That time Ursula K. Le Guin signed my book; also, quotes!

 Hey so last week I went to Powells for a book signing by Ursula K. Le Guin, did I mention? 🙂 

She’s making the rounds to promote the reissue of her writing book, Steering The Craft. I would have loved to buy that book at Powells but it had sold out by the time I arrived. So I grabbed a trade paperback of The Left Hand of Darkness, probably my favorite of her books anyway, and waited in the long long long line for her to sign it. 🙂

Before the signing started, though, she spoke briefly about Steering The Craft, writing in general, and then also took questions.  Here are some of the things she said that I enjoyed enough to write down: 

“Every story must make its own rules and obey them.”

“You can learn to deserve your gift. To make something well is to give yourself tooling.”

“When Tahanu came out, all the male scifi critics said, (whiny voice) ‘Oh! she’s turning into a feminist and ranting at us!'” (This whiny voice was HILARIOUS btw.)

She mentioned she has three desks — the one where she answers paper correspondence when she can, the one where the cat sleeps, and the one with the big Mac (computer) on it.

What she’s reading now: Elena Ferrante, and next up is Jane Smiley as recommended by her daughter. 

“I guess I was just arrogant and determined.” — on why she kept writing after so many years of not being published

“No one knows where publishing is going — it’s a real mess. And it’s hard on you young writers. It wasn’t so good when I was writing, and it’s worse now. But the readers and writers will find each other, even if our publishing system is kind of a bust.”

“Don’t let the old guys scare you; they’re kind of on the way out.” — on being a woman writing in a men’s world (as you can imagine this got a lot of laughter and applause)

Born in 1929, Ms. Le Guin is a national treasure (and a Portland resident)! I hope we have many more years to enjoy her. 

Midway-through-the-book review: One Good Dragon Deserves Another

I’m really enjoying Rachel Aaron‘s book One Good Dragon Deserves Another, the second book in The Heartstrikers series. The male protagonist in this urban fantasy is the nicest dragon in the world, and therefore a complete failure as a dragon since they’re all alpha-dominant-schemer/brawlers. The female protagonist is a magician/scholar who dropped out of college to avenge her dad (in the first book). There are seers, alternate dimensions/worlds, mythical creatures, ex-gods, ghosts, magic artifacts… oh, and most of the action is set in post-apocalyptic Detroit. 😉

Totally stole this image from Rachel Aaron's site.
Totally stole this image from Rachel Aaron’s site.

If you like Kim Harrison’s The Hollows series, this will probably also make you smile — though it’s less dark so far. Mostly.

I *really* enjoyed Rachel Aaron’s Eli Monpress books — there are four, and they make up a funny, light, rollicking fantasy series. She writes strong, multi-dimensional male AND female characters, which of course appeals to me. If you’re looking for some light reading that doesn’t insult your intelligence, and you like fantasy or urban fantasy, I definitely recommend you check them out. 🙂

I recently learned that Rachel also writes space opera with a strong female lead called The Paradox Trilogy (under the name of Rachel Bach), so that’s probably my next series. It should get me through the end of the summer, at least — happy reading!

So-far book review: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

 Got this at the used bookstore yesterday, hoping to read it to Amelia. It’s set in Texas in 1899, and the protagonist is a girl who identifies herself as a naturalist despite her school teaching her:

Reading, Spelling, Arithmetic, and Penmanship. oh, and Deportment. I got an ‘acceptable’ for Posture but an ‘unsatisfactory’ for Use of Hankie and Thimble.

Her granddaddy is horrified by this, and starts allowing her to shadow him in his own experiments and (local) expeditions. 

If she tolerates it, I think this would be a fun book to read with Amelia. It does deal with topics of racism on top of sexism, but I think we could talk about both constructively. I’ll read through to the end before I lay it on her 6yo brain, though. Liking it a lot so far. 


Carson Ellis at the Ledding Cultural Forum

Last night as part of my mission to Start Getting Out More and its sister effort to Do Stuff Other Than Work And Parent, I went to the Ledding Cultural Forum at the Ledding Library of Milwaukie to see Carson Ellis speak about her life as an illustrator and especially her most recently published book, Home. The reading/talk was at 7pm in the Ledding Library Pond House, a lovely little building across the duck pond from the modernist library building itself. I should mention that I have a particular affinity for the Ledding Library, as it was my childhood library. I read my way through the entire folklore shelf in their excellent children’s library before we moved away from Milwaukie when I was 9. I have what are for me unusually vivid, visceral, happy childhood memories of visiting this library, and my passionate love for libraries took root at the Ledding. So I love this library really a lot. Really.

A terrible photo of Carson Ellis
A terrible photo of Carson Ellis

Carson Ellis has a charming presence, seems quite comfortable speaking in public, and kept reminding me of Joni Mitchell in her striking and unconventional loveliness. She spoke about her childhood, her education as an artist, and how becoming the illustrator for The Decemberists (she’s married to Colin Meloy) helped her develop her technique. She’s a noted illustrator for children’s books, like The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart, The Composer Is Dead by Lemony Snicket, and Dillweed’s Revenge by Florence Parry Heide. She and Colin are renowned for their Wildwood series, for which she produced over 250 illustrations. I enjoyed her talk, and I was too shy to snap any photos until she was surrounded by people getting their books signed. I was also too shy to get my book signed. But I had a lovely time at the reading and then also picking up some books for the kids at the library, and walking in downtown Milwaukie through the warm spring evening. The Ledding Cultural Forum is very cool — you should check it out if Milwaukie, OR is convenient to you.

Just finished the first book in Rachel Aaron’s series, The Legend of Eli Monpress. I love reading good books, which so often have been published by good publishing houses and edited by good editors. My wallet is not as fond of me binge-reading novels that run $6-10 each and last me about 2 days, also each. Next series will have to be a cheap one, I guess.