Monday, August 31, 2009

Thanks for 26 Years, LeVar

Yesterday, I heard the sad news that the 26-year-old PBS show Reading Rainbow is reaching its end due to lack of funding. It's the 3rd-longest running PBS show of all-time, next to Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers.

In my opinion, it is also LeVar Burton's greatest legacy. Sure, he wowed the world with his performance in Roots, and many people know him best as Geordi La Forge from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

But me? I'll always love Burton for his passion for getting millions of children excited about books. Reading Rainbow had nothing to do with sounding out letters of the alphabet or using phonics. His show wasn't about teaching children to read. (However, the shows that do are the ones still getting their funding.)

Reading Rainbow was about teaching children that reading is worth doing. That there is a magical world out there, waiting to be discovered. That reading is fun and exciting and valuable. Have a question? Find the answer in an book. You can be transported to wonderful places, use your imagination, fuel your curiosity, discover new things, all through the power of books.

The show even had other children give their own reviews, showing titles they loved and explaining why they enjoyed them.

Reading Rainbow was all about the why. That is just as important as the how.

If you teach a child to read, but that child refuses to do it, really, what is the point? What good does it do that child if he or she can't use that skill in school, in college, at work, in life? Especially in this ever-increasingly computerized world where nearly every job a person will have will require some kind of reading and writing communication?

My good friend and critique group member (and now published author!) Lu Ann Staheli, has been teaching junior high English for three decades. (That alone should grant her sainthood.) In that time, she's learned that she can get virtually any struggling student reading at grade level or beyond by the end of the year.

Even better, she can get any reluctant reader with their nose planted in a book within a matter of weeks.

How does she do it? She has some tricks she's learned over the years, but most of it boils down to what Reading Rainbow has been doing for a generation: get kids excited about books. Help them find the right book for them, ones they want to read and will find interesting. To help them find a point to reading that goes beyond an assigned classic that they hated.

I have a real passion about this topic because literacy affects so much of society. If adults read a lot and read well, that fact alone will impact their lives (and the lives of their families) in massive ways.

I wrote an article about some of those ways HERE, but that piece really scratched the surface of how literacy impacts our communities in ways you probably never imagined. Some of the research I've done on it is really startling. It's enough to make you want to cram a truckload of books into every child's arms.

As a result of all this, I'm mourning the passing of Reading Rainbow.

I tip my hat to LeVar Burton and the work he's done for the last 26 years. He is one person who truly understands that reading is so much more than sounding out a bunch of words.

And for that, Mr. Burton, you have this mother's deep gratitude.

Butterfly in the sky,

I can fly twice as high . . .

Friday, August 28, 2009

Writing Journey: Part XXV

This one will be brief, because, yeah, not much time today. But I've skipped two weeks in a row. I owe a post for those who have been patient with me.

So I knew that there was no way on this planet that the grammar book would be at the conference, even though I had slaved over it at an insane pace, my husband had worked on the techie side for me, my graphic designer had practically put her life on hold to get the cover perfect, and we'd otherwise tried to move the sun and the moon to make this happen.

Nada. It wouldn't be happening. At least not on the timetable we wanted.

But that was okay . . . I could advertise it at the conference, right?

Beforehand, we fixed the minor issues with the cover and interior files, uploaded them again and waited the 24-48 hours for approval. This time they were approved. Phew.

Next step: the hard proof had to be ordered and shipped. When it was approved by me (the quickest that could happen would be in about a week), I could then authorize the book for sale.

Hahahahahhaaaaa! Murphy's Law kicked in. (Murphy likes to laugh.)

Before the conference, I got a bunch of cards printed up that advertised the book. I printed out the cover in color even bigger than the actually cover is. Someone smarter than I am (I forget who was the first to suggest it) pointed out the obvious: why don't I pre-sell the book at the conference? So I did, and more than 20 people ordered it and prepaid for it.

The conference was April 23 and 24. I had faith that I could approve the proof as soon as it arrived, so I figured that there was no way I wouldn't have the books mailed off by May 1.

A lot of those were after I taught my workshop about grammar and punctuation. Coincidence? Doubt it. The class went well, and I had a ball. (Gee whiz note: I'm teaching a similar class at the upcoming Book Academy writing conference in September.)

The hard proof arrived a few days after the conference. I flipped through it, excited to see my perfect little grammar book so many people had asked me to write. I was ready to click on "approve."

But then . . . well, then I found some glaring errors in the text that SOMEHOW I'd overlooked. Several of them. As in . . . around 30.

My jaw dropped in horror. How had that happened? I couldn't sell this book with so many mistakes in it. (I'd forgotten my own rule: if you wrote it, you can't proof it. Your brain fills in the problems and rolls right over mistakes.)

So, I yet again redid the interior file. I edited it, proofed it. (Dumb, I know. Hello?! But I justified it by thinking about all the people e-mailing me asking when their copy would arrive . . . I was trying to hurry it up.)

I uploaded the interior file again. I waited for the file approval, and this time it took longer than usual. I was ready to bite someone's head off (mine, actually). When the approval came, I ordered a second proof and waited anxiously for its arrival.

When it landed on my doorstep, I tore open the envelope and, to my increasing horror, saw fewer, but more (new!) errors. I was near tears by this point, ready to take a torch to the whole project. But I couldn't do that. I made as many corrections as I could on my own, printed the thing out on a hard copy and then (cluing in a bit here), handed it over to my husband (known for his eye for detail) to help me proof it.

He pulled out a pencil and started writing all over it. Um, not a good sign. He noticed a bunch of little stuff: a formatting inconsistency here, a stray period there floating around there, and awkward sentence there. He found all kinds of stuff. While my heart sank with each mark he made, I knew he was right on target with 99% of them.

Dang it.

He also suggested that I open each chapter with a small introduction instead of launching into my examples and the actual rules with each chapter. Which makes total sense. Transitions are much easier on the reader. Duh, why didn't I think of that?

So I wrote new stuff. It wasn't a lot, just a few paragraphs here and there. A little niggling in the back of my head said to send those pages to my critique group just to have other eyes look at it, but I pushed the thought away.

I'm in a hurry. I don't have time for that. These are really short intros. I can do this much without them. I write articles all the time without my critique group reading them, for Pete's sake. I can surely do this without them. Besides, I have over twenty people waiting on me, and I'm WEEKS past what I already promised them. They gave me their money in good faith, and I owe them a book NOW!

Yeah. Let's just say that making decisions under pressure like that?

Not the smartest way to do things.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

WNW: Messing with Your Head

Last week I threw a linguist mind bender out. Some of you already knew it (good for you!), and others had never heard of it.

Before I write it out again, let's set up what we're dealing with.

Have you ever tried learning a foreign language, thought you have a pretty good handle on it, and then actually hear a native speak to you and go . . . whoa! Suddenly, you can't understand a word.

One reason is often because the native is speaking fast. Another is that they're using colloquial terms that you didn't learn in language class.

This is a classic issue with learning Finnish. NO ONE speaks the "real" language; Finns are constantly hacking off and mixing up endings and throwing together stuff, so missionaries' heads are spinning.

I remember a hand-clapping game with my friends that we'd do in a specific pattern, and we'd count to see how far we could get. After about twenty, I'd let them do the counting aloud and forget trying to keep up, because they were abbreviating the numbers so much just to keep up with the rhythm that they no longer made sense to me and I couldn't count that fast in Finnish.

Finnish has a lot of syllables, so for a quick rhythm game, you'd have to abbreviate. For, say, the number 38, good luck saying, "kolme-kymentä-kahdeksan" in about a quarter of second. They'd shorten it to, "kol-kyt-kah." Now it was my head spinning.

But one big reason you get foreign speakers not understanding another language is because they can't tell where one word ends and the next one begins. If the native were to slow down enough, really enunciate, or perhaps write it out, the foreigner could have half a chance at figuring it out.

Learning where a word begins and ends and the next begins and ends is something infants and children do when they learn their native tongue as well.

And that's where I messed with your heads last week.

I took a nursery-rhyme type sing-song thing and messed it up so you couldn't tell where one word really ended and the next began. I could have spelled it any number of ways (it's a famous rhyme, so I'm sure there are others ways), but this is how I did it:

Maresy dotes'n doesy dotes'n littel amsy divie.

I even told you to say it aloud . . . as if that would help. It probably just messed with your head more if you weren't familiar with it.

Here's the real rhyme written out in actual English words so you can see where each one properly begins and ends.

Mares eat oats,
And does eat oats,
And little lambs eat ivy.

Okay, now sing it again.

Now go back and read the funky version one and see how your brain tricked you because you couldn't decipher the beginning and ending of each word.

I found out recently (thanks, Blondie!) that there's an entire board game based on phrases that sound like one thing but are really another (called mondegreens). The game is Mad Gab. I'm going to have to buy it now. Talk about the perfect person to enjoy it! (Now if I can just find someone as nerdy as I am to play it with me . . .)

Kids are the best at inadvertently coming up with their own mondegreens such with the Primary song, "I Am a Child of God" where the lyric, "has given me an earthly home with parents kind and dear" turns out as, "parents kind of weird."

Hey, it sounds right . . .

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Stupid Google Alerts

Admit it. You've Googled yourself, haven't you?

But you don't have to anymore. You may have heard of the nifty Google Alert tool, which searches for any phrase you tell it to once a day, and then Google e-mails you the results.

Kinda nifty.

For a writer, Google Alerts are really convenient. For example, you can set up an alert on your book title so you'll be notified of book reviews you might not have found otherwise on a blog or news site you didn't even know existed.

I have a friend with a relatively small blog who wrote about her experience with a particular book, and within a day, the author had commented on her post.

How do you think the author even found her blog? It had to be with a Google Alert.

Awesome and convenient, no?

Definitely. Especially if your book has a title like many of my friends' books. Say, When Hearts Conjoin, or The Mazerunner, or Farworld or All the Stars in Heaven or Abinadi.

For my friends and their books, if Google finds their titles somewhere, there's a pretty good chance that the post or article is going to be about their book.

And then . . . well, then there are my books.

Do you have any idea how useless Google Alerts are for my titles?

They are all common phrases.

Let's take a look: House on the Hill

For that one, my daily Google Alert e-mail used to consist of a good dozen or more links, most referring to tourist descriptions of places they'd visited.

"We visited this beautiful house on the hill . . ."

After months and months of daily e-mails with not a single link about the actual book, I finally deleted the stupid alert.

Oh, and what about, say, Tower of Strength?

Do you have any idea how often that phrase is used whenever someone describes a loved one who has been a support? I didn't, until I created an alert for the phrase.

I swear, I get links all the time about family tragedies and how the father or the mother or whoever was a "tower of strength" for the rest of the family. Or it's a romantic tribute from one spouse to another. ("You are my tower of strength . . .")

Any time a celebrity dies, I can guarantee I'll get a bunch of "tower of strength" links about whoever is supporting the family.

Great for them. Not what I'm looking for.

Let's look at my other titles, shall we?

At the Journey's End
Another phrase tourists use. Also, I've discovered, a common name for places like bed and breakfasts. Another deleted alert.

Spires of Stone
Not quite as common as the others, but still used a lot by people in describing architectural structures they see on travels, whether it's cathedrals or whatever. I haven't deleted this alert, because I don't get dozens and dozens of irrelevant links. Just several regular ones, and every so often, there will be a real one referring to the book. Still annoying, mostly useless.

Lost Without You
A common phrase peppered throughout blogs. Since the book is out of print, it's pretty rare anyone blogs about it anyway. Alert deleted.

At the Water's Edge
Common descriptor that pops up regularly in articles and blogs. Lots of irrelevant links. Another out of print book. Another deleted alert.

There, Their, They're
You'd be amazed at how often word nerd people like me post about these homonyms . . . in this order. That's the weirdest part. I get links all the time about their misuse, and they're listed just like this. It's eerie. In all but one case, it's never been about the book.

The most useful Google Alert is simply my name, and that usually does the job well enough, because usually, if someone's going to review a book, they'll include the author's name. I'm likely to find out about it even if I'm not alerted with the title.

But then there was the time a Google Alert on my name informed me that I'd died. It sent a link to an obituary of an Annette Lyon from New York. That was disconcerting in a Twilight Zone sort of way.

Fortunately, this Annette Lyon is alive and well. And my next book's title (sounds like they're keeping it as Band of Sisters) isn't a common household phrase.

Maybe I'll finally have a useful Google Alert on a title!

Friday, August 21, 2009


This is typically my Writing Journey day. I missed it last week, and I'm missing it again. Those posts take me a good chunk of time to write out, and I didn't have that time last week.

Technically, I do have that time today. But I won't be using it for that. In a few minutes, I'm leaving the house for something else.

Many, many years ago, during the baby era, I was visiting teaching a dear woman named Mindy who had exited her own baby years not long before. I was bemoaning how difficult it was for me to ever get to the temple. I lived about half an hour away at the time, and the temple I attended was so busy that it was not at all uncommon to wait in the chapel an hour and a half for a two-hour session.

When you have a nursing baby who refuses a bottle, being away for four or more hours is really not much of an option--or if you attempt it, the session is nerve-wracking and hardly the peaceful, spiritual experience it should be, because you know that back at home, your baby is screaming the roof off and wailing for your comfort.

Once or twice I got up early on a Saturday morning, nursed the baby, and raced out alone to do an intitatory session because they're shorter and I could get back before the baby needed me again.

Or there were situations where we'd be past the nursing issue and I'd get a babysitter all set up, but then the toddler would start vomiting or spewing out the other end ten minutes before we were to leave--and I could hardly expect a sitter to deal with that. Or something else would prevent us from going. I swear, there was always something. (Of course, isn't there always when you're supposed to get there?)

I sat in this sweet woman's house almost on the verge of tears. I wanted so badly to just get to the temple on a regular basis (at that point, I would have been happy with every other month). I knew she went every single Wednesday. All her kids were in school, so it was easy for her, and I envied her something fierce. Not to mention that I really felt guilty for not getting to the temple more often. It was just plain frustrating.

Here I was, her visiting teacher, supposed to be the one giving her comfort and support. Instead, she did it for me. She told me it was okay. To not worry so much about it right now. My time would come. We're all in different seasons of our lives, she said. There will be a time when all my kids would be in school and I, too, would be able to go to the temple during the day--even once a week, like she did, if I wanted to.

The time would come.

I have held onto that reminder for many, many years.

Today is technically the second day of school in our district, but with the way they work 7th grade, it's the first day all my kids are gone to school all day.

I promised myself years ago that when that day came, I'd be at the temple. So that's where I'm going.

To me, it's a sign of good faith to the Lord that I will go more often now that I'm in a different season.

And it's a nod to Mindy for her comforting words so long ago.

Plus, to be honest, it's also a bit because I really, really want to be there, and I can do that today without juggling any balls or doing back flips to make it happen.

So I'm going.

Hope no one minds waiting for the next installment for another week.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

WNW: Answers and Winners

First, the answers to the quiz, because I just KNOW you're dying to find out, right? Right?

**crickets chirping**

I'm telling you anyway. :)

1. Which of the following languages have I NOT studied?
a) German
b) French
c) American Sign Language
d) Finnish
e) Russian

Answer: GERMAN

I took a year of French in 4th grade and another in 8th. ASL was my language in college, and I got pretty darn good at it, to the point that I almost entered the interpreting program (but got sidetracked by that marriage thing). I obviously studied Finnish while living in the country, and I took two years of Russian in high school.

2. In what grade did I take my first language class?
a) 2nd
b) 4th
c) 6th
d) 8th

Answer: 4th

Sort of answered that already, huh? :)

My elementary school started up a new language program then with 30-minute language classes before regular school hours. My sister and I signed up with French. She was in 2nd grade, and I was in 4th.

3) What was the first language I studied?
a) German
b) French
c) American Sign Language
d) Finnish
e) Russian

Answer: French. Beating a dead horse now.

4) Why did I pick that one?
a) I heard it was easy.
b) My friends were taking it.
c) My grandpa is from a country that speaks it.
d) I wanted a challenge.
e) My parents picked it for me.

Answer: My grandpa is from a country that speaks it.

My paternal grandfather immigrated from Switzerland, which, by Swiss law, made my father a dual U.S. and Swiss citizen by birth, which made me a dual citizen as well. I figured it would be a cool thing to take a language spoken in that country. (Granted, French is spoken there less than other languages, but it is spoken there, and that was my primary motivation for picking it.)

5) Probably the biggest factor in my becoming a Word Nerd is that:
a) I took a class about the history of English and loved it.
b) Dad is a linguist.
c) I worked at a library.
d) I learned to read at a young age.
e) I used to read the encyclopedia for fun.

Answer: B) Dad is a linguist.

Hands down. If it weren't for our dinner table conversations about etymologies and other weird word nerdy stuff, I wouldn't care about language like I do. It helped that I had great English teachers in high school and college.

I was a Word Nerd way before that History of the English Language Course in college, which should have been the coolest thing ever but was a nightmare because of the teacher. (Note to the BYU English department of 1993: don't have non-linguists teaching language courses. Save the literature professors for literature courses.)

6) While living in Finland and attending public school there, what language class did I attend?
a) Swedish
b) French
c) English
d) Russian

Answer: C) English

This may sound counter-intuitive, but attending English class helped me learn Finnish. Think about it: if I had to take the same quiz as the Finnish kids did, translating words from Finnish to English or vice versa, I had to know what the words were in Finnish to pass. If I didn't know that "talo" meant "house," I was up a creek. By taking the English class, I learned Finnish much quicker.

7) What is my favorite language "toy"?
a) Word Myths: Debunking Linguistic Urban Legends, by David Wilton
b) Word Nerd: More than 17,000 Fascinating Facts about Words, by Barbara Ann Kipfer, Ph.D
c) The Oxford English Dictionary
d) The Write Express Rhyming Dictionary

Answer: C) The Oxford English Dictionary

If you've been here very long, this was an easy one. I could have been more specific and said my OED on CD. It's a joy to behold and "play" with. Um, I mean do research with.

As a side note, my father was the linguist behind the coding for the Write Express Online Rhyming Dictionary. You can search not just for rhymes but for ANY phonetic sounds in words. It's a great tool for language teachers of any kind. It's way cool. My little sister and I spent a summer being beta-testers on it. That's a blog post of its own I should do some time.

8) What language did I study in high school for 2 years?
a) French
b) German
c) Russian
d) Japanese

Answer: C) Russian

Oops. Already gave this one away answering #1. I have no clue why I didn't stick with French after junior high and what on Earth possessed me to take up Russian, but I did and had fun with it for two years. I still get a kick out of sounding out the Cyrillic alphabet.

9) Who was my favorite professor at BYU?
a) Dr. Snyder
b) Dr. Oaks
c) Dr. Thayer
d) Dr. Crisler

Answer: B) Dr. Oaks

In all honesty, I loved all of these teachers. They were each great in their own way.

(I have a hysterical story about Snyder. Oh, and another about Thayer. And I'll say that, crimeny, Crisler scared the heck out of me. He pushed me to the limit and challenged me to go farther and deeper than I thought I could. But I thank him for that! He was tough. In a good way.)

That said, Dr. Oaks impacted me and my Word Nerdiness in huge ways, and if I could sit in on his classes again, I would in a heartbeat. His cannibal jokes alone would be worth it.

10) What high school teacher do I credit for my understanding of punctuation?
a) Miss Drummond
b) Miss Jarmon
c) Mrs. Oldroyd
d) Miss Winn

Answer: A) Miss Drummond

Again, I really did have all these teachers, and they were all good, but Miss Drummond was in a league all her own. She's living proof that you can teach punctuation and grammar and have it make sense and stick with a student for life.

She's also the person I credit with first teaching me the basics of writing. I purposely didn't take the AP English class, instead taking her College Prep English class because I thought she'd prepare me for test better than the actual AP teacher could. I challenged the test and got a 5 (the highest possible score). I give her the credit. She was amazing.

Miss Drummond is in the unique position as the only person who had intense educational contact with my family as both a student and a teacher:
  • She took a class from my dad on transformational grammar. Don't ask what that is. I don't even know.
  • She had my brother as a student. (He swears she was the first and only teacher he ever had who could explain grammar so it made sense--see? It's not just me!)
  • She had my older sister as a student.
  • Then she had me as a student. Twice. (Sophomore and senior years.)
  • And I was her TA one year too (junior year).
To say she had an impact on my family would be a mild statement.

So there ya go: my history as a Word Nerd.

Now for what you really want to hear . . . the winners:

The person with the most correct answers (a whopping 9 of 10!) was Amber Lynae!

You might not believe this, but the random drawing winner, using picked Amber Lynae again.

Seriously. BUT . . . I didn't think that was fair, since the point was to have two winners getting two books. (Sorry, Amber Lynae!)

So I made the executive decision of having picking another winner, and that person is Jami!

Both winners: Please contact me directly via e-mail in the next two days so I can find out which book you want and so I can get your shipping information. (Remember, it can even be one that's out of print, so you've got 7 to pick from.)

In the meantime, for all my readers, try this mind bender on for size:

(Please, if you've heard it before and know it, don't ruin the fun for everyone else in the comments. Thanks in advance!)

Do you know what the following sentence means?

Maresy dotes'n doesy dotes'n littel amsy divie.

Say it aloud if it helps to figure it out.

Next time, we'll discuss what it means and how (and why) it messes with your brain.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Reminder: Win a Book!

Today is the last day to make your guesses on my WNW quiz for a chance to win a book.

UPDATE: I've decided to have TWO winners instead of just one!

1) The person with the most correct answers


2) One randomly drawn name.

So it's worth taking a shot at the questions even if you have no clue what the answers are.

Rule reminders:
  • Answers are accepted through today only, Tuesday, August 18.
  • Either leave your answers in the comments or e-mail them to me: annette at annettelyon dot com
  • Both winners will be posted tomorrow, Wednesday, August 19th.

Up for me today: an early-morning soccer practice, final school shopping (yes, I still have some to finish up, if you can believe it--cutting it very close), a grocery store trip, an orthodontist appointment, two school open houses, a soccer game, and two possible youth activities, one hinging on whether we make it to the soccer game and find the field in some obscure park in another city.

If my family eats, has clean dishes to eat off of or clothes to wear, it'll be a miracle.

But they'll have clean underwear. So that's something, right?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Yeah, Their Mom Is a Writer

One of the best parts about being a mom and a writer is watching how it affects my kids--because it really, really does.

This isn't about how sometimes the young 'uns have to forage in the pantry for food because I'm at the computer or how at least once a year I'm gone for a couple of days at a conference, although both happen.

I'm not sure how it came about, whether from watching my critique group when we meet here, from sheer osmosis, genetics, or what, but each of them has learned about writing, and all four of them are great writers for their age.

It's not uncommon to hear my son roll his eyes at a television show and say, "This is so predictable. Let me tell you how it'll end." He does, and he's right. He's figured out how the writers (especially of kid shows) think. He can spot a setup a mile away.

Recently my next two oldest (both girls) had their faces buried in notebooks as they scribbled away on their own stories. They came up for air just long enough to say things like, "This story is getting so exciting! I can't wait to see what happens next!" or, "It's so real to me, Mom!" or, "This is why I want to be a writer when I grow up . . . I want to enjoy what I do."

That last comment is particularly meaningful to me, because three of my four children are daughters. Some day, they'll be wives and mothers, and they'll have to juggle dreams with motherhood. Yet they assume they can be writers because Mom is. I love that.

It's not uncommon to hear any of my kids analyzing novels they read. Recent commentary:
  • The writer picked the wrong point of view.
  • This scene was totally telling instead of showing.
  • Using present tense in this book really pulled me out.
  • This book is exciting and not predictable.
  • The writer makes me feel like I'm right there.
  • It's so funny, and the writer totally knows how girls my age think.

Then there's my littlest one. She's way ahead of her grade in reading and loves to talk about characters and story. She illustrates stories and sounds things out surprisingly well phonetically. The other day she used sidewalk chalk to write out an entire Primary song on the driveway. When I called her in to get ready for bed, she was really upset, because the last two lines weren't done yet. I had to let her finish.

They all discuss books they like and why certain ones are better than others. They can pinpoint not just what they like and dislike, but why a book worked or didn't.

It's awesome.

Recently a particularly fun bit happened regarding my good friend and critique group member Jeff Savage (current pen name J. Scott Savage), who is known for being ragingly anti-prologue.

Some of his reasoning is that a lot of readers don't actually read a prologue but skip to the first chapter.

Or if they read the prologue, they might do so later after they buy the book, but in the store, when deciding whether to buy it, they flip to chapter one and read that first.

He argues: why waste your time writing a prologue that might not be read anyway?

So here's what he does: he writes what are basically prologues, only he doesn't call them that. They're called "Chapter One." (Or in his next book, he includes several prologue-type chapters called, "interludes.") That way he tricks people reading the whole thing. Sneaky.

Not too long ago, my #3 began J. Scott Savage's Farworld: Water Keep.

(Quick side note: the second book in the series, Farworld: Land Keep will be out next month. Watch for it. It's even better than the first. But I digress.)

With a furrowed brow, she looked up from chapter one and said, "Mom, I don't get it. Chapter one is totally a prologue. Why isn't it just called that?"

I about fell over and laughed my head off. When the tears of laughter stopped, I explained it to her.

So much for J. Scott pulling one on all his readers. This kid had him figured out.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

WNW: A Quiz and a Giveaway

After last week's post and excitement over Grimm's Law, I promise to get back to it . . . just as soon as the kids are back in school .

(That means I'll need to consult my university notes and talk to Dad to refresh a few things in my mind and such, which means I'll need some time and likely several posts to do it justice. Time. I don't really have that right now.)

Anyhoo, in the meantime, I sort of blew past my third bloggy anniversary in July.

Um, yeah. Whoops.

I meant to do something really cool for my three-year mark. Something really neat and amazing, like a huge giveaway with a big sponsor or . . . I don't know, something. And then I posted something else on the actual anniversary and realized it a week later that it was over and . . . well, yeah..

So. . . let's all pretend that we're celebrating three years of The Lyon's Tale with a Word Nerd quiz . . . about me! (Because I'm going to be vain and pretend you all care.) Some questions you'll just have to guess at. Others you may know if you've been reading here long enough. Just give it a stab regardless. There are only 10 questions--it's worth trying for, right?

You can either leave your answers in the comments or send them to me via e-mail at annette at annettelyon dot com.

The person with the most correct answers gets a copy of There, Their They're: A No-Tears Guide to Grammar from the Word Nerd, OR a copy of one of my novels, their choice.

That includes the first two (non-historical) ones that are out of print, because I was smart enough to buy some copies before it was too late. (Yay for me, I was on-time for something.) So basically, the winner gets whatever book of mine they want that's currently in my house. (No waiting for a new book to come out next year, because I KNOW I'll forget to send it to you.)

If there's a tie, then both winners will get to pick one. Or maybe I'll let one of my kids draw a winner, and the runner-up gets something chocolaty, since I've been cooking up chocolate all over the place for that darned cookbook. (Haven't mentioned that in my Writing Journey yet, have I? I'll get there soon.) Anyhow, I'll cross that bridge if we get at tie.

So here's my Word Nerd quiz:

1. Which of the following languages have I NOT studied?
a) German
b) French
c) American Sign Language
d) Finnish
e) Russian

2. In what grade did I take my first language class?
a) 2nd
b) 4th
c) 6th
d) 8th

3) What was the first language I studied?
a) German
b) French
c) American Sign Language
d) Finnish
e) Russian

4) Why did I pick that one?
a) I heard it was easy.
b) My friends were taking it.
c) My grandpa is from a country that speaks it.
d) I wanted a challenge.
e) My parents picked it for me.

5) Probably the biggest factor in my becoming a Word Nerd is that:
a) I took a class about the history of English and loved it.
b) Dad is a linguist.
c) I worked at a library.
d) I learned to read at a young age.
e) I used to read the encyclopedia for fun.

6) While living in Finland and attending public school there, what language class did I attend?
a) Swedish
b) French
c) English
d) Russian

7) What is my favorite language "toy"?
a) Word Myths: Debunking Linguistic Urban Legends, by David Wilton
b) Word Nerd: More than 17,000 Fascinating Facts about Words, by Barbara Ann Kipfer, Ph.D
c) The Oxford English Dictionary
d) The Write Express Rhyming Dictionary

8) What language did I study in high school for 2 years?
a) French
b) German
c) Russian
d) Japanese

9) Who was my favorite professor at BYU? (If you've read enough WNW posts, this one should be easy. Oh, and I really did take at least one class from each of these teachers.)
a) Dr. Snyder
b) Dr. Oaks
c) Dr. Thayer
d) Dr. Crisler

10) What high school teacher do I credit for my understanding of punctuation? (Again, if you've been reading this blog long enough, you should know this.)
a) Miss Drummond
b) Miss Jarmon
c) Mrs. Oldredge
d) Miss Winn

(Answers will be accepted through Tuesday, August 18th, MDT, so I can announce the winners on the next WNW. Have fun!)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Miserable Middle School

Alternate title: My Guest Post Over at Lara's.

Lara at Overstuffed in the process of moving from Cedar City to Michigan (talk about a climate change!), and asked for a few friends to guest post while she's internetless, specifically about moves or big changes in their own lives.

First off, I was seriously flattered to be asked. Wow. Me? Cool! I tried not to be scared, because she's got quite a following.

And then I got to thinking about the topic, and a particular experience stood out for me. One of the biggest and hardest changes of my life was coming back from Finland after the three years my family had lived there. You'd think that coming HOME would have been easy, no? Well, not quite. I was thirteen, for starters.

I can't remember how I found Lara's blog, but it was part of my search for awesome LDS women bloggers, and when I clicked over to her blog the first time, I loved it on first sight. She was immediately added to my Google Reader and has stayed there. There are certain blogs I scroll through and might read (I subscribe to a LOT of blogs).

And then there are blogs I make SURE to read thoroughly and almost always, always comment on. Lara's is in the latter category.

We finally got to meet each other in person last month. How we never did before is a mystery to me, because we hung out with so many of the same people in high school.

Seriously . . . it's eerie, because we had so many mutual friends and had several common interests back then. We HAD to have been the same room several times and just never knew it. Her husband is even from my high school's graduating class.

Without further ado, here is my guest post today on her blog. I hope you enjoy it.

And I hope you return to her blog. It's a gem.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Dinner Discussion and Ratings

When the young 'uns were tiny, having dinner table conversation didn't really happen. I often felt like the mom in The Christmas Story who never got a warm bite to eat because she was constantly helping all the little people with their dinner.

And let's face it: infants and toddlers really don't have much to discuss.

Now that the kids are older, things are a-changin', and dinner table discussion is one of them. I'm enjoying it. One of the more interesting discussions to crop up of late: movie and video game ratings.

It started because one of my daughters had been planning her birthday party for about, oh, two months. (I had to hold her back from delivering the invitations two weeks early. She'd been that obsessed.) Part of the event included a video. Originally she wanted something "scary," which in her vocabulary meant Hitchcock (I'm so proud).

But then she realized that not all her 10-year-old friends would appreciate Hitchcock. (Wise girl.) So she started researching online. (Scary how good she is at it.) She loves Robin Williams from things like Flubber. So she found another movie he's in and asked if it would be okay for them to watch: License to Wed. Immediately, I nixed it. No, I told her, that would not be appropriate for the party.

(What I thought was, With all the adult content in that movie, if I were stupid enough to let you watch it, your friends' parents would all flog me, and for good reason.)

She found a site that rates movies based on content and appropriateness for age ranges (how she found it, I'll never know; I'll have to ask her what it was, because it sounded really awesome), and discovered a cute little movie that was a great fit: clean and perfect for her age range.

So at dinner we got talking about movies and ratings. She mentioned that some of her friends' parents won't let them see PG-13 movies until they're actually 13. That's fine, I said. That's their rule. But I did wonder silently if the rule also meant that they're allowed to see any PG-13 movie at that age.

Which wouldn't be okay in my book.

My kids (only one of which is older than 13) have seen a few PG-13 movies. Each one is hand-picked by Mom and Dad. There are PG-13 movies I don't want them to EVER see (but when they're adults, that's their choice, and it'll be out of my hands.) And there are some that I'll let them see when they're a little younger than 13 but can handle the suspense or the content or whatever.

But the point of our discussion is that the ratings are a suggested guideline, that they're someone's opinion, and that we shouldn't take them as our only source to make a decision.

We talked about my son's video games as another example. He has the entire Zelda series. I've lost track, but I think there are four games. The first three have the typical kiddie rating. The last one is rated T ("Teen," basically, the equivalent of PG-13). Zelda is very much a fairytale fantasy game. You're a little elf-like creature, using your sword to hit open stones for gems to use as money. You fight evil monsters and the like. Good fairies help you along the way. Good and evil are very differentiated, and good wins.

It didn't worry me that the last one was rated T. Just like certain elements automatically give a film a PG-13 or R-rating, any blood automatically gives a video game a T-rating. My son has won the game twice and still hasn't found the blood. But apparently, it's in there somewhere. Hence, the T rating.

But then there's the game Medal of Honor, based on WWII, and directed like a movie by Steven Spielberg. (Which frankly blows my mind. What was he thinking, especially after making Schindler's List?). The graphics are intensely realistic. You're a soldier with a gun, killing other real-looking people. You shoot someone's limb off, and then they bleed and fall down and groan as they die. It's like a real-life movie you're in, blowing up people.

You're not in there rescuing prisoners from concentration camps or taking back cities. It's battles and rampant destruction. It's a far cry from the pretend, light-hearted world of Zelda.

And here's the other big thing: players of Medal of Honor don't (and frankly, can't) have the same mindset as real WWII soldiers did, knowing that they're fighting Hitler's regime and possibly trying to save the world, that they're fighting for home and family and freedom and their very lives.

That's what World War II was about. This game is about randomly killing people in a very realistic setting. And that's not okay with me.

Yet both the last Zelda game and this one have the same rating.

Explain that to me, because it makes no sense.

Medal of Honor will never, ever, enter my house. Yet if I based all my decisions purely on ratings, either both games or neither would be under my roof.

Two final thoughts:
While living in Finland, we (obviously) used the Finnish rating system as our guideline for picking movies.

Since non-sexual nudity is really a non-issue in Europe, we ended up renting a couple of movies that had the equivalent of a G-rating there but an R-rating here. A couple of others might have been PG there but R here.

One of those G-rated videos was rented by my father for a Family Home Evening. I still giggle when I think of that: the mission president renting an R-rated movie for his family. Hahaha! (But it was G over there! It was! And the nudity was seriously like 1/4 of a second long and totally non-sexual.)

I learned quickly upon returning to the States to check a video's rating before mentioning that I'd seen the film so I wouldn't freak-out my friends. Ratings are very much in the eye of the beholder.

The final thing I'll mention I still find a bit disturbing: Disney's Pocahontas was rated, as were all Disney animated movies at one point, G. We'll not discuss the lameness of the movie and its historical inaccuracy.

What specifically bothered me rating-wise is that at one point, a white man shoots an American Indian at point-blank range with a rifle, and the Indian falls down and dies. Pocahontas falls to her knees, and all the characters, including the shooter, are upset by the incident. This isn't "fantasy violence" like you'd see on the Roadrunner cartoons or Bugs Bunny, you know, someone running off a cliff and staying in the air a moment before they fall, or getting whacked on the head with a hammer and we all laugh. This was an actual rifle shooting an actual man and killing him.

If it weren't animated, it would have gotten at least a PG rating. If should have gotten a PG rating. Why didn't it? Because it was Disney and it was animated. And let's not forget that John Smith nearly gets his head cracked open by a rock. Is that really G material?

Granted, that was back in 1995. I was thrilled the first time I saw an animated movie get a PG rating. (I'm not remembering what it was called right now . . . it was something about a junkyard robot . . . and it came out before Shrek.)

Seeing a PG rating on an animated movie told me that the ratings board was finally cluing in: just because something is drawn doesn't mean the content won't impact the audience.

The discussion with my kids was awesome. They were getting it. Let's just say that this dinner table talk thing is getting fun. As much as I freak out about my kids aging, they're sure at a fun stage right now.


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