Friday, March 29, 2013

Attending Teen Arts 2013

It has been much too long since I have posted here, but I finally have something exciting to write about. Last Wednesday, I was choosen to attend the Teen Arts Festival as a representative of my school in the Creative Writing category. It was a day-long event filled with feedback seminars, art-viewing, and workshops for all kinds of artists.

In attending the Writing Feedback Seminar, I received great praise for my short story, as well as advise and suggestions about the writing life in general. Attendees were placed in small groups of four to five, and were able to read aloud their writing while others looked on with their own copies.

After this session, a friend and I attended a poetry reading, where anyone was welcome to make their way to the podium and read aloud. The rest of the day was spent viewing dance performances, browsing the art exhibits and getting a bite to eat in the cafeteria. Overall, it was a fantastic day, and I hope I get the opportunity to go back next year!

One of the art exibits displaying the work of high school students

My writing (on right) hanging with other stories, essays,
and poems at the festival

On a side note, Amazon just recently bought Goodreads, the social network site for book-lovers. It has been stated that with the two sites now linked, it will soon be possible to update your progress and rating of the book directly in the e-book if reading on a Kindle. E-books will now be able to be purchased through Goodreads as well. Try these two links, here and here for more information and opinions.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Re-Reading To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird
Harper Lee
376 pages

I few years ago, I read Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time. Looking back now, I can say that I was too young to fully understand this timeless novel. At that time, I was baffled by words like cynical, amiable, and chiffarobe - words that were key to the story and its meaning.

Now, four years later, this book has been given much more meaning for me. And I'd like to share that with you.

To Kill a Mockingbird tells the unforgettable story of a sleepy southern town, in the years post  - Great Depression. It tackles the common issues of growing up, and doing what is right, although that action may not be the easiest. Atticus Finch, and his children see the effects that hatred and bias have on their town first-hand, and through the eyes of young Scout, the reader will experience it too.

My favorite character from To Kill a Mockingbird is most certainly Miss Maudie Atkinson, the widowed gardener who lives across the street. Lee describes this women in the passage: "Miss Maudie hated her house: time spent indoors was time wasted. She was a widow, a chameleon lady who worked in her flower beds in an old straw hat and men's coveralls, but after her five o'clock bath she would appear on the porch and reign over the street in magisterial beauty."

Miss Maudie is one of the few characters who plays an important maternal role for Scout and Jem, as their own mother died in early years. She tells them the plain, hard truth, with no regard for their age and provides them with important life lessons. Miss Maudie is also in my opinion the funniest character in the story: "Now keep out of the way of the carpenters...I'll be in my azaleas and can't watch you. Plank might hit you." and "Jem Finch, I called to find out if you and your colleagues can eat some cake. Got up at five to make it, so you better to say yes." are lines I found myself really having a good laugh at - especially if you read them in a southern accent.

Maycomb is I guess what many people will call a typical Southern town, but as I have never been to "the South" I can't exactly vouch for that. "Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it." At this time (1930s) this fictional town is both old and tired. Arising out of the Great Depression, "Maycomb County had recently been told that it had nothing to fear but fear itself." and self-pride and tradition fueled its only engine.

Aunt Alexandra is a women bound completely to tradition, and to Scout she explains the caste system of the town. First, there are people like themselves - the "Fine Folk" who come from distinct family lineage, and have been "squatting on the same patch of land for decades." Then there are people like the Cunninghams, a family with so poor, "but once you earn their respect, they will be for you tooth and nail." The Ewells are a no-good mystery, living on relief checks from the state, and treat everyone with disrespect. And then are the "Negroes". The line that struck me the most in this novel is said by Tom Robinson, a black man who is accused for a crime he never committed. To Atticus he says, "If you were a 'Negro' like me Mr. Finch, you'd be scared too."

One of my favorite lines of the novel is when Scout makes an observation about the people of her town: "I think there's just one kind of folks. Folks." Her brother, Jem, goes on to say that when he was young like her, he thought the same, but now being twelve years old, he realizes "[that] if there is only one kind of folks, why can't they get along with each other?"

This is an interesting question, as I believe it is still relevant in today's society. Although there is not as much hatred between races anymore, humans still tend to find ways to distance ourselves from others who do not fit our idea of a "Fine folk" (a term Scout likes to use.) Wars still plague the years, and prejudice still clouds many visions.

After reading To Kill a Mockingbird for a second time, I believe everyone needs to return to their high school years and read Lee's Pulitzer Prize winning novel for a first, second, and maybe even a third time.