Writing Workshop Wednesdays (1)

Why do you write?

I write to understand, process, share, and be heard.  Writing allows me to find my position on subjects, archive my memories, and most importantly, show others my love for them.

In writing about books, I hope to infect others with my passion for reading as Professor Manuela Mourao did for me over twenty years ago.
Faced with a cancer diagnosis in 2011, I was motivated more than ever to capture my thoughts and ideas on this blog for my girls as well as others to reaffirm we are not alone.  One day, perhaps, my daughters will read my writing and connect with their mom on another, more intimate level, or at the very least, know I was a writer who constantly worked on honing her craft.

Now, it is YOUR turn to answer this week’s Writing Workshop Wednesdays prompt. . .

Why do YOU write? 

The Fault in Our Stars Book Club

I read John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars in a 48-hour span.  Wowza!  Not only does Green capture the adolescent thought processes, but also characterizes the young cancer patient’s philosophy and outlook on living and dying with cancer.  

Hooked early on with the female protagonist’s wit and outlook on life, I could not read enough from or about Hazel:

I hadn’t been in proper school in three years.   My parents were my two best friends.  My third best friend was an author who did not know I existed.  I was a fairly shy person- not the hand-raising type.  (12)

‘Pretty great,’  I agreed, although it wasn’t, really.  It was kind of a boy movie.  I don’t know why boys expect us to like boy movies.  We don’t expect them to like girl movies.  (35)

Augustus asked if I wanted to go with him to Support Group, but I was really tired from my busy day of Having Cancer, so I passed.  (125)

Having been a cancer patient myself, I could relate to Hazel’s commentary.  Furthermore, the intellectual banter which exists between Hazel and Augustus throughout is a delight to read as in their exploration of breakfast foods:

‘Like why don’t we have curry for breakfast?’ . . .  

‘But why?’ I asked.  ‘I mean, seriously:  How did scrambled eggs get stuck with breakfast exclusivity?  You can put bacon on a sandwich without anyone freaking out.  But the moment your sandwich has an egg, boom, it’s a breakfast sandwich.’  (137)

Thus, for the purposes of an evening book club over The Fault in Our Stars, step outside your comfort zone and offer breakfast for dinner.

Cheryl Strayed’s Torch Book Club

Having recently inhaled Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, I was then eager to read her first novel, Torch.  With similar life experiences as the female protagonist Claire- a parent who suffers a gruesome death at the hands of cancer, various familial dysfunction, and a previous longing for the consummate romantic relationship- I bookmarked passage after passage which seemed to have come from my own thought processes during my near-identical life experiences:  
Years passed. . . Slowly, stingingly, she forgave them [her parents] without their knowing about it.  She accepted the way things were- the way they were- and found that acceptance was not what she’d imagined it would be.  It wasn’t a room she could lounge in, a field she could run through.  It was small and scroungy, in constant need of repair.  (52)

Strayed does not romanticize life, but, instead reveals it in all its awkwardness, ugliness, and blessedness.
In addition, Strayed is not only author, but also neologist with the creation of parentified– “‘ . . . where a child who is still a child doesn’t get to be a child entirely because he or she has to take on things that children shouldn’t have to take on . . . common in single-parent families- where the child has to look after younger siblings, cook meals, and stuff like that'”  (56).  Recalling my own childhood, I can easily see how my older sister was definitely parentified,  and certainly not of her own volition at the tender age of fourteen.
For the purposes of book club, an assortment of vegetarian dishes in honor of Teresa Rae Wood would be appropriate.  Perhaps a scalloped potato casserole with peas along with herbal tea would be ideal items offered at your book club discussion.

Cheryl Strayed

The Help Book Club

     Kathryn Stockett’s The Help leaves me mourning the lives of her characters.  Having first been welcomed into these characters’ homes and lives as a guest (perhaps a fourth at Miss Leefolt’s bridge table) in the form of a reader, a transformation occurs, though, by the end of the novel where the reader emotionally entangles himself/herself with these seemingly living, breathing, struggling human beings.  Will Aibileen continue to . . . ?  How will Miss Skeeter fare in . . .?  Does Minny triumph as a . . . ?  Does Miss Hilly ever admit to . . . ?  The telling dialogue and vivid descriptions places the reader in the moment.  In fact, Minny’s words, “I intend to stay on her like hair on soap” (158) induced the gag reflex (icks).
     Besides the entertainment factor,  I hope the reader, more importantly, acknowledges the issues The Help brings to light such as racism, sexism, and domestic abuse (which nonsensically remain in today’s society) and is motivated to take action.  Having personally dealt with a sexist stepfather during my own upbringing, the reality is that these negative, needless influences have life-altering effects.

Picture and cake courtesy of Rhonda Tibbs.

     For the purposes of book club, a delectable caramel cake
shared among members seems the ideal choice since this inanimate “character” weaves itself throughout the novel.  If feeling playful and wish to determine who has completed the book club’s reading of the month, serve a chocolate pie alongside the

Two-slice Hilly?

cake and see which members help themselves to a slice or two.  Then, without a doubt, as a group view the movie version of The Help and determine whether the book was better . . .

Kathryn Stockett

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

     Garth Stein’s The Art of Racing in the Rain reaches beyond the animal lover or racing lover.  Instead, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a consuming read for men and women alike.  Creatively, narration is provided by Enzo, the terrier/lab mutt chosen at twelve weeks by the protagonist, Denny.  Enzo welcomes the reader into the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of his own life as well as the life of his master.  Without giving too much away,  the majority of Stein’s novel is a realistic tearjerker causing one to evaluate the treatment of his own life as well as others which then concludes on an almost fairy-tale note.
     Problems for me, the reader, ensued with the late introduction of Denny’s parents.  Their physical presence in the novel occupying only one chapter read as an afterthought.  Further explanation surrounding the parents only reaffirmed the notion that either more elaboration was needed, or the interjection of the parents should have been deemed unnecessary and distracting during editing.
     In regards to book club, this is one where man’s best friend should be not only welcome, but master or mistress of ceremonies.  The ideal setting would be a dog park such as Rock Springs Park in O’Fallon, IL.  If book club members are not owners of the four-legged friend, simply being near these canines at the park would set the mood.  Plenty of dog biscuits must be brought along to share with the dogs, and a fresh batch of oatmeal raisin cookies made in the same manner as Denny- plopped onto the cookie sheet- to share with the humans completes the ambiance and hopefully gives chase to a conversational treat.  Garth Stein