So, I mentioned earlier that I found the kid’s book that I wrote and illustrated for a Children’s Literature class in Graduate School. Just for fun, I decided to share it. Both the writing and illustrations leave a lot to be desired. Still, it was a neat assignment and I really enjoyed it.
Taking a bit of a break from the world of fiction with this blog post to interview the man who not only taught me everything I know about grammar, but also inspired my love for classic literature and of course, William Shakespeare. He also happens to have a brand new book out called Loving Grammar: Mr. Lund’s Guide to Professional Clamdigging.
Steve Lund was my high school English teacher. You could probably say he was something of a celebrity at Lutheran High School of Dallas (now known as Dallas Lutheran School). Everyone, even the middle schoolers who had yet to take his classes, knew about the infamous “Lund Papers” and the enigma known as “Clamdigging.” Mr. Lund has us writing college level papers in eleventh grade, and I’ve got to tell you, his classes are the reason I never stressed out over a paper in college. University-assigned papers just weren’t a big deal to me, and all of my former high school classmates agree. It was all thanks to Mr. Lund and yes, grammar friends, it was all thanks to Clamdigging.
It is my honor as a published author and as a student of the humanities to welcome Mr. Steve Lund to my blog.
Hi, Mr. Lund! Tell my readers a little bit about yourself.
Ok, over 40 years ago, a favorite teacher of mine in college (Dr. Prausnitz—I wrote a little limerick about him years ago.*) told me that he thought I’d make a good teacher. I remember saying to him—“How do you know that?”
His maddeningly mysterious reply: “I know.”
Well, as a result of a recommendation for teaching assistantships that Prausnitz put out there for me–without my knowledge–I started in 1972, teaching college students English when I was 21 years old, and it didn’t take me long to realize that teaching is what I love to do. So Prausnitz was right after all. And I’ve taught the best music and lit on the planet to HS, college, university, retirement people (and even—for one semester—a prison class), and it has never gotten old. I’ve gotten old, but my love for teaching is ‘younger than springtime’ (to mint a new phrase). What I love—besides just hanging out with curious people—is taking fiendishly difficult subjects—grammar, sonata-allegro form of classical music, poetry, Joyce and Faulkner, Shakespeare, foreign languages—and making them absolutely learnable for everyone. That’s what lights my inner bulb!
*There once was a prof at CC
Who lectured and sang on TV,
But the networks got scared
And calling it merde
They made it a late late at 3.
What inspired your love for teaching grammar?
I shouldn’t say this in broad daylight, but I have always liked grammar and languages—even diagramming sentences although I would never inflict that painful exercise on my students. (Diagramming sentences is the equivalent of cutting your lawn with scissors.) Transformational grammar (Chomsky) was fun too! Honestly, my grammar/writing/teaching skills were honed teaching international students for quite a few years. One Saudi wrote this: “*When I come to United States I was Washington, DC for two weeks.” Okay, anyone want to know why we have prepositional phrases? No matter how painful it is to learn prep phrases, it is still easier than “being Washington DC” for two weeks.
What exactly IS Professional Clamdigging?
Professional Clamdigging is finally getting the chance to learn and master something that you never thought you’d ever get—something that matters, by the way. Maybe you thought that everyone else learned this but you didn’t and never will. The problem with having this attitude about grammar/writing is that it can haunt you the rest of your lives—because after all—who doesn’t need to write—posts and memos and love notes—we do it all the time. This book is written for people (of any age—HS, college or senior citizen) who want to put any of these kinds of anxieties into the grave where they belong and begin enjoying the writing life again—and, as a matter of fact, enjoying life again. No more grammar worries and insecurities with Loving Grammar. In fact, we have a lot of fun figuring it all out! It’s like a party! That’s Loving Grammar!
Tell me about the experience you had teaching Clamdigging to your own students.
So in my Washington DC example above, I spoke of students learning English as a Second Language (ESL). Little did I know (since I had a BA and MA in English) and had been accepted into the doctoral English program at University College, Cambridge (England), there were a lot of things that I didn’t understand myself—things like commas, for instance. I’m sure we’ve all heard or said this kind of thing: “Uh, I think you need a comma here,” without having the foggiest idea why. We’re operating on native intuitions—and frankly a lot of bamboozling, but an ESL students can’t even fall back on those intuitions. So I figured that I need to find a way to teach students exactly where and why to put commas in their writing using clear structural information that ANYONE can learn.
Of course, when I came to LHS (with virtually all American students) in 1984, I had no idea that I’d still be teaching English as a second language, if you know what I mean. And why should I be so shocked. If I didn’t know all the stuff with degrees up the wazoo in English, then who does? It was an adventure, I guess you could say. It still is! It reminds me of the story of the two shoe salesman who travel to Africa. One wires back, “Situation hopeless—no one wears shoes here.” The second one sent this telegram: “Endless market available to us—no one wears shoes here.”
Any favorite memories?
Standing on my desk and doing the Watusi dance (pic attached) when my students all mastered using commas with non-restrictive adjective clauses.
What do you love most about grammar?
I love seeing how logic works with language. Grammar brings the chaos of that ocean of words out there into an order that allows billions of people to communicate anything they want. Just like math has gotten us to the moon and to the edges of the solar system and back. No math, no computers! No grammar, no communication–period! What a dark world we’d live in without grammar!
Are there any more Loving Grammar books on the horizon? (Jackie: my current plan is to use Professional Clamdigging™ rather than Loving Grammar as the generic label for these writing books.)
Yes, grammar just gives the basics for good writing. I have taught a kind of writing that I call “jazz,” which allows for us to shape our language into beguiling styles—funny, celebratory, snooty, sarcastic, seductive—just the kind of writing that lights up our world. I’d like to do a book on that too as a companion the Loving Grammar book.
Do you have any other books planned besides the Loving Grammar series?
Yes, I hope to write a book about some of the secrets of Shakespeare plays that are rarely understood or discussed. And I have a book about growing up in Chicago that is beating me up black and blue from the inside and will continuing doing so, apparently, until I get it done and out there.
I know this question is so cliche, but tell me about your favorite books. My favorite books are always new every time I read them—whether fiction, or philosophy or psychology or theology or history or whatever. It’s true for all of them, “King Lear, Dubliners, Heart of Darkness, The Tempest, Sound and the Fury, Hamlet.
What do you most love about reading? Well asking me this is like asking me what I like about food or nature or oxygen? I have a feeling that I’m only sometimes vaguely aware of how much my life depends on reading books and other stuff. When I need a laugh or encouragement or a kick in the butt or challenge or diversion or consolation or inspiration or holiness or danger or adventure, I know right where to find it in books. And my constant reading—both fiction and non-fiction, you could say, is research for finding news areas to mentally bookmark for help in all those categories I mentioned above. And I know that in talking to you about this, Jackie, I’m preaching to the choir. Anyone who has read any of your books, sees these qualities in spades in your writing.
What inspired your love for classic literature?
My mother read to me as a child—Hans Christian Anderson, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Bible stories, Nursery Rhymes. Shakespeare and Kafka and Joyce and Dante and Faulkner are just another stop on the same bus line, when you think about it. I know that it’s a hyberbole to say that I wanted to have kids to be able to read to them, but believe me, we wore out the books, Seuss and the Nursery Rhymes and all of it. My favorite poem is still this: “Hey diddle diddle. That cat and the fiddle. The cow jumped over the moon. The little dog laughed to see such sport and the dish ran away from the spoon.” Kind of funny when you consider that I don’t have the foggiest idea what the heck it’s ‘about.’
Finally, tell me something about Shakespeare that most people probably don’t know.
That’s kind of a funny question because what I love about most Shakespeare is that I’m always discovering things about his books that I didn’t know—even after reading them and studying them and watching them and teaching them for many years. That’s why I love to teach Shakespeare, and I still do—my students (young or old) are always showing me things that I’ve missed on my previous treks.
But since you may not like that end run around your question, let me say this. I have a funny feeling that Shakespeare may have participated in the rendering of Psalm 46 in the King James Version of the Bible. Read 46 words into it from the beginning and see what you get and then go to the end (not counting Selah) and count back 46 words. See what you make of it that! Remember, it has to be the KJV!
Can buy book and answer key there.
Can also buy the book on Amazon.com.
Full title: Loving Grammar: Mr. Lund’s Guide to Professional Clamdigging ™
Outskirts Press, 2014.
So, I know I said I wouldn’t be posting at all today, but I got out of jury duty at 11. Seriously, it was so uneventful. I sat for three hours in this enormous room and reread Mockingjay for three hours. It was so boring, in fact, that it does not deserve its own blog post. But you know, when it comes to jury duty, I’m okay with boring. My number wasn’t even called. Never had to go back. I will take it.
That’s why, instead of writing about the three hours I spent doing absolutely nothing, I’m going to write about the new Cinderella movie coming out next month.
Y’all, it looks AMAZING.
Now, I didn’t see Disney’s first fairy tale brought to life, Maleficent, for a few reasons. First of all, I heard there was a lot of CGI battles and those bore me. Second, I don’t like the idea of trying to redeem the self-proclaimed Mistress of all Evil. That was part of what made her such a great villain in the original. She was so evil that she threatened to kill this kid just because her parents snubbed her. That’s EVIL. I don’t like that they tried to make goofy King Stefan the bad guy or make it seem like Maleficent really loved Aurora. Sorry, that just doesn’t work for me. But onto Cinderella.
This movie looks awesome. First off, there’s no CGI or crazy battles. That’s an automatic plus for me. Second, the previews are absolutely gorgeous. Colorful, magical, amazing costumes, scenery, set designs… If nothing else, this will be a very aesthetically pleasing movie. The music in the previews is incredible as well. I get chills every time I watch the trailer (and I’ve watched it several times). It looks that good.
For another thing, it features an all-star cast. I was excited enough to see Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter) as the Fairy Godmother and Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) as Lady Tremaine, the evil step-mother. But then I realized that Rob Stark (Richard Madden) is Prince Charming (he’s also SCOTTISH) and I thought my inner fangirl might actually keel over from all the amazing. What finally did her in, however, was finding out that Derek Jacobi, AKA the BBC’s Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, AKA the greatest Shakespearian actor of modern times, if not all history, is playing the King. I cannot handle the greatness. I actually cannot.
As if all of that wasn’t enough of a reason to completely freak out over this movie, it’s directed by Kenneth Branagh. Not only another phenomenal Shakespearian actor (he played Hamlet in a film adaptation which also starred – wouldn’t you know it – Derek Jacobi as Claudius!), Mr. Branagh is also known in the Potterverse as the one and only GILDEROY LOCKHART. I’m telling y’all, I really don’t think my fangirl heart can take much more.
So, there you have it. My list of reasons why I am absolutely ecstatic about Disney’s latest cinematic masterpiece, and I do truly believe this will be a masterpiece.
Last night, I went to a game night at a friends’ apartment. It was a lot of fun. I finally got to play Cards Against Humanity, which is oh so wrong and yet oh so hilariously right.
However, throughout the night, I also ended up revealing how much of a big weirdo I am. For example, at one point, we were talking about pets and how they destroy their toys. I contributed by telling the story of my sweet, dearly departed cat Figo and how he ripped the eyes out of his stuffed frog. Well, being the clever nerd that I am, I named the frog Gloucester, after the Earl of Gloucester in Shakespeare’s King Lear who gets his eyeballs gouged out of his head. It’s really gross. Anyway, I ended up having to explain all of that to this group of people, and let me tell you, they were all staring at me like I had sprouted an extra head.
Note to self: When you’re trying to make a good impression, gouging eyeballs is not the way to go.
Other than me being really awkward and weird, however, it was a really fun night. I spend so much of my time either writing or trying to get the word out about my book, that social life and getting out and having fun has kind of taken a back seat. That’s okay, because it’s what I love and it’s what I want to do, but I think it’s important to remember that I am allowed to have fun and just hang out sometimes.
That being said, I have less than three chapters to go before finishing the first draft of the sequel, so I really want to buckle down and just get it done! I am SO ready to move on in the process, I’m about to go crazy! I want to get this book out for all of you! But I also want it to be high quality. For me, that is the most important thing about self-publishing. Make it big publishing house quality. One of the reason self-publishing gets such a bad rap is because some of the books LOOK like they were self-published. I know there’s that phrase, “Never judge a book by its cover,” but the sad truth is covers matter. If it looks cheap, it’s going to have a hard time out there. I’ve read books where I could tell the author put no effort into making the book look professional, inside or outside. The story could have been absolutely amazing, but it was still a HUGE turn off for me.
I’m not even sure how I got to that point, but you get it. Make your book look professional. Moving on…
I’ve been thinking about what book I want to start on next after the sequel to Cemetery Tours is out. I might try to get a few single, stand alone novels out before diving into the trilogy I have planned or writing more CT books. Then again, I might just jump right into the trilogy. It’s something I’ve been wanting to write for years, ever since 2008. I won’t go into too many details. In fact, I’m not going to tell you much at all. All I can tell you is that the idea came to me on the San Antonio River Walk.
So pretty. I love San Antonio.
Anyway, it’s a beautiful day and I’m going to go work on my book.
Happy Friday, everyone!
Okay, guys. So yesterday, I was scrolling through Tumblr, browsing the Harry Potter tag, and I came across something about two of my favorite actors from the franchise, James and Oliver Phelps. I think I’ve mentioned before how much I love the Weasley twins, how Fred was my fictional boyfriend for like eight years before JK Rowling MURDERED him, and how I actually felt like I’d lost a friend after I finished reading the seventh book. Fortunately, I can live happily knowing that James and Oliver are actually both alive and well.
They are also apparently going to be starring together in a new movie. A remake of Hamlet.
I don’t know if I’ve told y’all this… BUT I LOVE SHAKESPEARE. I especially love Hamlet. It’s one of my favorite plays. I also love Midsummer Night’s Dream, Othello, Twelfth Night, Macbeth (I could write a whole blog post about why I love Macbeth, and maybe I will someday), etc…
I’m not sure how he did it, buy my high school English teacher had this way of teaching all of us Shakespeare, among other great things, in a way that made all of us love it. We even ended our first semester with a trip to Shakespeare in the Park where we all had an absolute blast. That love for the Bard stayed with me all the way through college. I even wrote and illustrated an ABC Shakespeare children’s book for a Children’s Literature class.
Anyway, James and Oliver are going to be playing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in new version of Hamlet, at least according to that IMDB link. If you’ve only read or seen Hamlet, you might not think a whole lot of those roles. Their scenes with Hamlet are amusing, but that’s more due to Hamlet pretending to be mad than any sort of character development or connection to Rosencrantz or Guildenstern, and I don’t know about anyone else, but I didn’t really care when I heard they’d been killed at the end of the play. Easy come, easy go.
However, if you’ve read or seen Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, you’ll know that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are two of the greatest (and most philosophical) characters in the entire play! Reading the play was a complete and utter joy, but the movie, staring Tim Roth and Sirius Bla – I mean, Gary Oldman, is just about the best thing ever.
I wish, more than anything, that once they’re done shooting Hamlet, then James and Oliver would star in their own version of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. Still, having my two favorite twins from my favorite series ever starring in one of my favorite plays ever… I will not complain!
Weasley Twins + Shakespeare = Pure Happiness
In other good geeky news, I found these AMAZING pictures on Pinterest.
As if the glorified combination of Harry Potter and Shakespeare wasn’t enough, now I get Disney and Van Gogh?! Is it my birthday?! Seriously, I thought I couldn’t love anything more than Fred and George as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, but these pictures are SO BEAUTIFUL and I love Disney Princesses almost more than anything and I don’t know a soul who doesn’t love the art of Van Gogh. Or that one Dr. Who episode?
I’m not even much of a Dr. Who fan and I could watch that episode over and over and over again. And Matt Smith is actually the cutest human being alive.
Alright, well, I’ll let you all enjoy the rest of your evening while I sit here in all my geeky glory. Chapter 27 of CT2 is coming along nicely. For all the Luke Rainer fans, he gets a little bit of the narrative in this one! I’m excited! He’s such a fun character to write. Good night, all!