Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Getting my Kindle together and taking it on the road

Kindle Wireless Reading Device, Wi-Fi, Graphite, 6" Display with New E Ink Pearl TechnologyThis isn't a travel blog, but since I've finally buckled and bought a Kindle (actually my husband talked me into it after people kept raving about it to him at work), I thought I could combine my love of reading with a little review of my new book toy.  So how is the Kindle everyone keeps asking me (including the guy sitting next to me on the plane who kept dropping his book, my husband, my friends, my kids).  My answer is, it's just like reading a book, which is exactly as it should be.  Actually it's a little better and a little worse than a treebook.  Better, in that it's lighter than even a light paperback, and yet can still contain up to 3,500 books according to Amazon. That's a lotta books! For a heavy reader like me, running out of reading material is cause for panic, so it's kind of reassuring to have so much reading matter along for the ride, especially if it doesn't cripple you in the process. I've only got about 30 books on mine so far and I did my best to load up before I left (but it's new - give me time).  So it's easy on the handbag, which means there's lots of room left for your children to stuff it full of their water bottles, their own bulky paperbacks (more on that later), and jackets. It's versatile too since it manages audios with perfect ease (I picked up an audio Cloudstreet, which I'm actually re-reading in paperback) and it works as well as an MP3 player.  You can just turn it on and listen while driving or relaxing.  It's easy enough to operate with one hand (I'm getting one for my mother, who has recently broken her arm, for Mother's Day), super easy to use and load up, and it will browse the internet using wi-fi or 3G if you get that version, though it's typing capability is reasonably limited - you can insert notes though, and bookmark, which makes it a pretty powerful tool for a reviewer. The screen contrast is perfect and I was able to read for several hours, even in sunlight when the sun finally came out, without any eyestrain, which is more than I can say for my netbook or laptop.   Text is easily changed, which makes it good for those struggling with poor eyesight (not to mention the audio option), and there's an in-built dictionary (I haven't yet tested it with one of Martin Amis' books).  All in all, as much as I like treebooks, I'm convinced that e-book readers like the Kindle will most certainly become the norm. 

What's a little worse?  Firstly, because it's an electronic device, you have to power it off on take-off and landing.  Secondly, you can't really look over the shoulder of your fellow Kindle toting passengers and check out what they're reading (I like to spy on other people's books - and harbour a pathetic hope that one day I'll catch someone reading one of my books) though this may be a benefit for those that read clandestinely. Thirdly, I still ended up spending over $100 on treebooks at the airport because my kids had all finished the paperbacks they'd brought and needed more. That's half the cost of my Kindle, which actually makes this 'thirdly' point a 'better' rather than 'worse', since we were trying to travel lightly and I ended up carrying about 6 paperbacks in my handbag (and the water bottles, the spare jackets, the hats, etc) - that's what I get for buying a light, portable ebook reader and carrying a large handbag. 

The trip?  Great Ocean Road in Victoria.  Near Lorne.  Absolutely beautiful scenery, even in the rain.  Those are a few of the Twelve Apostles above.  Kindle in left hand, camera in right. Just kidding (though it's probably do-able). You've got to give the books a rest sometime and look around.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

An interview with Kathy Stemke, and a few of her main characters

I’d like to introduce the main characters in each of Kathy Stemke’s books.  Sitting next to me is Shelby from Trouble on Earth Day, next to Shelby is Zachary the super hero from Sh, Sh, Sh Let the Baby Sleep. And finally, next to me is Winnie from Winnie’s War. Welcome to my blog today.

Let’s start with Shelby. When is you book coming out and why should children read it? 

Shelby: Well, my proof will be in Kathy’s hands any day now soooo I would think the book will be on sale by June. I’ve been waiting two and a half years to tell my story. That must be some kind of record. Kurt Wilcken has drawn my beautiful pictures. I don’t mind waiting because I’m Kathy’s favorite character and kids will learn about being a friend while helping the environment. 

Zachery: Wait just a minute Shelby, you’re just a talking squirrel.  I’m a real boy. Kathy likes me the best.

Shelby: NOT! Did you know that my poster, RETHINK, REUSE, RECYCLE won a first place ribbon at school? 

Magdalena: That’s very impressive Shelby. Thank you.
Zachary, tell us about your story.

Zachary: Well, I got this new baby sister, Layla. She has a real loud cry when she wakes up. Being the big brother and all, I had the difficult job of keeping her asleep. All kinds of things happened to wake her up. But, I have a secret weapon. You’ll have to read the book to find out what happens.

That sounds exciting Zachary. I know Kathy is a retired teacher and she always tries to help kids learn. What will they learn from your book?

Zachary: She uses rhymes with consonant blends throughout the story. You know like sh, th, wh, br, and ch. If kids learn the blends that will help them learn to read. Oh, by the way, my illustrator is Jack Foster. He’s really cool and he captured my extreme good looks rather well.

Fantastic! Thank you, Zachary.
Winnie, you’ve been listening and waiting patiently for your turn. You’re in Kathy’s ‘work in progress,’ Winnie’s War. Can you tell us about your story?

Winnie: Yes, certainly. But first I have to clear one thing up. I can assure you all that I am Kathy’s favorite character. In fact, I’m her mother.

Do you mean to tell me that Kathy Stemke is writing a story with her mother as the main character?

Winnie: Yes, Luv. The story starts when I was seventeen in Birkenhead, England during WWII. My younger brother and two sisters were evacuated to keep them safe from the nightly bombing attacks. We never got word where they ended up. I made it my mission to find them. I even joined the Woman’s Land Army thinking I could find them on some farm somewhere.

It must have been difficult for you to endure all the physical and emotional hardships.

Winnie: It was a long hard war but some good did come out of it. I met Kathy’s father, Ralph, and married him. I fell in love with his curly black hair and turquoise eyes. Yes, they were as blue as the sea. And Kathy’s big brother, Joe was born in England too.  That’s an exciting part of my story.

That sounds interesting, Winnie. What age reader do you think should read your book?

Winnie: Kathy calls it a YA historical fiction. If young adults or even old adults read my story, they will learn all about WWII.

Thank you all for visiting today. I’d like to ask my readers to answer the BIG QUESTION. Who do you think is Kathy Stemke’s favorite character Shelby, Zachary or Winnie and why?

Kathy Stemke is a retired teacher with a love for all things creative. She lives in the North Georgia Mountains with her husband, Tony and their dog, Lucy. Tony is a writer too, but they’re still working on Lucy. Kathy and Tony are participating in the A-Z bloggers challenge. They will write a blog to every letter of the alphabet in April. Check it out.

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/pub/kathy-stemke/13/269/285

Do drop by tomorrow to visit Virginia Grenier, who is featuring author Stephen Tremp.

Friday, April 1, 2011

National Poetry Month

Now I know we don't need an excuse to celebrate poetry or anything, but since April is National Poetry Month ("breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain"), I thought it would be fitting to take the opportunity and introduce you to a few utterly amazing, very modern poets.  I could, of course, give you Yeats ("There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow"), or Auden ("In the prison of his days/Teach the free man how to praise") or Dickenson ("Because I could not stop for Death/ - He kindly stopped for me), but that would be too pat, and you probably already know those folks well (if not, take the opportunity to do a little reading - they're wonderful poets).  No, instead I'll introduce three rather modern poets that you may not know.  First is the magnificent, late, Dorothy Porter (1954 - 2008).


What voice of dirty ice
is talking in my head

I can't watch the sky
without ringing Heaven.

My heart ticking as slowly
as poison
over its hissing dial tone.

Pick up, Heaven.
Please pick up.

It's me.
(Other Worlds: Poems 1997-2001)

Next is Joel Deane.

Joel is a poet, novelist, speechwriter, and many other things.  I'm just including a snippet of one of his poems here - if you want more (and trust me, you want more), you'll have to drop by Joel's website or pick up one of his exceptional books.

From "The Path Ahead"

The path ahead is surest without shoes
Migrant trees shed small square yellow pages.
Forget-me-nots stamped return to sender.
What the body forgets the mind remembers.

Finally, in my trio of poets extraordinare is Luke Davies.  Luke is better known for his novel Candy, which was made into a film with Heath Ledger and Abbie Cornish (good film, even better book), but it's his poetry that really shines for me.  Here is a snippet from his poem "(plateau)" in the gorgeous Totem.  

That beauty can malfunction
Is a given.  Love knows
Of all the beauties beyond this.
At every plateau, praise.

I could keep going.  I could quote more from those three, or I could find another twenty superb, individual, magnificent wordsmiths to introduce or remind you of.  Instead I'll ask you to join the dialogue and cite, quote, or list a few of your own favourites.  Let's talk poetry for a while.  Because poetry "makes nothing happen" (emphasis is my own, though it was called to my attention by John Banville's own beautiful reading of "In Memory of WB Yeats").  In other words, it makes what was once nothing, into something that "survives".