Saturday, December 26, 2009

American Girl(s)

So, we bought the American Girl doll in a middle class gesture to get Daughter attached to something other than her mother's tummy, fun though that has been. Daughter was thrilled by the doll in the catalog (and how did we ever get that first catalog through our door, anyway?). I bought a matching nightdress for doll and girl, because (cheap at heart) I know Daughter can wear nightgown all year, and through next winter as well. Although the doll will not outgrow hers, Daughter will, but first nightdresses just become... shorter.

Daughter named doll Sally. All day yesterday, the signs were good. Daughter spoke to Sally, took her everywhere, explained snow, and Christmas, and how to behave at a party ("don't take off your shoes, or your underwear").

However, today I'm a bit alarmed. The fear was that Daughter would not attach to Doll. I fear instead that Doll exerts more power than I gave American Girl credit for, and Daughter has become fetish object for Doll.

Daughter will only dress like the doll today, and wants to be called Sally as well. My tummy is also feeling a little slighted.

However, we did have a visit from The Man Himself on Christmas Eve, braving ice and snow on the busiest day of the year. It is Santa as we have him in a wall of pictures, one from each year, framed in the hall. But as we were missed off the studio call list this year, Santa took pity, and paid a personal visit.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Daughter, across dinner table, during ice storm: I have the power... of ICE!
Son, in riposte: Oh yeah? I have the power of FIRE.
Mom, kidding: I have the power of chicka chickaaah!
Daughter: I have the power of love. That's the best.
Son: I have the power of Donald Duck. You can't defeat that, because I'm fictional.

He has a point, you know.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Well, That Complicates Things

Daughter had a wonderful Christmas Polar-Express-style dream that she firmly believes actually happened ("it was a awesome night").

In it, Santa collected her from our house by sleigh, then flew to the school to collect two of her best friends, and then returned her to the house. She was sleepy when he first arrived, but then woke up. Along the way, she discovered:

* Rudolph does not have a red nose, but a white one (it glows)
* His nose is in fact tiny
* Oddly, he flies in the rear of the formation and not in front
* And so do the rest of the reindeer (ie. behind the sleigh)
* Santa doesn't come down chimneys at all! The whole roof just dissolves off the house! So the reindeer can come in too! Because he's magic! He knows what you're thinking!

At the end of the ride, Santa put two gifts into her hands (wrapped in pink paper with Barbies on them: "he noticed that I like pink").

How to:
* tactfully not refer to it as a dream, let alone an abduction
* tactfully explain that Santa was being kind in putting the reindeer in back. Oats give them gas, and while Santa is used to it, three little girls might not be
* explain why her brother wasn't invited: perhaps it was a five year old thing, especially for five year olds?
* get some pink wrapping paper with barbies on it at this late hour? Because, as daughter also explained: "tomorrow and tomorrow after that it's Christmas!"

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Tis the Season for This, Too

A fun anti- meta- christmas/hannukah/kwanzaa song (thanks inky!) from Straight No Chaser:

Friday, December 18, 2009

I Know You Are, But What Am I?

Son, to his sister: I'm bored.
Daughter: I'm bored too. But you're boring.


On the writing front there is much labor and sweat and persistence, all of which I understand to be key ingredients. I'm slowly working on the early chapters of a YA novel, and enjoying it a great deal. When I need a break from that, I'm exploring new types of magazine writing, like rebuses: fictional and non-. Thanks to one of my lovely crit group members from Kansas City, who brought a rebus that Highlights had purchased and showed us how they tick, I have had fun playing in those waters! There is craft in keeping to 120 words or so, telling a story, using age leveled vocabulary, and a set ratio of concrete (illustratable) nouns with some repetition. Try one! They're bite-sized wonders.

And have set up a new ms exchange with another SCBWI Kansas City-ite, to swap chapter book drafts. Am enjoying the critiquing there too.

Oh, and have another piece published in the regional quarterly newsletter of the Kansas SCBWI, In the Wind, called "Breaching Decorum," about selective register leaps in children's picture books (December 2009 issue).

I spend some weeks mailing out a lot of pieces. I remember back to working on the doctoral dissertation. One piece of advice that was helpful from another grad student (in computing!) was to do at least one thing a day toward the cause. If that meant buying post-it notes, then so be it. Usually one thing lead to another and another, of course, but sometimes it didn't and post-it notes were the only thing accomplished in a day. Nevertheless, like knitting it came together one stitch at a time. The same mentality (without the luxury of time) worked for the Bluebeard book, the second one written around teaching full-time and having babies and raising them. Some days, only one email got sent out "toward the cause." So now it is with the kidlit writing and editing and mailing. Some days, I just want to play with my binders, put them in order with dividers, and create systems to manage the different genres and communications going back and forth. It never feels like wasted time.

So, before going in to work to complete finals grading, I'm going to work for an hour or so on my novel! Have a great weekend all.

Friday, December 11, 2009

It's West Of... Uh, Where Are We?

Daughter, in non-stop excited babble on the car trip to Kansas City (where it had snowed), for her annual checkup:

Are we in Kansas City? Are those houses Kansas City? Why would anyone live here? It's so crowded! ... Oh! I know. They come here because of the snow. Why do they get to have a snow world and we don't? Are all those people in cars coming to Kansas City too? Are they moving here for the snow? Oh, there's some sun. Are we in California now?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

No Fooling Her

Daughter (5): Can I be excused?
Me, to daughter: Eat a bite of your omelette first.
Daughter: Well, I'm making it into shapes.
Me: Yeah, well eat a shape.
Daughter: Okay. But I'll only eat the trapezoid.


Son (8) swinging a Christmas ornament in front of his sister: You are getting sleepy. When I click my fingers, you will do whatever I tell you to, for the rest of the day. Got it? [click] Okay, hang this ornament.
Daughter, ignores him.
Son: I said you have to hang this ornament.
Daughter, ignores him.
Son: You are getting sleepy. When I click my fingers, you will do whatever I tell you to, for the next HOUR. Got it?
Daughter, ignores him.

Friday, December 4, 2009

O, Exercise Bike...

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways:
  1. Thou art more lovely than other exercise bikes, having -- like me -- a nice, wide seat.
  2. Thou art so quiet, allowing me to hear my netlix movies.
  3. Thou art stationary, and stationed right in front of our big, American, example-of-conspicuous-consumption (--like me) TV set.

Shall we live together, you and I?

Friday, November 27, 2009


Daughter, arriving at 2am: "Mom, I'm cold."
Daughter in my bed at 3am: "T-e-n spells ten! Hey! Mom! I can spell ten!"
Daughter in my bed at 4am: sits bolt upright, an announces in manner of eureka: "Hey! I can draw fruit!!"
Finally made warm milk for daughter, which worked.
Son, arriving at 6am: "Mom. I'm bored to death."

And this is why they are having a sleepover at grandma's tonight.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Oh Yeah!

Am happily bragging today about my great emailed news from the magazine Appleseeds: my pitch to write a piece on medieval "dirty work" got accepted for one of their upcoming themed issues! Now, how to write a long and interesting piece, and then hack it back into a well- crafted 300 word mini-masterpiece ... I got done with my first example of wonderfully disgusting work and it was already at 344 words, so clearly I should aim for haiku.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Two Year (k-12) Itch

Son, eating breakfast: I'm not going to school today. Yesterday, I quit.
Me: No you didn't.
Son: I... retired?
Me: Nope.
Son: Oh! I dropped out!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Week? What week?

We elected to skip: the city trick or treat, the YMCA trick or treat, and the university safe trick or treat this year in honor of "we survived a play and then got fevers so really, we should stay home in the evening" week. We then celebrated birthay number 8 for Son. Guest of honor at the party: a vulture! and an owl, scorpion, snake and hissing cockroach, all from the university's Nature Reach. I do actually feel like a cool mom, having figured out how to work education into a birthday party... and it was the first one the NR had ever done one, too. There, that's my boast for the day!

We spent many hours this weekend selling boyscout popcorn at the supermarket, outdoors. The boys had many, many opportunities to help folks to their cars and return carts!

And then... there was trick or treating. We had a pega-corn (unicorn with wings) which was son's costume when he was 2, but daughter at 5 can squeeze into it like it's an amazing pair of knickerbockers. She complemented the look with stripy tights. Son wore a skeleton costume, and his bag is also a cloth skeleton with legs and head, so he held it up and told everyone it was his kid brother, a pain in the neck. What hams.

Me, to determinedly trudging daughter, on the walk home: Shall we slow down? We're nearly home.
Daughter. Nope. I have GOT to get to bed!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Shakespeare in Love

So Midsummer Night's Dream was gorgeous, in every respect. My two carried themselves beautifully, bien sur! Daughter and her BFF, another 5 year old, wooed and won the audience easily. Son was on stage a bit more as the changeling boy, and also did well. We (I, and mom of daughter's BFF) spent the first three of the four productions (and all rehearsals) in the green room, getting the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern view of the production. It was lovely to be out front and actually see it all from the flip side. It was great spectacle.

And now, we have bona fide theater brats. This minute, they are creating a three-ringed circus, in PJs. Daughter is tech designer and props manager. She has taped elaborate cutouts from construction paper to the legs of chairs tipped upside down. Son has balloons, and a stick. He is trying to kick balloons from a handstand position. He says all he needs now is a hula hoop, and fire, and he'll have a ring of flame... I think they are applause junkies, but have locked away all sources of fire.

And a thank you to wonderful teachers: Mrs G, the kindergarten teacher of our two five year olds (and both their older brothers) who came on Friday night and stayed to adore them for ages after the show, which is why we adore her too; Mrs S and Mrs T, the second- and fourth- grade teachers of both brothers, who also came and were generous with their time. The kids felt so proud to have their own comp tickets to bestow, and felt even prouder when their teachers came. Thank you so much for giving so much!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Break a leg!

There is much glitter in our household as both children are cast (I use that term loosely, since hubby is the director) in the main stage production of Midsummer Night's Dream. They are: Changeling boy and Spring fairy. They have: big hair, much hairspray and glitter, much body paint, and amazing costumes. They are: excited (they did the high school production this morning, but it's opening night tonight...) and exhausted. Their hair is still up from this morning's production, and they are flitting around in the in-betweenness of shows, bestowing glitter around the house. Despite daughter's horror the first time someone told her "break a leg," they are by now green room regulars, and as bored with makeup and hair routines as the most seasoned actors. Spring fairy did just break Changeling boy's glasses a few minutes ago, and when I asked her "are you injured?" (after checking on son) cried: "no, but I'm huuuuuurt!" in a more "unstrung" than "spring" fairy-like way. A student this afternoon told me I had glitter under my nose. I shrugged. She said it kept catching the light. I thought: I have cool fairy boogers. Wait 'til I tell the kids!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fair Enough!

Son, immediately on entering the house at 3.20pm: "Great, can we eat?"
Me, perplexed: "Why are you so hungry?"
Son, as if it's obvious: "Because I just spent seven hours in an elementary school!"

Ironically, in addition to a school-provided snack, a home-provided lunch, and a PTO-provided carmel apple (at the afternoon reading celebration), I figured it was indeed a fair comment. After all, I had only spent two hours in the same elementary school, and was ... hungry too. And pooped. People who spend all day in elementary schools but who are not themselves elementary school students: Kudos to you! Me, I'd have to keep pockets full of chocolate. But I had my first lovely session with a second grader (not my own) to begin story development with them for their young author stories they will write after the winter break. Forty five minutes flew by, and second grader number one has a map and story notes. Her story is going to be a hit!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Critters of the Month Club

Had a great critique session in Kansas City at Borders, yesterday afternoon. Nice drive, nice coffee, great company. Spending two hours critiquing children's writing with folks who are as enthused and focused is wonderful. Thanks, guys.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Euphemistically Speaking

Daughter, in an uncharacteristically genteel moment: "I've gotta go poo... ah... powder my nose."

And on that note, I had fun being interviewed on the radio, yesterday morning. It was all the more fun because it ran right through two of my classes, which at least was planned for. In any case, it was radio mayhem. I spent a lot of time talking piracy (which is not the same as talking like a pirate), and about how Bluebeard wasn't originally--but now sort of is--a pirate. I came home after work and drafted a picture book indulging the piracy side of things. What the heck. Everyone loves pirates! (It's kind of an in joke that the subtitle to my Bluebeard book is "ARG," aka: A Reader's Guide... )

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Return of Air Quotes

Daughter, discovering the power of 3s where air quotes are concerned:
Just because I didn't "STICK" it "ON" with "GLUE"...

My conclusion is that air quotes on a five year old make everything sound more fun. Things I should try:
  • Honey, it's time for "school"!
  • You really need to "straighten up" your room. It looks like a "bomb" went off in there!
  • It's only "broccoli"!
  • When I said "ignore" your brother, I didn't mean "refuse to speak to him all week."
  • It is "pink." Trust me!
  • Yes, that was a "lie."

Hm. It's a "gray area."

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Marriage of Two Minds, Admitting Impediment

I feel a dolt when I've "corrected" Son's 2d grade homework (and usually I think I've gone over it rather well) and it comes back from school the next day with one of his answers wrong, and circled by the teacher. I guess a few get by me. Which gives extra pleasure when one comes home from school unnoticed by either teacher. It doesn't happen often, but today's is great fun.
Q: What is the meaning of "gal"?
A: Wife.
Which is lovely, but when the question is posed by a Math Facts sheet, I suspect Son meant "gallon," instead?

Friday, September 25, 2009

You Can't See Me

Me, to artistic daughter: What a great drawing! What animal is it?
Daughter, gleefully: I'm not telling you until it's all done. How do you spell sheep?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I Like It, Sam-I-Am

The pleasures of writing the sonnet are many, I'm sure, but not least among them is the ties that bind: the rules themselves. There are so many! And the poem so short! How can you possibly write a new one? (Here's how! Ta-da...)

Enter: new discovery. Writing for emerging readers is just like that! And now (I guess) I know how Dr. Seuss felt. Take a list of grade-leveled words, and restrict yourself to it. Now, write a child-friendly, innovative story. The rigor of it is wonderful and bracing. I like an unfettered imagination as much as anybody but, Houdini-like, sonnet-like, (dare I say it:) Dr. Seuss-like, the trick is in taking the ties that bind and making them work for you. I'm hooked.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Didn't See That One Coming

Daughter has instituted Friday Fries-day, but prefers home baked fries so I'm fine with it. Still, did not expect this line at dinner last night (and what if it was true?):
Daughter: "Wow. No, for real. I put the fry in my mouth and then BAM. My destiny changed."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Not the Hans Christian Andersen Kind

Daughter, pointing to my stockinged feet, screams (literally), and then shrieks:
"You're a mermaid!"
Less concerned with having terrified her, I feel magical.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Just Do It (Apologies to Bruce Coville, Who Reminded Us to Avoid Cliche)

If you write kidlit, or are thinking about writing kidlit (just do it), you must join SCBWI. And then find out when your regional chapter is having its annual conference (because lovely as LA and NY are, we can't all get there every year...sigh). And then sign up, and GO. The end.

Because (it's never the end) it was fabulous. Friday night we were all put into genre areas to forge new starter critique groups (or, presumably for those who were already in several, to extol the virtues of same). As I'm already in a picture book crit group, I met with three wonderful people who are all interested in chapter book writing, and we plan to try critiquing via Skype (or other conference software). We met Bruce Coville, writer and incredible public speaker (and I like to think I'm a tough audience...probably untrue), who spent an hour or so talking about "voice." And then we met the two editors who had made it in from NY: Eve Adler and Ruta Rimas. Both were great sports for the duration, and very generous with their energy.

Saturday was an all-day affair: longer presentations from each editor on their houses and on their lists, likes and dislikes. A presentation from agent Ted Malawer, of Upstart Crow (formerly of Firebrand Literary). Door prizes. The conference was well-themed the Wild, Wild, West, and guess what playing card I drew for door prizes? The ACE OF SPADES. I got to answer (guess) the second question, and won a gift card from the conference bookstore... how wonderful is that? After lunch there were breakout sessions, and I spent an hour with Dian Curtis Regan on picture books (and am scoping out her seminar at Texas A&M for next summer), then another hour with the incomparable Bruce Coville on plot and character (really, his performance energy is astonishingly generous), and then an hour in a group critique with Eve Adler. And then, ANOTHER presentation by Bruce, on writing in general (just do it). And networking, networking, networking. Handing out business cards, and making new contacts. A lot of people I recognized from the July workshop, so it's a small-ish community you can meet quite easily.

Oh, and my crit partner told me on Saturday that "she liked my piece." As I wasn't packing, despite the conference theme, she filled me in: a piece I wrote called "The Inside Joke" (advice for picture book writers) was published in In the Wind, the regional SCBWI newsletter. I only just subscribed (oops), so had missed it... much mutual hilarity with Jenn Bailey for same. Kudos to Sue Ford and the fleet of volunteers!

I can't wait for the next one. Oh, and if you volunteer, which I didn't yet, you usually get a reduced conference fee. Come on! What are you waiting for?!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Some Days are Long

I take a deep breath, turn to daughter at the dinner table, and ask: "So, tell me some more about your day" in a perky voice. Son, 7 but going on... older, says with cheerful composure: "Well. You seem to be regaining some patience!" I respond: "good use of 'regain.'" And add, only in my head: "now go to bed."

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

How Fast is Fast?

I recollect once when my father, uncomfortable with inactivity, suggested I sit up while reading. I pointed out (sorry, dad) that I read the same number of words per minute lying down as sitting up. It comes back to me today because I read (thank you, Sunflower Scoop, for sending me a manageable weekly set of links that enable me to sound well read) a New York Times article discussing (negatively) AR.

AR, Accelerated Reading, is endemic to the K-12 experience, in many schools. It is an online "reading management" software that enables kids to log in and take comprehension quizzes on many thousands of books in the system. They can accumulate points, see percentage of comprehension scores over a number of quizzes, and learn how many words were in their book, and keep a running total.

Our elementary school buys in. Son participated in his second semester of first grade and loved it. But we certainly all got caught up in counting. Number of minutes per week (sign the form, return on Fridays; not AR, but all-school reading program). Number of words read in the semester: 300,000. Our school participates across the board for all second graders and up. Your name goes on the wall at 100K words. You get a special party at 200K. There's a special prize for a million word readers. It is pretty exciting stuff.

The article points out that: alas, the system is flawed. Many of the "classics" have low point values while other "popular" books have much higher point values. Even in the space of his first semester doing AR tests, and without his name on the wall, son got canny. He did the reading, alright, but he was driven by word counts rather than by stories. I'm wondering if we should downplay or opt out of AR altogether, since he isn't a reluctant reader.

Perhaps I've become a reluctant counter. I religiously counted the minutes son read all last year, and dutifully recorded them and sent them in on Fridays. The class minutes were posted inside the classroom and son was locked in competition with Jeremiah. I enabled. It was even fun. This year, knowing that son will read in great excess of the minimum number of minutes required for whatever prizes are going, we are simply attesting to that minimum number of minutes per week. It actually feels like cheating, even though we are reporting far fewer than actual minutes read... Hey, I'm competitive too. But I think reading and 'rithmetic should perhaps be kept apart more?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Daughter, Interrupted

So, in my defence, she did not do it all at once, or I'm sure I would have noticed sooner.
Step 1: daughter brings innocent looking dust bunny hair tangle, and says she has no idea how it got in her room, but can she stick it to something? I dutifully got paper and tape. She made a nice illustration, and then taped hair tangle to it.
Step 2: Only realized in hindsight. Daughter sidles up to me in kitchen, and smiles. I give her a hug. She grins and I think: she looks like she's getting away with something...
Step 3-6: Daughter pops in and out as I'm reading in bed (hey, it's a holiday weekend). I guess I don't look up much.
Step 7: I make eye contact and something is... radically different. I sit bolt upright and ask if she has cut her hair. She makes eye contact and says absolutely not.
Step 8: I examine her head. She is missing most of the hair on both sides of her face, round to the ears, and her bangs are non-existent. There is a tuft or two on top of her head, as well. The rest remains long which, by the way, is how she says she wanted it. Despite all evidence to the contrary, and several opportunities to come clean, daughter remains adamant: she did not cut her hair.
Step 9: I grab the phone and force the woman who answers to let us come straight in, even though the salon has already closed. (I know I was just reading in bed. It is a holiday weekend. By the way: No Talking, by Andrew Clements, is a neat book.)
Step 10: Daughter, now sullen and non-communicative, is dragged to the salon. Woman who answers the phone actually cannot cut hair, as we discovered in hindsight. She is the receptionist. She does try, but now we have to go somewhere else today to finish the job.
Step 11-13: Punishments. Daughter loses pocket money to pay for hair cut. The lying is highlighted as the part we disagree with the most. She is upset at loss of playdate with best friend. She is suitably devastated, in fact. I feel many pangs. She slowly recovers.
Step 14: Daughter lies about something unrelated, an hour later. I realize we have a repeat offender.
Step 15: We swing by different hair salon yesterday, since they are open and ours is not. They make her an appointment for today. Daughter is defiant, until son points out the tufts on top of her head. She slumps in a chair, smooths her dress with her bicycle gloves, and says: "I look crazy." I think we're making some progress. I struggle mightily with trying to communicate less about the hair, more about the lying. (And how did she think a trash bin full of her own hair would back her up?!)
Step 16: Daughter claims: I wanted to look like you. Which is either heart breaking or the best lie yet. Or maybe I look like a crazy person too?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

T-Minus Six Days

Very excited about the upcoming annual Kansas chapter conference of the SCBWI. And my new business cards, which are terrific. Thanks are due to my critique group, who have moved the meeting up to the afternoon before the conference begins, to save on driving time. We will have a conference panel discussion on Friday night, and then all day sessions on Saturday. I'm also signed up to do a small group critique with an editor. There's a night in a hotel in between, of course, and it's always something I look forward to as well: not having to wait until the kiddos are down before going to sleep (or watching a movie)!

So this week, in between teaching (cue image: from the film Twister, veering jeep left and right while semi trucks and cows come flying out of the tornado and threaten to take jeep out) I'll be getting ready. It's only Kansas City, but I still must consult Map Quest. There are two conference locations and a hotel to find! I need to make copies of two picture book texts for the two critique sessions and find a nice binder for them! And I simply must polish my business cards (and find a cunning little case for them)! (No, I don't need to count them, but thanks for that.)

And when all that is done, I can ponder where Daughter learned air quotes from.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

In Which the Son Shines

Son: I have cat like reflexes, you know.
Cat [seeing opportunity for tomfoolery, walks up and takes ball from boy.]
Son: Heyyyyy!


Son at dinner takes bite of asparagus and burns mouth.
Daughter: You do it this way.
Son: I know.
Daughter: Shall I demonstrate?
Son: Well sure, it isn't piping hot NOW.
Daughter: You blow on it, like this.
Son: I KNOW.
Daughter: And then you carefully take a bite...
Son: Mom! Make her stop!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Starbucks Reading Rocks!

A rapt audience tonight! You know, I think one of the things I like best about our monthly Starbucks readings (in addition to the wonderful kids who turn out and respond to our stories, of course) is sitting all comfy on the floor on Suzie's lovely soft quilts. Several kids come in and just lie down. Isn't that the perfect way to listen to a story? There are various ways to shut out a noisy world, espresso machines notwithstanding, and going down below table level is incredibly effective. The adult chatter passes overhead, and we feel like we're getting away with something!

Do check out the lovely illustrations posted in the Kids' Gallery on my site: . And thanks to all in attendance!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Back to School Jitters

Mine, that is! The kids are off to a great start, and their parents are adjusting to the changes. Son refuses to eat cafeteria food, which is a good thing I guess. He gets longer to eat his lunch by having one from home, and he likes to sit with his friends who also bring lunches from home. I tried to tamper with it once last week, and won't again. Daughter, on the other hand, is in love with the novelty of lunch on a tray. Is it possible to slide his stockpiled lunch account over to her name I wonder? It's not like it'll earn interest until high school, or anything!

Now it's time for us to start. The papers are full of students moving into dorms, and there's a hopeful chill in the air. The aquatic center was unpeopled, and the water frigid. (We only went to support their new policy of extended opening, weekends thru Labor weekend. Even we thought we were crazy to be in the water...) Time to dig in. This week's extra carricular activities are a case in point. Monday: evening parent meeting for new Girl scout troop we're starting at school; Tuesday: READING AT STARBUCKS (more about this, below); Wednesday: first after school meeting of the Daisy scouts, followed by back to school event hosted by the union, followed by fishing recruitment in the evening for Boy scouts; Thursday: returnee event for study abroad participants and their advisors, followed by choir rehearsal; Friday, makeup hair appointment for the one I messed up the time on yesterday. I'd better get to liking being busier again!

Reading on Tuesday at the local Starbucks (the one and only!). 5-6pm picture books; 6-7pm chapter books; 7pm+ is open mic for elementary ages. Free kid's drink and cookie to all kids in attendance. Come on out folks! I will read a picture book text or two, and then a chapter or two from a chapter book in the second hour.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The New Moon with the Old One in Her Arms

New school year; one returning student one new; one new lunchbox one returning; two new backpacks; one new teacher one old teacher revisited; new (newly built) classrooms; new principal; new (to us) superintendent. New all-day kindergarten in the district (hence the new construction.) New rules about pickup (don't enter the school). New furor among parents (we want to enter the school; and there's no canopy over the doors you want us to wait outside, which is only fine when it isn't raining or snowing).

When I asked daughter last night what she was most looking forward to in her second ever day of school, she said: squishing bugs. She took care of two cockroaches in the brand new hallway outside her classroom before 8am, so I'm afraid it's going to be all downhill from there for her today!

The new policy against parents coming into the school to collect kids seems misguided. First, the sign out front says parents are welcome. Second, by putting the parents and guardians of 400 kids together on the sidewalk, you have an organized mob. We should actually hold PTO meetings, ten minutes at a time, right there. Third, it is not safer to send my 2d grader out with instructions to "come back if he doesn't find a parent." That's just... wrong. How do other schools do it?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

It's What Hillbillies Play

Daughter, singing: "Strumming on the Old Man Joe."
Me: "Uhh, that's Banjo. B, b, banjo."
Daughter: "What the heck's a banjo?"

Thursday, August 6, 2009

To Be Continued...

I've never written a sequel before, and am now deep into book 2 of a proposed chapter book series. It's interesting, trying to balance the old conflicts and background already established with the new material, and to make the book stand alone. The art of the deft "filling in" so the reader does not have to be aware that they missed anything if they are reading books out of sequence, but still have the sense that the characters have a history.

I was disappointed then reading the second book in Hilari Bell's Knight and Rogue series. The first, The Last Knight, was a terrific YA (young adult) read. It had direction and dimension in spades. The second seems to pick up as a true sequel, with a lot of unfinished business from the first book. That didn't bother me with the Percy Jackson series, so much.

No doubt there's a difference between true sequels, like Bell's, or Rowling's, and a series in which the books can more easily be read out of order? I think of our public library and their back wall of elementary chapter books. Some serieses have 19 books in them, so far. Some (Magic Treehouse) have passed 40. If they were written to be read in order... it wouldn't happen!

What are your thoughts on sequels?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Tallying the Score

OK, so I left my "yay" news up for nearly a week, and it's time to post anew. Summer is grinding on... yes, we've reached that stage. The cicadas are crushingly constant, the children are avoiding the backyard because it has been so wet the mosquitoes are ignoring mid-day curfews and playing all day long. School begins late next week for the munchkins, and even they in their heart of hearts would have to admit that they are hugely relieved.

I am beginning to number the things left undone. That they have been left undone for a variety of pretty productive reasons doesn't much help:
  • Son did not learn to ride a two-wheeler (training wheels came off in April, but parents too lacksadaisical to get him riding some place with grass; only hope now is impending grandparent visit...).
  • Son did not learn to tie shoelaces.
  • Shed got scraped, but no paint was applied (please do not cross reference earlier post--I do remember it).
  • Porch on mother-in-law's house did not even get to the scraping stage.
  • Book did not get reviewed, but since publisher is resending it due to its patent non-arrival, I'm not taking the hit for that one.
  • Daughter got read to, a lot, but did not practice her own reading.

To balance it out (since the voice in my head is arguing already), the following did get accomplished:
  • Hubby's game room built and furnished (if not exactly paid for).
  • Lots of pyjama days.
  • Swim classes, two sessions' worth. Lots of family swims in addition.
  • Cub scout camp (please do cross reference earlier posts, full of dwama).
  • Many meetings to establish a Daisy scout troop, beginning later this month.
  • Writing, writing, writing, writing. Editing, critiquing, networking, blog reading, blog posting, website maintenance. Rope learning in general. More writing.
  • A raised garden with actual edible veggies in it. Real ones!
  • A big event coordinated, with 59 kids and 30 adults. Even some whiny ones. Full of dwama.
  • A giant BBQ, early in the summer, from the "one fell swoop" school of entertainment thought.
  • The public library summer reading program for kids, plus party. Lots of trips to the PPL, and tracking books at home. Fifteen more things at a time we must. not. lose.
  • A Complete and Utter Tenth Anniversary Reorganization of Several Rooms and Their Major Pieces of Furniture. Down to the original dust.
  • Six or seven cub scout events so the den could stay in touch. Snacks at each.
  • My book! Arrived! Looking gorgeous and ready to promote! Champagne for the adults, sparkling apple for the kids.

I'm sure if I thought harder the first list could be much, much longer. But that would be work. So in the balance, if you ask me I'll snap that of course I'm not ready for (my) school to go back. I'm not a masochist. And I'm not looking forward to having to fight for writing time. But in my heart of hearts, I'm relieved.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Double Prizes!

I arrived home yesterday to a box in the middle of the kitchen floor (?!) and found: Books! Mine!! Books wot I wrote! Bluebeard... at last.

And today, was awarded Notable Story Pick of the Week on the Writer's Digest flash-fiction prompt competition!! My first creative writing "award" for a prompt called "Photogenic Stranger." If you're interested, see the link here:,category,NotableStoryPicks.aspx .

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Of Editing and Banter

Spent the day yesterday at a "Writers at Work" day sponsored by the Kansas SCBWI, with guest speaker: writer Lorri Cardwell-Casey. It was really interesting to get the perspective of a veteran, and the anecdotes were fun. I think I enjoyed most the opportunity to think about writing for an entire day, without being able to do any... and to meet up with two of my Kansas City critique partners for lunch, as they were also attending the event.

And since I am rather new to navigating myself around the big 'burbs, I was not thrilled at the games MapQuest chose to play (it was NOT on the left, MapQuest, but on the right). But since the event was a Saturday morning, the roads were as near to empty as possible, and so without time pressures it was the perfect opportunity to drive around in loops and get a feel for what's up there.

Returned, to have this conversation:

Daughter: Is this dinner?
Me: Yes.
Daughter: What does "dinner" mean?
Me: It's the meal we eat in the evening.
Daughter: What does "meal" mean?
Me: Food.
Son (deciding this sounds fun): What's food?
Me (undaunted): Nutrition.
Son: What's nutrition?
Me: A biological necessity.
Son: What's a biological necessity?
Me: Something your body absolutely needs in order to function.
Son: What does your body absolutely need to function?
Me: Chocolate.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Now, Like Jane Austen, I Am An Aunt

Welcome to newest family member, my (first) niece Priya, who was born yesterday in London. Daughter likes the name, but says "I wish she was called Thumbelina." Perhaps that can be silent? Son is happy that he and his first coz share a day (23rd) if not a month. Daughter, used to being the baby, is impressed that she will always be 5 years older than Priya, who is now the youngest. Congrats to bro and sis-in-law!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Shoe Brand Slogan

I did creative writing as an elementary school student. I remember being sent, terrified, to the headmaster's office, only to be told to read my story aloud to him (thanks for the heads up, teach!). I did creative writing in high school, as our English teacher lobbed writing prompts at us for an hour when she just couldn't bear to teach Macbeth another day. I published some "pomes" as a graduate student, all but one of them in college mags. But at some point, I got excruciatingly self conscious, and stopped. At least, that's what I thought had happened. But the other day I pulled out of obscurity a binder full of scraps of writing. All pretty awful, but still. There they were!

Now, academic books are not much in the way of creative writing, true. And the first one reads like you'd expect a dissertation to read. An award winning dissertation, but still. If there was an award for the most polysyllabic diction, it'd be mine. The past five years (plus one for the publisher to actually make the book) have been near daily writing, but I didn't think of it in very creative terms. I did aim for a truly readable, enjoyable as well as informative book, so audience and purpose were firmly in place. But I was chomping at the bit to write fiction. Not academic prose, and not poetry.

And finally, this is the life, just as (sorry, Hallmark moment:) I'd hoped for in high school and earlier. (I do actually have one piece that survived elementary school, and typing that sentence I just remembered my earliest story, about a group of nomadic aborigines in the Australian desert...which is amazing for the similarity in concept to one of my chapter books). And the writing muscles are well pumped, thanks to years of academic writing, and (being an English teacher) professional reading. So there are two things that are different now: 1) I've lost the self consciousness, thanks to 2) having children and rediscovering over the past seven years the fun of children's lit.

Moral of the story: look at how much fun this is, and how great it can be, as well as how much slog, and if you're hemming and hawing about writing, don't put it off until "one day when...".

Now, in case all the hand inscriptions add up to something, what's on daughter's hand in ink today: "crickets" (for the toad, Rufus), and on the other hand: "Thumbelina" (the movie, for daughter to rent).

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Barbie can Sing Because She Doesn't Get Shots

As hubby was deep into a monologue about the relative merits of three different Barbie "princess" movies while making breakfast on Thursday morning, I had an "I heart you" moment. Not so much for the breakfast, although he's the short order cook in our household (toast is the only thing that deviates from cold food that I'm capable of mastering in the morning). But the complete, devoid-of-sarcasm engagement across several bad CGI Disney films that both demonstrated he'd watched them with daughter, and thought about what messages they were sending as well (not as bad as your reflex would like to believe). His conclusion, since I realize you're dying to know, was that "Island Princess" was the weakest thus far, but he hearts Thumbelina.

And a shout out to daughter, who had her second varicella (chicken pox) vaccine yesterday. She survived all four shots at kindergarten roundup, although she was nervous about them. So we followed a similar formula: tell her three days ahead, so she's not ambushed. Friday is the day. She then requested that we write "shot" on her hand, in double dark letters, so I did. (The last thing to be written there a week ago was "sprinkle donuts," make of that what you will.) She mentioned it a few times, as in "I want to skip Friday and have it be Saturday," but otherwise coped. We said she could go morning or afternoon, because we didn't need an appointment. But I was nonetheless a bit ambushed myself when she woke me up yesterday morning, announcing that she wanted to get it over with, so I needed to get up and take her there, and she wanted to wear a dress. So, she had her shot: at 9am. In celebration, with time delay, we watched a Barbie movie (the one that is weakest thus far) and had chinese takeaway, sitting on a picnic mat on the floor, as requested.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Neverland Comes to the Metropolis

My daughter is having ontological crises at bedtime (end of the day... end of childhood fears... yes, she's five). Last night she figured that even though my parents are still living, when she grows up, at some point she 1) won't be able to marry me 2) will miss me, because we won't live together, 3) will eventually bury me, and then miss me more. But, she reasoned, she can recall me from the dead by habitual trips to... chuck e. cheese's. Because, she says: "a kid can [ie. always] be a kid" there. You have to admit, the reasoning is sound!

Starbucks II went well, but was lightly attended due to a competing gig (every child going to free swim, free hotdogs and hamburgers at the aquatic center to mark the end of the baseball/softball league). However, Starbucks III is AUGUST 25 (5pm-6pm for preschoolers; 6pm-7pm for elementary, with an elementary youth open mic from 7pm on): mark your calendars! With more than a month to promote this one, I can't wait to see the results! And remember, Starbucks gives free cookies and kid drinks to all children in attendance. And my daughter loves the strawberry frozen lemonade they had last night.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

If Goneril Had Had a Brother

The kids (son, daughter) were wrestling yesterday when son begins to cry loudly. Daughter exits the room and comes to sit with us. She shrugs. "What happened?" we ask. "We were just wrestling, and then he started to cry and cry," she said. "She STOOD on my HEAD and it HURT!" shouted son. "Aaaand I did that," she said. "By accident."

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Mileage is Deductible

I had wondered at some point while undertaking the two hour drive up to Borders if it would all be worth it. I mean, a two hour drive each way seemed a lot (I know, I don't get out much...). But after the two hour critique session with four other writers, I had no hesitation to commit to doing this once a month. Which is a pretty big deal, since it will involve leaving right after the kids get home from school, meeting at 6pm, and getting home around 10pm at the earliest, on a weeknight, with classes to teach in the morning. Not whining, just putting in context. And still, can't wait for next time!

Starbucks has called again, so have another reading on Tuesday. I'm hoping the blender goes on the blink for the duration, though. I must admit that's the only part I'm dreading: using a pleasant and well projected voice over the blender, full of ice. READING ALOUD LIKE THIS IS, SADLY, BOTH TIRING AND NOT CONDUCIVE TO PICTURE BOOK FUN.

So, in addition to preparing the reading, revising the picture book that was critiqued, and working on the chapter book, I'm now catching up on some middle grade reading. Somehow, I'd missed Number the Stars (in my defence, I did not grow up in the USA, and New Zealand has its own holocaust curriculum) and have now remedied the lack. My neighbor invited me to her fifth grade class in the fall, so I will have to work on a program that fits the age group. I doubt any school would turn a writer away if you offered to speak to a class, but if so, drive to a smaller town and pretend you live there.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Good Reads

I have thoroughly enjoyed Goblin Wood by Hilari Bell (terrific story telling, fully realized characters, lovely style), and rushed off to the public library to secure another couple of hers. I'm looking forward to The Last Knight, as the premise is great and the blurb is enticing, and I already know I can trust her style. If you write, check out her website for "writer's tips."

I also enjoyed The Lost Flower Children by Janet Taylor Lisle as much as I had hoped and can now continue to another of hers on my bedside table, The Great Dimpole Oak. I enjoy the slower pace of the storytelling, and her ability to establish a very moving backstory and characters in which we fully invest in a slim volume.

Good reads, people!

Monday, July 6, 2009


So, thanks to the tireless efforts of the moving force behind the Kansas regional chapter of SCBWI (Soc of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators), I get to go up to Kansas City this week to the inaugural meeting of a new picture book critique group. I'm excited! First, because I haven't been up to KC in ages (that two hour drive...). Second, because the meeting place is a huge Borders bookstore... ! Now, I like our local Hastings, but there are some limitations. Like when I asked if they stock the CWI Market (2009) and they said "oh, here it is online, but we can't order it." And yet amazon can ship it to me? What's the deal? I worked in bookstores. I'm pretty sure books can be ordered. The new one isn't out until fall... (The same guy said there were no books in the store teaching guitar for children, and of course there were.) Anyway, I'm in danger of overdoing it on lattes and Newbery award and honor books... YAY!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

In Praise of Public Library Youth Services

As a lifelong reader/hoarder of books, and former employee of university bookstores, once the kids came along I went out and spent consistently on ... books. We never "needed" to go to the public library. And how on earth to keep track of library books in a house full of books? But, don't despair. At some point I did realize that the library was a great place we simply were never getting to, and turned it around. So, in praise of public library youth services... the wonderful, crazy people who know our kids' names, dress up as teapots and serve Valentine's tea parties every year, who run story times five times a week for little kids, and again for big kids, who run a homework clinic every school day and a reading program with giant party every summer, who photocopy your kid's story and give it a shelf mark so they can check it out, who forgive your fines nearly all the time, and who will happily spend an hour upstairs and down when you mention that your kid might be interested in books about (fill in the blank), but will spend the same hour if it's really just me doing homework for a story. You guys ROCK!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah...

First camp survived! Trials and tribulations. The first irony only took us sixty feet inside the camp perimeter: after spending four hours the previous night (Saturday night, of course) in ER an hour away to get son's 7-days-in-a-row headaches checked out (referred there by nervous PA in our town, given the nervous all-clear), a mere and literal thirty seconds inside the camp gates son gets stung between the eyes by a wasp... = first visit to friendly medic. The cubbies did archery, leatherwork, panning for gold, shooting BB guns, swimming, flag retirement, campfire skits, running around (no running in camp!) after dark with glo-sticks... the works. But also, of the five cub scouts in our group only two were left standing at the end. One had to leave early with a parent who was having surgery; another threw up at 4am and then again all over the mess hall (now I know... oh, never mind); and still another was picked up by the medic for suspected heat exhaustion. I would like to blame my camping inexperience and ignorance of native flora and fauna for my son's own 67 chigger bites (yes, we really did count them). And the tick in the ear removed by the medic with tweezers was actually a scab... although son has no memory of what might have created such a thing deep inside his ear... But, we are both just thrilled with ourselves.

Today, in need of a debriefing for reentry into civilized life, and struggling to remember which day of the week it is. Have grading to do... Sadly, checked amazon and now see that the release date for book is listed as August 1, so champagne will have to wait another month. Ah well, other books to write while waiting!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Yee Ha, Bang Bang, Smokin' Barrels...

That's the verbal part of our cub scout cheer, to be exercised a lot over the next few days at camp. Theme: cowboys and miners. Cubbies are the cowboys, webelos are the miners. The heat index is between 105 and 110 degrees, but I'm assured there's a swimming pool and a well-intentioned friend tells me that camping heat is not experienced like regular heat. (OK, I'm game! Camp food is not regular food, it's true. Camp calories, probably aren't regular calories either. Camp hygiene is definitely not regular hygiene... But does that mean the camp doctor is not a regular doctor, though? Cuz that part has me worried.) Hubby just cooked us a great brunch, like it was the last meal of the condemned or something. Given his distaste for canvas and mosquitoes, I'm sure that's how he feels about sending us off into the wilds of a full cub scout camp, with pirate ship and swimming pool... So, offline for a couple of days!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Happiness is a Writing Project Going Well and a Book Due Out

At the swimming pool last night, daughter asked: "Mom, did I used to have ear confections?" (bleuch!)

Only one more week of summer school, then one week of another obligation in the mornings, but loads of writing time opening up.

Also, my Bluebeard book (UP Mississippi, available on amazon as well) is out soon (August). I need to put some champagne on ice. Six years of work in that one! I read somewhere once the protocol for dedicating books: first one to the parents (done); second to the spouse (now done); third to the kid(s). It will be fitting that my next book, whensoe'er it be published, will be a children's book.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Desdemona Could Have Used Some!

Daughter, with ratty hair, asking yesterday for the "de-strangler"... (that's detangler). Loved it.
We also hit the limits of rational discussion when trying to get her to stop picking up the kitty fifty times a day. Talking... hasn't worked. Time outs... she doesn't care. So yesterday I sat her on my lap and said: Pretend you're a mommy. You have a little girl, who picks up a cat too many times every day. You have to keep the kitty safe, so what can you do? "I don't know," says daughter. You have to come up with a solution, says I, because you're a mommy. "Hmm. Talk to the girl? Tell her not to?" Good idea. Unfortunately, you tried that, and it doesn't work. "I'm out of ideas," she says. Well, as the mommy you can't just give up. You have to find a solution to the problem. "Put her in time out?" Yes, another good idea. But you've tried that too, and it hasn't fixed the problem. "Kill the girl?" she asks. (Argh!) Actually, at some point she forgot it was not hypothetical, because she finally thought deducting pocket money was a terrific solution, and when I said OK, that's what we'll do then, she was horrified.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Because Fatherhood Wasn't Difficult Enough

So the fabulous table for the Game Room (the father's day material gift, as opposed to the gift of time spent in Home Depot ordering drywall etc) arrived yesterday on back of furniture store truck. It was factory damaged, ever so barely, which made it ten percent of its original price (yay!) and is so perfect I literally squealed when I saw it, half lay on it, and wouldn't leave it to go find store personnel. It is large, heavy, square, and bar table height (ie. perfect for playing tabletop games). Also, cherry, and beautiful. And it has a leaf in the middle, which cunningly folds up under the table itself and pins there. Which is how hubby put his back out yesterday. Overwhelmed by the table. He is now walking sideways, and reassuring me that my gift hasn't killed him, yet.

It really is amazing how much time there is without Netflix in my life right now. And since daughter woke me at 4.30am, and I'm done with email and blogs and oatmeal already, I think I'll get writing. Getting back into bed sounded great, but son's in there now as well...

Monday, June 22, 2009

Summer Lovin', Had me a Blast

When Mother's Day has been a tough act to follow (rare, but in this instance it happened), Father's Day has to really blow it out of the water. Cue: Home Depot, 12 month credit, and eight hours (over two days) to outfit the hubby's Game Room in the backyard. At one point, when he suggested jokingly in our four hour purchasing odyssey yesterday that he might have to reconsider the color of the vinyl siding that he'd just spent an hour special ordering, he followed up with: "It'd be all over then, wouldn't it!" "Yep," I said. "Then it'd be my writing room in the back yard..." Mother's Day had better be mediocre next year or 1) I'm hosed and 2) we'll be broke!

Have been feasting on middle grade and YA fiction. Very much enjoying the Fablehaven trilogy. Loved Rick Riordan's last Percy Jackson (The Last Olympian). Just read Meg Rosoff's The Way I Live Now, which was very cool. And have discovered Janet Taylor Lisle (Afternoon of the Elves, have just received two others of hers in the mail). Have The Horn Book, will travel.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Editing, and other circular things

Mini blog day! Without access to x-box, the kids have gone low tech. This morning's game: (sand) toothbrushing timer races. How many times can you run around the house before the sand runs out? Record: 43. Pitter patter of little feet, going through rooms in circles, with desperate encourgagement from sibling: "hurry! it's running out!!" (My fear is broken toes, and trip to Emergency. Otherwise: cool game.)

Editing, editing. (Actually, love it.)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Ps and Qs

This morning my daughter asked me what the word "ow" begins with. I said "o" as in "o-w" rhymes with "how". She seemed confused, and then asked why did we talk about Qs then? As in, "pay attention to his Qs." Wondering if I'd ever used the expression "mind your Ps and Qs with the kids (couldn't think why on earth I would) I realized she meant "cues" -- as in, "mind your brother's cues" -- as in, "ow, ow" means get off him now!!

Reading around on blogs I found a phrase I liked. A writer said she had a certain work "on a rigorous submission schedule." Someone else talked about their "To Query" list. So, I've developed my "to query" list, and plan to apply "rigor" as the standard.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Public Launch!

OK, I know you're all dying to know how the Starbucks gig went! Despite being under a severe thunderstorm watch, it was well attended and considered a great success by all. The manager, Seth, had a great sense of humor and rolled with the punches (= small child puking into chicken nugget box) with flair. He took orders for free kid drinks like the kids were absolute stars, and they loved it. He even conducted a seventh inning stretch session like a champ! (Good job, Seth!) There were comfy blankets down on the floor, and ample paper on tables (see later). Now, having said that: it is tricky to read in a busy coffee house with a full drive through. Seems that in 90 degree weather everyone wants an iced drink, which involves frequent use of a blender, and ice. But the kids did manage to tune all that out, and we all used our "teacher voices" to project over the not-quite-background noise. We had children as young as 1, and as old as 9... quite a spread! The main age range was 4-6.

It is also a tough act to follow Click, Clack, Moo, and Bear Snores On. But I read three rockin' stories, all of which got huge thumbs up from the kids (and parents): thanks, guys! One involved kid participation (Jaiden is Hungry Right Now!), and for one I brought a popular show and tell item. Tiffany, my crit patner, read like a pro (voices and all!), and then the kids illustrated our "picture" books for us. Today's mission is to scan or photograph the pics from my stories and post them here or on the website with a link here, so check back! Bug pictures = Carlotta's Bug Rescue Service, and griffin picture = Dory's Gold. (Illustrators' names on website: . I did learn from the experience too. I was surprised so many kids opted to illustrate the "ant on the pillow" from CBRS. It must have been the relatable moment for the 4-6 year olds!

We plan a post-mortem with Seth this week (what worked about the format and what didn't) and Starbucks plans one of these a month. I've been offered a permanent spot on alternating months, and an on-call spot for the others in case of a cancellation they need covered. A "platform"!!

We'll need to work on hubby, who brought our kids. When the barista asked where he was sitting, he said: "Gameco" (the game shop next door)! He stayed, really. And Tiffany's second daughter stayed home: she had heckled her mother too much while she was practicing!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Hunt and Peck

Back in high school we could choose an elective every now and then, when we hit sixth form (eleventh grade), and one of them was typing. It wasn't a popular option, but my dad recommended it and said he'd pay me to type his dissertation up if I took it. It was the old "cover the keyboard and wing it" approach to teaching ten finger typing, but it worked. And then with a summer of typing dad's dissertation after, the skill took.

All this to say: I have made an exception to the "unplugged June" rule for my seven year old. I have a "teach kids to type" CD that I got from the school book order. It is bright, colorful, and kids have to get their "strength" points by completing exercises and improving on them before they are rewarded by brief "arcade games" (until their strength runs out and they have to go back to the exercises). I could have made an exception to just about any number of educational media, but really want the books and board games month. Still, it occurred to me that when July 4 rolls around and we lift the electronics ban, the typing CD will be in competition with everything else. Even the heavily controlled substance that is the X-box. And frankly, sparkly and colorful or not, it won't compete.

I don't think I can pay him to type up my blog, or anything. At seven, that's child labor. But how to teach ten finger typing so it sticks?

Starbucks tonight... although (you guessed it): we're under a (tornado) watch!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Dark and Stormy Night

The Starbucks gig is Monday, if unaffected by rotating wall clouds. For those of you not in the tornadic corridor: a "watch" means: likely conditions, while a "warning" means: things are going round and round, and hail will dent your car. When I moved to the midwest I had scary tornado dreams, but now after twelve years in situ feel comfortable with the concept. In New Zealand, it was constant earthquake drills. And I found when I went back to visit and the family dog did the "head on one side listening to high pitched vibration of window panes" thing and everyone stopped talking to wait and see how bad it would get, it creeped me out! You can revert to newbie status, apparently!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Incredibles

My son this morning is gripped by the chapter book, now in nine (of 12) chapters (thanks, son!). He says he wants it to go on forever (= "series"!) He asks when it will have a publisher. I said first: an agent, then: a publisher. He then started spinning a version of what agents do which made me (belatedly) realize he was thinking of a Secret Agent. I asked him what special power my agent might have that would work in the field of publishing. He said: "Flexibility." (So true, so true...)

Meanwhile, another published writer friend suggested that it was not a good idea to post unpublished story synopses on my website. I have been worrying, and finally decided to disable the page with descriptions. And what use is a page of just titles? On the one hand, 1) Who do I think I am to have stories I think could be nicked? But 2) My stories rock! Who wouldn't want to take them for their own? But 3) It's kid lit! But 4) Exactly! Cut throat business! (Not really, but you get the idea with four hands.)

Sigh. Cart before the horse. Fabulous cart. I need a horse, people!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Unburied Bodies

OK, so it's a bizarre analogy, but when teaching the poetry of WW1 I mention the number of unburied bodies on the fields of war at any given time. I never really understood the notion of scrapping a story idea (here's the inappropriate analogy) and moving on. After all, I finish things. I'm logical, and tenacious, so why would I ever just ditch a story? I'm starting to get it. I've tried three shots at stories that have either lain down in the nice warm snow to go to sleep, or wandered off the path and been 'jacked by young adult style. The best path to getting it right(er) seems to be to try again. And I mean all new: new character, new voice, new story.

Cue the reason I can be so jaunty and enlightened about this: attempt number four. Now this one is working very well. I read it last night to a savvy friend (she was knitting at the time, hence the performance) and got great feedback. It helps that she likes it, of course, but the revision ideas all made sense and it was so helpful to have a conversation about where it will all go. I couldn't walk away from this one if I tried.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Do Over

OK, Starbucks rescheduled for Monday at 5.30 (come on out, locals!). The storms continue each evening through the weekend, so Monday seems a good bet. Now, if a plague of locusts come through on Monday in otherwise clear skies, I might be prepared to consider that an omen. There's probably a card for that, and if there is my MIL would have it for me. The all-time best present from her was a dinner table kit for Passover, for the kids (allegedly). It was called (really, are you ready?) Ten Plagues in a Box. Plastic bugs, spotty cow masks (!), fake blood (!!) dark glasses with which to simulate blindness (!!!) and a jigsaw puzzle featuring Death of the First Born (!!!!!!!!!!). The best dinner table entertainment. Ever.

Started on a new chapter book yesterday. Couldn't get to sleep last night for mulling it over, so that's a good sign. The last couple I started got bogged down without enough forward momentum, but this one is intriguing and I think I've got the forward motion as well. The kids' swim lessons in the morning are affording me writing/thinking time under a tree at the aquatic center. Teaching in the afternoon is even kind of cool this month. Goal for today: two more chapters. Or one, and some excellent plot points. I have lots more writing time in the summer than when school goes back in the fall. Teaching works that way!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Rain (well, Tornado) on the Parade

So much for the first reading gig (non poetry, anyway)... at the appointed hour, I was huddled in our closet playing Go Fish with the kids as the tornado sirens (creepy, creepy things) sounded for the first and second times in a long evening that saw them go off four times when all was said and done. Still, my closet has carpet. The poor folks at Starbucks were in their safe room (a.k.a the toilet) for too, too long. And my critique partner Tiffany was shut down in Wal-Mart. I've ridden out one tornado in WM and it's both bizarre (shoppers frozen with trolleys, congregating in most un-shopper-like fashion) and relaxing (the towels and bedding all around us...nothing bad can happen when it's so soft ...). Given that we were dodging giant hail and the kids were screaming at the time, I just about wept with gratitude that store personnel had stayed up front to unlock the doors and let us in. But I digress.

Kind of a shame after all the "grass roots publicity" (I thought it was a master stroke to have a flier up at the aquatic center during swim classes and before they even opened for the day) but SB will reschedule and so watch this space! And no, it was not an omen. Nope. Uh uh.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Sublime to Ridiculous

So during the water blasting of the shed I pondered what to do about the "ink" from one editor. It hadn't occurred to me to do more than file it, and blog about it (done, and done). But something I read said send a thank you or some such. And so I went to the website of said publisher and read their current catalogue. I know the book says to do this for everyone, but it's a steep startup learning curve (remember, that's why I know I need an agent!) so bear with me. In any case, their picture books were all quite lyrical and quiet, and I thought: I have one of those! So I sent it as an exclusive submission, to that editor, with a follow up note about how it might suit their lists better.

In the meantime (in between time) getting ready for Starbucks Gig tonight. It's hard to foresee how things will go. Picture books... with no pictures? The preschoolers will be a tough sell! But I'm hoping to engage them with questions as we go, and I think it's really important for them to see that books aren't born in a hardcover from a bookstore or library so much as a story beginning with someone who has an idea, just like they do. I'm also taking as my ace in the hole a bucket of crayons and pad of paper. They can be my illustrators, and I could figure out how to post their pics on my website. Note to self: take camera, and photo waivers.

Finally, and I'm so proud: our "unplugged June" is paying off. My son's last word coming into this month had been: at least June only has 30 days. But this week he asked us to extend it to July 4th because (gasp) he likes to sleep in. Meanwhile, over in the two years younger camp, the humor is all about gas (skip this, faint of heart): Daughter at dinner table: "I'm going to burp." (Farts.) Parents, as if synchronized: "What do you say?" Daughter: "Always expect the unexpected." (Loud guffaws all round.) True story.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

First Gig!

Next week our local Starbucks is beginning a new kidlit night. I supplied them with some "contemporary classic" picture books for read aloud, and suggested some format including kids' open mic. And, of course, will read some picture books of mine. I'm looking forward to it, as is my critique partner. What a great opportunity to practice our "visiting writer" material so we'll be really polished when the big league calls us up, and just enjoy kid lit and literacy in general.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Don't Drive and Write

I finally remembered the story/poem I'd written back in grad school, and set about rewriting it. Frankly, it makes a gorgeous book.

It seems that road trips are conducive to story ideas, particularly when hubbie consents not to listen to audio books or sports radio (thanks!). I'm happy to be back in word processor land though. I find it so much easier to revise while typing. Habit, I guess.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

More Proof That the World Needs PBs About Lice

The phone call that's hard to get and harder to make: informing your immediate friends that you may well have shared your pest with them and theirs. I got a call yesterday from a family friend to be on the lookout when we get home, as our house may have been involved through the generous act of feeding our kitties in our absence.

When I told Grandpa B. he said: "why do you think you people have so much trouble with lice up there?" (as in "Up there, in the mid-continental US"). I spluttered and said they were everywhere equally but generally nice middle-class families didn't like to speak of them. Grandpa B. would also benefit from a picture book on the subject!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Grandma C is PG13

We are treating our kids to their annual trip south to see the hubby's father and stepmother, whom the kids adore. Exoticism abounds. They have macaws indoors and out. When the birds get into a screaming contest there's a parrot in the middle shouting "shut up shut up shut up!" In the same spirit, Grandma C is idolized by our two PBS-reared kiddos for her prime time language and her insistence that she will take them on her boat to south america... and put hairs on their chest. It's like an annual, gorgeous, seafood-laden innoculation against looming tweendom.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Throwing down the gauntlet

OK, so I know I'm wired to see a challenge where perhaps none was intended, but early in the marketplace book a source is quoted as saying that head lice and torture are not for the picture book crowd. Don't worry. I don't plan to prove anyone wrong on the latter count. But head lice? Come on, people. It's endemic to the elementary school experience. It may not be a child's fear, but it certainly is a parent's! And without a pondering "lesson" attached (head lice prefer clean heads, folks! social stigma is for the ignorant!) it could be a great picture book.

So of course I set about writing just such a great picture book last night. It's called: Mrs Redmond Says Lice Won't Hurt You (But Crazy Hat Day Has to Wait). Seriously. It is.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Dramedies, as promised...

OK, so this did happen last week (but the blog did not yet exist at that time...) but I did promise on my NEW website that my blog would divulge self-deprecating stories revealing my haplessness in the publication field. But first, as context: I reminisce.

When on the academic job search, I decided to devote six months to the process in order to make my irrevocable mistakes, learn from them, make progress, and still get a job offer in the scant six months I had before graduating. After which, the Canadian government would put me on a short timer to get hired or leave the country, of course. One of the more memorable gaffs I made was writing to "some little place I'd never heard of, with a Welsh name" at which my supervisor visibly paled, and said "Bryn Mawr?" "Oh!" I replied. "You've heard of it?" Such gaffs were then written up as tidbits solicited for publication in the Academic Job Search Handbook, so who got the last laugh there, huh?

In any case, I go about my first picture book submissions last week with the same gusto, and with much the same result. When sending multiple submissions (yes, I carefully labeled them as such in the cover letters, and I know they're supposed to be evil, but really... six months??) be very careful to have the copy machine "sort" the little beggars. If one takes the top two pages from the pile and seals them into 9x12 envelopes already stamped, and only then realizes that there is nothing put page 2s left in the heap... well, scotch tape has to become involved, and it isn't pretty. Editors: please overlook the small smudge of glue on the very edge, and the little line of tape. The envelopes aren't re-used, I promise. (How tacky would that be?!)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Hello World

Hello, blogosphere! I look forward to this forum for communicating about things kidlit, fairy tale and otherwise, and connecting with others over kidlit in particular.