Friday, October 31, 2008

Being Edited & NaNoWriMo

I'm sorry I haven't posted yet about meeting Louis Sachar, Cornelia Funke, & John Green all in one week (and I caught the tail end of Laurie Halse Anderson's speech on Wednesday night too), but I haven't had internet access in a few days. I'm going to try to get Comcast out to my house soon, but my mom won't call to set up an appointment, even though she's home a lot more than I am. I'm on the school's network right now & only have a little bit of time before my next class.

I was just flipping through the newest issue of my school's newspaper, The Blazer and read over the book review I had submitted. I realized something: I had been edited. I knew this would happen, but it still bothers me. Mostly because I sound really repetitive & unimaginative at the end. Then I got to thinking about how this would affect me as a writer. In the future, I will deal with editors who want me to change one thing or another in my books, short stories, articles, etc. that I might not want to change. But here's the difference: "big time" editors will (or at least should be) professional. They will (or should) tell me what they want changed and give me the opportunity to change it before it goes to press. They will not take that liberty upon themselves without asking me first. Some editors might, I realize, but if they do, they're not being very professional about their job and at that point, I really hope I'm not the author they are dealing with.

I'd expand, but I have to keep this short so I can eat before I go to class (I was going to wait until after, but I'm getting really hungry now).

In just a few hours, NaNoWriMo will kick off and I will again participate. You may remember I participated two years ago, but had to take last year off because of personal/family issues. But I'm back this year & I am very excited! I don't have a plot all planned out, in fact, it's not even there as much as I would like it to be before I begin plowing through, but I'll deal with it!
I'll try to make updates like it did in 2006, with tips I learn along the way, word counts, & just "I am avoiding my writing" posts. With the internet situation as it is, I cannot guarantee this, but I will try. I want to.

If anything, I might just learn how much I want an editor to change things for me, haha.

If you want to friend me on the NaNo pages, my username is once again TypesetJez and I've linked that so you can find me (the NaNo site has temporarily disabled author searches to save its server some).

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Book Review: The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Realistic Fiction
Review by Jez Layman

Banned books week was September 27-October 4th, but banning books is a serious topic that should be acknowledged and fought all year long. Every year schools, churches, political groups, and many others will work to remove certain books from the shelves so that no one can read them. One such book is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, which has been challenged and banned time and time again since its publication in 1925. It is listed among the top most frequently challenged books of the 20th and 21st centuries, but is also listed as number 2 on Modern Library’s Top 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century. Charges have come against this book in that it is “sexually explicit” or the language is “inappropriate,” but when today’s college student compares it with television shows and movies they watch regularly, it is likely to seem relatively harmless.

In the book, Nick Carraway moves to the big city and finds a home in West Egg along the Long Island Sound. His next door neighbor is the lavish and mysterious Jay Gatsby, a man of self-made wealth, but of unknown background. Everyone claims to know Gatsby, but few have any clue as to who he really is. Really, he is simply a man trying to impress the love of his life, Daisy Buchanan (who coincidentally happens to be Nick’s cousin). Gatsby dated Daisy before he left to fight in World War I, and when he returned he found that she had not waited for him, but instead married Tom Buchanan. Tom is an untrue husband with a mistress in the city named Myrtle, that everyone, including Daisy, knows about. All of these scandals, and more, are uncovered through the eyes of Nick, who reintroduces Gatsby and Daisy.

This is a story of romantic complications and multiple instances of cheating and adultery, but even more than that, it is a depiction and reflection of life in the Jazz Age of America, during the time of prohibition. Things in Nick’s world are always more than they seem and should never be taken for granted. The characters are life-like and can easily be found in today’s society. Everyone knows a Nick or a Daisy, a Gatsby or a Tom. The plot has its twists and turns, keeping the reader interested, and the style is like no other. Fitzgerald is a master writer of his time and of all time and is constantly ranked among the best writers of the 20th century for that reason.

The Great Gatsby is more than just an English assignment. If you read it for a class, I encourage you to read it again so that you can enjoy it without the worry of the next test or assignment hanging over your head. And if you have never read it, I encourage you even more to read this novel, as well as other banned books. In celebration of banned books, try reading something new and controversial, you might just find a new view on the world, or even just simply something you enjoy reading.

Next review will be up shortly, I'm having a friend read over it for me before I send it in. It will be on John Green's new book, Paper Towns

Book Review: Peeps

This is my 101st post! :)
This semester I've been writing book reviews for my school newspaper, The Blazer. I've been waiting to put them up on here so that I could link you all to read them on the newspaper's webpage, but it doesn't appear that anyone over there is updating the page anymore.

Peeps by Scott Westerfeld
Young Adult

This year vampires are popular in literature, but with all the hype over Twilight, other vampire novels are lost in the shuffle. One such brilliant novel is Peeps by Scott Westerfeld. In his book Westerfeld puts a new spin on the classic vampire story. Forget all the folklore about crosses and silver bullets, this isn’t a mythological kind of story, this is about a parasite. The parasite works a little bit like an STD, no biting of necks necessary. Some of the old tales about vampires are explained by Westerfeld in that the parasite changes a person’s perceptions of the world & causes them to hate the things that they liked in their pre-peep days, such as crosses if they were religious.

The main character, Cal, is a carrier for the parasite--someone who has it, but isn't affected by it, except for increased strength and heightened senses. It's Cal's job to find other “peeps” and capture them before they cause any more harm or spread the disease farther. His main target is Morgan, the woman who gave him the parasite, but along the way he meets Lace, a girl who begins to involve herself in the investigations with him. But it’s a little hard to concentrate on the mission when the parasite wants Lace too, adding a little romantic conflict to the story.

The plot is well thought out, interesting, and on occasion suspenseful. And for the life science geeks out there, the even numbered chapters are about real life parasites. These chapters add to the story & make things easier to understand, but if you have a weak stomach it is advised that you skip these chapters as they can get a little disturbing and are not integral to the plot.

Part science fiction, part non-fiction this book will make you rethink everything you’ve known about vampires up until now and make you fall in love with them all over again. Scott Westerfeld has a great writing style and creates characters you’ll remember and relate to. This book is recommended to those who love vampires, science fiction, or just want a good, quick read.

If you liked Peeps, try the companion novel, The Last Days by Scott Westerfeld. New characters, new perspectives, same old parasites.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Banned Books

I'm a day late to comment on Banned Books Week, but here's the thing guys: books are banned all the time. Not just in any one week. This isn't a topic we should concentrate on for a mere 7 days. This is a problem we should be aware of 365 (sometimes even 366) days a year! It's a serious problem where certain people try to govern what's "acceptable" or not for us to read. They try to control our reading habits and make things inaccessible to us. What's wrong for one person could be the absolute best read for another. So don't let those people win. Read banned books. Fight against banning books. And don't ban books yourself. Give reading a chance.

Now, I'm writing up my newest book review for my school's newspaper, and in honor of banned books, I've decided to write on The Great Gatsby. I'll put up the review when the issue comes out (and I'll put up my last one very soon), but until then, check out the list of banned books and see which ones you've read, which ones you want to read, and which ones simply do not belong on that list.

I can't find any one list with all the banned books, but if you google you can find a lot of good lists.

Banned books that I have read:
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (banned for putting anthromorphosized animals on the same level as humans. go fig. I LOVE THIS BOOK)
Animal Farm by George Orwell (I didn't like this book, but my friend LOVES it)
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner (I have yet to meet someone who likes this book. Still shouldn't be banned though)
The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seuss
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
The Adventures of Huck Finn by Mark Twain
Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling
The Giver by Lois Lowry (I just debated about this book with someone last night actually)
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle
Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
The Witches by Roald Dahl (one of my favorites)
Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
Canterbury Tales by Chaucer
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
The Bible
Anything by William Shakespeare (though I have not read them all)
Grimm's Fairy Tales
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
1984 by George Orwell (most of it anyway)
Charlotte's Web by EB White
Winnie the Pooh by AA Milne
The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman (more correctly, I've read The Golden Compass & part of The Subtle Knife)

Banned books I really want to read:
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Freedom Writers
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Outsiders by S.E. HInton
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl (I may have actually read this in grade school, but I can't remember clearly)
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Also, check out the ALA's page on Banned Books Week for more info on banned books.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Register to Vote. Seriously.

Originally, Spider-Man told me to register. Seriously, he did. My friend found me an old X-Men TAS cassette tape and I popped it in & there was a public service annoucement--from Spider-Man!! It was done in the 90s and was cheesy, but Spidey told me to make sure to register to vote. Then at welcome week earlier this semester I registered. And I'll be voting later this year in national, state, & local elections.

You should register too. Now, I can't ask Spider-Man to tell you to. But maybe you'll listen to these guys instead.


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