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The end of Borders Bookstore… July 22, 2011

Posted by kmcalear in Life, News.
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I get most of my news from NPR these days, so I heard on the morning report that Borders Books was going out of business. I can remember going to the bookstore was one of my favorite things to do when I was a kid. I’d wander around the store until I found just the perfect book, or books, to bring home.

But, for me, that has been a thing of the past for many years now. If I want to wander and try new books, I go to the library, Halfprice books or I browse the amazon ‘look inside’ catalogue and purchase through amazon.com. It’s really hard to beat the prices and convenience of Amazon Prime’s 2 day shipping. And I love the selection! So, although it may be sacrilege to say so as a reader and writer, I won’t miss the Big Box Stores for books. I still go check out the little local book stores like Murder by the book for signings, book groups and a little browsing but for the most part the convenience of the online booksellers have been far easier and more convenient.

What about the rest of you? Does anyone prefer the big bookstore over the online accesibility? Are we losing something with the demise of the Mega Bookstore?


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

Love letters and literature… March 10, 2011

Posted by kmcalear in Inspiration, Life, Musings, Romance.

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.

Friday Flashback: Read poetry September 3, 2010

Posted by kmcalear in Friday Flashback, Life, Poetry.
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Friday Flashback from April 25th, 2008 (Update: I’m almost DONE with my PHD now, I’ll have to update with my new favorite poems next week!)


I’m planning to get my PHD in Spanish poetry, which always stirs stares of shock, dismay and horror from listeners. Poetry is generally described as “emo depressed people” scribbling down angst in esoteric metaphors that don’t really make sense. Or, I regularly hear the complaint, “The author really didn’t mean all that we read into the poem” or, “Poetry is just so… flowery and unreal. No one really feels like that.” Or my favorite, “I just don’t like poetry.”

¡Au contraire, mes amies! Some of our most oft-quoted phrases come directly from the world’s poets. And frankly, if you like music… you like poetry. I think some of the ‘fear’ of poetry comes from the stereotyped idea that understanding the art is best left for the literature einsteins of the world, or that it’s for those weird artsy freaks and not for the normal person. Only “smart people” get poetry, I’ve heard. That’s such a shame. There’s so much of our daily lives that can be found in poetry, it just takes letting go of the fear you won’t understand and realizing that there isn’t a correct answer to what poetry means. The only answer is “What does it mean to you?”

Here are some of my favorite lines from poems, and I’d love to hear any more y’all can come up with. There’s so many, I just had to pick a few!:

  • Tyger! Tyger! burning bright, in the forests of the night, what immortal hand or eye. could frame thy fearful symmetry (William Blake)
  • Do not go gentle into that good night, old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light. (Dylan Thomas)
  • Their’s not to make reply, Their’s not to reason why, Their’s but to do and die: Into the valley of Death, Rode the six hundred. (Tennyson)
  • A cry of defiance, and not of fear, A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door, And a word that shall echo for evermore! For, borne on the night-wind of the Past, Through all our history, to the last, In the hour of darkness and peril and need, The people will waken and listen to hear, The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed, And the midnight message of Paul Revere. (Longfellow)
  • Back, he spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky, With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high! Blood-red were his spurs i’ the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat, When they shot him down on the highway, Down like a dog on the highway, And he lay in his blood on the highway, with a bunch of lace at his throat. (Noyes)
  • Que es mi barco mi tesoro, que es mi dios la libertad,  mi ley, la fuerza y el viento, mi única patria, la mar (Song of the Pirate, Espronceda). (And so my boat is my treasure, my only god liberty, my law, my strength is the wind, and my only allegience the sea)
  • Oh pequeño emperador sin orbe, conquistador sin patria, mínimo tigre de salón, nupcial sultán del cielo  (Neruda, Ode to the cat) (Oh tiny emperor without kingdom, minimal tiger of the parlor, sensual sultan of heaven…)
  • La princesa está triste.. Qué tendrá la princesa? Los suspiros se escapan de su boca de fresa, que ha perdido la risa, que ha perdido el color. La princesa está pálida en su silla de oro; (Dario) (The princess is sad, why is she sad? Her sighs escape from her young lips that have lost their laughter, have lost their color. The princess is pale, sitting on her golden throne)
  • Caronte, yo seré un escándolo en tu barco. Mientras las otras sombras recen, giman, o lloren… yo iré como una alondra cantando por el río (Ibarbourou, Rebel) (Charon, I’d be a scandal on your boat. While the other shades plead, moan or cry, I would go singing like a dove along your river).


Timpanogos Storytelling Festival August 24, 2010

Posted by Realitybypass in Life, Musings.
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I have always had a love for the written word.  I like writing.  I like reading.  I like the texture and the scent and the feel of books.  However, I also love listening.  I love stories told outloud and performed by those who know them well.  I grew up with stories about ancestors and farming life and stories are the only way I know the paternal grandfather who died before I was born.  All of this a long way to just say I love stories.

Once a year in Orem, Utah, not far from where I was raised, national and local storytellers get together for two days of telling.  They tell personal stories, twisted fairytales, cultural mythos and everything around and in between.  And for a few days we all sit in big tents and we listen and live stories of times and places and thoughts.  I always come away from the Timp Festival inspired about my own stories and knowing I have something to share.  If you’ll be in Utah around Labor Day you really should join us (details at http://www.timpfest.org), and if you don’t look for storytelling opportunities in your area.  I truly believe listening to others makes me a better writer and it’s good for the soul.  There’s just something uplifting about gathering around in the quiet and letting go and being told a story.

Jana Brown

Random collection of thoughts… August 3, 2010

Posted by kmcalear in Life, Musings.
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On the Today Show today they mentioned a story about a woman who got a rescue after falling off her bike by tweeting “Help” because the phone had too few bars to actually make a phone call. They also mentioned how narcissistic it can be to update everyone on what you’re doing every moment of the day. I was also thinking about the new Verizon campaign of “Rule the Air”. All of these seem to be encouraging this high level of communication and expression of ideas, which can be good, but at the same time shouldn’t there be some censorship of the strange thoughts that flit through our minds day in and day out? So in honor of that, here are several random thoughts that wandered through my head this morning.

  • I like my job. I work in Special Collections at the library. Librarians really seem to be happy people, in general. I suppose as “service” oriented jobs go, people who come to libraries really aren’t that cranky as a rule, unlike hungry people or people calling tech support. Not to mention you get the benefit of working as part of a large group with a lot of autonomous projects to work on.
  • People really haven’t changed. I read a letter from 1917 declaring the downfall of the United States would be caused if women got the right to vote. Family values would be destroyed… the church as we know it would disappear from the planet… and freedom would disappear from the Earth.
  • On that same note… trolls existed even in 1915! Another letter I found was filled with misspelled profanity laden blubbering directed at one of the female suffragists. Type it up and stick it on any new blog online and you’d never realize it was from 1915.
  • Women do still want heroes. You don’t have to go out and save kittens from trees and rescue damsels, all while wearing tight fitting tights and a cape, but you do have to face the world with self confidence, honesty and a sense of purpose. (Being chivalrous is nice too… there’s a big difference between chivalry and chauvinism!)
  • Why doesn’t Subway advertise its yummy breakfasts?
  • Isn’t it strange that the Sandwich Board sign is coming back? You know the ones where people stand outside in 100 degree heat wearing a sign. Aren’t billboards enough?
  • Michelle Obama seems very nice. Some people just have a “nice guy” (or gal) aura about them. I’d love to meet her, not because she’s the First Lady, but just because she seems like she’d be a lot of fun to talk to.

There you go, random thoughts. What are your random thoughts of the day?

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?

Tests and terror…. April 26, 2010

Posted by kmcalear in Life.
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Well…. I passed my comps! Wahoo… 

Of course it was a moment out of a nightmare too, you know the ones where you oversleep the final exams or you forget to wear clothing to school? I had a major E-mail implosion and had to delete a lot of my emails in my work account thanks to a Spam Explosion filling up my inbox.

I also deleted my email telling me the time for my comprehensive exams. Of course I didn’t consider it an issue because I wrote it in my planner. For some reason though… I wrote 9:30 A.M. I’ve been telling people for 2 weeks it’s 9:30 A.M. Somehow I even made up in my head that my friend Maria had hers an hour after. I’m not sure where it came from. Maybe I dreamed it. After all I’ve dreamed about taking the tests 2 or 3 times already with disastrous results.  Of course… there’s nothing worse than receiving a call from your committee to say “Where are you, are you alright?” Especially when you’d been sitting downstairs for 45 minutes drinking cofee and trying to zen.

Yes, I know. Coffee and zen don’t go together, but I had trouble sleeping! So make that an ‘awake zen’.

Anyway I did pass, and I’ll feel happy about it I’m sure, once I get over feeling like an idiot for mixing up the times. Maybe it’s just a sign of future Professorship…. lack of ability to keep life details organized.

In the meantime…

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!