Friday, December 21, 2012

The Crossword Puzzle Turns 99 Today!

It is not surprising that, as a writer, I love words. And puzzles with words are particularly wonderful.

Did you know that on December 21, 1913 the first crossword puzzle was published in New York World? The creator was Arthur Wynne a Scottish journalist. In those early days, most folks thought the crossword puzzle was a waste of time but the idea quickly took off and the iconic New York Times crossword was born in 1942. Crossword puzzles are an excellent way to build vocabulary and make connections inside your brain.

If you really love crossword puzzles, consider entering the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament (March 8-10, 2013) in Brooklyn, NY. From the event's website: "Directed by New York Times Crossword Puzzle Editor Will Shortz, this is the nation's oldest and largest crossword competition. Solvers tackle eight original crosswords created and edited specially for this event. Scoring is based on accuracy and speed. Prizes are awarded in more than 20 categories, including a $5,000 grand prize. Evening games, guest speakers, and a wine and cheese reception allow solvers to meet each other in a relaxed and entertaining atmosphere."

Start or continue a love of crossword puzzles at these sites:

  • USA Today Puzzles - Free! Play online. Great for beginners (it tells you when you are wrong) or a quick puzzle-working session.
  • NY Times Learning Network - Free! Play online or print. Themed puzzles like Bodies of Water, Women's Suffrage, and Fairy Tales.
  • Chicago Sun Times - Free! Play online or print. A new puzzle every day.
  • Brendan Emmett Quigley - Free! Play online or print. Two new puzzles a week (Mondays and Thursdays). BEQ creates puzzles for the NY Times. His puzzles are often fun and full of modern references.

*Beware: if you love word puzzles, don't visit one of the above sites when you should be working. I became so distracted working on the puzzles that I delayed finishing this blog post for several hours!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Mean Girls You No Longer Run My World

We all know that bullying can take many forms. Perhaps one of the more insidious forms of bullying is the relational bullying of so-called Mean Girls, that group of girls in many a middle or high school who make it their life's mission to torment any girl who is not a part of their group. You've seen the movies, heard the stories, and maybe even lived through some "Mean Girls" moments yourself. This form of bullying is usually covert and we adults only see the effects on the victims. I think we need to talk more about relational bullying...share our stories and coping strategies with our friends, daughters, co-workers, and anyone who is willing to listen!

Well, one 14-year-old girl is starting the conversation with her song "Mean Girls". Rachel Crow is the "X-Factor" singing sensation who is empowering young girls everywhere to tell their stories and be heard.

Mean Girls by Rachel Crow
Who do you think you are
Loud mouth, cafeteria star
Maybe somebody was cruel to you
So you think that's what you're supposed to do
One day, it might be you
When you need a friend, but you no longer cool
When everyone leaves when you walk in the room
I just hope they forgive you

Monday, December 10, 2012

Two Realities of Honolulu

During my recent visit to Hawaii, I read the 2009 award-winning book Honolulu by Alan Brennert. Two different friends recommended this book to me before I left for Hawaii; the day before my departure, my husband plunked the trade paperback down on my desk and said, “I think you’ll like this.”

Indeed, I did enjoy it. Honolulu is a fictionalized historic romantic tale of a Korean woman who comes to Honolulu in 1914 as a “picture bride” (equivalent of a mail-order bride) to escape her life as a second-class citizen. The main character, Jin (she changed her Korean name, Regret, which pretty much sums up her status in her family) and her three friends (other picture brides she met during the journey from Korea) face incredible obstacles throughout their lives. The characters are so very real and engaging that I found myself emotionally involved with the story--enmeshed in feelings of outrage, shame, compassion and empathy.

Brennert paints a wonderfully accurate picture of life in Hawaii at the turn of the 20th century. Of course, Honolulu today is different than it was almost a hundred years ago; but I thoroughly enjoyed walking the streets Nuuanu and Beretania as well as identifying the various venues where Jin lived, worked and socialized. I could very well picture in my mind the Liliha Café in Buckle Lane in the Liliha District, although there are no more stables, and the rice paddies are long since gone at the intersection of King and Kapiolani. Dole Cannery is now a theater complex across the huge lot from Costco.

Honolulu is a captivating, engaging read and I'm looking forward to diving into another of Brennert's books:  Moloka'i which is the story of the challenges and triumphs of a young Hawaiian girl with leprosy in the early 20th century.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Working from Home: Dealing with Distractions

Working at home can be just as distracting--if not more so--than working in an office surrounded by other people. On the flip side, some folks who work from home suffer from a lack of interruptions which means fewer breaks--not so good for your body or mind. After years of writing in my home office I've found strategies to deal with most of the distractions. And, some days when I'm ready to take a break, I find I don't mind so much being interrupted!

Here are a few articles I've found to help my fellow writers navigate the joys and pitfalls of working from home.