Finding Grace – Family Music Goals

Each year my husband and I challenge our kids to come up with a personal project they’d like to complete – or some kind of goal they’d like to meet – by the end of their summer vacation. We used to try to give the extrinsic motivation to it by tagging a reward like going to Valleyfair (our local outdoor amusement park) upon achievement or completion, but to be honest, that only sort of worked once. So now that has sort of fallen away and we rely primarily on intrinsic motivation instead – which is really the best way, obviously, but you know how parenting goes.

Often it’s been thematic. Build something. Ride a certain number of miles. (< — This one was a collective one as a family. We aimed for 1,000 miles. Success!) This year, the theme is music. We’ve acquired a fair number of instruments, and my husband, especially, has been working at learning them all. My oldest (the marching band kiddo) has aspirations of music in his future – probably music education – so he sees the value in learning more. My middle child has a lot of natural musical talent like his dad and enjoys just picking up an instrument and trying stuff out. My youngest likes the idea of it all more than the actual implementation… but he’s getting there.

And so, the kids said, what if we had a contest to see who could play the most instruments by the end of the summer?

Naturally that wasn’t going to fly, and so we helped tweak it. What if we determined, individually, what our music goals were that we thought we could achieve by the end of summer? The key is that we are all still working at a common goal of musical accomplishment, but it’s personalized to what we want to do. I mean, I have to admit that I do not care at all about learning to play the saxophone or violin. I also know that I have other things on my mind (ahem, writing is supposed to be one of them) and I need to make time for that. But I am absolutely game to be a part of it. I love the idea of pulling my flute out again because I really enjoyed it when I was younger. I love the idea of learning the piano (sort of re-learning, as I did do an independent study in high school to teach myself how to play) because I’ve always imagined being able to play beautiful music, with that effortless look. (Imagined being the key word there.)

Spring Break is when the kids created their musical goals posters and two of them jumped right on it. What impressed me most was the thoughtfulness behind the process. My older two kiddos, who are already musicians, really honed in on where they wanted to go and how to get there. One of their things is that they wanted to work on new instruments. (Oldest Child already plays tuba and Middle Child plays cello). Youngest Child’s first attempt was pretty vague and probably over-ambitious, but it wasn’t until this summer, when he decided he would take up the baritone for school, that he re-did it and I think it is much closer to what he is likely to attempt. Check out below to see all of our musical goal posters. (Click on any individual one to embiggen.)


Interest and dedication has flagged a bit for some members of the family as summer has progressed, but regardless of the specific goals, we have music in this house during many parts of the day and hearing myself do basic songs on the piano that sound like real songs is exciting. Even though my novels have not been sent out into the world, yet, the joy of writing – of creating art – is highly rewarding. And no, I’m not creating music – but I am making it happen and I feel so accomplished as I start internalizing things like the bass clef, seconds, thirds, etc.

And then there’s the flute – I loved playing the flute when I was younger. (BTW, did you know that there are personalities associated with what instrument you play? Somehow, only playing up through grade 9, I missed this. I totally see it now, though…) I wish I had continued in band through high school, but I did manage to keep playing on my own for fun, at least, throughout those high school years. And then I didn’t play much at all for a long long time. And now – it’s taking me a bit to re-train the embouchure and there are several fingerings and scales I can’t quite remember – but what a joy to relax into it again! While I am not playing stuff that I used to be able to play (yet), it’s not like the piano, which takes a lot of extra concentration in these early stages. Instead, it’s like catching up with an old friend.

I’ve written before of the importance of music and its connection not only to memories and experiences, but also to my writing – and thus far, all of my adult novels have incorporated it in some way. One character is a piano player. Another is a drum player in a jazz band. Another sings. I have playlists to accompany each manuscript and when I haven’t written for a while, I play those songs to help me slip back into things.

Thus it is for finding grace – it is like slipping back into music and letting myself float into the beauty of making it happen. This music goal is good for me and definitely good for my family.

How does music play a role in your life?

Below is a video of a stretch goal for me. It’s not one I’ll accomplish this summer – I don’t remember that I ever even “mastered” this piece way back in my lesson days. I figure it’s a decent thing to aim for, though (on the flute, not the piano).

Handel’s Sonata 5 for flute

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Saturday Summation – 08 July 2017

Bits and pieces of things that caught my eye not only for my own interest, but enough to want to share with you, too…

Today’s post is brought you by: I Have Thoughts.

Writing Stuff:

I don’t read many craft books. I think if I were much younger or totally brand new to the idea of writing [fiction], then I’d be more likely to explore them. They have their uses, but like anything else, in moderation. We have to pull what is useful to us and not necessarily abide by any one thing as IT. I am reading a craft book now, and it has definitely been useful, but what frustrates me is that the author spends a lot of time saying so many other processes are wrong. THERE IS NO RIGHT WAY. This isn’t science, folks. This is art, craft. It isn’t without structure, but it isn’t a precise thing. The only other craft book I’ve read is the one everyone swears by: On Writing by Stephen King. I sometimes wonder if they do so simply because it’s the thing to do. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed that one, but I liked it because it read more like a memoir combined with King’s personal writing process. I’m sure I took away some good nuggets from it, but can’t specifically name any of them… which is the point of this post from Larry Brooks as he talks about the “Big Lie” about writing compelling fiction. I tell you, I was with him on this post thinking “yes” until…. he gave his 6 “truths”. “The sooner you get these six truths into your head (among others, including the drilled-down subsets of each principle), the sooner you can truly begin to grow as a storyteller.” Sigh. What he says isn’t wrong (my whole point), but I fell into the “this is the only thing” trap of his game. (He wrote a craft book, naturally.)

FYI, if I ever suddenly feel like I MUST write a book on the craft of writing, please tell me first that no, I don’t HAVE to do this, and if I don’t listen to you (I am pretty stubborn), tell me to follow the way of Stephen King because now I understand why his is so highly recommended.

There’s always a lot of debate about “platform” for authors and whether or not they should be highly active on social media. I think the most common agreement for those who truly understand social media, is that it should not be used simply for constant self-promotion. It’s all about engagement. And it works. I’ve read authors that I might not have because I follow them on Twitter and eventually thought, huh, if I like what they have to say “here” I might like what they write for fiction. And when that happens, I will help promote them. This post by Evie Gaughan talks about pros and cons and I’d love to add that personally, I love when authors throw out the occasional tweet about progress on their current WIP or even their ideas. It makes feel a little kinship with them and as a reader, it helps me anticipate their next works.

This post by Lily Iona MacKenzie is a very specific one about setting – France – but it brought about the question of how we can make a setting that is outside of our experience an authentic one in our writing. At this point in time, I cannot really imagine being able to write about a different country that I haven’t visited because when you include something like that in a story, you – or maybe it’s just me – want to feel that difference. In one of my books, I have scenes that take place in Nicaragua (I lived there for four months – long ago) and I knew that I needed to make that environment come alive. I needed sounds and smells. And I look at this paragraph and realize, it needs more:

We’re on the outskirts of central León and at night the diesel fumes that normally populate the air finally diffuse. Citrus scents from trees like the madroño take over and mix in with the smoke of cook fires. By day, the groans and rumbles rustle up polluted smells again, but also fresh bread, tortillas, and chicharrones join in.

How do you focus on settings that you have never experienced first-hand?


Reading Stuff:

Looking for your next book to read? My writing organization – Women’s Fiction Writers Association – holds a Star Award contest each year and you can read more about these debut finalists. Not sure what women’s fiction is? If you’re of my generation, think “Oprah Book”. 😀 Also, books by the likes of Jennifer Weiner, Susan Meissner, and Barbara Kingsolver.

I got a kick out of this post about “weird quirks” by avid book lovers – and yes, of course they are all justified. (BTW, #7: “Experiencing irrational anger when the price sticker doesn’t peel off neatly without leaving scuffs or sticky residue” is definitely one of mine.)


Recommended Reads:

The Song Rising – Samantha Shannon (YA/NA/A crossover) (My review)

Honestly Ben – Bill Konigsberg (YA) (My review)

Once and For All – Sarah Dessen (YA)

The Bookseller – Cynthia Swanson (A) (My review)

The Thunder Beneath Us – Nicole Blades (A) (My review)

The Light We Lost – Jill Santopolo (A) (My review)

Setting Free the Kites – Alex George (A) (My review)


Summer Re-Reads:

Anne of Green Gables -L.M. Montgomery

Anne of Avonlea – L.M. Montgomery

Anne of the Island – L.M. Montgomery

Anne of Windy Poplars –  L.M. Montgomery

Anne’s House of Dreams – L.M. Montgomery

Anne of Ingleside – L.M. Montgomery

Bet Me – Jennifer Crusie

Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell


Currently Reading: Binti – Nnedi Okorafor

Song/Video of the Week:

Why yes, I’m a Hamilton fan. One day I might even get to see the musical. In the meantime, other fans who are important enough to be able to hob-nob with him contribute in their own ways. This the latest –  a powerful remix of a famous line: “Immigrants, we get the job done”.





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Finding Grace – Marching Band Season

I know, you might be thinking, what? That’s kind of an… interesting… place to find grace. I think we sometimes assume that “grace” sounds like such an eloquent word that we must associate it with nature and poetry, but like anything, it’s in the hands of those who behold it.

Before I share more, let me back up. A friend of mine commented on my last post, In Search of Grace, by indicating possibly seeing me post about my journey towards re-discovering my grace and at the time, I hadn’t thought there would be more, but then, recently, I thought, why not? (Wow, that was a lot of commas in that last sentence. And the fact that I left it as is tells you how much editing I [don’t] put into blog posts. I promise I am far more diligent with my fiction writing…) One of the things I know will help me is writing, and why not put some of that directly to use in the public journaling. The content in these kinds of posts is not for everyone, but sometimes I pull useful bits from others’ posts like this that help me, so perhaps some of you can find a useful bit, too.

In my original post, I did not talk about a larger root cause to my trampled grace. It’s pretty obvious to me that our current political and social climate are the underlying factors, but there’s no point in dwelling on that cause because I’ve long since accepted our nation and society’s situation, and as this therapist’s post talks about, “to accept is not to say, ’This is okay.’  It is to say, ‘This is what is.’” And so, that is why I seek rather than dwell.

So, back to the journey. Marching Band Season. For most of you outside of Minnesota, your reaction might be like my friend Kathleen’s, which is “Huh? Already?” While larger Minnesota bands certainly participate in the fall rendition of the season with field shows, we here also have taken field shows to the streets for parades. The season is short, but intense and I love it.  It fills me with joy and pride to watch my oldest child (tuba player)

Oldest child playing tuba in marching band 2017

My kiddo is the one on the right.

in a leadership role and to see how strong and solid the band becomes by the close of their competitive season at the end of June in Alexandria, MN.

I talked with another marching band parent earlier in the month about how I don’t live and breathe it like my husband, but that’s only partially true. He loves to help out all over the place with practices, camp, and during the parades. I’m happy to do some of that, but in truth, I mostly just like to watch. I can watch these kiddos perform their show over and over and over again (and I do – both live and through video).

The band director, Amy Powers, every year talks about how it’s not about winning awards, it’s about character development. Growth. This is what I see when I watch my kid’s particular band vs any others in the parade. I mean, obviously I will always feel differently watching my own kid and the band play than any others, but there’s an added piece to it. A couple of schools can awe me with their size, sound, and smooth formations, but they still none of them compare to watching my own kid and his band mates, who I’ve heard about all season through the marching band staff and through my son as they’ve worked their butts off to pull it all off. They learn marching style first, then build up stamina, style, and sound.

Their shows tell a story, of sorts, and that is where the color guard comes in. I know that “twirling flags” is not for everyone, but I will tell you that for our small band (58 total members, including the color guard), it’s what pulls the whole thing all together and what contributes to the awards the they do win.

marching band at the ready before starting their show

This is one of my favorite moments – when they are lined up and ready to start. Anticipation!

I know every band puts in the hard work, but as I’ve mentioned, there’s a certain amount of extra pride that kicks in when you know first-hand of it with your own kid and his band mates. We parents and students talk of the marching band as “the little band that could” (four years ago they were down to 35 members, but came in first place in their class at the championship parade, which then bumped a class up in subsequent years, but also increased their membership – still small and competing against much larger bands while still winning awards) and when I see the tremendous sound they had at the championships this summer – stronger than I’ve ever seen them – I have so much pride in this strength that they share together, as a single team unit; and I feel good.

The video below is one of their performances at the championships this year. The theme was “Marathon: We Got This”. As an outsider, I’m sure no one can actually figure out what is going on with this or any other band’s show that has a specific theme, but that’s okay. Just know that it is all part of the visual effect, which is part of the judging. And the band knows, which is part of what gels them together for the performances.


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Saturday Summation – 24 June 2017

Bits and pieces of things that caught my eye not only for my own interest, but enough to want to share with you, too…

Reading Stuff:

The more authors I follow on -Twitter or blogs or wherever- who are part of marginalized populations, the more access I get to their books – and that has been a great way to expand my reading repertoire to include some fantastic books. I work in two elementary schools alongside media directors/specialists, and one thing I’ve discovered is that unless it happens to win an award, these kinds of books do not make it into librarians’ sight lines. “We often see the same books on bookstore and library shelves that we see reviews of in major publications, and these might be the same books our friends and teachers are buzzing about, too” is what Alaina Leary says in her post about supporting the diverse books movement. And what this is really saying, is that books by authors from marginalized populations are not in these echo chambers. I appreciate her post on the different ways we can do this. As an add-on, I will put in a plug for the writing organization I am a member of – Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA) and their open-to-the-public “Many Voices of Women’s Fiction Book Club” – usually at least two books are featured, and you can discuss them within the FB venue like you would in a face-to-face book club. Plus, book giveaways! I happily won Jacqueline Woodson’s Another Brooklyn from the last meeting. June 28 will have us discussion The Moon in the Palace by Weina Dai Randel and The Thunder Beneath Us by Nicole Blades.

File this one under “patient perseverance”: if you’ve been wondering when a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure story would hit the video format, Netflix now has it. Let’s go check it out this weekend:

Writing Stuff:

I’m not a big superhero or comic book movie person, but I was more than willing to go see Wonder Woman with my family. Have you heard about the “No Man’s Land” scene? I all out cried during that scene. Seeing a woman out there, defending that stronghold? So so powerful. I’ve seen a few (and really only a very few) talk of the movie’s cheesiness, but I really like what Vaughn Roycroft has to say in this post about it actually being sincerity, not cheesiness and how really, this is exactly what we need in our world right now.

Don’t want to spend money on a master’s degree? That’s okay, Brian Rashid thinks writing a book is just as good. He’s not entirely wrong… if you are doing your research right, you can definitely become an expert (and we’re talking non-fiction here, of course), but points 2-5? Can’t say I really agree with any of them, to be honest. On the other hand, it does take perseverance to write a whole book. Hm. Thoughts?

As someone who writes non-linearly and therefore thinks in terms of scenes rather than following a guideline through a plot, I can appreciate some of the points Chuck Wendig makes in this post about “how to write a scene”. One of the things he mentions is “As with the story, start the scene as late as you can.” And, as Wendig clarifies, without always confusing your reader. The first line of each scene needn’t be like the first line of a book – ie, it doesn’t have to pull you into it in the same way, but the reader only needs to be grounded enough in the “who” and “where” in order to delve into the mysterious “why” of the scene.

A couple of days before I read this post by Heather Webb I was feeling – well, I don’t know if optimistic is exactly the right word for it, but at least motivated again for one of my current writing projects. And then the next day I slumped down into the dungeon of despair. My nephew posted something about personal failure and I remembered how I am with him – how we handle it is always more important than the failure itself. And then, Webb’s post came along and I see myself in a lot of it. This isn’t the first time I’ve talked or shared about this kind of thing, and it definitely won’t be the last… because the reminder is always necessary.

Emotion is key for drawing us into most stories. Some don’t care as much about this characterization and really just like the procedural novel, but for all else – feeling what a  character is feeling is what gets us lost in a story. Angela Ackerman’s post about ways to show these emotions is fantastic. So many physical and authentic avenues to pursue. As I’ve developed my craft, this is where I’ve spent most of my time.

This post from author Karen Strong is perfect for looking inside my own head when it comes to both the drafting and revising process. Things like “I’ve been scared to write anything new” during late revisions feels spot on sometimes. Anyway, it’s another form of support to know successful writers encounter this same thing and validates some of my thoughts and journal entries, too.

Song of the Week:

I’ve been hearing Ed Sheeran’s “Castle on the Hill” a lot recently on the radio and I like it pretty well. I mean, he’s young and still has lines like this in his songs:

Me and my friends have not thrown up in so long, oh how we’ve grown (Bless.)

But I kind of love this song just for the honesty of these lines:

Had my first kiss on a Friday night, I don’t reckon that I did it right

But I was younger then, take me back to when


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In Search of Grace

It’s the end of a school year and though students are done, I have a few more casual days to head on in to work to finish things up. And then, for the first time in several years, I have the summer off. This was a conscious decision as I did have the opportunity to work throughout the summer, and it was appealing, because along with the extra cash, it would have stretched me a little, putting me just outside of my comfort zone and therefore bumped up my learning experience.

However, for various reasons, it seemed a better decision to pass on that opportunity at this time and for the most part, I’m excited for the time off (I mean, obviously.) One of the influences on my decision was time to focus on writing and the neverending search for that elusive thing called publishing. Another influence was my kiddos. For the most part they are self-sufficient, specifically my older two, but my youngest is struggling with the transition from elementary to middle school and quite frankly, is going to need more than his high-school aged brothers. Neighborhood friendships are not what they once were as the kids have gotten older and interests have changed. And to continue being frank, none of my kids has been very successful navigating their social side in the tween years, so I remember that as my kids grow older, they do not need me any less. They just need me differently.

A new purpose to having the summer off has surfaced, too. I’m off to find my grace. It’s slipped away from me recently, and I need it back.

I have a job that I really enjoy. I work in two different elementary schools in technology support. I get to help others, I get to work with kids sometimes, it offers a lot of problem-solving, I learn new things, and it’s generally rewarding. I work with some really great people in both schools – I continually tell others how lucky that is! And even in the last days, when a lot is going on and the workload is more intense, and I’m exhausted at the end of the day, I still enjoy the work.

What’s the problem, then? Well, it’s been the slow build-up, of course, of my circumstances. I’m going to skip over the details of what my job has looked like throughout the year beyond the rewards of it and jump to the end: It’s the high expectations from some who forget that I’m only one person and only in each building for three hours. It’s the last minute – literally – requests and demands during a time where my one person, not-many-hours-to-do-it, non-teacher pay position is not enough to give everything. How much “above and beyond” do I give willingly? And if I give unwillingly, how do I manage that? I’m not afraid to say “no”, and have done so when it felt right or necessary. It’s the “yes” part that has led me to this conflict.

The lack of grace doesn’t come in the amount of work or the level of expectations. While I’m not right in everything I’ve expressed with family and friends about all that has gone on with my job, I’m also not all wrong. No, it’s not the professional assessment. Rather, it’s how I’ve handled it all. This is where my grace disappeared. Each day I drove to work telling myself, “New day, new attitude. It’s all good. Go with the flow.” And each day I failed and complained to the wrong person or in a crabby manner about it all. When had I become this person? When had saying “yes” become a thing to give begrudgingly? And why did I feel I had to bemoan something that fundamentally wasn’t an unpleasant thing to do? I know why I was frustrated, but I also wish I hadn’t expressed it in ways that I did – and still am doing.

And so, this summer off is a different sort of gift – it’s a needed one. One in which I will search for the return of grace. I suspect I will find it primarily in my kids. But I will also find it in my writing, even if not as much as I originally planned. I will find it in a return of regular walks. I will find it in my reading. I have been re-reading the Anne of Green Gables series and it’s just what I needed. I have a great stack of other books waiting for me (including a new Sarah Dessen!), but I am thinking I might do some other re-reading of favorite books, too.

Then, I will remind myself of how lucky I am – first, that I can take a summer off (HUGE privilege, don’t you think? I am very aware of this and truly grateful.), second, that I have a job I really do enjoy, third, that I work with stellar people, and fourth, I have a partner who supports me in whatever my job is on any given day.

How do you regain your grace when it has slipped away from you? How do you re-charge?

The following song is on one of my novel playlists, and I especially love this version and the way they play out the pause before the last line in this refrain makes me smile – grace. 🙂

“If you call my name out loud
Do you suppose that I would come running
Do you suppose I’d come at all
I suppose I would”

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Anne, Adaptations, and the Power of Nostalgia

“I reckon every idea was modern once, until it wasn’t,” Matthew Cuthbert says in Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery, and as Anne would say, this line would lead Matthew and me to be kindred spirits. Most of the time, “new” only means “change” and humans often struggle with change.

Fans of beloved books or original movies greet modern adaptations and re-tellings with a remarkable unpredictability. Re-make Dirty Dancing? ONLY AN IDIOT WOULD DO THAT. New Beauty and the Beast? OMG YES MORE MORE MORE. (I’m just going to go on record here and say I disagree with both fan statements given here. It’s the internet, after all, and I MUST log my opinion.)


Photo credit: XKCD

Me, I’m usually really curious when it comes to something I have loved. When Go Set a Watchman released, most around me said they couldn’t bear to read it because they didn’t want to ruin their experience with To Kill a Mockingbird. I’ve come ‘round to letting go of that kind of thing because I have discovered that so many other books come along that enrich my life in similar ways that can replace old favorites. I like to think that we can manage to hold both a memory and a the “modern” thing together. And so I read Go Set a Watchman. You can find my “pre” reading thoughts here and later my review, here.


Thus, with CBC/Netflix’s release of Anne with an E, I couldn’t help but be curious. I love and have loved dearly the Anne series. I’ve read Anne of Green Gables an unknown number of times and the entire series almost as often. I watched the 1985 CBC/PBS adaptations (the first two films, anyway) and to be honest, I didn’t love them. I know most of my friends and family did, and maybe I would like them better now, but in 1985, I was young and fresh from reading the books and the actors for both Anne and Gilbert didn’t *quite* match how I saw them in my head and when you’re 14, that’s a big deal. Also, if I remember correctly, plotlines were kind of blended too much – and again, that was my 14-year old perspective, one that hadn’t seen many book-to-movie adaptations and I wasn’t in love with that.

But. Those 2 movies captured the books in many other ways. Even if I wasn’t a huge fan of Megan Follows, I think she did a good job of grabbing Anne’s spirit and imagination. Marilla’s and Matthew’s characters were spot on.


Seriously, so beautiful. (Photo credit:

The set design was beautiful and blended scenes or no, the films did truly capture the story – the essence of the books.


And then the reviews trickled in for the Netflix Original version, Anne with an E. This one Sarah Larson in The New Yorker was the first one I read with post title of “How Not to Adapt ‘Anne of Green Gables’”. It came across as very disappointing, but then, guess what? I got curious. Because, was it really just someone who only loved that 1985 adaptation and couldn’t get past that, or was it really that disconcertingly different? And really, is it only nostalgia that is getting in the way? (Let’s be honest: Yes, yes it is.) Vowing not to judge it before viewing it, I determined to at minimum watch the first episode.

I enjoyed the first 90-minute opener. It was pretty true to the book with one exception – which I’ll come back to in a second. Cast is good. AmyBeth McNulty looks closer to my own vision of Anne than Follows. Matthew, Marilla, Mrs. Rachel Lynde – all good. Aside from Anne being 13-years old already in this version vs. 11, I liked how it all played out and, still being CBC, the panoramic views were almost as wonderful as the 1985.

But really, I wasn’t comparing it to that early version – rather I was comparing the interpretation of the book itself. And by episode two, you can really see the change up. Showrunner Moira Wally-Beckett is quoted in The New Yorker: “I wanted to ground it in the foundation of some of the story and some of the plot that’s already there but not fully explored,” she said. “So it’s like I sort of open up the spine of the book, reach in between the lines of the pages, and chart some new territory.” And this she definitely does. During the ride back to Green Gables, we get almost PTSD-like flashbacks to Anne’s earlier placements which correlate to the book, but of course in the book, Anne speaks more matter-of-factly about them. Certainly in the book we see Marilla and Matthew read between the lines of Anne’s words, but in Anne with an E, it’s much darker in its representation.

In the next couple of episodes we see typical added Hollywood-style drama, and that was kind of annoying – Anne is sent away (after a re-arrangement of events) and we have a lot of one episode of Matthew going through some heroics to get Anne back. And then… this is where true Anne fans might falter… Anne is the center of much ridicule everywhere she goes, including her first days of school. She expresses a “beyond her years” inappropriateness when sharing what she knows of sex and parents all shun her. Then a fire happens at Ruby Gillis’ house and Anne saves their home because of worldly knowledge, which is what brings everyone ‘round again to decide to like her. Additionally, we meet Gilbert in very different circumstances (he steps in as White Knight in the forest as Anne is intimidated by some other boy – can’t remember who) and the conflict between the two of them arises from other issues, too. “Carrots” comes into play, but when it does, it actually feels very out of place.

There are a lot of other things like this throughout, and no one needs me to point them all out, but I will sum up some feelings about the show as such:


  1. I was emotionally invested. Three episodes in and I felt heartsick for both Anne and Marilla at various times. I cried with Anne when she cried.
  2. Anne is spirited!
  3. I liked the casting for Anne, Marilla, Matthew, Mrs. Rachel Lynde, and Diana.
  4. A lot of the dialogue was taken word-for-word from the book.
  5. If you never read the books, this interpretation definitely fits in with what dramatic shows look like right now. It’s a good blend of period storytelling with a modern, realistic slant for our more uncertain times that we currently live in. Biedenhorn says this in her EW review:

“And it’s worth noting that Anne’s gritty realism is, of course, much closer to what life actually would have been like for a turn-of-the-century orphan. Given the heaviness of shows dominating the conversation these days — from Game of Thrones to 13 Reasons Why to This Is Us — inventing a dark side might help Anne With an E fit into today’s TV landscape.”

  1. It made me remember just how often I read the books in years past because I knew exactly where things strayed. Ha! In this same vein, watching that first episode made me want to re-read the series so badly, I promptly cracked open the first book the next day.
  2. At the time of posting this, I am mid-way through Anne of Avonlea and really want to write Gilbert’s story. This might also be a “Con” because What, How, When.


  1. Anne is too old. It took away too much of her innocence, which to me is key to her adaptability.
  2. I was not keen on Gilbert – although, I will say he looks and acts more the age he is supposed to be in relation to Anne. I think it’s easy to forget that Gilbert is, in fact, 2 years older than Anne, and if in this version she is 13, then he definitely seems more like 15 in this version.
  3. While Anne’s dialogue was taken exactly from the book (mostly) as were some scenes, the effort to give it a more austere feel seemed to generate far more work in rearranging and re-writing scenes to still match the dialogue. It seems to me that the darker nature of some bits could easily have been magnified with what was already there. Or, ditch the exact dialogue altogether if it’s going to come to the much broader strokes of interpretation anyway.
  4. After 3 episodes, I was done being curious and preferred the Anne and Company inside LM Montgomery’s pages instead of Walley-Beckett’s. As mentioned in the “Pros”, I can see the appeal for an un-christened Anne Shirley viewer, but for the rest of us, nah.

I have more “pros” than “cons”, but of course, if I’m not going to keep watching it, then list content vs length obviously holds more weight. I do not feel, as Biedenhorn and Larson do that this version is a “betrayal”, rather that it is a different, more modern take on it. And, taken directly from Montomery’s  world, Matthew is okay with modern, so maybe we can be, too…but then, Marilla is in charge, so I guess she’s not wrong, either. 😀

(On a side note… remember when an awful new cover came out for the book a few years ago? I stand by that outrage.)

Here’s a little clip to give you a taste – for more, or for validation in skipping it altogether:

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Saturday Summation – 20 May 2017

Bits and pieces of things that caught my eye not only for my own interest, but enough to want to share with you, too…

Reading Stuff:

James Patterson and Bill Clinton as co-authors on a novel? I might even read that when it comes out. What an interesting pairing. I got a kick out of Book Riot’s follow up post on “dream” president-novelist pairings, too.

In my last summation, I listed Still Life, the first of Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache books in my recommended reads. I chose to listen to it on audiobook, and I was hooked. Beautiful writing…and a narrator who truly gave it justice. I am hooked. I recently finished the second book and am excited to start listening to the third. I noticed that at some point, Ralph Cosham stopped narrating and I wondered what happened – and then found this article. He died in 2014. I’m so sad, knowing that eventually I’ll have to let him go. If you are an audiobook fan, who is a narrator you have grown especially attached to?

Writing Stuff:

I recently finished Becky Albertelli’s latest book, The Upside of Unrequited and loved it. I mean, it was great on many different levels and honestly, I can’t doubt at all that a good part of it was that, as this Slate article mentions, she had “totaled 12 sensitivity readers” for it. TWELVE. That’s getting due diligence right. I am really happy to see more articles popping up about sensitivity readers. There are still some who will still call it a “trend” (the same ones that say “diverse books” are a trend), and sadly, they are the same ones who won’t figure out WHO a sensitivity reader is when they attempt to find one for their own novels. But, for all the rest of the great writers and authors out there – yes to all of this attention to this area of beta reading.

A new trend in writing posts I’ve seen lately has writers questioning the emphasis on getting the first line and then the first five pages right. Dave King talks about the folly of nailing those first five pages, but then the rest of your story doesn’t match. I think, of course, that if you are an established author, those first five matter only slightly less. A debut author in some ways, only gets the one shot. But it is absolutely true that those five pages mean nothing if the rest of the novel can’t back it up.

Amy Nathan offers some good insights on the importance of more than mere find-replace when it comes to writing in on POV, then changing your mind and switching over to another. What I really think is interesting is that many might think that first person POV is the most personal and close one can get to a character, but she discovered that deep third person created a wider lens for readers to get to know her protagonist – and that is an important distinction to understand when doing a changeover in the drafting stage.

Some readers love character description – I have one crit partner who always comments on my manuscripts about wanting to know more about how my protagonist looks like in the opening pages. Yet, I am more like this author, and don’t care as much. I like to know distinguishing traits that might especially pertain to the story or how characters interact with one another, but beyond that, I’m good with filling in the blanks. And really, Edgerton’s comment in this post on how a reader firmly believed he had detailed a character’s physical description when he had not actually done so is fascinating. There’s more to this craft than flowery words, indeed.


Song of the Week:

My 10-year old has friends who know the Hamilton music soundtrack well, and he has been asking to listen to it forever. I’ve finally given in – insisting that we listen to it the first time around together. We’ve finished the first act and with all that we’ve been going through as a country in the past few months, I can’t help but always have this song in the back of my head.

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