Friday, June 29, 2012

Baseball, Swimming and Writing

Here's the man everybody loves to hate: the umpire. Just kidding, folks :) My husband is back to umpiring games at the tournament. At first I was anxious that he'd be gone on evenings and weekends, but the children go along with him and help out, so it has actually afforded me quiet time to write. It's been a win-win situation for everybody. Little League needs the help, my husband enjoys the game, and the children help out with set up and concessions. The only downside is that we're all getting to bed later than usual. So we're all a bit tired and cranky.

This summer, I've not only been revising my novel steadily, but also worked on several work-for-hire projects (on a super-tight deadline) and I wouldn't have been able to do that if my husband didn't take the children out of the house. He's taken the children to all the away swim meets so that I don't have to drive. I'll spend that time writing (and procrastinating like I am now). He'll also make supper ... long-time readers know he's an award-winning cook. My perpetually 4-mo pregnant look is a testament to his cooking. Here he is, grilling the best brats. But he makes salmon that is on par with the best restaurants, and the only reason I like beef is because of the way he barbecues it. Smoky Daddy.

I don't know what I'd do without him. He's sustained my writing dream when I've been ill or too tired to write. He has encouraged me every step of the way. The children too, have been a part of my writing life. They read and give feedback. Sometimes unsolicited! Oddly enough, they are much kinder with their opinions when it comes to my friends' mss. Although their suggestions to fix things are almost always off the mark, I find that their reactions priceless. It's my job as a writer to revise what doesn't resonate, and they are good about flagging problem areas.
We're having a great summer so far. Lots of swimming. The children are turning into little brown fishies. They've improved so much and I'm so proud of them for rising to the challenge. They were initially not at all excited to get up first thing in the morning for swim practice. "It's summer," they groaned. "I should be able to sleep in." But they get up and ride their bikes to the pool and train for an hour. They've made friends on their team and love hanging out at the meets -- that's when they socialize. Here they are, giving it their best.

 
My son took a lot of pictures at the beach. My favorite is of my daughter catching a wave! He caught it on video too, so I'm happy to share it. I'm in the black swimsuit who missed the wave! But the water is wonderfully cool on hot days. Tepid even. I tell you, it's great living here in the South -- the sun, the warmth, the people -- are all fantastic. Even when it's hurricane season. And now I must work on that novel while the rest of the family is at the ballgame.

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Friday, June 22, 2012

SCBWI Carolinas Writing and Illustrating Contest

I am so happy to share the names of my fellow-Carolinians whose work has been recognized. Congratulations!!!

I hope to meet some of you at the conference (scroll down for details) and with such a fabulous line up of writers and editors, it's going to be great!

Making It Real Transcript


The transcript of the Making It Real Workshop is up. Jan is quite a master at stitching together all the comments into something that's actually readable. Thanks for inviting me Jan, and thanks to all who participated. I had a good time. Let's do it again!

Remember: NOUNS and VERBS
Keep writing. Keep the faith!

I am going to really push to revise two novels by the end of this year. My current one and the one that placed in the contest. Nothing like a little bit of validation to set me on fire!




Thursday, June 21, 2012

Kreativ Blog Award

Jody tagged me with the Kreativ Blogger Award, and after I told her that everybody I knew must've already played, that we two were the last ones ... I found out that I had actually participated a couple of years back. So I'm redirecting y'all to seven beloved books. The list has not changed.

Happy reading and writing.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Bad News and Good News

I was flossing my teeth this afternoon and a part of my half-crown fell off. I just had this work done -- it's an old cavity that was deteriorating and you don't want bugaboos getting behind and damaging any more of the tooth. But they had. More than a quarter of my tooth was missing after the dentist was finished with me this spring. She fitted me with a half crown and I was quite pleased with it. So imagine my surprise when I had a little hole in my molar again. Oy! Luckily, they were able to see me this afternoon and give me a temporary.

I was planning on writing this afternoon because my children went bowling with a friend, and what a sweet friend, because I told my kids that the only way they could go was if they found a ride to the bowling alley given that I'm still not out of hot water with those headaches -- I have been having aspirin with some coffee every afternoon to ease some of the pain. God has other plans sometimes.

But I returned home from an envelope from the SCBWI Carolinas. I was hoping it's a letter to say I won first place, because that meant my tuition for the conference would be paid ...  alas, it is third place. But it is still so wonderful to have my writing rise to this level. I had polished off the first chapter of my first novel -- a YA historical. I guess I'll have to polish the rest of it. Gee ... I hope no more teeth parts  fall out.

I highly encourage you all to enter contests. Not only do they help you to prepare your manuscript to specification (that in itself is a big accomplishment) but you can win money (as I did with the ICL contest years ago -- with a contemporary YA short story) or a trip to a conference that helps you to meet wonderful writers and editors (I had the pleasure of going to Chautauqua and to Barbara Seuling's Workshop) and even plain ole recognition is nice to have. I can say that my kids are not the only ones who like my stories.

This reminds me to start submitting more stories. After all, we've been in SC for nearly a year. I have run out of excuses. I can't have a good mail day if I don't send anything out! So send your stories out! I promise the teacher in me is going off-line for the day now.

I know several of my readers are contest winners -- Bish, Faith -- who else? Chime in please.
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Monday, June 18, 2012

Critterfest

The alligators are out and about -- this was taken in the spring. They're so cute with their stripes.

Below are the fox squirrel and the regular squirrel. The fox squirrels are much bolder, waiting until the last minute to dash off. But they are very, very curious and won't go far.

Our dog would love to catch them! She did one once, when we were living in WA, and I had to make her drop the poor thing, who scampered away unharmed.

 

The hamsters are fun to watch, on their wheel (they're a blur when I take a picture, they run so fast). Here's one, in his food bowl, stuffing his cheeks with seeds. We've been training them to like our hands, but they are not very sociable. I'll be glad when I can hand-feed them and give them a kiss. I know, I know, there are dog lovers, cat lovers, and apparently, I'm a rodent lover as well. What can I do? My husband claims that my first cat got more kisses than he ever did ... and I think it might be true.

And below, the queen of the house! She keeps watch over everything, and there's a lot going on with all the critters.

I've not been able to get a good picture of the little green and brown lizards, but I hope soon. They are lovely, especially when they puff out their red throats.
Thank you for all your prayers and kindness throughout my difficult periods. You give me much comfort, as do these furry critters. Somehow they know.
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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Prayers Please and a Happy Father's Day

Sometimes, all you can do is clutch your rosary and pray, tears dripping down your face, hoping that He will grant your wish, to lift the cross that is crushing you, or to take you to your final rest.

My migraines have been excruciating these past few weeks, lasting several days at a time. I don't like to complain too much because there is the fear that if speak often of it, I will be defined by my disease.

Also, I had received partial healing a couple of years ago, so it makes me feel like an ingrate to say, why not all the way? I have argued and wrestled with God, and have no answers. And sometimes I cannot even feel His comforting presence. Where is the God of all comfort when He knows how much my children need me? He is my heavenly Father, and I need Him too. Where are YOU? I have asked several friends to pray for me, to lift me up to Him. And I ask you to keep my family and me in your prayers. I'll be much obliged. It is very hard on them with me being chronically ill, my patience nil, my crankiness at an all-time high. And my prideful nature hates to appear so horribly weak and weepy to them.

Today, my husband took the children out, did the shopping, made killer barbecued ribs. All he wanted to do was to stay home, but I begged him to take us to confession and Mass. The poor man took us all. I asked the priest for the Sacrament of Healing. By the way, confession is the other Sacrament of Healing because it mends our soul, and the rift that is created by our sins. What's amazing is that through frequent confession, I have received the grace to stop some sins altogether. I couldn't have done this by myself. I used to think how silly that I have to confess the same stupid sins over and over, but the sacrament works! It's a balm. I fall many, many times, but He is there to offer His Hand. We only need reach up and He plucks us out of the depths of depravity to give us new life.

I wept through the Mass. But take a look at the readings! They were written for me ...  I'm the withered tree He makes bloom; I will bear fruit in old age; I need to be courageous even though I long to leave this body and go home to the Lord; He makes my faith grow like that of a mustard seed. Thanks be to God!

After Mass, I went to receive the Sacrament of Healing. The priest anointed me and laid his holy hands upon my head and prayed over me. It always strikes me to hear the words of Jesus to the paralytic: rise up and walk, your sins are forgiven. I prayed for healing, but also to do His will. I do love Jesus and want to do eveything for His glory. I don't want to be a wimp. I want to be able to unite my suffering to His, to offer it for a greater good, and to trust His inscrutable ways.

Amazingly, I was able to help fix supper, and I enjoyed eating with my family. I have not experienced this joy since this migraine re-started. I am again thinking about doing projects with the children, writing, and teaching.

Tomorrow is the Lord's Day, and Father's Day, and I want to pamper my husband ... even if I can only manage a bowl of cereal with strawberries. He is such a good husband and father, I want to be the best wife to him. Here he is, my love.


Here he is, teaching the children to fish. We caught only weeds that afternoon, but it's a start.


I offer my prayers to all fathers, that you may recieve all the graces you need to lead your wives and children to heaven, and to our priestly fathers to recieve all the graces they need to lead their flocks to heaven. It's not easy being either. Happy Father's Day.

For a wonderful homily on Father's Day, go here to read one of my favorite preachers. I laughed out loud at the old litany about Noah was drunk, Abraham too old, etc. God can use us still.

God bless you.

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Corpus Christi

We celebrated the Feast of Corpus Christi with a Solemn High Mass last Thursday. I'm happy to report that our Latin is much improved. Even my daughter has memorized many of the psalm tones and can whip out "Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto, sicut erat in principio ..." It was quite a challenge to sing the the long sequence before the proclamation of the Gospel (John 6:56-59). I do encourage all to read it here. It is a hard teaching.

What can I say? It is a mystery that our all powerful God humbles Himself to come as a babe and live amongst us. But what's amazing is that He is still here -- in all the tabernacles of the world. He gives Himself to us in the Eucharist. It is His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. This is why Catholics do not receive the Body of Christ unless they are in the state of grace, and this is why non-Catholics are not invited to partake in the Body unless they believe this.

At the end of every Mass, we read the first part of the Gospel of John. We genuflect when the priest reads: and the Word became Flesh.

I cannot explain this very well, because it is a mystery, glorious and wondrous. I am full of thanks that the Lord gives Himself to us so intimately. Perhaps the Msgr. Pope can help in his homily here.

Oh, we went to the Cathedral this Sunday for an exhibition on Eucharistic Miracles. I was floored. So many amazing miracles that show doubting priests and lay-persons that the consecrated Host is the Body of Christ. My favorites were the stories of donkeys, cows and bunnies bowing to their Creator!

Pax Christi+


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Making It Real: ICL Workshop


Come join me at the Writer's Retreat Workshop June 11-13, 2012 "Making It Real: Techniques for Capturing Reader Interest"
http://institutechildrenslit.net/index.php

Capturing reader interest in fiction means making the story and characters feel real, and exciting. Dialogue, showing, action -- they all play a part.

You can post your questions and comments, and I will stop by periodically and answer them.


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Reading, Writing, & Revising

I'm still revising ... I know, I know, but I am striving for clarity and precision and sometimes it can be very slow. Add to that the end of school, various odd appts., and other things, and it slows me down further. I'm a creature who thrives on routine and I need to get one in a hurry ...

Now that the children are older and like to sleep in, perhaps I should get up early to write. Whenever I've tried this in the past, I found that my concentration flagged after 30 minutes, with the responsibilities of the day crowding my mind. Maybe it will be different this time. I did manage 30 min. of writing during their swimming practice.

A new book has been percolating in my mind for several years, but until a second, unrelated thematic element popped up, I didn't have a novel. I think it's time to explore it, so I may jot down scenes during the swim meets. I started a new notebook that's not too bulky. Spiral-bound with a hard cover. Wish me luck.

I've also been reading a couple of adult books, and although I like the stories, the shifting viewpoints can drive me bonkers. Very few authors do this skillfully, but the truth is, as a reader I don't really care about what every person is thinking. It ends up distancing me from ALL the characters. Another aspect that I'm critical of are beginnings. Backstory ... it literally stops forward motion and again, all these elements could easily be revealed later. I don't need to know what the grandmother did, for heaven's sake. Children's books are so much tighter. I hope that if I ever write for adults, I will not become lazy in my writing.

Here are a couple more clips my son took at the air show last month. Enjoy and be inspired. It takes years and years of training to fly like this. Kind of like writing, eh? Hey, has anyone read The Right Stuff? It's so good. When my kids are older, I'll let them watch the movie (it's good too). Warning: there's some crass language and behavior not suitable for children.

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Friday, June 1, 2012

Reading, Procrastinating and Pets

I haven't read any mysteries for a long time and forgot how much I love them. I've been on a Blue Balliet reading marathon and all I can say is that if you've not picked up these books, do so. The characters are endearing and interesting. My son has eaten them up, but I was surprised that my daughter couldn't get excited by them. For the first time, she's more interested in reading contemporary fiction with Indian girls, not in India, but here in the US. Slim pickings. If you have titles to recommend (middle grade only please) I will be very happy to share them with her. She told me to hurry up and finish revising my book because she is ready to read it.

I do find Pooja's site helpful, but there's a serious lack of MG fiction.

I realize how important it is to be able to see your own ethnicity reflected in at least some of the stories you read. I had the luxury of reading both Indian and British literature when I was growing up so I read about people like myself and people completely different. I enjoyed both. But in my writing, I find myself almost exclusively focusing on the experiences of immigrants or the children of immigrants, with a foot in two or more cultures. But in the end, my stories are all about finding home and family, so my hope is that they will appeal to all children.

I should've spent an hour writing, but decided to catch up on downloading pictures and organizing them. I know, I know -- major procrastination. But I am determined to get the household things in order this summer so that I do not have piles and piles of things and pictures and papers, but have a home for everything. I guess this is the start of it. I find that when the living space is somewhat organized, I can concentrate on my writing.

Here are some pictures of our new family members. The fish we got for Christmas and the dwarf hamsters, just last month for my daughter. Both the dog and cat are fascinated by their antics, as are we.