Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Juno's Questions for Other Readers

E-mail me the questions you'd like to ask the other readers of Juno's Daughters and I will add them here.
  1. Do you think your response to the book would be different if you had a different set of familial relationships? (e.g. I have no sisters, am the mother of 2 boys, and both my parents [married to each other] have been a stable and positive force in my life. Some aspects of the book just felt bizzaro to me, but might not have if I had a trying relationship with a sister or my mother was younger and struggling alone as I was growing up).

Juno's Questions FOR the Author

E-mail me your questions for Lise Saffran, author of Juno's Daughters, and I will post them here.
  1. What was your relationship with The Tempest before you started Juno's Daughters? Had you been wanting to work with Shakespeare or The Tempest in particular? [SpSq note: this is partially already answered in a comment on the "Overall Impressions" post].
  2. In novels about novelists there is always this moment when the characters take on lives of their own, outside of the writer's control. Is this a reality for you? As you were writing JD were there times when you felt you were just recording actions of characters rather than manipulating words?
  3. Did you consider making Lilly 18 so there would have been less of an "ick" factor?
  4. My cover blurb mentions that Juno's daughter is part "Led Zeppelin" anthem. I'm not a big Zeppelin fan, so I missed the references. Can you elucidate?
  5. How do you balance your other job, writing at the creation stage, writing at the editing, revising and promoting stage, being part of your family and being "yourself" (i.e. someone neither defined by her occupations or family roles).

Juno's "Final Reflection" Questions from the Author

Comment on the questions posed by author Lise Saffran's after completing Juno's Daughters:

1) What was your first impression of Jenny and Lilly's "competition" over Trinculo? Did your feelings about it change as the book progressed and the stakes became higher?

2) Do you think Jenny was right to go see Monroe without Lilly? Do you think she had closure after meeting with him? Do you think he'd changed from the monster he was when she left him? (What about their meeting hinted at his maturation, or his lack of maturation?)

3) Were you satisfied with the end of the novel? Discuss in particular the significance of Jenny and Frankie's conversation about Monroe, and Frankie's quotation of Love's Labour's Lost. How is the last paragraph especially relevant to the theme or themes of the book?

4) How did you feel about the elements of "artifice" in the novel (the middle-chapter-as-play, the previously-mentioned changing character names) by the time you got to the end? What effect did you think those elements had on your reading of the novel?

Juno's "While Reading" Questions From the Author

Comment with answers to Lise Saffran's questions to be considered while reading Juno's Daughters:
) How much do you believe that Jenny's own relationship with her sister and her mother play into her parenting? Similarly, what do you think of Jenny's approach to parenting and does your opinion change as you move through the book?

2) Think about the depiction of small-town, hippie life on San Juan Island—what about the dynamic of its residents do you find endearing? Do anything about their life seem claustrophobic or limiting? Would you wish to live in a place like this?

3) How do you find yourself reacting to the fact that the visiting actors are known (at least until the end) by the names of the roles they play in The Tempest? Do you find it distracting, or does it serve to underscore the insider/outsider dynamic of island life?

4) If you were unfamiliar with The Tempest, are you finding that the novel gives you enough of the play as you go along to understand the interplay between the two stories? If you were familiar with The Tempest, were you expecting Juno's Daughter's to more directly echo the plot of the play?

Juno's Overall Impressions

Comment on any general thoughts on Juno's Daughters here.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


In keeping with the theme of the year-- which random thing can go wrong this week?-- I am thankful that Dianthus is over the cradle cap that led to long locks falling out with chunks of scalp, I am thankful, that, much to everyone's surprise, I don't have strep* and I'm thankful that the Mister doesn't need to program or grade so he can rest his aching wrist for a few days.
It makes me sad that gratitude can so quickly turn into boasting or maudlin sentimentality, but I'll risk it and point out that I am grateful for my family, my full life of plenty, and you, my friends.

*A lingering cold turned into a throat so-sore-I-can't-eat-soup, sinus-too-painful-to-think misery on Tuesday. I went to the famed Convenient Care Clinic. Upon looking at my throat, the nurse and the lab tech both thought it was strep, and even the doctor, with negative results in hand, was surprised at how red my throat was. I was given antibiotics for a sinus infection, and feel much better-- I'm back at lingering cold level, which is still annoying but a vast improvement.
All of these photos were taken in Oklahoma, by the way, which can have lovely autumn trees and weather.
And, no, I don't know why Dianthus started crawling into the cat carrier, but he has done it several times now.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Final STIR Books of the Year

Many of you are involved in the Juno's Daughter read-a-long. I'll be posting the questions from the author and you can respond in the comments. I'll also be compiling questions you have for either Lise Saffran or the other readers (there are now 16 of us, including what I think is a nice touch: my mother, my mother-in-law and my ex-boyfriend's mother).
Lindsey and I have not yet figured out how to discuss The Reluctant Fundamentalist but will soon. The short novel builds tension really well and it is a highly recommended, slightly disturbing, thought-provoking read.
The November selections is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot which is the best popular science made personal I've read in a long time (and I've actually read quite a bit of it recently). Highly recommended for my many biologist friends, but I'll also be recommending it for both of my parents.
For another group I'm involved with, I'm coordinating the discussion of Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers, which I am also happy to recommend.

Monday, November 14, 2011

That Kind of Person

Two weeks ago, I was spending Friday evening sitting on the back porch with my parents, sipping red wine as Aster cooed in the bouncy seat and Dianthus dug in the sandbox. The sun had warmed the flagstones, the sky was brilliant blue and every time the Mister popped out to join the conversation, the tantalizing aroma of roasting chicken wafted out. I opened a second bottle of wine long before we finished the first. I had decided that the first wine would go perfectly with the roast chicken, so I wanted to save it for dinner, and I thought we might all like a second glass before dinner.

My mother was surprised by this gesture. We aren't the kind of people to open two bottles of wine, and certainly not the second before the first is gone.
I mentioned that, just for one evening, I wanted to pretend that I was the kind of person who spent Friday evenings sipping just the wine I wanted in the sunlight.
And, for a moment I was.
At that moment, I also thought that I should blog about the moment. How to be that kind of person: do that thing. While I might never fully pick up the associated stereotypes, by definition, I can be the kind of person that does X just by doing X, whether or not I think I'm that kind of person. In my mind, I'm not the kind of person that watches reality television or drives a mini-van. In truth, I am. Apparently, by the same logic, I am also the kind of person who attends crazy, expensive underground supper club foodie dinners*, bakes elaborate fig-frosting cakes, and, for at least a moment, I was the kind of person who opens the bottle of wine she wants while lounging in the autumn light.
Neither bottle was finished that night, by the way. Four adults who started sipping wine right at five drank a total of a little over a bottle's worth (about 2 glasses each). The toddler acted up at dinner. The three month old started crying. The young parents fell into a heap in bed as soon as they could (at 39, I still consider myself a young parent). It didn't last long because the baby, snotty-nosed with crud he'd picked up from his brother, started crying inconsolably every two hours.
Sometime around 4 am the Mister stumbled into our room, turned on the light and handed me a pair of pliers, saying he needed help extracting a toothpick from his foot. I was unfazed by his request. Partly because I was still partially asleep, partially because I couldn't open one of my eyes because it was gunked shut with pink-eye, and largely because I had stepped on the same pile of toothpicks in the middle of the afternoon. One had wedged itself a full inch into my shoe and it had taken me two pairs of pliers and taking apart the layers of my new shoes to remove it.
So I'm the kind of person who lets her toddler play with toothpicks and not pick them up. And the kind of person who impales herself on a toothpick and tells her family about it but doesn't pick up the rest of the pile. But I am not the kind of person that can pull out a wooden toothpick from her husband's foot in the middle of the night, although not for lack of trying. It turns out that pointed wooden cocktail toothpicks, (blue in this case), are very sharp, but they splinter easily. Any pressure with the pliers (or the needle-nose pliers, or the tweezers) further fractured the toothpick into little bits.

In the morning (real morning, not 4 am morning), we sent the Mister off to the Convenient Care Clinic. My parents were concerned about sending him there (I didn't have the best experience when they disregarded my black widow bite symptoms), but I convinced them that the doctor was unlikely to tell the Mister that he didn't have a toothpick in his foot.

Hours (literally) later the Mister returned home. Even with superior tweezers, the doctor also had splintering trouble, and eventually had to just cut out the three quarter inch piece of toothpick. She also gave the Mister a prescription for antibiotics.

Sunday night, after my parents were gone, the Mister was itchy and I told him he looked pink. He told me it was the lighting.

I was worried enough that the next day I e-mailed the lobster-red Mister that he should call his doctor and he was worried enough that he did. His doctor sent him back to the Convenient Care Clinic, but he wasn't there when Aster and I walked by to sit in the waiting room with him. So when daycare called telling me to come pick up feverish Dianthus, I sobbed that I would, just as soon as I found out what was wrong with my husband and where the car with the car seat was.

The Mister returned from the pharmacy with a different antibiotic, still red and itchy and woozy from the shot they had given him to counteract his allergic reaction to penicillin (amoxicillin in this case). I picked up Dianthus and his bag of Halloween treats.

We suffered through a long afternoon and yes, I am the kind of person who will let her sick two-year old dress up as a Hawaiian Firefighter to go trick-or-treating**. But I am also the kind of person that will take him to only one house.

Dianthus puked all over the Mister in the middle of the night. I effectively lost a week of work with him home all day. The Mister, Aster and I eventually became sick with this new crud. The Mister's toothpick hole is healing without infection.

And, two weeks later, I am the kind of person who thinks it is funny.

Surely, the kind of person who sips wine in the Friday evening sunlight and sends her son to daycare with homemade pumpkin cupcakes with maple cream cheese frosting does not leave sharp toothpicks lying around her house or lack clean pants because the few things that fit her current post-pregnancy size were all peed upon during coughing fits. But maybe they are.

*Someday I am going to blog about the Test Kitchen Oklahoma, the “Underground Supper Club” to which I “belong” but probably not any time soon. You can check out the menu of the dinner I ate on Oct. 2 on their website (logging in just requires an e-mail, nothing more).

**Click for comparison of Dianthus as another young punk and a black cat. The Hawaiian Firefighter resulted from his pink Hawaiian shorts and Fireman's Hat being his two favorite pieces of apparel at the moment.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Aster's first earthquake

Aster (and Dianthus) slept through their first earthquake yesterday. Registering 5.6 on the Richter scale, the tremblor (really a word?) centered 120 miles away, was enough to rattle our house. At one end of the house, the doors and the washing machine started rattling and I could feel something amiss, for much longer than I would have expected. At the other end of the house, the Mister didn't directly feel it, but came down the hall to ask me why the mirror (hanging loosely over a door) would have been shaking so loudly.
Since we had been discussing a smaller quake that occurred in the same place earlier yesterday, I immediately realized what it was. If we hadn't have had that conversation, I probably would have guessed some weird sheer winds; Western Oklahoma is not a place one expects earthquakes (the only other earthquake I have consciously experienced was in Colorado, another place one does not expect earthquakes, on a Christmas Day. We heard what felt and sounded like a sonic boom. My brother, the PhD geophysicist, declared that it mus have been Santa returning to the North Pole.).
Strange days, and I still haven't written about the toothpicks.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Discuss Juno's Daughter with the author

Lise Saffran, (biography here), author of the September STIR selection, Juno's Daughters, stopped by this blog last week and wanted to join our discussion of her book. I'm contacting her to figure out how it can be done, but know of three readers for that book: Tracy is expecting twins soon and is officially resting in bed to prevent them from emerging sooner rather than later, Beth had a baby two weeks ago, and I'll post the story of my last week after I grade ("no blogging until grading is done") but you can look forward to fevers, jack-o-lanterns, red wine, feet impaled upon toothpicks and an allergy to penicillin, before we even mention work or parents.
Since published novelists* don't stop by Sparkling Squirrel Year every day, I'd like to encourage more of you to read Juno's Daughters and join the conversation.
Let me know if you're interested.

*And every so often I'm disturbed because I have no friends of some profession (usually chefs and novelists) but then I think of the oddball occupations that occupy my universe; a Mars geologist, a massage therapist specializing in repetitive stress injuries from playing stringed instruments, a PR person for insects, a studier of snail snot, and more plant ecologists than you could shake bigbluestem at; and all the wonderfully oddball people that occupy the more traditional occupations in my universe, and realize how lucky I am to have all of you. Thanks.