Scribblomania–A Word for Writers

Scribblomania was a “word of the day” from the Oxford English Disctionary.

It’s a good word for three reasons:

  1. It’s a good condition when a writer wants to produce a book.
  2. It’s hard to spell wrong: scribblomania, scribblemania, and scribbleomania are acceptable alternate spellings and it’s not likely anyone will notice it’s misspelled if you use a fourth alternative.
  3. If someone tries to interrupt, you could, with a scowl. a growl, and an emphasis on mania, encourage that person to leave you alone.

Definition: Intense enthusiasm or mania for writing.

Marian Anderson: What I Had Was Singing

My favorite female singer is, and has been since I was a preteen, Marian Anderson, but I didn’t read her biography until I picked up Jeri Ferris’ book. Maybe I was afraid of being disillusioned, that her personality would not match her singing. A more comprehensive biography will undoubtedly reveal human flaws, but there’s no indication of anything that would let me down.

This book is written for younger readers, but this short version is written with an excellent selections of well-described incidents and includes a range of photographs. I’ll read a more comprehensive biography some other time. Jeri Ferris includes the main events of Marian’s life and if I were teaching about Jim Crow laws and discrimination, I’d use it as a teaching tool. From Marian’s first experience on a Jim Crow train to The Daughters of the American Revolution refusing to let her sing in their hall, the history of discrimination is effectively portrayed.

There was the time in Atlantic City, New Jersey when she was honored with keys to the city–and refused a room in a hotel…There was the time in Springfield, Illinois when she sang at the opening of a film on Abraham Lincoln–and was refused a room in the Lincoln Hotel.

Jeri Ferris, What I Had Was Singing

Marion’s mother told her to remember that, always, someone would be watching her and she must base her behavior on that.

Marion remembered hearing, as she walked along a residential street, a woman playing the piano. She peeked through the window and saw that it was a Black woman. She realized that she, too, could learn to play the piano. She found pictures of the keyboard, and taught herself. That woman never knew how the sight and sound of her playing had given one little girl the encouragement and incentive she needed, and coincidentally an object lesson illustrating her mother’s advice.

I’m not sure how the subject came up, but I remember clearly the evening my mother told me about the Daughters of the American Revolution keeping Marian out of their Constitution Hall. Some relative had offered to sponsor me as a DAR member, and my mother was not enthusiastic about it because when she asked whether I’d be interested, she told me about the DAR event and that killed any enthusiasm I might have had. At the time, I thought that snub was recent–in the 1950s; actually it was on Easter Sunday of 1939 that Marian sang at the Lincoln Memorial, by invitation of the Department of the Interior. That outdoor arena allowed 75,000 to hear her, twenty times the capacity of Constitution Hall. How I would have loved to be there! But that was before my time.

For a video on Eleanor Roosevelt’s part in this, and a bit of Marian Anderson’s concert,

Marian Anderson, the legendary African-American contralto, sang at the Lincoln Memorial exactly 75 years ago after she was refused a performance at Washington’s Constitution Hall. On Wednesday [2014], young people gathered to commemorate Anderson’s effort to strike out against racism through the power and beauty of her voice. View more from Marian Anderson:…

A century of change in compound words

I hadn’t noticed until I checked the manuscript with Grammarly that many words we write as compounds are separated in these old letters.  Perhaps it was one of Uncle Charley’s quirks, but I have found similar instances in other writers. 

Language changes over time. We now compound word pairs like “state room,” “light house,” “to day,” “up stairs,” “worth while,” “every thing,” “dug out” (canoe), “bow sprit,” “center board” and many others.

The Grammarly program, which goes beyond ordinary spellcheck (that word is both new and compound) flags those now-compounded combinations for me. I make the corrections if it’s my writing, but leave the words as is if I’m quoting an antique letter.

The Tin Forest

Helen Ward, author, and Wayne Anderson, illustrator, have created one of those beautiful books I’d like like to share with everyone from our pre-school grandchild to friends two or three generations older.

The Tin Forest surprised me because it was recommended by our church curriculum for my middle-grade Sunday School class, but when it arrived, I discovered that nowhere in the book is God mentioned, or Jesus, or anything biblical.

But the book is a springboard for discussion of hope, renewal, and kindness regardless of one’s religious or non-religious belief.

Then one day across the barren plain
the wind swept a small bird.
The old man spilled crumbs from his sandwich…
But the next morning, the visitor was gone.”

Helen Ward, The Tin Forest

You see hope come to life in Wayne Anderson’s (and the old man’s) art.

I Lost Volcano Soconusco!

My grandfather thought he saw the volcano  “Soconusco” erupting in 1914 when the San Juan steamed by that Central American coast:

Judging from my map that we should pass the volcano of So-co-nus-co some 30 miles inland during the night, I decided to see it if the haze permitted. Several times I came out and scanned the horizon, and at last was rewarded by sight of its red glare. Then called several others. … From midnight to early dawn we sailed in sight of it, when mist obscured it, though for a time gleams shot through like sunbeams through rifted clouds. Then the coming sun claimed attention as it gilded the mountain tops and shot up a halo like the pictured head of a medieval saint. …

It is somewhat depressing to be obliged to add as an appendix that there is a difference of opinion among the officers as to whether we saw the volcano last night, some claiming what we saw was only a fire on the mountains. But the weight of evidence seems to be in our favor so we are “hugging the delusion,” if such it was.

When I first looked up “Volcano Soconusco” I confirmed that the boundary between Guatemala and Mexico runs over it, and sailors called it “The lighthouse of the sea” because of its frequent eruptions, or at least lava flows.

I wanted a photograph to go with Grandpa’s journal, and that’s when Soconusco disappeared.  Pictures of Guatemalan volcanos:  No Soconusco.  Mexican volcanos:  No Soconusco.

Grandpa’s ship was still passing Guatemala, so I looked up “Soconusco” in Guatemala.  Not there.  Meanwhile I discovered that Mexico has States but Guatemala has Departments and neither has one named Soconusco.

Wikipedia: “Soconusco is a region in the southwest corner of the state of Chiapas in Mexico.”

Back to the site I first found,  several paragraphs down:  “Tacana is known as the Soconusco Volcano in some regions of Mexico.”

Found!  The “Volcano of Soconusco” is the volcano Tacana, partly in the Guatemalan municipality of Tacana, Department of San Marcos, and partly in the Soconusco region in the Mexican state of Chiapas.

Photograph of Volcano Tacana, or Soconusco, on the border of Mexico and Guatemala.
Volcano Tacana–also called Soconusco.

Walk Two Moons, a road trip and three-layered story.

In "Walk Two Moons" tells about Sal's cross=cointry road trip with  Gram and Gramps, allowing Sal to follow where her mother had traveled before.
Walk Two Moons, by Sharon Creech

Gram and Gramps take Sal on a road trip from Kentucky to Idaho, Sal passes the time by telling them how she and Phoebe attempt to identify a lunatic and a murderer, and behind both tales is the third layer, Sal’s facing and accepting her own loss.

Sal’s other grandparents appear only in one description:

Once I asked my mother why Grandmother and Grandfather Pickford never laughed. My mother said, “They’re just so busy being respectable. It takes a lot of concentration to be that respectable.”

Walk Two Moons, p.15

No wonder Gram and Gramps,–unconventional, impulsively responsive, and in love for a lifetime–so effectively bind the layers of the book. The “respectable” characters are important only in their unimportance.

Sharon Creech mixes tears and laughter in a road trip through sadness, guilt, acceptance, and caring. I’ll get this book of hers back to the library and check out another.