Monday, December 22, 2008
I do so love snow in the winter. I still think it's like magic. And we don't get much of it here in Western Washington so we're eating it all up, literally. That's Pup's first snow and she loves prancing through it, finding a buried branch, tossing it through the air and pouncing upon it again. Such fun to watch her. Pure joy. And a bonus for me is not having to clean up a muddy dog (I did a lot of that in Nov.).
As this year comes to a close, let me say a heartfelt "Thank You" to all my family and friends, furry or not. You've made our lives richer, sweeter.
Schools closed three days before official winter break and we've had a lot of fun. We got a foot or more of this fluffy white stuff. It's been perfect for sledding. It's warmed up a bit, so it's perfect for making a snowman. My kitchen smells divine, with soups simmering, cookies baking and Christmas music filling the air.
Here are two BFFs -- best furry friends. They were both watching the birds and squirrels, but turned around politely for a picture. The cat lets the pup know when she's gotten too close.
Cue music: We wish you a Merry Christmas ... and a Happy New Year!
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
What a pleasure it was to meet up with writing friends, celebrate the successes of our local authors and illustrators, especially Kevan and Jolie, eat all those Christmas cookies, and finally, after passing on the SCBWI Co-RA hats to Joni and Laurie, listen to the fabulous, pink-haired Laini Taylor on the strategies she uses to finish books. She is smart, funny and gracious and I urge you all to read Not for Robots. I think there's something there for each and every one of us who is trying to finish a book.
Thank you Laini, for a wonderful and inspiring talk.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
I urge you all to make sure that the pictures and excerpts you use are in fact allowed. Here's a link to discerning what constitutes fair use. It's not always clear and if in doubt, leave it out.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Friday, November 28, 2008
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
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
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
Monday, November 3, 2008
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.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
I'm still waiting for my kitties to feel the love for the new pup. Today, I rested with the pup beside me and the cat on top of me. It took quite a while for the pup and kitty to settle down but it did happen. And then the kids came home and mayhem ensued ...
Here's a picture of the kitty tolerating the pup. How I wish I could capture the moments right before, with the pup sitting, watching the cat, tail thumping wildly, and the cat saying, "Don't you dare come any closer."
The pup is four and half months old now ... and how she's growing!
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Allyson Schrier and Molly Blaisdell both got Letters of Merit for the Barbara Karlin grant (for picture book) and SCBWI WIP grant (YA contemporary) respectively!!!! Woo-hoooo!!!
I know, too many exclamations!!! But I can't help it. I'm so proud of these ladies for sticking to it and submitting their work and getting this recognition. Way to go!
See, I controlled myself (but I'm grinning ear to ear).
Monday, September 22, 2008
Gosh, how this resonates with my life -- scientist, mother, and now writer.
I needed to hear Disney's words as I revise.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
The first half of the book is in decent shape. The second half, not. So I've decided to borrow a trick from my singing days ... start working on a piece backwards. Yes, I've sung Mozart and Verdi and Brahms and the only way to finish with a bang is to make each and every cell of your body knows the material. And you do this by working backwards. Because you practice, practice, practice getting to the end, you can finally not just sing the notes, but feel the music in your bones. That's what I want to accomplish with my words. As Dr. Green would say, "Once more, with feeling!"
I'm good at beginnings. I love writing when the characters are literally telling me the story and all I'm doing is transcribing. But characters are fickle. They stop talking (perhaps I'm not listening) or do something I'd rather they not do. Sustaining a story for fifty-sixty thousand words is hard. Making it sing (with feeling) is even harder. So, I'm going backwards, and I must admit that working on the ending has put me in a better mood. I'm leaving these characters in a better place ...
So what does this have to do with a no good, horrible weekend? Nothing, except, when the worst thing that can happen is twisting your ankle so you have to keep off your feet, ice it and rest, life's actually pretty good.
So, tell me, how do you fall in love again so that you can make your stories sing?
Friday, September 5, 2008
Then they got old enough for school. Kindergarten was a blast. And just for two-and-half hours. But when my son started Grade 1, my daughter missed him terribly. He was gone six long hours. I missed him too. I looked around for other kids, but they were ALL busy -- in preschool and other activities. There were mothers who tried to fit in a playdate between gymnastics and kindermusik. I said, No thank you. So I enrolled my daughter in preschool. I think it was good for her. She seemed to enjoy it. But she was happiest at home.
I tried avoiding organized activities for as long as possible, but two years ago, my son wanted to play baseball. He was seven, and I felt it was too early for team sports, but gave in. Well, I was right. These kids were happiest when each of them had a ball to toss. What a difference a year makes. Last year, the kids were awesome. Not only did they learn the rules of the game, but they worked together as a team.
My daughter is seven and plays soccer. She's improved tremendously. But I have a feeling that all these kids will play not just for themselves, but for the team, in another year.
I have turned into a suburban carpooling mom, schlepping kids to this, that and the other thing. I wouldn't have believed this about myself even three years ago. I miss our evenings together. I miss not having to hurry supper. I miss my kids.
We do have some downtime. We walk together with our pup. We take long baths. And when one is busy with sports, we have time to spend with the other. I cherish this one-on-one time.
And the bright side of school is that I have time alone to be with my own thoughts. Granted, this week I have been getting the house in order. I let a lot of things slide this summer, especially after getting the new pup, but I cannot think in such chaos, let alone write. I am terribly envious of people who can tune it all out and just write.
My mind is finally quieting down, and my story people whisper a few things now and then. If I don't pay attention, they whisper a bit louder. They're not yet clamoring to be heard but it's their time now. It's fall. And I want to fall into my stories again. Wish me luck.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Wow! A book that promised a glimpse into 1940s British India and so much more. The central character, Vidya, is forced to question the customs by which they live by, the very beliefs they have after her father is brutally clubbed by the British police. Although the title is aimed at Vidya *climbing the stairs* to gain knowledge, I found her brother's story much more riveting. At times Vidya appeared too naive for her age (she is 15) though this probably reflects our own reality now with children growing up too fast.
A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce
This book was clearly crafted with a great deal of love. The author chooses her words with extreme care. This retelling of Rumplestilskin was fresh and different. I confess that despite the gorgeous writing (and cover) I didn't identify with Charlotte Miller. Perhaps because Charlotte is business-minded, the older sister ... and I am neither. I felt much more connected to her impetuous younger sister.
The Humming of Numbers by Joni Sensel
Not many books are set in tenth century Ireland. I didn't realize that Vikings were raiding this area so often. Another beautifully rendered historical fantasy. And the romance between Aidan and Lana crackled just perfectly. Gorgeous cover.
Head Case by Sarah Aronson
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
This book reminded me of To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee because the narrator is looking back after many years. From the inside cover: It is the story of eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove -- a black girl in an America whose love for its blond, blue-eyed children can devastate all others -- who prays for her eyes to turn blue: so that she will be beautiful, so that people will look at her, so that her world will be different. This is the story of the nightmare at the heart of her yearning, and the tragedy of its fulfillment.
Monday, August 18, 2008
Saturday, August 2, 2008
Almost all my stories, both short and long, have an extremely long gestation period. We're talking years here, not months. My historical YA has been percolating for a good twenty years. The novel I wrote last fall had been composting for a couple more decades. And this one -- I don't know what it is yet -- but I've been thinking about this in some way for close to thirty years. I'm in my 40s, so yes, I was a kid when I was first thinking about this. To finally have words to express these ideas is exhilarating. This is what I love about writing.
So tell me, how long do your stories brew in your head before you actually start writing?
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
As I am fond of saying to my own children, "Do the right thing, even when I'm not watching." This is good advice for adults as well.
Fair use means taking without permission. But it doesn't mean not to acknowledge the source. Please folks, always, always acknowledge your source. As a writer of nonfiction, I am highly aware of this. The source of every quote and fact I choose to include in my article is meticulously recorded should I need to refer to it. Plus, it allows my readers to go further with their own reading, should they choose to.
I enjoy taking pictures. I'm not a professional but I've been complimented many times on the pictures I've taken. It makes me feel good to share a few images from my life. Why would anybody want to take them without acknowledging the source? And it's all the more distressing that it's another person in the business.
Do the right thing. It's easy.
Monday, July 14, 2008
I had forgotten what it was like to have a new baby in the house. Here's our baby of the family. She's a two-month-old, mostly golden retriever, a love. The cats are wary but adjusting surprisingly well. I hope to post a picture of the three of them cuddling up together soon.
Friday, July 11, 2008
Monday, June 30, 2008
Summer flowers (these are Kalmia -- very showy, no? -- even the buds are interesting) and new life (those are junco eggs in our fuschia) give us so much pleasure. We're having very lazy days reading, playing games, watching the birds and squirrels in our backyard, going swimming, even napping. I had hoped to work more productively on my novel revisions, but find that I'm too tired to work at the end of a lazy day.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Monday, June 2, 2008
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
1. The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.
2. Each player answers the questions about themselves.
3. At the end of the post, the player then tags five people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they've been tagged and asking them to read the player's blog.
4. Let the person who tagged you know when you've posted your answer.
What were you doing five years ago?
I gave away most of my science stuff because I started to write seriously, two hours every night, after the toddlers and husband were tucked into bed. Writing brings me home.
What are five things on your to-do list for today (not in any particular order)?
Finish revisions on a magazine article, pick fresh spinach and lettuce for supper, refill bird feeders, write to my sister and two aunts. Mission accomplished since it's late in the day.
What are five snacks you enjoy?
Tim's vinegar and sea salt potato chips, spicy chewda (fried spiced lentils), samosas (spicy potatoes in a pastry), cherry red tomatoes off the plant, blueberries off the bushes.
What five things would you do if you were a billionaire?
Become a publisher, write more, travel more, rest more, give more.
What are five of your bad habits?
Chewing my fingernails ... gosh, that's the only one I can think of. Feel free to tell me more.
What are five places where you have lived?
India, Belgium, and in America -- Pullman WA, Long Beach CA, West Lafayette IN. I love small university towns, wheatfields for miles and miles around.
What are five jobs you've had?
Dishwasher, fortune-teller, teacher, scientist, mom (and I'm still washing dishes).
Five people I'm tagging:
Let's see, who hasn't been tagged yet --
Bish at Random Thoughts
Rachel at Rachel Writes for Kids
Darcy at Revision Notes
Jacqui at Jacqui's Room
Peggy at A Sound from My Heart
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Frankie Stein, written by Lola Schaefer and illustrated by Kevan, is the winner in the picture book category of the National Children's Choice Book Award. I'm not one bit surprised. Here's what my kiddos had to say about:
Friday, May 16, 2008
The rhodies are bursting open (they're late this year -- they're always in full bloom for Mother's Day). This chipmunk scolded me for getting too close. I guess I'd better stick to the writing.
This weekend, a birthday celebration. My daughter has turned seven. She's invincible.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Sunday, May 4, 2008
Fiona was gracious enough share the galleys of her book, BUBBLE HOMES AND FISH FARTS. It is a collection of the amazing ways that animals use bubbles. I don't know how often I said, "Cool, I didn't know that." It's sure to be a kid pleaser. Carolyn's illustrations bring the text alive and I can't wait to see it in book form! Good thing time flies.
Saturday, May 3, 2008
You see, last year, I did a workshop in Bellingham on writing Tantalizaing Truths. It was a small group of very talented writers, with varied backgrounds. They were eager, took notes furiously and did a number of exercises. I very much wanted them to finish what they had started, so I made sure to talk about middles and endings as well. They went home and did the hard work of finishing, polishing their pieces. And a year later ... they are published!
I presented a more general talk on magazine writing two months ago and again, I am so happy that the attendees finished what they started at the talk. One got a speedy acceptances (note the plural) from Highlights! How cool is that?
I am so happy to know that a little prod and encouragement from me has resulted in so many people finishing their pieces and sending them out. It's a big step. Congratulations!
Meeting and talking to you was another of my highlights of this conference.
Since I probably won't have time to do another post for quite some time (you'll find out why later), I will direct you to my fellow attendees at the SCBWI conference who have blogged about the conference: Molly, Rachel, Linda, and Annette.
Happy Reading and Writing.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Mo Willems entertained us with stories of how he came to write the Pigeon stories. And Arthur Levine spoke about the elements of great books. The local success stories were so inspiring. The common thread among all of them was to keep at it, not giving up. My favorite sessions were craft-oriented and I attended as many as I could.
Two outstanding sessions were both given by a first-time novelist: Cynthia Lord. Yes, the author of Rules, which won a Newbery Honor. Someone in the audience asked whether she knew all this stuff when she was writing her first book. Laughter arose. "No," she said. It's the writing and revising that taught her all these things. For me, the highlight of the conference was listening to her speak.
Publication, acknowledgment, awards all make you feel good, give validation. But it's the time in between, when you're working hard, honing your craft, that is most important. -Margaret Chodos Irvine.
Never forget the reason to keep writing. -Royce Buckingham
Know your audience. -Cynthia Lord
Cynthia is a former school teacher and does numerous school visits. If she's presenting anywhere near you, GO! She's a pro. And very nice, too. Here's what some of her young audience had to say about books they like: funny and adventurous, things at school, just about kids.
A book makes a promise. Fulfill it. -Cynthia Lord
Don't be afraid to be the evil author and explore the shadow side. -Cynthia Lord
Agents, editors are superfluous. Write a superlative book. -Mo Willems
Literature is there to reflect reality. -Chris Crutcher
When you have an idea, write it down. -Arthur Levine
Monday, April 28, 2008
The chickadee, the chipmunk, the finch, the squirrel, the woodpecker and Fiona (not pictured because I don't have a picture of her eating, though I do have pictures of her working, playing and visiting with writerly folk). These critters and many more were here for the food, but Fiona came down for the regional SCBWI conference. It was wonderful as usual, but more about that later.
Friday, April 25, 2008
My pet projects wait patiently and when I return, some of the pesky problems are already solved (thanks to the subconscious that never stops working) and the time away means I come back with a fresh perspective.
So, do you write-for-hire? And how do you feel about it?
This weekend is our local SCBWI conference. Time for shop-talk, visiting with writing friends, and soaking up all that inspiration and wisdom. I hope to see some of you there.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Friday, April 18, 2008
Monday, April 14, 2008
In the introduction, we learn a little bit about poems, their forms, and why Ms. Harley chose the forms she did. Each spread has a gem of a poem that tells of the Monarch's life along with beautiful pictures.
Consider these excerpts from three poems:
If we would let our toes seek what we eat,
what smorgasbord would greet our eager feet?
The perfect patternings unfold
in tapestries of crimson and gold.
Abstract art grown huge and bold!
These poems are so much fun to say out loud. The language is rich and playful. They make you want to write your own poems about the things you find beautiful in nature. I was inpired to write about the pinesiskins that flock in our backyard. I also picked up my children's colored pencils to draw. No matter that I ended up with a pinesiskin that looked more like a mouse.
Ms. Harley includes a section at the back, titled Small Matters, with more information for each of the spreads. This book has everything -- facts, poetry, even philosophy. I highly recommend it.
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.
-- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
These four lines speak to me not just for the writing life, but for life in general.
But let's discuss this in terms of writing: It's not enough to dream of books with our name on the spine. We must write, write, write. Then polish our work and send it out into the world, which may or may not accept it. Only the writing is in our control. So we work at it, and a few years later we see that we are better.
Waiting can be the hardest part but goodness gracious, when that acceptance arrives, it's sweet.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
This weekend was for building snow-bunnies, snow-forts and sledding. A most magical beginning to our Spring Break.
I know this is not unusual for some folks, but here in the Pacific NW, the end of March is typically rainy, not snowy.
I was glad to see my little hummer feeding. See him? Hope he's staying warm in his nest.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Sometimes I do math ... a little number-crunching is not only relaxing but puts things into proper perspective. A short story typically takes me a month to write and about a year to polish. Sometimes more, especially if it's poetic, where every word counts. Sooooo, if a thousand words takes me one year to polish, will fifty thousand take me fifty years? I hope not. I'll be in my 90s by then ...
I have to remind myself that I like to revise, make every word shine, but I also feel overwhelmed at the task at hand. I know I'll be very happy when the overarching things are fixed. Then I can get to examining each sentence, each phrase, each word ...
How do you approach revisions?
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Hermux Tantamoq mysteries by Michael Hoeye -- The first one, Time Stops for No Mouse, was an absolute delight. Hermux is a watchmaker who inadvertently falls in the middle of a mystery. The writing sparkles with wit and humor and the pacing is pitch perfect. I'm a wee bit disappointed in the later books. Too much going back and forth between the main characters. I like staying in one person's (or in this case, one mouse's) head for the whole story.
Which brings me to point-of-view or POV for short. I tend to prefer single POV stories. There are very few writers who do multiple viewpoints or omniscient well. Books that were good in multiple POV or omniscient that I've read in the past few months:
Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
Flipped by Wendelin van Draanen
The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsberg
What do you prefer to read and write? Single POV? Multiple POV? Omniscient?
Monday, March 17, 2008
Over the last few weeks I've had an overwhelming urge to shout out all the wonderful things happening in my critique group and it felt appropriate to toss these words into the blogosphere.
We've been together five years now, and how we've grown. Jen has a new book out! So does Molly! I gave my first talk to my local SCBWI. So here we are celebrating (you can click on the picture to get a better view of the book):