Some Book-related Fun – June 8th, 2013

This came up in my feed and I had to share. There are some great benefits to e-books, including being able to word search for a passage while in class or instantly share favorite quotes with friends. But if you ever visited me and saw my three overflowing, double stacked bookshelves, you’d know I prefer the kind without batteries.

I love the weight, texture, and smell of books, and the physical sensation of turning a page. My progress is visible, and my well-loved books are dog-eared and sometimes chewed around the corners (by my cat). With the ability to store almost everything in “the cloud,” I still like keeping my dusty loves around.

Epic Fantasy For All Audiences


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Favorite Fictional Foods Come to Life!

I have discovered a new blog whose pages I’ll be haunting frequently. Do you remember reading Lord of the Rings and wishing you could taste Lembas or take part of the great Hobbit feasts? Or what about the Redwall series: feast after feast after glorious 10-page feast. This blogger/book reviewer is making those wishes come true! Despite a day job, they spend long hours researching historical recipes and toiling in the kitchen, making fictional foods come to life. Then they share their detailed, custom recipes, fully equipped with photos and delicious descriptions.

The Butter Beer recipe (from Harry Potter, of course!) will be my first try. I think October will be the perfect time to have a marathon movie night, surrounded by flickering candles, and mugs of butter beer to warm us up.

Food Through the Pages



I’ve never really held with the idea that the Butterbeer in Harry Potter is basically some sort of cream soda. No way. To me, that’s a very American interpretation, with artificial flavoring, and so much sugar that it becomes horrible.

My approach, probably unsurprising to many of you, was to dip into the historical cookbooks for my inspiration. And lo, from the late 1500s, there’s a recipe for “Buttered Beere”. Clearly this was what I needed to try.

My first reaction to the finished historical brew was one of surprise: The smell doesn’t quite match the flavor, so the first sip is not what you’ll be expecting. It almost smells like a sweet dough, as you might make for cinnamon rolls, with that combination of yeast, butter, and eggs. However, the flavor itself is one of creamy, spiced beer, with all the residual hops and tinge of bitterness…

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Review: The Elements of Expression by Arthur Plotnik

The Elements of Expression: Putting Thoughts into WordsThe Elements of Expression: Putting Thoughts into Words by Arthur Plotnik

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved Plotnik’s other book about words, Better Than Great: A Plenitudinous Compendium of Wallopingly Fresh Superlatives, and The Elements of Expression is written in the same witty, conversational style. Plotnik’s intelligence and logophilia is evident on every page. I am writer, and like many writers I know I have a whole shelf of books about how to write, how to improve my writing and writing style, how to get published, etc, that I’ve only glanced through but never read. I decided to give Elements a chance, and an hour later found myself deep into the book, for the pure enjoyment of reading.

I got a kick out of the chapter about how English was standardized (Chapter Two: “Standard English: Who Needs It?”) and the way he pokes fun at all the extreme language police. He also explains the difference between a lot of words that get thrown around the writing world, like “style,” “grammar,” “rhetoric,” etc, without sounding stuffy or superior.

The format of the book also contributed to the easy reading. Plotnik intersperses examples, quirky asides and quotes among his definitions and sincere writing advice. Already my writing and verbal expression has improved just by being made aware of my common (and often cliché) patterns of communication. I’m looking forward to breaking out of my old patterns more consistently and “putting my thoughts into words” that are more specific and uniquely expressive. Enjoy!

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My Day with Kate Hopper

(From my intern blog, Curious Confessions of a Cleis Press Intern)

Phew!  The last few weeks went by in such a blur that I only just collected my thoughts about it (some of the fog may have had to do with the impending cold that hit a day later).

Wednesday morning before the Twitter party I did some last minute inviting on Twitter, Facebook, and my own blogs. When I logged onto the Viva Twitter account around 1pm to start making some noise for the event, I was super elated to see that someone had seen my WordPress blog post on my personal blog and sent the info to a women’s networking and event website, which had  posted to Twitter! Of course I shared the tweet around. It’s so exciting to see that people actually read my blog and did something about it!

Kate Hopper came into the office right before 2pm, and we settled down right away and got tweeting! At first, there was over a ten minute delay. A little discouraging. Then the questions started coming through and Kate was typing away. We discussed why the terms “mommy blogger” and “momoir” are offensive and devaluing to mothers who write, and how men who write about parenthood are somehow more credible and commendable in the literary world than women, even though statistically speaking it’s still women who do a large share of the parenting in the United States.

After the intensity of the Twittering (Tweeting?) we all decompressed with some delicious cupcakes. YUM! And we got to meet Kate’s kids and spouse. The girls were absolutely darling, and I love the supportive family dynamic Kate has going on.

Then I just had to wait until it was time to leave for the Mommies Playdate at Good Vibes (Polk Street). Mass package shippings are perfect for a fuzzy brain, let me tell you…except the part where I kept forgetting to include the catalog.

I tagged along to San Francisco with Kat Sanborn–I had to carry the box of Use Your Words books, of course–where we enjoyed mediterranean appetizers and a glass of good wine at Dunya Mediterranean as part of the Happy Hour before the event. We were joined by Carol Queen (the other presenter), Camilla Lombard (GV Media Coordinator), Kate Hopper, and some others. We shared a deal between 3 people and got the Mezze Platter (falafel, sigara boregi, ezme, hummus, dolma, eggplant salad, haydari, piyaz) and a bottle of wine for $30. Food was incredible, wine was tasty, and the atmosphere was comfortable–definitely taking a date here!

At Good Vibes there were even more decadent treats to enjoy (huge red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting? fresh ripe strawberries?! cookies?!! heaven) and a tour of the store and sex toy history by an enthusiastic Carol Queen. The Polk Street location is home to the Antique Vibrator Musuem…very small room but a nice collection of historic models, some of which were featured in the romantic comedy Hysteria, starring Maggie Gyllenhaal.

It’s strange, but I think a lot of people don’t like to put moms and sex in the same context–even though sex is what made them moms in the first place! It’s like people think “sacred” equals “innocence” so in order for motherhood to be considered sacred the mother has to be removed from all indecent ideas. Way-to-go, sex-negative culture!

Despite this, Kate found an excellent way to segue and I loved listening to her talk. She’s a very sweet, sometimes bubbly person, and her sincerity is clear when she talks about motherhood and writing. She started off by sharing her own story of motherhood: how none of the parenting resources prepared her for having a premie, how no one, no even other mothers usually talked about the darker parts of motherhood, and how she found solace and a creative outlet in blogging about her experiences. She read a few excerpts from the book of her own writing–I was impressed by the distinctness in her style, the way her sincerity carried throughout her written voice as well. I was also impressed when she shared some writing tips and broke down some of her favorite tropes to use.

But why should I repeatedly impressed and surprised? I think even I had to let go of some predisposition to think of her as a mother first, and a writer second. Kate Hopper excels at both jobs, and yet she and many other writers who happen to be mothers and write about motherhood have to fight against discrediting terms like “mommy blogger” and “momoir.” After this day with Kate, I will definitely take her writing seriously.
You can read Kate’s own account of the day here, and visit her website at Kate Hopper and everyone else who I shared this day with! It was incredible fun.

You can buy her book Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers on Cleis Press and on Amazon.

Review: Transitions of the Heart by Rachel Pepper

Transitions of the Heart: Stories of Love, Struggle and Acceptance by Mothers of Transgender and Gender Variant ChildrenTransitions of the Heart: Stories of Love, Struggle and Acceptance by Mothers of Transgender and Gender Variant Children by Rachel Pepper

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I settled down yesterday afternoon to peruse Transitions of the Heart and couldn’t put it down until the sun set. Each of the stories in this collection compound the unifying message of the book–love your child unconditionally, whether they conform to society’s (and your) expectations or not. The essays come from a wide range of individuals with varying experience with writing, but even the most simply written stories sing with voices that resound with truth, strength, and transformational love. I was delighted at the diversity Rachel Pepper collected here: varying religious, ethnic, and socio-economic backgrounds, childhood upbringings, and parenting styles. And the perspective is unique as well. The stories come from the mothers, rather than the children. While this area of literature is still very new, most books are about the experiences of trans* and gender variant individuals, and not from the perspective of the families and parents who must learn to accept and support, or lose their child.

As a queer woman and trans ally, reading this book was both poignantly painful and a spiritual tonic. I welcomed the bravery of these women to fight their fears for the sake of their children and to share their experiences with the world, so that more people can educate themselves and understand the struggle for survival and validation so many transgender and gender variant children go through. I also hope this book will find itself in the hands of other parents who are struggling in the same ways, and that it will give them hope and strength.

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I just read this collection of intimate and heart-truth stories from mothers of trans* and gender-variant children. I’ll be posting my review of the book soon, but I thought I’d share this inspiring interview by blogger Lula Lisbon with the Editor, Rachel Pepper.

Kisses Like Wine

About Rachel Pepper and Transitions of the Heart:

When she was working as Coordinator of Lesbian and Gay Studies at Yale University, Rachel Pepper was shocked by the paucity of resources available to gender variant people and their families. Her book The Transgender Child: A Handbook for Families and Professionals, co-authored with Stephanie Brill, did a great deal to fill that void and has sold almost 10,000 copies in the three years since its publication.

In the same way that the 1987 Cleis Press book Different Daughters: A Book by Mothers of Lesbians changed the discourse for many families in this country, TRANSITIONS OF THE HEART shares an intimate view of the joys, challenges and triumphs of families with trans members for the first time. As Kim Pearson, Executive Director and Co-founder of TransYouth Family Allies, writes in her foreword, this book “is a support group, a tutorial…

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A bit of Trans- Poetics

I just got out of my Trans- Poetics class with the always fabulous Rebekah Edwards. We are examining two bodies of work, Transgender Theory/Studies and Translation Theory, and discovering how they inform each other and create new meanings.

This is shaping up to be an amazing experience, with a bunch of beautiful minds. We discussed Susan Holbrook’s essay, “Lifting Bellies, Filling Petunias, and Making Meaning through the Trans- Poetic”  about the trans- moments Gertrude Stein’s poem “Lifting Belly,” and Clare Sears’ “Electric Brilliancy: Cross-Dressing Law and Freak Show Displays in Nineteenth-Century San Francisco,” against one of our readings last week, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s “The Politics of Translation.” My focused interest for the last few weeks has been the way bodies interpret other bodies (bodies meaning not just people but groups of people and institutions, as well as the body as something separate from the self), or translate aesthetic. In these pieces, especially the Sears one, we discussed the way the private/public dichotomy, gender norms, racism, nationalism, and bodies policing bodies all connect, and how these might relate to “trans-ing,” a term we will work towards defining all semester.

Rebekah schooled us on the Ugly Laws, which appeared in many cities across the U.S. in the early 1900’s, policing what kinds of bodies were allowed to be in “public display” and what kinds were “unsightly.” A fellow classmate, L., mentioned something very spot-on in relation to the interpretation of the law and the translation process from written word to punitive action: “[this law thing acts as an example/makes visible] the instability of meaning that creates space for trans-ing.”

For this class, we are also supposed to have a weekly blog with rotating roles. This week I wrote an integration of Sears’ and Holbrook’s texts. If you want to read that, and the description of my 30-day praxis, see below.


It’s a New Year!

My New Year’s Eve celebration was quite modest this year. Not even a glass of champagne or wine to bid 2011 goodbye. I had been sick since right before Christmas and my combination cold/bad allergies/exhaustion-from-finals-finally-catching-up refused to go away. So I spent it simply, cuddled in bed with my partner and a close friend watching “The New Guy” because apparently I missed most of the 90’s popular culture (though we later found out it was made in 2002).

But…I now feel fully recovered and this year seems to be getting off to a good start. And I’ve come to some realizations about my life and little changes I can make for the better.

I’ve refused to make New Year’s Resolutions for years because I always end up breaking them one way or another. They usually involved me writing and reading more for myself (rather than for school), spending more time outdoors and less time on the computer, etc. However, this article has me reconsidering this idea. It goes a little overboard on the profanity but I still think the point clear: there’s more to being a writer than just writing and there are plenty of ways to be better.

Playing Sims 3 and watching the okay sci-fi futuristic flick “In Time” (guess who plays the main character? JT actually isn’t that bad of an actor, though a little over-dramatic at times) has made me a little introspective, looking at the ways I spend my time. First off, I recognize Sims is often a time-drain just waiting to happen. But its fun! when it isn’t frustrating (all those red plumbobs). But it makes it easy to escape things that need to be done and things that would enrich my life more–like drawing, or reading more books.

Speaking of reading books, I’ve actually managed to complete one from my “To Read During Winter Break” list. *self-applause* It was non-fiction, but I couldn’t put it down: Inseparable: Desire Between Women in Literature by Emma Donahue. Donahue examines text from the early 1700’s to the present, uncovering and analyzing everything from allusions to, to full-blown plots about desire between women. It was fascinating to discover how classic texts, like many of Shakespeare’s plays, contain undercurrents of desire between women. I love how open, yet specific and organized Donahue is in her analysis and comparisons. It made the fast trip through the centuries of literature fascinating and not confusing. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in women in literature, gender studies, queer studies, the history of desire, or the history of literature in general. Once I read the book I started noticing the plot tropes she identifies in many of my favorite books and movies (modern and classic).

At the moment I am reading Beyond the Looking Glass: Extraordinary Works of Fairytale and Fantasy compiled by Jonathan Cott. These are all the stories that began the modern fairytale and fantasy tropes, the ones that made these kinds of stories popular for all ages and over time. So far I’ve read “King of the Golden River” and now I am reading “Petsetilla’s Posy” which is a wonderful work of satire.

If you’re interested in knowing other books I’ve read and recommend, check out my books on Goodreads. If you have a account, feel free to add me (just mention you are coming from WordPress). If you don’t have one, you should! I love organizing but when you’ve been a voracious reader like I have been all my life (except the last few years when my life has been consumed by school required readings), it’s hard to remember every book you’ve read. I just started inputting the titles of all the books on my physical shelf to create a organizable, tag-able digital one. Then Goodreads recommended more books based on my bookshelf, and I discovered old loves I’d borrowed from the library or friends, and new title that sounded intriguing. One of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman, is also a member, and blogs semi-regularly. You might find your favorite authors are Goodreads users too!

Hopefully this year will be “Dedicated to the Exercise of Imagination and the Pursuit of Creativity and Knowledge.” That’s the closest I’m going to get to a resolution, because I don’t want to jinx this newfound drive (Yes, jinxes exist, just like unicorns…okay, I definitely have Sims on the brain). I bought some new graphite pencils and a pencil sharpener, bought a new box to organize all my stationary and letter-writing supplies (go snail mail!), added more books to my “to read” list, and wrote this blog post. I also called Clipper to replace my card so I can actually use the pass that comes as part of my tuition at Mills and not scrounge around for coins I don’t need to spend just to ride the bus. Yay!

How has your first two weeks of the New Year gone?


Calendar of Posts

July 2018
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Graduation Countdown

The Big DayMay 25th, 2013
College is over! I have my degree!
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