Oct 31, 2012

Meat-Free

Starting this week, I will not eat meat four days a week. I haven't explained my system yet, but it's kinda fun. And I will not explain my justifications for giving up meat until another time.

In August, I finally committed to removing meat from my diet. The plan? Start off by giving up meat one day a week. Each new month: add a day of no meat. August - 1 day. September - 2 days. October - 3 days.

November represents the tipping point - the all-in month. Now, starting tomorrow, there are fewer meat days than ever before. My system started on a Friday, so I gave up Fridays first. I have not had meat for thirteen Fridays. That was pretty damn hard considering I love fish fries. But I did it.

At the same time I gave up meat, I gave up red meat. Burgers are one of my favorite things in the world. I love me some beef. But I knew this could be one of the things that broke my dedication. I am known as a burger guzzler.

I conquered burgers too. No burgers in the last two months.

January is the day of 6 days. I am dreading that month. Really, though, I have so much more to worry about. This change in diet, it's adding positives to my life by the week.

Thanks for listening.
Love,
Jonathon


Oct 22, 2012

Untitled: Clouds

I've drafted several posts in the last few weeks to update you on what's happening in my life, but I cannot write them fast enough! Anyway, my stress level is very low right now and my happiness feels sky-high.

This week, my goal is to make sure I touch the ground before my mind goes too far into the clouds.

Good music:
Kid Cudi - Just What I Am

Oct 2, 2012

Rainbows and Butterflies

I am currently working on my application for admission to a few universities. The first wave is Michigan State University, the University of Michigan, and Wayne State University. Each one is a powerhouse in its own way. I am hoping to get into all three so that I may chose which wave of energy I want to ride. Of course, the dilemma is that I am not sure what I want to do. That reminds me: I have a very important call to make.

I have a crazy-strong fear of talking on the phone. I cannot even order a flippin' pizza over the phone without feeling grave anxiety. Most of my fears have a definite beginning (crustaceans, dark water, turtles), but I cannot figure out the origins of this phone fear.

They say hypnosis can reveal the origins of a fear and help you to get over the fear. Of course, they say practice will too. Consider Bem's Theory of self-perception which basically says that you will adopt an attitude if you act out the behavior. If you act confidently, you will indeed become confident. If you act like a whore, you will indeed become a whore. Okay, maybe that's not what he had in mind. If you think about rainbows and butterflies all day, then you will turn into rainbows and butterflies. Is that it?

So, if I make this Super Important Career-Defining Phone Call, and act all confident in the beginning, I will become confident without even noticing. Clearly, I need to make the effing call. And I will. But first, I need to expend some negative energy from my brain.

Sep 30, 2012

I See Clearly

September 21-29



Artist: Richard Morse



Artist: Colleen Kelly Sander.
 







Sep 24, 2012

Pushing Off

I love Michigan. It's evident in my writing, and the outline of the state is tattooed on my right arm. The need and desire to get the eff outta here is also embedded in my writing and my lifestyle. Until this summer, I thought I needed to get out of Michigan for myself; I needed to find something better because I am better. But ever since I reflected on the writing of Hemingway; spent a week in Detroit in June; and slept on the beaches of Ludington; I've realized I am a product of Michigan. I am a product of Ford and Chevy, of the UofM and MSU, of Fruitport, Norton Shores, Ludington, Holland, Grandville, US31, M22, and


Lake Michigan.


And, for a couple of months, that scared the hell outta me. I pictured myself in a manufacturer's box, like a car part at AutoZone. Through July and August, I reflected on my Michiganness. Toward the end of August I decided to free myself from the anchor I had tied to myself and get the outline of Michigan tattooed on my arm. Wherever I go, I will carry with me a mark.


Dark water is one of the scariest things on earth. This summer, my friend Heather finally got me to jump off the end of the pier. The North Breakwater in Ludington is half a mile long. The two of us included the breakwall on several of our early morning runs this summer. As we were halfway to the lighthouse, we said, "We're going to jump." I looked at her smile, and said, "I know." In the weeks before that day, I had come to a sense of peace about jumping off the breakwall. I realized, if I die, I am still completing a purpose.


We sprinted to the lighthouse and stripped down to undies. It felt like ten minutes past as I stood at the precipice of time and space, but it was not even a minute. Heather was talking to me, but I wasn't listening. I hear seagulls and waves. I started to speak to the waves in my head. 

Please don't kill me...I respect you...this is for growth...fuck...I just gotta do it...

I felt like I was going to cry as I could feel the fear begin to win. Then, Heather's words started to register. "You got this," she said. I closed my mind, opened my eyes, and ran.



I am Michigan.

Sep 21, 2012

Children’s Lit Exam from April 2012

Last spring, I had one of WSCC's most prominent professors for the fourth time. The first class was Intro to Ed, which I passed with a high B. Then, last fall, I had him for Michigan Lit and Educating Diverse Learners. These were exceptionally well-constructed courses and were equivalent to a university level course. But I did not do what I needed to do. I got a D in MichLit and a B, after a completing a two-month incomplete, in EdDivLearners. I learned hundreds of lessons from that semester, and I think upon them often.

Whatever went wrong last fall set me up for major success this past spring. I bloomed in every single class. I finally opened up to the reality that I am meant to do amazing things. This change was most evident in the work I did for Children's Lit. So, today, I give you my Children's Lit exam. I wrote this five months ago. Please forgive the formatting; Word to Blogger conversion rates have yet to be calculated.

Children’s Lit Exam – Jonathon Arntson

It’s rare that I truly challenge myself with children’s Literature. I tend to let my tastes for graphic covers and creatively assembled pages sway what I will read next. Some of my favorite books have been discovered through this method. My tastes have led me to many favorites. Books like The Graveyard Book, Hoot, and The Invention of Hugo Cabret are the complete package for me; they delivered from first sight and still resonate in my life.

I have had mixed results with historical fiction. Laurie Halse Anderson’s Chains and Forge, while beautifully written, failed to captivate me. I feel like a schmuck about it because Laurie’s novels are important contributions to children’s literature with her discussions of slavery, the price of freedom, and life in the North during the American Revolution. Laurie’s books are not the only significant players in children’s lit that failed to charm me. The Secret Garden and Caddie Woodlawn are books I forced myself to read until I gained a headache.

I always found myself stuck between caring about the historical context of the story, but not the characters who were carrying the burden of change. I’ve thought many times about the fact that most of the characters from historical novels who I did care about were boys, and the characters whose story I never finished were girls. The evidence overwhelms me, and at times, I feel sexist. Why do the stories of Huckleberry Finn and Robin, of The Door in the Wall, stick out in my mind.

One book stands there to throw me a lifeline, and it was not until Children’s Lit class that I realized Number the Stars was a novel of historical fiction.

Years ago, a friend of mine asked me to read Number the Stars. I was skeptical about enjoying a book that took place in Denmark during World War II. The concept felt dusty to me, but she convinced me to give the book a try because of my intense love of The Giver.

It was a warm summer afternoon when I read Number the Stars, but Lois Lowry’s prose gave me chills. She brought me into the world of Nazi occupied Denmark, but never did the novel feel dated or ‘dusty’. Lowry’s novel tricked me into forgetting it was about history with thrilling action scenes, paralleling well-known fairytales, and connecting me to the Danish people of 1943 in an emotional way. These are the makings of a near-perfect historical novel and they bring Lowry’s novel beyond its historical context into the realm of excellent stories.

Lowry’s action scenes are fierce and stand up to those written by known action writers like Gary Paulsen and Scott O’Dell. In Number the Stars, several moments caused me to hold my breath and hastily read to make sure everyone makes it through okay.

One such moment happens in the opening pages of the novel when Annemarie and her best friend, Ellen, are racing each other on their way home from school as Annemarie’s little sister struggles to keep up. The pair is ordered to “Halte!” by a Nazi soldier who has stood watch over the same corner for many months. Annemarie, free of a full understanding of why the soldiers are there but full of respect for authority follows the order and calmly answers the soldier’s questions and ignores his taunts. For me as a reader, this moment is intense because I had easily discovered Ellen is Jewish and I wonder if this tense moment is where the conflict will start – will Ellen’s heritage be discovered on a Copenhagen street corner with no one to come to the girls’ aid?

Thirty pages later, Lowry had my heart pounding again when Ellen is mysteriously deposited at Annemarie’s home for the night. Then, the tension propels when a few Nazi soldiers come to the family’s home in the middle of the night.

“’Where did you get the dark-haired one?’ He twisted the lock of Ellen’s hair. ‘From a different father? From the milkman?’” (Lowry, p. 47). This is one of the Nazi soldiers questioning the origin of Ellen, who has just told the soldiers that she is Lise Johansen, Annemarie’s deceased sister. When the soldier is very suspicious, Annemarie’s father thinks quickly and heroically.
“For a moment, no one spoke. Then Annemarie, watching in panic, saw her father move swiftly to the small bookcase and take out a book. She saw that he was holding the family photograph album. Very quickly he searched through its pages, found what he was looking for, and tore out three pictures from three separate pages…
’You will see each of my daughters, each with her name written on the photograph,’ Papa said…
'Lise Margrete,’ [the soldier] read finally, and stared at Ellen for a long, unwavering moment. In her mind, Annemarie pictured the photograph that he held: the baby, wide-eyed, propped against a pillow, her tiny hand holding a silver teething ring, her bare feet visible below the hem of an embroidered dress. The wispy curls. Dark” (Lowry, pp. 47 & 48).
This sequence demonstrates the power of Lowry’s action writing. She placed me right inside Annemarie’s limbic system and forced me to feel the fear that grasped her. Without even noticing, I was wholly vested in Annemarie’s story and its historical context. Will she make it out unscathed? And how will Denmark fare?
Lowry employs several action sequences throughout the novel, utilizing the fear many readers already have associated with Nazis. She also builds on other fears many children have within Western cultures.
   
Throughout Number the Stars, the plot parallels the ideals of fairytales (palaces and Prince Charmings). This is never more evident than when Annemarie is at her Uncle Henrick’s house in the Danish countryside and is handed a basket of food that disguises a life-or-death object. As quickly as possible, Annemarie must take a path through the forest and deliver the covert package to her Uncle.
“The handle of the straw basket scratched her arm through her sweater. She shifted it and tried to run.
 She thought of a story she had often told Kirsti as they cuddled in bed at night.‘Once upon a time there was a little girl,’ she told herself silently, ‘who had a beautiful red cloak. Her mother had made it for her’” (Lowry, pp. 106 & 107).
The parallel to Little Red Riding Hood is conspicuous, but the magic lies in the way Lowry delivers the allusions. The quote above leads into Annemarie telling herself a story, but telling it in a version more suitable for her younger sister, Kirsti. As Annemarie tells the story, she even lets Kirsti in on the telling by considering what she would ask if she were actually present.

As Annemarie makes her way through the dark forest, she is kept calm by her ability to recall the story of Little Red and that she escaped certain doom through cunning and cleverness. Forests and wolves are a common fear with children, especially because of Little Red’s tale, and Lowry’s implementation of parallel structure between Annemarie’s and Little Red’s stories creates a strong thread that tugs the novel through to the finish. Entwined in that thread is another one that tells the story of a nation as it is occupied by another nation. The intertwining threads between action, fairytales, and history create a great story that is not solely dependent on the reader’s knowledge of history or the book’s need to teach a historical and moral lesson.
Jacobs and Tunnel (2012) claim historical fiction should be sugarcoated and that the writing needs to avoid too much attention to detail.

Number the Stars succeeds as a historical novel by not sugarcoating the story of Denmark in 1943, but by presenting a hopeful and accurate picture of what went on seventy years ago.
The first scene that greatly contributed to the historical context of the novel comes in the second chapter when Denmark’s King Christian X is explained to the reader. “How the people of Denmark love King Christian!” says Lowry, “He was not like fairy tale kings…” Lowry also introduces the fairytale at this point in the story but she uses it to make Denmark’s monarch more real, and it works.
Lowry gives an anecdote between Annemarie and her father about a German soldier who asks a Danish boy a question as King Christian rides by on one of his daily trots through the streets of Copenhagen.
“’Who is the man the man who rides past here every morning on his horse?’ the German soldier had asked.
Papa said he had smiled to himself, assumed that the German soldier did not know. He listened while the boy answered.
‘He is our king,’ the boy told the soldier. “He is the king of Denmark.’
‘Where is his bodyguard?’ the soldier had asked.
‘And do you know what the boy said,’ Papa had asked Annemarie…
‘The boy looked right at the soldier, and he said, ‘All of Denmark is his bodyguard.’’
Annemarie had shivered. It sounded like a very brave answer. ‘Is it true, Papa?’ she asked. ‘What the boy said.’
Papa thought for a moment. He always considered questions very carefully before he answered them. ‘Yes,’ he said at last. ‘It is true. Any Danish citizen would die for King Christian, to protect him.’
‘You too, Papa?’
‘Yes.’
‘And Mama?’
‘Mama too.’
Annemarie shivered again. ‘Then I would too, Papa. If I had to’” (Lowry, pp. 13 & 14)
This particular this particular historical context is quite powerful at building compassion between the reader and the anecdotal evidence of WWII. Shortly after that section, Lowry pulls me into the history in a way that may be unique to me and a few others. She explains that, like Denmark, German soldiers are in Norway, Holland, Belgium, and France. “But not in Sweden!” Annemarie announces. Because I grew up with a strong Swedish influence via my dad’s parents, I felt an extra leap in my heart when I read that. My mind followed that leap to new thoughts regarding how my grandparents felt about Sweden’s stance of neutrality during WWII – they would have been in their mid-twenties. I also allowed myself to wonder if my family had been on the receiving end of any of Denmark’s Jewish refugees. Whether or not they were, each mention of Sweden caused my mind to swim across the Kattegat and wander about the seaside towns and highlands, where my Grandmother told me many lakes live – just like in Michigan. She always said, with a frown, “We do not have mountains, though.” Being of Norwegian heritage, as well, I could not help but search my feelings about the land of my ancestors being occupied by another country. My grandfather would have told me it was nothing new, that Norway had persevered through many occupations. He was proudly and divergently Norwegian (even if he was more Swedish on paper). He never complained about the small, red wooden horses and plaques proclaiming “God Jul” that populated their post-war cape cod.

Unlike my grandparents, Lowry does not sugarcoat history in Number the Stars. Through those action scenes I previously discussed, she paints a very-real feeling to what it was like to be a ten year old in Nazi-occupied Denmark. She also introduces characters, like King Christian X, who ground the story in authenticity without causing it to sink in the details.

Lowry explains that Denmark’s Jews were among the last to be stolen from their homes and sent away. She explains that families like Annemarie’s, and with the aid of Sweden, really did save 8,000 people. In the story, we wonder how Annemarie’s older sister, Lise (and not Ellen), really did die. We discover at the very end that she died as one woman in Denmark’s history really die – and it was cruel.

As a work of fiction, Number the Stars is both powerfully brutal and pleasantly optimistic. Tightly woven threads of historical accuracies, empathy, action, and fear run among the pages – and even though there are already 132 of them, the story of Annemarie and Denmark is so much bigger than itself.

Empathy through historical context is also created in another story from WWII. Hiroshima No Pika, by Toshi Maruki tells the tale of a mother, father, and daughter’s journey to the sea after Little Boy decimated Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. In text, Maruki brings the crucial story of Hiroshima to life, but it’s through raw paintings in oil on canvas that the story of the people in Hiroshima really comes to life. Without watering or bogging down the reader, Hiroshima No Pika is another stunning example of successful historical fiction.

In class, several of my classmates expressed dislike of such a tiny story being used to represent WWII – especially one from a ten year old in a small country. I did a horrible job of disagreeing with them. I adamantly feel Number the Stars is the most engaging and appropriate example of historical fiction I have ever read. It is also the only historical novel I have read multiple times. Of course, my tastes are dictating much of my argument, but I think the fact that Lowry’s award-winning novel is so tight and purposeful should allow it a permanent spot on the reading list of EDU 222 Children’s Literature.

Having a new sense of what makes a proper historical fiction, it is only fair to give some of the victims of my diatribe a new look. Can I use Jacobs and Tunnell as a way to suitably reassess Halse Anderson and her fellow middle grade historical fiction writers and hold their books to the same esteem as those of Gaiman and Selznick? Wait. Selznick is a historical fiction writer. I think I am closer to my goal than I’d first realized.

Sep 20, 2012

To Be or Not to Be: College Edition

Today's affirmation: When I believe in myself, so do others.

I graduated high school in 2004. By many calculations, I should be a second year PhD student. By other calculations, I should have a career, a house, a...family. I should have a degree right now, and I should be an educated person joining the fight for gay rights or the team to re-elect President Obama; an adjunct professor of English, Education, Whatever; or a powerful published author.

Instead, I am me: a frequently confused individual who just accepted something about himself.

I am a   w a  n   d    e     r      e       r.

I met with a professor, and mentor, yesterday. He worked with me for almost an hour to begin to figure out paths I can take after community college that will allow me to be what I want to be: an educator, a public speaker, a writer, an artist, ETC.

If actions speak louder than words, then those people in my life are right after all - I am doing some amazing things. As I build this blog back up, I will share with you some of those things, which will explain a bit about my sudden departure from the blogosphere in May.

Thank you for returning to Jon's Life, or as Anna put it, thank you for letting me waltz right back into your lives. :D

Sep 19, 2012

May 5, 2012

Thank you for being here!

Friends,

The semester has come to a close - it was a truly amazing four months. Seriously, I have chills right now.

As you can see, my priorities definitely shifted away from blogging. My intention was to come back in a big way following the end of winter term. But, as I discovered new passions and nurtured old, neglected ones, I realized I need to spend my time elsewhere.

In the past, I have made brash decisions as I crumble under pressure. This semester, I did not crumble one bit. In fact, I am far steadier than I was in December when I was at the bottom. This time, I am making a decision based on where I want to go. I am ceasing publishing at Jon's Life, (but not deleting).

I greatly value the last three years I spent with my blog. It was all of you that made it a wonderful chapter in my life. And since I'll still have my blogger account, I can still visit you! And I'll make my guest blogging debut at Kris Asselin's blog at the end of this month. If you're interested in joining our Where are the Gay Parents in YA LIt? series, head there and let her know. We'd greatly appreciate your help exploring this topic!

You can also find me on Twitter and Facebook.

Thank you for believing in me, and for sticking around to make sure I began to believe in myself.

Love,
Jonathon

Apr 22, 2012

Creative Writing, Unedited III

Edward Hopper "Eleven AM"

Reached Out and Grabbed Her

Before she jumped, Anna watched couples stride, arm in arm, into the Mode Theater from the indigo, velvet-tufted chair of her bedroom. The smiling, flirting couples donned sport coats, trilbies, feathers, and frayed dresses. The sounds of saxophones and trumpets clamoring with each other rose without obstruction to Anna’s fifth floor bedroom window.


Charles rubbed the back of her uncovered legs. They were lying in bed; sheets tangled around their legs. Anna’s fingers were deep in the grasps of his rough hands. After a while, Charles got out of bed and put on his long-johns, overalls, boots and jacket. He said, “Meet me in a week?” She looked up from where she’s been twirling her finger on her stomach. “I’ll be there,” she said.
She was there a week later to take in the salty air of the harbor.
He was not. And neither were the sixteen other crab-fishermen who sailed with Charles. In the harbor, bells called from within the ships that survived the storm. In the city, behind Anna, bells tolled for those ships that had not.


Velvet rubbed the back of Anna’s naked legs. She reached down and rubbed the chair making shapes and lines with her finger. She drew a boat.


She’s five years old at her grandparents’ house. Anna has drawn a dog in the taupe velvet of an armchair in the drawing room. She wipes her hand across the image to erase it. Next, she draws a flower, a girl in a dress, and a dove; erasing each image before drawing a new one. Lastly, she draws a frown.


Anna stood up, climbed onto the window sill, and stepped onto the ledge of her Art Deco apartment building. The flappers and gentlemen looked smaller than they had from Anna’s bedroom chair. And the jazz music bounced off her skin. Her pale skin was blue and purple in the lights of entertainment. The bare bulbs of the Mode Theater sign made rings in Anna’s eyes. The rings were disturbed by swelling tears.
Anna closed her eyes, causing the tears to pour over the brim and down her cheek. She blinked and took one last look at the ground. She hugged herself and ran her fingers across her stomach. Then, she leaned forward and let herself fall.
From behind, large, nappy hand reached around her and pulled her into a tight hug. Her feet hung above the socialite-filled street. She screamed. Some of the pedestrians looked up, pointed, and let out horrified screams.

Anna stumbled back through the window and onto the velvet chair. She passed out to the smell of sea.

Mar 16, 2012

Stand Against Bullying

Sheri Larsen invited a slew of us to collectively write about the National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence (Australia*). Here's a great resource: http://www.bullyingnoway.gov.au/index.html


Were you bullied as a child?

Of course you were. We all were.

I was the target for many people. I was poor, gay, skinny, clumsy, had weird hair, and wore glasses by the beginning of 9th grade. I figured it was all okay though. My teachers did not seem to care. My gym teacher certainly didn't care that I was periodically pantsed on the soccer field. Or if he did, he never spoke up about it. 



I was okay with being bullied.

Here's the thing: bullying is not okay! We as adults have a responsibility to be aware of what is going on around us. With the advent of cyber-bullying, it is harder than ever for us to know what is happening to the kids around us.

It's easy for adults to talk to kids about sports and good grades, but do not forget the importance of bringing up bullying. You could prevent bullying from happening on both ends.


Check out posts from some writer friends:

* This post is just another way in which I live vicariously through the Australians.

Mar 13, 2012

Pulling Some Plugs

I have a lot of things to figure out right now (internally and externally).

I'll be very distant as I complete several obligations to school and crit partners, help with renovations at the house, and go for runs in this beautiful weather.

Have a great March and beyond! Miss me or something.




Mar 8, 2012

I am afraid of myself

I have always been in the space between cynical and overly enthusiastic. It gets me in trouble sometimes. Why can't I just chose a side? Why can't I be genuinely engrossed in every paranormal romance that comes out? It'd be even easier if I could just denounce the entire genre and hate anyone who reads it.

I wish I preferred apathy, and didn't click 'like' on every damn image that tickles/inspires/motivates/kicks me. I wish apathy didn't piss me off so much. Who the eff cares that Heidi and Seal split up? Shit. I do. Who the eff cares that a warlord is making news this week and a Western produced video on the subject has gone viral? Who the eff cares that today is International Women's Day? I effing care! I care for my future daughters. I care for my sisters and nieces. I care for my Sisters.

I care for my future sons.

In case you're keeping track, I had to search and replace four f-bombs by now. I can't very well write the way I talk, that would be a career-killer. And my minor is communications/public speaking. I'd better get a tailor-made vernacular real quick, lest I get thrown out of a high school. I mean, my blog looks like the cover of a picture book, for Pete's sake.

I am sick of feeling disingenuous. I want to write a really great freaking book and defend every f-word until I die. I want readers to defend me too. I want them to defend the book, the setting, and the characters.

I do not want to be controversial, but it's in my nature to think differently than most people. That's pretty damn obvious.

But why do I pin, tweet, and facebook like everyone else? Why do I laugh hysterically at shit like this?

Where has my integrity gone? Did I ever have any? Do WE have any left?

Crap. I am about to go all Holden Caulfield on you.

I am not real. I am a goddamn phony. Just like the rest of em.

I'm so effing convoluted.

Mar 7, 2012

You Recommend: Autobiographies Written for Children

I need you to recommend autobiographies written for children. Not only am I hoping to draw inspiration from your suggested titles, but I will be analyzing one for a project. So, what do you recommend?

EDIT: your suggestions can be anything from books for young children to young adult lit, and an autobiography or a memoir.

Below: me, sometime in the late 80's


Mar 2, 2012

Gay Parents in YA

I am very excited to tell you that Kris Asselin and I are taking our ongoing research of gay parents in children's lit to a whole new level! Instead of writing my version of our recruiting post, I am going to paste Kris's below because I like it so much.


In August 2011, Jonathon Arnston and I (Kris) were debating the lack of gay families represented in Kid Lit. 

We did some research, read some books, and sponsored a series on our blogs. (Click on my link at the top of my banner for the series from last summer).

This year, we’re doing it again. Bigger, Better, and More Organized. We’d also like to focus it exclusively on YA. And we’d love to include our favorite bloggers and writers.

Interested? 

Can you commit to reading at least one YA book featuring (in some fashion) a gay parent or guardian? We’d love the book to have been published in the last five years.

Can you commit to a post (or two or three) in May 2012?

If you want to participate, leave your name and contact information below and one of us will get back to you with details.

If you already committed at Kris's blog, there is no need to do so here too. For those who are curious, check out Kris's consolidated post from the last series.

Feb 29, 2012

Creative Non-Fiction

Have you dabbled in or extensively read creative non-fiction (CNF)? Last semester, in Michigan Lit, we read a healthy chunk of CNF works. Most of them were short stories, but we also read House of Fields, by Anne-Marie Oomen. Have you heard of House of Fields? Probably not.

House of Fields takes place in the county below my own. I live in a rural area of West Michigan and Anne-Marie's CNF work explores what it was like for her as a girl in the late 1950's and early 1960's. She discusses her tumultuous journey toward becoming a reader and the pleasures and dangers of living out in the middle of nowhere.

I'd really like you to take a look at House of Fields, but I am not sure if you'd find it. I'd lend you my copy, but the margins contain another story.

Instead, I am wondering if you have examples of your own creative non-fiction. I think I am heading in that direction for my honors project for Children's Lit and Creative Writing:

"I spent my first ride in a plane looking for my brother’s body. My father rented a plane from Mason County Airport at something like $75 an hour. There were four seats; one for the pilot, my dad, my step-mom, and me.
                My parents often referred to me as Eagle Eyes because they believed I had better than average sight; I certainly saw more than the average person. At fourteen, they still called me Eagle Eyes even though I had been complaining that I could not see the whiteboards in the classrooms, especially when the teacher used a red marker.
                Thousands of feet above Mason County, I saw orchards, barns, and supermarkets at a whole new perspective. I saw my middle school and it was a tiny white rectangle with wonky angles. It did not at all resemble the ominous halls of judgment that I saw every school day from the ground."

Feb 27, 2012

Did You Know?

Did you know I have almost scrapped Jon's Life many times? As in, I felt my blog presence was pointless and needed to be euthanized. Clearly, that didn't happen, and I have not entertained thoughts like those in many months.

Did you know I have gained three new followers (and lost one) since October of last year? So, in five months, I have gained two followers. (Hello to my two new followers!)

Did you know I used to find numbers like that important? If I cared, I would have attempted several followers drives ploys by now. But, I've become more and more content with what my blog is today.

Did you know I'll be speaking at a conference hosted by my college in April? It's called Food for Thought and is focused on how eating well will cause you to live well.

Did you know I am writing an almost novel as an honors project for my Children's Lit and Creative Writing classes? The professors have allowed the project to count as honors credit in both classes.

Did you know that just three short months ago I was holding on for dear life as I tried to not hit rock bottom? And today, I am somewhere between the bottom and the clouds. I believe they call that 'grounded'.

What my dogs' daily walk looks like:




Feb 24, 2012

Don't Forget to be Inspired

Often times, as I read a novel or watch a movie, I find some line or image to be inspiring and right up my alley. I tell myself I'll go back to that spot and jot down the line or write about the image, but I rarely do.

As I was reading The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green, I took the time to set down the book and write about his words, meta-drafting, if you will. You would not believe the fruits of my labor! I have had immense writing success since allowing myself to grab onto the inspiration rather than asking it to wait until I have time.

Some writers claim their muse is elusive, I have certainly said so many times. I don't think our muses are the least bit elusive, we fail to see the signs.

The universe is always calling. Do you choose to listen? Do you choose to be inspired? Take time, slow it down, and let yourself process.


Feb 16, 2012

Blog Chain: I Love You, Billycan

This blog chain was started by Amparo.


Since Valentine's Day is around the corner, I think it's only appropriate to pay homage to those we love. But instead of our better halves, family members, and friends, this blog chain will be all about loving the haters:write a love letter to your favorite literary villain/villain-ish character. It can be short, long, serious, funny. You can use song lyrics or poems instead. Choice is totally yours.

My favorite all-time villain is...

Billycan, from Hilary Wagner's Nightshade Chronicles!


Dear Billycan,

I'm sorry for the fact that you were brutally raised in a lab filled with bizarre chemicals. 

You're blood spattered white fur and glowing red eyes are so cute and cuddly. I want to pick you up and kiss you on the top of your head. Of course, that might not work out too well, since you have a thing for tearing out the eyes of your enemies. Not that you and I are enemies. I like to think we'd make great cohorts. But, teamwork is just not how you operate.

Billycan, your fur is cuddly, but your brains are what really fuel my love for you. You can out-smart and out-wit every other rodent on this continent. If it weren't for your adorable temper (and genocidal tendencies), you'd be adored by all. Just imagine how good a shiny gold crown would look on your massive head!

From the depths of my heart, Billycan, I ask you to come back out of the shadows and take what is yours!

Love your biggest fan, 
Jonathon
That's Billycan in the white.

Yesterday, Margie wrote a letter to her favorite villain. Tomorrow, look for Christine's!

Feb 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

I don't really have anything Valentinesy to post, but on my design blog you'll find a treat of sorts. Come here Thursday for a love letter to my favorite villain.

Feb 6, 2012

Thought I Should Share

We're covering modern fantasy this coming week in Children's Lit. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is undoubtedly the most famous example of modern fantasy. I read  The Wonderful Wizard of Oz  on Friday; it's very different from the movie. I knew that ahead of time because it's no secret, but I was intimately exposed to that fact while reading Harry Sue, by Sue Stauffacher.

We read Harry Sue in Educating Diverse Learners last semester because the story is a great example of the inner workings of a school and how it handles its diverse learners. Within Harry Sue lie many, many allusions to and quotes from  The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and even if you're not attached to the story, I highly recommend reading Harry Sue. 

On Saturday, I read Crank, by Ellen Hopkins. WHOA. What a book. What an epic poem. What a freaking mind-blow. Whether you're open-minded or too attached to living life within a security blanket, Crank is a must-read, and I do not often say anything is a must-read.

I am reading Crank for a semester project in Children's Lit. I used small, green Post-Its to mark things of interest as I read through. I will go through another time to Post-It meaningful passages, and yet another time to Post-It exemplary moments of craft. This is how I become a better writer.

In conclusion: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a curious book, Harry Sue is an excellent example of a well-rounded story with round characters, and Crank is a must-read. I think I just used 'in conclusion' in the wrong way. Oh well.

Feb 4, 2012

Creative Writing, Unedited II

For this week's class, we were instructed to write about an impossible reality. "Make the impossible 100% real." Here's my unedited take:



Flint walks out his front door ready for another day of tenth grade. He’s dressed for the twenty-seven degree air in a black North Face parka, baggy jeans, and a black-knit beanie with a white skull. He even has his hand stuffed with Kleenex, which surrounds a metallic material that is in a sheet the same size as the sheet of Kleenex.
          He made it through his childhood and early teen years without as much as a sniffle. “Invinthible” Flint called himself at age four, after hearing his father call him an invincible little hero. But lately, he’s had some killer sneezes. And today, Flint has been experiencing sneezes that seem to burn his palm every time he sneezes.
He’d play hooky again, but of course he’s used up all his available absences on days he didn’t even need them. Now that he has super painful sneezes, he has to be at school and endure the pain no matter what.
Flint catches a ride with Damien, who lives in the next subdivision. Together they ride to Holland High School. Most mornings, Damien takes the long route so they can swing by McDonald’s. Flint jogs half the way to Damien’s to make up for lost time.
“Dude, where ya been?” yells Damien from his red late-Nineties Jetta – he has the window rolled down with his hand and a half-smoked cigarette resting on the top of the glass.
“Needed extra provisions for the day. I’m feeling like shit, man,” Flint says.
“Well, keep your germs outta my car!” says Damien, already shifting the car into drive even though Flint is halfway in the car. A Katy Perry and Kanye West song plays on the radio at a volume loud enough to rattle the rearview mirror with every beat. Flint leans back in his seat and closes his eyes. He doesn’t want to catch a glimpse of the sun because looking into the light always causes him to sneeze.
“Dude. Dude!” yells Damien over a new song that sounds just like the last one. “Want Mickey D’s?” He punches Flint in the arm.
“Nah, I just don’t feel right,” says Flint, keeping his eyes closed tight. He clenches his eyelids the rest of the way to the school. Damien parks his car and looks over at Flint. “You really don’t look too good, man,” he says.
Flint looks at Damien, whose face is blurry, and catches a glimpse of sun over the headrest behind Damien’s head.
A tickle starts in Flint’s right nostril and causes him to look like a rabbit catching a whiff of an old woman’s garden after a fresh rain. He tightly squeezes his eyes shut and wiggles his nose in hopes of deterring the sneeze. He’s sick of these weird sneezes. He’s sick of not being normal.
“Why are your eyes so red, dude?” says Damien.
Flint whips his head back against the headrest and is beyond the point of return. He breathes in a bubble of air and readies his Kleenex and aluminum foil. It’s futile, though.
The sneeze comes roaring out of Flint’s nose with flames shooting out like from the dual exhaust of a 1969 Ford Mustang.

Feb 1, 2012

Creative Writing, Unedited

In order for me to commit any time to my blog beyond the blog chain posts, I need to double duty some things. I am going to start posting some of my writings from my creative writing class.

Today, I am posting my writing based on the following prompt: write a word portrait of an old person who is extremely happy. And another of someone who is filled with rage and hate.

            1.
Her eyebrows are a parabolic arch and stretch deep into the soft white plains of her forehead.
The cerulean irises of her eyes suck in the light off the mostly white canvas before her. The light radiates out from her eyes, in the same pattern as her shallow wrinkles. As the light scatters across her face, her winkles form low valleys of shadows and high hills white with light. Closest to her eyes, the contrast between the hills and valleys is greatest. Further from the eyes, the valleys sweep across the side of her face in the shape of eyelashes until they fade up into the hairline.
Between the eyes, the nose is wrinkled with supple horizontal lines and age spots that resemble the striations in the bark of a birch tree. Down the blunt, black-diamond slope of the nose begins her laugh lines. They are at an obtuse angle, about one hundred ten degrees, and lie distinctly below her bulbous, rosy cheeks. Between the open mouth crocodile laugh lines is her mouth.
Her lips are stretched thin in an upward arc, like a hot red Corvette ready for winter storage storage. Jutting out from under the upper lip are four big, milk-white teeth, flanked by smaller teeth on both sides. The bottom row of teeth peeks just above the bottom lip in a coy effort to stay hidden. Behind the teeth, her tongue sits shaped and colored just like a red blood cell. It’s close to coming out, in which case she’d be sticking out her tongue.
Her chin sharply juts out and her age shows the most as her skin looks like vellum over a turned oak newel.

2. 
Her eyebrows stick out well over her eyes, making hr irises look like light trapped at the back of a cave. Ridges in the shape of the Finger Lakes of Upstate New York creep across her forehead and upper nose. A deep, horizontal crevice breaks her nose into two, the bottom half is red on the bulb of the nose and white at the edges and in the cracks. Glasses at the end of her nose hang on for dear life. Stray lines run in downward arcs from the eyes and meet up with sharp, ridged cheekbones that look  like they’d hurt to knock on.
Below the skeletal cheeks, lips clench so tight they look like they might burst. The chin looks like a crumpled up brown paper lunch sack. Her laugh lines are sharp and deep, but head downward into droopy jowls.

And there ya have one of my first assignments, unedited. Hopefully, I stay brave enough to most more.

Jan 28, 2012

Blog Chain: Pieces of Me

This next blog chain ROCKS and was started by Kate. She says:

Post pictures, songs, movie clips, poems, or novel excerpts that make you feel. Feel what, you ask? Feel anything. Happy. Sad. Angry. Nostalgic. Hopeful. Hopeless. Jealous. Joyful. 

I have read in several different places that YA novelist John Green said of his latest novel, The Fault In Our Stars that he wants to make his readers "Feel All The Things." I would love that someone could go through this blog chain and through what we all choose to post have that same Feel All The Things feeling.

So, as you can see I am excited about this since I tend to frequently post random shit for your viewing pleasure. I usually do music videos because that's the closest thing to representing myself. Today, I am going to post only one, I repeat, ONE music video, and several other trinkety tidbits. Enjoy!

Happy: (for those concerned: video has an f-bomb)

the most beautiful song ever made.........................

Sad:

Angry:




Nostalgic:
 
&
Pinned Image

Hopeful:

"Editing the Chrysalis" by Avis Harley


"At last," cried Butterfly.


Poised
Over its
Empty chrysalis,
"My final draft!"

And my tattoo:


Hopeless:

;)

Jealous:
 
&



Joyful:

& this pic of me

-----------------------

So...do you get a sense of what makes me Happy. Sad. Angry. Nostalgic. Hopeful. Hopeless. Jealous. Joyful.?

This has been the very best blog chain! I recommend you check out the previous intimate posts, starting with Margie's post* from yesterday. Tomorrow, check out Christine's** conclusion to this chain.

(I'm having link issues!)

Jan 27, 2012

A Heads Up

Hey! Tomorrow is my turn on the blog chain. I am freaking excited to share my post with you.

I hope you'll come see me here tomorrow!

And I have a blog announcement Monday that will detail the direction in which I plan to head with Jon's Life.

Jan 11, 2012

A New Semester

I never really followed up on telling you how last semester ended.

IT EFFING SUCKED.

But this next semester will rock. Or rather, I will rock this new semester.

Mhm.

Children's Lit.

Creative Writing.

That says it all.

Jan 3, 2012

Blog Chain: Welcome to the Home of the Dimwits

I'm the head of the household at the Dimwits. I forgot that I to start the new blog chain today!! Ugh.

I hope you enjoyed the holidays. I sure did!

My topic (which is one of my favorite writing exercises):

Imagine the home(s) where you grew up, and start drawing a floor plan. As you draw, memories will surface. Grab onto one of those memories and tell us a story.

At five, my bedroom was in the basement of a 3,500 square foot ranch home. I miss that house. I shared my room with my older brother, Joey. Built in the mid-1970's, the finished basement featured flooring of brown carpet, red faux-brick wallpaper, and a wall covering that resembled corkboard. 

One night, Joey stayed over at a friend's house and I was left to sleep alone in our room. I have never done so before. I was scared shitless.

I knew monsters of all kinds lived throughout the basement, but my brother always kept them at bay with his nasty smelling farts. This particular night was hot and I was burning to death in my red TMNT footy pajamas. I was most afraid the man living behind the corkboard would come and get me.

Deep in the night, I awoke to a noise. A cold sweat oozed across my body and my feet cold not breathe. Suddenly, I realized my eyes were crusted over and I could not open them. I started scraping at them, but it hurt, so I stopped. Then it hit me: the man from behind the corkboard had fused my eyes shut using the broken bits of cork that covered the floor (I knew I should have vacuumed those up!)

I did not scream and I could not cry because of the crust covering my eyes. I pulled the sheet over my head and held my breath as I listened for the man from behind the corkboard. At some point, I fell asleep and woke up to daylight some hours later. My eyes opened like normal, but I felt remnants of the crust around my eyes and on my cheeks.

The very first thing I did was grab the Oreck and vacuum the heck out of the floor where the cork pieces lived. Every time I get a cold or have allergies, I relive my fear of the man from behind the corkboard.


Tomorrow, check out Michelle McLean's blog to see which memory she shares!