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Authors I enjoy – Dorothy Sayers

Allow me one sentence as a kind of preamble: This is my second book review I’ve ever written. I even think this is not a book review – these are just some thoughts I want to share regarding an English author which has me in her grips for some days now. I would be very glad if those written down thoughts will prompt you to read one of her books, even if I run the danger of getting thumped on my head for making you spend money on a book you won’t like. But maybe you will like it or them?

A long time ago I  read all of Dorothy Sayers’ crime novels. Now I am rereading them again – in English. Reading one novel after the other (I began with “Strong Poison” and have now “The Nine Tailors” and “Busman’s Honeymoon” on my desk) I am more and more convinced that however brilliant the translation into another language may be: Those books must be read in English.

Dorothy Sayers lived from 1893 to 1957. The leading character of her detective stories is Lord Peter Wimsey who uses his sharp brain to solve murder mysteries, supported by his manservant, Mervyn Bunter. Although they are on different social levels the relationship between both men is full of mutual respect. There are even moments of tenderness without words, for example when the time has come for the  murderer to be hanged, and Peter Wimsey is feeling guilty of being the cause for his death.

In “Strong Poison” Wimsey meets his love, Harriet Vane, in the courtroom – she is accused of having killed the man she lived with, and of course he manages to prove her innocence. Let me quote the beginning of the book:

“There were crimson roses on the bench; they looked like splashes of blood.
The judge was an old man; so old, he seemed to have outlived time and change and death. His parrot-face and parrot-voice were dry, like his old, heavily-veined hands. His scarlet robe clashed harsh with the crimson of the roses. He had sat for three days in the stuffy court, but he showed no sign of fatigue.”

Wimsey’s familiy is not very happy about his relationship with somebody accused for murder and not on their social level. This may sound strange to us living in the 21st century; but in the society of the beginning 20th century in England this was a fact – that people kept to themselves. Wimsey’s way of speaking is definitely ‘upper class’,  but his way of treating people on lower ranks is one of kindness and respect.

In “The Nine Tailors” he and his manservant Bunter have to leave their car on New Year’s Eve because it broke down. Fortunately they find their way into a village nearby, where there are wined and dined by the parson. The parson’s big goal is it to ring in the New Year with nine hours of Treble Bell Majors, and one of the ringers is struck down by influenza. So Lord Peter Wimsey has to have a go, one lord among 8 people from the village. Of course there is a dead body found later on, and of course Peter Wimsey solves the mystery of his death, but it is the atmosphere in this village deep down in the Fens which kept me reading on and on.

Whereas in other detective stories the focus is on action here I have the impression that Dorothy Sayers put the focus on the atmosphere, the social setting, the people, some lovable, some shown with their weaknesses. And this is what makes me love her books.

Stephen King, “It”

One of my favorite books. Photo: Ulla Hennig

I bought this book in the 8os, and it belongs to those books I use to read twice or more. Some say that “It” is one of Stephen King’s weaker books, but it is among my favorites.

It describes how a band of schoolchildren fights against “it” in their town, “it” being the impersonation of everything evil. They have become friends because everyone of them is some kind of outcast (one of them is a big fat boy, the other one a jew, the third one stutters and so on) and this binds them together.

They are successful in their fight against “It”, but they haven’t killed it. Years later, when they have all grown up, they are called again to fight against “It”. Suddenly they remember their fight and the horrible moments that went with it. And they come, with the exception of one man who commits suicide because he neither can meet the challenge nor forsake his friends.

It is a book about friendship and about the power of children. I simply love it.

Another new adventure: ezines

Yesterday I submitted my first article at While I am still doing a happy dance (will do a bigger one if the article will be accepted) I am reflecting on the reasons why I did it.

  1. I hope to get some traffic to this blog and to my Squidoo lenses. I know there is some kind of a regular readership here on this blog, and I appreciate that very much and I am proud of it, too. But it would not be bad if more people would know about it, would it? Regarding my Squidoo pages I want to get more people from outside the Squidoo community to them, because I really think they are worth being looked at (hah, my inner critic, got you to shut your mouth!)
  2. I wanted to have a go at article-writing. I wanted to try out a new form of writing. I wanted to know if I could do it. Actually, the writing was not so much the problem. The problem was to submit it. I did not dare to do it. Fortunately I have got me an accountability partner, a wonderful Scottish Squidoo lensmaster called WordCustard , who offered to proofread my article. She made a few suggestions (Thanks, Nicki, my dear friend!) and told me to submit it. Which I did.

It is a wonderful feeling to overcome one’s fear and to go forward.

What the Journaling Challenge taught me

Yesterday was the last day of my Journaling Challenge over at The challenge was to journal for 15 days at least 15 minutes a day.

I have been journaling more or less the last years. There were times when I didn’t write anything for weeks. Then came the year 2007 with the death of my husband, and my friends recommended journaling for me as a way to cope with it. I still have those notebooks, and sometimes I reread my writings. I carefully wrote down anything I did on the weekends amd how I managed to spend them on my own.

Then came a time when my journaling became a more or less regular report on what I did on that or that day. I did it, but it was not so important to me anymore.

A few weeks ago I learned about the Journaling Challenge at Ruzuku and I decided to participate in it. I enjoyed every day of it, sitting at the breakfast table, writing in my note book, sipping my tea. I noticed that I needed more space to write with every day. I wrote down my feelings after telephone calls which made me uneasy; I wrote down the feeling of “Am I stretching too wide – how far with adding things to my agenda do I want to go?” I used my journal for planning the day.

In one short sentence: I used my journal to talk to myself, to sort things out. And I think I will keep up doing this.

Are you journaling regularly? And what does it do with you?

Writing and Learning

In my last blog post I wrote about what journaling teaches me about me. In this blog post I am going to focus on an other aspect of learning.

Since some time I have been writing Squidoo lenses. “Squidoo lenses” are webpages which focus on one subject – they can be compared with articles for a magazine or a newspaper. The main thing here is to provide facts, and you should try to provide them in a way which makes your readership want to read your lens.

While creating thoses lenses I learn a lot.

  • I learn the facts. When you want to write a lens about Mozart’s operas you have to know them – the date they were composed, the plot. I must admit I did not know the plot of the “Magic Flute” up to the day I wanted to write about it. I only knew that the music in it was wonderful. Which information do I get at Wikipedia in English? Are there facts which are important but only given in the German edition of Wikipedia?
  • I learn how to get audiovisual material about my subject. Are there any videos on Youtube? Is there any other media material at Wikimedia Commons? One of my last lenses is about a Western trilogy by the famous American Director Howard Hawks. I decided to write about that without knowing that there was only one bad video covering the last film of the trilogy. Wah!
  • I learn to “break down” my material to my supposed readership. What are the essentials? Which facts cannot be left out, which can be neglected? Which videos are the best? How do I structure my lens? Which titles and subtitles are best to catch my readers’ attention?
  • I learn that I should better write the introduction when everything else is already written (I vaguely remember that we were taught this at university regarding writing a thesis!).

The learning process is still going on, and writing a new lens is always a new learning adventure. And I deeply enjoy it!

Can you Write Following a Plan?

From now on till the end of December I will carry on an experiment.

Since May 2009 I am a member at Squidoo. I’ve successfully graduated at RocketMoms (writing one lens a week for eight weeks). Instead of taking a break after that adventure I have thrown myself into the next one: I am going for Giant Squid.

What are Giant Squids? Giant Squids are people which have 50 lenses and more. So my aim are 50 Squidoo lenses at the end of the year. Just now I am at # 19. Well.

So I sat down yesterday, picked up my calendar and wrote down a lens-writing-plan. It is a rather strict one: two days for one lens in the week, and two lenses from Friday to Sunday.

Do I feel pressure? It’s funny or even strange, but I don’t. I look forward to each day on my calendar because I know I will write. I don’t mind the grey days and the early darkness of November and December – because I know I will write.

By the way: I just published a new lens about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In case you want to throw a glance at it, here it is:

Do you write following a plan? What’s your opinion on that?

About me

screenshot squidoo lens

Screenshot of Squidoo Lens

I know I should rewrite my “About me” page. But I want to offer you something different if you are interested in knowing more about me: Some weeks ago I wrote a Squidoo lens about my top ten favorite activities, and I think that special lens will tell you a lot about me. Maybe the way I wrote it may be a bit strange to you – writing a squidoo lens is a bit like writing a magazine article (and provide the graphics and photos!).

It would be awfully kind of you if you came back from the lens again to this place here and tell me what you think about the lens!

Rocketmom Graduate

No photo today and no quotation this time–I hope you are not too disappointed.

But on Monday, October 12th I was informed that I belong to the number of RocketMoms who successfully finished session #3. I am a RocketMom graduate now.

It could be that some of you are now shrugging their shoulders or shaking their heads. What are RocketMoms and what does “graduation” mean?

RocketMoms are a special group of women who are either moms, aunts (that is what I am), grandmothers. They write Squidoo lenses, and they do it well.

I very well remember the middle of August when session #3 began. I knew that for 8 weeks I would be assigned to write one lens per week. I did not know whether I would be able to do that–with my day job and my three blogposts once a week. It would be quite a lot of writing, and, in addition to that, writing about things I never would have thought of writing about.

The weeks passed. One writing assignment included a product review. It had to be something international. Heureka–what about swiffer? They’ve got it in the UK, they’ve got in Germany and they’ve got in the USA. So I took out my camera, took out my swiffer duster, and produced some photos which could go with the lens. And I wrote the lens.

Writing those weekly lenses stretched my writing abilities. I had to go way out of my comfort zone, not only regarding the content of my writings but also the way of doing it, the planning. In the end it forced me to sit down “and just do it”.

And what’s coming now? I am going for Giant Squid now, which means nothing less than 50 lenses till the end of the year. For somebody of you, my dear readers, it might be NaNoWriMo, for me it is Giant Squid. It may well be that I won’t make it regarding the actual number of lenses. But independent from the number of lenses I will produce I will learn tremendously.

Writing Prompts – Lesson learned with RocketMoms

Keyboard. Photo: Ulla Hennig

Keyboard. Photo: Ulla Hennig

It is the middle of September, and half of the RocketMoms Class #3 is over. RocketMoms is a very special group of squidooing women, and I am participating in this class hoping to get graduated after having published my 8th squidoo lens in another four weeks.

During these last four weeks I have learned many things. I re-learned a bit of webdesign, I learned about Creative commons (on my blog I use mainly photos I shoot myself ). However, the most important thing I learned was: to write a lens where the subject was given.

Assignment #1: favorite toy. I would never ever had thought of writing a lens about my favorite toys on my own. I haven’t got any kids, so writing something about my kids’ toys was not possible. But I wanted to do the assignment. So I went back into my childhood, and suddenly I remembered the lego house on the green board. The writing juices began to flow.

Assignment #2: favorite decade. I haven’t really got one, and I did not want to add the 150th lens to all the lenses written before about the 60s, 70s or whatever decade of the 20th century. Hmmph. Really, really difficult. Then some kind of inspirational muse hit me slightly on my head and I rediscovered my love of the Renaissance and Michelangelo. I must admit, the interpretation of the assignment might be a bit far-fetched, but it was accepted.

Assignment #3: Product review. I felt rather helpless after reading the assignment. I haven’t got a car; could not imagine writing a readable lens about my msi notebook. Suddenly my eye fell on my swiffer duster – one product obviously used all over Europe and the U.S. I discovered some most entertaining youtube videos, took photos of my hand swiffing the chair (or is it “swiffering”?), and wrote down the lens in one evening.

Assignment #4: fall recipe. Gosh – I am definitely not a cook. Never had been I must admit (you can see me blushing with shame). Help me hence ho – what could I do? Pretend I am a cook and copy some recipe out of an online cookbook? Not really. Every cook would know at once that I was only pretending. Finally I went for spicy Chai tea, which I like, can make myself and thoroughly enjoy drinking on a cold fall day.

So I learned to accept an assignment however strange it seemed to me in first place. And then I learned to make it my own, to interpret it, to write about it. It is a great lesson!

Three Blog Posts which really made me Think

Do you know this? You read a lot of blog posts. Some of them you scan. Some of them you read word for word. Some of them you even read twice. These posts make you think. I don’t know which posts make you think, but here are some which did this to me:

  1. Fascination, Motivation, and a Progressive 9 in Learning. It is a blog post written by Rosa Say over at Joyful Jubilant Learning in which she writes down 9 ways to be a joyful jubilant learner and ask the community to edit this list via commenting. It is not only the actual list which makes me think about my learning ways and the subjects I am exploring just now (squidoo, tagfoot) and why I am exploring those subjects. I also admire the way of creating such a list by including the community. In the end we will have a list written by many followers of JJL – what an amazing thing!
  2. Middle Zone Musings – What I learned from Laughter. Robert Hruzek, the man behind Middle Zone Musings, organizes monthly group writing projects. The September project is on “What I learned from Laughter” and I am looking forward to read the contributions. English is not my native language, so I did not feel able to participate actively, but I will try to do my best in the comment sections of the participating blog posts.
  3. 119 Journal Prompts for Your Journal Jar. It is the latest blog post at the “Abundance Blog at Marelisa Online”, a blog about “Creativity + Productivity + Simplicity = Abundance”. Some of those journal prompts can be used as blog posting prompts as well, and even if you don’t use them either for journaling or writing blog posts they make you think about the life you are having!