanent "and everyone died" mistake, and that immense strength and power to destroy isn't inherently only something aligned with evil.

This was a complex, bright and interesting new book, and I look forward to seeing what else this writer, who is currently finishing his Ph.D. in British history, can produce.

Terry Pratchett

I'm not one of those people who likes, say, jokes... I'd rather just smirk sardonically at life than go to a comedy club. Surprisingly, I do like funny books, if they're just funny incidentally, and I do like weird British humor. I find writer Terry Pratchett one of the better writers of surrealist comedy of any kind, and he writes... well... It's kind of fantasy...only in the sense that the world is actually a disc set on the back of four massive elephants... who are, in turn, are riding atop a giant turtle. (Kind of like ours, right?) The disc is a board game for the various panoply of gods who bet on the stakes of hapless wizards and random citizens.

As for the worlds in that universe, well, they've got vampires and trolls. Death makes occasional appearances... with his granddaughter. And his horse. And his lovely black and white house and garden. And his four buddies, apocalyptic horsemen, who've stayed in touch all these years. There are kingdoms, and witches, and the odd Handsome Prince with his beloved werewolf girlfriend. There's an interspecies police force that employs a golem. And dwarves. Mostly, Pratchett's Discworld books are like a fairy tale gone quite thoroughly mad. And I await each new one with glee.'

They're impossibly relevant to present day, this-world politics and history. They're satire. They're just darned funny. Check them out!

I'm off to get Pratchett's newest book! He'll be in the Bay Area soon.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005 7:30 PM
Speaking/Signing autographs
2454 Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94704

Thursday, September 22, 2005 7:00 PM
Speaking/Signing autographs
1644 Haight Street, San Francisco, CA 94117


September 12, 2005


I agree wholeheartedly with A. Fortis' observations on Patricia McKillip. Many readers either love her, or hate her entirely because of that elusive quality in her writing of formulating a beautiful, dreamlike world in which subtleties are the order of the day. Her work is incomparable, but her universes, at least, seem to resemble Tanith Lee's, in that there is often no single "evil" to battle, but a diffident and soulless way of life. For some readers, this way of writing doesn't work - and sometimes McKillip's work doesn't resonate with me.

One McKillip book that DID work, though, is this year's Alphabet of Thorn. It's highly imaginative and beautiful, and I hope you get a chance to snag it. I especially loved it because there was a Floating School for Mages, which works at the behest of Queen Tessera, who is new Queen and young and inexperienced. The Mages sense impending doom for her and many doubt that she will be able to hold the twelve Crowns of Raine into one dominion. One Crown is already in revolt, but that isn't the doom to come. The true doom of Raine is being shown in dreams, and has something to do with thorns.

Meanwhile, in the library under the palace, in the archives, an orphaned translator named Nepthene is working away at deciphering a message written in throny script. She's jealously guarding her secret task, trusting in no one to help her... which should already give her second thoughts about why it's so important. As the palace falls under siege, Nepthene and her friends realize that the information she's guarding may be able to tell how the Queen can save her kingdom...

It's a short novel, and has quite a rich plotline, so I don't want to give too much away. The ending may frustrate, as the beautiful world ends with all the abruptness of a bubble popping... but it's worth reading, even though some bookstores don't yet carry it. McKillip may be enigmatic and elusive, but her work is worth seeking out.

September 10, 2005

Revisiting McKillip

Last week I reached a hand into a pile of fantasy and sci-fi that had recently been rescued from a long sleep in a box, and came up with Winter Rose by Patricia McKillip. I know I've read a few books of hers, but it had been so long that I could not call to mind either this one or any other. So I knew it was prime time for a re-read, because I've been in a sci-fi/fantasy kind of mood.

What I realized, reading the lush and gorgeous prose of McKillip's story, is that great fantasy will transcend the bounds of genre and go somewhere that's difficult to label or define; and that excellent writing can be found in small packages. This isn't an incredibly long book, but like poetry, so much is condensed into a small space that you can turn to almost any page and find word-images so vivid you can almost taste them:

Winds shook me apart piecemeal, flung a bone here, a bone there. My eyes became snow, my hair turned to ice; I heard it chime against my shoulders like wind-blown glass. If I spoke, words would fall from me like snow, pour out of me like black wind.

The mysterious journey of Rois Melior into the secrets of the mysterious Corbet Lynn parallels her journeys into the heart of the surrounding woods and into her own knowledge of self. The journeys weave together eerily, seamlessly, until one is inseparable from the next and none has meaning without the others. In the end, to me, it resembled less a fantasy novel, and more a work of magical realism along the lines of Marquez or Rushdie.

It leaves you with questions at the end, and not many answers; if you like your fantasy straightforward and clearly narrative, it might not be for you. But if you harbor a secret wordlust for poetic turns of phrase, if you're willing to read something that blurs the boundaries of dream and reality and leaves it up to you to decide which is which, give it a try.

September 07, 2005

Wading through my brain

More hurricane stuff:

There's not much space to avoid reality when it keeps leaking into my brain via all kinds of media outlets. I'm doing my best to single-handedly support the Red Cross ($10,124,762.25 raised as of today and counting!) by shopping where there are donations made tips and change, and sending the cash I can afford to hopefully buy underwear and clean water for those in need. Today I found out where to send packages of necessities to various locations in the Gulf States (and I can give you the 411 if you really want to know), and I'm having fun collecting basic needful things - and stickers! I mean, isn't this a bad enough disaster without glittery underpants and stickers! -- for kids. No books yet, since displaced people have to schlepp their stuff... and they have enough to shoulder at present.

So much political debate is going on -- are they 'refugees?' or are they survivors? I vote for 'survivors.' People in the Gulf states, where they are annually wind-battered, flooded and flattened, have got to be some of the toughest people around. May their spirits be as resilient... I hope that people like
Mills alum and former classmate Mahmud Rahman and the Neo-Griot New Orleans Project who will be going around in New Orleans, collecting stories not only of the disaster, but of the lives of the survivors, remembers to record the stories of the children... The stories that kids can tell should be told. Every other kid in America needs to hear what it was like living in New Orleans before this last month. Every child needs to think about how they will act and feel and be during a disaster. The best children's and YA books give kids a chance to fill another kid's shoes, if just for awhile.

New Orleans resident and Project leader,
Kalama ya Salaam adds,
"Too often when major historic events take place, those who are live at the margins of the mainstream are ignored. We know what the presidents and generals did, we know what the business leaders and major cultural figures thought, but do we know anything about the poor, the disenfranchised, the people of the Dome, the overpass, as well as those who left the city on Sunday and as of Tuesday night had no city to return to?

During the Great Depression the WPA collected the stories of people who had experienced slavery. Today we will collect the stories of people who survived a defining moment in American and World History."

The project objective is:

1. to put the words and images of the people on the internet via a New Orleans
Project website.

2. to teach the respondents how to access the internet, so that they can
continue sharing their views after the neo-griots leave.

3. to archive the resulting information so that it can be researched and
accessed worldwide.

There are stories yet to be heard, and yet to be written. Like a campfire shining clear in a dark and unfamiliar wood, I hope the smaller stories will shine out and be hope, as memory, and as the means to rebuild a world.

September 02, 2005

Two Magical Journeys

Perhaps it's a feeble excuse, but one major reason I haven't contributed in a little while is that I've been reading voraciously. When I have a lot going on in my life, I seem to gravitate towards books that really take my mind on a journey somewhere else. Some might call this escapism. Whether it is or not, I always welcome a well-written fantasy of the archetypal journey variety. What is life but a journey? And when our own journeys become confusing, how wonderful it is to have others' journeys—albeit fictional—to look to for inspiration and enlightenment.

A couple of weeks ago I read Nancy Farmer's latest The Sea of Trolls. Shelved in the children's section, I nonetheless found this coming-of-age journey to be ageless and timeless. When I first started reading—and from time to time throughout—it reminded me of that godfather of fantasy classics, T.H. White's The Once and Future King—still one of my favorite bits of required reading from high school.

Somewhere on the eastern shore of the British Isles in the 8th century, young Jack lives with his little sister, mother, and father in a peaceful Anglo-Saxon village. He whiles away his days as apprentice to a very Merlin-like bard who came to the area some years ago floating in a lone coracle. One day, though, the bard foretells the coming of berserkers from the wild realms of the Northmen. Sure enough, the warriors loot and pillage and do their Viking thing, capturing Jack and his sister Lucy in the process. But there's so much more magic to the story than that, and Jack enters a world of magical bardic verses, trolls, and Norse mythology come to life.

These are myths that still rear their heads in our Western belief systems even today, and have left their mark on our language—the stories of Beowulf, the sagas of gods and goddesses like Thor and Freya and Odin and the great tree of life Yggdrassil. And Farmer has really done her research well. If you want to journey into a past where the world of magic had not yet fled in the face of modern progress, this is a wonderful, wonderful tale.

Another book that deals with the loss of past closeness between the world of magic and our own world is Charles de Lint's The Little Country, a re-read for me. But I'd forgotten just how absorbing this story-within-a-story is. Cornish folk musician Janey Little, who lives in the tiny village of Mousehole in Cornwall, gets caught up in a world of magic, music, and a power-hungry dark conspiracy when she opens the pages of a previously-unknown book by her favorite author.

For the book itself holds magic, and a powerful secret that the bad guys will stop at nothing to obtain. At the same time, the reader is treated to a parallel story, that of young Jodi Shepherd's journey into a world where faeries, witches, and monstrous drowned sailors are all too real. To find out how the stories relate, you'll just have to read it. I highly recommend it, along with The Sea of Trolls, for some beginning-of-the-school-year escapism. And de Lint's book is also a great antidote to the non-plucky female characters that TadMack was recently grumbling about.

September 01, 2005

Judy Blume's Forever was first published in 1975, which is why it is held as the first Serious Book About Sex that YA's had available to them. There is still a huge firestorm of controversy about the book, even as late as 2004 a school librarian in Texas was appealing to have it banned for all time from school shelves.

Oddly, Norma Fox Mazer's
Up in Seth's Room has all but submerged without a splash, and vanished in relative obscurity. Published in 1979, this book writes in more specific detail about different kinds of sexual activities, but surprisingly it's out of print, and the first edition copy I was able to run down was borrowed from a library in Lake County, at least five hours away. I wonder at the reasons why this book didn't catch on as well. Did it seem to be a copycat effort after Blume? Was it because the sex wasn't actual intercourse? Was it because everyone was still distracted by being annoyed with Blume?

Mazer's writing is, in my mind, actually better than Blume's. Finn is fifteen, and in high school. She has friends, she has a family, and she has definite sexual feelings. Seth, at nineteen, is a high school dropout who wants to go into agriculture the old fashioned way -- buy some land and start a farm. Both teens are smart and articulate, and know what they want... and what they don't want. Finn has a lot of signals from her body, but she doesn't want to have sex. Seth ...does.

There's a heightened sense of push-pull throughout the book as the characters enable obstacles to getting what they want. Finn first dreams, then dares, then openly defies her parents -- in what surely to me was a groundbreaking (for that time, anyway) show of independence in a YA character. She gets slapped. She gets screamed at. She gets ignored. She goes to see Seth anyway. Her sister, kicked out of the house for "living in sin" with her boyfriend, Seth's older brother, even sides against Finn, telling her she's too young for the commitment, and that Seth's "bad news." Seth moves out of their house. It all seems like it's going to go Romeo & Juliet: two teens against the universe, until we remember that Finn... doesn't want to have sex.

And then Seth has to remember that, too.

It's a bittersweet ending -- it's like the point in a relationship where you know you'd better commit or end. Mazer chooses to end the book, and Finn realizes that she will move on. I really like that she is a solid character who makes up her mind and isn't swayed by a handsome boy, and doesn't drift from sexual conquest to conquest for whatever reason, as does her best friend. She's not anti-sex... she's very interested in being with Seth, and just wants to be assured that he's listening to her about what she wants. Seth has to have a wake-up call about what a girl says and what a girl means when she says yes to some things and no to others. All in all, it seems like it was a really well-thought out plot, and featured the life of one very strong-willed person in such a positive light that I was amazed that more hadn't been made of it long ago. She pursued him, she got what she wanted, she rejected what she didn't want, and she wasn't a nerd, she still had respect and friends and good physical feelings in the morning.

I wonder why I never heard of this?

After Hurricane Katrina: Is It Too Soon To Think Of Books?

Okay, people are needing shelter. I know that.
People are needing basic necessities like food and untainted water and medical care and protection from gun-toting thugs and gun-toting vigilantes.

I wish I could rock the South to sleep and tell them this hurricane/levee breakage/rising water/flooded homes/floating corpses/lost loved ones thing is a bad, bad, dream that will dissipate with the mists of morning.

Wishful thinking aside, I am trying to find something to do here, since I can't go and rescue my relatives (blessedly missed by most of the rising water, as they don't live IN New Orleans; the flood waters didn't rise quite as high in the parishes further away. They're just low on food, have no power and limited phones, and are low on pharmacologicals, but are alive... Thank God, Shiva, Buddha, or whomever - insert your Deity here.) and weeping every time I watch the news is somewhat, um, counter productive..., being the remarkably righteous people they are, have come up with a civic arm that ignores such absurdities as blue/red state, and have come down to the real issues, like housing -- which is a wonderful thing for the people who live within 100 miles of the worst of the grief. I can't help out with that, but h
ere's my best thought so far: I realize the schools and the libraries are going to be rotted stinking pulps of paper waste, in an already low literacy area (Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana - AND all three have rural poverty rates that are amazingly high, no coincidence)... Maybe we can do something like what Pamela Ribbon did for the Oakland School Library system, and come up with some kind of groundswell thing to collect books to support the libraries and schools, in a positive "you're going to reopen someday" kind of mindset. Maybe the LitCrawl thing (which may have our name on it?) can somehow be involved in raising funds or collecting books...? Trying to think... but there's still a lot of static.

We were planning to go to New Orleans for Thanksgiving. Still trying to recalibrate the brain.

Other thoughts, anyone?