Crossing the Streams: 10 Important Books


I was tagged in this thing on Facebook:

“I’ve been challenged to list 10 books that have stayed with me in some way and tag people to do the same. Rules: Don’t take more than a few minutes and do not think too hard. They don’t have to be the “right” books or great works of literature, just ones that have affected you in some way. Then tag 10 friends including me so I can see your list.”

I decided to tackle the request here instead so I could really get into it, so off we go…

1. Bridge to Terabithia (Katherine Paterson)

Bridge to Terabithia broke my heart. I don’t want to talk about it.

But yes you should read it if you have not already done so. And when you do, remember that it was written for children.

Sometimes pain can be cruel and beautiful.

2. Dune (Frank Herbert)

Dune ferret controls the spice

Dune ferret controls the spice.

In the beginning, there was Dune, and it was so stinkin’ good. And a bit talky. And super great. There are about 4 kajillion – give or take – books in the Dune series at this point and I’ve only read 7 or so of them so far, but I’m slowly acquiring them all on paperback so I can eventually read them  all* and admire them on my shelf and whisper sweet nothings to them when no one’s listening.

I actually had a pretty hard time getting into this book when I first tried reading it. I just couldn’t reorient myself into the right head space for it, and found myself re-re-reading the first handful of pages over and over again as I’d put the book down and forget what had happened in my previous failed attempts. But I’d watched the original movie version so many times before I tried reading the book (30 viewings? 40?) that I was committed to indulging in the rest of the story’s details, so I kept plugging away.

It wasn’t until I found the audio book version narrated by Scott Brick that I was finally able to break through that Getting Started barrier. Once he opened up the story to me however, I was hooked. I went on to listen to his narration of other books in the series, which I paired with readings from the hard copies I had immediately run out to acquire as soon as I’d finished the first book.

From the book:

“A world is supported by four things … the learning of the wise, the justice of the great, the prayers of the righteous and the valor of the brave. But all of these are as nothing … without a ruler who knows the art of ruling. Make that the science of your tradition!”
– a recollection of Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam by Paul Atreides

“Be prepared to appreciate what you meet.”
– Fremen proverb

*Even the ones The Nerds frown upon because they’re “not as good as the original.” I will enjoy my escape into this cool universe without you then hahaha!! *raspberries*

3. Earthseed (Pamela Sargent)

My fave version of the cover art for this book.

My fave version of the cover art for this book.

Earthseed is one of those “read it so many times I lost count” books for me, and if you have any way to put me in touch with Pamela Sargent so I can drag my friend Donna K. (who I think would love her work) along and buy her lunch and thank her and fill her up with questions and soak in her answers, let me know post haste!

I first read this book back in… I want to say it was during middle school? late grade school? It was a great “escape” book for me, sure, but it was also a total brain-rerouter. Between this book and Invitation to the Game (#5 on this list), almost everything about the way I daydreamed after reading this was completely flipped on end.

Not only was it set in space – in space! – but it featured young people being trusted with doing Big Things, something I hadn’t encountered much yet at this point. (Not to this degree, anyway.) And in another refreshing change of pace, the story was filled with people of color, and with women who got to be good and bad, who got to be tough, who got to save the day. It shook up everything for me. May I remain shaken.

You can download the first four chapters of the book for Kindle for free. You can also buy me Amazon gift cards so I can download the rest of the books and then come back later and gush about how cool they were.

Just, you know — so you know you have options…

4. House of Leaves (Mark Z. Danielewski)

House of Leaves, 1st ed. cover art

House of Leaves, 1st ed. cover art

My friend Sarah recently reminded me of this exchange between the two of us immediately after I finished House of Leaves:

Sarah: You finished that book somewhere in New Mexico in the back of an RV. I walked back to the “bedroom” to find you laying face down on the bed. I said, “You okay?” and without looking at me you just picked the book up, held it up so I could see the cover, then put it back down. Then I backed away. It was also at that point that I knew I wanted to read it.

Me: I have no memory of that moment. I’m glad you do, though, because… yes. That sounds about right.

Sarah: You were laying in there long enough that our traveling companions began asking if you were all right. I told them you just needed some alone time.

This book will mess you up. So yes, by all means you should read it immediately.

From the book:

“To get a better idea try this: focus on these words, and whatever you do don’t let your eyes wander past the perimeter of this page. Now imagine just beyond your peripheral vision, maybe behind you, maybe to the side of you, maybe even in front of you, but right where you can’t see it, something is quietly closing in on you, so quiet in fact you can only hear it as silence. Find those pockets without sound. That’s where it is. Right at this moment. But don’t look. Keep your eyes here. Now take a deep breath. Go ahead, take an even deeper one. Only this time as you exhale try to imagine how fast it will happen, how hard it’s gonna hit you, how many times it will stab your jugular with its teeth or are they nails?, don’t worry, that particular detail doesn’t matter, because before you have time to process that you should be moving, you should be running, you should at the very least be flinging up your arms-you sure as hell should be getting rid of this book-you won’t have time to even scream.”
- p. 27

5. Invitation to the Game (Monica Hughes)

Invitation to the Game is the one book I’ve undoubtedly read more times than any other. It came into my life at just the right time (right around when I first encountered Earthseed, #3 on this list) and it spoke to all sorts of areas in my brain that were newly reaching out to be understood. I was only 10 or so at the time, but I wanted to be Lisse, the  book’s protagonist. I wanted to move to a warehouse in the city with my friends. I wanted to read every book in the library. I wanted to train my body to be able to run and climb; to be able to fight and to jump over walls. I wanted – wanted so badly – to one day play The Game.

I still do.

6. Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, The (C.S. Lewis)

I don’t recall when I first read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I only know that it’s been a known part of my personal universe since I was 7 or 8. I wish I could read it again for the first time – this book and the rest in the series – but maybe that’s what makes it so special in some ways; it wasn’t accompanied by a discovery experience so much as it was always a known quantity that I could rely on and daydream about.

7. Little House on the Prairie (Laura Ingalls Wilder)

Welcome to Super Awesome Nerd Girl Funtime Bookish Prairieland Vacation Mega Hotspot!

Welcome to Super Awesome Nerd Girl Funtime Bookish Prairieland Vacation Mega Hotspot!

My dad read Little House on the Prairie to me when I was 8. I have a picture of him reading it to me on the couch – him in his construction clothes, me sleepy in my pajamas. I wish I could find it. It so perfectly encapsulates my experience with that book, with growing up, with my parents…

Years later I went on a road trip with my mom, during which we visited the Ingalls homestead in DeSmet, SD. It was like the books had been turned into a ride where there’d never be any real speed, but there’d also never be any real long lines to wait in.

I made a rope and a corncob doll there and I was 8 all over again. 8, and every other age I’ve been when reading the entire series through from start to finish. Every time it’s quaint, and every time I love that little girl out on her prairies.

8. Maniac Magee (Jerry Spinelli)

My fourth grade teacher read Maniac Magee to us in class and it really stuck with me. (She also read us James and the Giant Peach, and The BFG, and introduced me to keeping a journal, and to writing stories, and to creating poetry, and to the idea of women having short hair in a cut other than The Mom Cut. Influential? To say the least.)

Maniac Magee marked one of the first times I read (or in this case, had read to me) a story that was centered on a kid, but in which everything wasn’t happiness and light. There was loss, and there was racism. There was pain, and there was death. But there was adventure, too, and friendship. There was learning and growing and exploring — and I loved it. Even though it wasn’t like the other books.

Especially because it wasn’t like the other books.

9. [Unnamed transformative fiction...

...that is among my favorite works of fiction and which was exciting and beautifully written and absolutely scared the crap out of me and should be adapted into a movie but never will be and it's our collective loss that it won't happen because wow... *shivers*]

(x)

10. Wrinkle In Time, A (Madeleine L’Engle)

WAIT I CAN EXPLAIN!!

WAIT I CAN EXPLAIN!!

I felt a bit as though I was getting away with something when I first read A Wrinkle in Time. I was 8 years old, and there was just so much happening in the story that I was sure it was intended for older readers than myself, and feared that when it was discovered I was “reading outside my age group” I’d get in trouble. Or worse – that the book would be taken away before I had a chance to finish it.

I was also a bit nervous about the cover art getting me in trouble…

I shouldn’t have been so nervous, of course. The Time Quintet is a classic of children’s literature – of literature in general – but I had no idea. I had just moved to a new country where I didn’t speak the language and had only just started making friends. I was cut off, isolated in the worlds of my books. I didn’t know where they stood in society at large, only where they ranked on my personal bookshelf.

This one ranked mighty high.

I went on to read the rest of the books in the series, and to incorporate L’Engle’s mythos into my own fantasy world-building. Tesseracts, kything, girls being heroes – this book had everything!

And now so did I.

Other super formative/influential books I didn’t think of until after I’d thought of the 10 listed above: The BFG, A Game of Thrones, Harry Potter (series), A Grief Observed, Where Is God When It Hurts?, What’s So Amazing About Grace?, A Tale of Time City

Got a list of your own? Consider yourself tagged and leave it in the comments below!

Talley’s Folly A Success!


Talley’s Folly at SummerStage just opened last night, but the positive reviews are already pouring in!

“Better than Phantom!”

- My grandma, who had just seen the Marcus Center’s production with my mom the night before

“That was really good honey. We’re so proud of you.”

- My mom, who suspiciously did not reference the show’s quality in comparison to Phantom

“This is my favorite part!”

- Random guy during a silent, tender moment one minute from the end of the show

A giant, heartfelt THANK YOU!!! to all who joined us on opening night!

Performance #2 begins tonight at 7:30 pm on the SummerStage grounds at Lapham Peak State Park in Delafield, WI (1 mile south on Hwy C off exit 285 on I-94). It drizzled a bit this afternoon, so if you’re coming to tonight’s show, plan on bringing lawn chairs, or if you’re planning on sitting on a picnic blanket, you may want to bring along a tarp to lay down beneath it.

Click here for full details.

Talley’s Folly Opens TONIGHT at SummerStage!


It’s finally here! Opening weekend of Talley’s Folly at SummerStage!

As long as I’ve known our director, Dustin Martin, he’s been talking about wanting to direct this show. After years spent hearing him praise the piece, there was part of me that started to feel like it was my dream too – even when I didn’t know a thing about it except how much he loved it.

Then I read the script in college, and that was all it took: I was officially hooked. Fast forward *mumble mumble* years and here we are — opening weekend at last!

Talley's Folly

I’m especially excited to be sharing the stage with Phil Stepanski for the first time. Somehow in our making the rounds through various local theatres we had yet to ever work together. Finding ourselves  now in a two-person show we’ve surely made up for lost time!

Area theatre-goers may remember most recently seeing Phil as Gary in WCT‘s Spring production of Noises Off!, and Soulstice Theatre‘s Follies earlier this Summer. He will be appearing as Max in WCT’s Lend Me A Tenor later this Fall. Congratulations on your continued success this season Phil!

Some things to know before you go:

About the show: “Set in July 1944, TALLEY’s FOLLY is the story of one evening in the courtship between two unlikely lovers. Matt Friedman (Phil Stepanski) is an accountant from St. Louis and has come to rural Missouri to woo Sally Talley (Ruth Arnell) in her family’s dilapidated Victorian boathouse. Through persistence, charm, and humor, he courts her despite her fears that her family would never accept him. But for romance to bloom, each must work through their innermost secrets together. TALLEY’s FOLLY won both the Pulitzer Prize and New York Drama Critics Circle Award for best play of the season in 1980.”

Dates/Times: Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 pm;  July 24 through August 9, 2014

Location/Directions: Lapham Peak Unit – Kettle Moraine State Forest, W329 N846 County Highway C, Delafield, WI 53018

  • Take I-94 to exit 285 in Delafield, WI (20 min west of Milwaukee); there will be a brown state park sign on I-94 signaling your exit.
  • Turn right (south) off the exit ramp onto Hwy C.
  • Follow Hwy C straight for about a mile.
  • The entrance to the park will be on your left.

Tickets: $17, $15 for Seniors and Students, $7 Youth. Can be purchased online, or at the park starting one hour before the show.

(The park requires a $5-per-vehicle entrance fee (normally $7) for all vehicles without a WI state park sticker.)

About the space:

  • The park sprays the stage area for mosquitoes every Thursday during the run, but bring your own bug spray too just in case!
  • The seating space is an open, grassy area, so bring a chair or blanket to sit on.
  • Arrive early and bring a picnic to enjoy on the lawn or at the tables under the SummerStage pavilion tent! There will also be a food truck on site.
  • Guests are free to bring in wine and beer, and additional beverages (including wine and beer) are available at the concession stand.
  • There is a bathroom in the building by the parking lot, and port-o-potties at the stage area.
  • The walk from the parking lot to the stage is a short one, however a shuttle will be available to transport anyone unable to make the walk.
  • If recent weather has left you cool in the evenings, don’t forget to bring along a jacket or lap blanket!
  • If it should begin to drizzle, the show will continue. So if it looks like the sky may turn, bring along a jacket/hat/enchanted cloak just in case.
Welcome to SummerStage!

Welcome to SummerStage!

How To Fill A Winter


I’m having one of those “so much has happened since my last update that I feel too overwhelmed to even try to cover any of it, let alone all of it, so I’d rather just not even try” moments.

D’oh.

So here’s my list-y attempt at sharing some of what’s been important in my life since my last post:

Sunset Playhouse - Murder on the Nile

Sunset Playhouse – Murder on the Nile

1. I closed a play. Murder on the Nile at Sunset Playhouse. Gosh what a swell group. I’ll be working with one of my MotN castmates in my next show, I Hate Hamlet

2. I auditioned for a play. I Hate Hamlet, also at Sunset Playhouse. I was cast as Deirdre. I’ll (hopefully) post something or other about it here. At some point. Maybe.

Oh God I’m such a failure at this blogging thing lately oh oh…

3. I auditioned for another play. Talley’s Folly at SummerStage, an outdoor theatre in Delafield. I was cast as Sally. I plan on Instagramming the crap out of the rehearsal and run process. The practice hall and performance space are just so cool.

If you don't watch the show, this will mean nothing to you. Feel free to ignore it; I promise I won't mind.

Meaningless if you don’t watch Hannibal. Feel free to ignore it; I promise I won’t mind…

4. I watched Hannibal an unhealthy number of times. I didn’t start watching Hannibal since my last update, but I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before so here I am. Mentioning it.

Basically: It’s lovely. I mean – it’s kind of horrifying, yes, in that it centers around a guy who eats people… – but don’t let that fool you. It is truly one of the most beautiful shows on television right now. The writing, the visual aesthetic of it all (from the cinematography to the set decoration to the costuming (!!!) to the way the food is displayed (no kidding)), the directing, the performances — it’s an incredible piece of work.

They’re three episodes into Season 2 right now, but for it to really mean anything you’d have to watch Season 1 first. It’s available through Amazon Prime, and then the three most recent eps are available to watch through NBC.com.

Oh man. Just thinking about that show makes me smile. And that’s saying a lot given that it’s, you know, about a people-eating serial killer, right? I’ve watched all of Season 1 six times now, and have no doubt Season 2 will fare much the same for me.

Plus: It stars Mads Mikkelsen. I’m sorry, but there’s just no topping that guy. Like — jumping between stuff like After the Wedding to Valhalla Rising to The Hunt to Hannibal? That’s just — naw dude. You’ve got to like this guy’s approach to the craft of acting. You can’t not.

5. VIKINGS! Speaking of shows I’ve recently started watching, I’m also really digging the History Channel’s show Vikings. It’s worth checking out as well before they get too much farther into their second season.

6. I attended WMSE‘s Rockabilly Chili Cook-Off Fundraiser. Wow, dudes. I ate so much amazing chili that day. No future chili-eating experience could ever compare. I went with some of the kids from Radio WHT, which of course made it extra fab.

My birthday gift from my friend Bob. My friends know me so well.

My birthday gift from my friend Bob. My friends know me so well.

7. It was my birthday on Wednesday! Oh gosh, you guys – this year was just– it was The Birthday That Kept On Giving.

The Saturday before my birthday, my friend Jenny hosted a Supernatural themed party at her house, complete with show-themed decor, and a dinner of burgers, fries, onion rings, and beer. There were games (SPN trivia, and “Pin the Demon In the Devil’s Trap“), episode viewings, and most of the gifts were SPN (or Hannibal! woohoo!) themed.

The Friday after, a bunch of other friends met up at my buddy Spence’s house for games and pizza and couch-sleeping and it was a blast I’mma just tell you.

Then today, my sibs came over with their families (minus my sister-in-law, boo :\) for mom’s homemade pulled pork sandwiches, par broiled ribs, and a homemade ice cream cake. It was *sniffle* magical

8. We got a nice list of roofs to bid on at work. This makes me happy. Not the way that homemade ice cream cake or Supernatural themed birthday parties make me happy, but certainly a kind that is still very much worth feeling. I’m spending the week helping put together bid packages (something that always takes longer than I estimate it will take; you’d think I’d’ve figured that out by now), and daydreaming about road-tripping to the farther job locations if the proposals come through. *dreamy sigh*

9. I went to the gym. I went an embarrassingly small number of times so far this winter, but I did go – and that’s crazy hard for me (because that is the breed of doofus that I am) – so I’m kinda happy about that.

So yeah, man – all told it’s been a pretty sweet coupl’a months.

Time to get in some reading and then hit the sack. Up bright and early tomorrow to spend the day with friends. Yeah – on a Monday. So stoked.

Happy Spring everybody! :D

Philip Seymour Hoffman


He will always be Philip Seymour Hoffman to me.

My various dashboards are currently filled with Tweets and excerpts from interviews with people who worked with the man, who knew him personally, who called him Phil.

Phil Hoffman.

And I don’t know what to do with that.

Phil Hoffman sounds like he should be a branch manager for an inter-state credit union. He should be the person in charge of scheduling equipment deliveries to construction sites. He should be the consulting accountant brought in by the local zoo as a temporary addition during tax season, his final paycheck mailed in an envelope thick with parking passes and free admittance lanyards for his kids.

A guy named Phil Hoffman would definitely have kids.

Philip Seymour Hoffman had kids. Three of them. Had a long time partner, a woman named Mimi O’Donnell. He was an actor, a director. He was loved, he was respected. He seemed happy, excited about his work. He was passionate about what he’d found to do with his life. He was an artist. He won awards. It was inspiring.

I hope eventually I will remember him only for those things. They are worth remembering. They are worth lauding. They hold up to the status and the weight of being an all-three-names celebrity.

But I’m not there yet. I acknowledge those things, I am in awe of them, but I cannot divorce them from the subject of today’s tweets and interviews: Today, February 2, 2014, Philip Seymour Hoffman died alone in the bathroom of his Manhattan apartment of a heroin overdose; a partner, a father, and an artist known to his fans by all three names.

I can’t believe he’s really gone.

And I don’t know what to do.

Thoughts From Backstage


Updating from the women’s dressing room at Sunset Playhouse, mid-Act II for Murder on the Nile.

The ladies of "Murder on the Nile," L to R: Carrie (Louise), Paula (ff), Me (Kay), Deanna (Christina), Julia (Jackie)

The ladies of “Murder on the Nile,” L to R: Carrie G. (Louise), Paula G. (ff), Me (Kay), Deanna S. (Christina), Julia S. (Jackie)

What a happy, fabulous, funny, friendly, delightful group of women. I’m so pleased! I’M SO PLEASED!

I can’t imagine a life that does not involve spending months at a time with friends and strangers-who-become-friends, all directing our focus on solving the murder of a fictional socialite. Would I cruise the Nile circa 1936 with these ladies? You bet your Baedeker I would.

Submitted for your viewing pleasure…


I’m sitting here cracking up all alone in a cold room while a crushing winter wind freezes the world outside my bedroom window in total contrast to the warmth of all this hilarity.

JOIN ME IT’S TOTALLY HEALTHY AND NOT AT ALL STRANGE!!

By which I mean to say: I’m in the middle of a rewatch of a web series I was introduced to this past summer – Research – and even now on my second go ’round I’m laughing at it like a crazy person.

Yes. That’s right. Barry Bostwick and Doug Jones. No lie.

Research is the brainchild of the folks at Mildly Fearsome Films, the same people who brought you Sudden Death! (“Finally, a musical where everyone dies.”)

Listen: I would not. steer. you wrong. Okay? Just press play. Trust me. Shh, shh… It’s okay, it’s okay…

Thoughts From The Bathtub


Okay.

So all I’m trying to say is:

Don’t let being in your 30s stop you from emptying the last of your shampoo bottle into the bathtub and spending the next ten minutes emptying and refilling the bottle with water until no more bubbles pour out.

Do let it stop you, though, from trying the water because it will be 1) hot, and 2) still taste faintly of almonds and shea butter.

If you taste it, I mean.

But you’re in your 30s so you wouldn’t do that.

Probably.

Wisconsin Weather Wednesday


Current Temperature: Approx -5°F

Current Windchill: Approx -20°F

Current Wardrobe Includes: Socks, leggings, leg warmers, jeans, long sleeved t-shirt, short sleeved t-shirt, fleece jacket, giant puffy coat, scarf, hat, gloves

Current Brain Bending Question: WHY DID PEOPLE EVER SETTLE HERE OMG WHAT WHAT WHY I KNOW IT IS SUPER BEAUTIFUL ALL THE TIME EVEN WHEN THE STARK STABBING FINGERS OF WINTER GRIP THE COUNTRYSIDE WITH SNOW AND DEATH AND TWINKLY REFLECTIVE MAJESTY BUT YOU GUYS THIS IS RIDICULOUS SERIOUSLY MORE OF US SHOULD BE SNOWBIRDS WHAT EVEN IS HAPPENING AND THIS IS NOT EVEN THE COLDEST IT WILL GET THIS WINTER WHAAAAAT???

Wish List


This List Will Not Include Racoons:

  • A bag of Very Berry Starbursts (Have you tried those things?? OMG. Ridiculous.)
  • A pair of black Chucks
  • Some big ol’ Rubbermaid storage bins
  • A new crown so I can get my teeth whitened
  • Concord grapes
  • Dinner with Susanne Bier
  • Gas money to drive to L.A. and back
  • Cheap-motels-and-diners-there-and-back money too, while we’re at it
  • An afternoon of reading scenes with Jim Beaver
  • Every dish on this page
  • A week in a cabin in the Black Hills next summer

I’ve always felt racoons were better as post-script content.

Here kitty kitty...

Here kitty kitty…

Thank you Caitlin. Or Becca. Or possibly Sarah.


I’ve never been much for baths.

Oh sure they’re fine when the tap is still running, filling the bathroom with a loud echo of rushing water to cover up the fact that I’m probably in there talking to myself. (“Well thanks, Conan. It’s great to be here!”) And when February’s got me shivering right down to my farandolae, nothing beats a long, hot soak.

But who needs all that finger pruning? And plugging the drain with one’s heel? (Assuming one, like myself, has no drain stopper.) And what the heck am I supposed to do when the tub’s full and I have to shut the water off? Talk in my head?

A few days back it was cold enough that I had a “Screw it: It’s bath time.” flare-up, so I hopped in, hand towel and Kindle at the ready, and tossed in some sort of mystery Lush bath ball I found in one of my bathroom drawers. Turns out it was a bubble bath bomb.

Bubble Bath

Accidental bubble bath

Who knew?

So thank you to whoever gifted me – Caitlin? Becca? Sarah? – with that lovely surprise. Your thoughtfulness (whoever you are) did not (in some fashion) go unappreciated.

*pop!*