Friday, May 17, 2019

Dahl Study: Skin

My author study of Roald Dahl started with a reading of his Collected Stories while watching the accompanying episode of Tales of the Unexpected. Each Friday I'll recap a story and show (with spoilers, just so you know), but I encourage you to read and watch them on your own if you're interested!

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"Skin" from Collected Stories (read 1/9/19)

A man meets a young artist and commissions the artist to paint his wife's portrait. One night the three get drunk together, and the husband has the artist tattoo a large portrait of the wife on his back. Years later, the man has lost touch with the artist, but sees his name in a gallery window. The man is old and poor and dirty and almost gets thrown out of the gallery because of how he looks, before he takes off his shirt and shows everyone his tattoo. They recognize it as the artist's work, and a bidding war starts - they want his skin! Finally, he chooses a man who wants live art at his resort - the resort owner wants the man to live at his resort and be pampered, as long as he walks around with his shirt off so all the guests can see the artwork. Later the skin is shown framed and hung.

"Skin" from Tales of the Unexpected (viewed 1/9/19)

The film followed the story well, except it seems like the artist and the wife he painted had an affair. In the story, the artist lusted after the wife, but I don't think she reciprocated.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Library Volunteers - available today!

My book, Library Volunteers: A Practical Guide for Librarians, is being released in the wild today! You can order it from the publisher, Rowman & Littlefield, or on Amazon.

The book is a handbook about how to create and maintain a volunteer program. While the specifics, such as job duties, focus on library volunteers, this handbook can truly work for any organization that can benefit from volunteers. And let me tell you, from my experience, almost any organization can benefit from volunteers! You can read more about my writing and researching process here.

I pulled from my background of creating the volunteer program for a nonprofit to lay the groundwork, so that information applies to any organization. Sample paperwork is even include, which can be copied directly from the book, or tweaked a bit for specific organizations.

I genuinely think this book can benefit many organizations. It's not a book that I would ask friends and family to buy to show their support, but please consider recommending it to your local library or any nonprofits you know that use or could use volunteers! That's the best way to help this book make a difference.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Parallel Universes in Realistic Fiction

I first read The Other Life by Ellen Meister in 2011, shortly after it came out. I loved the concept and the writing, and loved Meister's other books when I read them later. But the overall concept of The Other Life stuck with me. Quinn finds a portal in her laundry room that allows her to travel between the life she used to live with an old boyfriend, and her current life with her husband and son. I've previously written about the book:
There is a supernatural element of the portals that take Quinn from her "real" life to her other life, but they are explained very well, and it was easy to picture the fissures and Quinn's travel without feeling like you'd been displaced into a sci-fi novel. The portals are logically discussed before the end of the book, and with the focus being more on people and relationships than the paranormal, I would say this book is literary fiction more so than being classified in any sub-genre.

I loved the concept because I always liked wondering what would happen if. I remember being a kid at my grandparents' house, spacing out and wondering what things would feel like if I didn't exist. I wouldn't even know what I was missing. Pretty strange thoughts for a seven-year-old, but I think that's where all my wondering started. Every time I've made a big decision relating to moves, jobs, schools, etc, I take a few minutes to imagine how each path might turn out. I know there's no way to really know how things will be until you're in the moment, but some of my decisions have been drastic enough (like being offered two jobs in dramatically different fields) that I can speculate.

Then the TV show Community rocked my world with "Remedial Chaos Theory", a remarkable episode of television, especially for a half-hour sitcom, that approaches the concept of parallel universes. Each time the dice are rolled, a different outcome plays, showing everyone all the things that could have possibly happened if one thing was changed. 

I recently got hooked by Taylor Jenkins Reid, and loved her book Maybe In Another Life. It was more like The Other Life than "Remedial Chaos Theory", but it was really well done. Hannah has been feeling adrift in her life, unsure of everything from what career she should pursue to what city she should live in. When a friend convinces her to come back to her hometown of LA, Hannah is willing to try, partially because her high school boyfriend still lives there. On her first night back, Hannah goes to a bar with her friend to have a "welcome home!" party. In one universe, she goes home with her high school boyfriend to rekindle their romance. In the other, she goes home with the friend she's staying with. The chapters alternate from that point on, and the story develops so beautifully.

By the end, I did have a few questions about some of the "meant to be" aspects in one universe that didn't seem to completely apply in the other, so I need someone else to read this and talk to me about it! The last couple of chapters also had some of the same paragraphs copied and pasted - I know it's to show how things can be the same in both universes and still be "right" in each separate one, but as a reader, I don't want to see the exact same verbiage twice. I skimmed those paragraphs, but that was my only minor "issue" with the book.

Last year I started writing down some of my bigger decisions that led to one thing and could have gone a totally different way. It was my goal to write poems about what might have happened if I made the opposite choice. I haven't been able to find a good starting point, but reflecting on these books and episodes might be giving me the creative kick I need.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Dahl Study: Royal Jelly

My author study of Roald Dahl started with a reading of his Collected Stories while watching the accompanying episode of Tales of the Unexpected. Each Friday I'll recap a story and show (with spoilers, just so you know), but I encourage you to read and watch them on your own if you're interested!

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"Royal Jelly" from Collected Stories (read 1/9/19)

I had no clue what this one would be about, but once I started, I was hooked. A beekeeper is reading about royal jelly in a magazine. Royal jelly is made by bees to make a queen rich and healthy, and studies have been done on rats with similar results. When the beekeeper and his wife have a baby after nine years of trying, they are upset that she is rapidly losing weight. The wife is stressed, and when her husband drones on and on about royal jelly, she keeps picturing him as a bee excitedly buzzing around. Her husband reveals that he has been feeding the baby royal jelly, which helped her grow rapidly. The wife is pleased, but then gets worried. The husband reveals he has been taking it, too - that's how they finally had a baby after nine years of trying!

"Royal Jelly" from Tales of the Unexpected (viewed 1/9/19)

This started off like the story, but the beekeeper gave an interview on TV instead of reading about royal jelly in a magazine. It made me wonder why it took him so long to use royal jelly with his daughter, since he knew about it and had been using it on himself already. The ending is pretty hokey, with the man slurring his "s"s into "zzzz"s and the end fading out with a weird screen effect and a scream, like a cheaply made YouTube clip. Check it out on my Instagram account and let me know what you think!

Friday, May 3, 2019

Dahl Study: The Way Up to Heaven

My author study of Roald Dahl started with a reading of his Collected Stories while watching the accompanying episode of Tales of the Unexpected. Each Friday I'll recap a story and show (with spoilers, just so you know), but I encourage you to read and watch them on your own if you're interested!

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"The Way Up to Heaven" from Collected Stories (read 1/6/19)

A woman gets incredibly anxious about making appointments on time (I could totally relate to this, and felt anxious with her in many parts of the story!). Her husband often makes her wait a few minutes for him, and her eye starts to twitch. Before leaving for a long trip to Paris, he makes her wait and antagonizes her about her anxiety and punctuality. He runs back to the house for something. She waits, then starts to go after him. She changes her mind and leaves him. When she returns, she seems to know something is up and calls a repairman to come fix her elevator. I guess she knew he was trapped in there? I'm not sure.

"The Way Up to Heaven" from Tales of the Unexpected (viewed 1/6/19)

The film closely followed the story, but clarified a lot for me. As soon as I saw the elevator was metal/mesh, I understood the ending. There was also a clarification in that the wife heard her husband calling for her from inside the house when she went back to look after him. She peeked through the mail slot before leaving him there. She knew he was trapped, but might have just left him hanging. She doesn't seem surprised or sad when she comes back from her trip and he's still there. She also went to New York instead of Paris - I wonder why the change?