sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

May 30, 2014

visit, afternoon in the park, and ‘as scheduled’
posted by soe 2:11 am

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to look back at three beautiful things from the past week:

1. Amani and Marcus are in town for a few days. We get a whole evening with them, which feels decadent, given how many people I know would love to see them.

2. We spend a gloriously perfect Sunday afternoon up at Mitchell Park. Rudi works on a blog post and I read. Music plays in the area, although we can’t pinpoint where and whether it’s live. Then a cellist begins and we realize that there’s a wedding beginning in the section of the park with the benches.

3. A late afternoon rain shower puts yet another night of volleyball in jeopardy; we’ve been canceled for less than this earlier in the season. Yet a call to the league’s weather line assures us that games will go on “as scheduled.”

How about you? What’s been beautiful in your world this week?

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May 29, 2014

armchair bea: short stories
posted by soe 12:51 am
Armchair BEA
Designed by Amber of
Shelf Notes

Today’s Armchair BEA genre topic focused on shorter works:

“Now it is time to give a little love to those little stories in your life. Share your love for your favorite shorts of any form. What is a short story or novella that doesn’t get the attention that it deserves? Recommend to readers what shorts you would recommend they start with. How about listing some short story anthologies based upon genres or authors?”

To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of short stories and novellas. With novellas, I find the length awkward and usually end up wishing they’d been novels or short stories. And with short stories or, rather, short story collections, I find they tend to be a little darker than I’d like my fiction to be and I often end up liking only about half of them. I’m not sure why if I only like half the songs on an album, I’d consider that acceptable, but not so with stories, but that’s the way it works for me. I do tend to like essay collections, so again, it’s clearly not the length that’s the problem.

That said, I have enjoyed a certain number of short story collections over the years. Here are a few I’d recommend:

  • Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances by John Green, Lauren Myracle, and Maureen Johnson: A trio of related short stories dealing with teens at Christmas during a blizzard. This was my introduction to all three of these YA heavy hitters, and while I don’t know I would have been wowed by any of the stories singly, as a group they worked for me.
  • Miracle and Other Christmas Stories by Connie Willis: Possibly my favorite short story collection. There were definitely a few clunkers in this group of sci-fi/fantasy-leaning Christmas tales, but they were the exception and I still think of several of the individual stories every year around the holidays. Probably means it’s time for a re-read next winter.
  • Any and all of the Paddington books by Michael Bond: These classic children’s stories focus on a marmalade-loving, trouble-attracting bear from the depths of Peru and are my go-to reads when I’m feeling under the weather.
  • Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories by Sandra Cisneros: A group of feminist/womanist tales focusing on immigrants, the poor, and Latinas. Cisneros’ words are poetic and you can’t help but feel immersed in the stories she tells.
  • You can’t go wrong with a good fairy tale collection. The Grimms or Andersen or Perrault are all solid places to start. Phillip Pullman recently revisited some of the tales and put a fresh spin on them, and I hope to find a copy soon to read.

How about you? Got any short stories, collections, or novellas that really work for you that you’d recommend I try? I’m not against checking some out from the library and giving them a shot.

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May 28, 2014

armchair bea: author interaction
posted by soe 2:00 am
Armchair BEA
Designed by Amber of
Shelf Notes

One of today’s Armchair BEA topics focuses on interacting with authors:

“Let’s talk interacting with authors IRL (in real life) or online. This is your opportunity to talk about your favorite author readings that you have attended. Or, you can feature your favorite author fan moment (i.e., an author sent you a tweet or commented on your blog). Maybe you even want to share how your interactions have changed since becoming a blogger or share your own tips that you have learned along the way when interacting with authors as a blogger.”

I am fortunate to live in Washington, D.C., which is home to the National Book Festival and to Politics and Prose, which hosts readings and signings nearly every night of the year. Because of that, I’ve been lucky enough to meet several authors I like an awful lot:

Barbara Kingsolver
Barbara Kingsolver, 2009

Jacqueline Winspear Signs My Book
Jacqueline Winspear, 2011

Michael Scott Answers Questions
Michael Scott, 2011 (He is my favorite author to attend readings for, because he’s awesome at answering every question every kid in the audience has and for taking their questions and comments very seriously.)

A Reading by Jasper Fforde
Jasper Fforde, 2010 (I once got to ask him about his lack of thirteenth chapters in his Thursday Next books.)

Rainbow Rowell, 2013 (She is hilarious and very accessible on Twitter. I highly recommend following her there. We chatted briefly about the series finale to Dawson’s Creek, which we both liked. Also, she has fantastic shoes.)

Eliot Schrefer and Me
Eliot Schrefer, 2013 (He shares great stories about bonobos and other apes in his Twitter feed.)

Just in case you envied me these experiences too much, though, I thought I’d reprint this story that I originally shared after the 2006 National Book Festival when I got a book signed by Doris Kearns Goodwin:

…Authors tend to leave me tongue-tied and all the kind, gushing things I think of to say to them while I’m waiting in line leave me as soon as I get up to the table.

What went through my brain in this instance was, “I really loved this book [Wait ‘Till Next Year]. It was on an endcap at the library in my old town and it demanded to come home with me one evening even though it wasn’t remotely what I was looking for. And then as I was reading, I was magically transported back 50 years to the ballgames of yore, and I immediately knew that my dad needed to read it. And that I needed to buy copies for my baseball-loving friends. It was the gift-book of the year. And then I eventually had to buy my own copy because I knew it was a story I’d want to re-read. You really do have a gift for making history come alive.”

What came out of my mouth was, “Sorry about your Red Sox.” She smiled patiently at me and said, “Thanks. There’s always next year.” I might as well have been a nerdy middle schooler telling the boy I like “I like your hair.”

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posted by soe 1:57 am

Today was a bit of a rush, with work deadlines and friends visiting (and the frantic apartment cleaning that accompanies visitors) and an intense discussion of the #YesAllWomen thread on Twitter, so I am only just now sitting down to write two blog posts and finish up some work writing.

Karen has her usual invitation (now that Amanda has passed on the baton) to share weekend activities and Carole made that the Ten on Tuesday topic today as well, so here is my weekend in a nutshell:

West End Rose

  1. Nicole, Julia, Michael, and I picnicked along the river as usual for a Friday evening, but it was a little quieter than usual, since The Yards opted not to schedule a concert over the long weekend, unbeknownst to us and about 100 other people. But Orangina and strawberries and cheese and hummus and chocolate (NOT all at once) with friends are a fine way to start a three-day weekend, with or without music.
  2. Strolled to Blind Dog Cafe for chocolate chip cookies and homemade soda (lemon for Rudi; vanilla for me).
  3. In honor of Geek Pride Weekend, we watched Star Wars.
  4. Sprawled on a blanket at Mitchell Park.
  5. Finished two books.
  6. Completed the two-color section of the Color Affection I’m knitting.
  7. Had a pleasant dinner with friends and their kids.
  8. Took an unintended 5-mile hike in Rock Creek Park after the heat returned the lion cubs to their den early and the crowds at the zoo sent us out the back gate.
  9. Swam at the pool during its inaugural weekend of the season.
  10. Planted my potatoes in the garden (finally!) and harvested my first strawberries.

All in all a nice weekend at home with my sweetie.

How was your weekend?

I cut the flower above from the rose bush growing in our community garden. Because the garden sits on land owned by the National Park Service, they have rules about what can and can’t be planted and roses are no-no’s. However, the bush has been there for a long time and we don’t fertilize it or treat it with anything, so we made the executive decision to grandfather it in. I appreciate its flowers every year and finally remembered to take snips with me yesterday to bring a bloom home to enjoy before their season passed.

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May 27, 2014

armchair bea: introduction
posted by soe 1:56 am
Armchair BEA
Designed by Amber of
Shelf Notes

Last year I discovered Armchair BEA, the book blogging community’s answer to the industry convention (Book Expo of America). I wrote posts, took part in Twitter chats, visited a lot of blogs, entered (and won) a few contests, and generally had a lot of fun.

However, you may have noticed that book posts have been noticeably absent this year and for a good part of last year. I was working on the wrap-up post on the day Rudi got injured in January, and I haven’t been able to force myself back to it — or to move forward without it. I have been reading, as you’ve probably surmised from the Yarning Along posts I share some Wednesdays, but summarizing or evaluating or anything formal just hasn’t happened yet this year.

Because I’ve been largely absent as a book blogger, I’d planned to skip this year’s Armchair BEA. But then it started today and I had a little pang.

Over the years, I’ve learned to recognize those pangs. They’re my psyche’s way of smacking me upside the head and saying, “Hey, dummy, you want this!” So I just signed up and offer this (and the following answers to some of the questions posed for the formal intro post) as way of saying hello:

Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging? Where in the world are you blogging from?

Hi, my name is Sprite. I blog from the Burrow, the apartment my partner and I share with three cats. I’m into my ninth year of blogging here at Sprite Writes, a birthday present from my partner back in 2005, for purposes of doing the writing I claim to love and never do.

Describe your blog in just one sentence. Then, list your social details so we can connect more online.

Sprite Writes is a lot like me: highly disorganized, active in fits and spurts, and filled with what I like best — including books, knitting, friends, cats, gardening, and music. I also write on Twitter, where, as @spritewrites, I write about all those things (just more concisely), as well as life in D.C. and liberal politics.

What was your favorite book read last year? What’s your favorite book so far this year?

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan topped my list last year. I loved his use of AIDS victims as a Greek chorus and the way his multiple storylines got more and more intense and overlapping as the book neared its climax.

This year, I’ve read a number of good books, but I think the most recent floats to the top as my favorite thus far: A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd is the story of Felicity Juniper Pickle, a 6th-grader who just arrived with her itinerant mom, little sister, and dog in the once-magical Tennessee town her mother grew up in. Felicity is a word catcher, capturing those she learns and those she sees emanating from the world around her in a book and on her sneakers, but she has difficulty sharing these words back with people outside her family. If she can harness the snicker of magic that remains in the town, it’s possible she can turn things around for herself and for Midnight Gulch, but her mother’s got that glint in her eye that means the open road is not far away.

What does your favorite/ideal reading space look like?

A bower? A hammock? A cushioned window seat? The Beast’s library? Jo’s apple tree? Under a comforter on a rainy afternoon? In a park? At the beach?

So from this, we can deduce my favorite spot to read might be in a window seat under a comforter in a formal library of a cottage when I feel like reading inside and then moving outside into a hammock beneath an apple tree in the surrounding park that overlooks the beach.

Actually, that does sound pretty fantastic.

What book would you love to see as a movie?

Gayle Forman’s Just One Day and Just One Year would make great films. A love story! International settings! Fun secondary characters! Mmmm!

So that’s a little bit about me. I’ll be back tomorrow (seriously!) with more bookish talk. See you then!

Category: books. There is/are 12 Comments.

May 23, 2014

folk, storm, and sorbet
posted by soe 1:41 am

Three beautiful things from the past week:

1. Nick Bayard, who was a guest artist at the gallery next door back in the fall, had a cd release party and concert tonight. Between him and his two friends/opening acts, the evening’s entertainment included songs about poverty, love, alien abductions, knitting, and garden gnomes. I do love modern folk music.

2. It has rained more Wednesdays than it hasn’t the last couple months, which means I have two make-up volleyball games scheduled this week. We can’t pull together enough people not to have to forfeit, which seems a dismal way to end a season. But, then, an hour before game time, the skies open up, forcing the matches to be postponed again.

3. Inspired by a colleague who brought homemade ice cream to last year’s office potluck, I decided for this year’s to make sorbet so my vegan coworkers could have some, too. With strawberries in season, the flavor choice was obvious. I hadn’t made sorbet before, so was a little nervous about debuting it so publicly, but the recipe turned out to be a solid one. Person after person came up to compliment me.

How about you? What’s been beautiful in your world this week?

This is my 500th three-beautiful-things post. Thanks, as always, to Clare who inspired the topic and who recently celebrated her 10th anniversary of recording beautiful things.

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