Thursday, December 29, 2011

Smallest Library I've Seen -- Frankfurt, Germany

This has to be one of the world's smallest libraries.
It is definitely smaller than the phone booth library in England.

This tiny library is the close to where I live.

This bookshelf library can be accessed from either side by opening the glass doors. There are ten shelves, five on each side. The sign in German, when translated says, "open book closet." It is an official Frankfurt am Main City Public Library and is always open.

Of course, since this is Germany, books are borrowed on the honor system. Take a book and bring it back when you've finished reading.
I looked inside and scanned the titles. They are all in German and some of the books looked very old! I pulled one out to look at it's printing date: 1926!

Another angle of this library.

Libraries, whether large or small, whether the books are in English or another language, are one of my favorite places in the world. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Fairy Tale House in Michelstadt

I rounded the corner in Michelstadt when visiting their Christmas Market and saw this amazing building.
Characters from various Grimms' tales are painted on the outer walls of this traditional fachwerk house.

Characters on this side of the house include Hansel and Gretel (top), Bremen Town Musicians (center), Little Red Riding Hood (right), and Cinderella with the prince (left)-the 2nd panel of the story.

Detail of Bremen Town Musicians and Little Red Riding Hood. (Her hood has faded from a brighter red, but see the wine and bread in her basket?)

Here I'm standing in front of another side of the building. 

 Bottom right is the first panel of Cinderella with birds. Above is the Frog Prince, and to the left is a dwarf, carrying a lantern. I'm not certain which tale he is from, as there are a couple possibilities.

Three panels that tell the story of Puss in Boots. Left, the cat is with a man with a horn; center, a girl and boy pass by; right is Puss in his boots.

Details of Puss in Boots 

Details of The Frog Prince

And last--here is a view of the house, with part of the Christmas Market in the foreground.

May your holidays be filled stories.
Happy Holidays.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Art of Revision—The Rainbow Manuscript technique

Art of Revision—The Rainbow Manuscript technique

I started using colorful fonts when revising after Martine Leavitt, my advisor at Vermont College of Fine Arts asked me to make all my changes in red. 
My manuscript was bleeding after I was done: 

Screenshots of my novel, River at 10% zoom. Shown
are the beginning (top), middle, and end (bottom.)
Yes, I made that many changes; the changes represent a deep revision.
As I worked I grew to love red font!
Because all red words are better words, better sentences, and even new scenes at times, I have grown to think of red as a positive writing color, instead of the color that marks all my mistakes.
Later revision of River
 Using another font color lets me see what I’m doing, or what I recently changed.  In some cases it is helpful when I read through my novel the next time, as I can see what I changed.  Other times, the red font was just for the process, and I switch the font all back to black before I work on it again.. 
Also, if I work for several hours or a couple days and feel I didn’t make much headway, I can look at the colorful font, and realize, yes, I did make good progress.
I don’t use colored font with every draft. It’s not useful to me in early drafts. 
Occasionally, if I need to both be aware of the last changes I made and need to track my current changes as I take an additional revision pass, I’ll add another color, like blue. If I move a substantial passage, I may mark those sentences with another font color for those passages. 
By the end of the revision pass, at least temporarily, I have a rainbow manuscript.

Screenshot of my novel, Crossings-a late revision at 10% zoom

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Choosing Books for Gifts

I recently received an email from a relative asking for book suggestions for her teens and college age sons.
At first I had two thoughts:
What books do I think each would enjoy?
Word of mouth is powerful.
In this case, her daughter stayed with us this past summer—so I know what types of books she likes. For the others, it is harder to come up with titles. Different books speak to different readers, and it can be tricky when giving suggestions and buying books for others.
So how does one find the “right” book? (Or books, because one book is never enough.) 
1. One of my favorite approaches is to peruse the shelves of a bookstore or library. (Of course, here in Germany, where typically only bestsellers are imported, a bookstore isn’t the same experience. But every time I go back to the states, I visit at least one bookstore and feast.)
2. Lists of books. Many organizations publish year-end lists online, such as the New York Times, Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Publisher’s Weekly. But often we want to find a book that is more specific, a great book that isn’t a bestseller. One can search online and find all sorts of lists, for example, the recent lists about dog books posted by Leda Schubert and cat books posted by Kathi Appelt). For children’s books an extensive list of lists can be found at Chicken Spaghetti.
3. Bloggers' book reviews. There are many wonderful blogs. Kidlitosphere Central has a great listing for those who want to discover and explore blogs that review and talk about books.
4. And of course, word of mouth. If someone gives me a book recommendation, the chances that I’ll buy that book are quite high.
I’ve always given books as gifts. (Which is one reason for our overflowing shelves and our substantial library of children’s literature—a home library that has more English books than either the international school or national library in one country where we lived.) 
Beloved books will be read over and over again and they will be treasured for years. Uma Krishnaswami  wrote a blog post this week about her first book. I also still have my first ragtag books from childhood —Snow Treasure, an Enid Blyton, and Island of the Blue Dolphins.
It's delightful to choose the “right” book for a gift, especially when the child immediately falls into the pages, losing herself in another great story.