01 May 2012

Unlock Your Story: The Challenge of Literature

"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart."  ~William Wordsworth

I have always had a love affair with words. But a true hate affair with cooked vegetables.

I credit learning to read with hating cooked carrots and peas. Whenever we would have them I would simply refuse to eat them (I still have a hard time with them). My parents would make me sit there all night until I ate them. I can vividly recall them cleaning up the table and kitchen one night and then going downstairs to watch television, where I could hear the obviously enticing strains of the World of Walt Disney hour wafting up the stairs while there I stubbornly sat. There were bookshelves in the dining room and I was content to sit and look through all the books, never really understanding the words. (I wonder if I ever hid those dreaded cooked carrots behind the books?)

When I was younger, my mother worked at the Hennepin County Library. On Saturdays I would go with her while she worked for a few hours. I remember that she would park me in one of those little chairs in the children's section and tell me to read whatever books I wanted. I would soon get bored and would wander out into the stacks. They would find me sitting cross legged on the floor surrounded by all the books from the bottom two shelves, the only shelves I could reach. I didn't know what was said but I always enjoyed looking. 

When we moved to Stevens Point, my mother found work at the Portage County Public Library right across the street from my grade school. I would go there after school and get lost all over again in the stacks. All through grade school and high school I had my nose buried in a book. My dad would take us out for boat rides on the small lake we lived on. I always wanted to stay home and read. I would get lost in a book, I would become the main character. I would envision what my life would be like in that time period. When I was about ten, I remember getting sucked into the Little House on the Prairie series. I started calling my parents "Ma" and "Pa" and talking with some slightly twangy accent and started looking for gingham clothes. My "Pa" put an end to that right quick!

Fast forward to college. I could never go to a library to study because I would always wander off into the stacks to sit and peruse the books around me. I was originally an advertising/public relations major. One day I was approached by a floormate who was struggling in English ask to pay me to help tutor her on how to write a research paper because she knew that I was ace-ing English. She went from a solid D in that class to a B+ with my help (and no, I didn't write it for her). So I switched my university and my major to English education.

I was an 7th grade English teacher in a former life. We read novels and wrote short stories and did research papers. We acted in plays and found poetry in the everyday rhythms around us. I so enjoyed the creativity and the originality of my students. It was the grading and the discipline I hated. That and all the paperwork. If it weren't for all that, I might still be a teacher!

So I guess that words are in my blood.

And it should come as no surprise that I gravitate to art beads with words on them, like this or this or this, or that when I was coming up with my line of components that the only thing I could agree on is that they had to have words, powerful messages of hope and encouragement. 

I am currently the Vintaj art bead partner of the month. The theme is storybook and it feels like I have come full circle. Head over to this blog post today to tell your Vintaj story and win a great assortment of limited edition 'simple truths' and Vintaj product!

So when I was thinking about what I wanted the next quarterly challenge to be about, I knew that it had to be all about the story.

Unlock Your Story

{unlock your story - available on Etsy}
Did you have a favorite book as a child?

I can recall the likes of Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein coloring my life with their fantastical worlds and language play. I have always been smitten by children's authors and illustrators. Tomie de Paola made an appearance at the Hennepin County Library. And my father was the Vice President of Sales for Worzalla Publishing which publishes so many of the books your children are reading now, from textbooks and yearbooks to the Scholastic Book Club offerings, like some of the printings of Harry Potter and all of The Diary of a Wimpy Kid

As I grew older, so did my tastes in stories. I fell in love with Madeleine L'Engle and her Wrinkle in Time books. I also went through a Ray Bradbury phase. His short story "A Sound of Thunder" evoked some of the greatest discussion with my students, and I am still haunted by the imagery of "There Will Come Soft Rains." His novel "Something Wicked This way Comes" is still one of my all-time favorites.

Reading is such an amazingly generous gift you can give to yourself. You can learn so much, be transported to another time and dimension, connect with the stories of all that have gone before you and feel the depth of emotion that a poet can elicit with just a few tasty word choices. There is nothing finer than to read with a child and watch their eyes light up with the magic of words.

Verse & Vision
This May marks the second annual Verse & Vision show that Gallery Q, where I am a member, will be hosting. We invite poets from around Wisconsin to submit their best poetry. Last year there were over 200 submissions! Then an independent writers' group juried the top 57 poems into the show. As artists, we each had the chance to choose one or more to base our artwork on. I chose three poems. I cannot reveal the poems nor the artwork I created, but I will do so later this month. But here is one of the poems I wrote about last year and the necklace that I created to give you an example.

A Change in the Weather by Joy Kirsch

Early January
Ten below
The radio announcer misspeaks
"Today a chance of flowers"

Oh, yes, please
Give me pansies and peonies
Larkspurs and lilacs
Clouds of cosmos
Roses and more roses
Let the petals fall...
Like Rain

I tried to evoke the feeling of iciness and winter with the blooming of the vintage petals for a frosty-turned-springy interpretation of Joy's lovely poem. Do you think I acheived that?

The Verse & Vision show is truly exciting in that I have no idea whose poems I have interpreted this year and won't find out until the opening and poetry reading on May 18th!

Ready to take the Challenge?

What is your favorite literary pastime? Do you enjoy reading poetry? Are you a fan of the classics like Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, or the Bronte sisters? Do you recall the first novel that you ever read that you so fully connected with? Or are you in the throes of reading bedtime stories so that colors your literary world?

Whatever your inspiration... poetry, drama, mystery, fantasy, realistic fiction, romance, graphic novels, children's illustrated or young adult... I challenge you to be inspired by literature this month!

If you love reading, this is the challenge for you! For the Challenge of Literature, we will choose a piece of writing that speaks to each of us personally and translate that literature into an accessory. Here is how it will work:

1::Go to the tab above that says 'take the challenge' and sign up. Participation is limited to the first 60 who sign up between May 1st-May 5th.

2::Start thinking about a story. (Don't worry, you don't have to know right away what story or literary style, just start thinking!) Will it be something you read over and over as a child? Or maybe it will be the last novel that you read and couldn't put down? Perhaps your favorite is the flowery language of sonnets, or the gritty realism of the crime drama. Maybe you love the romance and lessons told in fairy tales and folklore. Whatever your favorite form of literature is, you can't go wrong.
{'Thornfield's Secret Tower' inspired by the novel Jane Eyre}

So what can you do? You can be inspired by the characters, the time period, or the title. You can research the author. You can incorporate the title or some passage from the literature in your piece, but words are not necessary.

OR challenge yourself to try a write your own story or poem(it is called a challenge after all...)If you cannot think of any particular story or decide on one type of literature, what about writing your own mini story or a small poem? Sometimes I like to think of a title for the piece first and see where that will take me. I found this clever little Random Title Generator app. Click it and see what comes up. Maybe you will be inspired to tell the tale with your own design. ;-)

3::Mark your calendar: Blog Hop on Thursday, May 31st. Yes, you must have a blog to participate in a blog hop. You are encouraged to blog about your literature selection, your inspiration, your creative process. Be sure to tell us of your connection to this story, this piece of literature, why you chose it. Please find a way to share something about the literature you chose on your blog: link to the author's website, immerse yourself in the time frame or the fantasy world, supply part of the poem, etc. It doesn't have to be all of these, but some way that we can learn about this piece of literature that will be helpful in making the connection with your accessory.

Hopefully we will have as many different types of literature as we have participants. You won't reveal your literature until the blog hop, so don't worry about claiming a story as your own. I don't care if you all pick the same one (that is highly unlikely). But even if we all did we would still have so many different interpretations. This is an exercise in how to take the magic of words as your inspiration and interpret it in your own way. I hope that this Challenge of Literature hop will be a great way to expand your horizons to new literary genres, find a way to make the intangible tangible, and show off your unique and lovely personality!

I will compile all the entries into the database and email all of the participants by Tuesday, May 8th with more information to help you enjoy the hop.

The most important thing, the only rule really, is to HAVE FUN!
(I will come up with a blog button that will be posted on the 'take the challenge' tab this week!)

Your turn... who is your favorite author and why?


A Polymer Penchant said...

Wow Erin, I'm completely sold - I signed up the moment I finished reading! You are so convincing. This is going to be a really fun piece to creat, the ideas are swirling already. I knew right away which book I'd choose.

The Crazy Creative Corner said...

I've signed up, but I have a challenge question... I do happen to write poetry and was wondering if I could go back and use a poem I've already written as the challenge to create a piece of jewelry from? You're challenge got me thinking of some of the things I've written and how I'd interpret them into jewelry.... If not, that's ok, but I had to ask! :D

Amy S. said...

What a fun idea!!

Kim said...

I lived at the library growing up. I have severe asthma and couldn't take gym, so I spent that time in the library until High School when I was able to schedule a different class in place of it. I read The Hobbit when I was in 5th grade and went straight on to The Lord of the Rings from there. I think that LOTR will always be my favorite book. I adored Nancy Drew, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Lousia May Alcott I could go on and on. I Love reading, it has saved my sanity more than once.

Alice said...

I signed up!!!

I have to admit I didn't read much when I was young. We lived out in the country and driving into town was only for important things like groceries, fuel, and water. We never had a library card, and seldom were encouraged to read. Later in high school our small school did not have literary classes, so I never was exposed to the classic stories or poems. But now we have what seems like our own library here at home, and we made sure our children were exposed to all sorts of books.

What a great challenge!

SueBeads said...

I too had a reading problem! If my parents sent me to my room, I said GOOD I can read! This is such a great challenge, and I love that bracelet you made! WOW, you are just so talented! I hope I can measure up in the challenge. BTW, I still have my Little House books!

Off the Beadin' Path said...

Erin, I related to the way reading entered your life and stayed in so many ways! My mother, an English teacher, always read to me and took me to the library. I still have some of my childhood books, they are so beautiful, not like most of children's books today. Later my cousin and I devoured the entire Nancy Drew series. Dan and I always have a stack of books by the bed. I could never name a favorite author, but we both enjoy Michael Connelly's style, subtle humor, and suspense. He fills the page with substance and shares videos on his research for each book. I don't need a deadline right now but I can't resist your challenge. While reading about it, I already had several ideas!! You are always out in the front with creativity!

The Crazy Creative Corner said...

Y'know, I have to add one more thing. I, too, had reading problems in that, once I was reading, I had a problem hearing anything going on around me. My mom was just SURE that I was ignoring her on purpose (I think a few of the books she snatched out of my hands may still be in orbit somewhere around Neptune). She had no idea I was solving mysteries with Trixie Belden and the gang and was nowhere NEAR Bakersfield, CA!!! (haHA!)

Anonymous said...

(close eyes, jump in feet first to another challenge) I too am an avid reader, always have been. I tend toward the fantasy and SF genres but really, I'm not that fussy! And, well, I'm a science writer by profession and now a blogger! What a great idea for a challenge!

Chennai Escorts said...

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DESPINA said...

What a wonderful challenge, I don't have a blog otherwise I'd be signed up instantly...
Can't wait to see the entries
<3 <3


DESPINA said...

I actually have started one but it has to do with my other love, cinema and film reviews
That will be a great idea, a film-related challenge!!


aneri_masi said...

I was SO sure I signed up for this yesterday! Don't see my comment..so here it is again:

I want to make something inspired by my all time favorite To Kill A Mocking Bird. Well that's what I think I will do now...it could change :D

Therese's Treasures said...

Hi Erin This sounds very interesting. I have not checked the list yet, but if there is still room I think I will sign up. I enjoy reading and I try to get some in when I can. it takes me months to get a book read these days but I stick with it. I love mysteries and thrillers. Stephen King, Dean Koontz, James Patterson, Janet Evanovich( I love her Stephanie Plum books)to name a few. I also enjoy the classics too.

Dawn Doucette said...

Oh Erin, what a great challenge. I just love your challenges. Unfortunately, my plate is overflowing this month and next already. :(

I have to say though, I love books! My funniest memory was in 2nd grade, I read the book Super Fudge by Judy Blume 6 times (and did book reports on it each time because we were giving a different style requirement for each report.) So being the procrastinator I was, I just told the story in the way the teacher asked.... I couldn't help it was the exact same book. LOL


Maneki said...

I started reading about the new challenge and immediately signed up because I loved the idea. Nothing beat a really good book! 15 mins later I realised the blog hop is likely to be in the middle of potato season... Oh, well, fingers crossed it won't be too busy right around the reveal date because I don't want to miss this one.

Tricky part -- apart from my poor planning -- will be choosing a story. There are so many I love! Some are long like the fantasy series and old russian tomes, others are short like haikus or mini essays. Some are horrible and cruel and grimy, others are lyrical and serene and feather light. They all have something that captivates, but in very different ways.

Rose said...

Too cool :) I can't wait to see what people make.

I too was an English major (did tech writing rather than lit because I didn't want to teach) and I really grew up in yellowed pages that had been passed down and treasured. It's sometimes hard to find people similarly into books. Happy to find other storylovers :)


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