Friday, November 28, 2008


I am thankful for my faith, family and friends. They have given me love and laughter to last a lifetime. And to think that some people lose these three essential things is heartbreaking. I just finished reading The Outsider: A Journey into my Father's Struggle with Madness by Nathaniel Lachenmeyer and it shows how this can happen. It is beautifully written, and I can only imagine the lumps the author had to swallow as he wrote this book. It is an honest book.

The rest of this author's books are for children and they are just as thoughtfully and beautifully made. His most recent one is The Origami Master. It's an unusual tale of friendship and freedom with gorgeous illustrations by Aki Sogabe.

I am also thankful for good books to stretch my mind.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thanksgiving and Birthdays

I love Thanksgiving. It's my favorite American holiday and not just because the focus is on thanks and giving and food, lots of food. See, my mother's birthday falls near Thanksgiving and I can't help but think about her and what an extraordinary woman she was.
Recently, my uncle emailed me some old pictures (I don't have a scanner) so it's lovely to share this picture of my mom at age 22. Isn't she simply beautiful? I can almost hear her voice, her silvery bell laugh. She's married, keeps house, is a mother of two boys already. My sister and I haven't yet arrived on scene. She died over twenty years ago at the age of 51. I still miss her.
I share stories about her with my children and she will live in their hearts long after I'm gone. I'm writing a few vignettes -- things I remember, things she told me -- and I hope it will paint a fuller picture.

Not only was she a character in real life, but I've borrowed many of her traits for mothers in my stories. Driving Lessons, my young-adult short story contest winner (Children's Writer) a few years ago, captures her voice. I really should find a home for that story ... ah, the writing life. I am thankful to have one. Very much.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Gates of Excellence

A couple of years ago, I read Gates of Excellence by Katherine Paterson. Since I had read many of her books, it was like visiting a good friend. So many things she said in that book have stuck in my head ... but one statement in particular (thank you, Darcy for getting the exact quote) resonates:

I was writing — learning and growing along with the children — until eventually I was writing fiction worthy of publication. It might have happened sooner had I had a room of my own and fewer children, but somehow I doubt it. For as I look back on what I have written, I can see that the very persons who have taken away my time and space are those who have given me something to say.

This is so true for me. My children, my pets, the very responsibilities that I wish I could take a break from are the ones that inspire me to write. My very first magazine pieces that were accepted are actually family stories about quite mundane things, like sorting socks, weeding, mending clothes. And I'm delighted to have these stories beautifully illustrated.

I have put away my novel for the remainder of the year. I've been juggling so many new activities since this summer -- teaching, an insane football practice schedule, the new pup who is now entering her doggie teens (she's 5 mo. old), and church -- that I am not able to focus on the novel at all. I was surprised that I don't feel bereft, rather enriched a hundredfold by all these experiences.

Giving myself permission to stop working on my novel has freed up my mind to work on other things ... and I'm again writing short pieces. Oh, it's wonderful. I've missed this. And thanks go to Kathryn Galbraith for inviting me to speak to her class about magazine writing. It was a fantastic reminder to get busy myself. I tell you, teaching really lets you learn those lessons well.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


I think of writing as a lifelong journey. What I didn't realize when I began writing for children is how profoundly it would change me, and how it would cause me to take another journey. I can't precisely pinpoint the transition, but for the past couple of years, much of the writing I've done hasn't been for publication, but solely for myself. I've been examining my faith or lack thereof. And there are places in my notebook where the ink runs because of the tears -- tears of sadness for the lost years and tears of joy because I am the prodigal daughter ... and I'm returning not just by myself, but bringing my entire family back into the welcoming arms of God. And so, I embark on another journey ... and this time I know I'm not alone. I am blessed.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Go Vote!

Tomorrow will be a busy day. My son is sick but I'll cart him to the polling booth anyway. I was nineteen years old when I was naturalized as a citizen of this great country. And I've been proud to cast my vote every election since that time. So do your duty -- go vote tomorrow -- even if it's with a sick kid in tow!

And later that night, I will fight traffic to give a talk on writing for children's magazines at the University. I feel like a magazine-evangelist. But I truly believe that writing for magazines has much to offer a beginning or seasoned writer. This past year I haven't spent as much time on magazine pieces and I've truly missed it. There's never enough time to work on all the projects but as I slog through my novel revision, I am tempted more and more to set it aside and work on little poems and articles that bubble up to the surface. A confession: last week I did put aside my novel. Sigh. But I know I'll pick it up again.