Jan Stafford Kellis
UP Living

UP Living

Some days it’s easier to remember why we live here, and today was one of those days. Autumn is just peeking through, painting random leaves and gracing us with bright sunshine and cool, crisp days. The tourists are gone now so there’s no traffic, no need to lock anything, and…

Superfluous Apostrophes

My  new job entails driving to a lot of remote camps and summer homes on roads with no posted names too narrow to pass another truck unless one backs up to the nearest wide spot or driveway to allow the other one by. I’ve always had a pet peeve for…

Improve your reality–read a book

Improve your reality–read a book

I don’t know who this woman is–she appears in a few of my great-grandmother’s photos, none with any clue as to her identity, but she always looks the same. Her facial expression inspired me to create a few different bookmarks in the fashion of Maxine, the saucy old cartoon lady…

Historical Event at Bookworms Anonymous

I just returned home from the monthly Bookworms Anonymous meeting and I’m proud to announce we had a historical event at the meeting: THREE books were granted the Bookworms Anonymous Stamp of Approval, and we voted to further categorize the award-winning books so we can have several lists of similar-style books. So far, the categories are: High Literature, Mainstream Literature, Historical Fiction, Non-Fiction and Fluff.

The books we stamped tonight, and their respective categories, are:
This book was granted the Stamp of Approval for a few reasons:
1. It’s by Anna Quindlen, one of the few authors we read that require no book review. When someone has a new Anna Quindlen book to pass around, we simply hold it aloft and say in a singsong voice: “It’s the new Anna Quinnnnd-lennnn,” and everyone reaches for it.
2. This particular AQ book caused everyone reading it to gasp aloud at a certain juncture. If you’ve read it, you know exactly what I’m talking about. I can’t say anymore about it.
3. We are all mothers and this book is a heart wrenching tale of motherhood and the worst fears realized.
4. It has an attractive cover. Superficial, I know, but nonetheless important when deciding whether or not to buy or read a book (unless, as mentioned above, it’s written by Anna Quindlen).
5. Every Last One, by Anna Quindlen (yes, I like her name and feel obliged to keep mentioning it) was granted the Bookworms Stamp of Approval in the Mainstream Literature category.

This book was granted the Bookworms Stamp of Approval mainly for its vocabulary and the well developed, complicated characters who populate the book.

Keep a dictionary  handy when reading this tome–even a reader with an unnaturally large vocabulary will need to reference at least two words. The writing is rich and distinguished and the speediest reader will find themselves halting mid-paragraph to reflect on a well worded passage or enjoy a turn of phrase.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Murel Barbery, was granted the Bookworms Stamp of Approval in the High Literature category (this category features highly intellectual themes and/or superior vocabulary).

This is the book that precluded the need for Stamp of Approval categories, and the first book in the Fluff category.

It’s a story about a family in the Pacific northwest with three children, all with shades of green for names: Olive, Forest and Jade. The mother is experiencing a midlife crisis and handles it by painting pictures of withered raisins enjoying various human pursuits such as sunbathing and shopping. Forest is living in the wilderness in a primitive shelter and Jade frequently provides food and clothing for him.

It’s a light, engaging story perfect for sandwiching between two heavier subjects populated with delightful characters and funny incidents.

Go ahead, start reading…

Ready, Set, Change Career

All my life I’ve worked inside. I’ve been a waitress, a grocery cashier, a credit union teller, accounting clerk, accounting manager, internal auditor, and an electric utility company member service representative. Now I wear work boots (!!) and have a company truck with a tool box to accommodate my sledge hammer and brush axe. I still have a clipboard. It helps me recognize myself when I picture myself in my mind’s eye slogging through the brush, jumping ditches and annihilating small trees and branches that have committed the crime of blocking my vision from one stake to another.

I’m a staking technician: the person (no longer the ‘guy’) who travels to potential job sites, usually alone, sometimes meeting a homeowner or electrician, to design new electric services, service upgrades or power line extensions or rebuilds. Luckily, I do this in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where the most likely potential threats aren’t man or machine, but wolf or bear. Or domestic dogs, unchained and salivating, rushing to defend their patch of crabgrass decorated with their own leavings. This is where my brush axe becomes a multitasking defense implement that so far I haven’t had to utilize beyond brandishing it in a threatening manner. Dogs are easily impressed with long, swinging sticks with gleaming metal ends.

I’m the first woman to hold this position in my 72-year-old company. I don’t feel as if I’m breaking down barriers, just quietly enjoying the challenges of a physically and mentally demanding job. I’m 40, and I’ve convinced myself it’s a good time of life to drastically switch careers and also to do something outside with the hope of  maintaining my slowly ebbing physique. My education is not in engineering but in business management, with very little math, which turns out to be a regrettable disadvantage. But I’m having fun. Each assignment is its own project, much like a puzzle or mind-boggling riddle, and merits its own file filled with color-coded documents and drawings (I’m no artist but my sketches are improving–should have taken drafting as well as trigonometry) with a clear end, when I can close the file and stash it away in the ‘finished’ section of the drawer.

Every day brings a new puzzle requiring a creative solution and I approach it with interest and intensity.

Another Gloomy Day in Paradise

Yes, it’s raining again. The three day holiday weekend, at least in the easternmost tip of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, featured two rain days and a day of wind. A great writing weekend, but not useful for many outdoor activities. It doesn’t seem time yet to wish summer a happy retirement,…

Writing Weather

Writing Weather

It’s a grand day for writing. The wind is whipping the trees around (no power outages at our house yet, but there’s still hope) and the rain comes and goes so it’s impossible to conduct any outdoor activities. The clouds are cruising west to east so fast they look like…

The Word That You Heard

I’ve been so lax in promoting my new book I ought to be arrested by the publicity police and charged with a marketing misdemeanor. I did bring my new book, The Word That You Heard, to the presentation I held last week and it was well received. This morning I…

Writing on the Fly

Since I’ve determined the worst part of writing something new is putting the first draft on paper, whether it’s with a pen or a laptop (I’ve been using a combination of both on my third work in progress), I’ve decided to approach it with a guerrilla attitude. This is just…

Public Appearance: Yikes!

I will be speaking at the De Tour Library on Wednesday, August 25, 2010 at 6:30 pm. My speech will include comments about the writing process as well as the book club that inspired my first book, Bookworms Anonymous. Both of my books will be available for sale and 20%…