Ella, Tee Shirts, and Holden Caulfield

I am not the sort of person who normally wears boxy tee shirts or shirts with words on them–I don’t even own many shirts with patterns–but I do have an extreme weakness for shirts with literary references or clever jokes. The last time Pippa and I were at The Strand, she physically dragged me away from the shirt selection and this was done after I had already selected a The Great Gatsby sweatshirt to buy for her.

I am currently sleeping in a metal_floss tee shirt that says, “Hyperbole is the Best Thing Ever!”

Then, this afternoon I discovered that DFTBA Records is selling this shirt:

Catcher in the Rye is one of my favorite books by far, to the point where I once told my mom, while heavily doped up on medication, that I was going to name my children Holden and Gatsby, even if they were girls.

Of course, I don’t *need* this shirt, but I certainly predict that one will be in my possession within the next few months.

In Which Ella Meets John and Hank Green

Today, I journeyed into the city for some adventuring and to see John and Hank Green at a signing. It was fantastic. I’m much to tired and giddy with excitement, so tonight’s post will be limited to some pictures of the event taken with my iPhone. If you stick around and check back tomorrow, expect a very long post full of gushing about how surreal and fun it was to finally meet them.


On Friday, I’ll write about this week’s reader’s chosen topic, so vote here:


And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if, you know, you’re into that kind of thing.


In Which Ella Declares Her Love for the Night

Oh for goodness sakes am I tired. My eyelids burn, my head is heavy, and I want nothing more than to lean over, bury my head in the pillows, and just sleep. For hours and hours and hours. But it’s not exactly an option.

It is night, and I hate to waste it sleeping. These dark hours are my favorite. It’s as if I am the only one alive in the world, and I can do whatever I want without anyone ever seeing or knowing. I do my best writing after midnight, and I’ve grown accustomed to the clock showing one, two, even three in the morning before I drift off. But the exhaustion is worth it just to have those quiet hours where it’s only me and the crickets chirping.

Perhaps it’s because bad things never happen in the middle of the night, and you don’t have to deal with all of the sucky parts of the day. You’re running away from them, but this time it’s okay. You can’t be expected to fix an argument or stop being so depressed because everyone’s asleep and every place is closed. So it’s okay to pretend that everything is alright and that you’re gonna be okay.

And the cats are always up. They climb up on my bed. All three of them. Rolley fur-balls, nuzzling their wet noses and mouths against my hand and settling down in the most inconvenient places, forcing me to contort my body in order to share the bed. But I don’t mind. I think they might be the best companions in the world. But people are still pretty good, too.

Sometimes, you don’t have to share the darkness alone. Sometimes, there’s someone there with you to talk to and say things you never would if it were light out. The night makes life feel a little more safe to let down all of those barriers. I love talking on the phone, leaning halfway off my bed, seeing how close I can get my head to the floor before I overbalance and have to grab at the sheets to avoid falling. I love talking to people at sleep-overs until the wee hours and when they fall asleep in the middle of an answer, leaving me wondering how lucky I am to have friends like them.

But most of all, I love how not so many people like the night as much as I do. It’s my time, all for me, and it’s rare that I ever have to share it. I get to be horribly selfish with absolutely no consequences.

But as much as I’d like to, I can’t stay up until all hours tonight. I really ought to go to bed. Because tomorrow morning, I’m going on an adventure.

I’m taking my self to MoMA and to a book launch for Maureen Johnson’s In the Name of the Star. I might go my favorite book store and to nerdfighter MJ party. Maybe I’ll take some pictures to share. I’ll write in a park and make up stories while I’m riding on the subway. It’ll be amazing.

But when I come home, it’ll be dark again, and I’ll have these wonderful hours just to be, exactly the way I like it.

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if you’re into that kind of thing.

In Which Ella Stupidly Ignores Officer Buckle and His Dog, Gloria

When I was in second grade, we read a book called Officer Buckle and Gloria about a policeman and his dog who make presentations at school to kids about safety.

The only thing I remember from this book is to not sit on tacks or stand on swivel chairs. It’s something I think about a lot, mainly because I have a huge fear of impaling my foot on sharp objects,* and there a lot of tacks stuck into bulletin board in my room. But apparently I didn’t take the not standing on swivel chairs rule to heart.

This afternoon a new poster I had ordered arrived, and in my excitement to carefully pin it above my dresser, I decided to forgo a step ladder and just drag my swivel chair across the room. And as I would with any other chair, I put one foot on the seat and stepped up. But because swivel chairs are made to swivel, and I was not holding the chair steady, I began to spin with one foot on the chair and one leg suspended in the air while my arms spun in circles, trying to regain my balance.

And as I wobbled and the chair travelled its first 360 degrees, I couldn’t help but think, “Picture books are often more on point than you give them credit for.”

I quickly regained my balance and positioned the chair so that it wouldn’t spin anymore and put up the poster. I’m very pleased with the result. All of the furniture in my room is white, and I think that the poster “pops” quite nicely. I don’t have a picture of it hanging on the wall, but I do have picture of the poster**.

Awesome, isn’t it?

*I was once playing in a construction site in flip flops and had a nail go all the way through my shoe and into my foot. My mother had me wear the punctured and blood stained flip flop for the rest of the summer as a reminder to not play in construction sites. I just put on sneakers and snuck back there three days later. But this is an amusing story for another day.

**”ftl” stands for “French the Llama,” which is a Vlogbrothers’ joke. Check out their made of awesome youtube videos here.

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity-Jig

Model Congress was exciting, anxiety-provoking, fun, and fulfilling. Xanax, crying, and deep breathing was involved, but prizes were won.

I am bursting at the seams with stories, but I’m way too worn out to spill them all tonight.

Instead, please amuse yourself with my favorite game: Sheen or Gaddafi. A good score is hard to come by, and good times and laughs will be had by all. Post your score in the comments!

In other news, I pulled a muscle in my back, and it hurts. A lot. A lot a lot. Carrying around a backpack this week should be really fun. Also, my feet are torn up from wearing pumps and walking many miles for four days straight. Tomorrow just might be a flip-flop day. In 50-60-ish degree weather.

Vampire Cats

Yesterday, like all Wednesdays, I watched the new Vlogbrothers video.


In this video, at 1:53, John Green mentions Vampire Cats. Vampire cats? I thought, I know a thing or two about Vampire Cats. In fact, I own a Vampire Cat!

So folks, with many regrets, I must say goodbye. I have loved having my blood in my body and not in the stomach of a Vampire Cat, but things are drawing to a close. As for my final wishes, please refer to the first line of John Keat’s last Will and Testament.

Wii-Playing Conversations: Part One

Tonight as I was writing my “Act to Defend Marriage Freedom” for a Model Congress competition I’m going to this spring and watching my father play what must have been his eighth game of Wii Tennis, I said the following, “So you know how I love the Vlogbrothers? Well, they have this running joke where they add “in your pants” to the end of book titles. (This is where it all starts.) Like the easy reader, “Pooh Gets Stuck…in your pants.”

He laughed and countered it with Crime and Punishment…in your pants!

And we were off.

Gone with the Wind…in your pants

My Friend Flicka…in your pants

A Farewell to Arms…in your pants

The Stranger…in your pants

War and Peace…in your pants

The Very Hungry Caterpillar…in your pants

And so on, until I was crying and he was doubled over. It was wonderful and totally helped dissipate my anger directed at DOMA.

Do you have any good ones? Post ’em in the comments!

Dinner Table Conversations: Part One

Tonight, I was raving about Looking for Alaska at the dinner table. (I had just re-read it for the fifth time.)

Me: Dad, you really need to read this! It’s not even that long! Listen to this:

“When adults say, “Teenagers think they are invincible” with that sly stupid smile on their faces, they don’t know how right they are. We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken. We think that we are invincible because we are. We cannot be born, and we cannot die. Like all energy, we can only change shapes and sizes and manifestations. They forget that when they get old. They get scared of losing and falling. But that part of us greater than the sum of our parts cannot begin and cannot end, and so it cannot fail” (220).

Isn’t that beautiful? (I wave the book around to get his attention.)

Dad: Ella, I don’t want to read it. I’m reading other things.

Me: Come on, Dad! It’s short and fabulous!

Dad: Like Truman Capote?

Dad and I laugh and high-five, and Mom wonders how she ended up with a man who comes up with quips that quickly.

Learning to Read

I must admit that I am a sucker for stories about how people learned to read and write. They’re always interesting, funny, and sweet. I have gone through Cecelia’s first grade journal around twice, because I’m so fascinated by her entries. They’re hilarious, and incredibly well done for a 6-year-old. And by incredibly well done, I really do mean incredibly well done. It’s absolutely impressive. She’s got complex sentences, interesting anecdotes, beginnings, middles, and ends, and neat handwriting.

My favorite is her entry about snowy days. After describing how she would play in the snow, she wrote, “I would like nothing more than to be raped in a blanket with my feet in warm water.” We didn’t stop laughing for at least two minutes, and I was reminded again how much I absolutely adore Cecelia and all of my friends.

So I have decided to have a go at relaying my own reading story.

My first memory of truly reading was from when I was three and still lived in the City. I was staring up at the awnings above the shops, and on a blue and yellow one, I was able to decipher the word “the”. However, by the time that I got to Kindergarden, I was a less than a stellar reader. Sure, I could decipher simple sentences, but anything more complex that required real thought was beyond my attention span. My mother would sit next to me with her old “Dick and Jane” Reader, and I would practice putting my feet behind my head or do backbends off the arms of the couch, narrowly missing the coffee and end tables.

Fortunately, by the time I was in first grade, I got my act somewhat together. By October I was in the top reading group. Prior to this switch, I had taken to “stealing” short chapter books from the school library, because the batty librarian wouldn’t let me check them out. I had thought that I was so slick when I hid them under my shirt. Thankfully, my teacher pretended not to notice, and let me read them. D.E.A.R (Drop Everything And Read or, as I liked to call it, Don’t Even Attempt Reading) became the only time where you could find me sitting somewhat still and not talking. I read as much Beverly Cleary and Roald Dahl as I could get my hands on before discovering Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Harry Potter books. My parents, who are huge readers (they didn’t buy a television until the 1988 Olympics, and we have at least fifteen large bookcases in our house), were absolutely ecstatic and kept encouraging me.

Throughout my childhood, reading truly was the only thing that I could remain focused on for an extended period of time. I read 100 books in the summer of 2001, and in Middle School I read the most books out of my “House” every year (134 in 2005-2006 and 112 in 2006-2007). In the winter, I’d huddle next to the radiator and sympathetically shiver as I read The Long Winter. In the summer, I’d lie in my neighbor’s tree house and read A View From Saturday for the millionth time. In school, I’d hide books like Fast Food Nation under my desk and surupticiously read. (My fifth grade teacher was very surprised when she caught me with that book during math class.)

But learning the act and developing a love for reading are only one half of the equation. You have only truly learned to read when you know how to read critically with an eye for metaphor and can analyze a text from the different literary schools of thought. For me, this began to happen when I was 13. I had a wonderful English teacher, and with her help and my mother’s, I began to understand that a book has more than just a plot and interesting characters.

And so it went. I improved every year and continued to gobble books. Nothing really changed until I saw this vlog post in September. Here it is:

At the time, I was simultaneously in the middle of a collection of Kafka’s works (for my AP English class) and Nine Short Stories by J.D. Salinger. Suddenly, everything clicked. If you watch the video, I’m sure you’ll know why. John Green (Read his books!) couldn’t have described the importance and act of critical reading better. I also resolved to read Ulysses, but after one short story from Dubliners, I realized that Joyce’s writing style is FREAKISHLY difficult to understand. So Joyce is currently sitting on a back burner, and probably will for quite a while.

I know that my learning-to-read journey hasn’t ended yet, and I hope that it never does. There’s so much left to discover and learn about reading critically, and there always will be. And I find that incredibly encouraging.

How did you learn to read?