……because I love reading and have more books on my To Be Read shelf than I’ll ever be able to finish. I dream mostly about books I’ve already read, but on some occasions, I’ll dream of titles I’d seen, but never really intrigued me enough to actually pick up. When those books show up in my dream, I go out and get them – either from the library or the bookstore.
Case in point – years ago, I dreamt that I was driving along a highway that merged into another highway. Underneath the overpass was a dry-docked tall ship – it was in perfect condition, but abandoned. Somehow, I was able to park my car and climb inside the ship, which I took my own sweet time exploring (because, really, who wouldn’t?). In the captain’s cabin, I found two books – Outlander and Voyager. I recognized them immediately, since a friend worked in a bookstore and I’d seen them on the shelves.
I immediately picked up those two titles (first and third, respectively), as well as the other two titles that were available at the time. I read them in about a month (yes, I know they’re bricks, but I read IT by Stephen King in three days, so…….) and was wiped out with the breadth and depth of the characters. Although there have since been several more titles (and a TV series) released, I stopped at book four.
I guess I got what I needed out of them, although to this day, I’m still not sure what it was I’d been looking for in those books.
Most recently, I’d dreamt about Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz. I’d read a number of Koontz’s books over the years, but I’ve always preferred Stephen King. No disrespect intended – I just don’t mesh with Koontz’s style in the way I do with King’s. That said, my subconscious chose that title to communicate with me about something in my waking life.
How I came upon the book in my dream was interesting – I was as I am in the Here and Now, in an antique store. A friend whom I grew up with was also in the dream, only he resembled his high school age self, with some of his intellectual and emotional growth as an adult. The shop did not carry books, not even used ones, but on one shelf was a row of books, all brand new and I pulled out Odd Thomas. I remember thinking I could get it used at my local used book store, but it seemed imperative that I get the book immediately.
So I did.
And, in case you were wondering, I did indeed pick up the book a few days later.
Used. From my local used book store.
And I’m pretty sure I know what my subconscious mind was telling me.
1. It is the ultimate form of abuse to tell someone who has finally found their voice and courage to speak up and say “No more!” to being disrespected, abused and bullied that they need therapy.
2. If you can’t speak up for yourself, you will never be able to speak up for others.
3. Carrie Fisher is my rebel patron saint of No Fucks to Give.
4. I am feeling a tremendous amount of pure energy in my heart and soul. Yesterday, I could hardly sit still – I wanted to move hills and reshape valleys and redirect rivers. For lack of a better word, I will call it the Force.
5. I am one with the Force, the Force is one with me.
6. I know the difference between someone making a naughty joke and someone who is deadly fucking serious.
7. I am enough.
8. The actions, feelings and words of others are not my problem – do not attempt to make it so.
9. A woman who knows her own power and claims it is not to be trifled with.
10. I am surrounded by books. I may have to send up the white flag and surrender.
Before I even set foot into the movie theater, I felt surrounded by references to Stephen King’s IT. When I walked into my favorite Irish pub, Smoky Robinson’s “The Way You Do the Thing You Do” was playing over the sound system, which is used during some of the Losers Club scenes in the 1990 TV adaptation (most notably, the dam building scene). On the walls are the names of the counties in Ireland – Derry, Maine is named after County Derry, as King notes in the book. Having re-read IT twice in the last couple of months (and on another re-read currently), it felt like a good sign.
Interestingly, the two adaptations intersect at the same place – in the TV mini-series, 1990 shows the Losers Club as adults; 1989 is the starting point for the Losers as kids. I remember seeing the TV mini-series when it aired. Watching the current film, I remembered 1989 and where I was and what I was doing while the Losers were battling bullies, abuse, indifferent adults and Pennywise. I picked up IT for the first time when I was 17, about two to three years before that intersection. I read the book in three days. It was my life – except, you know, without the killer clown living in the sewers under the city (although, where I live, I would not be surprised).
Comparing and contrasting the two adaptations is a fruitless exercise, although many of the new film’s shots echoed the original. Adaptations and re-makes are tricky, especially when the film-makers want to honor the sources that came before. This was particularly noticeable at the beginning, when Bill and Georgie are building the paper boat. When Bill sends Georgie to the basement for the paraffin, the shot of Georgie standing at the top of the basement stairs and his very palpable fear of the dark echoes the 1990 version. Even the Denbrough house resembles its TV counterpart.
Seeing the 2017 movie was like falling into the book – all 1192 pages of IT. Having read the book so many times, I could probably find my way around Derry without a map. I recognized Up-Mile Hill as Mike cycled his way to make a delivery to the butcher shop. The statue of Paul Bunyan watches over the park, just as he did in the book. The rotting house on Neibolt Street, where Eddie encounters the leper, has sunflowers in the front yard. The Kenduskeag River that flows through town and into the Barrens, where Ben runs to while trying to escape Henry Bowers and his gang.
Derry, Maine is, as the book description says, as familiar to me as my own hometown.
Many of the events that occur in the book happen in the movie and while, in some cases, the context remains the same, how it occurs is different. The Apocalyptic Rock Fight, for example, is how Mike Hanlon meets and becomes a part of the Losers Club. In the novel and the TV mini-series, Mike is running away from the Bowers gang when he stumbles upon the six kids who would become his best friends in the quarry. In this adaptation, the Losers come upon Mike being beaten up by Henry and his gang. Beverly strikes the first blow with a well-aimed rock that eventually drives the bullies away. This scene is, in fact, the only time we see Beverly’s skill and keen eye – the sling-shot and silver slugs were removed from this adaptation, for what purpose, I am not quite sure.
As closely as the 2017 film adheres to the novel (or, at least, the kids’ story), it deviates in many ways from the source material. Most of the deviation is with the characters – Ben (as the New Kid on the Block) is the historian of the group, not Mike, and his first encounter with It is not as a mummified clown, but a child victim of the ironworks explosion of 1908. Bill is the one who uses a weapon against Pennywise in their final showdown, not Beverly. Instead of being chased by Henry Bowers and fellow bullies, Eddie breaks his arm falling through the ceiling of the Neibolt Street house.
Adaptations and re-makes are tricky – fans of both the original source and the original adaptation are likely to hold a microscopic lens to the new interpretation. Changes, re-shuffling of scenes and assigning one character’s skills/interests to another often occur to make a more cohesive narrative in a linear medium like film. Even The Black Stallion (1979) bears little resemblance to the novel it’s based on, but it still tells the same story.
There are many references to the novel IT (1986) in this film. Some went by so quickly, that I know I didn’t catch all of them. More than once, I found myself anticipating and reciting bits of dialogue among the kids that came from the novel. And it wasn’t until the end that I realized that the camera angles were at the same height as the Losers, making the entire experience told from their points of view.
Did I enjoy this film? You bet I did. Were there some quibbles? Of course – I felt that the characters of Beverly and Mike were not utilized as well as they could have been, but it wasn’t my directorial vision on-screen. However, I have many questions that hopefully will be answered in the follow up, featuring the Losers as adults.
I’ll be seeing IT again, perhaps this weekend, perhaps next week. As I said, it was like falling into the novel that I didn’t just read, but lived.
And it’s a journey that I don’t mind repeating, to a childhood I do remember and the friends I shared it with.
……and I learned a few things from that experience.
I could have had more material prepared to read. 
Given that it was a hot day, I could have brought some refreshments. 
It was suggested I stream it live on Facebook for others who weren’t able to attend to share in the experience. 
I now have a better sense of timing it. 
Confidence is key.
Those five things are my immediate takeaways from the experience. I had a lovely crowd of 11 and I sold one book. Successful turnout? I’d say so. This was, as I’ve indicated, my first solo book reading. I’d been a part of a couple of book readings before, including one at a writers conference. That event involved multiple authors – in both cases, the only ones in the audience to hear me read were the other authors. 
The biggest takeaway for me was being confident in my own work. It’s easy to hide oneself in a crowd of like-minded and talented writers. But here, I was exposed to the public, vulnerable, easily seen. I couldn’t hide.
Still, I did it. And that takes a bit of courage.
So now, for the next book reading I prepare, I have a better sense of what to do.
And that, you can be sure, I’m looking forward to. 🙂
 It took a combined total of maybe 10 minutes to read the two pieces I had selected.
 Lemonade and water would have been my first choice, obviously, but the location was in the conference room at the local library, so that’s a possibility I need to check on for next time.
 I hate to admit it, but I’m not sure how to work the streaming feature on Facebook, though I’m sure someone might have been able to figure that out. Next time!
 I had created an event page and blocked out two hours. In reality, it took just under an hour. Now I know.
 The other authors read amazing excerpts from their works – the only negative was that none of us made any sales. And we should have.
……..thanks to this little app on my phone called Duolingo. I started out with Spanish, then added French and then, in honor of my trip to Ireland, Gaelic.
Let me say, right now, that my Gaelic sucks. I can’t even figure it out in context. That’s okay – I’d never heard it before, so…..I’ll cut myself some slack on that one. I didn’t delete it – it’s still there, waiting for me to come back to it.
And I will.
I fared a lot better with Spanish, mainly because I live in California and am surrounded by the Spanish history and influence. I have a couple of Agatha Christie and Stephen King titles in Spanish, which will be helpful in bettering my comprehension of the language. Years ago, I suspected that if reading helps us with comprehending our native tongue, then surely it would have the same effect when learning a foreign one.
If I already knew the story, I thought, then my main struggle would be in understanding it in a language I’m not fluent in.
I stumbled across that idea when I was taking Spanish in college, lo, these many years ago. I read the Spanish translation of Pablo Neruda’s poetry to my tutor. In a few weeks time, she commented that my pronunciation and comprehension improving. And I was pleased.
So, imagine my surprise when, upon beginning my French lessons on the app, that it came to me far more easily than Spanish did. I’ve progressed further in the French than I have in the Spanish – indeed, I don’t think I’ve gone back to Spanish or Gaelic in over a year.
I’m not worried about that, because my goal is to learn more than one language and some far more complicated than French or Spanish (1). The better I get at French, the easier it will be to switch over to Spanish. Like Italian, French and Spanish derive from the Latin, which explains why they are similar in structure. Even particular words resemble each other.
I’m not exactly sure why I’m feeling determined to learn French right at this moment, but I’m willing to follow my instincts and see where it leads.
Sometimes, that’s what you need to do.
(1) Complicated in that I would also be learning an alphabet made up of letters that I won’t recognize, like Japanese.
……that I’m aware that a few of my posts regarding women transforming their lives are primarily white. I intend to correct that – I’ve read several books by women of color, like Alice Walker, Amy Tan and Maya Angelou, but it’s been awhile. I also plan to read and share more about men of color, like Sherman Alexie and Richard Wright.
I believe that strength comes from diversity and that representation matters, but I can’t espouse that and not show it. So, with your patience, I will be presenting posts that hopefully will be more diverse and representative of the world.
I would love it if you were to offer suggestions on writers and artists that you feel need more attention and their work showcased.
Recommended*: The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou The Lone Ranger & Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie Native Son by Richard Wright The Color Purple by Alice Walker
……….my dad took me and my brother to see a movie. This was not an unusual thing – he would take us to see a lot of movies as we grew up (most notably, JAWS 2 when I was 8 and my brother was 5).
This movie was different. I remember asking my dad, “Why is it called Star Wars?”
He replied, “Because it’s about a war in the stars.”
I didn’t understand that (I was 7), but I loved that movie with all my little girl heart. I loved it so much, I wanted to be in it.
So I made up stories to amuse myself. And I added myself into those adventures of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo and Leia Organa. I was Leia’s best friend and Han’s little sister (whether by blood or in spirit, I don’t remember).
I got two of every Leia action figure available at the time, so that my character could be on the same worlds as the others. I wrote myself into the movies and had side adventures where they joined me and my Wookie co-pilot.
Star Wars is why I started writing. Leia Organa is the template of all my female leads and the friendships they form.
Sherlock Holmes may be my first love, but Carrie Fisher was my first hero, with intelligence, wit, humor, kindness and no fucks to give.
……would have celebrated her centennial birthday last week, on December 14, had she not passed away in 1965. Cited as an important influence by Stephen King, Joanne Harris, Neil Gaiman and many others, Shirley Jackson wrote story upon story that left her readers unsettled and haunted with the ambiguity within her words.
I’ve been reading her work from an early age, most notably The Haunting of Hill House (1959), which ranks as my personal favorite of her fiction, topping We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962), The Lottery (1948), and Hangsaman (1951). Her non-fiction, Raising Demons and Life Among the Savages recounts life at home, her children and the various ‘adventures’ they encounter. Her deliciously dark wit and humor are in full display in those tomes, and I highly recommend reading them.
Reading her fiction is a fascinating experience – for me, I start to notice a physiological reaction to her prose. In reading Hangsaman, I felt a low level anxiety in following Natalie’s thoughts and interactions as she left home for college. There was also that sense of foreboding, the shadow of unknown dynamics at play, and feeling suffocated by Natalie’s fellow students. There is the sense that she is at the bottom of the totem pole in the social hierarchy.
Every time I read The Haunting of Hill House, I root for Eleanor to overcome her insecurities, to let go of her guilt and to embrace her newfound freedom, both from her family and from Hill House itself. I feel her anxieties and hurts and indignations as if they were my own. But the story never changes, no matter how many times I read it and wish otherwise – Eleanor’s fate is already written and acted out, before one even picks up the book.
Shirley Jackson knew how to invite one in to her stories, knew exactly how to hook and keep you in it until the last word. She allowed the story to envelope you, insinuate itself into your imagination, haunting you long after you had shut the book and put it down. Her prose is quiet and engaging, simple, yet complex.
She is, for me, one of the writers I wish most to emulate, using my own voice and skills to strike that same haunting and sparse tone.
On the year of her one hundredth birthday, I join the ranks of writers who find inspiration in her work. I continually marvel at her ability to bring the darkness of every day life into the light and the suffocating spiral of ambiguity and uncertainty infused in her characters.
Recommended: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson The Lottery & Other Stories by Shirley Jackson We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson Hangsaman by Shirley Jackson
……and as a writer, it would be seriously detrimental to my craft to not only not love language, but to not have a deep and abiding passion for it as well. In fact, I have such a passion for words and language, that I actually have a dictionary collection (my favorite is The International Dictionary of Theatre Language).
But I also love foreign languages and have numerous foreign language dictionaries. I am in the (very) slow process of learning French. To help with comprehension, I also have a couple of novels in French, titles that I’ve read in their original English. This way, I’m familiar with the plot and, instead of struggling to learn both the story and the language, I can focus simply on the language itself, searching for words I recognize to establish context.
To hear the language in spoken form, I have a couple of films in which French is the primary language. If possible, find books in the language you hope to learn in audio format – the more you listen, the more you can pick up how words sound and pronunciation. This is helpful, but not absolute – like English, there regional dialects and colloquialisms to take in to account, and some words may have a different meaning.
I did something similar while taking a Spanish class i college many years ago. I found poetry by Pablo Neruda that had his work in Spanish on one page and the English translation on the next page. By reading the Spanish translations out-loud to my tutor, my pronunciation and comprehension of the Spanish language grew.
Of course, I’m a little rusty, but the thing about learning something, even a little bit, is that you don’t really forget it. With practice, you can awaken that muscle and get it back in shape in no time. The thought that kept me going in learning a foreign language by reading a novel I already knew was this – if reading can help us with comprehension and pronunciation in our native language, then surely it can apply to learning a foreign one.