Reading: Maureen Daly and YA Literature



*First I would like to take a moment to explain the terminology I am using in this post. When I reference Young Adult literature I am describing literature written for teenagers (ages 12 to 19). These works can and do appeal to younger children and to adults as well. For example, my friend’s 70+ year old grandmother simply loves the Hunger Games. She reads it with a different perspective than her granddaughter, but the enjoyment of a good book is the same for both readers no matter their chronological age.*

Young adult literature is a relative new literary genre, but it has a richer history than many critics would credit. Many scholars note that the first book written especially for teenagers is Seventeenth Summer, by Maureen Daly (1942). Prior to Daly’s work, books were written either for children or adults. Works about adolescents existed—just look at Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn—but the concept of novels specifically targeting adolescent readers began with the Seventeenth Summer.

Daly’s work interests me because of her ties to the Midwest. Although she was born in Ireland, she grew up in Wisconsin. Seventeenth Summer, which she wrote at the age of seventeen, is set in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. It has sold more than a million copies worldwide (Fox, 2006).

The novel is a coming of age story that centers on Angie Morrow. The summer before she leaves for college, she meets the local basketball hero, Jack Duluth, and they fall in love over the course of the summer. Other romances play out in the novel, including those of Angie’s sister and friends, Friz and Margie. By the end of the summer, Angie and Jack face the life-changing decision on whether or not to continue their romance.

Daly explains: “I was so wildly and vividly happy about love and life at a particular time in my existence. I wanted to get all that fleeting excitement down on paper before it passed, or I forgot the true feelings . . . it was not until the reviews came out (and the royalties came in) that I realized I had recorded universal emotions and joys — and people would want to read about them year after year” (Fox, 2006).

But—seventy-plus years out—how does the book hold up? Does it evoke the “universal emotions” that the author believed people “would want to read about” year after year? You be the judge:

“The sun was warm on our backs and Jack stood with water drops running from his hair and glistening on his face. I had a sudden impulse to reach out and run my finger lightly over the even, dark arch of his eyebrows as he stood looking at me. But there was an odd look in his eyes, an odd, warm look that made my lips tingle as his eyes met mine, and I knew it would be better not to touch him, not even to talk to him, just then.” 

Daly wrote a ground-breaking novel that resonated with readers world-wide and introduced a new literary genre. It is hard to overstate her importance on the current literary landscape where young adult novels dominate the bookstores and the movie screens.

Fox, M. (2006). Maureen Daly, 85, Chronicler of Teenage Love, Dies. New York Times: Books. Retrieved from

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On Writing: Images that Inspire Creativity



I have been on a picture-taking spree recently. In the area where I live (the Midwestern United States) the cold weather and freezing temperatures make it difficult to go exploring to find new and unusual sites. So I am trying to do a little local sight-seeing while the weather is still nice.

I recently visited Midway Village and Museum and snapped these photos. Midway Village consists of a grouping of 26 historical houses and buildings from the late 1890s to the early 1900s. The 19th century gardens are lovely.

Mill and LakeDoll House







Another claim to fame—the Sock Monkey was first created in the city of Rockford. The Museum hosts a Sock Monkey Harvest Festival each year.

Sock Monkey


I think the Sock Monkey could inspire some writing ideas!


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On Writing: Images that Inspire Creativity

While exploring a near-by city I came across this ruined old water tower that had been preserved for posterity.  The picture is now in my computer background rotation.  Images like this lead to story inspirations for me.

Water Tower Ruins

Water Tower Ruins

I hope that this inspires a story for you as well!

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On Writing: Shakespearian Insults

(The drawing is from

I recently started trying to organize (O.K. I actually mean “clean”) the room that I call my library (i.e. the spare bedroom where I have books on shelves and boxes of books stacked almost to the ceiling) and came across this list that my Shakespeare Professor shared with all of his classes. I had tucked the list into my Oxford UP Shakespeare text and had used it as a bookmark once upon a time. This teacher had a wonderful sense of humor and kept everyone laughing, even when studying the tragedies. (He also taught a class on John Milton’s Paradise Lost and found ways to make portions of that funny!)

Shakespeare Insult Kit
Combine one word from each of the three columns below, prefaced with “Thou”:
Column 1                                    Column 2                                         Column 3

artless                                          base-court                                       apple-john
bawdy                                          bat-fowling                                     baggage
beslubbering                               beef-witted                                     barnacle
bootless                                       beetle-headed                                bladder
churlish                                        boil-brained                                    boar-pig
cockered                                     clapper-clawed                               bugbear
clouted                                        clay-brained                                    bum-bailey
craven                                          common-kissing                            canker-blossom
currish                                          crook-pated                                   clack-dish
dankish                                        dismal-dreaming                            clotpole
dissembling                                 dizzy-eyed                                      coxcomb
droning                                        doghearted                                    codpiece
errant                                           dread-bolted                                 death-token
fawning                                       earth-vexing                                  dewberry
fobbing                                        elf-skinned                                    flap-dragon
froward                                       fat-kidneyed                                  flax-wench
frothy                                          fen-sucked                                     flirt-gill
gleeking                                      flap-mouthed                                foot-licker
goatish                                        fly-bitten                                       fustilarian
gorbellied                                    folly-fallen                                     giglet
impertinent                                fool-born                                        gudgeon
infectious                                   full-gorged                                      haggard
jarring                                         guts-griping                                    harpy
loggerheaded                            half-faced                                        hedge-pig
lumpish                                      hasty-witted                                   horn-beast
mammering                               hedge-born                                     hugger-mugger
mangled                                     hell-hated                                       joithead
mewling                                     idle-headed                                    lewdster
paunchy                                     ill-breeding                                     lout
pribbling                                    ill-nurtured                                     maggot-pie
puking                                       knotty-pated                                  malt-worm
puny                                          milk-livered                                    mammet
qualling                                     motley-minded                              measle
rank                                           onion-eyed                                     minnow
reeky                                        plume-plucked                               miscreant
roguish                                    pottle-deep                                     moldwarp
ruttish                                     pox-marked                                     mumble-news
saucy                                       reeling-ripe                                      nut-hook
spleeny                                   rough-hewn                                     pigeon-egg
spongy                                   rude-growing                                   pignut
surly                                       rump-fed                                          puttock
tottering                               shard-borne                                     pumpion
unmuzzled                           sheep-biting                                     ratsbane
vain                                      spur-galled                                        scut
venomed                             swag-bellied                                     skainsmate
villainous                             tardy-gaited                                     strumpet
warped                                tickle-brained                                   varlot
wayward                             toad-spotted                                    vassal
weedy                                 unchin-snouted                               whey-face
yeasty                                 weather-bitten                                wagtail

Upon finding this, I did some research online and located two web sites that also deal with Shakespearean insults. (Yes—this was another way to put off cleaning and organizing the room.) The first automatically generates the insults and the second lets you “click and choose” from a variety of phrases to generate the insult.

Shakespearean Insulter

Ye Olde Official Shakespearean Insult Kit

Some of these insults sound fairly tame. For example, I can imagine reading “errant, ill-nurtured miscreant” in a Regency romance novel. However, a “spleeny, earth-vexing scut” sounds quite a bit rougher. I many have to find a way to use that someday in one of my short stories.

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On Writing: Ideas Appear in the Strangest of Places



I decided to take the day off today just to explore and re-charge my energy. This is not something I do on a regular basis. (I generally work 7 days a week. Days off are rare!)

I took a day off just to explore last year in August and had an unusual adventure and discovered a pirate ship. (Being in the Midwestern United States, the fact that someone has a pirate ship in his/her backyard is pretty amazing.) You can read more about it here if you are interested:

This year I had a rather unexpected turn of events again. I did not run across any type of ship this time, but I did find a hauntingly beautiful statue in the middle of a field. I will share a picture of this at the end of my post.

I decided to visit the city of Monroe, Wisconsin. Monroe is known as the “Swiss Cheese Capital” of the United States, and many of the activities concern cheese making and cheese eating. This is also one of the towns that participated in the “Cows on Parade” charity event.

Cow On Parade

Cow On Parade

At this time, the town square also includes other animals.

Horse on Parade

However it does not include grotesque. To see this statue, I had to go outside the city limits.



On first sight this could be mistaken for a gargoyle, but the proper term is grotesque.

A gargoyle is an ornamental figure that conveys water away from the gutter of a building to prevent it from running down the wall. When an ornamental figure does not have a spout, it is referred to as a grotesque. Often demonic in appearance, grotesques add architectural interest and wield apotropaic magic (they are placed with the intent to ward off evil).

It is both eerie and beautiful and raises the question of “why?”

Why did someone place this statue where they did?

Since it is not near a building, it is not adding architectural interest.

So what type of evil could it be protecting against in the middle of that field?

This could be the start of an interesting story idea!

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A Question of Copyright


This is an interesting article about copyright and the public domain.

The issue in summary–a crested black macaque came across David Slater’s photography equipment in the field and, while examining his reflection in the lens, snapped some pictures of himself. Wikipedia placed these photographs online in one of their entries.

David Slater requested the pictures be removed from Wikipedia. He claims the pictures belong to him because they were taken with his camera equipment.

The Wikimedia Foundation, which runs Wikipedia, refuses to remove the pictures because it is the work of a non-human animal and therefore has no human author to claim copyright.

I do find this to be a strange argument on the part of Wikipedia. If Slater holds the copyrights to these images, they should not be used without his permission. Whether he actually snapped the picture or not, the copyright laws protect the owner of the images. The owner does not need to be the author.

What do you think about these issues? Let me know in the comments below.

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Reading: The Big Read


The National Endowment for the Arts, in partnership with Arts Midwest, created The Big Read program to revitalize the role of literature in American culture and bring the transformative power of literature into the lives of its citizens. It provides people with the opportunity to read and discuss a single book within their communities.

In 2006, ten organizations in the United States participated. In 2014 there are now organizations in all 50 states along with the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Organizations selected to participate in The Big Read receive a grant ranging from $2,500 to $20,000 to support their Big Read projects, access to online training resources and opportunities, and educational and promotional materials designed to support widespread community involvement. The Reader’s material, Teacher’s material, and Audio material are also available free of charge on their web site.

The current program runs from September, 2014 to June, 2015. For a list of participating organizations in your area, please visit The Big Read web site at

I was excited to see The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett and A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin on the list. Let me know in the comments what books you are interesting in reading/re-reading!

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