Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Dog Days Blue Moon

I get so excited when I learn something new! I suppose it's the teacher in me.

A few days ago, I heard talk of a Blue Moon. Of course, I know that people use the expression "once in a blue moon" to mean a rare event. And then, there are all those songs -  

Blue Moon, you saw me standing alone, Without a dream in my heart, Without a love of my own, Blue moon, you knew just what I was there for, You heard me saying a prayer for, Someone I could care for...Originally Written by Rodgers and Hart (1934) 

Blue moon of Kentucky keep on shining/Shine on the one that's gone and prove untrue/Blue moon of Kentucky keep on shining/Shine on the one that's gone and left me blue...  by Bill Monroe (1947)

What I learned was, there actually is a BLUE MOON. Blue moon refers to an extra full moon in a month, not that the moon changes color. Every two or three years, there is an extra full moon. 

The term BLUE MOON comes from folklore. People have long been fascinated by the moon and many legends and mysteries surround it. After all, we do call that homemade mountain beverage "moonshine." According to Appalachian author Shelia Kay Adams, "The mountain superstition comes in concerning which month it occurs in as each month's moon has a name... Oct. brings the Hunter's Moon and was considered lucky as there would be two full moons to hunt using the moon's light. The name of the moon in August was called Dog Days Moon. This year the 'Blue' Dog Days Moon will be on August 31st." 

Dog days refers to a whole other legend that refers to the time of summer when it is the hottest, usually July to August. The Farmer's Almanac gives the dates of July 3 through August 11 (40 days). Many mountain people believe that during dog days, snakes are blind and therefore more dangerous. They also say if dog days come in rainy, they will stay rainy and if they come in hot and dry, they will stay that way. My mother says to never have surgery during dog days, even minor surgery, because the sore will not heal.
So, remember to gaze at the BLUE Moon on  Friday night, August 31st and think of all the songs, poems, and stories about this wonderful heavenly body.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Words Better Off DEAD Than Said

Words Better Off Dead Than Said

“Do not write like you talk.”

I wish I had a dime for every time I’ve said those words over the years to my English students. If I did, I would no doubt be laying on a beach somewhere sipping a fruity drink with a little umbrella perched in it.

Since the lecture was met with mild interest and ultimately ignored, I gave up “telling” them to avoid these words when writing a formal paper, and instead, resorted to the ultimate teacher weapon - “the handout.” I discovered that by calling them “Words Better Off Dead Than Said,” my students actually paid attention.

These words need no explanation. They are like weeds in a garden, and they often appear in our writing and must be weeded out. I am always adding words to the list, so I appreciate suggestions.:)

Words Better Off Dead Than Said
VERY or any variation such as VERY MUCH, VERY SICK, VERY HAPPY…

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Books I Recommend

When I do writing workshops, I am often asked to recommend books and authors. Just yesterday, I did a reading from Mama's Shoes at the Princeton Public Library in Princeton, WVA and we found ourselves talking about books by Appalachian authors. I recommended books and authors that many in this group hadn't read, and I was delighted at their excitement. I decided to post my list, that is forever growing, here. I would love to hear your recommendations for a "good read."

Books I HIGHLY Recommend
To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee
The Help Kathryn Stoddard
Olive Kitteridge Elizabeth Strout
Gilead Marilynne Robinson
Cold Sassy Tree Olive Ann Burns
Family Linen/Oral History/Saving Grace Lee Smith
The Scarlet Thread Francine Rivers
Eli the Good/The Coal Tattoo/Clay's Quilt/A Parchmentt of Leaves Silas House
Lonesome Dove Larry McMurtry
Cold Mountain Charles Frazier
The Cove/One Foot in Eden Ron Rash
The Secret Life of Bees Sue Monk Kidd
Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant Anne Tyler
Plainson/ Eventide by Kent Haruf
The Lovely Bones Alice Sebold
Snow Falling on Cedars David Guterson
The Dollmaker Harriette Arnow
She's Come Undone Wally Lamb
Beloved/Home  Toni Morrison
Poisonwood Bible Barbara Kingsolver
The Typist Michael Knight
Room Emma Donoghue
The Color Purple Alice Walker
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek  Annie Dillard
Bloodroot Amy Greene
Tinkers Paul Harding
Their Eyes Were Watching God Zora Neale Hurston
Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell
The Unquiet Earth/Storming Heaven Denise Giardina
Moon Women/Plant Life/The Big Beautiful Pam Duncan
River of Earth James Still
The Common Man Maurice Manning 

My Sister's Keeper/The Pact/ Nineteen Minutes Jodi Picoult

I must say that once I fall in love with an author, I read everything by that writer! If you notice, there are writers listed who have many more works than I listed. It goes without saying that I recommend all of that writer's works.