Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Best Decade Ever

I was looking through some old pictures and came across one of my favorites. My girl (yes, it's a girl in spite of the hack job I've done with her hair) is one year old and my son, three years:

And it makes me think of what an amazing decade it has been. I became a mother. I became a writer. I became a teacher once again. And best of all, I found my way back to God; I became a Catholic, along with my husband and children. I think I'm finally doing what I've been called to do. Hallelujah!


May you all follow God's plan ... it's not always easy to discern but I believe when something gives you great joy, you are meant to do it.


Peace and Joy in the New Year.


A New Year!

I love this time between Christmas and New Year, where I get to take stock of the year gone by, and see how I can improve. I know many folks don't like to make New Year resolutions, but I typically make them twice a year. It seems to be my natural rhythm to assess whether I'm living my life the way I want to and should around the New Year and sometime again in the summer.

Last year I made daily goals.

1. Have one-on-one time with each family member every day.
2. Pray every day.
3. Walk every day.
4. Write every day.
5. Be kind every day.

I'm happy to say that I did well, but I could've challenged myself more. This year I want to stretch and reach higher so in addition to my daily goals, this is what I'd like to see happen:

1. Finish YA WIP (Damaged)
2. Polish shorts and send them out at least once a month.
3. Lose weight.

How about you? What would you like to see happen in your writing/personal life? Care to share?

Have a happy, healthful and joyous New Year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Lips Touch

I am not a big fan of fantasy anymore the way I was in my teens, but even then I read more sci-fi than fantasy. However, LIPS TOUCH is by far the best collection of modern folktale fantasy. Laini Taylor has a most exquisite storyteller voice. From the very beginning, I trust her to trap me in her web of stories. I have spent three late nights reading her book, instead of getting to bed and the characters linger. This is a book I will read again ... and again ... and when my children are old enough, share with them.
She says that she is no scholar (neither am I) but she is true to the essence of the religions she borrows from. I am familiar with them and yet, I could never have dreamt up these tales. They are wholly her own creations, beautifully imagined and written. This book ought to be read aloud because the language is so lyrical. Like a picture book, every word counts in Lips Touch.
The illustrations by Jim di Bartolo are gorgeous. I only wish they were interspersed throughout the book instead of in chunks. They add to the atmosphere of this book.
I am a huge admirer of Laini, for all that she does (arts & crafts, mothering, writing) and with such aplomb. She has a terrific site where she shares her writing process. It's long but well worth the read. Congratulations on being an NBA finalist, Laini! It's very well deserved.
The upshot of reading this amazing book is that many books that I was previously excited to read are falling flat, flat, flat. And it scares me. Will my books ever be good enough?


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Holidays

Christmas vacation officially started a few hours ago as we walked home from school. No homework, no papers, no worries. Just time with family and friends, singing Christmas songs, baking, playing games, watching movies, and celebrating the birth of Christ the Lord.

Matthew 1:18-25

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold,the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 11, 2009


I've always prided myself on my excellent memory. I seem to have a continuous memory since I was about four, when I started school. Before that, I have snatches of memories -- seeing a turtle in the water tank, sitting on my father's lap reciting the two times table, and loving the smell of the cheroot he smoked. I remember my mother bathing me in the backyard, feeding me peeled oranges. Smelling my mother's roses in the front yard, while I waited for my brother and sister to come home from school. So many memories.

Yet, when Julie, a long-ago friend from my Convent school days contacted me, I couldn't remember a thing about her, including her name. Same with Ruchi. Now I have very specific memories of sitting in the tree eating our lunch, running about and such, but I cannot recall their faces. I asked Julie to send me a picture, and she did, but nothing is coming back. I spent a great deal of time talking to these two girls, yet my sharpest memories are of girls that I wasn't even friends with. Julie was very kind, saying that we could start on a fresh note, but I'm disappointed that the two people I spent time with every single day, I cannot remember. How fickle.

I do have very clear memories of our home life and friends in the neighborhood -- the day to day stuff. I'm surprised that as much as I loved going to school, I only have scant memories of the girls I spent the most time with at the Convent. I remember many of the nuns, the school yard, the great big brush-land in the back, climbing trees, putting my hand out for a rap with the ruler, but not my friends, Julie and Ruchi. Deep down, I must remember something because these are two of my favorite names and they have made an appearance in some of my stories.

This makes me realize that I must hurry up and write down some of the stories about my mother. I have already written about half a dozen of them, but I want to have a little book of stories about her for my children, so that after I am long dead, the children will have something tangible about her. Although they know many stories about her, I don't know whether they'll remember after I'm gone.

I'm curious, how many of you write family stories? For yourself or to give as gifts?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Poetry Night

The fifth graders did a marvelous job of reciting poetry from the greats such as Shakespeare, Frost and Williams tonight. They also shared their original poems. I was so impressed with the quality and delivery of the poems.

Here is my son's poem titled: BELIEF

What is belief on Earth?
Singing, shouting, never ending
Worship, quiet, new birth
Faith forming, always sending.

Singing, shouting, never ending
Love and credo, everlasting
Faith forming, always sending
Trusting, confidence, praying.

Love and credo, everlasting
Worship, quiet, new birth
Trusting, confidence, praying
What is belief on Earth?


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Write Stuff

It's good to reach a goal and Molly's Golden Coffee Cup was exactly what I needed this month. Heck, I'll be going back to my favorites when I need a boost of inspiration.

I did finish the first third of my book and I can't wait to read my instructor's editorial letter. I know she will help me to re-vision my story so that I will dig deeper and better. I've been working slowly on the next chapter. And it's good to share pages with my friend Jen Heger.

This is going to be a busy month but I will take a few moments each day to write and pray. These ground me like nothing else.

Some good books and movies that I'd like to recommend, considering that you might be doing some Christmas shopping:

Because all my books are little movies playing in my head, I've decided to study movie structure so that I can use it to improve my novels. Save the Cat! is a wonderful little book that is concise and useful. Plus, it's got a killer title. And the writing style? Well, you have to read it for yourself. This guy is good. Very shortly after I bought this book, I read that he died. My heart goes out to his family. He has a sequel called: Save the Cat Goes to the Movies in which he analyzes many different types of movies. I think this is very, very useful. I've done this with many short stories and a couple of novels and it's a great way to learn structure.

I'm reading Days of Little Texas by R. A. Nelson and enjoying it tremendously. It's about a boy who has the power to heal. I've always wondered what it would be like to have powers ... but always worried that what if the power came from the devil. How does one know the difference? So this is an interesting read for me. There is a love interest, Lucy, and my gut feeling is that she'll have something to do with the devil. But I won't spoil the book for you.

United 93 is a beautifully made memorial movie about the events of 9-11. It was the one plane that didn't reach its target because the people on board chose to fight the terrorists.


Monday, November 23, 2009


Last night I made a wicked spicy chicken curry, one my mother would've loved. It's her birthday today and I am thankful that even though she had a short life, she lived long enough to teach me the important things. Not that I always listened to her. Far from it. I mean, I was the kid that got a spanking almost every day for something or the other from the time I turned six until I was twelve. Still, as my good friend Jen Heger puts it, I might not remember the words, but I sure do remember the tune. So I've learned to trust in the Lord, be thankful for what I have, and be more generous. I am more like my mother now than I ever thought I'd be, and I'm sure this must please her immensely. It makes me happy.

I am preparing for Thanksgiving, my favorite American holiday, with its focus on thanks and giving. I have a grateful heart. I am blessed beyond my hopes and dreams. Thank you to all who read these words that I put out in cyberspace. Thank you for reading, for commenting, for writing me privately. I hope you shall all have a blessed Thanksgiving with your family.

This is also the time when I turn more inward -- something about preparing for Christ's arrival does that to me and at heart I'm an Easter gal -- so Advent takes on almost the same quality as Lent.

Finally, my Internet connection has been very spotty these past couple of days, so if you're waiting for a reply, hang in there. Perhaps the Universe is telling me to focus on my novel ...

Adios amigos y amigas. If I don't touch base before the New Year, let me wish you all a most blessed Thanksgiving and Christmas.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Rite of Acceptance

This time last year, I, along with my husband and two children, was accepting Christ in my life, not fully aware of what it means to be Catholic, yet putting my trust in Him.

The priest blessed us all with these words: “Receive this sign of the cross on your forehead. It is Christ Himself who strengthens you now with His love. Learn to know and follow Him.”

After that, the priest said the following words as my sponsor made the sign of the cross over my ears, eyes, lips, etc.

Receive the sign of the cross on your ears, that you may hear the voice of the Lord.

Receive the sign of the cross on your eyes, that you may see the glory of God.

Receive the sign of the cross on your lips, that you may respond to the word of God.

Receive the sign of the cross over your heart, that Christ may dwell there by faith.

Receive the sign of the cross on your shoulders, that you may bear the gentle yoke of Christ.

Receive the sign of the cross on your hands, that Christ may be known in the work which you do.

Receive the sign of the cross on your feet, that you may walk in the way of Christ.

I wept. These words and the sensation of having my hands and yes, even my feet blessed, was overwhelming. I was full of fear and love and trust. Fear, because it's not easy to be a Christian. But there's love and trust knowing that God will give me the strength and courage to do whatever He asks me (even if I am reluctant).

Today, I blessed a young woman who is making the same journey. When I knelt down to bless her feet, it was like touching the feet of Jesus. Yes, it was I who was being blessed a hundredfold.

Isaiah 43:1: I have called you by name, you are mine.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Some Good News Finally

One thing I don't like about writing novels is that they consume me too much to work on shorter projects. So, although I do get ideas out of my head by putting them on paper, I don't polish them up for submission.

However, a few months ago, I submitted a piece to Bylines Calendar because I really, really wanted to have a writing calendar filled with stories and anecdotes about writing life. And I just found out that my piece was accepted! Can you guess what it's about from this picture?

Taking naps. Now you know what a lazy bum I truly am.
I should polish more of those short things to send out. I confess that this year I have not made my submission quota of one-a-month. Too much napping?

But ... the novel is taking shape and I am done with the revisions on the first third of my book. It is out in today's mail. So I am happy. I've been moving forward as well, so I have half of the next chapter already done. I hope to get the rest of it done by today.

Tomorrow night, I will go to the University of Washington to speak about magazine writing. I was looking through all my notes and I should practice what I preach.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Heart of a Shepherd

Rosanne Parry's debut novel, Heart of a Shepherd, is luminous. I mentioned it in my last post, but I want you to take a good hard look at that cover. There is space for a gold or silver sticker!
Aside from the fact, that this story is about 12-year-old Brother (his Christian name is Ignatius) is left on the ranch with his grandparents while his father is deployed to Iraq and his older brothers are at school or in military training, it is a story about discovering what you are called to do, and then answering the call.
This is one of rare books in which there was no villain. Each character burrowed into my heart. Every scene rang true -- playing chess, playing war at school, praying at the church, ranch life. I especially loved reading about how a small community comes together to build each other up in a time of crisis. And for a short while, I was part of this community as well.
I have a feeling I'll be reading this book again.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Firsts, Free Verse and Veteran's Day

Donna was having a free verse poetry contest (and no, I didn't win, but do go read the winning entry. It's wonderful.) and I entered three poems, all on firsts. Thought I'd share here. All true stories.

First Lie [or My Father's Thesis]

Paper airplanes
Go sailing in the sky.
Paper boats
Go floating in the sand.
A door opens.
Oh, no.
Daddy’s home.
Quick! Tell a lie.
“I saw my brother making those.”
Punishment for him
But I saved my skin.


First Jobs

Pulling weeds
Shoveling snow
Telling fortunes
I don’t mind one bit.
With sound of money
Jingling in my pocket.


First Pet

A tiny green grasshopper
with a string on one leg.
We don’t walk;
We hop down the street.


Poems are what I write when I transition from nonfiction to fiction. Something about word-play frees me to be more imaginative. However, as I find myself writing mostly nonfiction poems, either little snippets of memory or facts I find fascinating. Many of these poems have been published, become seeds for short stories or even longer works.

Here is one that is even on King County buses. Check out the placard here:

So give poetry a whirl. You don't know where it might lead you. And it's fun and freeing.

A couple of novels in free verse that I have enjoyed:

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies by Sonya Sones

And in honor of Veteran's Day, let me recommend these books I loved that show what honor and love and sacrifice is all about:

Heart of a Shepherd by Rosanne Parry (for MG+)
Bull Rider by Suzanne Morgan Williams (for YA)


Monday, November 9, 2009

Charles and Emma -- A Love Story

I'm just finishing up CHARLES AND EMMA: THE DARWINS' LEAP OF FAITH and I will be sorry to leave the Darwins. This is a love story, written with great love by Deborah Heiligman. It begins with Charles Darwin making a list whether he should marry or not marry! The entire book makes use of diaries and letters and Heiligman's narrative is seamless. It's a book that combines science, religion and love. And it's an NBA finalist! No, that's not basketball ... but the National Book Award.

In her author's note, Deborah says the book is a love letter to her husband, Jonathan Weiner, who started this whole thing. I do love a good love story.

I feel the writing world is small. I'd read Weiner's book, His Brother's Keeper, a while back but never bothered to find out anything more about the author. Had I bothered, I'd have discovered Deborah's books even earlier. Such fun to make even these small discoveries.

I'm very pleased with how my writing/revising is going right now. I've chopped off all the parts related to a minor but crucial character. The manuscript is rather choppy now and I have to smooth out my transitions, but already I see it's going to be better. Sometimes less is more. The reader doesn't need to know everything just yet.

Happy Writing.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dog Gone

Look what the old cat dragged in!

Don't they make a great pair?

Dog Gone is Cynthia's debut novel. In the corner, you can see the postcard for her latest book, Buck Fever, and it is to celebrate its release that I entered her contest.

I was a winner. My name never gets picked out of the hat. So I am doubly pleased. My eight-year-old daughter grabbed it, but she has to wait until she finishes her homework. Sigh. If she just buckles down and works for 30 minutes, she'll be done. I have the incentive. She's actually pondering her homework across my desk as I type this.

I read the ending to make sure the dog doesn't die. After reading Where the Red Fern Grows, my kids refuse to read any dead dog books. So if you have a kid with the same sensibilities, fear not. Dog Gone has a sweet ending.

Thank you, Cynthia.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pumpkins and Beatitudes

It's been a lovely weekend. And I especially like the service for All Saints/Souls at church. My mother and brother are never far from my heart, but today I remember all the others whom I've known and loved. I imagine them all together. Joyful. In the company of all the Saints.
We had a young seminarian who delivered a most rousing homily based on the readings for today. I cannot even begin to summarize it, but I'll give it a shot ...
We are called children of God. Called for a purpose. Because our destiny is heaven.
The Gospel reading were the Beatitudes (Blessed): Matthew 5: 3-12:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the earth.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are they who suffer persecution for justice sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus turns everything upside down. I never, ever understood the first one until now. I don't want to be poor in spirit. But what it means is to be less of yourself so you can be more like Christ. Less ego. In the end it comes down to "Not mine but Thy will be done." Again and again I have to learn this. Every. Single. Day. I confess it's not easy to follow Jesus, but I shall die trying.
Which of these beatitudes are the most difficult for you to understand? Or live by?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Candy Experiments

What to do with all that candy besides eat it?

Loralee Leavitt will guide you through candy experiments!


Friday, October 30, 2009

November Madness

As if Halloween madness isn't enough, thousands of writers participate in National Novel Writing Month. I'm a slow writer. I revise as I go. The thought of writing 50,000 words in a month is paralyzing to me. What if I go in a wrong direction? What if I have to scrap everything? No matter that I scrap plenty even with revisions along the way.

One day I will have to try it using the tips I've gotten from Laini Taylor and Maggie Stiefvater. But until then, hats off to those who accomplish this feat.

My friend, Molly Blaisdell, has an alternative to Nano. It's the Golden Coffee Cup Award. You set your own goals and try to meet them. Molly gives you inspiration to keep you going. Go check it out.

I am shooting for revising the first third of my current novel and sending it out to my fabulous teacher Nancy Butts for a review. That's it.

Halloween Madness

It's begun already ... the madness. Tomorrow, the kids will come home from school all sugared up and it won't end ... until we eat it all up.

I don't even like candy but since the kids started trick-or-treating, I have discovered that I have favorites, like Almond Joy and Kit-Kat. I still prefer Cadbury chocolate bars though. When we lived in Belgium, I had a smooth and creamy Belgian chocolate every single day (and I lived there for two years). Ooooh, how I wish someone would give me that quality of chocolate.

I didn't grow up with this holiday. Instead, we celebrated All Saints/Souls Day on Nov. 1st -- a day to remember all our beloved dead.

But the kids are growing up here and enjoying this sweet tradition. They love dressing up and collecting candy. Oh, but it's madness. Truly.

I do like carved pumpkins -- this is one my husband's. Mine are too pathetic to post. I always make a cat with a tail.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Oregon Coast Children's Book Writers Workshop

My own pictures of the Oregon coast are not digitized because they're from way back before I ever had a digital camera and we're so pathetic we don't even have one of those cool scanners, copiers, printers and babysitters thingamajiggers all rolled into the one. So you'll have to go to the official OCCBWW site to see pictures that David Greenberg has.

Go now.

And come back here.


Did you click through some of the pages?

Under Tips and Suggestions David has more pictures. And under Instructors: Session II, you'll see moi!

Yup, I'm going to talk about magazine writing and nonfiction, both which I love to write, and that has paid for the endless reams of paper I go through for my novels and much more. I will be sharing what I know about getting started and published in these venues.

I'm very, very excited to be at OCCBWW. It is a gorgeous place and David runs an excellent conference. Just read the testimonials. I suspect it's a lot like the Highlights conference in Chautauqua but on a smaller scale. Of course, you can't beat the location. The Oregon coast is simply the most unspoiled piece of nature ever. It's intimate. There's time for learning in a group and one-one-one and quiet time to ponder and write.

Years ago, I had wanted to go to OCCBWW, but my kiddos were too young (and it seemed I was either pregnant or nursing or both) and by the time they were old enough, I somehow managed to get scholarships to two workshops on the East Coast. Of course, that's where I chose to go. So I'm thrilled to be coming to OCCBWW as a faculty member.

Register soon. I hear that spots get filled up fast. This is why David is offering two sessions.

I hope to see you there next summer. Happy writing.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Buck Fever

I'm such a doofus. I've been seeing Cythnia's cover of Dog Gone on the Blueboard for some time, only it's been replaced by Buck Fever. And I was scratching my head over it. Duh! It's her new book. Isn't it gorgeous?

Go check it out here or here or here! She's having a drawing for both her books.

Fishing is the only thing that I can do that's close to hunting. My husband hasn't hunted since he was about twelve, when a failed shot didn't kill the rabbit, but just hurt it.
Congratulations, Cynthia! We can't wait to read it.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Pencil Commandments

The Pencil Maker took the pencil aside, just before putting him into the box.

"There are 5 things you need to know," he told the pencil, "before I send you out into the world. Always remember them and never forget, and you will become the best pencil you can be."

"One: You will be able to do many great things, but only if you allow yourself to be held in someone’s hand."

"Two: You will experience a painful sharpening from time to time, but you'll need it to become a better pencil."

"Three: You will be able to correct any mistakes you might make."

"Four: The most important part of you will always be what's inside."

"And Five: On every surface you are used on, you must leave your mark. No matter what the condition, you must continue to write."

The pencil understood and promised to remember, and went into the box with purpose in its heart.

Now replacing the place of the pencil with you. Always remember them and never forget, and you will become the best person you can be.

One: You will be able to do many great things, but only if you allow yourself to be held in God's hand. And allow other human beings to access you for the many gifts you possess.

Two: You will experience a painful sharpening from time to time, by going through various problems in life, but you'll need it to become a stronger person.

Three: You will be able to correct any mistakes you might make.

Four: The most important part of you will always be what's on the inside.

And Five: On every surface you walk through, you must leave your mark. No matter what the situation, you must continue to do your duties.

Allow this parable on the pencil to encourage you to know that you are a special person and only you can fulfill the purpose to which you were born to accomplish.

My uncle, Rev. Dinanath Pathak, sent me this story. We do not know who the author of this piece is, but if you know, please let me know so that I can make a proper attribution.

God Bless you.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Daily Fixes

I stumbled across Daily Squee!

So if you like getting a daily dose of cute, check it out. Babies are just too cute. Of course, I have several critters at home that make me say Awww every single day.

Here's one of the pup from last year -- just 2 months old. She'd run around and play and plop down for a quick nap wherever she was. I remember how my kittens did that too. Tooooo cute!


Thursday, October 15, 2009


Today is Infant and Pregnancy Loss Remembrance Day. I've known several women who've lost a baby in the womb or a newborn and I cannot even imagine the heartbreak, the devastation.

Sadly, I've known more women who've had abortions, and I know they also grieve. Privately. Let us not forget to make our world welcoming to all babies, wanted and unwanted. Let us light a candle for all our little angels.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Reading and Writing

I just finished Rebecca Stead's WHEN YOU REACH ME. Wow! Just Wow! I loved the narrator's voice and I wasn't quite sure what the mystery was in the beginning, but the time travel aspect snuck up me and then I was completely hooked. I don't want to say anything more about some of the things I've been thinking of because they might spoil the book for you, but my son will read it next and I can't wait to talk to him about it. I love that we can sit and talk about books. It is such a gift.

We had both loved Nancy Etchemendy's THE POWER OF UN. And I suspect we will have similar discussions about the nature of time and what it means to be able to travel back and undo something.

Today in church I wept because the priest gave a homily that I felt was directed straight to my heart. I've been asking a particularly vexing question that involves giving up my writing (not now, but in a couple of years) so that I can teach more to fund a Catholic education for our kids and the answer came loud and clear as a bell. I am meant to write.

I cried because writing is so right. Because when God is with me, how can I fail? I can't believe that a second time in my life, when I am called to do something, that I let my misguided perceptions sway me. If I'd been closer to the Lord in my 20s, I'd have trusted Him and become a physician. I'd have borrowed the money to go to school. I wouldn't have been afraid. So I will not make the same mistake again. I pray that God will guide my hand as I write.

You can see why time travel books appeal to me, no? But in the end, I'm here today because of all the good and bad decisions I've made. And I'm happy to be here.



Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Isn't this cover gorgeous? I thoroughly enjoyed reading Three Witches by Paula Jolin. She had told me about the premise a couple of years ago -- three girls conspire to bring a dead boy back to life -- and I've been waiting to read it ever since.
The three girls are very different. Aliya is Syrian Muslim and the dead boy's girlfriend. Gillian is Trini and doing a business with him and Miya is Japanese, who said many harsh words to him the night he died. The book opens with Aliya and I must admit she was my favorite character because I could literally step into her shoes. But all three girls resonated with my teenage self who did dabble in the occult with extremely disappointing results. Oh, how I wished for power and control over my life. I think Paula captures that essence so well, because every teen has these feelings, even those not interested in witchcraft.
As always though, it's the characters who drew me in. These were smart, sassy girls and even if I didn't agree with them, I wanted to know what they were up to. I wish the boy were as compelling as the girls. In fact, the more I got to know Trevor (the boy who died) the less worthy he seemed. But I chalk it up to teens lacking good judgment. The plotting is excellent and the three viewpoints of the girls make the book richer. The ending is deliciously ambiguous, but oh, the possibilities! I think teen girls will swoon with the idea of harnessing all this power -- to make a boy fall in love with you, or finally shut up someone who's been tormenting you. But as an adult, I wondered about the consequences of such power.
On the opposite spectrum of power, I read Rosie and Skate by Beth Ann Bauman, which is about two sisters and how they cope with their alcholic father who ends up in jail. What struck me is how realistic this book was. These girls have no power to stop their father from drinking, save their love, but even that's not enough. And deprived of a father's love, they go looking for love in the arms of boys.
The writing is flowing nicely with a single viewpoint. At times, I'm shocked at how real these story-people are to me. I'm interested in all the details of their lives. For the first time, I'm writing way more than I usually do in a first draft. Typically, I'm a bare bones type of first drafter because I'm telling myself the story and being impatient, I rush through things. But now I spend time on inconsequential details. I will be doing some serious hacking in my second draft. But for now, I'm enjoying watching the movie play in my head and transcribing it.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Poetry from a Pup

This weekend, while I was slicing up the roasted lamb, the pup waited very patiently for her share, and with good reason. My daughter, 8, wrote this from the point of view of the pup.

The knife slices through the juicy meat,
the dark red liquid oozing




until it reaches my quivering black nose.

I lap it up


and lie in wait

for my next treat.


Friday, September 25, 2009

C. S. Lewis

What a gem this book is: C.S. Lewis's CASE FOR CHRIST: Insights from Reason, Imagination and Faith. The many things I struggled about religion since I was twelve years old are the same that C.S. Lewis struggled with. How I wish I could've met the man. He used his literary background and reason to accept Jesus and grow in his faith.
Art Lindsley has compiled the essence of many of Lewis' arguments in perfectly digestible bits. Questions like these are answered:
1. How can I believe in God when there is so much evil, pain and suffering in the world?
2. Isn't Christianity one myth among many?
3. Isn't belief in God just a crutch for needy people?
And so many more.
I especially loved the last chapter which answered the question: Isn't Jesus just another good, moral teacher? If you read the Bible you know that Jesus claimed to be one with God, be God. He called himself the bread of life, the true vine, the light of the world. If an ordinary person would say that, and got people to believe it, he'd be the world's biggest trickster. If Jesus believed it but it were untrue, he'd be crazy. But what if it were true? Then He is who He claims to be. He is the Lord.
You decide.
I'm looking forward to reading MERE CHRISTIANITY by Lewis next.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Cooking and Writing

After a very hectic week and weekend, what with the garden bursting with good stuff, and my students even more productive than me, and the usual sports and church activities, I finally have a chance to breathe and write. My freezer is filling up with zucchini bread, vegetable stews, and salsa.

Alas, my novel is losing weight. I realized during all the cooking (I don't know what the correlation is) that the book would be better told through a single viewpoint instead of the alternating viewpoints I have been using. I'm throwing out almost everything but the first chapter and starting over. So goes novel writing -- many false starts, but when I do hit upon the right one, I know it's right.

The moral of this story? It's good to have lots of food in the freezer. But in a story, more is not always better.

Happy writing, all.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Hiding Place

I love books like these that uplift my soul and remind me that "there is no pit so deep that God's love is not deeper still." The Hiding Place is full of practical examples showing how to live when times are tough and you feel that evil is winning and so much more.

Corrie ten Boom was a middle-aged woman who lived with her sister Betsie and father above their watch shop in Haarlem, Holland, when Nazi Germany invaded. They opened their doors to Jews, managing to find homes for some, and keeping others hidden in a secret room in Corrie's own bedroom.

I love this quote from her father when a man feels that Corrie and her family shouldn't be putting themselves at risk with "all this illegal concealment and underground business." Corrie's father holds a baby close and says, "You say we could lose our lives for this child. I would consider that the greatest honor that could come to my family."

Corrie and her entire family were sent to concentration camps. Corrie survived with the help of her sister Betsie, who always reminded her to fix her eyes on Jesus. They managed to smuggle a small Bible and found themselves transformed in a place they thought God had forgotten. There were so many excerpts I read out loud to my family from this book. It is a must read.

I almost put this book down because the first part of the book is about their life before the invasion and there isn't much conflict. The ten Boom family was a happy one. It reminded me of Tolstoy who said, "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." It's not that I don't like reading about happy families, because I do, but there just isn't enough tension to keep turning the pages. But Bam! we have invasion and suddenly the tension ramps up and it just doesn't stop. There is no room to breathe. The stakes keep getting higher and higher and higher. I knew how this story ended, yet I couldn't put down this book.

I hope you will pick up this book to read. There is also a movie, if you prefer. Haven't seen it yet.


Monday, September 14, 2009

A Budding Teacher

Every morning, I tidy up a little bit before sitting down with a cup of tea. Here's a piece of scrap paper that I have to share with you all. I don't have a scanner, so I will type this up, creative spelling and all. Looks like my eight-year-old daughter is absorbing the art of writing editorial letters:


My name is Daughter. It is a plesure to be teaching you this year. I look foraward to sucsess. Your desk s will always be where they are right now. You will never be able to see my body, head, shape, or size. Right now please work on page 3 of the papers. It tells you exatly what to doo. And rember, behave! I am watching every move you make. I hope you are looking forawd to the new school year too.


Well, there you go! My budding teacher. She's much tougher than I am.

Oh, I forgot to add that when my kids were little, they'd send rejection letters to each other when they were mad. It's funny what kids pick up when they live with writer-moms.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Slow and Steady

I'm finally getting into a writing groove. I try to write longhand first thing in the morning, that is if the pup isn't nosing the cat and the old cat's not getting into a big snit. Then we get ready for school. The dog gets a good walk. And I love listening to my kids during our walks. It's a great way to start the day.

After I come home, it's time to have a hot cup of tea, reconnect with my husband who's already spent a good couple of hours working, do the wash, clean the kitchen and finally sit down to write. I write two pages a day (about 500 words) and that translates quite nicely to ten pages a week, or roughly a chapter. The rest of the time is devoted to teaching and taking care of my family. I need to add marketing to the schedule. When I was writing more for magazines, I'd devote a couple of hours every week to sending my work out. I might have to institute Marketing Mondays or some such. I've been consciously lazy about that. I take breaks from sending my work out.

I couldn't have a writing career without my husband. He does most of the shopping, cooks just as much as I do, and does most of the driving back and forth to various sports practices the kids have. The whole family helps with the housework and garden and I am thankful for that.

So, how is everyone else adjusting to the new school year? I hope you are all carving out some time to think and write.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Books That Make Me Think

One of my cousins is a so-called "dumpster" baby. She was left to die, but someone found her and my aunt adopted her, giving her a good life. This is fairly common in India, but I wouldn't expect that here, in such a prosperous country. Yet, all too often, I have read the news of a baby found in the dumpster. So I know it happens.
AFTER by Amy Efaw weaves a story around a girl, Devon, who does just that. It explores what happens when the new mother is facing charges of attempted murder. It shows Devon's understanding about what she has done as well. This book has been written with tremendous grace. The ending is magnificent.
The author's note cites a few statistics. One baby is abandoned to a trash can every day in the United States. And the CDC has concluded that "the homicide rate on the first day of life was at least 10 times greater than the rate during any other time of life." There is something disturbing when the CDC makes a statement like this. It implies that life happens when you are born. Not so, folks. Life begins at conception. A new human being is formed and the nine months that the baby is in the womb, he or she is very much alive. Infanticide has been going on throughout history. Even sanctioned in some cultures. But never in the millions. The abortion rate, although falling, is roughly over a million per year in this country. Sanctioned by society. This is the world we live in today. Something to think about.
Choices by Deborah Lynn Jacobs is a fantastic book about multiple universes. Each time you make a choice, the universe splits. I have been fascinated with this idea for a long time and the author weaves a story about two people who both have the ability to shift between these parallel universes. It's about making choices and realizing that they have consequences. I'm reading another book by her, Powers, that gives plenty of food for thought.
I thought I had read most of the Grimm's Fairy Tales. But I missed the one that Shannon Hale's Book of a Thousand Days is based on. It's a magnificent story cast in the central Asian steppes. I'm looking forward to reading the original tale this is based on.
I'm also going through The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Only a chapter per day. This book has probably given me the most food for thought besides the Bible.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Summer Holidays and Hopes for Fall

School begins tomorrow. As I look back upon this summer, I am filled with joy. Here are some of the critters that we came across today in the woods.

Two banana slugs posing:

A cricket sunning:

An owl hunting! In broad daylight:

We came home to our summer bounty:

Perfect for ratatouille (I added a big eggplant from the store).

Summer is far from over. And soon I'll need to make more batches of zucchini bread, tomato salsa and soup. I love having a taste of all this in the winter ...

Besides all the food processing that I will do this fall, what do I hope to accomplish writing-wise? To begin anew on my novel. I only worked a little bit on it this summer not because I didn't have time, but because I chose to spend it doing other things, like doing projects with my kids, taking long walks in the woods, going swimming, visiting with family and friends. Oh, I wrote every day, but I didn't work on my novel. Big difference. So here's hoping I can finish the first half of this by the end of this year. And polish a few shorter pieces for magazines. I should probably get my CV out there again for writing work-for-hire books.
Tonight I will read over the bits of the novel I've written, see where I need to go, write two pages even if it all ends up in the trash.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

On Revision and Deadlines

It's taken my ten-year-old son all summer to get to a story that I asked him to polish , but once he put his mind to it, he made two rounds of revision, wrote a cover letter and sent it off. To Stone Soup! Wish him luck.

By the time football season ends he should find out whether or not his story was accepted. He'll be spared a letter of rejection since they only respond if they are interested. Regardless, I am proud of him. He wrote a terrific first draft last year for a salmon unit in class. I didn't see it until this year and I was impressed with his natural sense of story, the vivid language -- specific nouns and active verbs. The story sparkled. I knew with a couple of rounds of revision it could be dazzling.

It's not easy to get a child to revise a story. I do workshops in schools and kids don't really care for revision -- they wrote a story and that's that. I like to show them the process and show how much fun it can be to say what you mean, to choose words carefully and what a difference even small changes make in clarity. Although most children enjoy the workshop, they don't make it a habit to revise their work unless they have to. My son included. So I gave him a deadline -- before the summer is over, I wanted that story polished and out in the mail. And he did it with a week to spare. Yes!!!

That's what I need -- for my mother to tell me to finish my book or else!

So tell me how you finish projects? Do you obey self-imposed deadlines or do you need a nudge from a critique partner? Or do you only finish the projects that you've got a contract and deadline for?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Discipline is Freedom

"Discipline is Freedom." I first heard this from Garth Fagan, modern dance choreographer extraordinaire. Years ago, I had the privilege to take a master class with his company when they were in Pullman, Wa. I'm no dancer, but I took a couple of jazz and ballet classes during graduate school for a sense of balance. My Ph.D. thesis advisor, Lin Randall, was a fan and friend of Garth Fagan and she managed to get me a place alongside all these amazing dancers. I couldn't believe the things they could do with their bodies, and so effortlessly. I was even more in awe when I learned about how he made his company, from the bottom of the bucket.

Kristi's post on Talent, Passion and Discipline reminded me of his quote. Because it's true. When you have the discipline to practice your art and craft, you gain freedom to be the best you can be. Read more about cultivating self discipline here.

During the summer, my own writing takes a backseat to my children, home, students, and company. It's not the season for it. I have my priorities and family always comes first. Perhaps I will not be the writer I can be, but then again, perhaps I may have nothing to say without these important people in my life. But come fall, when school begins, I need to be more disciplined in carving time for my novel and then using it for that. I like to shoot for two pages. I make slow and steady progress that way.

So, tell me, what are your writing routines that work for you? How do you stay disciplined?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Looking for Jesus

From Warner Press' website: Inspired by religious instructors who spoke of Jesus as a rugged and strong man, this Sallman painting depicts the Master as a man of strength, compassion, love and faith. This beloved depiction of Christ is by far Sallman's most popular work and the cornerstone of his ministry as a Christian artist.
My mother had this print when we were growing up. My sister has it now. And I have been looking for this portrait in the local Christian bookstores but they do not carry it. I tried Amazon. No luck. So thankful to the Blueboarders for directing me to a place where I can buy this.
I have to believe that this painting was divinely inspired because I look at it and feel instantly enveloped in His grace and mercy. No other portrait has had this effect on me. I want for my children to have this face to turn to in our home.
I find that religious objects help us stay close to God throughout the day. I like having a rosary in my pocket. I like to finger the cross and the beads. And likewise, pictures help. As does music. My favorite hymns come unbidden to me. We have small holy corners throughout the house and letting my eyes fall upon them, lighting a candle, touching the frankinscence or myrrh is a little like a kiss from heaven.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Our Wedding Anniversary

This was the car -- a 1966 Barracuda -- that we drove off into the sunset after our wedding. A perfect August day. The earth, sky, water, and many family and friends witnessed our vows.

Tomorrow is our 15th wedding anniversary. Two cats, two kids, four fish and one dog later, I can say I have regrets. I wish Michael and I had been mature enough to make this commitment to each other earlier. It certainly would have given us more time to be together and have more children. See, although we are celebrating 15 years of married life, we were in love for ten years before we got married. We had a long distance relationship, each of us selfishly pursuing our own careers. I never recommend it when young people are considering it. Because at the end of the day, it's not the career that counts, but being with the person you love.
I am thankful for these past 25 years together with you Michael, but it's the past 15 years being married that I cherish. These are a few things I love doing with you:

Sleeping (even if the cat is in between us).

Watching movies.

Holding hands.

Reading aloud.

Making babies.

Afternoon tea.

Baths (you've got to admit it saves water).



Kissing (Did you know that kissing started with mothers giving a food kiss to their babies?).

Daily letters.

Road trips.



Thinking about growing old and toothless with grandchildren around us (That's the most romantic thing I can think of).
I love you, Michael B. I love who I've become being with you -- a better person.
We don't have too many pictures of us together, but here's one from five or six years ago at Thanksgiving. Oh yeah! Thank God.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Power of Words

I must be the last person on earth to pick up SAVVY by Ingrid Law. From the first line on, I was hooked: When my brother Fish turned thirteen, we moved to the deepest part of inland because of the hurricane and, of course, the fact that he'd caused it.

It's not just that I like quirky characters, but how they relate to each other and how utterly believable they are. I still haven't finished it, but I've already laughed out loud so many times that my kids are itching to get their hands on it. They will have to wait. Right now they are laughing their heads off with James Howe's Bunnicula books. Thank goodness.

But this reminds me again and again the power of words. Words have the power to transport us to other worlds, to make us laugh, make us think, but we can also distort the meaning of words to do grave unjustice, even kill.

Just think of Nazi Germany or slavery or abortion. By defining Jewish people, or slaves or the unborn as non-persons, we have sanctioned killing. The full weight of this hasn't sunk in yet, but already the health-care reform makes me realize that very soon, we will legalize killing of those who are old and sick and thought to be a burden to our society. I pray this does not happen.

Two books by William Brennan have brought immense clarity to the way we use words:

Dehumanizing the Vulnerable: When Word Games Take Lives

and John Paul II: Confronting the Language Empowering the Culture of Death.

If you have interest in the power of words and how they are used and misused, read these books.


Friday, August 7, 2009

August and Rakhi

We just returned from a camping trip at Larrabee State Park. Perfect weather. Gorgeous. A necessary getaway from the work that is a constant at home. Here are the kids, poking around in the fire.

and scrabbling around on the rocks

We hiked up to this beautiful mountain lake where the kids and pup swam ... and we discovered how our puppy will not come back to us. She did return eventually, but we were anxious for a little while. I have no idea whether dogs know that they are getting tired and need to turn around and come back to shore.

All the extra laundry is done. And we celebrated Rakhi -- a festival that honors the relationship between brothers and sisters. It's a moveable feast like Easter, but since I never remember when the moon is supposed to be full in August, I have always celebrated it on Aug. 7, which is my older brother's birthday, the one who died before I even met him. He was only five. But from the time I can remember, I've thought of him as my guardian angel ... and I feel it to my core. When I look back upon my life, I know he's always watched over me. I've been in some awful scrapes, and yet manage to come out unscathed.

Here's a picture of my two brothers with my mom.

My son is sporting two rakhis -- one from his sister and one from his cousin-sister. I do hope the three of them will always be close, take care of each other, long after we are gone.

August. It's a great month. I hope you're all having a fabulous summer.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Gift of Time

Sometimes you get the most unexpected gift when you most need it. This week, the children will be with their grandparents and I will have the pleasure of writing, teaching, and putting this house back in order. Without interruptions. Plus, my husband and I can have a date night every night :)

I also hope to take twice daily walks with the dog, do more obedience training, and pray the rosary. I used to do it regularly, but sometime this summer, I became too tired to give even 20 minutes to contemplate the life of Jesus. Sigh. I do find myself praying while walking or doing the dishes, but the rosary is somehow different ... I'm trying to pin what it is and I think it's because generally when I pray, it's still all about me -- my kids, my family, my friends, my dreams, etc. With the rosary, it's about Him.

I just got back a letter from my teacher on my first chapter of the novel, and the timing couldn't be perfect. Not only have I been itching to write, but I've already written some ...

As I prepare to turn in for the night, I can't help but remember my children's laughter, their absolute joy for having this gift ...

Friday, July 24, 2009

When The Whistle Blows

Wow! I finished this book a couple of days ago and have been itching to talk about it. And I did manage to talk about it with some of my students. But tonight, I wanted to give a shout-out to Franny and tell her THANKS! For this amazing gift of a book based on family stories. I cannot even imagine what her family thinks of this, but I bet they are durn proud of her. And love her.

WHEN THE WHISTLE BLOWS is episodic. It reminded me very much of Richard Peck's A LONG WAY FROM CHICAGO and Graham Salisbury's BLUE SKIN OF THE SEA, both that I loved. I like short stories, connected short stories and of course long stories. But it takes a special person to pack so much into a short story. Fran's prose does double and triple duty ... there's not a wasted word and like Mozart's music, pitch perfect. I am in danger of mixing up all my metaphors, so I'll stop here.

My husband recently joined the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic men's group, and the Society reminded me of that. This book shows the importance of fraternal bonds. I loved being part of a Secret Society, of experiencing brotherhood and the love between a father and a son. I think it is important to for boys to be boys and to bond with other boys by running around in pack and testing their mettle. The same can be said for girls, but boys and girls are inherently different and after a certain age, boys need to be with boys and girls need to be with girls. I'm not saying that boys and girls shouldn't be together or be friends, but the bonds could never be deep. And if they do run deep and strong, we risk having boys and girls in an inappropriate relationship.

I laughed. I cried. And I am inspired to continue working on my family stories -- I never thought I'd share them with the world, because I am writing these primarily for my children, but perhaps I will try to shape them for a wider audience.
My husband will be reading this book aloud so that my daughter can also enjoy these stories. And of course, my son will race ahead and finish this book in a day. That kid, I have to limit his reading ... I have to dole it out an hour at a time so that he gets his chores done.

Thank you, Fran, for writing this book. I can't wait to see what you come up with next. And thank you Angela for holding a contest and picking my entry.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Holy Smokes are Winners!

Busy hands making a congratulatory banner because ....

Redmond's St. Jude's Holy Smokes took first and third prizes for barbecuing ribs and pork butt respectively. They got stiff competition from Blessed be the Meat (Blessed Teresa) in Woodinville and Valley Dukes (Holy Innocents) in Duvall. My favorites besides the meat from our team, were the tandoori chicken and Thai beef brisket. Yum!

That's my husband in blue and his teammate in orange. They both spent the night out, tending to their meat. Thanks to the Knights for a wonderful weekend. They cooked for our parish picnic today as well.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Kittens and Cats

I get my kitten fix at Itty Bitty Kitty Committee. I can't help but say "Awww" to all those cute kittens.

But my husband introduced me to LOLCats ... they add laughter to my life.
Check them out and laugh along with me.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Whistle in my Mailbox

The mailman brought a present from Angela. My son wanted to put his grubby little hands on Whistle, but it's *my* book and I get first dibs. Yeah, life is so unfair.
I begin tonight ... but only after I finish correcting one lesson. See, I'm a good girl ...
More on this book later ...

Monday, July 13, 2009

Spotting Blueboarder Books

One evening in Disneyland, I took the two girls to the bookstore. They'd finished reading the couple of books they'd brought to read. While they browsed through the books, I met a Sikh family visiting from India. They were looking for books for their two girls, ages 6 and 11, and particularly for the 11-year-old because she didn't like to read. The father proudly said, "She's just like me. Doesn't like to read. I still don't read. But I tell her that in today's world she must read. What to do?"

Sigh. I realize that not everyone in this world like to read books, but I don't know how parents can expect their children to enjoy reading, when they don't like to read themselves. Thankfully, this family was trying to remedy that ...

After listening to what the girl liked, I managed to find something by Gail Carson Levine, Jeff Kinney and of course, J. K. Rowling. Fingers crossed. I told them that perhaps they could read these books out loud together. Then I chose a few books for the six-year-old, a collection of fairy tales by Hans Christian Anderson and a book of assorted poems. The selections for younger kids was paltry. I bid them a happy and safe journey home. The older girl said that perhaps she can try to read two pages a day. I thought: no, no, no. That's what writers do -- they write two pages a day. I suggested that she read one chapter a day. She agreed. I hope they do ...

Then I turned my attention to the young adult section. Imagine my delight to see Blueboarder books along with the mega-bestselling Twilight series. I read bits and parts of Fate by Jen Barnes; Fairy Tale by Cyn Balog; and The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan. I also spotted Dreamdark by Laini Taylor (think pink). I didn't have my camera with me, but I was so happy to see these books in a place where the selection was small. I'm not a paranormal/fantasy type gal, but thoroughly enjoyed the excerpts I read. Perhaps I'll be picking up these titles to read in full.

I used to work at Holland Library -- humanities and fiction -- during my college years at Washington State. I loved that job. I'd browse through intriguing titles while shelving them and thus discovered many, many books that I normally wouldn't have sought out. Some of these I loved, others were so-so. But it's such a gift to be introduced to new authors.

I think I'd love to work at a bookstore as well.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Home Sweet Home

We just got back from a trip to Disneyland. A first for the kids. And were they at the perfect age, ready to participate in thrilling and chilling rides, reveling in the fantasy come alive, and nightly fireworks.

Oh, but it's good to be home with our pets and the clean, fresh air and the sweet water of Washington. It's cool up here, but so welcome after the desert heat. Hard to believe that once I grew up in India and lived through temps. over a 100 F.

Here's a picture of all of us cooling off at Splash Mountain ...

after we rowed around Treasure Island. It's the only ride where the riders actually have to do some work ...

Now it's back to the regular routine -- walking the dog, cooking, cleaning, playing, teaching, working on my novel again, reading in peace.

I stashed a small stack of index cards in my fanny pack and managed to write a bit when I skipped the stomach-curdling rides. I loved people watching and stories were constantly popping in my head ... I can't wait to see where they lead me.

I hope you're all enjoying your summer and soaking up the beautiful sunshine.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Summer Holidays

School's OUT! My kids are happy and so am I. I love this time with my kids after a busy baseball-filled spring and all the end-of-the-year school activities. This summer I am a little bit anxious about juggling my teaching, but so far it's going alright. It helps that my kids know how to entertain themselves. Plus, I've started taking an afternoon nap ... this buys me productive writing and teaching time at night.

I've also cut back on Internetty things ... I miss it, but there's not enough time in the day to do all the things I need and want to. And reading is always high on my priority ... Here are some of the books I've been reading. No luscious book covers, but you can look them up on Amazon.

Incantation by Alice Hoffmann is set during the Spanish Inquisition. The writing is beautiful and I will have to read this again to see how she does so much in so few words. I suspect it's all the right words. I have another one of her books: Indigo. Her writing is luminous.

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams was a fascinating look into a closed polygamous community through the eyes of Kyra, a 13-year-old, who is being forced into marriage to an old uncle. I wish the book had an author's note about closed communities in general and how they function and fit into the larger society.

I'm re-reading My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult. Amazing, amazing book, voice, plot, everything. Can't wait to see the movie. JP is one of my favorite authors in how she manages to look at several sides of difficult issues.

I'm in the thick of What's So Great About Christianity by Dinesh D'Souza. A wonderful book that reconciles reason and belief. If you wonder about the existence of God, read this.

Enjoy your summer ... and if you don't hear from me, it's because I'm being lazy.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

An Audio Book

My book, Flowers, is going to be an audio book! A very nice man from the recording studio called to make sure he pronounces my name correctly.
By the way, this is how you say my name:
Vee-jay-ya Khiss-tee Bo-dack.
I miss my given middle name: Jatindrakumar. It has a lovely rhythm and rolls off the tongue once you get used to it. Here's how: Juh-tin-druh-koo-mar.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


How I wish I could film the drama in my office. The pup lies beside my feet, occasionally licking my toes with her silky soft tongue. She's very relaxed. Until the black cat comes sauntering in. The cat has to hiss and swipe at the pup to keep her space. She settles on my desk, with the puppy looking longingly at her. It's amazing to see a little cat make this big dog submissive.

Then comes my old, old cat -- the tan one. He cries the whole time. He is terrified of the pup. All he wants is to be with me. But even he manages to keep the pup off. He sits on my lap, tries to take away my pen, but never relaxes. It's too much trouble to be down here ... he goes upstairs. Pup tries to follow. I tell her to stay. She does.

The black cat leaves as well.

The pup looks at me. I pet her. She settles back at my feet. No more drama.

I'm back to correcting lessons.

I can't believe how much in demand I am. I try to give each child, each pet some one-on-one time and there are simply not enough hours in the day and night for this. Sigh.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Naughty Cats

No plant is safe in our home. Here is my older cat, stripping leaves off the curry plant. I discovered several chewed up ones on the counter. Apparently the taste is not to his liking. We're having lovely summer weather, so I've moved the plant outside. I love having fresh flowers from the garden in the house, but unless they are in a small container, just a wee little flower or two, the cats will find them and chew on them. I wouldn't mind it if they didn't barf it up later, along with their food. When I'm in the kitchen, I can enjoy my flowers, but if I have to leave, I make sure they are put outside on the patio or in the bathroom (with the door closed). Ah, the things one must put up with.

Here's the other naughty cat, dipping her paws in the water that is for the Drinking Bird. I believe we were doing an experiment to see whether the temperature of the water changed the rate of dipping. It did.
I love these curious cats. Their purring, kneading. Treasures. My pets.


Friday, June 12, 2009

When The Whistle Blows

Remember all those lovely books that are coming out soon? One of them is Fran Cannon Slayton's WHERE THE WHISTLE BLOWS. And I just won a copy of it on Angela's blog! I'll have to fight my son for it, but this one is mine first.

I met Franny at Chautauqua. A lovely woman who has so much heart for stories ... check out her website for more.

My friend Bish is also a winner!

Thank you Angela for having the contest and a BIG THANK YOU to Fran for writing this book.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

New Books

Head on over to the Blueboard and check out these NEW BOOKS in the Promote Your Book section. There are far too many to blog about one by one ...

Happy reading.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Pet Cartoons

I just came across delightful pet cartoons on Doctor Bob's blog. I'm feeling too lazy to imbed a video so will give you the link: Simon's Cat.


Friday, May 29, 2009


I've just finished two memoirs by Jane Bernstein about her daughter, Rachel.

Loving Rachel chronicles the first years of her life, when the family discovers that Rachel was born blind. Rachel suffers from seizures and the prognosis is poor. She could be developmentally disabled as well. It is the most honest book I've ever read about raising a child with any disability. And yet, there is hope and joy mixed with the sorrow of having a child who will not do the same things as other children. I cannot imagine the will it took for Jane to write this book while facing crisis after crisis.

A child with disabilities grows up into an adult with disabilities. Rachel in the World spans her childhood, adolescence and emerging adulthood. Like any 21-year-old, Rachel yearns to be independent of her mother and her numerous rules. I didn't realize how few options there are for adults with disabilities. This book was nowhere near as charming as the first memoir when Rachel was a cute baby and toddler. This book made me face harsh realities. I cannot even imagine the worry of entrusting your adult disabled child to the world. What will happen to them? Can society be trusted to give them the dignity and respect they deserve? The love and care and companionship they crave? Or will they be cast into isolation?

I do believe that as a society we are obligated to take care of those who cannot care for themselves. In many countries, disabled children are often left alone to figure out the world for themselves or worse, left to die. It is heartening to know that in the US, there are social programs to help integrate these children into regular schools, that there are programs for adults as well. But like anything, money is short and the needy many.

If you are interested in parenting a disabled child, I highly recommend these books.