What’s to Like About Rockford: The Roundabout


Yes, Rockford has a roundabout. Just like all those other cosmopolitan cities: Melbourne, Dublin, London, Calgary, and Clearwater Beach, FL.

Designed to *calm* traffic, the roundabout is supposed to be safer, once you get used to it. And as you can see from the picture, it’s a busy, happening place. Well, no, it’s not. In fact if calm is the goal, I’d say it was long ago achieved.

I pass through the Rockford Roundabout at least twice a week and 50% of the time mine is the only vehicle there. And many of the vehicles I do see, stop. Just stop. Even when there are no other cars. Driver looks at the sign. Driver looks at the road. Driver’s face looks a lot like this…


But then, he takes a breath, and plows on through.

Which is one of the things I like about Rockford. You may have to drag some of the residents kicking and screaming into that “new-fangled circular road thingy”, but they’ll get on board eventually and even support the next one. Bring ’em on…

Coming soon to the Auburn and N. Main intersection. And it will be two lanes this time!

Roundabout photo © Karin Blaski 11/24/12, Scowling boy © Andrew Taylor

I Read Banned Books


What do the following titles have in common:

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young GirlSnow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins,  The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman

They’ve all been challenged, moved to the “restricted section” or out and out banned from schools and public libraries. Notice some of the newer titles listed above? Yeah, that’s because censorship happens today, right in your own community.

According to the American Library Association (ALA), there were at least 348 in 2010; the ALA estimates that 70 to 80 percent are never reported.”

This directly from the ALA website:

Over the past ten years, American libraries were faced with 4,660 challenges.

1,536 challenges due to “sexually explicit” material;

1,231 challenges due to “offensive language”;977 challenges due to material deemed “unsuited to age group”;

553 challenges due to “violence”

370 challenges due to “homosexuality”; and

Further, 121 materials were challenged because they were “anti-family,” and an additional 304 were challenged because of their “religious viewpoints.”

1,720 of these challenges (approximately 37%) were in classrooms; 30% (or1,432) were in school libraries; 24% (or 1,119) took place in public libraries.There were 32 challenges to college classes; and 106 to academic libraries.  There are isolated cases of challenges to materials made available in or by prisons, special libraries, community groups, and student groups.  The majority of challenges were initiated by parents (almost exactly 48%), while patrons and administrators followed behind (10% each).

Obviously, I wouldn’t read Catcher in the Rye to my 6 year old, but I sure wouldn’t keep you from having access to that book at your public library. Today is the beginning of banned books week, Sept. 24- Oct. 1. Jump on the official website at http://www.bannedbooksweek.org/ for lots of information. You can even participate in the Virtual Read Out, where you can upload up to a two minute video of you reading from one of your favorite banned books.


The Vacant Stare


Also known as, I’m writing in my mind, where it counts.


I admit it. I am a slow writer. While others can whip out a blog entry in a few minutes, it takes me, well let’s just say, it takes me more than a few, as evident by the frequency of posts on this particular blog. But that’s how the writing “process” works for me and rather than beat myself up, I have learned to embrace it.


And a novel? Let’s just say the tortoise and I are figurative cousins. Although not as unhurried as Margaret Mitchell, (ten years to finish Gone with the Wind), it did take nine months to finish the first draft of my first novel, and my current work in process is coming along at about the same pace.


It’s slower going than some of my writer friends, partly because I am prone to daydreaming and partly because I write . . . she drops her voice into a hushed whisper . . .longhand. More on that later. Today’s post is about the value of daydreaming. Not to be confused with napping which has its own inherent value.


I get the bulk of my writing done in my head without ever putting pen to paper. My settings play out in my mind like the director’s cut of a movie, the one where panning vistas and zooming flora and fauna haven’t been edited. As a result of my mental tour, I can immerse myself in the world I create and write about it later as if I’ve been there.


My characters like to play in my head too. They debate each other, describe one another, and reveal their unique personalities through their often-noisy conversations in my head.


Daydreaming allows me to find both plot cracks and gaping holes, without diagramming and outlining ad nausea (although I’ve found drawing timelines to be time well spent). Consider the brain as video recorder. I can pause, rewind, revise, and replay.


Time wasted? Another form of procrastination? Absolutely not. The trick is to block out all non-writing machinations. When I find myself pondering if using a dust buster really counts as vacuuming, or if the pickles and ketchup on the hamburger count as a serving of vegetables, then it’s time to take a break.


The vacant stare may look like nothing special on the surface, yet after twenty or more minutes of glassy-eyed internal wandering, I do some of my most productive writing. Thanks to a little daydreaming, I know how to pick up where I left off. I know where I’m going. I know what to say.


Phot0 credit © Jose Antonio Sánchez Reyes