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Plans for Extended Critical Essay (ECE)

For my upcoming semester at Spalding University,  I need to turn in a 20-30 page essay referred to as an Extended Critical Essay, or ECE,  Since I imagine three and a half-weeks between each draft wouldn’t be enough time for me to do all my research, reading, writing and edits, I am working on gathering all my information now.

I’m not sure what my topic will be on. I’m leaning toward writing emotion into a story or something on world building.  Maybe I can somehow combine the two…. How character’s emotions can help with world building in YA. I may decide to go in a totally different direction as well. But I’m hopefully giving myself enough time to do the research and come up with a final decision.

In fact, I plan to write mini-essays on the two topics while I am doing the research, with the hope that it’ll help me build material/resources for the ECE I will need to work on. I would love feedback from people as I make progress, differing opinions, suggestions on what other resources to look at, no matter what stage I am in during this endeavor.

My first step is to find the resources that will help me write the mini-essays and eventually the ECE. I would appreciate recommendations on:

  • Non-Fiction books/articles on Writing Emotion
  • Non-Fiction books/articles on World Building
  • YA Fiction that is a good example of one or both elements.
  • Any other resources that you think may be of interest/help to me.

Thanks in advance for your recommendations and comments.

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Happy New Year

Posted by RobinConnelly on January 1, 2014 in Holiday

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Merry Christmas

Posted by RobinConnelly on December 25, 2013 in Holiday, Uncategorized

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NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)

I have participated in NaNoWriMo for the entirety of November.  For those who don’t know National Novel Writing Month is when you try to write 50,000 words in 30 days.  This happens in November.

The month is over half-way over and I find myself ahead of schedule by a lot. I’ve never been ahead, in fact, with one exception, I’ve never hit the goal in the allotted time. I think the main difference from now and earlier years is that I’m not allowing myself to edit what I’ve written and I’ve wanted to write this book for a long time.

I don’t expect perfection when I take part in NaNoWriMo. When the goal is to write 1,667 words a day, you can’t expect anything near perfection. The goal, for me, is to get as much of the story written as possible by deadline. By not allowing myself to over think what I’ve written my stories develop more organically and I’ll often find more creative solutions to plot issues than if I took my time and thought my way through the issue.

Those are the positives.  The negatives are that I often end up with a lot of material I end up needing to delete and discard, because I didn’t edit and what I have doesn’t actually work well with the rest of the story.  I’ll find a plot hole the size of Wisconsin that needs patched up or eliminated some other way. And I often have a lot of rewriting to do so that I’m showing instead of telling.

My favorite thing about participating in NaNoWriMo is that the hardest part of writing–which used to be the easiest for me–writing the book is mainly done by November 30th.  I then get to start editing it, rewriting it and making it better. Yes, editing is easier for me now days.  Maybe that’s normal for writers–the editing becomes easier than writing new material.

This years novel is actually the beginning of what I was planning on being my sequel. With what I’ve written so far, I’m getting the strong impression that this “novel” won’t actually be long enough to be a novel. That I’ll, in fact, need to add what I end up with to the end of what I have written. Since what I have written isn’t technically long enough to be a novel by itself, this may be for the best. But I won’t know until I actually get everything written and then re-written and cleaned up.

If I do end up combining the two things together than I’ll have a lot of editing to do, including parts of the novel that I have had written a long time, simply because I’ll have more time to introduce concepts that I’m only now touching on in this “sequel” because it wasn’t relevant to what I’ve now written.  It’s amazing how much a few pages of writing, a simple challenge can change your writing.

I also enjoy the community, and encouragement that can be found on NaNoWriMo. There are write-a-thons available throughout the month where you can meet up with other writers to write. It’s a great opportunity to meet new people, and potentially new critique partners, friends and resources.  Prizes are given for hitting 50,000 words.

If you’d like to finish a book or see how many words you can reach by Nov. 30th, I’d urge you to try NaNoWriMo. Or, try to start from the beginning next November.

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Jane-Emily Review

Posted by RobinConnelly on October 20, 2013 in Fiction, Jane-Emily, Patricia Clapp, Review

Emily was a selfish, willful, hateful child who died before her thirteenth birthday. But that was a long time ago.

Jane is nine years old and an orphan when she and her young Aunt Louisa come to spend the summer at Jane’s grandmother’s house, a large, mysterious mansion in Massachusetts. Then one day . . . Jane stares into a reflecting ball in the garden—and the face that looks back at her is not her own.

Many years earlier, a child of rage and malevolence lived in this place. And she never left. Now Emily has dark plans for little Jane—a blood-chilling purpose that Louisa, just a girl herself, must battle with all her heart, soul, and spirit . . . or she will lose her innocent, helpless niece forever.

One of the most adored ghost stories of all time is available again after thirty years—to thrill and chill a new generation!

The story was good but slow and predictable. This is probably because it was written in 1969. Louisa is set up as the heroine in this story, and while she is observant, she doesn’t save the day.  I won’t say who does for those who may be interested in this book.

This book does do a good job of letting readers learn about Emily through second-source reports.  Clapp has Emily’s doctor, Emily’s mother and Emily’s best friend talk about Emily, share stories that paint a convincing picture of a selfish little girl. If you have problems conveying information about a character that NEVER makes a physical appearance but whose presence is felt throughout the novel, this one would be a good one to study.

For those who want more than a horror story, Louisa and another character do fall in love throughout the small book. Though the way she does in the story, does not put Louisa in a flattering light. She has a boyfriend at the beginning of the story and starts dating the new guy before any issues arrived between them.  Only after the romance begins does she have problems with her first beau and they never officially “break up.” Granted, I don’t believe Louisa intended to cheat on her boyfriend but being more open, and not just when she feels jealous at her boyfriend, would have put her in a better light.

This story has a love triangle in it. Louisa falls in love with the same person Emily proclaimed she’d marry before she died 12 years ago. Emily then decides the best way to break up Louisa’s relationship was to arrange Jane’s death.  Jane doesn’t die, but again, it wasn’t because of anything Louisa did to stop it. I am glad to report the boyfriend isn’t the one who stops it either.

If you don’t mind books with a slightly slower pace than we’ve grown accustomed to and a story that has become predictable, again probably because of a change in society, you may find this book worth the read.

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Tiger Eyes Critical Review

Posted by RobinConnelly on October 18, 2013 in Critical Review, Louis Duncan, Tiger Eyes
According to spiritanimal.info, Tigers are a symbol of courage, anger, and that “part of you that you would normally try to hide or reject.” With this knowledge, readers have a clear idea of what 15-year-old Davey Wexler is like once she introduces herself to Wolf as Tiger. In Tiger Eyes, Davey is coping with the fact that her father was murdered and has become the symbolic tiger.

The shadow she wants to deny is her father’s death. For most of the book, she’s not willing to deal with his death. Early in the book, when she’s alone, Davey begins to remember the night her father died. Before readers can get too far into the events of that night, she pulls herself out of the memory (61) . She immediately distracts herself by going home and writing her and wolf’s name together on several sheets of paper.

Davey not only avoids remembering her father’s death, she lies when forced to confront the fact, even briefly, that he died. A good example of this is on Davey’s first day of school in Los Alamos and is talking to classmate, Jane.

“Is your father a physicist?”
“No,” I say. “My father’s…dead.” It is the first time I have said that to anyone.
“Oh,” Jane says. “I’m sorry.”
“He died over the summer,” I tell her. “Of a heart attack.” Once I get started I can’t stop myself. “He died in his sleep. Everyone says it was a good way to go. That there was no pain. He was only thirty-four.” Why am I doing this? Why am I telling her this story?
“I don’t know what to say,” Jane tells me. “It sounds terrible (90).”

Despite avoiding the topic of her father’s death, she is still having to work through his death. Common knowledge states that one of the steps to the grieving process is anger and Davey is a very angry girl. This is seen angry best and for the first time, during her first encounter with Wolf. Even Wolf questions her about it.

“Who are you so pissed off at, anyway?”
“The world!” I tell him, without even thinking about it. I am surprised by my answer to his question and by the anger in my voice. It is the first time I realize I am not only sad about my father, but angry, too. Angry that he had to die. And angry at whoever killed him (49).

Later, readers also learn that she’s not only mad at her father for dying. She is mad at her mother for how she’s handling things, for how she’s living her life, for leaving her to feel all alone after her father’s death. This can be seen after her Aunt and Uncle tell her it’s too dangerous for her to take driver’s ed now and to wait until she’s a senior in high school. Her mother simply agrees to what her aunt and uncle say, as she has been.

“Since when…since when I’d like to know?” I explode now. I don’t care about logic or emotion or anything. “Can’t you think for yourself anymore? Do you have to let them decide everything?” I spin around. Jason is drinking a glass of mil and listening intently. I turn back to my mother and point my finger at her, accusingly. “You’re getting to be just like them…you know that…just like them (160)!”

Readers are allowed to wonder if Davey is correct in her accusations, and that her anger at her mother is justified, because it’s her uncle Walter who tries to take control of the situation when her mother is beside her.

Davey shows courage at the end of the book when she faces her fear and makes peace with her father’s death. She also has the courage to forgive her family for having different coping methods and for, in some ways, neglecting and abusing her.

Davey is the symbolic tiger. She shares the tiger’s anger, the tiger’s courage and she has a side she wishes she never had to acknowledge.

Works Cited
Blume, Judy. Tiger Eyes. New York: Dell Pub., 1982. Print.
“Tiger Spirit Animal.” Spirit Animal. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Oct. 2013.

 

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Jane-Emily Critical Review

Posted by RobinConnelly on October 16, 2013 in Critical Review, Jane-Emily, Patricia Clapp
Reflective Ball Symbolizes Unobtainable Desires

Jane-Emily by Patricia Clapp is about two girls, Jane and Louisa, visiting their family and the long-deceased, malevolent twelve-year-old girl, Emily, that haunts the grounds. The reflective ball that Emily frequently uses is a symbol of her demand for the unattainable and her ability to get it, even after death.

Emily’s father was highly indulgent of his daughter. Emily’s mother, Lydia Canfield, and doctor both admit this to Louisa at different stages in the book. Emily’s doctor, Dr. Frost, even gives a great example of how her father overindulged her daughter.

In his eyes she was the most wonderful creature ever born, and when she asked for the moon he gave it to her!”
“The moon,” I repeated. “That silver ball in the garden. It’s rather the same he gave it to her!”
“It was the same. Jack took Emily outside one night to look at the moon. He told me she thought it was pretty, and she wanted it. Jack almost tore his hair out wondering what to do (95).”

The phrase “I’d give you the moon,” is popular because it is a nice way of saying “I’ll give you everything I can.” The moon is not something you can have, and Emily’s desire to own it, though understandable does not make it any less unattainable. However, this knowledge does not deter her father. He can’t give her the moon, but he does give her something that looks similar, something that can stand in its place. He gives her a silver reflective ball, which apparently was not enough for her.

When she’s about ten, Emily broke the reflective ball. Her father than asked what her why she broke the reflective ball.

…she said that when she looked into it she saw a face that wasn’t hers. It was an ugly face, she said, and she insisted that it must have been the face of someone else who had looked into the ball (59.)

Her father tried to explain things, but eventually he replaced the broken reflective ball. The replacement was a reaffirmation that he would still “give her the moon,” so long as he was capable, but he sweetened the lesson, put more value on the gift, when he “assured her that no one except Emily would ever look into it. That it was all hers (59).”

In doing so he gave the idea that if she wanted something, she could make it hers and hers alone.

This mindset, these lessons, brought about Emily’s death. While sick with a cold, Emily wanted the son of her Doctor, Adam Frost, to play with her. He refused, using his father as an excuse to leave the house. Believing getting Doctor Frost would bring her son back to her, she told her mother she felt even worse and that she should call Doctor Frost back. When Lydia Canfield told her she would not call Doctor Frost, Emily asked if Doctor Frost would come if she’d get sicker. Her mother said yes. As a result, Emily, when alone, opened her window in the middle of winter and poured water over her body. She made herself as cold as possible. She contracted pneumonia and died.

Even death did not keep her from getting what she wanted. During one of many conversations Louisa shared with Lydia Canfield, she learned that Emily’s father and brother–both precious to Emily, died under circumstances that are mysterious and were unexplainable. Lydia Canfield wonders if Emily somehow took them so they’d be with her. The one other person Emily was attached to was Adam Frost, the boy she killed herself over and the boy she made perfectly clear, she intended to marry.

Adam Frost is now a doctor and he’s proposed to Louisa. Readers, like Louisa, can imagine Emily’s thinking: she is the only one allowed to marry Adam. Thus, Louisa hesitates to accept his proposal. She explains her fears, that Emily took her brother and father and that she would do whatever she could to stop her and Adam getting married. She tells him: “If Emily reached Jane-if she hurt her in any way, any way–I couldn’t marry you! You know I couldn’t. And Emily knows it too (117).” Despite her fears, Adam convinces Louisa to accept her proposal.

That night reflective ball glows and Jane is certain she hears Emily crying. The nine-year-old goes outside in the rain to investigate to get trapped outdoors. The next night she contracts pneumonia and seems to be following in Emily’s footsteps. Lydia Canfield recognizes this, believes Emily is about to take Jane away, and a fit of protective rage, she charges outside and destroys the reflective ball.-In destroying Emily’s father’s testament that she can always have the attainable, Emily loses her powers, her strength and her greed. It symbolizes the end to Emily receiving the unattainable.

Work Cited
Clapp, Patricia, and Patricia Clapp. Jane-Emily and Witches’ Children. New York: HarperPaperbacks, 2007. Print.

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NorthAnger Abbey: Critical Review

Posted by RobinConnelly on October 14, 2013 in Critical Review, Northanger Abbey
Northanger Abbey is an example of Impaired Judgement

Northanger Abbey is about seventeen-year-old Catherine Morland, who is finds love and romance in the books she reads and at Northanger Abbey. Most of Catherine’s problems and misunderstandings in the book is due to her ineptness at reading people.

Early on the story Catherine’s brother, James, meets Catherine’s friend, Isabella and a relationship develops between the two. Catherine does not think much about their relationship and has no clue what Isabella is referring to when they meet one sunny day:

Isabella, embracing Catherine thus began “Yes, my dear Catherine, it is so indeed; your penetration has not deceived you. – Oh! That arch eye of yours! It sees through everything.”
Catherine replied only by a look of wondering ignorance (123).

This demonstrates Catherine’s inability to judge people or situations. She did not recognize the relationship between James and Isabella, or even consider a marriage offer may be made between them but once told of the proposal, Catherine is ecstatic for her friend and assures her that her parents would approve of the match.

Later, Isabella gets a letter from John stating that they would receive a living of 400 pounds a year and could marry in 2 and a half years. Isabella does not take this news well. Catherine tries to assure her and Isabella replies with:

“It is not my own account I wish for more; but I cannot bear to be the means of injuring my dear Morland, making him sit down upon an income hardly enough to find one in the common necessaries of life. For myself, it is nothing; I never think of myself (138).”

Instead of recognizing Isabella’s disappointment for what it is—not getting the money she thought she’d get through marrying her brother—Catherine accepts her reason for why she isn’t happy. If Catherine had figured out the true reason for her unhappiness, she would not have been so confused when she see’s Isabella dancing with Fredrick when she’s engaged to James. She also could have warned her brother to try to prevent him the heartache he inevitably feels.

In that same scene, Catherine further demonstrates her ineptness at judging and understanding people when she talks to Isabella’s brother, John Thorpe:

“I am glad you are no enemy to matrimony however. Did you ever hear the old song, ‘Going to one wedding brings on another’? I say, you will come to Belle’s wedding, I hope.”

“Yes; I have promised your sister to be with her, if possible.”
“And then you know”–twisting himself about and forcing a foolish laugh–”I say, then you know, we may try the truth of the same old song.”
“May we?–But I never sing. Well, I wish you a good journey.” (128-9)

Catherine does not catch on to the fact that John is actually asking her hand. She does not even realize he is interested in her as a potential bride. Instead she is thinking he is speaking of singing a song together with him. Because of this, Catherine does not understand Isabella’s teasing over her ‘engagement’ with John, and is horrified when she realizes John believes them engaged. She also doesn’t understand how she gave him that impression. She has no interest in marrying Isabella’s brother.

Her inability to judge people and relationships does mean she is caught by surprise and often embarrassed when she realizes the true intentions of those she interacts with. Her ineptness however is realistic, creates intrigue and suspense in the story and some much-needed drama that otherwise wouldn’t occur.

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Jane Eyre Critical Review

Posted by RobinConnelly on October 13, 2013 in Charlotte Bronte, Critical Review, Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre Burns With Fire

Jane Eyre is the story of a governess who falls in love with the master of Thornfield Hall. Charlotte Bronte’s story is filled with symbolism, though none so powerful or prevalent as fire. In Jane Eyre fire represents passion, anger and sexual attraction.

One of the most memorable scenes in the book is when Jane Eyre finds that Mr. Rochester’s bedclothes have been set on fire with Mr. Rochester still in the bed. Jane is quick to extinguish the flames and wake Edward Rochester.

The symbolism in this scene is rampant. Although the fire is originally blamed on a servant named Grace Poole, Jane and readers later learn the true firestarter is Bertha Mason, Edward Rochester’s Wife.

According to Rochester, his marriage to Bertha did not come about after long conversations and courting. He married Bertha without knowing much about her because of his sexual attraction to her. Upon marriage though Rochester states that:

Bertha Mason, the true daughter of an infamous mother, dragged me through agonies which must attend a man bound to a wife at once intemperate and unchaste (771).

In other words, she cheated on him numerous times and everyone knew it. Her cheating, her passion for sex, supposedly increased the speed of her descent into madness. Bertha was passionate but locked in a society that demanded her passions be hidden, repressed or reserved solely to be shared with her husband. She is the equivalent of fire, because at one point what Rochester felt for her set his bed on fire. She was later locked away as a madwoman, but her intensity or power are never questioned.

When Jane faces the prospect of marriage to missionary St. John, she gets a sense of what Bertha Mason had potentially experienced:

But as his wife — at his side always, always restrained, and always checked — forced to keep the fire of my nature continually low, to compel it to burn inwardly and never utter a cry, though the imprisoned flame consumed vital after vital — this would be unendurable (1032).

In that way, Jane may become like Bertha Mason, locked up because her passions cannot be released. However, it is unlikely Jane thought that deeply into it.

So when Bertha Mason sets fire to Rochester’s bed she could easily be objecting to Rochester’s attraction to Jane, making it clear she is still around, and foreshadows Rochester’s possible future—burning in hell for the sake of passion. It also foreshadows the anger Jane and Edward both feel, when it is revealed that Rochester is already married, though their anger is for very different reasons. In a way she also transfers her nature to Jane in the few minutes it takes Jane to extinguish the real flames and the metaphorical ones between Bertha and Rochester. As she extinguishes those flames, she kindles new, metaphorical flames between herself and Rochester.

The second fire scene is when Bertha catches Thornfield Hall on fire. As Jane is told by a former butler that worked for Edward Rochester’s father, Bertha “made her way to the chamber that had been the governess’s–(she was like as if she knew somehow how matters had gone on, and had a spite at her)–and she kindled the bed there; (1084)”

The fire destroys Thornfield Hall. Bertha commits suicide by jumping off the roof. Mr. Rochester lost his sight and one hand in the fire, but he lives.

This fire, like the last, is full of symbolism. This fire is a symbol of how sex ruined a home. Should Rochester not have married Bertha, he could have married Jane. If Jane hadn’t found out about Bertha, she wouldn’t have left and ripped their hearts asunder. The fire leaves the house and the lives who lived in it, a ruin, much like the passion shared between Bertha and Edward and Edward and Jane did. It’s a symbol of Jane’s abandonment of Rochester, their broken relationship and the passion that continues to burn even after Jane leaves.

Fire is a symbol of passion, anger and sexual attraction in Jane Eyre. The passion and the anger felt between three people trapped in a painful love triangle that has become a classic novel. Charlotte Bronte uses the symbolism of fire to tell a great story about a governess who falls in love with the master of Thornfield Hall.

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Stranger with My Face Critical Review

Posted by RobinConnelly on September 8, 2013 in Book Review, Critical Review, Lois Duncan, Stranger with My Face
Cliché’s Are Not A Stranger

Stranger With My Face is about seventeen-year-old Laurie who learns she has an evil twin sister bent on taking her place in life. The book is laden with clichés that make the book predictable but Lois Duncan uses those same clichés to hold the readers attention.

The first of the major clichés encountered in the story is that of a good and evil twin. The concept is first introduced when Laurie learns she was adopted and has a twin Laurie asks her parents why they adopted her instead of her sister Lia.

“You weren’t alike,” Mother said. “You looked just alike—both of you so beautiful with big, solemn eyes and all that thick, dark hair. The people at the agency wanted us to take you both, and despite what Dad says, I really think we might have done it. It seemed wrong to separate twin sisters. I picked you up and cuddled you, and I knew I never wanted to let you go. It was as though you were meant to be ours. Then I handed you to Dad to hold and picked up the other baby, and—and–”
“And what?” I prodded.
“I wanted to put her down.”
“Why did you want to do that?” I asked in bewilderment.
“That’s what Dad kept asking me. I couldn’t explain it to him then, and I can’t to you now. It was instinctive. She felt alien in my arms. I knew I would not be able to love her.” (73)

However, the way Lia acts around Laurie makes readers wonder if her mother’s feeling was incorrect. After all, Lia hasn’t done anything evil. Laurie’s friends think they see her when they really see Lia, but that’s not necessarily because Lia is being malicious. One could argue she’s exploring her sister’s world when she’s seen. The only other person to claim Lia was evil was Laurie’s friend, Helen. And her basis for the claim was how Lia was looking at her when she woke up in Laurie’s pitch black room. And Laurie seems to enjoy her time with Lia.

Perhaps I could say that it was a bit like falling in love. When I first started going with Gordon, he was all I could think about. I got up in the morning with his name on my lips–“Gordon–Gordon–today I will see Gordon!”–and I fell asleep at night with his face superimposed upon the inside of my closed lids. Now it was Lia’s face—my face—that filled my consciousness. What I was experiencing was, in a way, like falling in love with myself. (102-03)

During that time, Laurie learns a lot about her biological mother and the hard-knock life her sister grew up in.

Eventually, Laurie finds out her mother was right about Lia after she and her friend Jeff get trapped in a cave because of Lia. She and Jeff discuss the incident and Lia once they’re rescued. During the conversation, Jeff interprets something Lia said and Laurie quotes.

“I don’t understand why she hates me,” I told him helplessly. “’We’re are the two sides of the a coin—’”
“The dark and the light side.”
“Coins aren’t that way,” I said.
“But people are.” (177-78)

Laurie had interpreted the quote “We’re are the two sides of a coin” as another way of saying they were twins. The new interpretation only reinforces what Laurie, Jeff and the readers now know: Lia is evil. As the story progresses, readers learn that Lia is a murderer several times over, not someone who is only beginning her evil reign.

At one point Meg, Laurie’s eight-year-old adopted sister, asks Laurie about Lia’s motivation in teaching Laurie how to astral project.

“What I don’t understand, though, is why she wanted so much for you to learn how to go away.”
“Why, because—because–” To my surprise, I found that I was unable to come up with an answer. I had accepted Lia’s insistence without questioning it. (217)

Immediately readers see Laurie try to figure out Lia’s the motivation. And readers get a chance to hope that Laurie will figure it out, as many readers already had and prevent Lia from fulfilling her plan. Laurie doesn’t figure it out until after Lia has taken over her body.

Lois Duncan has clichés spilling over in Stranger With My Face. These clichés make the book predictable but she tells the story in a way that allows readers to believe she’ll subvert them and create a completely different story. Although she doesn’t, she manages to keep readers attention to the end.

Work Cited
Duncan, Lois. Stranger with My Face. New York: Dell Pub., 1982. Print.

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