Thank you, Ms. LeGuin

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Lake Michigan in winter by E.A. Schneider

On January 23rd, I found out that one of my heroines died. At the age of 88, Ursula K. LeGuin passed from this mortal realm into whatever dreams come next. All of us are left behind to grieve and ponder the mark she left on our lives. Ursula K. LeGuin was a legend. I find myself thinking of her in terms of the line from Robert Frost’s poem “Take Something Like a Star” that, to paraphrase, she was an ever fixed point that asks of us a certain height because, even though she wrote diverse things across fiction, essay, poetry, and children’s literature, the moral tone of thoughtful curiosity and beautiful prose seemed constant to me.  As a reader, her work demands a certain imaginative courage to leap into new ways of thinking and her elegant word craft makes the leap a joy.

Unlike many people, the first Ursula K. LeGuin book for me was a short story anthology called Changing Planes and it changed my life. I grabbed the book on impulse in a local bookshop in middle-of-nowhere Northern lower Michigan when I was home on college break because I had liked “The Ones Who Walked Away from Omelas” in creative writing, I soon found myself in love with her perspective. Changing Planes  was unlike any book of sci-fi I had read before. It was so scientific, so ethnographic, so purely imaginative, filled with wisdom and humor. Here was science fiction that did not rely on whizbang technology or ray gun fueled space opera but rather the sublime exercise of the if/then question: If humans did this, what then happens? It was a thrilling thought for a writer that here was science fiction (by a woman no less!) that I felt I could maybe in 10,000 hours write: something about people rather than things. I was inspired. I’ve been working on science fiction ever since in addition to my other fiction interests.

I soon found out that Changing Planes was a small star in the LeGuin firmament and was giddy at the thought of reading more of her celebrated work. I have generally read at least one LeGuin book a year ever since that day in the bookshop. Left Hand of Darknessthe Earthsea trilogy, and The Dispossessed are justly lauded; I cherished reading those books and look forward to re-reading them. I will say that there is a purity to this grief because LeGuin lived such a long, lauded life and left such a plethora of work for us to enjoy. Her voice will carry on as it should.

Maybe I’m selfish but I have a confession to make. When I first saw that she died, my immediate thought was “Oh no! I never sent her a thank you note!” and I felt guilt. I was raised to believe that no matter what, if someone really makes a difference in your life, you better find a way to tell them and that the best way was a handwritten thank you note. I am an avid writer of thank you notes and an inveterate procrastinator of writing thank you notes, particularly when they are for something really important. It is a vexing contradiction. To this day, I have never gotten up the nerve to thank an author who made a difference in my life. I have drafted letters in my journals but always quailed at the moment of truth. Fear and introvert-ness keep winning over fandom. In that moment of reading the fateful headline of LeGuin’s passing, I felt the double loss of her, with all her stories yet untold, and the missed chance to say the two words to her that every artist finds gratifying: thank you. I will always have her books. In fact, there are many books of hers I’ve never read that I’ve been saving for a future day’s enjoyment and years of pondering. I can hardly wait to share her work with children and students yet unknown but now, I will also always have that regret of never finding the nerve to thank her for being her and that is too bad. So today, I will share with you my unsent thank-you note below.

Dear Ms. Ursula K. LeGuin,

Thank you for being you. Your incredible books, essays, and poetry have changed my life. Your human focused science fiction with its fascinating if/then hypothetical structure thrills my imagination as both a scientist and a creative writer. I’ve been writing fiction, reading everything I can, and dreaming of making a difference since I was a little girl.

I confess that I did not encounter your work until I was in my early 20s but when I did, it had a profound impact on my artistic approach. Before I read your work, I felt daunted by sci-fi and fantasy. As much as they drew me and I struggled to write stories in those genres, I felt in the back of my mind that there wasn’t quite room for stories that didn’t necessarily rely on complicated mathematical physics or epic violence and war but rather operated on a more individual, human scale. Reading your work and learning about your life as a mother, a feminist, a poet, and an apologist for Sci-fi as literature, I felt like not only was the world of options infinitely wider than I had supposed but that I could find a place there too, if I persevered.

Thank you for blazing your path and lighting the way for the rest of us. You have left the world infinitely more beautiful than you found it and I look forward to reading your stories yet to come. Please also know that in a biology lab in the Midwest, your poetry hangs over my desk and it inspires me as I work on my day job experiments even as the experience of reading your fiction hovers in my mind while I write my own creative stories. Both pursuits require imagination and your work has been invaluable encouragement in each endeavor.

Sincerest thanks again,

Ellen A. Schneider, MS a.k.a. E.A. Lawrence

I also hereby will endeavor to make 2018 the year I send the other draft letters to those living authors who, like Ms. LeGuin, opened my mind, wrote on my heart, and have helped me find my voice as a writer. Every artist deserves a thank you.

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Engaging Books: A Book Club for the next 4 years

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Summer wildflowers by E.A. Schneider

Salutations, dear pond readers! Today, I am excited to launch a new project at Technicolorlilypond just in time for Summer. This project is a book club for the next four years that I’m calling “Engaging Books.” The election for the 45th president of the United States has made the world an extra tumultuous place and stirred up a lot of feelings in people. I think that if we could all be on the same page of the same book engaging in the imaginative exercise together, and then sharing thoughts on it in a polite way, that that would make the world a little bit better place right now with a little bit brighter future. What can I say? I’m the child of librarians; I can’t help but think that books are the best place to start when faced with crises.

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Ring-tailed Lemur hugging its tail by E.A. Schneider

Engaging Books is designed with three specific goals. Goal #1: pierce our self-made bubbles of knowledge and, by so doing, achieve Goal #2: foster consideration for each other as human beings whilst doing Goal #3: read some amazing books. In short, the ultimate goal is to become a more engaged, informed, and polite member of society. Our self-curated bubbles of information have highlighted our polarized political climate in the United States as well as contributed to a crumbling sense of community. There is data to support this belief and there is no shortage of evidence that we are more likely to believe that the “other” is a subhuman enemy when we don’t know anything about them personally. I’m hoping that reading these books and works will help us all see the world with more compassion.

Like a lot of others in the USA, I felt a little blindsided after the November elections and I want to read up on points of view that I’m now aware I knew nothing of as well as perspectives that I might have mistakenly taken for granted.  A lot of thought went into this list of books. The books are a mix of fiction and non-fiction and every book is less than 600 pages long.

Because this is the Internet, everybody reads at different paces, and there’s this pesky thing called Real Life that rudely interrupts one’s ability to read, I have some guidelines for how this is going to work. Naturally, these are subject to revision as things develop. The books are listed below in the rough order I will aim to read them in. There are 60 books on the list which works out to 15 books a year for the next four years. As I read, I will post thoughts on the books here on my blog as well as on Goodreads in the Engaging Books Group. If you are reading along, please post your thoughts. If you’ve already read something on the list, feel free to post your thoughts on the work even if it’s way down on the list. However, all people posting will need to put SPOILER warnings on their comment where applicable and always be politely respectful in their remarks.

The books on this list are purposefully challenging. I fully expect many of them to contain content that is disturbing, offensive, graphic, and emotionally affecting. That is the point. Again, we all curate bubbles for ourselves regardless of facts to protect our identities. It is our nature. However, we can and should challenge that nature to stretch because that is how we learn and grow.

This isn’t a class. There are no grades and no credit beyond the personal. All I can offer is my own written commentary, some cute animal pictures, and the truth that when you read a book, you’re going to learn something you didn’t know before. Personally, I think that reading these books is a worthwhile endeavor and I hope you do too. On to the list!

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Relaxed Seal by E.A. Schneider  Seals are one of the cutest animals around!

 

Engaging Books: The List  

# / Title / Author / [page count]

  1. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood [311]
  2. Tracks by Louise Erdrich [226]
  3. News from Nowhere by William Morris [167]
  4. The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher [272]
  5. Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed [274]
  6. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance [272]
  7. It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis [400]
  8. Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler [345]
  9. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley [288]
  10. Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave by Frederick Douglas [160]
  11. Bus Girl: Poems by Gretchen Josephson [107]
  12. The Irony of American History by Reinhold Neibuhr [174]
  13. We by Yevgeny Zamayatin [225]

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    Diving sea turtle by E.A. Schneider

  14. 1984 by George Orwell [322]
  15. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond [418]
  16. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood [400]
  17. The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank [200]
  18. Selected Poems by Langston Hughes [320]
  19. Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston [243]
  20. Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Hothschild [288]
  21. Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt [527]
  22. Ecotopia by Ernest Callenbach [181]
  23. Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg [308]
  24. Muslims and the Making of America by Amir Hussain [150]
  25. Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine [160]
  26. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot [370]
  27. Waist-high in the World: A life Among the Non-Disabled by N. Mairs [224]
  28. I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai [352]
  29. Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver [436]
  30. Imagined Communities by Benedict Anderson [240]

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    Summer wildflowers at dusk by E.A. Schneider

  31. Prophesy Deliverance! by Cornel West [188]
  32. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks [243]
  33. The Dictator’s Handbook by Bueno de Mequita [352]
  34. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury [249]
  35. Fight Club by Chuck Palahnuik [218]
  36. Coyote by Allen Steele [436]
  37. The Big Stick: The Limits of Soft Power and the Necessity of Military Force by Eliot A. Cohen [304]
  38. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins [374]
  39. The American Jeremiad by Sacvan Bercovitch [256]
  40. High-Rise by J. G. Ballard [204]
  41. An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine [291]
  42. V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd [296]
  43. Caesar’s Column by Ignatius Donnelly [278]
  44. Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center by bell hooks [174]
  45. The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements by Eric Hoffer [240]
  46. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin [349]
  47. Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman [208]
  48. The Long Walk by Richard Bachman (pseudonym of Stephen King) [384]
  49. In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson [448]
  50. The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt [528]
  51. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli [140]
  52. Animal Farm by George Orwell [112]
  53. The Wave by Morton Rhue and Todd Strasser [143]
  54. Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez [120]

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    Coneflower by E.A. Schneider

  55. Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson [433]
  56. Southern Horrors and Other Writings: The Anti-Lynching Campaign of Ida B. Wells, 1892-1900 by Ida B. Wells-Barnett Jacqueline Jones Royster (Editor) [288]
  57. The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels [48]
  58. One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society by Herbert Marcuse [320]
  59. The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution by Francis Fukuyama [585]
  60. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief by Francis S. Collins [294]

Thank you for reading to the end! I am going to intersperse my reading of this list with other lighter works and hopefully I will blog about those, too. I’ve already read a couple of these and will be posting my reviews sometime soon. Hopefully, this will help you launch your Summer Reading with some fascinating books and dynamic thinking. Any thoughts? Concerns? What are you reading now? Please, share below, happy Summer reading, and thank you for stopping by the pond today, dear reader.

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Onward by E.A. Schneider

 

 

Words on my mind

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Seagulls and Lake Michigan’s surf by E.A. Schneider

Hello, dear pond readers, long time no see. This winter has been busy and I have not been able to be here at Technicolor Lily Pond as often as I’d hoped. In addition to real life demands, I’ve been doing some sewing, some cooking, taking some pictures, reading, and I’ve been busy writing. I’ve also been playing a lot of various tabletop games and exploring that world. In 2017 I have many big, creative plans to keep doing more of all of those things and hopefully I will be able to not only accomplish them but also to share them here at the pond with all of you. Here’s hoping!

Thanks to recent world events, I have a lot of feelings that will probably surface here at the pond. Nevertheless, I still want Technicolor Lily Pond to be a creative, fun space at the end of the day that can inspire as many people as possible in positive ways. In that spirit, I would like to share with you a poem that has been on my mind over the last two weeks. Thanks to my poetry loving mother, I have a few different poems rattling around in my head to turn to for comfort in times of stress (thanks, Mom!), but, this particular poem is one I first encountered at the Milwaukee County Zoo as part of their Language of Conservation Project and it has become a treasured favorite to turn to in times of uncertainty. I found it on the Internet thanks to the Scottish Poetry Library and have linked to their page below. Enjoy!

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry

As you face the challenges of your week wherever you are, dear pond readers, I hope that you can take a moment to look on something wild whether it is a creek or a song sparrow or a squirrel, breathe, and find a moment of peace.

What are you hoping to accomplish in 2017, dear pond readers? Any new books you’re hoping to tackle or novels you’re hoping to write or recipes you’re hoping to try? Please, leave a comment below and thanks for stopping by the pond today.

Thankful Thoughts

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Whale shark and friends by E.A. Schneider

Happy Thanksgiving, dear pond readers! Today I find myself counting my blessings. I’m thankful for my spouse, my family, my friends, my faith, my work, my words, my readers, and this incredibly beautiful world. This post is filled with pictures of some of our magical wild neighbors which I hope you enjoy. Despite multiple setbacks, I’m thankful that I’m still plugging away at NaNoWriMo, slowly but surely (2574 words and counting!), as well as my reading goal of 52 books (43 books and counting!) this November.

This Thanksgiving may be extra stressful for many in the USA because we’re dreading the P-word (P-O-L-I-T-I-C-S) rearing its head over the turkey and sweet potatoes while grappling with the usual stresses of travel, family, distance, and cooking things we only cook once or twice a year. Fingers crossed for no food poisoning or flu! Look on the bright side, given the statistics on political opinion in the USA, odds are high that we’re all stressed out together. If misery loves company, then surely anxiety enjoys a crowd.

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Jellies in the deep by E.A. Schneider

No matter how tough it is or how divided your dining room might be, it is more important than ever to hang on to those we love and find the strength to keep talking to each other. Count your blessings together, I guarantee that you will find many in common if you try. The future may be uncertain with lots of things to be afraid of, but, cultivating a grateful, loving heart can only be an asset. Especially when coupled with yummy food in the company of dear ones.

What are you grateful for, dear readers? Are you in the final sprint of your own NaNoWriMo experience? Are you cramming in some reading time? Or cramming in a new tasty recipe? Please, leave a comment below while you have a safe, happy, and tasty holiday filled with love. Thanks for stopping by the pond today.

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Tanuki in Autumn by E.A. Schneider

 

Hope and Forgiveness

It is several days post election and a lot of people are justifiably scared. I have a lot of thoughts about how things turned out, but, rather than share them today, I’m just going to share this quote which has been a source of comfort over the years during times of uncertainty. Since the news of November 9th, I find myself re-reading it often. Hopefully, it comforts you, too.

“Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope.

Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith.

Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love.

No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore we must be saved by the final form of love which is forgiveness.”

― Reinhold NiebuhrThe Irony of American History

If you want to help make your community a better place and help your neighbors, here is a link with some good suggestions about where to start. Together we can dig deep and make a loving world. Take care, dear readers, and thanks for stopping by the pond today.

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Deep blue calm by E.A. Schneider .

Finished some reading!

I got to do some reading the last couple of days, dear pond readers, and I have a couple tiny updates for you.

Changeless (Parasol Protectorate, #2)Changeless by Gail Carriger

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This series is distractingly addictive and I am thoroughly enjoying every page. Alexia is a fabulous heroine and I can hardly wait to read what further adventures she encounters in book three armed with her parasol, glassicles, and preternatural wit.

View all my reviews

Red Hood's Revenge (Princess, #3)Red Hood’s Revenge by Jim C. Hines

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The stakes keep building for the trio of no-nonsense princesses in Red Hood’s Revenge. I absolutely love how Hines is mining the deep, dark recesses of classic fairy tales to tell these very realistically positive fantasy stories. I can hardly wait for book four.

View all my reviews

I’m over halfway through my goal of 52 books this year with 29 books done. Here’s hoping that I can not only power on and finish some more books but also do a longer capsule review heavy post for all of you. What are your reading and writing goals this Fall, dear readers? Please, leave a comment below and thanks for stopping by.

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Budding possibility by E.A. Schneider

 

If you want to support Technicolorlilypond and check out some super fun books, check out these links: Changeless (The Parasol Protectorate) and Red Hood’s Revenge (Princess Novels) Thank you!

Happy 50th, Star Trek!

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All the captains! This image was found using a Google image search.

September 1966 saw the premiere of Star Trek and the world was forever changed. Star Trek brought us a utopian vision of a future that not only included the continuance of the human species but the inclusion of disparate parts of that species in the exploration of the universe. Then and now, 50 years later, that is still a remarkably optimistic vision that continues to inspire countless fans around the world.

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Earth as seen from the surface of the moon. Image courtesy of the LROC mission.

Star Trek inspired my brother, cousins, and I throughout our childhoods. I grew up with the voyages of the USS-Enterprise, the NCC-1701-D, station Deep Space Nine, and the USS Voyager. I can’t begin to count the number of hours we spent playing Star Trek first with homemade models then computer games on top of watching the shows and movies as well as reading the sundry paperbacks. This was a great way to grow up. I took it for granted that people of different skin tones, genders, and species could work together to understand different phenomena, solve puzzles, and broker inter-galactic peace. Of course women were lawyers, archaeologists, engineers, diplomats, admirals, doctors, counselors, security officers, teachers, captains, and mothers. There was no such thing as the no-win scenario. Instead, there was working the problem with your crew using the tools you had. Sure there was heartbreak, there was tragedy, there were sucky episodes, there were logical fallacies, there were disappointments. Aren’t there always? The average of good to bad, hope to despair, quality to hackery, and possibilities to dead-ends has always tilted high and that is where I continue to hang my trust in the franchise that is Star Trek.

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My childhood tribble that lives over my writing desk.

I’ve written about Star Trek a lot over the years. Over at Playtime: an Arts and Culture Magazine, I wrote about How to Be a Trekkie and Star Trek (2009). Here at my pond I’ve done a few crafty posts including both a quillow and a baby gift-set, a two-part viewing guide to Star Trek that included some recipes, and even a fundraiser inspired by my love of Star Trek’s tribbles. I’m cautiously hopeful about the upcoming television series and I’m looking forward to writing about Star Trek for years to come.

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All my homemade plushie tribbles! They are standing by to save my brain from multiple sclerosis. 

Thanks for existing, Star Trek. Thanks for all the inspiration, all the debates, all the laughs, and all the wonder. You helped me think that science was not only cool but achievable. You also helped solidify my conviction that the power of a good story told well can change the world for the better. Here’s to another 50 years of going where no one has gone before.

How about you, dear pond readers? Are you celebrating the 50th anniversary in any particular way? Do you have a favorite Star Trek memory or episode? Please, leave a comment below and thanks for stopping by the pond today. Q’pla!

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50 years calls for dancing Picard!