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Review: Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo June 29, 2011

Posted by kmcalear in Book Review, Inspiration, Life, Religious.
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I don’t tend to read “religious inspirational” novels all that often, as I prefer to stick to the bible and the homilies of my priest at church. Many of these type of novels tend to have a “preachy” or “conversional” aspect that I dislike. That, alone, is one of the strengths of this book. Todd Burpo never tries to convert anyone openly. There’s simply an aspect of ‘telling a life story’. In fact much of the story deals with the trials and tests of faith that the family goes through dealing with the illness of their son. It can be, at times, hard to read the raw honesty the pastor relates even knowing there’s a “happy ending” but seeing a Pastor go through the same “What are you doing to me God?” questions many people ask in his situation can be a source of comfort and camaraderie. One of the book’s messages, at its core is: Pastors and priests are human too, after all, and doubt and disbelief are a part of the human makeup as much as faith and trust.

That said, I found the book thouroughly enjoyable and I simply couldn’t put it down. I read it all night long. The prose is very readable and the human interest story holds your attention without becoming maudlin or weepy. As a practicing Catholic I found the child’s claims interesting and thought provoking as well as to what heaven may be like. You don’t necessarily have to believe what Colton says in order to have an interesting discussion about the child’s interpretation. After all, if his claims are true they are being mediated through the understanding of a child. If they’re not, it still leaves you with interesting idea to consider. I particularly liked the inclusion of the Akiane painting of Jesus, which is both a beautiful painting and another interesting point to consider. All together I think this novel is an interesting, and thought provoking Christian inspirational story. 

Genre:  Inspirational, Religious

Age: Adult, Teenager

Content:  Scary scenes of illness, Themes of death, resurrection, miscarriage, apocalypse

Overall:  4.5/5

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Love letters and literature… March 10, 2011

Posted by kmcalear in Inspiration, Life, Musings, Romance.
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I’m taking French, one of the many requirements for the PHD. I recently was able to read a passage from L’education sentimentale by Flaubert in its native language and found it captivating. It got me thinking, though, of a lost art: the love letter. With the speed of e-mail and texting, we have a lot of electronic-flirting, but some of that is the ‘gut instinct’ communication. But… do people still write love letters? I know a few friends who try to do love notes in their relationships, but what about actual letters. We see romance on tv, we read about it in books, we sing about it in songs, we celebrate it on Valentine’s day, but in our personal lives do we truly take those risks?

I know that I pulled over on the freeway to listen to love letters read on NPR from an author to his sweetheart. I don’t remember the author, but I remember the letters were so compelling I couldn’t focus on the drive. Working in Special Collections I have discovered the power of reading letters between friends and lovers, and the beauty of the prose and turn of phrase you can find in them. People used to read them as literature, as well, but I don’t recall being given any in my education. In Women’s Studies there is an argument that the ‘letter’ and the ‘diary’ is a form of literature that has been ignored because it may have been more the province of ‘the sentimental’ rather than the ‘cerebral’ which is celebrated in literature.

How many of you have written or received a love letter? In my life I’ve received one, when I was 15 years old. I kick myself for not keeping it, even though it terrified me. I wasn’t emotionally ready for such a thing at the time. I have now, at 28, written my first love/goodbye letter. It was liberating, it was fun in a way, it was self-educating… and it was terrifying. But it was also gratifying to hear from the few close friends I asked to ‘edit it’ for me, that they found it touching. What more can a writer ask for?

And… as writers and artists, aren’t we asked to fearlessly bare our subconscious to the world? So… if you haven’t written a love letter, why not try it! If you don’t have someone in your life right now that you’d write to, why not try to writea “friendship” letter to a friend, explaining the value of your friendship? And I’d love to hear about some of the best/worst love letter experiences others have had.

Opera weekends… January 31, 2011

Posted by kmcalear in Inspiration, Life, Literature.
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People’s reactions to opera the first time they see it is very dramatic; they either love it or they hate it. If they love it, they will always love it. If they don’t, they may learn to appreciate it, but it will never become part of their soul.” — “Pretty Woman”

I think I agree with this quote, but the addenda does need to be: reaction to a GOOD opera. My first trip to the opera was a night seeing two shorts “Cavalleria Rusticana” and “Pagliaci”.

The show opened with Cavalleria Rusticana which was decent, but my reaction to it was thinking the soprano was okay and the tenor had no panache. The set was moderate, up to the grand Easter procession at the end.

Thankfully, the next was “Pagliaci” and this opera gave me the “love it or hate it” reaction mentioned in “Pretty Woman”. I was enthralled. The story was captivating, even though you knew how it would end. But then, don’t we usually know how these ‘scorned love’ stories end in movies and books? The tenor and the soprano were able to act with their bodies and voices and the actress in me was amazed. The staging was stunning as well, stark and beautifully reflecting the story line and letting the singers and important moments be highlighted with splashes of color. It was so inspiring I created an entire character whose climactic point of life was centered around Opera and the “Pagliaci” work, as well as it’s themes of loneliness, betrayal and revenge.

One of the really intriguing things about Opera is how often we forget that it used to be “entertainment for the masses”. There is a /reason/ daytime tv features “Soap Operas”. The themes and plots aren’t high brow or esoteric. One of my literature professors insisted that, no matter your field, no literary critic is worth his or her salt if unfamiliar with opera. The storylines and symbols permeate our culture, still today.

And I still think you can’t beat “art” painted for more than just one sense for inspiration and enjoyment.

2am posting… May 9, 2010

Posted by kmcalear in Inspiration, Life, Musings, Writing Craft.
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The writing process is always an interesting journey. I very diligently sat down under the light of the sun in order to work on my term papers, the final one due on Tuesday. I told myself I would finish them, and leave the evening for goofing off and more importantly, the night time for sleeping. But for some reason… I keep getting jolted out of bed at 12 midnight to do my best writing. I agonized over 5 pages all day, and just breezed through the edits of those first five and an additional 6 in the last 2 hours. I’m going to be exhausted at church tommorow I’m sure, but all I want to do is keep working on it now that I’ve gotten into that writing groove.

This is why I tell people my muse is a big blue tiger, similar to Hobbes (only blue), that hits me with strange ideas when I should be sleeping. Are there any other midnight to 3 am writers out there?

To go along with Jana’s most recent post… April 12, 2010

Posted by kmcalear in Inspiration, Life.
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One more day til the end of my tests, wahoo! It’s been a long 2 months.  I’ve also recently discovered a great font of good writing ideas: cooking! It’s funny how when I’m destroying my kitchen cooking I get a lot of ideas for new stories.

Also I just finished the latest of the Connor Grey series and also started poking at the latest Anton Strout, after all you can only study so long before your mind starts to do protest somersaults and those kept me sane! (Well that and the steady delivery of food from friends and family… thanks Noelle, Amy, Alan, Jessica, Jana, Vanessa, Papa, Mom and Dad!) Makes me wonder how I managed this during my Masters degree without starving!

Kristen

All in a new year’s work… January 11, 2010

Posted by kmcalear in Inspiration, Life, Literature, Plans.
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It’s about time I came out of hibernation. Don’t worry, even my family was sending me phone messages asking me “Kristen, where have you been?” I don’t know what it is about that end of semester crunch, but I always end up vanishing for a good week or two and avoiding having to be much of anywhere. But I’m back, and going to dutifully return to keeping up with posting among other things.

So what are the New Years Resolutions on this end? I have a few, actually.

1) Manage to work on Dissertation proposal AND papers early to save the fits of tears and horror, that come with Comprehensive exams.

2) Lose ten pounds, which involves eating better, DDR every day for 45 minutes, and sleeping more.

3) Finding time to write creatively. I  took a vacation from that too into the realm of online RPGs, papers, and working 2 jobs+classes.

4) Donating 3/4 of my closet… and replacing it over the next few months. 90%% of the clothing is old… very very old. Retirement to pasture old…. I don’t know why I keep shirts I hate, and never wear and they stay clean because I’d rather wash clothes at midnight than wear them. It’s strange.

5) Continuing with piano and singing… because it’s fun!

So what resolutions did you all make?

Christmas Traditions – A Christmas Carol December 14, 2009

Posted by Realitybypass in Inspiration, Life, Musings.
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It’s how I know it’s the holidays.  Not a jolly elf in a fuzzy red suit, but a miser with a ghost problem.  I read the book, it’s really not that long and a quick tale and then the dear husband and I go see the play.  We go to the Hale Center Theater here in Utah, because there’s just nothing like watching A Christmas Carol in the round.  I love the music, the message and the change to think about the past, present and future, those we’ve loved and lost and what we’re building towards.

This story is also a tradition in my more extended family and goes back years to when the Muppets first donned the garb of Victorian England.   Some people watch Ralphy and the Red Ryder BB gun every year, we watched the Muppets, all night Christmas Eve…or until no one is awake to hit play again, whichever came first.   Now we all have families of our own, and there will be the Muppets at my house…I’m pretty sure theirs too.

Beyond the Nativity, my absolute favorite, it’s this little piece by Charles Dickens that makes the season for me.  How about for you?

Jana

Do you NaNo your WriMo? November 2, 2009

Posted by Realitybypass in Inspiration, Life, Writing Craft.
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It’s November.  For some people the month of November represents pies and Thanksgiving celebrations, colored leaves and maybe even snow.  In Author and wanna be author land it launches a thirty day sprint to write 50,000 words known as NaNoWriMo (National novel Writing Month).  Now, lest anyone think I disapprove of NaNo I’ve done it before.  I’ll likely do it again.  I’ve pondered doing it this year and concluded that there are some other goals I want to reach with my writing and a frantic race to the end of the month won’t give me what I need.  However, I’m in support of those who are.

Sooo…who out there is NaNoing?  And besides chocolate and caffine what steps have you put in place to prepare yourselves for the work to come?

~J

Snappy Dialogue: Friday! October 30, 2009

Posted by kmcalear in Inspiration, Television, Writing Craft.
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Hi folks,

I thought for this Friday I’d leave you guys with some snappy dialogue from one of my favorite shows, Psych.  This is from the episode Bollywood Homicide recently, where the characters go to eat at their client’s house, who happens to be South Indian. I thought this was a very good example of humor in dialogue from the show. The show itself is ripe with good stichomythia as it’s a characterstic of the interplay of the two leads.

Shawn, Gus, and Abigail are at Raj’s house eating dinner.
Raj: you know guys, my grandmother does make her food a little spicy. You might want to take it easy?”
Gus: Please; I’m ¼ Jamaican.
Shawn: I’m also ¼ Jamaican.
Gus: You are not. Stop telling people that.
(They both stare into space as they realize it’s too hot!)
Shawn: I’m sorry was this chicken seasoned with molten lava?
(Gus and Shawn are quivering)
Shawn turns to Abigail : Really?, Your just fine?!
Abigail: What’s the matter Shawn you don’t like it?
Shawn: No, I think I like it to much. It’s so authentic. Dude I can’t see anything out of my left eye!
Gus: I see dead people!
(Shawn and Gus reach for their water)
Shawn: Oh my god! Even the water is spicy!
Gus: Who does that?!

Best research methods? October 15, 2009

Posted by kmcalear in Inspiration, Life, Uncategorized, Writing Craft.
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It’s mid-semester which means right about now I’m waking up in the middle of the night in a cold panic about all the papers I haven’t even managed to find time to research for. AGH! Every semester I promise myself to have them done a month early, but somehow juggling three classes makes that hard, on top of 2 jobs and trying to have some fun in the meantime. Thankfully… lately, I’ve been getting great ideas for papers. Now I just have to actually sit down and do the work to get them written out. But isn’t that always the writing problem?

This got me thinking about research methods for writing and novels. Jana and I both tend to like to do a lot of internet research, but I do think what really helps me when I work on a setting is visiting the place. Unfortunately that doesn’t always happen, thanks to financial feaseability, but I’d love to eventually add that into my method.

I do tend to start listening to things my characters listen to, eat food they like, go to sports/entertainment events the characters would enjoy and pick up books that suit them to get into the ‘Mind’ of the character. I like to approach the research from a character view and then stretch outwards, perhaps some national geographic or travel channel (Alas I have to go to the workout room for that, no home tv anymore. Curse you economic recession!)

Do you research setting first? Characters first? Do you do character sketches, backgrounds, or try to take on some of your character’s traits? How do you research?