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Kelly Hand
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I live in Washington, DC, where same-sex marriage is legal. I find it odd that as the Supreme Court weighs the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), DOMA’s defenders keep insisting on procreation as the purpose of marriage--as if there were no overlap between gay marriage and baby-making. I had mixed feelings when I heard Elena Kagan countering such arguments with her comment that in marriages of heterosexuals over fifty-five, “there aren’t a lot of children coming out of those marriages.” Her heart is in the right place and this eminently quotable comment, replayed over and over again... Continue reading
Posted Apr 4, 2013 at Six Great Books
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This summer, I finally warmed up to the idea of self-publishing. Having been through the long process of pitching my first novel, Blind Girl’s Bluff, to scores of literary agents, I lacked the energy to court such rejection again with my second novel, Au Pair Report. Several conscientious agents had expressed interest in Blind Girl’s Bluff only to conclude that it was not marketable enough. Because Au Pair Report had a natural primary audience—moms who read fiction—it seemed more marketable to me until I began subscribing to the Publishers Marketplace email service listing all book deals made each day. It... Continue reading
Posted Oct 21, 2012 at Six Great Books
Let me start with a confession: I did not have enough time to reread all of The Grapes of Wrath before the day of my scheduled contribution to the Classics Circuit blog tour celebrating the work of John Steinbeck. This makes me feel sheepish, like a student who has not managed to do the assigned reading for a class. On the other hand, it reminds me that we designate certain novels as “classics” partly because they are memorable enough to stay with us in the years after we read them. And sometimes the experience of reading a book is as... Continue reading
Posted Aug 19, 2011 at Six Great Books
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If both nature and nurture are what it takes, my kids will be stronger readers and writers than I am. They have my genes and my passion for literature, but they're also benefitting from superior reading and writing instruction. Their public charter school uses "reading workshop" and "writing workshop," a curriculum Lucy Calkins of Columbia Teachers College developed to empower students to read and write with increasing sophistication at each grade. My daughter's fourth grade teacher, Ms. Helms, made all her students a laminated refrigerator magnet with the heading, "7 Questions good readers ask (and can answer!) about our books."... Continue reading
Posted Jun 10, 2011 at Six Great Books
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Oliver Twist’s famous request for seconds on gruel at the workhouse is a fitting reminder of why Charles Dickens deserves to win the “Dueling Authors” bout between Dickens and Jane Austen The Classics Circuit is sponsoring from May 8 to 21. I feel like a traitor to the cause of genteel femininity in denying Austen this honor. Her novels have had such a powerful hold on me, inspiring me to strive for sensible virtue in the manner of heroines such as Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice) and Marianne Dashwood (Sense and Sensibility). Austen is an exemplar of the common dictum... Continue reading
Posted May 7, 2011 at Six Great Books
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Orphans abound in literature, so it seems almost unfair to single out six great books about orphans. In fact, one French literary critic, Marthe Robert, the author of Roman des origines, origines du roman, has argued that every novel is about orphanhood, at least in the figurative or imaginary sense. Novels often focus on a protagonist struggling with an identity conflict that derives from being or feeling alone in the world. I think one reason many readers have a particular fondness for nineteenth-century English literature is that authors of the period explored the phenomenon of orphanhood in all its narrative... Continue reading
Posted Apr 18, 2011 at Six Great Books
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What does Twitter have to teach us? Brevity, at the very least. Keeping tweets under 140 characters forces us to choose our words carefully. Some high school English teachers believe that incorporating Twitter into homework assignments will make students better writers. However, as this article in the Washington Post points out, asking students to tweet about Hemingway or The Canterbury Tales may make them more vulnerable to online predators, including their teachers. Virginia is calling for regulations regarding instructional use of social media, and some states have already banned Facebook and other digital tools beyond school control. Will keeping Twitter... Continue reading
Posted Mar 26, 2011 at Six Great Books
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I try not to buy too many books for myself or my children. Our bookshelves are full and we raid our local library every two weeks, checking out fifty books at a time. This has something to do with being "green," but even more to do with being cheap, so please don't tell me to buy an e-reader instead! As a wannabe first novelist, I feel like a hypocrite. Why should I expect anyone to buy my (as yet unpublished) book if I don't consider their books worth buying--even when I desperately want to read them? Here's a confession: in... Continue reading
Posted Nov 22, 2010 at Six Great Books
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My summer was more about reading than writing. Having completed my novel Blind Girl’s Bluff at the end of May, I relished the opportunity to immerse myself in other writers' books for a few months. My favorites included Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex, Rebecca Miller’s The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, and T.C. Boyle’s Tortilla Curtain. The book my older daughter and I enjoyed together most was Maryrose Wood’s The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: the Mysterious Howling. Now that the kids are back in school and the literary agents are back in their offices, I need to get serious about seeking... Continue reading
Posted Sep 26, 2010 at Six Great Books
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This seems to be the year of Arizona for me, and I think I know why. Arizona is one of the locations in my recently completed novel, Blind Girl’s Bluff, but before this April I had not set foot in the state for almost two decades. In fact, I had never spent much time there in the first place. A short visit to Sedona had left an impression on me, and a high school acquaintance told me about attending a boarding school in Arizona. These two distinct experiences formed the imaginative kernel for The Desert Academy, where my blind artist... Continue reading
Posted Jun 5, 2010 at Six Great Books
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Did you ever fantasize about being “sent away” to boarding school? I did, and books about boarding schools—classics such as John Knowles’s A Separate Peace and J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye among them—fueled this fantasy. Bad things tend to happen in books about boarding schools, yet something about the idea of trading parental authority for institutional authority captured my imagination. British literature abounds with books set in boarding schools. Thomas Hughes’s Tom Brown’s School Days, R.F. Delderfield’s To Serve Them All My Days, and of course J.K. Rowlings’s Harry Potter series all reinforce the notion that going away... Continue reading
Posted Apr 21, 2010 at Six Great Books
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This is the time of year when escape fantasies abound. Here in the mid-Atlantic, the dreariness of late winter is almost behind us. Last week’s warm rain finally washed away the filthy detritus of February’s big snowstorms. The collective mood is optimistic because it’s sunny outside, the crocuses are in bloom, and the forecast is calling for sixty-eight degrees tomorrow. The vernal equinox is just days away and many families have plans to get away to some version of paradise during spring break. I’m staying home (more on this later), but find myself daydreaming about the literary fantasy cottage to... Continue reading
Posted Mar 17, 2010 at Six Great Books
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Every novel is supposed to have a descriptive “tag line,” so I have done my duty and come up with one sentence that attempts to encompass a sprawling narrative. Here it is: Blind Girl’s Bluff is a quirky coming-of-age tale about a blind orphan, homeschooled by her anarchist father, who becomes an artist when she attends school for the first time. The foolhardy enterprise of writing a novel occasionally comes up in conversation, and when someone asks me what my novel is about I offer up some version of this tag line. If that line does not stop the conversation... Continue reading
Posted Jan 23, 2010 at Six Great Books
The Writer's Centerin Bethesda, where we all met each other, is the place that made our writing group possible. This independent not-for-profit organization offers classes and other resources to writers in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area. Its online presence includes a blog, First Person Plural, which is featuring contributions by members in January. Look for "Believing It's Possible" by Kristin on January 13 and "The Revision Revelation" by Kelly on January 8. You will need to scroll down to the appropriate date. Continue reading
Posted Jan 14, 2010 at Six Great Books
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We decided to create a blog for our writing group to inspire others to seek support from and collaborate with other writers. If we accomplish our goal of publishing six great books, we will have each other to thank. In this photo, from an all-day retreat this month, you can see four of our six members and all six of our laptops. Here are just six of the reasons we love our writing group: 1) Our bi-weekly meetings provide us with deadlines that motivate us to write. Whether we submit just a few pages or several chapters, none of us... Continue reading
Posted Nov 24, 2009 at Six Great Books