Tag Archives: Books

Searching for Reading Material: A Little Murder, a Little Mystery


Dr. Tamara Fudge

Kaplan University Professor, Business and Information Technology

 

It’s pretty easy to go to a bookstore at the local mall or search online and find all sorts of reading material by famous authors. It is not possible to have read all the classics, so you should be able to find something that seems familiar – something that makes you think now, why haven’t I read this yet?

But this blog entry is not about the famous Charles Dickenses, the George Orwells, or the Maya Angelous. It’s about finding works by new authors. Fresh pickings!  The following items were written by authors I know personally.  All of these authors are still alive – but not all of the characters in their books stay that way!

https://kuwcnews.wordpress.com/

L. Phillips Carlson

First, a prized butterfly collection is stolen. Then what looks like a car accident might actually have been murder. On the surface, these events don’t seem to be related, but a private investigator who is trying to restart his sagging career starts to find some odd connections. Throw in some ghostly possession and it gets even more complicated – and personal. Just when you think you know what will happen next, there is a new twist!  This book won the 2015 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award for Fiction in the Science Fiction-Fantasy category.

Linnea Hall

Think just for a minute about this tagline: “When Collin Sykes dies in an automobile accident, his life changes forever.”  An emergency room nurse, time-travel back to the Knights Templar, a kidnapping, and the plan for a heroic rescue – plus some science! – all set up a lot of great action. While it may have been meant for the young reader, this book is definitely also fun for adult reading. The characters make you want to care about them, and you won’t want to put the book down until the last word.

Leslie Langtry

This is the first book of four in Langtry’s “Merry Wrath Mysteries” series. The protagonist is an ex-CIA operative turned Girl Scout co-leader (really!). Despite ineptitude at “normal living,” Merry tries to fit in as a regular civilian but keeps getting pulled back into the world of espionage and, well, really weird situations.  Skillful sarcasm, some well-placed dead bodies, secrets, and plot twists in each book will make you want to read the full series and beg for more.  I have already begged and found #5 is coming in the spring!

Another excellent reason to read these books is that you help inspire living authors to continue their craft, and that in turn enriches the world of literature. Have fun and unwind with these murderous and mysterious novels!

 

Bookends: Looking Ahead to the IWCA Conference


By Chrissine Rios, Kaplan University Writing Center

img_0507

The 2001 CCCC Convention Program. Photo by Chrissine Rios.

This summer I wrote “Weighing the Books” while boxing up my household and home office in order to move it from North Carolina to Michigan.  Now my books are unpacked and back to being their inspirational selves on shelves.  In fact, I’m working on my presentation for the International Writing Centers Association conference, which is in Denver this month, and I’m seeing on my bookcase the program book from the last time I flew from Michigan to Denver for a big conference.

It was 2001, and I was in my last semester of English Composition and Communication at CMU, going to the Conference on College Composition and Communication (4Cs) to present my teacher research on engaging students at the beginning of the composition course by teaching creative nonfiction.  During the presentation, I shared my positive experience teaching a photo caption essay in place of the reflective essay, otherwise assigned at the beginning of the term.

My co-presenter and grad school colleague then shared how creative nonfiction can be incorporated into the research paper assignment later in the term, and our third co-presenter, who was our Comp and Rhetoric professor and my thesis chairperson, presented how creative nonfiction can be woven into the entire course.   Together we contended the personal writing traditionally assigned in composition could do more to engage and prepare students for success if it were taught less like an isolated, warm-up activity and more like an integrated and malleable path throughout the course that engages students in their personal learning processes via exploration and discovery and the making, or perhaps, crafting, of meaning.

We described creative nonfiction as being flexible—a form shaped by content and not the other way around.  And we described it as expansive—a genre that “centers in the essay but continually strains against the boundaries of the other genres, endeavoring to push them back and to expand its own space without altering its own identity” (Root & Steinberg, 1999, p. xxiii).  Now, fifteen years later, I’m hearing similar language being used to describe the way writing centers engage students, our adult online learners at Kaplan in particular, by being flexible and expansive.

At the upcoming IWCA conference in Denver, KU Academic Support Center Manager, Dr. Melody Pickle, will be speaking about our uniquely located, online writing center.  If you’ll be at IWCA, come see her speak at our presentation titled, Leveraging Technology for Online Inclusivity.  She’ll address the negotiation of identity that comes with inhabiting an internal and external shared space and how the Writing Center maintains its identity while being a dynamic learning community.

KUWC Tutor, Amy Sexton, and I will also be on that panel.  Our presentation will explore the use of technology, specifically video, to push the boundaries of who we are and what we do in our effort to encourage and equip our diverse students for learning success.  Amy and I will also be presenting Video Feedback for Effective Online Writing Instruction, and Melody will additionally be presenting Online Motion: Using Forms for Dynamic Asynchronous Services, so the KUWC will be well represented at IWCA this year.

For me, this IWCA and the 2001 4Cs are bookends on my career to date with the path between them weaving in and out the texts on my bookshelves.  At 4Cs, I was just getting started.  In fact, it was there that I interviewed for my first faculty position, the one that would launch my professional career teaching and tutoring writing and my move away from Michigan.  Now I’m back home and approaching my 10th anniversary at Kaplan with nine of those years being in the Writing Center, so at the conference, I’ll be sharing first hand experiences of where we began and how we got here.  I’m also counting on the presentations I attend to inspire new ideas about where we go from here.  You can access the full IWCA conference program online.  You can also be sure that I’ll be bringing a hard copy home as well.

Reference

Root, R. L., Jr. & Steinberg, M. (1999). The fourth genre: Contemporary writers of/on creative nonfiction. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Weighing the Books


By Chrissine Rios, MA, Kaplan University Writing Center

My home office-by-day/studio-at-heart is one of my favorite places for many reasons, and about 200 of them are books.

My Bookcase Before

My Bookcase Before

Some have literally saved my life; others have just stuck to my bones.  Each shelf holds a genre, and each genre holds a part of my story.  On my shelf of children’s classics, for instance, I have The Little Prince.  It was my mom’s when she was a girl, and folded inside is the book report I wrote on it in 7th grade; I can still remember crumpling up the rough drafts of lined paper, and there was a dozen.  Back then good writing had a lot to do with good hand writing, I thought, and I wanted mine to be good.

The Little Prince Book Report

The Little Prince Book Report

Another special shelf holds my reference books including Simon and Schuster’s International Dictionary: English/Spanish, Spanish/English, a 1,597-page hardcover that weighs a ton and a half.  I majored in Spanish in college, studied for a semester at the Universidad Veritas in Costa Rica, and for a year at the University of Puerto Rico—I still have my Antología de Textos Literarios from UPR and a soulful collection of postcolonial literature by Caribbean authors.  I bought the big dictionary when I was waist deep in Spanish classes.  I needed it for survival.  And in the eight times I’ve moved since finishing college, I’ve had to decide if I would again pack it up and take it with me, even though the only times I’ve cracked it open have been almost exactly those same eight times I moved, just to weigh my need for it.

I also have a paperback English/Spanish dictionary, a thick book as well but with the same words and not big and heavy.  And when I opened that one to weigh its importance, my initial thought was I don’t need this one if I keep the big one, but then I saw my mom’s name printed inside the cover and remembered how she kept up with her Spanish all those years I was studying it.  So my decision was made: The mammoth dictionary would go to Goodwill, and my mom’s paperback would stick with me.

In a blogging course I took a few years ago, a woman in my breakout group said she gave all of her books away, all of them.  She could no longer look at the stack looming on her nightstand.  She said she reads e-books now—no clutter, no guilt.  And she loves books.  She was finishing her now published novel at the time, which I read, reviewed, and gifted to my mother.  I loved it.  My shelves may be full and my nightstand too, but I have a living library.  Books come and go.  I don’t keep all I read or even read all I keep.  But there’s no way I could let go of my copy of Running with Scissors that Augusten Burroughs signed for me after his talk at the Florida Suncoast Writers’ Conference in 05.  That book was powerful.

Running With Scissors, Signed Copy

Running With Scissors, Signed Copy

Yet I read e-books too, and when Burroughs’s memoir Lust and Wonder came out earlier this year, I decided I would download it from Amazon.  His books have been filling up my memoir shelf for years, and that’s my favorite shelf! When it came to weighing their worth to me, they were heavy with great love, but also, just heavy, and for about a day, or at least an hour as I pulled those and about 40 more from my shelves to lighten my load, I considered donating every single one of my books to Goodwill or the local library.  I don’t “need” them, after all.  I could get most (but not all) as e-books; I could take pictures of the inscriptions.  Books are heavy to move and expensive to transport across multiple states as I will be doing very soon.

Good Will Books

Goodwill Books

But here’s the thing: I do need them.  I need them in the way a musician needs music and a painter needs paintings and a lover needs love.  Books are my reason for writing and loving language; they are my reward, my inspiration, and they have shaped the life I live, and in my work as a writing tutor and a writer, I use them all the time.  I’ve reopened a box a day it seems looking for one and then another.  It’s terribly inconvenient having them in boxes, but I must pack to move.  And where I’m going, I’ll make a new studio-office, and I’ll shelve my books on a new bookcase (since mine was too heavy to keep), and I will be home again.

Books Worth the Weight

Books Worth the Weight

 

Winter Reading for Online Faculty


The Four Agreements: A Toltec Wisdom Book by Don Miguel Ruiz ( 138 pages)

Reviewed by Amy Sexton, Writing Center Tutor, Kaplan University Writing Center

Who should read this book?   Ruiz deems his book “A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom”, and while readers may not attain personal freedom from this little book, the four agreements are simple, easy- to- remember mantras that educators and others in helping careers may find especially helpful. Committing to the four agreements may also help those who have self-image issues or are struggling with relationships in their lives.
Summary:     Drawing on the ancient knowledge and wisdom of the Toltec culture, Ruiz suggests that we should make the following four important agreements with ourselves in order to live our best lives:

Be impeccable with your word.

Don’t take anything personally.

Don’t make assumptions

Always do your best.

Ruiz posits that being impeccable with our word will help us avoid gossip, which he describes as toxic. Similarly, we can avoid others’ emotional poison by refusing to take anything personally.   We all make assumptions about ourselves and others, and controlling them, Ruiz suggests, will keep us from having unrealistic expectations that can also result in emotional turmoil. Finally, if we strive to always do our best, then our best will always be enough.

Why I Picked This Book: I first read The Four Agreements around eight years ago, which was also when I began working in online education. Over the years, I have often remembered Ruiz’s advice to take nothing personally and found it helpful when dealing with miscommunication and other issues that sometimes occur in distance learning.   Ruiz also provides examples in his book that instructors can relate to.  For example, when explaining why gossip is toxic, he describes a current student who hears from a former student that the instructor of the course is horrible. The current student, if he or she believes the former one, will begin the course with a preconceived notion of the professor that may or may not be accurate but will still result in the student’s experience being altered.

Favorite quotes from the book:   “Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves.”

“The world is very beautiful and very wonderful. Life can be very easy when love is your way of life.   You can be loving all the time.   This is your choice. You may not have a reason to love, but you can love because to love makes you happy. Love in action only produces happiness. Love will give you inner peace. It will change your perception of everything.”

In a Hurry? This Book Review Is for You


The In-Between by Jeff Goins (164 pages)

Reviewed by Chrissine Rios MA, Writing Tutor

Who should read this book? Anyone who has ever been in a hurry, said, “I can’t wait!” or feels ready for a change but is unable to do it just yet.

The_In-Between_GoinsSummary: Goins illustrates his hurried attitude in a candid memoir featuring his life’s bigger moments from studying abroad to having a baby. His narrative takes readers to the streets of Madrid, across America in his band’s van, and through Illinois cornfields on a train home for the holidays. Meanwhile, his reflections reveal another journey in progress. While his inner dialogue leading up to his marriage proposal, and later, his son’s birth expresses the tender and uneasy emotions that would resonate with any reader who has lived through similar life changes, his personal growth also becomes more apparent as his indwelling narrows in on the hand-holding and the ultra-sound blips—the more ordinary and fleeting moments in the present instead of the event up ahead. Then, when Goins sits at his ailing grandfather’s bedside, essentially waiting for his grandfather to die, he hears his grandfather pray the only prayer Goins had ever heard his grandfather say, and this is a pinnacle moment for Goins who awakens to the in-between, realizing these moments, not the big events, shape who we are.

Why I picked this book: I had already been inspired by Goins’ blog and motivational tips for writers, so I knew it would not disappoint. Now, I’m not a pray-er; I’m a good-thoughts thinker, but Goins even made his prayer epiphany one I could relate to. Read the book and judge for yourself, but I’m pretty certain that if I weren’t a member of the “In-Between Insiders”—a generous giveaway Goins offered with all pre-ordered books—and I hadn’t already known that Goins’ had a Christian following among his wayward writer fans like me who have latched onto his message that our writing matters and tribe awaits, I would not have given a second thought to the few other times God comes up in his is memoir because they are subtle and fleeting moments too. In fact, I found his anecdote about his father raising him not to be a “Jesus freak” rather refreshing, and telling. Goins is a powerful writer who has masterfully integrated his faith and art to express a clear message about how we can embrace who we are and what we are doing today, a message that has certainly benefited me. Living like the journey is more important than the destination is not a new idea, but I need all the help and inspiration I can get. Do you? Read the book. Maybe it will help you start writing again, too.

Favorite quote from the book: “All we have are these moments. What we choose to do with them is what we choose to do with our lives.”