Our return home to life as we left it is now complete: We attended a play at the Taproot Theater last night in Seattle, the theater where we’ve been subscribers for a dozen years. I’ve always enjoyed attending theater for the entertainment, the magic of the set design, and for the chance to sit so close to such talented actors who speak as loudly with their facial contortions and shrugs and sighs as they do their memorized dialogue. The theater makes you think. It provides food for thought and topics to debate on the drive home. Last night it also provided an education. I hadn’t ever heard of Henrietta Leavitt before seeing last night’s play Silent Sky, but Leavitt was one of the most accomplished astronomers of the 20th century, at a time when women weren’t supposed to be making contributions. Hired to work at the Harvard College Observatory for the purpose of doing mind-numbing cataloging work, Leavitt’s passion for astronomy and refusal to see herself as anything but an equal to her male colleagues, led to her uncovering a pattern in the pulsing of a certain kind of stars that, with Hubble’s further work, led to the discovery that the universe extended far beyond the Milky Way galaxy. Layman’s terms: she figured out how we could measure distance to stars, stars that proved to be tens of thousands of light years away.
Well-behaved women seldom make history, as the bumper sticker goes.
Silent Sky is playing at the Taproot Theater through February 27th. I highly recommend it, not just for the performance by Hana Lass, but for anyone with an interest in science or a school-age daughter they could bring along to see it. There is also a book titled Miss Leavitt’s Stars which has good ratings on Goodreads.
- 25 Books Guaranteed to Make You a Better Writer – Click-bait title and slideshow formatting aside, this link contains a sizable collection of book recommendations. I’ve only read four of the ones on this list (and had only heard of two or three others) but even the worst writing “how-to” books usually include at least a couple of helpful bits of advice.
- It’s Party Time, Facebook Style! – Facebook book launch parties are a thing. If like me, circa 2015, you find yourself wondering how such a thing works, how to host one, and why you should do this, then this is the article for you. Of course, there’s no substitute to attending a couple of virtual book launch parties before you try hosting your own. Learn from others mistakes and successes.
- The Obsessively Detailed Map of American Literature’s Most Epic Road Trips – Not only a great collection of road-trip literature (Bryson aside), but a really fun interactive map that you can use to retrace the routes of each story. The author and cartographer had to take a few liberties with some of the locations as not all placenames were traceable, but they mapped over 1500 locations in creating this map. Hat tip to my sister for sending me this link last summer. In one of my favorites on the list, Travels With Charley, Steinbeck likely drove right through my town on I-90 on his way to Seattle.
- Subtext: The Most Critical Tool in the Story Teller’s Box – A helpful article on understanding subtext, all of those delicious bits of story that are left untold. The article covers how you may wish to create knowledge gaps between the narrator, characters, and the readers. Perhaps most useful are the tips on taking advantage of the audience’s desire to fill in the gaps by leading them in the wrong direction. Readers get disappointed when they can figure out the story and stay ahead of the narration. Red herrings are your friend.
- So You Want to be a Writer… – Hugh Howey is one of the biggest success stories in the world of self-published indie authors. These are his ten (expansive) requirements for what it takes to be a successful writer. Every one of us can adopt these tips and, with practice and skill, find success. But it’s not going to be easy, that’s for sure. This is also a good reminder to finally read Wool.
The Cold Hard Facts of Freezing to Death – This week my research has me reading up on the effects of the Black Plague on life in Italy (very positive in the long run!), but two weeks ago I was digging up insights into the process the body undergoes when freezing to death. Oh, the joys of writing fiction! Anyway, this article walks you step by step through a plausible situation in how one bad decision can ultimately lead to your hypothermic death. This is a pretty gripping article that entertainingly camouflages a medical description in a tale of wilderness survival.
Post Image by David Goehring, used under Creative Commons