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 #smileaday Bamboo. 
I have always liked bamboo. It appeals to my eye and nose. I can remember seeing it at the Cincinnati Zoo when I was a kid, inside some of the animal enclosures. It seemed exotic to me, so very very jungly. 
When I moved to North Carolina, I was surprised to find small stands of it here and there. There's a lovely stand of it at Duke Gardens, not far from where my husband and I got married. That's where I found out that it feels nice, too, if you run your hands down the stalks. 
It's my understand that you're not allowed to plant it, because its an invasive species, but obviously some has made it into my little town, because here I am, on my walk today, standing among the shoots and trees. I felt so happy just being there. Maybe I'm secretly a panda. 

me standing beside bamboo
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Roots book cover Thanks to the very popular 1970s miniseries and another newer adaptation (neither of which I've yet seen) as well as the widespread popularity of the book, I knew a lot about this book before I read it. Many plot points were things I had heard talked about when I was a child, or heard referenced since in discussions or in other works. I even already knew the name of the patriarch of the family the book chronicles: Kunta Kinte. 
There are some truly striking characters and moving moments throughout this book. Kunta Kinte's stubborn determination to hold on to who he was in the face of kidnapping, slavery, disfigurement, and so much trauma was especially striking. The complicated relationship between Chicken George and his father/owner Tom Lea revealed deep ambiguities and contradictions among the people impacted by slavery (owners and slaves). 
The book is eminently readable, with a strong narrative voice and a good sense of scene. In the end, though, it could have been so much better. None of the other narratives is as striking as Kunta Kinte's. And even Kinte's story started to bog down during the part describing his life in Africa before his capture. 
All of the female characters are undeveloped, their traumas explored for a moment then never mentioned again (I'm thinking of Kizzy in particular, who was raped repeatedly during her first months at Tom Lea's over and over again, a fact which was never mentioned again as Lea went on to become almost sympathetic in his relationship with the son he fathered in this manner. The story doesn't say the rape stopped or it didn't. It just fails to comment at all. 
The long digressions into details of farming, chicken fighting, and blacksmithing detracted from the human story as they fell into minutiae. 
If the story had been reined in and tightened, the emotional impact could have been more intense. If the other generations' lead characters were as fully realized as Kinte and the narrative as tightly focused around one character, it would have felt less diffuse. In trying to be everything, the book missed an opportunity to be something and to be that something very well. 
The last three chapters, while interesting, didn't belong in the book at all. They were a complete departure in tone and narration and felt more like an epilogue or author's note about the writing of the book. I wish the book ended with "The baby boy, six weeks old, was me" and the rest had been in a separate appendix. "So, thank you" is the proper ending to an acknowledgements page, not this epic multi-generational family story. 
I'm still glad I read the book, but there are other books about slavery times that had a much greater impact on me.
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 #smileaday Fresh starts (new covers!)
If you've been following my publishing story, then you already know that I asked for and was granted the rights to my Menopausal Superhero novels from my previous publisher AND that I've signed with a new publisher: Falstaff Books. 
Today was a big day in that I got to see the latest iterations of my new covers. A cover can make or break a book's chances for sales, so this is no small thing. And I'm really really lucky in that this publisher is willing to listen to my opinions and give me a strong say in the final product. 
I did really like my old covers. They were vibrant, eye-catching, and simple (in a good way). They were, however, a little off-tone for the content, perhaps leading readers to expect a mostly comedic book instead of superheroic women's fiction with comedic moments. So, this move to a new publisher was the perfect time for a re-brand. 
We're not quite ready to show them yet, so I'm just going to give a sneak peek here, the bit of each cover that shows the title. I can't wait to unveil these babies to the world! 
new covers
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 #smileaday Tea.
Today wasn't a bad day. It just wasn't really a good day either. I'm tired. I'm in the first few days of three brand new classes, while still teaching my other four. Of the three new classes, two are heavily stacked with especially needy students. I'm fighting a cold. But now, at the end of it, I'm sitting in my office wearing my new rainbow writing gloves and sipping Raspberry Zinger tea. When you need it, tea is the best thing ever. Warm, aromatic, and comforting. 
raspberry zinger tea
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 #smileaday A big writing day. 
It's been a while since I spent an entire day at home, able to put a good amount of focus on my writing life. Today, I submitted three short stories, finished another short story, prepared my submission for my critique group and sent it out, made arrangements to attend a convention this summer as an author guest, responded to one of the two mentoring programs I'm participating in, formatted and scheduled the guest post I'm hosting on Wednesday, and responded to a host of emails that have been dangling for a couple of weeks. 
It feels good to feel like I'm on top of things again instead of buried under them. 

buried under the to do list

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 #smileaday Today was a good day. I spent time with my tribe (A Women's Fiction Writers Association get together), eating good food and having great conversations. But the best part was after that, when I picked up my college girl and took her out to dinner. We had simple, easy, quiet time together, just talking about nothing and everything. Exactly the kind of time with her I have missed the most since she went off to school.
with my college girl
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 #smileaday Happy giggling girls. 
Today was a Scout meeting day, and I was the transport for my daughter and two other Cadettes. Some of my daughter's friends worry me because darkness pulls at them, but her Girl Scout friends are giddy and light and joyful. I'm glad she's got a good place for this part of her soul as well. 
And me? I got a car full of silly happiness at the end of my workday. Just the soul lift I needed. 
Girl Scout Cadettes
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#smileaday Making plans.

I'm on the board of my local Friends of the Public Library. We had a meeting tonight. Now, generally, if I start a sentence about a meeting, you can expect it will end with me feeling annoyed and irritated. But that's never true with this group. They're so positive, reasonable, and proactive, full of ideas for how to make sure our library has the money it needs to continue all its amazing programs and start some new ones.

Making plans with a group of positive visionaries can be such a joy!

making plans

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 #smileaday Working together as a family.

My daughter was housed in the worst dorm her college had to offer, thanks to missing a deadline in her application process. But here in the second semester, she had the chance to move to another room and jumped on it! So we spent this afternoon and evening moving her out of her old room and into her new room. Somewhere in there, there was sushi.

A busy time, but had that wonderful "we'll all in this together" feeling.

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 #smileaday Getting out from behind the eight ball. 
A teaching day in an American public school is a ridiculous thing. With 90 nonsupervisory minutes a day (which are not guaranteed-this is not a state with a teacher's union), I'm supposed to prepare 7 engaging lessons for 150 tweens and teens at 3 grade levels in five different courses, do any followup needed (such as grading papers, analyzing test results, reaching out for support from families and other staff, etc.), and maybe eat and go to the bathroom at least once. 

behind the eight ball
I'm an old pro though. This is my 23rd year. You'd be amazed what I can get done with 30 uninterrupted minutes. I'm a whirlwind. 
But despite my experience and efficiency, I still end up buried a few times a school year. My semester ended last Friday. I wasn't the most buried I've ever been, but I was feeling a little frantic around the corners of my eyes. Like scary Bilbo when he was feeling thin, like butter spread over too much toast. 
So, hurray for teacher workdays! (I know, they're *all* teacher workdays, but these are days where I still get paid, but don't teach any classes or supervise any children, days in which I can get stuff done!). It's not enough, but they do have a way of popping up just when I can't see how I can go on without one. 
Today's was extra special because it was entirely mine to structure. Not a meeting in sight! Tomorrow, I'll be lucky to get ten minutes to do the actual work among the meetings, so I made sure to make good use of every second today. Even better: the copier stayed functional the whole time! 
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On the Basis of Sex movie poster #smileaday Female empowerment with my favorite females. I had a movie date with my daughters today. We saw On the Basis of Sex, the biopic of the early part of Ruth Bader Ginsberg's career (admission to Harvard Law school through the Moritz v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue case). 
Strong performances throughout and an excellent portrayal of handling both subtle and blunt sexism on a personal, professional, and institutional level with aplomb. Given that we already knew how the court case was going to come out, it was incredibly tense watching it get there. 
Left me feeling high and hopeful while I sat between two women of the next generation. Seemed like a good way to spend Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. 
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 Double Indemnity (1944). 
double indemnity movie posterBarbara Stanwyck is one of my very favorite actresses. I've loved her work in comedy, melodrama, and romance. She's brilliant in this film noir as the manipulative Phyllis Dietrichson. 
I got to watch it today at my library with a new film club that's just started in the area. I've seen it before, but didn't remember it in full detail. It's even better than I remembered.
The movie is beautifully executed and may even have benefitted from some of the limits the Hays Code put on the production. We never see Phyllis and Walter make love, but it's still entirely clear that there's a physical charge between them and that she's not above using all the methods of persuasion at her disposal. We don't the murder, but watched Phyllis's face while it happens next to her gave me the chills. That little smile, so much like Anthony Perkins's in Psycho for cold delight. 
The unfolding of the levels of manipulation and the way Phyllis and Walter fed into each other and fed the flames that eventually consumed them was gorgeous. It's definitely keeping its position in "must see movies" on my personal list. 
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#smileaday Making space!

I've been slowly transforming the smallest bedroom in our house into a writing room for myself. It's slow going. Money and time are two things I'm always short on. For a couple of months, there's been this big pile of displaced things taking up half the room: college girl's belongings that didn't got with her but are still wanted, furniture and shelving that I haven't figured out if I still have a need and use for yet, toys and belongings left from when this was the tween's room, etc.

We moved everything that wasn't temperature sensitive into the half-way finished attic today and voila!  The room feels room-sized now! Tomorrow, I'm hoping to start removing the wallpaper. Maybe I can get some new paint on my walls before the end of February!

my writing room to be
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 #gameeveryweek Clank!  
Apparently, we have failed as gamer-parents because this is apparently the first deck-buildling game we've played with our girl and she's eleven. What a travesty! She got the hang of it quickly, though, so next I'll be teaching her Ascension (my favorite deck builder). 
When I told the youngest Bryant the theme to this one (we're thieves sneaking into some caverns to steal treasures from a dragon and get back out before we get killed), she laughed and said, "So, what you're telling me is that we're stupid." I had to agree :-) 
The title comes from the use of noise as a factor in whether or not you wake the dragon during your turn. Each time you do something that makes noise (like run while wearing armor, or fight a monster, or just stumble), you add a color coded cube to a bag, which is drawn from when the dragon attacks to see who takes damage. 
At the end of our game, one Bryant had died (poor Papa, he was so close to the exit!), and the other two of us had one life point left, so it was a near thing. Littlest Bryant won, which is not bad at all for her first deck building game ever. She bought way more victory points granting cards than either of us realized. 

Clank! boardgame box
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#smileaday Teaching adults.

Today I taught the first session of a semester long course I'm offering at Central Carolina Community College: Finish Your Novel. It's been a year or so since I last taught for CCCC, and I'd forgotten how lovely it is to work with a room of adults who chose to be there. A very different teaching experience than my day-to-day in middle school Spanish. Refreshing.

This group is especially engaging and I'm looking forward to our next meeting already!

spectrum explorer to architect
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 #smileaday Revisiting old movies with my munchkin. 
I've been on a little bit of a kick here lately, "making" my youngest daughter watch old movies with me. I'm usually nice about it and pick things I think will please her, like Beetlejuice and Lost Boys (though there was that time I made her watch Big Trouble in Little China she has not forgiven me for). 
Earlier this week, we watched Armageddon, which was even cheesier than I remembered, and I remembered it as inducing fits in lactose-intolerant moviegoers. It's arguably the worst performance by Ben Affleck I've ever seen. Cringe-inducing even. But we laughed so much!
Tonight we watched Big Hero 6, which I know isn't that old, but when you're only 11 like she is, 2014 was half a lifetime ago. It still charmed the heck out of me, even when it made me cry, and making me cry didn't make me feel as manipulated as Pixar machinations usually do. 

big hero 6 characters
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 #smileaday A little peace and quiet. 
I've been grumpy most of today. Maybe because I'm underslept or undercaffeinated (though Sweetman did bring me a coffee treat). Maybe because I was in a very noisy social environment till past my bedtime last night. Maybe because it was the last day of the semester and the kids were relentless. 
I don't like being grumpy. The best way to get rid of it is to take a woods walk, but it was rainy and dark by the time life would have allowed that. So instead, as soon as my girl was through her homework, I took myself away to my office (still in process, but mine!), picked up my laptop, and wrote for a while. 
Longer than I thought, apparently, because somewhere in there, Sweetman came home and finished making dinner, letting me know it was almost eight o'clock. So good to have family that understands that sometimes I just have to be by myself for a while. 
Several hundred words, two cups of tea, and a bowl of beans and rice later, I'm a new woman, nearly ready to be social again. 

silence quote

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 I just learned that Mary Oliver died. She lived a long life, into her eighties, and wrote some immortal lines that will live on long beyond her sojourn on this earth. A poet could certainly do worse. Here are two of my favorites: The Summer Day, which posed one of the best questions I’ve ever been asked (Tell me, what is it you plan to do/with your one wild and precious life?) and Wild Geese, which taught us all to be kinder to ourselves.

Mary Oliver The Summer Day

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver
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#smileaday Throwing axes. Literally!

Our friend Joey always come up with something really interesting to do for his birthday. Last year, he invited us to a puzzle room. This year? Throwing axes. So much fun!

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 #smileaday Having my girls at home. Tonight my girls were cuddled up together on the sofa. They're older than they are in this picture, and I didn't get a picture this time, but it filled my heart with the same light, to see them being loving to each other. 

sisters together


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Samantha J Bryant

February 2019

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