Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Voice

I really like the show “The Voice”.  Mostly because of Adam Levine.  The voices on the show, they're not bad either. 

I was going through the writing portfolio that contains most of my major writing assignments from middle school through high school.  It’s been a great trip down memory lane and it’s been fun to see my writing progress from loopy fifth grade cursive to dot matrix font in high school.  Oddly, in the early days, there were a lot of references to food, including a Thanksgiving speech in which I was thankful that I could afford to go out to lunch with my mom (some things never change!) and a report on African food that I ended with the closing line – “I hope you enjoyed my report.  Now I’m off to get a snack.”  What???  I still got an “A” though!

When I started reading the papers that I wrote in high school, I began to notice a recurring comment being made by my teachers.  “Your voice is strong.”  “Strong voice.”  “Strong voice but tend to lose focus.”  (She was never one of my favorite teachers anyway.) 

I never thought of myself as having a strong voice.  My voice was quiet, if it was even heard at all.

But maybe sometimes, the quietest voices are the strongest.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Marina and Lee and Me

A couple of weeks ago I read Stephen King’s 11/22/63.  If you haven’t read it yet – and think you might – STOP READING NOW.  I’ll be giving away a few plot lines ‘cause I’m nice like that.  Skip to the end if you don’t want to know about the book! 

Alrighty – only those people who have read or who aren’t ever going to read 11/22/63 should be reading this now.  First off, this isn’t one of those books that you toss in your carry-on to read on the plane – it’s HUGE.  It’s like 845 pages huge!  Now, if it’s on your Kindle, well, no biggie.  But if you actually went to a book store and bought the book – holy moly!  And the 11/22/63 bit of it is maybe about 25 of those pages!  So, definitely not as much assassination as I tend to like in my books!

Here’s the basic premise (which you already know because you read the book, right?) – what if you could go through a rabbit hole, back through time, and stop Lee Harvey Oswald from assassinating President John F. Kennedy? 

Of course, saving Kennedy won’t be easy because, like so many of us, the past doesn’t like to be changed.  And it’ll do everything in its power to stay the way it’s always been.  So, there are a lot of obstacles (like two facial disfigurements, a beat-down that lands someone in a coma, a bus crash, and on and on) that have to be survived on this quest.  But say you’re successful and you save Kennedy and all of humanity forevermore.  But do you really?  Because see, when the past is changed, so’s the future.  And when you make your trip back through the rabbit hole to 2011, well, Maine’s a province of Canada and things aren’t exactly peachy for the rest of humanity.  The main take away – the past should just stay the past.    

It’s all fiction, of course.  But it’s intriguing because what ifs are always intriguing. 

A few years ago, I met Priscilla Johnson McMillan, the author of the joint biography, Marina and Lee.  Ms. McMillan donated her personal papers to the National Archives and I went to her home in Cambridge, Mass to inventory and box up everything.  Professionally, it was a unique experience – for two and a half days, I worked in a backyard sifting through paper.  Personally, it was amazing.  See, Ms. McMillan happens to be the only person who knew both President Kennedy and Oswald (calling all conspiracy theorists!)  She knew Kennedy when he was a Senator and she later interviewed Oswald when he defected to the Soviet Union.  History certainly has its fair share of strange coincidences, doesn’t it?

There were many times during those couple of days that I stopped and thought what if?  What if Lee Harvey Oswald never defected to the Soviet Union?  What if he defected but decided to live out a long, peaceful life in Minsk with Marina?  What if he wasn’t allowed back into the United States after he decided to un-defect?  What if he never got a job at the Texas School Book Depository?  What if he had a better relationship with his mother?  What if someone had stopped him on November 22, 1963?    

Intriguing, right?  (And as Mr. King so ably proves - great material for a novel!)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Trunk Show

I’ve been feeling guilty because I haven’t posted anything in almost two weeks.  The truth of the matter is that I’ve been up to no good – I’ve been reading books.  Now that that’s out of my system, I can return to writing.  Why can’t I do both at the same time?  Well, there just aren’t enough hours in the day!  And, um, sometimes my brain can’t handle all the words. 

Now, it’s time to talk about the elephant in the room. 

He's got junk in his trunk!

It’s not just any elephant, see, it’s the Graduate Study Elephant.  It’s my Graduate Study Elephant.  What the heck’s a Graduate Study Elephant?  Stick around and I’ll tell you.

Way back at the beginning of grad school – at orientation, actually – they gave us a big packet of important papers.  You know the kind – a map of the campus, the course catalog, information about parking permits, instructions on how to use the copiers in the library, the school fight song, and a sheet of phone numbers for mental health professionals to contact when the rigors of grad school pushed you over the edge.  Tucked amongst all those important papers was the Graduate Study Elephant.  You were supposed to color it in as you finished each course – coloring in grad school one block at a time.

Now, I don’t know how many of my classmates actually colored in the Graduate Study Elephant but, me?  I ignored all the rest of the information in the packet and focused on that elephant.  Sure, I didn’t know how to operate the copiers in the library and I couldn’t find the financial aid building for a year and half but who cared about that?  I had my Graduate Study Elephant!

At the beginning of each semester, I wrote in the classes that I was taking in each of the little blocks.  1 semester = 3 classes = 3 blocks.  Except for that semester that I took four classes.  And the summer session that I took two classes. 
Looking at my Graduate Study Elephant now is like taking a walk down Graduate School Memory Lane.  There are the course codes that used to roll off my tongue like the alphabet.  There’s the Information Access class in which, upon meeting a girl named Laurel, I said, “Your name’s Laurel and I live in Laurel!”  Introductions are not my strong suit.  Luckily, she didn’t think I was crazy and we’re still friends today. For the record, I still live in Laurel and her name is still, well, Laurel.  Then's there's the Information Structure class – um, the catalog class – that I hated with a passion and for which I almost needed the phone numbers of those mental health professionals (and which now, I’m pretty sure is an example of irony at its best.)  And I can’t forget the management class in which I learned that giving small tokens – such as pens – to staff improves morale (and doesn’t that explain a lot!)  Sorry, I could go on and on…

Anyway, at the end of the semester, as soon as my grades were posted and I knew that I had passed, I diligently colored in the blocks.  After completing three semesters and a summer session, after jumping through the hoops that needed to be jumped through, my Graduate Study Elephant was completely colored in.  And I was an official Master of Library Science (but remember, don’t call me a librarian!)

But what happens when there are no more hoops to jump through?  What happens when there are no more blocks to color in? 

Sure, you end up with a feeling of accomplishment.  Not to mention a colorful elephant. 

Then what? 

I think I need to find something else to color in.