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.