Shanna Swendson (shanna_s) wrote,
Shanna Swendson

Remembering Ray Bradbury

I've had a terribly unproductive week so far. I have a lot of stuff to get done, but I had a crippling case of the don't wannas. I made up for it today, though. I just did a massive Target excursion to get everything I'll need for next week's trip, and I've already taken care of some business stuff. Now I just need to catch up on housework, do a lot of laundry, do some baking and pack.

Of course, wouldn't you know it, right before I leave town for a week, I get word on a few projects so that I now have work stuff to do. I got copy edits back on book 5, and it's looking like I'll have to write a book based on a proposal I did earlier this year (more details later on that when it becomes official). The copy edits will wait until I'm home, and I can spend transit time next week (since there will be a lot of bus time) doing some brainstorming and outlining so I can have the book ready to go in my head once I get home. June and July will be writing time for me.

Yesterday's sad news was the death of Ray Bradbury. His work was a big part of my high school years. One of my main activities in school was the speech club, and the speech teacher insisted that I do prose interpretation -- where you read short stories or novel excerpts out loud. At the time, I planned to be either a lawyer (freshman year) or a serious journalist (sophomore year and later) and I wanted to do debate or extemporaneous speaking (where they give you a current events topic and you have a short amount of time to come up with a speech on it). But the teacher was probably right because when I finally got my way and he let me enter in extemporaneous speaking, I didn't like it and didn't do well, while I was rather successful in prose interpretation. To do the prose event, you had to find short stories to read, and that's where I discovered Ray Bradbury, since he wrote brilliant short stories that lent themselves to dramatic interpretation and that usually had a huge emotional impact, so the stories themselves were enough to leave an audience floored if you read them even somewhat competently (without stumbling over the words and without a monotone).

My signature piece that won me a lot of medals and ribbons was "All Summer in a Day," which is about a colony on Venus, where the sun only comes out for one day every seven years. Most of the kids in the colony have no idea what the sun is because they don't remember seeing it, but one girl has moved there recently and knows what she's missing. The other kids lock her in a closet on the summer day, and then only after they see the sun for themselves do they realize what a cruel prank it was. I still have the opening memorized: "It had been raining for seven years." (and I can go on a bit from there). All the kids gave me a chance to do different voices for the characters, and the ending is goosebump inducing. I loved reading that story because I could feel the audience in the palm of my hand.

I didn't realize it at the time, but that activity is probably the one thing I did in high school that has helped prepare me for my current career, since I think all those prose interpretation contests are why I do a better-than-average job of doing author readings.

I also successfully campaigned for us to read Fahrenheit 451 as our novel for American literature in my junior year, thus saving my class from The Scarlet Letter. I loved it, but I don't know if my classmates appreciated the favor I'd done them.

Now I want to find those old short story books and re-read some favorites. I haven't even thought of those stories in years.
Tags: books

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