Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Feast of the Holy Innocents

During the Christmas season we like to remember our martyrs, like St. Stephen, who was stoned to death defending Christ. But the first martyrs were children -- the Holy Innocents -- boys under two in Bethlehem who were massacred by Herod because he feared that a future King would supplant him.
Children are especially vulnerable in our society. We fear that they will upset our lives. We are selfish. We want to have sex without consequences. And so a womb becomes a tomb. Let us pray to end abortion.
I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life. Deuteronomy 30:19

Friday, December 24, 2010

What Child Is This?

I have a collection of Christmas carols and I do enjoy playing the easy versions on the piano as my family gathers around to sing. I'm copying the original words to my favorite hymn, written by William Chatterton Dix (1837-1898). Most of you will recognize this is as the tune to Greensleeves.

What Child is this who, laid to rest
On Mary's lap is sleeping?
Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and Angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.
Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.
So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,
Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.
Raise, raise a song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

The newer versions all use the second stanza as the refrain. I prefer this original one so much more, with the refrain having different words -- words that portend the ultimate sacrifice as well. I suppose I am an Easter gal even at Christmas ... The three Kings bear the baby Jesus gifts of gold, for the King of Kings, frankincense for the priests of priests and myrrh for the sacrifice to end all sacrifices. How Great is our Lord, who humbles himself to come as an infant, to come and live with us, to die for us, so that we may have eternal life. Come, be merry this Christmas! And God bless you all.

About the photos: The first is a statue that is in St. James Cathedral in Seattle and the second is the Pieta (sorry, but I don't know how to make accents, but it means pity) made by Michelangelo located in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Follow Your Dreams -- Chautauqua

Yeah, I know, how quickly I break my own promises to not blog ... but this lovely email showed up from Jo Lloyd and I couldn't not share ... because there is an early-bird deadline.

Here is the relevant part:

You may know someone who is hesitating to pursue his or her Chautauqua dream due to finances. The Highlights Foundation offers scholarships and now is the time to find out more.

A lot of children's writers dream of the Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop at Chautauqua. "Next year," they promise themselves. "Next year I'm going to Chautauqua!" Then reality sets in. The drive and talent to support the dream are there, but the finances ... maybe not.

Please encourage your writing friends to stop dreaming and start planning! Scholarships will be considered in two groups. Early applications will be accepted through Dec. 15, 2010. Final scholarship deadline is Feb. 11, 2011.


Jo Lloyd, Program Asst. Highlights Foundation, 814 Court Street, Honesdale PA 18431
Phone: 877-512-8365 (toll free) or 570-251-4557 Fax: 570-2530-0179
Email: jalloyd@highlightsfoundation.org Website: http://www.highlightsfoundation.org/

I wrote about my own Chautauqua experience here. I didn't think we could manage it financially or logistically. But I got a full scholarship and some work-for-hire gigs along with savings paid for the airfare. The younger toddler was weaned and my mother-in-law came to help for the whole week. A good time was had by all and it was a gift that is for a lifetime. So apply. And go!

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars. Les Brown.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Find the Perfect Gift

Today, we went Christmas shopping after Mass -- we have secret Santa at school and birthday presents to get. There are Giving Trees established at Churches and Catholic schools to share our wealth with those who are less fortunate. We especially love shopping for infants, for mothers who have brought new life. But most of all I want you to consider the Perfect Gift. I have copied this logo with permission from the Archdiocese of Washington.

Today was a very, very emotional Mass for me. About a dozen children and adults who are seeking baptism, communion or confirmation within the Catholic Church went through the Rite of Acceptance. We also had Anointing of the sick. Not only was I remembering my own blessing of the senses, and thinking how wonderful it is that they are seeking God, I was thinking now they have an anchor. Now, no matter what trials they will have, they will always know that Jesus is with them, through their laughter and their tears.
I am going to take a break from blogging for the rest of Advent and Christmas (and let me tell you that it will not be easy, for I shall miss it). I have Christmas cards to write, baking and decorating to do, and Christmas presents and projects to make with my children. I am thankful for each and every one of who has taken the time to read. Many of you sustain me with your love and prayers and friendship. I am deeply grateful.
God Bless you.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Seize the Day!

Molly offers the Golden Coffee Cup as an alternative to NanoWriMo every November. It's packed full of inspiration. We post our Nov. goals (not necessarily 50K words) and share what we accomplished or not at the end of the month. I'm a proud winner this year of Jesse's logo despite severe setbacks. The Blaisdells are a talented bunch ... I seem to remember seeing some line art from Jesse as well.

But today -- today was a glorious day for another reason as well. I woke up without a migraine. Oh, a teensy one gnawed at the side of my head but I ignored it. There were no hammers hammering away. No tears. No anguish. No thoughts about how to get through the day. I brushed my teeth as the kittens came to play with the water. I got the kids ready for school and even engaged in conversation without asking them to be quiet. I walked to school and coming home, sang praises to God. Everything, from the brown soggy leaves to the bare branches, looked beautiful to me.

A small doubt crept into my head. How many hours will I have? But I banished it right away. Seize the day! And I have. I have tackled long-forgotten tasks related to school and home. I've written a bit. I'm writing this post. I have lessons to finish correcting. The sun is shining. I have a a page or two of my novel to revise. I can do anything ...

I have been given gifts from friends, the gifts of time and company. I need to write them back, thanking them.

It's been a long time -- weeks, months? -- since I've not had a hammer, a chisel and an anvil in my head. I pray this is a turning point.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Good Mail Day

Today, the mailman brought the Dec. issue of Hopscotch magazine in which my article, "Waste Not, Want Not," is published. It's beautifully illustrated by Rebecca Spohn. It's a memoir piece about living in India and using everything. This was an ICL assignment years ago, so I was very, very happy when Hopscotch accepted it. Too bad I didn't have any pictures to go with the article. I share this issue with my good friend Shirley Anne Ramaley, who not only is a prolific writer but is a blue-ribbon photographer. Do check out her website.

It's nice to get back into the school routine. I'm working on a short story and novel revisions again. We decorated our fake Christmas tree on Sunday. I'm not ready for a real tree this year with two kittens. Look at them! They've been having a great time playing with all the ornaments. They remind me of both our older cats when they were kittens. Such fun, such chaos. They nose the bells, chew on sticks and pulls the ornaments off. This morning, one of the kittens brought an ornament upstairs ... a fuzzy Santa with sticks. I told the kids that our job will be to fight entropy with the naughty kittens.

I hope everyone is enjoying getting back to their normal routine and not getting stressed over Christmas. I have one word for you: Marantha. It means, Come, Lord!


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving and a Challenge

Faith wrote a beautiful post on being thankful even for bad things. It immediately reminded me of 1 Thessalonians 5:18: Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

It is difficult to be thankful for aches and pains, for suffering, for death, but only the good Lord knows how He will use them for His purpose, His glory.

Kristi Holl recommended me a book: The God of all Comfort by Judy Gann. It is a book of reflections for those who suffer from chronic illness, or those who are dying. Well, we're all dying, so we can all benefit from it. It brings much needed perspective to my life right now. If you know of someone who is suffering, I highly recommend it.

There's a poem in there by an unknown author I'd like to share with you:

My life is but a weaving
Between my Lord and me;
I cannot choose the colors,
He worketh steadily.
Ofttimes he weaveth sorrow,
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper,
And I the underside.
Not 'til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly,
Shall God unroll the canvas
And explain the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful
In the Weaver's skillful hand,
As the threads of gold and silver,
In the pattern He has planned.

Every night at supper, we go around listing five thanks in no particular order, big or small. We've been doing this for several years now. I especially enjoy listening to the children's thanks, which give me clues as to what they love in their lunchbox, like tomatoes or popcorn, or the obvious (not in their lunchbox) -- the pets, the sunshine, family, friends.

This year, our youth leader at Church challenged us to make a list of 100 things we're thankful for. I thought this would be fun. My kids have already finished their lists. In light of what I've said, I think you can think of a hundred things easily, both good and bad. Even I can be grateful for my illness; it draws me closer to God, makes my children kinder, more compassionate.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Birthday, Ai

Today is my mother's birthday. I had hoped to make a cake to celebrate, but I was too ill. Instead I prayed the rosary. For her soul. For mine. And for my loved ones.
Today I leave you a quote from Vance Havner: God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is a broken alabaster jar that gives forth perfume ... It is Peter weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power.
Looking back, my mother was broken. But as a child, I saw her great strength and courage. I weep too, for I am broken. But in this brokennes, friends and family have come to my aid, and lifted me up in prayer. How blessed I am.
I came across this beautiful song by Leonard Cohen's and the refrain resonates perfectly: There is a crack in everything, That’s how the light gets in.
Here's the YouTube video link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zKk76YkF1U

Monday, November 22, 2010


We got a dusting of snow yesterday. The kids went out to play first thing in the morning. The dog kept jumping up and snapping at the large snowflakes. Today, it's been coming down all morning. The kittens have been watching it in rapt attention. Now I have one in my lap as I type this post. I hope the snowfall continues so that school is cancelled and we can have a nice long Thanksgiving break at home.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Count My Blessings

Count My Blessings is Salina Yoon's first picture book. A little bear counts his blessings: one house, two parents, three friends ...
I met Salina through the Blueboards. I'd been working on a concept book that had received good rejections and I was stumped. Knowing Salina's background, I asked whether she'd take a look. Not only did she take a look, she advised me how to make it marketable. I followed her lead until it was pitch perfect to both our ears. And she sent me a book! Count My Blessings.
Shouldn't I be thanking her? Inside the book were several notes including: Where's my bread? Apparently the bread I'd promised had gone phantom on me. Did the postman eat it? The fungus? Uh-oh. But this story has a happy ending. The bread arrived. I've now achieved the status of Ma Ingalls since Salina doesn't like to cook (even in a crock pot).
The kids and I read Salina's book immediately and Salina shared the genesis of this book. She was already creating novelty books at the time, many that I'm sure your own children have grown to love (check them out at her website), but she was a mother of a toddler at the time: "I wanted a book that was created JUST for him, and JUST from mom."
I wrote to her about the pictures, which ones were our favorites. She wrote back: "My mom (the grandma in the book) is a true quilter. She's made me at least a dozen quilts, from crib sized quilts to king sized quilts! From quilted bags to quilted teddy bears .... And my dad is actually a watch repairman, but loves using his hands. All the toys in the book are from Max's things. Oh... and those stuffed animals ... Max insisted on dragging them to bed, and drag them back downstairs every morning for years! My family truly inspired this book."
My kids understand this. All my early stories (and even now) published in magazines are our family stories, doing the laundry, cooking, picking berries, etc. They are keepsakes. Salina and I talked about our kids and what an inspiration they are. She wrote: "Max and Mason are now in Kindergarten and 1st grade. They've now outgrown my books for little ones. But they absolutely continue to inspire me! In fact, Max's favorite hobby is to create books of his own with me! He has a drafting table right in my studio."
Lucky kids! Thank you for sharing your beautiful book and your family so generously with us, Salina. Folks, watch out for more books from Salina in the near future -- she's as busy as can be!
May you all have a happy Thanksgiving. Count your blessings.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

On Love and Loss

Earlier this week, we had to put our oldest cat down. It was probably the worst time ever, since I was recovering from complications from a lumbar puncture. But that's a separate story. Well, is there ever a good time to break a bone when you're a 17-year-old cat? I knew something like this was bound to happen. He was old. He was frail. But I was completely unprepared, emotionally and physically. He spent a fair bit of time in bed with me and even though he was bony and not very soft, it was endearing to have him close and purring. Two old souls.

I got him at a time when I was hurting emotionally -- my husband (then boyfriend) and I had broken up because we were in a long-distance relationship and he had taken a job in Belgium and I felt he was moving in the wrong direction. I loved him so very much and wanted him in the same country. The same state would've been better. So I ended the relationship, and got this kitten instead. Eight months later, I was still miserable, as well as him (the boyfriend, not the kitten), so we decided to make concrete plans to physically be together. We got married and the rest is history. Oh, we were so young and so stupid, putting our careers above our love. Now I tell young people that love is more important, to not sacrifice it.

Moje was a great cat. A feisty little thing. Adventurous. When I finished my PhD I couldn't bear to be parted with him, so he came to Belgium with us for my postdoc at the Max Planck Institute in Germany. He's been well-travelled. He's been everywhere I've been and a great companion. I've missed him terribly when my husband I got married and went on our honeymoon. Luckily, our hosts had just gotten a kitten and I got to play with it.

Here's a photo of him when he was five years old and still not quite happy about getting the black cat. I was pregnant with our first baby at the time. But they became great friends after the baby was born and I was busy. She misses him the most now and follows me around quite a bit.

Then the babies came. He didn't like them at the beginning either -- but he was curious and wanted to be in the middle of everything.

He was the best babysitter ever, putting the kids to sleep.

He endured being treated like a stuffed animal.

He checked the homework routinely so that I wouldn't have to.

He taught both my kids to read.

In his later years, we added a puppy and two kittens. He tolerated them. But he was always top cat. He spent much of his time curled up, sleeping, but even so, he had his daily heebie-jeebies. He still nipped my toes and demanded to be picked up. I always did, no matter what I was doing.

Moje loved a good time and enjoyed Christmas and being part of the fun.

We miss you Moje. I am sure you are enjoying kitty heaven, chasing angel toes and sitting in all the available laps.

Monday, November 1, 2010

High Mass

Today we had the opportunity to attend High Mass at the Church of the North American Martyrs in Ballard. I cannot even express how amazing and wonderful it was. The Altar was magnificent with our eyes naturally drawn to the crucifix that was mounted on what I think was a malachite slab, backlit. Six candles were already lit. Someone was praying the rosary and we joined in. The atmosphere was intensely devotional and prayerful.

The entire service was in Latin and the congregation responded minimally. One could read in the little booklets that were printed, and although we were requested to return them, I confess I took one home to study, the Latin and English, printed side by side. I do know a little bit of Latin, since I used to sing in Concert Choir and many of the pieces we sung were by Bach and Verdi and Mozart and specifically composed for the Church. So I knew where we were during the liturgy. I love the Kyrie and the Sanctus, for I am a sinner and I cannot help but ask for mercy, and the Lord is Holy!

If you want to see a video clip and photos go here. The biggest difference is that the priest faces the Altar because he is leading the flock to Calvary. This is a much more sacrificial tone to the whole liturgy. The priest and altar servers move in a perfectly choreographed manner. We take communion by kneeling and on the tongue. There is something very different -- you are being fed the Lamb of God. Again, I cannot quite express how I feel. But I loved it and it evoked some very deep down memories that I didn't even know I had of going to the Cathedral as a child. We shall definitely go again. I think it is important to have exposure to this rich and traditional service as well as the vernacular.


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Almost All Hallow's Eve

These are our pumpkins for this year. We have the perfect Halloween cat of course. I didn't grow up with this tradition -- mine was strictly a religious one -- remembering the dead. For Catholics, All Saints Day is a Holy Day so we shall be going to Mass Monday night. It really is lovely to remember the greats -- we have our favorite Saints. What great role models. Ignatious Press has made some excellent biopics and we've been watching them periodically. The Saints struggle just like everybody else with temptations. They give in. But they pick themselves up and try again to live holy lives.
I often think of my mother. She was a saint too. Nobody knows of all the sacrifices she made to raise us. Nobody will sing her praises. There is no glory in yelling after children who do not listen, who give you grief. But she took such pleasure in feeding us whatever little food we had, in fattening us up, in singing to us, reading to us, in sewing us clothes. One of my greatest pleasures was to lay my head upon her lap, or to tell her I had a stomach ache and stay home from school and have a free day to read. She let us. We didn't do it often, my sister and I.
We have no grave to visit. Only stories. Memories. Pictures. But she is surely in the company of Jesus and Mary and all the Saints and angels of heaven.
In our secular culture, everything must be celebrated by stripping the holy out of the holiday. Now Halloween is about pumpkins and candy. Forget about the beloved dead. I hope you will light a candle for the people you remember and love and miss who have died. Do it for them. God bless you and God bless them.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Don't be Buffaloed

My student's story, Cowgirl Morning, not only debuted in Cricket, it made the cover! Isn't it stunning? I must get a copy of it this weekend. Luckily, my local Borders carries the magazine. So after my daughter's soccer game, we shall make a stop. By the way, their team is doing awesome in the playoffs! Go Colorblind Purple Pumas! (Long story).
Congratulations to Bryn Fleming!
Teaching is such a joy for me. And not just because of successes like these. Every student has a deep desire to share stories and these are stories that only they can write. They are self-selected population who come through ICL -- from grandmothers to high school students. Some have a great deal of experience, others not so. But the journey they begin here, the tools they learn, will last them for their writing life. It's lovely to take a part in making dreams come true.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


The dog loves the kittens ... and they love to cuddle up with her.

Down-time. As you can see, we are a family that loves relaxing. Nothing beats cuddling up with a cat right after school, before homework and football practice.

The 17-year-old brown cat tolerates the kittens just so he can be with us.

The 12-year-old tortie does not like to be in the middle of mayhem. She has always slept with our son and does not join all the commotion in the family room in the afternoons. Here she claims a Highlights.

Looks like these two are already beginning to look like the kitten!

Look at us lazy parents. When our kids were little, they'd join us for afternoon naps. Now they're too busy running amok with the camera.

I'm ready for the weekend. How about you?

Monday, October 11, 2010


"We're not getting a kitten," I said, negotiating our station wagon around a bend the shape of a pretzel. "We're just going to look."

So begins Cleo: the Cat who Mended a Family by Helen Brown. Poor Helen. She's like my husband, who didn't know you don't just "look" at kittens. The writing is exquisite in this book. But I'll admit I stopped reading it for a couple of days when tragedy hits the family. I simply could not go on. My own daughter is nine. And to even imagine losing her to some freak auto-accident is a place I cannot go to and remain sane.

Now that I'm in the thick of it, I'm savoring it. There is love after loss. Even laughter. My family thinks I'm bonkers sitting in a corner cackling to myself as I read this book. I can't help but think of the half finished stories of my own first cat. I got him at a tumultuous time in my life ... he's still with us (17 years old), still demanding our attention, still behaving like an Indian husband. Ah, yes, he deserves his own book. Someday.

I was a bit put-off by the cover saying: the next Marley and Me. Don't get me wrong. I've read it. Enjoyed it. But Cleo is nothing like Marley. For heaven's sake, don't the people who market know anything about cats and dogs? Marley is a dog. And some of us are right offended by the comparison. Puh-leeeese.

So, cat lovers ... get this book. Cleo will burrow into your own heart as have other cats. Perhaps it will jog some of your own cherished kitten and cat memories. Pen them. Write a tribute.

I love the title chapter and subheadings. Here's a sampling:

Choice ~ A cat chooses its owner, not the other way around.

A Name ~ There's only one correct name for a cat -- Your Majesty.

Loss ~ Unlike humans, cats are accustomed to loss.

The Intruder ~ A cat doesn't go where it's invited. It appears where its needed.

Trust ~ A cat is always in the right place at exactly the right time.

I could go on and on, but you simply must get the book, curl up with your own feline and enjoy this book for yourself.

Ciao meow.


ps: I wish the owners of Marley and other dogs and their owners only well. After all, we also have a lovable doggy in the house. But cats are cats and dogs are dogs, and the two shall not compare. Cats rule!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


What a rollicking good read this was. Scumble is the companion book to Savvy.

Ledger Kale's savvy busts things apart. You'll have to read the book to know how he learns to control it, with his cousins giving him lessons. Ingrid Law can spin a tall tale, but her savvy has got to be picking the best names for her characters: Fedora, Rocket, Marisol, and who can forget Mibs?

Here's our cat Savvy (the kid who named her is herself named after a book character). I like this picture even though it's fuzzy because she looks like she's glowing, kind of like Rocket in Scumble.

Other books that I enjoyed:
North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley -- this one is not just about a girl struggling with a port-wine stain. It had so many layers. I loved all the mapping metaphors used throughout. I especially enjoyed the family relationships, the unexpected plot twists. It's beautifully written. My only criticism is that the characters often started their conversations with: "God." This might be realistic, but it grated on my eyes and ears. Why? If characters start every sentence with the f* word, would we use it as writers?
Writing a Book that makes a Difference by Philip Gerard -- My pet projects are all important books. I want to make a difference in this world. Why else would I write? Oh, yes, I write for money and experience, but ultimately it's to bring a voice to the voiceless. Make a difference.
Quit Your Day Job: How to Sleep Late, Do What You Enjoy, and Make a Ton of Money as a Writer by Jim Denney -- Isn't that the greatest title? I saw it on Kristi Holl's blog. And I've made some changes to my writing life and boy golly, I'm going to be a career novelist.
After a month of being neurotic, I've finally settled down to my novel revision. Happy reading and writing, folks.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Blessing of the Pets

It was a gorgeous day for the blessing of the pets at Eastside Catholic. We brought our dog and the two new kittens. The older cats have already had their blessings, many times over.

Here's my son, trying to get the kittens out of the bag. I put a stop to that.

Father Bill blessing our dog. She barked, "AMEN!"

After we got home, I took a nap with one of the kittens. It's been a rough two weeks for me with intractable migraines ... these furry, purry pets bring such comfort and joy. God's creatures are marvelous ... and we are one of them as well.

I wanted to leave you with this Prayer of St. Francis, sung by Westminster Abbey Choir.
Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring your love.
Where there is injury, Your pardon, Lord.
And where there's doubt, true faith in You.
Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there's despair in life, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, only light.
And where there's sadness, ever joy.
O Master, grant that I may never seek.
So much to be consoled as to console.
To be understood as to understand.
To be loved as to love with all my soul.
Make me a channel of your peace.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
In giving of ourselves that we receive.
And in dying that we're born to eternal life.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Historical Writing Contest

I've been too busy and too sick to blog, so Bish kindly let me copy this verbatim from her blog, even though we probably share some readers. But for those we don't:

The Institute of Children's Literature, is having another one of their wonderful writing contests. This one is calling for Historical Fiction. Go check it out. Your story could win $500 and be published in Children's Writer.
I'm promoting it for several reasons:
1.) I'm a graduate of the Institute. Their courses were a HUGE stepping stone to my getting short stories and articles published in children's magazines.*
2.) I won the last contest they had with my retold Folktale, "Why Dogs Beg."**
3.) I've entered this one.***
Lastly4.) Jan Fields, who faithfully puts out a FREE e-newsletter and to whom you can submit articles to Rx for Writers (and get paid, I've had three articles in Rx) is offering a boat load of children's books for anyone who promotes the Historical Fiction Writing Contest.
Got all that?
I know most of you are novel writers, but it's good to flex your muscles and write something short and focused. S0 check out the contest rules. You might have something that fits.

*I am a graduate and an instructor.
**I also won a contest years ago for contemporary YA : Driving Lessons.
***I cannot since I teach at ICL, but I'd love to since I adore HF.


Saturday, September 18, 2010


My son had his essay chosen for display at school. It was on community. He wrote about baseball, family and church, how great it is to belong and lift each other up. But he was also very honest. That it's difficult when you want to do your own thing and cannot, because you have a responsibility to your community. He's always had this ability to see both sides of the coin, from the time he was a small boy. He's got an old soul. I am so glad we can send him to a Catholic school now. I like that everything is taught through that lens, whether it's literature or science.

It reminds me so much of my own family and writing, how much writing came to me via the family and yet there are days I get no time to write because of all the responsibilities. It is a struggle. But I would have nothing worthwhile to say without my family. And nothing at all, without God.

Monday, September 13, 2010

How Not to Revise

So I've been writing and revising and hating everything ... I want it to be PERFECT!!!! No matter what I try, it's not good. I have scribbled many pages in my notebook and I did not mind one bit. I was trying out various things, learning more about my characters, and if was all fun. But now that I opened up a new document, I feel paralyzed. I type up a sentences and paragraphs and they are all terrible. I tell myself not to delete, but in the morning, I delete everything. Can I scream now? ARRRRRGGGGGHHHHHHH. I feel a tantrum coming on. I feel like a fourth-grader who does not want to have to redo her work.

There is excellent advice over at Kristi Holl's blog ... the trick is to write fast and with with passion. But what if it's all crapola? I have lost all judgment about my work right now. My husband has suggested that I simply write and quit deleting and yet the delete button is my favorite key right now because the screen becomes blank again and I don't have to look at the stuff. He says to cut and paste it somewhere else. I actually do have another document where I talk to myself. Perhaps I should stick it in there ... I've not opened that document in a long time. But I promised Jen, my critique partner I will not delete anything more. We are supposed to meet Wed. and share some pages. I wanted to give her something brilliant to read ... make it worth her while.

Anybody else feel so neurotic?

I have made a decision. This revision does not have to be perfect. It cannot be and will not be perfect. It has to be incrementally better. That's all. Right?


Monday, September 6, 2010

Spilling Ink

What a gem of a writing book! I do enough writing workshops and this is one book I will be recommending to both kids and adults who like to write. The advice on the craft of writing, of getting into the habit, of protecting yourself from writerly neuroses, etc. is all here. It's a book that a kid might even want to pick up again and again, if she were stuck on characters or plot or setting. The authors, Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter, even have some writer exercises, only they call this section: I DARE YOU. How can you resist? Of course, you'll take the challenge. I did! And was better for it. And the illustrations by Matt Phelan give it just the right touch. Now, why don't they have these in grown up books? This one's a winner. If you want a writer's handbook for a young person in your life, or for your self, get thee to the bookstore and pick up: Spilling Ink.

Well, we're well into Sept. and both my kids are in school and I need to go spill some ink. Remember that first draft? Well, it's actually a horrible mess. A revision is in order. I told myself I'd start this weekend and it's almost over. We're still in summer mode even though it's raining here. Well, the night is still young ... must put the kiddos to bed and open a new document.

Here's to a productive fall, all.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Tell Me a Secret

It is always such a pleasure to read a book by a friend whom you've watched grow. Holly Cupala's Tell Me a Secret is a stunning debut. The writing is excellent, with characters that ring true -- not just the main character, but even the minor ones who make their appearances for just a few pages.

This is not just a teen pregnancy book. It's about a girl trying to discover her true identity in the shadow of her more flamboyant sister's death. It's also about toxic friendships. This is the aspect that interested me. It seems many teens don't discern people well, or even if they do, they still choose the wrong people to be with, for the wrong reasons.

The ending was honest, if not bittersweet. How I wish everything could've been tied up with a pretty bow, because sometimes that is what happens (see a post below with a baby's picture).

I was particularly impressed with how well Holly ties all the plots and subplots together and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the cast of characters were not all white, without race being an issue. Very nicely done.

So, thank you, Holly, for writing one of the best contemporary YA books I've read in some time.

A title like this begs for a secret to be divulged ... hmmm ... I once did not wear underpants to school. We were at the bus-stop and my sister for some odd reason, lifted my tunic and told me run home and put them on. She'd make the bus wait. I did as I was told. After all, I was only five.


Thursday, August 19, 2010


So much happening -- getting together with friends, both new and old, dentist appointments, schlepping kids to football and soccer practice (yes, the madness has begun), and this means it's time to get ready for school. I'm not ready ... there are still a million little things I need and want to do with my kids. This summer went by too fast ...

My son took a thousand pictures this summer and I'm so happy because now I can share a few of them with you. And since a picture is worth a thousand words ... well, I needn't say much. Grin.

There's been much hissing:

and clawing:
and cuddling:

and meowing:
and sniffing:
and stealing of dolly beds:
and intent listening to Warrior books:

There was also camping:
and gathering of lavender to make sachets, which the kittens often play with:

And sometimes we simply watched the dewdrops on the spiderweb ...

I hope you've all had a fabulous summer.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A New Baby

Today my niece gave birth to a beautiful baby girl -- this baby is the reason her parents got married. They have shown tremendous faith in taking this leap, of making a commitment to each other and to their baby. May God bless them and protect them and help them to grow in faith, hope and love.

Oh, babies!

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, ~Jeremiah 1:3

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The End

I typed those two wonderful words "The End" to the first draft of DAMAGED on Wed. I raced through the last 10K ... it's all plot, sort of how my kids tell a story (this happened, then that, etc.) but I am breathless and happy and relieved.

Is it possible that this momentous event happened because my modem was dead all week and I couldn't get online? Methinks ...

Two hours later, my lesson packet arrived from ICL, but I took the night off to snuggle with all the pets and watch a movie.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Holy Smokes are Winners!

Holy Smokes of St. Jude have done it again -- taken first prize for chicken, ribs, and People's Choice and third prize for pork shoulder!

Thanks to all our Knights!