Have you ever struggled with describing exactly why you like or dislike a book? Maybe you enjoyed the plot, related to the characters, but for some reason you wouldn’t recommend it to others.
I’ve had this problem for a long time. Usually my response would be, “well, the writing isn’t great.” But what did I mean by that? What made the writing mediocre?
Then I read Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer and suddenly I had the knowledge and tools to notice a beautifully crafted sentence, natural dialogue, and unforgettable details. The main idea is to read slowly and closely—word by word. When we read for plot we can just fly through a book, but Prose advocates reading analytically by paying attention to style, detail, dialogue, diction and how sentences were formed and information conveyed.
Because this book made such an impact on my reading, I am leading a book club called Readers’ Workshop throughout 2017. It’s held the second Thursday of every month (except December) at 7 p.m. at the Curious Iguana bookstore in Frederick, MD.
We are using Reading Like a Writer as a reference guide and we’ll read one chapter a month as well as a work of fiction. We’ve only met once so far, and already I’ve learned a lot from the participants. So I am planning to write blog posts summarizing some of the discoveries we make as a group.
This past Thursday we read the chapter on the importance of words (Chapter 2) and Alice Munro’s short story collection, Moons of Jupiter.
Prose describes Munro’s writing as plain, sparse and Spartan. Although it seems effortless, every word “challenges you to think of a more direct, less fussy way to say what she’s saying.”
The club members agreed with Prose’s characterization and pointed out that despite the fact that she uses such plain language and short sentences, the stories are very complicated and dense and tackle difficult subjects like psychological abuse.
One person pointed out that Munro has a lot of respect for her readers—she trusts that we’ll be able to figure out the meaning and depth in her stories.
Another member said that her writing is almost as sparse and spare as poetry, but that she has a precision that is exact. We may not have loved every story in the collection, but we could all agree that you are rewarded when you slow down and pay attention to Alice Munro’s language.
The wet snow fell from the sky and, like clockwork, the city got quiet. She wrapped her scarf around her neck, pulled on her hat, and as she pushed her arms through her coat she apologized for taking so long to “re robe.” It’s the worst part of winter, we all agreed. Putting on so many clothes. Every year at this time I crave the scene in this photo. The green grass, the pink blossoms, the warmth when Earth finally draws closer to the sun. But tonight as I walked home, I embraced the silence that descends when it snows
We decided to venture out of the house after 30 inches of snow dropped on our city in fewer than 30 hours.
The day after was beautiful. We went for a walk to see Frederick covered in several feet of snow.
At one point, walking by Baker Park, I realized that at a certain spot there would be a shot of Frederick’s spires with a frozen Carroll Creek below. Unfortunately there was a barrier of snow in my way.
Not being that committed to this shot, we kept walking. Then I saw a small plowed path from the street right up to the creek. I followed it to the end and realized it opened up to just the right spot for that shot. As I walked back a man came out of his house and asked, “got that shot? I plowed that path just for it.”
Have I mentioned that I love living in Frederick?
The episode reminded me of another shot that I got when we were in Venice, which is full of great photo opps. We were in St. Mark’s square when I saw a many lying on the ground. He was in search of a perfect shot. He probably got it, too, because the puddle from the previous night’s flood offered a spectacular reflection of the basilica. Of course I couldn’t pass up the opportunity of capturing him in action.
Not that I can judge. Last month in Arizona, I was so invested in getting this shot of the red rocks that I risked falling in a pool (albeit heated, but I was fully clothed).
Bloggers, photographers and Instagrammers alike can relate. Sometimes you just need to get that shot.
You guys. I’m so excited that Netflix confirmed it will be producing four new episodes of Gilmore Girls. In honor of that, here are eight more reasons why my city, Frederick, Maryland, is a town just like Stars Hollow. (Don’t miss the original post with 15 more reasons).
1. We hold public hearings for homeowners who want to make repairs or changes to their homes.
2. One Saturday we were all told to meet at the corner of Market and Patrick Streets to take a town photo.
3. During the blizzard last week, there was an organized snowball fight in our town park, Baker Park. I believe they met at the gazebo…
4. We had a parade about the British Stamp Act.
5. No, we’ve never had a hay bale maze set up in the middle of town. However they do haul out bales of hay during the High Wheel Race and close down all the streets. So basically the same idea.
6. Last month I sat listening to harp music in a beautiful historic church during Frederick’s Historic Houses of Worship Candlelight Tour. Harp music.
7. We have a town carillonour. He plays once a month in the bell tower in Baker Park and leaves the door open so you can climb the stairs and visit and watch him play.
8. Rory would sit for hours at the town book store. You could certainly do that at our independent book store, Curious Iguana. You’ll fall in love with the book collection first and then quickly find out the staff is just as lovely.
Are you ready to visit the real-life Stars Hollow?
Have you heard about that blizzard we’re supposed to have in Maryland this weekend?
Of course you have. Because it’s DC. And we freak out about these things. On a national scale.
The last blizzard of this magnitude was in 2010, and as I looked at pictures from it (Snowmageddon) I realized that this weekend’s storm is timed exactly the same. In 2010 the snow started falling on a Friday afternoon.
For those of you thinking you’ll be able to get out of the house on Sunday, I have…um… bad news.
During Snowmaggedon we barely were able to leave our house (by car) even on Monday night.
But we could walk. And walk we did.
So when the storm is over, go out and walk and take photos and maybe go eat at Volt.
Hunker down, my friends. And be safe.
It’s day 3 of my staycation. Well technically day 5 if you include the weekend.
Because I had personal days about to expire and relatives in town, I decided to take a few days off from work without a single plan to go on an actual vacation.
I love vacations as much as I love traveling, and I think this was one of the first times I’ve ever separated the two. My first staycation was marvelous.
Day 1, on Friday, we visited Annapolis. Day 2 we enjoyed a typical Frederick summer Saturday by watching the High Wheel Race. Day 3 we museum-hopped in DC. Day 4 we (finally) visited the architectural gem just a couple of hours from our house – Fallingwater. Day 5 was for relaxing and doing absolutely nothing.
If you live in Frederick or anywhere in the D.C. area, here are a few tips for your own staycation:
- Go to Annapolis. Even if you’ve been before, it’s such a charming historic town on the waterfront. Don’t miss the William Paca House and Gardens. You can take a house tour, or you can wander around the magnificent gardens for free (donations welcomed).
- Come visit Frederick. I know, I know. I say this all the time. But, really, we’ve always got something quirky and fun going on and there are tons of shops, restaurants, and historic sites to visit.
- Don’t forget the museums. Every time we travel and have to shell out $20 to enter a museum I’m reminded of just how lucky we are to have so many free museums in D.C. Be a tourist. Visit them all regularly.
- Make the drive to Fallingwater. It took us 7 years, but we finally drove out to Pennsylvania to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater. The drive is beautiful and mountainous. After you’re done, reward yourself with a visit to Ohiopyle State Park (which you drove through on the way there). Enjoy the natural waterslides and lots of streams and pools to cool off in. Pack a picnic.
I head back to the office tomorrow completely rested and refreshed.
My public service announcement: Next time you have vacation days about to expire, take a few days off to stay home.
This photo was taken in March, 2012. It’s March now, and I’m more than ready for blossoms. Did you know that this Sunday we spring our clocks forward an hour? The falling snow today means that it’s still clearly winter, but I can just feel spring sneaking up on us. Before we know it, the snow and ice will melt. The trees will be blooming. The world around us will finally wake up. And this post? It’s a harbinger of bright and beautiful things to come. You’re welcome.
The first time I visited Frederick, Maryland I was already hunting for an apartment downtown. I had never even set foot in the city, but had already decided that I would 100% be moving more than a thousand miles to live there. How was I so sure? I had seen so many photos of the charming historic town and, well, it looked like a real-life Stars Hollow. When I finally saw Frederick in person, it was Carroll Creek that really cinched the deal. We happened to be in town on a Thursday in summer, which meant there was a band playing at the amphitheater and tons of people walking, hanging out and enjoying themselves on a beautiful summer evening.
You may have noticed that Carroll Creek is in the process of getting some upgrades. There’s construction in several spots along the creek. I can’t be the only one curious about it, so I got permission from the City of Frederick to post some artist renderings of the project.
First let’s take a look at the map of the Creek. It runs from Baker Park past East Patrick Street. Currently most of the Creek from Baker Park to almost East Street is developed. With the new phase, the developed creek will be almost 1 mile long.
There’s some work being done on the south side of the creek between West Patrick Street and Market Street (more on that at the end of the post). However, the bulk of the new construction is on the east side, particularly from East Street to E. Patrick Street. Check out this artist rendering looking East from the bridge over East Street toward McCutcheons!
Here’s a more detailed plan of this portion of the project – bridges, fountains, paths, landscaping and seating.
Some more features from a 2003 plan on this portion include a kayak and paddleboat marina. I don’t know if these are still part of this phase of the project, but if so that would be a great addition to the creek.
If you’re curious about the status of the project, the City’s Economic Development group is blogging regular updates of the construction in progress with lots of photos. Here’s a few plans for the other portions of the creek that are part of this phase. Below is a plan from the work being done on the south side of the creek to the west of Market Street.
The City is also working on finishing up the creek from the Delaplaine (40 S. Carroll Street) to East Street. Here’s an artist rendering of looking at East Street (in the direction of the train station) from approximately the Delaplaine.
Can’t wait to share actual photos of the project after its completion!
We’ve admired that garden from the sidewalk for years. The gravel path. The iron table and chairs. The crepe myrtles. There’s no gate. Just steps leading down to a tidy garden. It appears to be part of a city administration building and so, for the first time, we entered the garden. We admired a hidden bench. We wondered where we could find similar gargoyle sculptures. Then we see the owner. At the door. Puzzled expression on her face. We apologize. Stumble up the stairs. And cannot figure out why, after 5 years, we had decided it was open to the public.
In honor of Shop Small Business Saturday, I am sharing a few of my favorite small businesses in Downtown Frederick.
Oh! And! It’s a walking tour. So let’s get started:
Start: We’ll start at Shab Row, which has lots of cute little shops, but one of the newest (and my favorite) is Primitive Homespuns (120 N. East Street). If you’re even just a little into the whole Shaker look, you will love this place. The space itself is worth a visit, but it’s also packed with adorable items like these hand-made animals!
Walk south down East Street and take a right on Church Street. No shops here for this tour, but just one of the many adorable Frederick blocks.
Turn left down N. Carroll Street, and after a block, take a right on East Patrick Street.
1) Head into Maven Beauty Bar‘s new (and much larger!) space (118 E. Patrick) and pick up some items for your oh-so-dry skin. Also a great place for gifts for any women in your life.
2) Now that you’ve got the girls covered, walk down East Patrick to Citizen Frederick (112 E. Patrick) to get gifts for the men in your life. It may remind you of Best Made Co. (and that’s a wonderful thing to have in Frederick!) and you’ll find a lot of hip men’s clothing and accessories. Plus the store just looks cool.
3) Time for this kiddos on your list. Head down to Dancing Bear Toys (15 E Patrick) to get fun battery-free toys. (Even if there aren’t any kids on your list, it’s totally appropriate for adults to stop in and explore).
4) When you get to Market Street, we’re going to do a quick detour south to check out the Trail House (17 S. Market). Even if you’re not into hiking and the outdoors, after visiting the Trail House you’ll want to be. Plus the staff has great tips for local hikes, kayak routes, etc.
5) Ok, head back up north on Market and stop in to Voila! (10 N. Market) for loose-leaf tea. My favorites here are Japanese Green Sencha and the signature Voila black tea blend.
6) Next door, you’ll want to pop in to our bookstore, Curious Iguana (12 N. Market). Get a book (or three) or just take a lot of time to browse. They have a really nicely edited book collection.
7) Feeling chilly? Head over to Hunting Creek Outfitters (29 N Market) because he’s been selling Barbour jackets before it was even a brand the M-Street yuppie crowd had ever heard of. Also find a lot of Smart Wool socks and other cold-weather accessories.
8) Time for chocolate, right? Next stop is Zoes Chocolates (121 A N. Market)! Pick up their adorably packaged hot chocolate mix and also a few of their hand-pulled candy canes. And you can’t leave without getting a few truffles…
9) Probably the newest store on Market Street, Treaty General Store (218 N. Market) is a good spot to find special gifts for those people still on your list. Find hilarious letterpress cards, kitchen accessories, ornaments, and even baby clothes and toys.
10) Cross the street and celebrate! You’ve made it to the end of the tour! Time for some wine. Viniferous (227 N. Market) is the place to go if you want to find a delicious wine (that not everyone and their grandma is already drinking). Tell Bob and Luke what’s for dinner (and your price range) and be amazed at their pairing skills. Looking for craft beer? They’ve got that too.
Walk south on Market and take a left on East 2nd Street. Stroll down another one of the lovely Frederick downtown streets until you get to East Street, which is where this lovely Shop Small tour started.