Fahrenheit 451 and other temperatures

June 12, 2012

Now, Senoras, how would you feel if I told you to hand over all your books … so that I could put them on a big bonfire and burn them? You see, books cause dangerous thoughts so it’s best to hand them over to me for safe disposal.

Okay … only kidding, but that’s the story behind Fahrenheit 451 by the American author Ray Bradbury, who died on 5th June last aged 91. In addition to Fahrenheit 451, which was made into a movie, you may like to look up a couple of his other books The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man.

If you feel so inclined, pull out that brand-new notebook of yours – the one that you’ve hardly used – and throw down some thoughts …

Write On: Here’s a question for you. From your home library collection (you do have a home library, don’t you?), which five books would you hide and save from the pyre?

And here’s a quote from Fahrenheit 451 to set your thinking:

Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there. It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away.

Write On: What, then, will you leave behind?

Finally, here’s Ray Bradbury in 2008, aged 87, talking about reading, imagination, doing what you love and … writing.

(Credit: National Endowment for the Arts, 2008)

And here’s a poem from me for Ray Bradbury:

In the chronicles:

Illustrated homecoming

To dandelions.

Summer Starts Here

June 9, 2012

Senoras, take a breath. Relax. Read a book. After all, you’ve all been saying that you haven’t had time to read for pleasure for a very long time. But now your exams are over and it’s playtime. Unless, of course, you have to do summer school.

Here’s my suggestion. Keep an eye on the blog. Tell us what you are reading and what you are writing. Through the summer, I’ll suggest reading ideas and writing ideas and send you lots of inspiring thoughts – that is, if I manage to have any.

So, I’ll start with something that caught my eye recently. This year’s Orange Prize for Fiction was awarded to Madeline Miller for her book The Song of Achilles.


If you didn’t already know about Achilles, you may have seen him in the shape of Brad Pitt in the movie Troy. Madeline’s book is remarkable for other reasons. It is a debut novel – in other words, it is her first book and yet it has won her a high-profile award, plus the equivalent of around 170,000 AED in prize money. And she did it all because she was passionate about her characters and their story. Here’s Madeline talking about how she came to write the book.

What characters from literature or from history fire you up? Post a message and let us know.


The Open Door Brainstorm

December 14, 2011

I think we’ve managed to get in two or three entries to the Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature Short Story Competition. Stories were popping up at the eleventh hour (i.e. very late).

I did a bit of personal brainstorming to see if I could come up with an idea that was worth using for an Open Door story. I felt certain that even as I was jotting down these ideas there would be people sitting in front of their notebooks, chewing the ends of their pens unable to come up with even a minor story.

Here were some of my thoughts.

The Open Door could be the name of a book, a private club, a poem, a house, a Science Program. It could be the name of a project … for example, a science research project that goes badly wrong. Maybe … people step through an arch that is named The Open Door and they are supposed to be beamed over to their chosen destination but in fact all that gets beamed is their smoking boots (yes, I know it’s crazy,  but why not?). Maybe someone will volunteer to be the one who goes through the open door but they never come back – maybe they end up somewhere so much better than here, or perhaps they end up inside a piece of scientific equipment, imprisoned, unable to get out and unable to call for help. (Heh heh!)

The Open door could be the story of someone who keeps telling members of her family to lock the back door and makes a real fuss if she finds the back door left unlocked by her stepchildren. She is always gazing out of the window imagining she sees people out there in the dark corners of the garden. Then one day, distracted by something (her cat?), she accidentally leaves the door open and something (???) comes in to find her. (Hee hee!)

The story could be about an old lady in an old people’s home. In the nursing home she longs to know what is on the other side of the door of her room, but the door is always locked. She asks people about the door and what is outside but they are vague or pretend not to understand her. Then one day she struggles over to the door tries the handle and it is open. She steps through the door into a fabulous garden … and into death. (sob! )

Actually I quite like these stories. Maybe I’ll write them up myself.

Write On Writers

September 14, 2011

Senoras, if your passion is writing, then join us at Write On Writers every week in ILC Arzanah.

Our first meeting will be in:

Room 152 (ILC/Library Arzanah)

Thursday 15 September


Just show up on the day with a pen and your writing notebook.


WOW! Seriously obsessed with the production of

amazing creative fiction and non-fiction.

Las Senoras Carry On

September 14, 2011

We would like to invite you to the first meeting this semester of Las Senoras Book Club.

If you are a new student or a returning student, we would love you to join us on Wednesday 21 September from 11:00am to 12:00 midday to talk about what we’ve done as a book club in the past , what activities we’ll run this year and … what books we have read recently and recommend.
If you like books and reading … or if you just like to talk and listen to stories, then come and sign up for a new breathtaking year with Las Senoras Book Club.

Day: Wednesday
Date: 21 September
Time: 11:00-12:00
Place: Room 146 (Library/ILC)

How Senoras choose

February 20, 2011

The Senoras turned out in force for our meeting of 10 February. No pizza, no treats, just good company and excellent conversation. This doesn’t mean that the Senoras don’t welcome treats. Coming soon are the following events:

  • a trip to the Logos ship to browse and buy their discounted books, and for a private tour of the ship’s engineering bits.

              Can the Senoras be safely let loose on a very big boat? (‘No, don’t press that red button! Nooo!’)

  • then there is the Abu Dhabi Book Fair, 15th through to the 20th March. Last year the Senoras along with their fellow students on the men’s and the women’s campuses got a total of 50,000 dirhams’ worth of book vouchers. That was a good reason for them to hurry along to the Bookfair. Just in case readers of this blog think that extrinsic motivation i.e. money, is the only thing that will attract our Senoras to a Bookfair, they/you are wrong. They really do love books and they love owning them, stroking them, reading them. They will go to the Bookfair with or without vouchers. We are not involved in a forum this year, but Vanessa wants to capture an unsuspecting author and coerce him or her into posing for one of her READ posters. I think that’s a great idea but have warned her that most authors would probably want big bucks for doing that. Anyway, we’ll give it a try.

At this meeting we were keen to learn what the Senoras are currently reading. First up was The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong. Las Senoras Book Club is a revelation to all of us. Where do the Senoras find these books that the rest of us have never heard of? Vanessa and I attend the meetings for educational reasons: we get tutored. Now this Kelley Armstrong is a very popular and prolific writer, it seems, and shame on us for not having heard about her.

Kelley sometimes looks like this:

But normally she looks like this:

Either way looks fine to me. She has an excellent website: www.kelleyarmstrong.com from which I learnt that she has written a huge number of books. It all started in school. Instead of writing about ‘girls and dolls,’ in her English assignments, she wrote about ‘undead girls’ and ‘evil dolls.’  This must have be rather worrying for her parents. As an adult, I wonder if she was ever a language teacher because she writes a lot of  -ing books (The Summoning, The Awakening, The Reckoning, The Gathering, Living with the Dead, Waking the Witch, Becoming) and a lot of -en books (Bitten, Broken, Stolen, Frostbitten) and a few -ic books (Chaotic, Angelic). I tried to think of some other titles that she might like to write in the future for our Senoras … maybe Chocoholic, Waiting for the Bus, Passing the Exam, Failing the Exam, Eaten Too Much. I’m sure she won’t be needing my help to think up new titles. Coming soon are two new books: Waking the Witch in April 2011, and Spell Bound in Summer 2011.

So, what made this particular Senora choose Kelley’s book The Summoning?  Well, it was … the cover. And here it is:

According to the Senoras, who scrutinized the artwork at length, ‘The cover is awesome!’ I wonder … is there not perhaps something Twilight-ish about it? How about this one?

Whatever the thoughts these covers provoke, they certainly strike a chord with our Senoras. Dear Readers, when was the last time you judged a book by its cover? Did it live up to your expectations?

A few days after our meeting, one of the Senoras asked me how I picked the books that I read. ‘Well, I mean,’ she said, ‘all the covers of the books you choose are so ugly … so I wonder how you decide what you are going to read.’ Mmm … I thought. It never occured to me to choose a book for its cute cover. True, there are some covers I like and some I dislike intensely.  Here’s how I choose a book:

  1. I’ve read a book by the same author before and enjoyed it.
  2. The book has won a prize and I want to find out why by reading it for myself.
  3. A friend has read the book and raved about it to me.

Those are the main reasons. I told the Senoras about what I had just finished reading – a book called Solar by the British novelist Ian McEwan. This meets all my book-choosing criteria: 1. I’ve read several of his other books, 2. Solar has won a prize, and 3. a friend read it and told me about it. But, according to the Senoras, the cover is really awful:

And that is probably why Ian McEwan, author of more than 11 novels and winner of the 1998 Booker Prize, looks so sad in this photo. (The book is good though!)

Coming attractions

September 15, 2010

The Señoras have not yet stamped their unique personalities on their cubicle on the second floor. To be honest they are a little apprehensive about going up there. They get funny looks from the people in the other two cubicles and feel like intruders. The second floor is a scarey place at the best of times: the faculty have their offices up there. We agreed that the Señoras had to call in their Señoras Book Club Design Team to give the cubicle a make-over. This could well be a job for Hello magazine.

Also the Señoras have to make their presence felt. They need to work a shift 24/7, make a bit of noise (that shouldn’t be difficult) and replace the whiteboard that’s covered in indelible marker scribblings. Fatima has some posters to put on the walls. Okay, so they’re from Twilight and Harry Potter … Vanessa and I will fight back our disappointment: we were hoping for something a little more chic.

Then there will have to be a Las Señoras Book Club Cubicle Launch Party and – budget-permitting – we will fly in celebrities … Brangelina, Justin Timberlake … I think you get the picture.

 Our book club storming produced some good ideas. Here’s a list of book club things-to-do:

1. Run an excursion to the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair (ADIBF) next March.

2. Send Vanessa in ahead of time to negotiate a book voucher deal for us: not a lot of people know that at the last ADIBF, thanks to her, our students got 20,000 dirhams to spend on their favourite books: that made Stephenie Meyer very happy and saved her family from a life of austerity.

3. Do a presentation at the Book Fair: last year Fatima and Vanessa took part in a discussion forum at ADIBF. Fatima made a fashion statement by wearing her gold trainers. Vanessa made no statement at all because she got stopped by the police as she was speeding to the venue and then lost her BlackBerry when she got there … but I digress.

4. Organise our own Las Señoras International Book Fair (LSIBF).

5. Run more writing competitions.

6. Invite a famous poet to come and talk to us. If you’re a famous poet, please get in touch.

7. Run a competition to write a book review and then put the best reviews in the library catalogue. Mmm … sounds like work.

8. Have a competition where people read the beginning of the summary of a novel … and then have to write an ending to the story. We agreed that the time has come for someone to write a new ending to The Lovely Bones. That murderer really has to be brought to justice. It’s causing the Señoras a lot of sleepless nights.


9. Have a quiz bowl. Erm … what’s a quiz bowl? Vanessa says we have to agree to read two or three books and then we pick a question about them out of a quiz bowl, and win a prize if we get the answer right.

The Señoras went a bit silent when they heard this.

‘What? We all have to read the same books for a quiz? Too much. Too much.’

‘Okay,’ said Vanessa, ‘we could quiz you on some famous books that everyone has read.’

‘Oh, right!’ said the Senoras, ‘you mean like Harry Potter … or Twilight?

No, that wasn’t really what Vanessa meant. Also that would count us out since we’re still stuck on Twilight page 100. We would need help.

10. Finally, invite someone – anyone really – to come and talk to us about their favourite books, their preferred authors … and the meaning of life.

We know what you read last summer

September 12, 2010

The Señoras are back. Well, actually they’ve been back for some time and … some of them have never really been away. They all blame the summer courses for that.
     Then, of course, we had the Holy Month of Ramadan during which the Señoras were very very quiet. As we approached Eid, Vanessa and I decided it was time to take a look at the books on the Señoras’ shelves …

     … and find out what they had been reading and what they intended to read.

     When we met for the first time on Tuesday, the Señoras looked refreshed, sparkling and very intelligent. They are older now and look intimidatingly professional. Let’s face it, when you get to this stage of your studies, there’s no stopping you.
     The theme of our meeting was ‘We know what you read this summer.’ After many hours of evaluating the evidence and compiling our research we had come to the conclusion that this summer the Señoras read …

Stephenie Meyers, Dan Brown, Nicholas Sparks,
Sophie Kinsella and John Grisham.

     And we were right … except that we missed out Jeffrey Archer. This is Jeffrey Archer by the way:

And here are some Señora Quotes:
Señora Quote 1: ‘Dan Brown is sooo good!
Señora Quote 2: ‘I love Nicholas Sparks. His books are amazing!

Dan and Nicholas will be very happy if they read this blog. Vanessa and I listened to these quotes with some suspicion. Now we are going to have to read Dan and Nicholas to find out why their books are sooo good and amazing. This book club is more work than we bargained for.
In this meeting we also did some book club storming. As everyone knows, book club storming is the same as brainstorming except that you focus on book clubs instead of brains.

So, please can you now do your own book club storming and think up some ideas for this year’s book club activities.
In the next post I’ll tell you what ideas the Señoras came up with in our meeting.

Finishing School

July 21, 2010

The Senoras are all finishing school. One or two are still around doing summer courses, but even they will be heading off shortly to wherever Senoras head off to. Fatima gave up on surveying the Senoras’ recommendations for summer reading. They were a little evasive. As Fatima approached with her pen and notepad, Senoras fluttered away into the distance. Could it be that the Senoras associate reading of any kind with work? How are we to change this?

Right now it is just me and Fatima and Vanessa. I am thinking ahead to next semester about reading and writing activities. Vanessa is busy adding to the Library’s Leisure Reading Collection and Fatima … well she is reading Marked. Wait a minute! Am I mistaken or hasn’t she already read Marked? Here’s my great research finding: young people re-read a lot of books. Take Fatima, for example. How many times has she read Twilight? How many times has she read Marked? I suppose if you really love a set of characters, after living alongside them in a book it’s very difficult to be parted from them … so you simply re-read the book.


Now if you haven’t read Marked – I haven’t actually – here’s what you need to know. It’s the first book in the House of Night series (published in 2007). The other books are Betrayed, Chosen, Untamed, Hunted, Tempted and Burned. I count seven books. Number eight – Awakened – is due for publication in January 2011. Naturally the books are about vampires or – if you prefer – vampyres. But these stories are about vampires that go to ‘finishing school.’ For those of you who don’t know, a ‘finishing school’ is a place well-bred (?) young women are sent to in order to learn high-level social skills and etiquette before they go out into the big wide world … and find – or receive – a husband. It would seem there are important skills that vampires need to know. Maybe there are polite ways to drink blood that vampires should learn. What do I know?

The protagonist of Marked is 16-year-old Zoey Redbird. Is that name strange or is it my imagination? As I’m sure you must be aware, names in novels often have symbolic significance. I wonder what that one means?

The House of Night series has two authors – a mother and daughter team: P.C. Cast (mother) and Kristin Cast (daughter). Being part of a family writing team is not such a bad idea, but how would you feel about writing a book with your mum? She might disapprove of the things you want to write, or maybe you’d be embarrassed by some of the ideas she was coming up with. And why is Kristin called Kristin while her mum is called P.C.? In British English PC could stand for Politically Correct … or Police Constable. In fact Kristin’s mum has a perfectly acceptable name: Phyllis Christine. (P.C., don’t worry about it. Nothing to be ashamed of.)

I checked the Cast family’s bibliography and they’ve been churning out an average of three books a year. They’re up to about 25 published books so far.  So don’t criticise the series until you have tried writing that many books.

In addition to reading or re-reading Marked, Fatima is re-reading Double Cross from Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses series. If you want to find out what that’s about you should cut and paste this link into your browser: www.meettheauthor/bookbites/1225.html and Malorie herself will tell you what the books are all about (not vampires). Malorie – I feel I know her already- has a very nice website: www.malorieblackman.co.uk  and you can correspond with her on Facebook. If you do that, you can tell her that it was my suggestion but please don’t tell her that I haven’t yet read Book 1 Noughts and Crosses. Fatima loaned me her copy and the characters are still there on my bookshelf living out their story – I hear them whispering sometimes late at night. Fatima has made me (almost) swear that I will read the book this summer.

This is the book I promised to read

Let me just check to find out how long Chapter One is …


December 20, 2009

Las Senoras now have their very own ‘cubicle.’ I must admit I was slightly worried when I heard this. Surely, I thought, a cubicle is something very small. Las Senoras are not especially tiny. How could they fit into a cubicle?

Is it a cubicle like this?

Apparently they are very excited about their cubicle and are planning what to put inside it (lots of furniture, bean bags and the like) and what to do there (Book Club activities). Well, with all those things going on inside their cubicle there will be even less space. It will be positively cramped in there … dangerously cramped even. I think I will have to go and take a look at this cubicle, get a picture of what is going on and find out why Las Senoras seem to be so enthusiastic about setting up home there.

So, we now have a different format for our meetings. We will be convening on a Sunday afternoon… exams and assignments permitting. Don’t forget that for us Sunday is the first day of the working week, so getting La Senoras together to talk about books is no mean task.

Getting Las Senoras all to read the same book at the same time? Well, no! It isn’t going to happen. But we can get round that and still have a Book Club. Here’s how … every week one or two of us will bring a book that we are reading or that we have read … and we will read an extract to the other Senoras. If someone doesn’t want to read out loud, then I will read their extract for them. So, this way Las Senoras get to be entertained and they get to tell everyone else about their chosen book and what they like … or dislike about it.

In the next post I will tell you about Vanessa’s new leisure reading collection … and what happened when I read Las Senoras an extract from this book.

Until next time, best wishes and read on.