Tuesday, October 30, 2007

If you're happy...

Our journal today in Creative Writing was to list things that make you happy. And in one of those moments that make you go hmmmm...., in my other classes, getting ready in some to study Antigone and others to study Macbeth, we were talking about tragedy. And how the ancient Greeks believed that everyone would have suffering in their lives. That it wasn't tragic. It just was the way it was.

I'm with the Greeks, really. I think we all spend way too much time "navel gazing" and worrying about why we're not happy. Maybe it just isn't our moment today. Maybe it's okay if we're a little gloomy. (Garrison Keillor talks about this a bunch. He's way funnier than I am at this moment. So feel free to reference him if you like...) But honestly, my genetic pool simply doesn't allow me to trust anyone who smiles all the time. I simply figure they drank too much of the purple koolaid and try to ignore them. (if you aren't old enough to get that last reference, look up Jim Jones and Guyana)

That being said, I still have a long list of happy stuff. On it currently:

1. Being represented for the past year by my lovely agent Michelle Andelman of the Andrea Brown Agency. Michelle believes in me and my books and projects. She trusts me to revise. She has an uncanny way of seeing the bigger picture of my pitches even before I fully see it myself. In short, she rocks!
2. the cool weather we've been having. Cool as in below 60 in the mornings, sometimes below 50. Sweaters. Tights. The occasional pair of boots. Yay! It's not "real" fall, but it's close enough.
3. Laughing with my kid on the phone or in person. Darn funny boy, my guy. He "gets me" too. And sometimes he even lets me steal pieces of his life and stick them in spots in stories.
4. Wine on the porch with our next door neighbors. Talk, laugh, sip. Divine.
5. Husband calling this afternoon to check on me because he knew I was worried about something. Good guy, that guy of mine.
6. True friends. 'nuff said on that one. Lots of wanna -be ones out there. But the tried and true ones who are always there. More precious than anything.

I've got tons more. Good movies, good friends, speed dial, Gilmore Girl DVD's...

Not a bad little life, this one. And I know it.

Til next time...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

In which I avoid work and enjoy the day

Should have been grading and/or writing this morning. Instead, I was finishing Before I Die by Jenny Downham, which I mentioned the other day. Had started reading it a couple weeks back and then hadn't had the time to finish. But once I got to chapter 31, I couldn't put the book down. Was weeping by the end. I have not been this emotionally wrecked by a book in a very, very long time. And that includes my weepiness at the lovely epilogue on HP 7. Simply put, this book is wrenching. Tessa Scott is sixteen. She is dying. And she wants to live. But it isn't going to happen. That's not giving anything away. The book jacket tells us as much. But it is a book as much about life as it is about death. If you want a more eloquent review, the NY Times has a lovely one, which I should probably link here, but am not going to fiddle with at the moment. May go back when I have a few more seconds. But suffice it say, this is not a book that will leave you anytime soon. And as the NY Times reviewer notes, it's labeled YA cause the protagonist is 16, but it's a book that transcends any label. (Actually, I think that can be said for most older YA, but that's another conversation)

Followed that up by our trip to the Hobby Center to see Avenue Q, the "puppet musical." It too, is about life and all its ups and downs, esp. for the post college 20 somethings. Loved the song "It Sucks to be Me." Loved most of it, actually. Funny, a little poignant, certainly grossly irreverant, which is perfect for me. Even the set is sort of the anti-Sesame Street. Rude, very adult puppet people. Worth the price if you get a chance.

Anyway, now I'm playing catch up with all I have to do. Including getting a jump start on my commitment to my own NaNoWriMo, which will be to finish by current WIP by Nov. 30th. Yes, I know that's sort of cheating to start early, but it's all for a good cause - finishing!
Have some students who will be WriMo-ing with me. We will see how we all fare... And if you don't know the acronym, November is write a 50,000 word novel in a month time. A worthy but lofty challenge.

Til next time...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Some things need to be up to you

Caught the last half of Oprah on Monday. And I 'm not sure what I think. Topic, as far as I could gather, was about death and dying. And yes, I know, it's the great scary unknown. Certainly not something that makes any of us jump up and down with glee. But still... somehow Oprah crossed a boundary I didn't want her to cross. It's one thing to have Nate Burkus tell me how to decorate or Dr. Oz explain my colon functions, or Oprah herself pontificate about those "aha moments." But having guests who are dying from cancer whose sole function in their segments seemed to be to tell us how to die properly while still enjoying life, well, I mean come on. I don't know how I'll act when it's my time. Maybe I'll go with dignity. I hope I will. Maybe I'll be pissed and angry. Most likely I'll be some combination of the two. Who knows. And while I'm impressed with these people's candor and bravery, mostly I was left feeling Oprah had gone somewhere she didn't need to. It's not enough that we have to read what she picks, watch the movies she suggests, buy what she likes, and cast our votes for her candidate choices. Now we have to die like she tells us, too. We have to "be brave" and "learn something."

Well maybe I'll want to be a coward. Maybe I'll rail and rant and won't want to "go gentle." And honestly, I think that when that time comes, it will be no one's business but my own.

If you want a YA novel that touches your heart and treats death as realistically as I 've seen in while, pick up the new "Before I Die" by Jenny Downham. Or don't pick it up. As I said earlier, it needs to be up to you.

Til next time...

Saturday, October 20, 2007

It's got to be written on my forehead...

Husband says I have "Please, please, tell me your life story, I'm bitterly lonely and in need of some humor and irony" written on my forehead. I think he is right.

Standing in line today - a long, ridiculously long line - at the local bagel shop. Clearly we were the only two in line with ethnic bagel knowledge in our blood. But whatever. Older teenage girl in front of us. Alternating between talking on cell phone, annoying her brother and nagging her mother about going to Ren Fest. She turns to me in mid rant - me whom she does not know and has never met or seen. "Tell her," she says. "You've been to Ren Fest, haven't you? Tell her how much fun it is. Tell her about Ded Bob."

Husband eyebrows do a dance at the top of his head.

And I, of course, simply turn to the mom and tell her Ren Fest rocks.

"Ren Fest," she says. "What's that?"

"You know," I say, "Renaissance... uh... kings, queens, fairies, jousting..." (Here I begin to feel like I should have run over to Starbucks instead and had a scone)

"Yeah, Mom," says the daughter. "You know. Turkey leg. Ded Bob. The perfect day."

Luckily it was their turn at the counter next.

"Do you know her?" husband whispers in my ear. Then.. "Never mind."

Cause he knows I don't. Just my crazy world.

People talk to me. They just do. And it's probably why I can write. In fact I know it is.

Til next time...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

barely standing

I've had it with the pace lately. Seriously. I am exhausted. Just woke myself up from a legitimate nap. No, not a fall asleep while grading papers or watching something, or slump head down on laptop and wake up hoping I didn't drool all over it nap. But a just couldn't move any more, covered up with a blanket cause it was too much to make it to bed nap.

And why? Because like everyone I know - and I mean everyone - there's too much to do squeezed into too little time. Trying to write while working full time with overloaded classes mostly works out for me. I simply sleep less and multi task more and get it done somehow.

But this week's been a killer. At school early twice for parent conferences. Do you know that morning conferences start at 6:50 AM? I barely know my name at 6:50 AM, much less why Johnny isn't doing what he should be. This morning, while the rest of the staff proctored the PSAT, the English dept. - well some of us - sat and graded benchmark test essays and short answers. Think I evaluated about 170 or so essays and equal amount of short answers. (won't be discussing the whole issue of benchmarks here. it will just make me steam) Then after teaching the rest of the day, went to dentist so they could remind that I inherited crummy gums and poke and prod a bit. Why do they always poke you in the gums with a sharp tool and then berate you for bleeding? And besides, don't they remember the whole crown debacle, for which they were wholely at fault, that caused me to chew only on the left side for a solid month? Don't they?

And who hasn't sat on that chair, with the lobster bib hooked around your neck and lied your ass off about how much you floss? :: I swear I floss twelve times a day. Really::

Til next time...

Sunday, October 14, 2007

walking with the fairies

Lovely Sunday afternoon at the Renaissance Festival in Plantersville, Texas. We haven't been in at least five years so it was time we went back. Perfect day for it. Relatively cool, nice breeze and for whatever reason, not too crowded. Laughed our butts off at the Ded Bob show, ate and drank what we felt like, which for me included a rather nice portion of fish and chips, watched a little jousting, and even had my tarot cards read which is not something I've ever done but was glad I finally did. (Thanks, Sister Glo!) Won't impart her super secret observations, but will simply say that she kinda floored me with some of them. Floored as in wow, that was rather accurate how the heck did you know that.

Anyway, it's been a good weekend all the way around. My alma mater Northwestern even beat Minnesota, 49-48 in overtime, so that was good too.

And if you don't know about Ded Bob, feel free to go to Dedbob dot com.

Til next time...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I'm trying to like her... really I am

Okay, so here's the thing. I'm trying and trying to like Bella Swan. Really I am. But I'm falling short. If you don't recognize and immediately salivate over the name then you haven't read Stephenie Meyer's wildly popular Twilight trilogy. I've just finished the third book, Eclipse, which took me much longer than it would have in the summer, but hey, I'm a-writin' the books and a-teachin' the classes, and trying to shove some life in between...

But back to Bella. She's thoughtless to Jacob far too often and realizes it but doesn't change. She doesn't spend enough quality time thinking about how her changing into a vamp will affect her father and mother. Okay, yeah, they're not perfect people, but STILL!!! And honestly, I'm not sure if she even appreciates Edward. (okay, yeah, I admit it - I'm a Jacob fan over Edward. I know I'm in the minority on that one. But I seem to have a tender spot for the guy. Go figure.)

I know there are hordes and hordes who disagree. Which actually is quite cool because I love when a book generates conversation and strong opinion. Means that Stephenie Meyer has done a fantastic job at creating a fictional world that feels real to people. So hats off to you, Stephenie. Our YA librarian told me today that hundreds of people are on the waiting list for Eclipse at the public library. Amazing... and fantastic for the YA community and books in general.

Anyway, it's on to Scott Westerfeld's Peeps and also the new Before I Die. Not exactly a matched set, but I take what I get my hands on.

Til next time...

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Love is in the air

If you are the romantic type... or perhaps even if you're the cynical type - take yourself to see Jane Austen Book Club. No, I didn't read the book. But I've read some Austen and even if you haven't, well, it's a delightful couple of hours. Personally, I wallowed in it all. Love, in all its many, many incarnations. Or at least some of them.

Who are we? Suckers for love, marrying over and over and never giving up on finding "the one"? Afraid to let go of the familiar and take the leap? Been hurt and want to forget about it all? Ready to give up on the one we used to love but aren't sure if we do anymore? Hopelessly romantic? Romantically hopeless?

Love is a factor for all my characters, all my books. What we do for love. What we'll sacrifice for it. What we won't. What did for it and might now regret. How it informs all we do and all we are.

Personally, I'm the cynic who's always hoping for that happy ending.

Where do you fall in the world of love?

Til next time...

Monday, October 8, 2007

how do you write?

My latest work in progress is coming to me differently than most anything else I've ever written. Lately, it's happening like this: As I write more detailed plot points, scenes come to me. And so I write them. So now I have this bullet point plot outline interrupted every few points with a full blown scene that may or may not be usable in the long run. The result is that I have scenes written from all parts of the book, but not necessarily the pieces in between. Those I'll have to go back and put in.

It's been weird, but I'm taking it as the gift I suspect it is.

If you're reading this and you're a writerly type, what are some ways stories/novels have come to you?

I'd say Happy Columbus Day, because to me, it's quite happy cause there's no school today and I think I'll even get to squeeze in "The Jane Austen Book Club" this afternoon. But if you're one who finds it politically incorrect or inaccurate or it reminds you of that nasty Inquisition going on in Spain then, simply have a rockin' Monday. Personally, it's my second Monday off in a row (last week's jury duty exursion and all) and I could get used to it. Except of course for the brutal Tuesday that follows.

Til next time...

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


Okay, loyal poster and friend Beth is right. Chuck! Monday nights. NBC. It is the best. Plus Adam Baldwin. The facial expressions alone are worth the time watching. Yes, Chuck. Working for the Nerd Herd. Reluctant hero. Sucked me in after ten minutes. And honestly, made up for Claire Bennett's whining on my former favorite Heroes. Oh, poor Claire. Cutting off your pinky toe just to see if you can. Well, okay... but whatever. And why is the Rouge gone? Cause Nissan is no longer the exclusive sponsor?

Chuck - you had me at Adam Baldwin (Jayne!!! Oh how I miss Firefly and that other set of reluctant heroes...)

Til next time...

Monday, October 1, 2007

doing my duty

Was called to jury duty today. In our county, we still meet in an old theater to get sworn in and divided up into the different courts. Gives it kind of a festive note. Jurors. Oaths. Posters for the upcoming production of "Arsenic and Old Lace."

Didn't get picked, though, so once I got my forms and signed off my ten bucks to a worthy charity, I got a Monday all for me. All. For Me. Went to the grocery store on a week day morning. Got my oil changed on a week day morning. (seeing a theme here?) Got to write for three uninterrupted hours on... a week day afternoon. In the fall. Baked mini banana bread loaves I thought about baking last week and never got around to.

And I also discovered that the Today show now seems to last for hours and hours. Some frilly extra hour of fashion and whatnot. With guest Meg Cabot, which was a nice surprise. She was on a panel about gossip. Meg was basically pro. Maybe Britney will change her behavior if we all keep gossipping about it, says the author of the Princess Diaries.The other author, not so much.

Anyway, Mondays off rock. Especially when you get to feel all the self righteousy goodness from having done your civic duty first.

Til next time...