Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I am frequently amazed at the human ability to adapt. The ability to accept as normal a situation which, if it had been described a week, a month, a year ago, would have been hard to imagine, let alone imagine as normal.

Adaptation is not evolution. It can be. But if it makes you accept a situation that should not be accepted, then it becomes harmful. So, I say REJECT NORMALCY. Reject it. Compare the life you have to the life you want, and BURN the difference. You know who you are. Reject reacting. ACT. Reject what other people might think. There is room for only one opinion in your head--yours. Eject all those other people who have come to reside there.

Reject the doubters (no risk equals no gain).
Reject the homophobic opinion (write with abandon).
Reject the people who are always right (without the consideration of others).
Reject the emotional jail that imprisons the spouse (and family).
Reject the immature man (and all the chaos he creates).
Reject that life has to become normal.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Monday Meeting

Monday, again! Today, I'm prepared for it.

I have a very specific list of writerly to dos for this week, and I will spare you the details. However, the last bullet point on my list is:

Put the first half to bed.

Yup-- I am hoping to finish the first half of revisions this week.
Surprising, I know. I have been mired in revisions for the first chapter for weeeeeks. But I've figured things out (with the help of my critique partner, yay R!) and I'm moving forward.

I have to report that I had a minor heart attack yesterday when I couldn't get any of my Word documents to open up on my computer. I back stuff up, and also send revisions to myself in e-mails, but still--it felt horrible.
Back up. Back up. Back up.

So, friends (writerly and otherwise) do you have goals for the week?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Skippyjon Jones'n

Boy, do I live in a bookish place. Yesterday we went to our second book reading in six days. We went to see Judy Schachner read her new Skippyjon Jones picture book, Lost in Spice. What a fabulous book! The reading was put on by the Wellesley Booksmith, and was held at the Wellesley Library, since they thought that Skippyjon would draw a crowd. And they were right. A ton of kids showed up, books in tow.

Judy did a great job. She had jokes for the adults in the audience, and read Lost in Spice for the kids. If you can pick up a copy with the audio, it is fantastic. (Hardcovers come with a "free" CD). There was a bit of down time during the book signing (it started late) and my kids did get into some mischief-- but nothing major. Superman spun a book carousel superfast, and all the books tumbled out. The librarian was amazing, and was more concerned with helping Superman find a suitable book than with the mess he was making.

I highly recommend Lost in Spice-- especially with the audio. It is full of action, laughs and cool alliteration. I don't do it justice when I read it to my kids, so I turn it over to Judy on the CD. She does a sweet southern drawl for the mommy cat, and a lyrical Spanish voice for Skippyjon Jones, a cat who thinks he's a chihuahua. In Lost in Space, Skippyjon Jones jettisons into space, finds his chihuahua friends, and rescues his sock monkey from martians. He's crazy and wonderful. Even my nine year old wants to hear Skippyjon Jones' latest escapade. And for the adults--there is a reference to 'Major Tom', and (I think) an homage to a Les Mis song on the audio. You'll have to check it out, and let me know.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Writing Go Faster

Okay, Monk amuses me.

In one episode, when Monk wanted to fast-forward something on TV, he said to his assistant, "PICTURE GO FASTER...PICTURE GO FASTER!" That is where I am with my writing. I want it to go faster. I want to be done editing. Revisions are taking much longer than I expected. Don't get me wrong--I am excited with each change, and I can feel the novel getting better. But I am salivating over having something, anything (great) to query. And I really want to move on to my next idea.


And, of course, I'll stick it out. In the meantime, anyone else feel this way?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Today is a big writing day, so since I don't have a post put together, I thought that I would just share a link that I love (be careful, it's addicting).

I followed a link at this blog, and found a delightful place to write stories with my kids. It's such a cool idea. You pick an artist, use their artwork, and add words to create your own story. And you can invite Uncle in Hawaii, Aunt in Seattle, Great-Grandparents in Chicago, and Grammy (wherever in the US she might be) to add a page. Instead of clamoring to hear a story at bedtime, my kids are asking to write one! Check Storybird out.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Monday Meeting

Ah, the beginning of a new week. I had a wonderful meeting with my critique partner, and I am still trying things out for my first chapter. It's worth it to get this one right. Once I do, the rest of the revisions will be, for a while, smooth sailing. I'm trying to tell myself that this will just take as long as it takes.

I just have to give one more big shout-out to my writing partner, R. Even when the critique is a tough one, I always leave our meetings fired up about my novel. He is a magician.

So, let me know what your goals are. I would love to live vicariously through someone who is actually hitting big word counts, or making tons of progress, while I sit and figure this first chapter out.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Identifying the Sassafras Leaf

OR: Kate Messner's Reading of The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z.

On the way home from Newtonville Books, and from meeting Kate Messner, I got the lowdown from the experts--my kids.

Me: What was your favorite part of Kate's book reading?

Superman (5 yrs old): The cookies. Definitely the cookies.

Oldest son (9): Yeah. The leaf identification was great, but nothing topped the cookies.

Cowgirl (3): My favorite part was when Kate's daughter read the leaf book to Superman.

This should give you a glimpse into Kate's preparedness. From the time that we got there, to the moment we left, my kids were coloring, listening, figuring out the names of different leaves, collecting bracelets and bookmarks, getting our book signed, and filling up plates of cookies. (We left with a lot of loot.)

Kate quickly set the stage for the book. She handed out leaves so the kids could touch, feel and smell the experience of Gianna, her main character. She then read a short excerpt from her book. She answered questions with enthusiasm, charm, and the ease of a teacher who is used to being around kids, and including them in conversations.

Normally, when I take my three kids to an event, I have a bit of the 'what if' stress. What if one escapes the bookstore? What if one knocks over the cookies? What if one drowns out the author? What if one climbs up a bookcase and knocks it over?

I experienced very little 'what if' stress at Kate's book signing. I relaxed, while my kids occupied themselves with Kate's activities. I was able to listen. I had a blast. I would have loved to stay and talk to Kate a bit more, but I did still have three kids in tow.

I learned that it took about 4 years, and 13 drafts for TGFOGZ to be published. That Kate teaches 7th grade English, and that the kids at her school actually do a leaf identification project similar to Gianna's in the book. I learned that Kate is a genuine and warm woman, who respected each and every child in the room. And that her daughter is super nice, too. She helped Superman check out a leaf identification guide while I was busy hunting down Cowgirl.

Clearly, the leaf falls very close to the tree.

And, the quality of the book? Well, my kids wanted me to read it aloud, while I was driving them home. I had to put my foot down, but only so we could get home faster to read it.

I wish Kate all the best. She certainly has earned it.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Universal Connections

This is my youngest. In her everyday apparel. Yup. Wedding dress and cowgirl boots.

Recently, my daughter and I carved out an entire day for just us. We were a little lonely without Superman.
First stop: the playground. We played and swung and slid down the slide. I snapped some pictures. I was acutely aware of how precious this was--the ability to take photos. Normally my three kids are happily heading off in opposite directions, so the camera is out of the question. It was fun to hang out with her, and to document it. I focused on this thought:

How wonderful it is to have the opportunity to photograph my daughter.

Our next stop was the mall, at the request of my daughter. (If it had been my choice, I would have avoided the mall, but clearly, the day was in her hands.)
We parked and walked in, through a department store. Before we had even reached the actual mall, we were hailed by a young man. He jogged out from behind the department store's glass photograph studio. It was his first day training to be a photographer, and he needed to photograph children of all ages. Would I mind if he photographed my daughter? I revisited the thought:

How wonderful it is to have the opportunity to photograph my daughter.

I said, yes, of course.

When I am open to something, and actively putting it out into the universe, then these very bizarre and coincidental connections happen. They happen on a daily basis, and most times, it fills me with wonder. On the days that I am closed off to life, I imagine I miss a lot of magic. It reminds me to stay open and to go with the flow, and give up my own plan for my day and life.

As an aside, the photographer was amazing. And because we had done him a favor, the prints were dirt cheap--some were even free.

Do see this magic in your life? Do you feel connections with others in this great big universe?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Buy-a-Book Club

I generally feel a bit guilty. I get most of my books from the library. It's just not in the budget to buy a book every time I need a new one to read. And I usually go through a few books a week. The library is wonderful--I can order books from my house, and then pick them up when they come in. When I return them in a few weeks, I'm not adding to the clutter to my house. But, there are a few problems with this:

1. I'm not supporting other writers.
2. Books are never clutter at my house.
3. I love to support Indie bookstores.

So, I have a plan, and I'd like to invite you along. Once, every month, I will buy a book--a brand new book. I'll let you know what it is, and review it here. I invite you to do the same. And, if you're looking for other ways to help authors, check out this post. In my dream world, I would buy a book every day and have a library like Neil Gaiman. But, for now, once a month sounds do-able.

To kick off my book buying, I am going to Newtonville Books on Saturday to see Kate Messner, the author of The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. And I'll buy her book. What book will you buy?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Monday Meeting

This week, I am rewriting my first chapter (again). The beginning scene is symbolic and will parallel the ending (and has a nice set-up for introducing my 'Star' MC), but doesn't give you the feel of the MC like chapter two's first scene. So, I am trying to both pump the MC voice into the first scene as it is, and I am writing an alternate draft, which opens the book with the scene from the second chapter. Hopefully when I am done, I will be able to get rid of my doubts, and decide once and for all what is best for the opening of the book. Otherwise, revisions are going well-- I am working on piecing together the third chapter.

Any thoughts? What goals does everyone have this week?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Where the Wild Beasties Are

I have three wild beasties. My kids. On days when they are really out of control (or even mildly out of control) I turn on a CD. It generally calms everyone (including me). Order ensues. In writing, my wild beasties include tiredness, creative overload and doubts. So, I turn on my Ipod, put in my earbuds and soothe my writing wild beasties, and tune out my real live wild beasties. But music, to me, is much more than mood-setting.

Last week, I blogged about rowing. How, when rowers in a boat have cadence, then something magical happens. The boat starts to sing. I think it is that way with writing. I think that once you get into a rhythm with the words, then a book can be like music.

When I write, I think of not only the idea for a novel, but also what music represents that idea, through words or feeling. Or, if I am starting with a character, I find them a theme song. As the story builds in my mind, I construct a playlist (soundtrack) with music, that follows the path of the main character. Thank goodness for my Ipod.

Even just listening to my novel's soundtrack, when I don't have time to write, makes me think about the book. It gets me into the mood to write when I'm grumpy or doubtful. My fingers actually move to the rhythm of the songs. Writing flows and I stay in my world longer than if I wasn't listening to the soundtrack. I use the soundtrack through revision to immerse myself into the rhythm and the world I have created.

The best talks that I have had with friends have been while walking. I think that words naturally evolve when there is a rhythm to set them by. When I run, I always get ideas for my writing. It is definitely due to increased blood flow to the brain, and the wonderfulness of being alone. (Oh, to be alone!) But it is also due to the rhythmic pounding of my feet.

How do you scare away the wild beasties of writing? Do you write in rhythm?

This post would have been posted a bit earlier, but one of my real life wild beasties threw a rock and (accidentally) cracked the rear windshield of my car. Never a dull moment!

Thursday, September 10, 2009


It was too icy to put in the dock, so we waded straight out from the shore, and into the sub freezing Maine lake water. The crew shell bit into my shoulder. I nudged ice away with my elbow, and stood, chest deep in lake and waited for the command to flip the hull. Maybe I would be frozen solid before the command came. I felt so cold that the cold was beginning to feel like warmth. I was in the bow, this day, an unfortunate place to be, since I was furthest and deepest out. I was the last of the eight women lined up on alternating sides of the boat, and I had an uninterrupted view of dawn breaking around us.

What can I say? My coach was an idiot, tempting hypothermia with his athletes. And I did get sick that spring, but not before I was able to sit in the first, the leader, the stroke position. I will always remember the day that I stroked. In part because I did get sick a few days afterwards, and wasn't able to pull the strength needed on the urg to be considered for the position again, and in part because I loved setting the cadence for the boat. But, I remember it most of all because, that day, we made the boat sing.

Instead of rowing at dawn, that session we rowed at dusk. I sat, facing the coxswain, as she built up the rhythm with her calls. She quickly moved us out of the warm-up and into the distance portion of the practice. I pulled with long, sure strokes.

Reach, back it down, jump, pull.
Reach, back it down, jump, pull.
Reach, back it down, jump, pull.

The coxswain barked out short, sweet commands. Soon, none were needed. I pulled the oar close to my chest, pushed the oar handle down and away, reached out for a long, smooth stride, backed the oar into the water, jumped from the foot stretchers and pulled, long and wide, until the oar handle returned to my chest. I rolled the oar, and heard it drip all the way back to the start of the stroke. I watched the eyes of my coxswain. Her eyes told me what I needed to know. We were perfectly in sync.

Reach, back it down, jump, pull.
Reach, back it down, jump, pull.
Reach, back it down, jump, pull.

No thinking. Thinking would make me rush to the next part of the stroke. Instinct took over--the cadence took over. I relaxed into the rhythm. I ignored the burning of my muscles. I focused on giving each slide its due. Making each pull identical to the one before. Letting predictability guide those behind me.

Reach, back it down, jump, pull.
Reach, back it down, jump, pull.
Reach, back it down, jump, pull.

Still our coxswain was silent, letting the sounds of the boat and oars and bodies guide us. Eight bodies moved to one beat. I could feel the hull surge with each pull through the water. I could hear the rush of water inside the boat. It ran down the midline of the hull, as the boat, level, flew across the lake. This rush of water became a song. Idiot Coach cut his motor so we could hear, uninterrupted, our song. A gentle "SHHHHHHHH" sound.

Reach, back it down, jump, pull.
Reach, back it down, jump, pull.
Reach, back it down, jump, pull.

No longer eight separate bodies, but one boat in motion, we heeded the final command from our coxswain. "WEIGH ENOUGH." Our hands held the oars, still, above the water, and the hull sailed singing sweetly along while we silently existed within the moment. Trees became shadows, darkness descended, and our boat sang.

Only on a perfect day can you make a boat sing. This rhythm that I remember from my rowing days gets me into my writing stride as I sit at the keyboard, clicking out words. Hopefully someday soon, I'll make my novel sing.

Check out this cool look at rowing (I wish there were more (*any*) women in this video).

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Great Day for 'UP'

In the aftermath of a teenage cousin hanging with us this summer, my kids are watching more than their fair share of the teen scene stuff on TV. My youngest child asked me to explain some mean behavior a girl was exhibiting to another girl. I told her that sometimes people put others down in order to build themselves up. Then I told her how that wasn't necessary, since there is enough 'Up' for everyone.

It's something elementary that I repeat all the time-- many days I send my kids out to school with some variation of the building others up speech. But, recently I have been feeling like maybe we all need to review.

I rediscovered Verla Kay's blueboards (I had been on them before, but now, I actually registered), and I think they are a wonderful tool for writers. A very nice community. But, I came across a post about how some writer was frustrated that an author friend (who wrote for adults) was switching over to write for YA, because there was more money in it. And this writer was bemoaning about how that was one less spot for his own writing in the market.

C'mon, people, there is enough 'Up' for everyone.

Maybe I'm not being realistic. Maybe I'm being a bit naive. But, even so, wouldn't it benefit every one's state of mind, and state of writing, to believe that, when they were ready--when their writing was ready--that there really would be enough 'Up' for everyone?

And what does it do to the writing community, when someone is secretly hoping for others to fail so that they could get their 'Up'? Who would want to partner up for a critique with that guy? (I mean, not everyone can be as lucky as me--thanks, R!)

I think it's a lesson from kindergarten that we all need to remember.

And hopefully soon, we'll all be able to say, "It's a Great Day for UP!"

Monday, September 7, 2009

Monday Meeting

Okay, so I got some things done last week, but not really enough to talk about. My excuses include that it was my son's first days in kindergarten, which made my daughter (and I) go through superman withdrawal, and that it was labor day weekend.

So, now that my kids are getting into the rhythm of school, I'll be getting into the rhythm of writing. And jumping back into my revisions.

That is my goal: to finish the first half of revisions of my ms, and start the second half.

(Okay, everyone just ignore that this has been my goal for the last two weeks.) Sometimes life gets in the way of the writing. But my characters are getting a little antsy. They don't like wallowing in cut up scenes and chapters.

Does anyone have any fresh (or not so fresh) goals?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Mired in Quicksand

I'm very judgmental.

My judgment is turned inward, where I am ruthless at dissecting myself, and my writing. Telling myself to turn off the judgment doesn't work. But the truth is that I could always be healthier, I could always write better, my house could always be cleaner. If I compared myself with perfection, then I would be in a perpetual state of failure.

Mired in the quicksand, unable to move forward.

Instead, I identify the goal, and just point myself in that direction. Movement is the success. As long as I'm actively moving in that direction, I can't fail. I'm not saying that perfection is actually the goal--I find perfect things to be boring.

Instead, as my son says, "Make it more better!"

Recently, I have come across a slew of people who take their judgments and turn them outward toward others. I find this reprehensible. Unless I walk a mile in your shoes, I have no idea what life is like for you, and don't have the authority to judge you on your actions. What gives you the authority to judge me?

That being said, I want to get into other people's shoes. I want to walk a mile. I want to know what motivates others. Not to judge them, but to understand their perspective on things. Because I'm curious. Because I empathize. And maybe, because I'm a writer.

So, c'mon into my messy house. Read my mistake-filled manuscript. Enjoy the chocolate chip cookies. I love that you are here. Come try on my shoes. Leave your judgments at the door.

You are welcome here.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


So, today I walked my middle child to his first day of kindergarten. Needless to say, I'm a wreck. I have spent most of the last five years helping him pursue safe activities. Last night he brought a stepping stool into the water-filled bath, so he could reach up high. He has been known to walk to his best friend's house, without shoes on, in the snow, at six in the morning. (His best friend's mom just calmly sits him in front of the TV, calls me, and waits for me to wake up and come get him.) He watches TV upside-down, balancing on his head. He believes he is Superman.

He looked so little, and a bit lost today, lining up with the other five-year-olds. I was tearful. He turned to me, and I knew it was coming. The 'take me home, mommy.' I wouldn't cry in front of him. I would be a supportive parent, give him a hug, and hold his hand all the way to the classroom. I bent down to give his anxiety proper weight, and looked in his eyes.

He said, "So, when school's done, are you going to just come and pick me up, or should I give you a call?"

Okay, he is superman. I hope his teacher is too. I am fully prepared for him to walk into the house, full stride, in the middle of the school day. I am expecting frantic calls from the school. I am prepared for every feeling except this knot in my stomach, which lets me know that I was not ready yet to let go. But, I'm not sure I ever would be.

It makes me feel as though I might never feel ready to send out my ms. I'm still revising, so it's not a huge issue now, but if I had my druthers, I'm not sure I would have sent my son to school today. A couple more years of preschool couldn't have hurt. Not because he's not ready for kindergarten, clearly, but because I'm not. Not ready to let go of this amazing creature that has required so much from me, and given me so much in return.

Will I feel the same fear and anxiety about my literary child? I hope not. But I wonder, how do you know when your child is ready, when you are not?