Friday, March 28, 2008

More On Our Author

I found this essay on one of my favorite online magazines, StorySouth. It reveals quite a bit about Harper Lee. Thought you might enjoy reading this before beginning the book.

Have a good weekend.

Writer Woman

Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Little About the Author and What To Read and When to Comment

First before I get started I'd like to recommend The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs. It's soon to be a movie, staring Julia Roberts. I did not expect to enjoy this book as much as I did. I highly recommend it to all women. It is about women relationships. Beautiful book.

Now on to the subject of the day, reading schedule and a little about the author. Because I'm a writer, I'm always interested in the author of a book I'm reading. Up until a few months ago, I believed Harper Lee had died. I'm not sure why I thought this; other than she doesn't get mentioned much anymore. That's what I got for thinking. I opened an Oprah magazine and found a letter she had written about reading. She was alive and well. So, how does a writer write one book, a book that takes the biggest prize, the oscar of writing, the Pulitzer, and then basically walk away from writing? Here's what I've found about her. Thought you might be interested to know.

Nelle Harper Lee (born April 28, 1926) is an American novelist known for her Pulitzer Prize–winning 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird, her only major work to date. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom of United States for her contributions to literature in 2007.

Harper Lee, known to friends and family as Nelle, was born in the Alabama town of Monroeville on April 28, 1926, the youngest of four children born to Amasa Coleman Lee and Frances Cunningham Finch Lee. Her father, a former newspaper editor and proprietor, was a lawyer who also served on the state legislature from 1926 to 1938. As a child, Lee was a tomboy and a precocious reader, and enjoyed the friendship of her schoolmate and neighbor, the young Truman Capote.

After graduating from high school in Monroeville,[2] Lee enrolled first at the all-female Huntingdon College in Montgomery (1944-45), and then pursued a law degree at the University of Alabama (1945-49), pledging the Chi Omega sorority. While there, she wrote for several student publications and spent a year as editor of the campus humor magazine, Ramma-Jamma. Though she did not complete the requirements for a law degree, she pursued studies for a summer in Oxford, England, before moving to New York in 1950, where she worked as a reservation clerk with Eastern Air Lines and BOAC in New York City.

Lee continued working as a reservation clerk until the late 50s, when she resolved to devote herself to writing. She lived a frugal lifestyle, traveling between her cold-water-only apartment in New York to her family home in Alabama to care for her ailing father.

Having written several long stories, Harper Lee located an agent in November 1956. The following month at the East 50th townhouse of her friends Michael Brown and Joy Williams Brown, she received a gift of a year's wages with a note: "You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas."[3] Within a year, she had a first draft. Working closely with J. B. Lippincott & Co. editor Tay Hohoff, she completed To Kill a Mockingbird in the summer of 1959. Published July 11, 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird was an immediate bestseller and won her great critical acclaim, including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1961. It remains a bestseller today, with over 30 million copies in print. In 1999, it was voted "Best Novel of the Century" in a poll conducted by the Library Journal.

Many details of To Kill a Mockingbird are apparently autobiographical. Like Lee, the tomboy Scout is the daughter of a respected small town Alabama attorney. The plot involves a legal case, the workings of which would have been familiar to Lee, who studied law. Scout's friend Dill is commonly supposed to have been inspired by Lee's childhood friend and neighbor, Truman Capote, while Lee is the model for a character in Capote's first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms.

Harper Lee has downplayed autobiographical parallels of the book. Yet Truman Capote, mentioning the character Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird, described the details he considered biographical: "In my original version of Other Voices, Other Rooms I had that same man living in the house that used to leave things in the trees, and then I took that out. He was a real man, and he lived just down the road from us. We used to go and get those things out of the trees. Everything she wrote about it is absolutely true. But you see, I take the same thing and transfer it into some Gothic dream, done in an entirely different way."

After completing To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee accompanied Capote to Holcomb, Kansas, to assist him in researching what they thought would be an article on a small town's response to the murder of a farmer and his family. Capote expanded the material into his best-selling book, In Cold Blood (1966). The experiences of Capote and Lee in Holcomb were depicted in two different films, Capote (2005) and Infamous (2006).

Since the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee has granted almost no requests for interviews or public appearances, and with the exception of a few short essays, has published no further writings. She did work on a second novel for years, eventually filing it away unpublished.[citation needed] During the mid-1980s, she began writing a book of nonfiction about an Alabama serial murderer, but she put it aside when she was not satisfied with the result.[citation needed] Her withdrawal from public life has prompted persistent but unfounded speculation that new publications are in the works. Similar speculation has followed the American writers J. D. Salinger and Ralph Ellison.

Lee said of the 1962 Academy Award–winning screenplay adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird by Horton Foote: "If the integrity of a film adaptation can be measured by the degree to which the novelist's intent is preserved, Mr. Foote's screenplay should be studied as a classic."[citation needed] She also became a close friend of Gregory Peck, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of Atticus Finch, the father of the novel's narrator, Scout. She remains close to the actor's family. Peck's grandson, Harper Peck Voll, is named after her.

In June 1966, Lee was one of two persons named by President Lyndon B. Johnson to the National Council on the Arts.

When Lee attended the 1983 Alabama History and Heritage Festival in Eufaula, Alabama, she presented the essay "Romance and High Adventure."

Lee has been known to split time between an apartment in New York and her sister's home in Monroeville. She has accepted honorary degrees but has declined to make speeches. In March 2005, she arrived via Amtrak in Philadelphia — her first trip to the city since signing with publisher Lippincott in 1960 — to receive the inaugural ATTY Award for positive depictions of attorneys in the arts from the Spector Gadon & Rosen Foundation. At the urging of Peck's widow Veronique, Lee traveled by train from Monroeville to Los Angeles in 2005 to accept the Los Angeles Public Library Literary Award. She has also attended luncheons for students who have written essays based on her work held annually at the University of Alabama.[6][7] On May 21, 2006, she accepted an honorary degree from the University of Notre Dame. To honor her, the graduating seniors were given copies of Mockingbird before the ceremony and held them up when she received her degree.

In a letter published in Oprah Winfrey's magazine O (May 2006), Lee wrote about her early love of books as a child and her steadfast dedication to the written word: "Now, 75 years later in an abundant society where people have laptops, cell phones, iPods and minds like empty rooms, I still plod along with books."

While attending an August 20, 2007 ceremony inducting four new members into the Alabama Academy of Honor, Lee responded to an invitation to address the audience with "Well, it's better to be silent than to be a fool."

Thanks to Wikipedia for this info.

Reading and Comment schedule: (Comments can be made online through blog or sent to me through email)

April 5th you may comment on chapters 1-7
April 12th comments on chapters 8-15
April 19th comments on chapters 16-22
April 26th comments on chapters 23-31 complete book
April 22th announcing book for May

Okay guys, buy your books and have at it. I look forward to everyone's comments.

Writer Woman

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

And The Winner Is!

I'm excited to say that we have six people that have voted and joined in this new adventure. The winner with five votes is (drum roll please. the model brings out the envelope.) TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD with five votes. Yeah! You know I love my southern writing.

You can begin reading the book anytime, but let's say we need to have the book by April 2, 2008. At the end of the week you may post comments or questions on chapters 1-4. If you don't read that far, don't read the comments. There may be spoilers. There is no limit on how little or how much you read, but only comment on chapters 1-4. We will do this each week in the month of April. The last week in April I will post the new book and questions to ponder on the current book.

I will make my comments as a post each week. You may make your comments in the comment section or send via email and I will post them for you.

I think this will be a lot of fun. Since we are online, there are no limits to how many members join. Please pass the word.

Now it's credit time. I wish I could say I came up with this idea, but I didn't. I was having a conversation with my oldest daughter about writing book reviews. She made the suggestion. Yeah oldest daughter!

I will post a reading schedule tomorrow. Remember you do not have to follow it. You may read the book all in one sitting or spread it out over the whole month. Follow the schedule only for comments.

Writer Woman

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

In The Spirit of Reading

Why not a book club? Who is on board? In a day and time when meeting somewhere is always tough, lets give an online bookclub a shot. I'm thinking we should do a few classics to begin our group.

What do you think? What book would you like to read first? Choices below:

1. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
2. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
3. The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Please leave your comments.

Hope to see your vote.

Writer Woman

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Write A Story

I’m reading Ron Carlson Writes a Story. I highly recommend this book for writers in all stages. He takes the process of writing and puts it into terms that writers get, or this writer anyway. He talks about the outer story and how in writing this, our inner story evolves on its own. ‘Just the facts please’ is a term he uses more than once. Bring your writing to life with detail or the inventory of the scene.

I plan on using some of his suggestions on a recent story rewrite. I’ve finally come to understand that the only way I’m going to be the best writer I can is by writing more and talking less. I’ve always known this, but I find ways to escape the writing. I get up and go get coffee. I check my email. I stop to do research right at that minute. All of these are excuses to get away from the guts of my story.

Tomorrow I will write without disturbing my writing. I will not check email, get coffee, or research. I will write. I let you know how the rewrite of the story goes.

Writer Woman

Monday, March 17, 2008

A Person is a Person No Matter How Small

The grass is beginning to grow in the yard and that means the task of mowing will begin soon. After all the terrible storms we’ve endured the past few days, I’m surprised it’s not a foot high. Downtown Atlanta was hit by a tornado for the first time ever. My middle daughter lives in downtown. Her home escaped the storm, but two miles up the road in the lofts where she lived a year ago, there was complete devastation. The building in which she lived collapsed in on itself. The pictures and film clips on the news gives me a sick stomach. Everyone is well. My other daughters who live in North Georgia where tornados hit all day Saturday came out fine.

Hubby, Little Daughter, and I (writer woman) went to see Horton Hears a Who yesterday. It was a wonderful little movie with the original message Dr. Seuss intended. After the movie, we popped into Borders located next door to the theater. I bought two new novels. I just devour books now days. I splurged and bought Joshilyn Jackson’s new novel, The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, in hard cover, and an older novel by Emily Listfield. It was a wonderful to go home with two new books.

I hope to write a review on Jackson’s book. My book reviews help me keep my very fiction toes in nonfiction.

So I close today thinking of Horton as they are dragging him into the large cage and carrying the clover away saying, “Boil that dust speck. Boil that dust speck.” The people in Whoville are screaming, “We are here. We are here.” And then that one little quiet who adds its voice to the chant. And the crowd about to boil the dust speck hears the tiny screams. Speak up when you have something worth saying and be quiet, listen when the time comes. You may just save a world or hear something you would have missed if you were too busy trying to boil that dust speck.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Moving Forward

Writer Woman has spent the past two weeks with the flu. This sickness narrowed her world. The first three days she spent in bed unable to stand for more than two minutes at a time. On the fourth day, she moved her laptop in bed with her. Writing was not an option, but reading a few emails was doable. The fifth day brought a need to put words into the computer. She spent an hour writing on the memoir, or better known as the monster from the lagoon. But it felt wonderful to write. You know you have it bad when you write even though you can barely hold your head off the pillow.

Now nearly two weeks later, Writer Woman has begun to feel hunger pains. She sits at her desk in the bedroom conspiring to write a short entry for her blog. She has read many new books and drank cases of water.

What can a writer learn from this? Writing is part of you. It never goes away even when you're too sick to write. It just waits. All the words lined up, tapping their toes in anticipation.