The Power of the Word

I love words, and I always have.

Whilst pregnant; my mother swallowed Agatha Christie and James Herriot and Ogden Nash, sending their formatted prose intra-umbilically to my formatting body. After I was out and able to lay still; the fare included A Child’s Garden of Verses, Shel Silverstein, Ramona Quimby, and Twig. Once literate by my own merits (and from my mother’s example); I devoured Laura Ingalls Wilder, Arabian Nights, Bruce Coville, and Anthem.

I vowed to read every book ever written. I thought my goal an attainable one.

In the meantime, my literary diet supplemented my grammatical learning. Unlike many writers, I do not have a degree in the craft. My teachers were Charlotte Brontë, Mary Shelley, and Douglas Adams. They taught me by example and expanded my lexicon to precocious measures.

In this way, I blame them for my problem.

I love words and am not afraid of them. I play with adjectives, verbs, and nouns like a small child with a treasure chest of his favorite playthings. Yes, I sometimes smash them together and finger paint a Jackson Pollock-worthy story. Yes, I sometimes roll terms into shapes like Play-Doh and end up with noun-verbs and adjective-nouns.

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Every now and then I step back from my mishmash meter, sigh with contentment, and behold a magnificent mural.

Between times, however, my words have a tendency to cause mischief. I’ve used strong words to accurately describe my feelings, and inaccurate words in feeling ways. I’ve intentionally poked and stabbed to incite a reaction. A handful of times, I have drawn on The Power of Words to move a people to action.

I am, naturally, a novice at wordweaving. I worry at trying a spell when I haven’t passed all the levels. I tell myself not to dabble until I become a master.

I have also ticked some people off.

And yet, I cannot stay away. The bubbling brew of prosaic verse simmers warmly, invitingly, lovingly. Come hither, it tempts, I will not harm thee

What say ye, wordspellers? How do words speak to you, how do you listen, and how (in turn) do you release the power that builds as you chant your incantations?

—————

We’ve crafted for another week. Here’s what I created:
Wednesday, February 20: Is Harry Potter a good book? Read what I thought and what many insightful comments determined in “To Potter or Not to Potter?
Thursday, February 21: “The Cure for Depression: Don’t Be Hatin’ on Medicatin’,” another suggestion in a series originally posted over at The Bipolar Writer Mental Health Blog.
Friday, February 22: Winner of the Weekly Terribly Poetry Contest. Congratulations to Peregrine Arc!
Saturday, February 23: Announced the 14th Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest. We’re doing parodies of pop songs. PLEASE ENTER!
Sunday
, February 24: “Dot on the Brown,” my poem response to the famous Frank Prem’s “speck on the blue.”
Monday, February 25: “Wilhelmina Winters, Eighty-Three.”
Tuesday, February 26:  An inspirational quote by Maya Angelou. Smile at home, everyone.
Also, noted that I now have 500 Followers! Thanks again, everyone!!
Wednesday, February 27: Today‘s post.

I also posted all this week at my motherhood site. My favorite (and the internet’s) was my poem, “A Poem About Socks.”

And, I wrote a piece for Kids are the Worst titled “12 Fun and Easy Cabin Fever Fixes.” Don’t worry; there’s plenty of my good, old-fashioned sarcasm to keep things interesting.

 

Photo Credit:
Amaury Salas

To Potter or Not to Potter?

It’s time to really let the fur fly around here, because I am going to ask the question no one ever should: Is Harry Potter a good book?

If you have been living in a bubble or under the age of twenty for the past 21.5 years, you might not know what I am referring to. In that case, I speak of a book series published by an unknown woman (at the time) that EXPLODED into ultimately selling more than 450 million copies worldwide.

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I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone at the recommendation of my former sixth-grade teacher. I really liked the book. It had interesting characters, magic, an unseen parallel world, and enough British elements to tickle my anglophiliac bones.

I purchased and devoured each subsequent book as it came out, and cried on opening night of the first film.

A few years after that point, however, my English professor in (my return to) college ran us through an interesting exercise. “What makes a good book?” he asked, and wrote our responses on the white board. After looking over the items listed, he announced, “Harry Potter is not a good book.”

Since I do not live in a bubble and am not under the age of twenty, I was also not completely ignorant to the idea that others didn’t love Harry Potter as much as a large pocket of Potterheads. As a consequence, I was not floored at my teacher’s conclusions.

I instead experienced a wider perspective. His announcement released me from the godlike worship I had for authors everywhere and allowed me to acknowledge the series as one written by a human, with flaws. It was written by the first and only billionaire author human, granted, but still had flaws.

In turn, I was able to grasp the hope that someone like me could write. Someone like me could even write something that another person might read, or purchase.

Which is all very interesting, but doesn’t answer the main question of this post.

Is Harry Potter a good book? Why or why not?

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My own husband dislikes that J.K. Rowling neglects a basic rules structure for her magic system, that Dobby exists, and that most of the stories are just not interesting.

For myself; I notice some literary no-no’s in her writing like adverbs, POV changes, and …say, a rule she introduces about non-verbal magic spells that she seems to abandon in later novels. I also think (and thought) that it’s really not feasible for a young wizard who can shout two spells to consistently beat someone who literally murdered older, gifted wizards.

But maybe I’m being nit-picky with that last one.

Ever the devil’s devil’s advocate, though, I say that J.K. Rowling’s series could be considered perfection. She hit the sweet spot across age, race, gender, nationality, and class. She wrote characters REALLY well. I’m just a medium-level admirer and would gladly jump on a train, attend Hogwarts, marry one of the Weasley twins, and go out to lunch with Tonks.

As a final thought to any still in the haters camp: last year, my son’s doctor complimented my son because he was sitting in the waiting room reading a novel. I believe it was Magician: Apprentice. “When Harry Potter first came out,” the doctor noted, “I used to come out and find kids’ noses stuck in books. I haven’t seen that since.”

Say what you will, but I’d love to bring that sort of book love back. Wouldn’t you? Perhaps there’s a spell for that.

Until then, do you say it is a good book? Do you only say so because you love it?

Do you only disagree because you hate it?

—————

I solemnly swear that you may read below to see what I wrote for the last two weeks:
Wednesday, February 6: We discussed the deep subject of baths vs. showers in “A Serious Question Concerning Hygiene.”
Thursday, February 7: “The Cure for Depression: Get a Paid MEDICAL Friend,” the slightly-third suggestion in a series originally posted over at The Bipolar Writer Mental Health Blog.
Friday, February 8: Winner of the Weekly Terribly Poetry Contest involving Nursery Rhymes. Congratulations to Violet Lentz!
Saturday, February 9: Announced the twelfth Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest, with a prompt of love poems.
Sunday
, February 10- Thursday, February 14, plus Sunday, February 17: Various terrible poetry contributions of my own on the subjects of my backup camera, my absent appendix, black clothes, a first date, Costco, and Half-Price Chocolate Day.
Thursday, February 14: Wrote “Freddy and Teddy’s Valentines” for Susanna Leonard Hill‘s Valentiny contest.
Friday, February 15: Posted the WINNER of the love poem Terrible Poetry Contest: Geoff LePard.
Saturday, February 16: Announced this week’s Terrible Poetry Contest prompt. PLEASE ENTER IT!!
Also re-blogged Peregrine Arc‘s creativity contest.
Monday, February 18: Shared a quote from Joseph B. Wirthlin about finding a direction in life.
Tuesday, February 19: “Wilhelmina Winters, Eighty-Two.”
Wednesday, February 20: Today

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I Finally Donned the Sorting Hat

I remember when Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone was first published. My former sixth grade teacher said to me, “There’s an excellent book that’s just come out on the market. You have to read it.” She has good taste, strong opinions, and more than a little experience with literature.

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It was she who read our class The Turbulent Term of Tyke TylerThe Log of the Ark, and The Wheel on the School. She allowed us to pick our own spelling words to be tested on and held us to a self-chosen monthly book-reading quota. In her classroom I read nearly every book on her shelves -and that’s saying something.

Knowing this, I read the book she recommended. I loved it. I read the others as they were released as well, pouncing upon them as soon as I could.

I know there are many to whom the series is not so impressive. My own husband has only read the first one. He and his sister began reading the second together, and he hated Dobby so much he hasn’t continued from there. One of my college English professors told us the Harry Potter books were only ‘good;’ not ‘great.’

I also know there are many to whom the series is life. They know the characters, creatures, spells, and trivia by heart. They know which floor of Hogwarts one might find: the Room of Requirement, Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom, or the entrance to Slytherin’s common room. Those Potterheads’ greatest wish is that they will get a letter in the mail announcing them as accepted pupils to the greatest school of witchcraft and wizardry…

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If I had been introduced to the series after its popularity, I’m not sure I’d be so fond of it. Hype and popularity ruin a thing for me.

Whether or not that’s the case, I will admit to falling more into the admirer category than the hater one. I’d love a wand and magic powers, yes; but much of my love for the series is Anglophilia. Blame my ancestry, perhaps. For that reason and the …insanity of the die-hard fans, I hesitate in admitting my affection.

So it is that, last night, I finally took an online quiz to determine which house I would be in. I did not get a song sung by a hat nor a voice in my ear; I instead answered a few questions regarding personality.

Out of curiosity, have you a guess to which I was assigned? I had. It wasn’t what I expected.

I definitely had two that I preferred not to be placed in. -Which is another thing I still do not understand about Potterheads. If you’ve read the series closely and if you are such fans, surely you would not want to publish to the world that you were placed in Hufflepuff. Right?

Everyone says Hufflepuff are a lot o’duffers. -Hagrid

Back to me. I’d like to think that I’d be sorted into Gryffindor. I’d like to think that maybe I’m less brave now because I have more self-preservation as part of being a mother, so that would be a possibility at the age of admittance (eleven years old).

But really, I was even quieter and more self-reserved then -unless someone ticked me off.

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So I’m in Ravenclaw. ‘S probably right. And, that result’s better than the time I took the Which Disney character are you most like? at Disneyland and was given Maleficent.

Blog Post Brew

Dedicated to Marissa. Happy very late Birthday!

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jars

“Let’s begin, Igor!” Frank cackled and rubbed his hands at their palms.

Igor rolled his eyes as he rolled the enormous pot from the storage closet. Its metallic ringing reverberated from the expansive cement walls, from the myriad hanging tools and laden steel tabletops nearby. It landed with an excessively-loud Bang! near the giant burner.

“Igor!” Frank chastened, as he jumped. “You nearly restarted my heart!” He drew his bushy eyebrows forward to deeply scowl over reproving eyes.

“Sorry, Man,” grumbled Igor. “Master!” Retorted Frank. Igor shrugged, and smiled lopsidedly once he turned away.

Igor pushed optimistically against the pot. It barely moved. “We need to put this on the fire,” he grunted, summoning Frank from his notes-study. “Of course!” Came the engrossed reply.

Igor tried again. “Master! We need to both put this on the fire.” The scientist finally looked over. He noted the heavy cooking vessel, the assistant with a raised eyebrow, the vacant burner. “Ah!” He exclaimed, abandoning his review to stalk over to Igor.

Shoulder to shoulder, they hunched to shove an edge of iron up the side of the short floor-platform. They paused, supporting, as it teetered. “Again!” Frank commanded; they complied. With a screeching metal, Eeeee! it slid to position. Clunk!

Frank sunk to sit, back to pot and bottom to floor. Igor leaned against an arm on the black lip of the cauldron, patiently catching his breath.

“To work, Igor!” Frank realized, standing as he shouted, bolting to his notes. Igor sighed, then leaned slightly further down to check the burner’s settings. He stepped away, kicking the igniter switch.

Fire flared dramatically all round the base of the dark iron cauldron. “Ready, Frank!” Igor called. “Master,” came the muttered correction.

Keeping his eye and finger on the yellowing page, Frank picked up his notebook and strode to the cooking area. He looked up for an instant, then down. “Two, I think,” he told Igor, who complied by bending to lower the gas output to the burner by half.

“Perfect, Igor! Perfect!” Frank laughed maniacally. “Mwahahahahaha!” Igor sighed resignedly.

“What first?” He asked, genuinely curious.

The scientist frowned. “I’ve told you, Igor! It’s a delicate process! It’s never been done!” He paused, looked up to meet his assistant’s eye. “It will be done -TONIGHT!”

“What will?” Igor inserted, cutting off another impending cackle. Frank looked pained.

“I told you!” He paused, for effect. Lightning flashed obediently outside the warehouse windows. “We’re going to create The Perfect Blog Post!” Before Igor could stop it again, Frank threw back his head and laughed. Thunder outside boomed as background.

Igor cleared his throat. “What first, then, Frank?”

Master,” Frank said. Then, “A CAT!”

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“Oh dear,” lamented his assistant. “But what about PETA?”

“Never you mind,” the obsessed scientist reassured. He stirred in some liquid Igor hoped to be water. He pulled a lenticular poster from the nearest tabletop, brandished it somewhat dramatically, then threw it in after the liquid. “It’s only a gif,” Frank explained.

“The spoon!” He commanded. Igor complied, stumping over to the supply closet and back again. Igor handed the large wooden spoon to Frank, handle-first. He leaned closer to watch Frank use the rounded end to push a yawning feline beneath wet clockwise swirls.

“What now, Frank?” He wondered.

“I’ve told you! Call me Master!” Came the indefatigable reply. Then, a mumbled, “We’ll need to appease the Skimmers.”

“The what?”

“The Skimmers,” repeated Frank. “Those that do not read everything, even if they have the time.”

“Oh,” said Igor, thinking. “Just make a few ingredients bold.”

“Of course!” The scientist exclaimed, “And, a few of varying sizes or appearance!

Igor nodded. His employer was brilliant at times, besides merely eccentric. He looked over at the available cache of ingredients. He’d helped gather many of them, not knowing what he had been collecting them for.

“So… is this what the parsley, sage, and rosemary are for?” He asked. “They don’t seem very bold.”

Frank didn’t even look over.
“You forgot the thyme!” He snapped, from the stove, “Er,
I meant that you will need all four.
They’re for singers, poets; prosaic lore!”

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Igor stood, herbs in his fist.
Then, he found the thyme that he’d first missed.
Grasping tight to stems and leaves,
he stumbled over; threw them in, relieved.

He watched the plants sink into the depths, then scrambled over to the collection nearest Frank. “What is this one for?” He wondered, lifting Mark Twain’s head. It looked surprisingly good for its age.

Frank glanced over. “Careful, Igor!” Letting the spoon fall against the side, he stretched out to gingerly hold it in two hands. White fluffing hair drifted against his wrists as he carried it to the pot. He dropped it in.

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started,” bubbled up from the steaming solution. Igor snickered. “He already has a head,” he commented. Frank stirred, ignoring them both.

“Now, we need something for Romance!” He shouted, over an underwater Twain speech of, “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool, than to open it and remove all doubt.”

“Romance, Master?” Igor asked, also speaking over the spewing quotes.

“Yes, yes, Igor! Love, lust, kissing, sex, fondling, romance.” Frank looked wistful. Igor looked over the contents on the tables.

“This?” He asked, holding up a piece of meat.

“No, no, Igor!” Frank sounded exasperated. “That’s for horror. Bring the chocolate! Deep, rich, dark, enticing!”

Igor set the dripping meat back down in its bloody puddle, reluctantly. “I thought a piece of meat was a good idea,” he said under his breath. Finding the chocolate, he brought it over to the waiting scientist.

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“I do see you picked one with nuts,” he observed, smiling crookedly up at Frank. “Of course!” Frank ejaculated. He always had to be on top.

Submissively, Igor watched the melting pools stir into the cat, into Mark Twain’s babbling head. The chocolate was thick enough to block out whatever it was trying to inspirationally say next.

“Quickly, Igor, we need Science Fiction!” Frank yelled. Igor gave him a deadpan expression. The scientist, looking up from the steaming concoction in his secret laboratory, felt inspiration flash through his mind as lightning flashed again outside.

“Of course, Igor! We’ve more than allowed for that.” Frank raised his tufted brows in thought, then grabbed at an unidentifiable goo nearby. “I’ll throw in this alien slime, just in case.” Splurk! Said the slime, as it touched the simmering surface. Who knew what affect it might have as it slowly seeped its way into the other ingredients’ spaces?

“This is taking too much time!” Frank shouted. “No one has patience for this long!” He caught Igor’s eye. “Quick! We’ll need that meat!”

Slinking away, Igor remembered a time when he hadn’t merely assisted the scientists. It was a time long ago, long before the police had sent him into hiding. Long before he’d caught his wife, her lovers; and his mother-in-law, and her lovers, all hiding in his small brick house out on the moors.

Igor hefted the meat, its dripping flesh reminding him of the full, wet weight of a recently-deceased body -particularly ones that he had–

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“Igor! Now!” The scientist could feel his mixture thickening, could see it rising.

Igor dripped his way back across to the pot, and dropped the meat thickly onto the moving surface. “Excellent, Igor,” Frank complimented, “And, good work appeasing the mystery- and gore-lovers as well.” His face was deeply shadowed from the basal flames as he glanced at Igor. Igor shrugged, wiping blood casually on his thighs.

“We’re nearly there!” The excited scientist observed.

“Don’t you think we’ve skipped a few?” Igor wondered aloud.

“Like, who?” Frank asked, distractedly. The slime was congealing oddly.

“Mommy bloggers,” Igor threw out. “Um, How-to, recipes,” He thought, hard. “Fan fiction? Politics?”

Frank stirred, but thought as well. “Grab that lovely, chic, repurposed kichen décor,” he decided. Igor looked over the remaining table items, then held up a pile of leaves, squash, and berries. A few spiders skittered out of it, down his arm, and to the floor.

Yard refuse

“This yard refuse?” He asked. “That’s what I said!” Frank snapped. Igor threw it in.

“Now, this link of chain, the acceptance letter to Bogharts, and a few crackers,” Frank commanded, pointing at each item in turn.

Igor hefted the link. First, he chose the weave he liked. Second, he chose a design. After selecting materials and tools, he was ready to drop his finished product into the brew. It cascaded in a long, sliding Shoosh of clinks amidst the gurgling materials.

Next went a tattered paper, stamped with the Bogharts seal. It congratulated Frank Stein on his acceptance thereto, and listed what materials he’d have to purchase from Horizon Tall Street. Frank pushed it beneath the slimy bubbles and noxious steam without a second thought.

“We need a cracker, you Gypsy!” Frank berated Igor.

“I feel triggered,” Igor resisted, folding his arms defiantly.

“Fine!” The scientist conceded. “I said political anyway, not racist.”

Uncrossing his arms, Igor looked over what was left. “There’s only this pile of cash and these empty bottles,” he noted. “Yes! That’s what we needed,” Frank shouted.

Cash

Shrugging, Igor dumped nearly all the bills, fluttering, into the mix. He felt he was throwing it all away. Hopefully, it would turn out well spent.

Just behind came the empty bottles. Igor could read their labels as they sunk: Promises was printed on each.

“It’s working!” Came the exultant shout. “It’s happier; it’s rising!” Igor was surprised at the positive results. He’d thought they would need better ideas, a slogan, or actual data.

Frank stirred frantically. The Blog Post Brew threatened to boil over as it inched ever higher in the pot. Choking steam billowed out and around the warehouse. Igor could hardly see his employer; he caught a flash of lab-coat white in the occasional flare of firelight.

A sudden Poof! sent Frank flying backwards. He was stopped, accidentally, by the faithful Igor.

The warehouse rang with echoed silence. They looked to the dark, silent pot. It sat, inert, atop the extinguished burner. A few black tendrils of vapor curled from the nearly-empty cauldron. Frank and Igor edged closer, closer, closer. They peered inside.

“Hmm,” Frank observed, poking at the black lump in the bottom with what remained of the wooden spoon.

“You seem to have made dubious food, Master,” Igor commented.

“Well,” the scientist conceded, “At least the Gamers will be happy.”