I want a month of muse

The only problem with the weekend was that it was only a weekend. I read Good Faith by Jane Smiley and Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. I liked both but didn’t love either, which got me thinking about the way in which I classify books.

This is how books break down in my head:

Category 1 – yuck. I couldn’t get past Chapter 3. I always give a book three chapters or thirty pages. If the author doesn’t hook me by then, the book goes back to the library.

Category 2 – meh. There was something in the book that kept me reading – a character or plot twist, f. ex. – but the whole story didn’t hang together for me. This is a very useful category because books like this help me understand where my own weaknesses as a writer are.

Category 3 – good enough. About 85% of what I read falls in this category. I kept reading because I was engaged in the characters and the story, I closed the book with a feeling of satisfaction. The author did her/his job and I will look for more that s/he has written. Usually there was one quality of the book that stood out for me. In Good Faith, it was the evocation of the early 1980’s, in Gilead, it was the language and voice that was so perfect for the story itself. But the book was not good enough to break into ….

… Category 4 – amazing. These are the books I rave about and buy multiple copies of for friends. These are the books that make me laugh out loud or weep. These are the books that take me away from this world and transport me into the world of the story – so much so that I lose track of time and get in trouble for it. Only a couple of books a year fall into this category. (Sometimes a year will go by without me reading a book that I feel is good enough for Category 4. That is depressing.)

In addition to reading, I worked on a couple picture book manuscripts and wrote in my journal (the old-fashioned one) for the first time in years. BH and I took a long walk up at Fort Ontario when the sun was shining. There is a small graveyard there where Revolutionary War soldiers are interred, and the body of a baby born while her father was posted to the fort. There was mist on the horizon. The line where the lake met the sky was blurred and lavender. Hunks of ice bumped against the shore. BH made the best batch of chili ever last night and we ate it while watching the March Madness selection show. Eight Big East teams!

If you live in the area and are looking for something to do tonight, my dad, Frank Halse, is giving a poetry reading at the Mexico Public Library at 6:30pm. He turns 79 in a couple weeks and he is still writing new poetry and giving public readings. I think that’s cool.

Calling time-out

First – major congrats and humble bows to Gerry Mac who put the entire Syracuse community on his back last night and won the game against Georgetown. It was amazing.

Next – we had robins in our yard this morning. Of course, it is supposed to snow later this week, but we’ll take hints of spring where we can find them. The farmers down the road are tapping their maple trees. The earth is waking up.

I have loved reading all of the haiku you guys sent in. Wow! I hope the prompt got your muses busy.

That’s what I need right now – a busy muse. So I am calling a Creative Weekend. No more hotel reservations, no more email or taxes or anything that is not fictional or creative. My muse is hungry and it is time to feed her.

See you Monday.


Many thanks to everyone who shared their haiku yesterday. They were terrific.

So here’s another challenge: write a haiku about your mother’s hands. See if you can make it a positive one (so we can balance out yesterday’s frowns), but try to avoid using words like “happy”. SHOW the emotion with the details you choose, instead of telling us about it. Can you do it?

After a couple days sorting through twelve months worth of receipts, I am ready to send all of my tax info off to my accountant. This is such a huge relief I can’t begin to tell you. After the trip to the post office, I’m taking my mom to a doctor’s appt. If she’s feeling well enough, maybe we’ll go out for doughnuts and coffee after.

This weekend I need to finish up all of the travel and hotel reservations for my April road trip. I can almost see the surface of my desk. I had forgotten what a beautiful color it was.

Anyone else following the Big East Tournament? Syracuse is playing Georgetown at 7 tonight on ESPN. It’s the one game I can’t lose: my home team vs. my college team. Orange Saxa!

about contests and the promise of snow

Lake effect snow bands are circling our house, taunting me. I have a stack of library books, plenty of pencils and wood for the fireplace. And hot chocolate. And emergency stores of oatmeal and raisins. Snow, ye wretched clouds, snow!!

I am still on the phone trying to straighten out Mom’s insurance. Literally. I am on hold as I type this.

A winner has been chosen for the Baker & Taylor PROM fanfiction contest. As soon as I am allowed, I’ll be posting the winner’s information and story online. We are also working on the LJ contest that you’ll read about here. Prize will be a DVD of the movie version of SPEAK.

I have a lot of fan mail that has backed up – will try to get to it later this week. The touring season is almost upon me again. At the end of February I’m flying to Bellingham, WA to visit a school and a conference, and the following week I head to Spartanburg, SC.

Loved the Superbowl last night, but I would have loved it more if it hadn’t been for some really crappy calls that went against Seattle. It made it hard to feel like Pittsburgh had earned an honest victory. And I must admit – I was disappointed in the Rolling Stones. Mick should have spent less time prancing and more time actually trying to sing. Yeah, you’re still in shape and you can still move, Mr. Jagger. We got that. Now, the song, please? At least he spared us the view of his chest.

Fact du jour: George Washington liked corn cakes with melted butter and honey. …. so do I.