Sunday, December 28, 2008

What I used to read and how I got to here

Just finished reading Caitlin Flanagan's article "What Girls Want" from December's Atlantic Monthly. I'm presuming it's getting a lot of chatter because she tells us, "I hate YA novels; they bore me." And hey, I had my hackles up, too when I read that isolated from the rest of the article. But in the larger context of what she's saying, well, I don't agree with her, but I take her to mean that in her current "reading life" as she calls it, they don't meet her emotional needs, life, whatever. Okay. Like I say, they seem to meet mine. Let's agree to disagree and move on. Because it's the rest of the article that held my personal interest. Essentially six more pages discussing why Twilight is in her word, "fantastic." Lots of talk about Bella's obsession with her potential defiling by Edward and Edward's refusal to defile her and Meyer's sort of retro subversive description of Bella performing housewifely tasks like cooking Charlie dinner. And how one spring afternoon, Flanagan cut geometry to go off with her boyfriend and get some red wine and whatever followed that.

Okay, there's a reason I'm not a college academic and I prefer to teach high school, even if I do have a very expensive and rareified Northwestern English degree and all my profs had degrees from Harvard and Yale and passed all their really cool lit knowledge on to me. So I'll admit the above summary is lazy and too brief. But hey (pointed comment coming) I write YA. I cut out the fluff and get to the meat of the story. Action over meditation. Almost always. Which I think is good. And gets the story going and cuts out twelve pages of meditative longing over some Proustian church spire or whatever. (see, I told you - highbrow education under there somewhere)

But here's the thing. Flanagan talks of the books she devoured as a girl. (and also has some really funny sentences such as the one in which she says of the young women of Gossip Girl, "these chippies could make a crack whore look like Clara Barton." - which really did get me chuckling even I happen to disagree and think that Blair has a heart of gold somewhere under all that La Perla (or whatever it is; I can't afford it so I don't think about it) underwear. And about why girls love Edward.

And it all got me thinking about the books and heroines I loved as a girl and a teen. Which got me thinking about what I write and how my characters live. About what they want and don't.
So here's the thing - I never wanted to be Jane Eyre. I was pissed at Mr. Rochester for not telling her that small little detail about the crazy wife in the attic. I was okay that he was blinded at the end of the book. I always preferred Jo March to fussy Amy or Meg. (I actually loved Beth best, but then she died which seemed rather weak willed of her even though it made me cry) Jo had to settle for the German professor guy because certainly Laurie was never strong enough for her. Which pissed me off in ways I couldn't express when I was eight or nine. I loved Meg in Wrinkle in Time. She was strong and feisty and my kind of girl. I loved the girl in Judy Blume's Forever (sorry I can't remember her name at the moment) because she chose to have sex and then move on from a relationship that was very nice but needed to be over and - gasp - didn't die from it or catch a disease or suffer needlessly and had in fact made sure to go to Planned Parenthood first. Okay, it was all a little clinical at times, but she was a take charge girl. I had no patience for the sufferings of Madame Bovary and whatshername in the Kate Chopin's Awakening or even poor Anna Karenina. I thought Heathcliff was a whiner.

In short - I never ever wanted the guy to save me. Which, I'm certain accounts for me begin on "team Jacob" in Twi-world and not team Edward. And why Anne in my very own Dreaming Anastasia (Sourcebooks, Fall 09!!) is a feisty little sixteen year old who doesn't take much guff. And Ethan in that very same book - not to give away much at this point - might need some saving instead. And why Andy Meyers in the current WIP Cut Back is generally flummoxed by the females in his world.

So I guess my answer to What Girls Want is different than some. This girl wants an equal partnership whenever she can get it. If saving is needed, let the girl save the boy sometimes, too. Or maybe, they can just both save each other.

Til next time...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

2k9 has gone live!

Head on over to
My fellow debut authors and I are waiting for you!
Our first book out of the chute is Rosanne Perry's Heart of a Shepherd, coming in January. It's already getting some great press and word of mouth and you can read all about it and all the rest when you stop on by. Book talk guides, teacher's guides, related recipes. We're serving up fresh fiction for all to enjoy. Even have an Author to Go program you might really like.

I'm excited and thrilled and humbled at all the talent I've been privileged to associate with. So come on by and let us show you what we're doing.

Til next time...

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A little gratitude

Agent Jen's been keeping a gratitude journal. I'm not quite that ambitious but as I'm nonetheless thankful lately, I figured it was time. Three years ago, I began typing up my New Year's resolutions. I tuck them into an old planner I keep in my nightstand (okay, it's BTVS planner husband gave me at some point in some moment of enabling my Buffy obsession and it's got great pictures so I don't throw it away, but I digress) Call me crazy, but the act of writing the stuff down really made a difference for me. Not everything gets done, but if I keep them doable and not ridiculous, it seems to work out. As I'm the girl who keeps a life list of things I want to accomplish and places I want to travel to in my pocket calendar in my purse, it all seems to make a certain kind of sense.

But back to the gratitude. We're all - and for many good reasons - rather gloom and doom these days, but I woke up thinking perhaps we just need to change how we're looking at it. 401 K in the toilet? Then figure out some other way to save. That kind of thing. Glass half full or at least not cracked and crushed under someone's bootheel.

So, on this 7th of December, (not the most auspicious date in history for a gratitude list but wouldn't ya know this would be the day I'd post this?), in no particular order,I am officially grateful for:
  • agent Jen and former agent Michelle who both believe in me
  • Andrea Brown who re-matched me with Jen even as I was sitting off the power grid post Ike.
  • a messy, comfy house
  • really nice neighbors
  • my 2k9 group to share the publishing roller coaster
  • my critique buddies
  • a crazy posse of friends
  • health, including the healing of the abcessed tooth and some kind of tendon sprain in my ankle. Both are gone and I am delighted
  • husband who loves me
  • son who is funny, brave, kind, and amazingly mostly off our payroll!
  • the current cool weather
  • having survived Hurricane Ike
  • Sourcebooks publishing who took a chance on me and even paid me cash American
  • a full time day job that reminds me every day why I write for teenagers
  • a crazy extended family and friends who've become like family
  • an amazing thing called Kinko's Fed Ex print on line
  • democracy
  • our new president elect
  • my Chi flat iron

Til next time...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

is an absolutely amazing book that is going to stick with me for a long time. Thank you E. Lockhart for this treasure.

Frankie Landau-Banks' family thinks of her as Bunny Rabbit. Her old boyfriend Porter thought of her as someone he could cheat on. New boyfriend Matthew does not see her as secret worthy. Her friend Trish just doesn't really understand her. And Frankie? Well Frankie wants to be somebody. She wants power. She wants to be a force of nature. But she's trapped in the male-dominated hierarchy of Alabaster, her boarding school. The good old boy system is alive and well and smiling its well-heeled smiles in the Bassetts, the boy only secret society that Frankie decides she must infiltrate. And the results well - I won't give things away, but let us say that a happily ever after is not exactly possible for the indomitable Frankie Landau-Banks. Frankie wants to lose her distruntled state; she wants to be, as she says when she quotes from P.G. Wodehouse, "gruntled." But it just might not work out the way she hopes. If you are a smart girl, you will love this book. If you love words, you will adore this book. If you sometimes think the way the world runs sort of sucks, you will want to read this book. If you've ever been willing to lose the battle to win the war, read "The Disreputable History..." It will stay with you for a long time. As for me, well, since I was once, not too many years ago, told, "I don't care how smart you are, you just need to be nicer," Frankie is my girl.

Til next time...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The World owes you nothing

Up late, late. Working. Thinking. Having that glass of red wine cause it's oh so medicinal. (My story and sticking to it) Went to delightful Brazos Valley SCBWI conference this past Saturday, and it was Pippin's Emily van Beek - oh so very smart and witty and precise in all the ways I will never ever be - who reminded me of this post's title. It's part of Pippin's mantra, if you will. And it's harsh but true. The world owes us nothing. We owe the world - our hard work, our best efforts, our best stories, our everything. But there are no guarantees. I can whine all I like about how someone didn't like my work or asked for yet another revision or told me that my conflict isn't fully evident and my minor character is taking over the story. But if I want success, I have to fix it. It's an uncomfortable lesson. We do so much that's the opposite - trophies in YMCA sports even if your kid has sat on the grass picking clover every game; inflating grades; enabling in oh so many ways. I've done it. You've done it. Hey! Don't lie. You've done it. Or it's been done on your behalf.

Interesting to think about on this late, late night.
And on the brighter side, it's Wednesday. So that meant an hour of Bones. Ahhh. David Boreanaz solving a mystery on a plane. The world may owe me nothing, but sometimes it coughs up something nice.

Til next time...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Go Ask Alice

We are - so everyone says - in the new golden age of young adult literature. And hey, as someone whose YA book is coming out next year and who hopes to sell more of the same, who am I to argue with that assessment. So many brilliant books out there by brilliant writers :: cough - hey, check out the Class of 2k9 website !!:: that I barely have time to read them all or comment on them, much as I try.

But there's one book that just keeps on ticking with teen audiences that wasn't written recently. And that's Go Ask Alice by Anonymous. Read it when I was in high school and found it compelling. MC's downward spiral into drugs and sex and general horridness grabbed then and re-grabs me whenever I pick it up. It's that first person diary narrative. When I was fourteen, I felt like she was talking to me directly. (not that I was doing the things that she was doing exactly, but just that they were definitely available and this was certainly a cautionary tale with a quite unhappy ending. And hey, I came from depressed Russian stock. The people who gave us Anna Karenina and The Brothers Karamazov. My genetic idea of a happy ending was more along the lines of "And then she threw herself in front of the train. But before she did, she made sure to cook dinner for her eight children so at least they shouldn't be hungry at the funeral.")

So here's my discovery lately while the 10th graders have been presenting their book talks this 9 weeks. Go Ask Alice still gets great word of mouth. Kids still dive in and can't put it down. Amidst the Twilight craziness and the talk of whether werewolves or possibly historical fiction will be the next best YA thing (I'm voting for the historical, obviously, since SPARK is a retelling of the Anastasia Romanov's disappearance, but I digress for shameless self promotion except honestly, isn't that why I write this blog?), teens are still picking up that black covered book and telling each other to do the same. They no longer get the song reference of the title, for the most part, and for the most part I waffle about sharing my drug reference knowledge, (it's pills, kiddies, and it's also a reference to Alice in Wonderland and that nasty old Lewis Carroll) but they love the book.

So there you go.

Til next time...

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Revision Dominoes

So here's the thing about revising. You can't just fix one thing. Let's for example - and this purely hypothetical :cough - no it's not: that you add a conversation/argument between your MC and his best friend Dan and now they're really uneasy with each other. And then, the MC goes home and lo and behold, you realize that he's going to end up having this heart to heart with his little sister whereas that particular interchange didn't ever exist before in this part of the book. So now, there you are, guzzling English Breakfast tea and trying to thread the continuity of this throughout everything else that occurs in the rest of the book. And keep the pacing going.

That's all hypothetical, of course. Right?

And you know what else is hypothetical? The possibility that while you'd spent most of the day doing this - in between grocery shopping, cleaning the bathrooms, a nice little trip with the husband to Starbucks where you drank a totally delightful Chai Latte and sat outside and talked about nothing in particular and okay, an hour watching Amazing Race because you had to see what happened to Dandrew and phew they came in 5th and are still in the race and Andrew himself yelled hello to you over the phone just now while he was at your son's condo and then the preview for next week indicated that Dan and Andrew are going to fight, which you're not that worried about since you saw them having fun on Mill Street in Tempe just a couple weeks ago when you were there - that you'd completely neglected that thing called lesson plans for the coming week and you're feeling a bit guilty and stressed right now.

Which, of course, you're solving by posting this blog entry.

Til next time...

Monday, November 3, 2008


See title. Do it. Tomorrow. Have a voice.

Til next time...

And on a lighter note - the three best lines of television I've heard in awhile, courtesy of tonight's Gossip Girl: "I have a credit card. I want Bacardi and a boy. This body's open for business." Whoever wrote those - I bow in supplication. xoxo to you.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Revise. Revise. Rinse. Repeat. Revise.

I'd say that I'd been revising one book or another for what seems like forever, except I think that describes this election year. Okay, maybe it describes both things. And by Tuesday, we'll have a new president, but I'll still be revising CUT BACK. Which is honestly okay although my NaNoWriMo goals have now turned into finish my revision goals and will probably be joined by the finish my line edit goals. And Sweet Dreams will continue waiting a few more weeks. Maybe for me it'll be NaNoWriMo times 2. We'll see how it goes. But I'm feeling sassy and happy because tonight is my absolute favorite night of the year since we push the clocks back and get that extra hour. (except where the kid lives in AZ, where - maverick run state that they are - they don't ever change the clocks and now I have remember that he's only one hour behind us now and back on Mountain time rather than two hours behind us on Pacific time. That'll screw with your head.)

Anyway, back to the revision process. Lots of ways I've gone about it. What worked for me this time was to make a bullet point outline of the main moments/beats in the novel. And then use the comment function on Word to re-plan/add/subtract/write myself notes about what needs to be done/what agent suggested/what I now realize should happen/ what's needed for the character and plot arcs. And now I'm going from there. Slowly. But happy with the results.

We'll see how far I get tomorrow. But the goal is to be done by the end of the month and I think with a little luck that just might happen.

Til next time...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Class of 2k9

My fellow Class of 2k9ers and I are getting ready to launch our website soon and I'm very excited. Like the classes before us, we're a diverse group of middle grade and YA debut authors whose books are coming in - obviously - 2009. I'll be posting more, soon, and adding links to their individual websites at my but I wanted to take a second to tell them all how fantastic they've been as we've felt our way through this publication thing. Most of us have day jobs and families as well and all of us have a myriad of other obligations, but slowly, we've become a crazy family of our own. Writer = neurotic some days and what better group to share the crazies with? Personally, I've had the weirdest fall in a while - between hurricanes and abcessed tooth and the election stress and the economy (okay only one of those happened just to me but still) and agent change and some other family health concerns and a little travel thrown in for good measure, plus, oh yeah, that pesky full time job. Add in work on three plus books in one stage or another and I'm a little nuts most days. So how absolutely amazing to have 20 other people who know exactly what that's like? (okay, minus the hurricane for most of them but whatever)

Best of all, I am thrilled to be able to talk about all their upcoming books!! That's the best of all. Some days I have to pinch myself to check if this is really happening. ARCS and cover art and a twenty or so wonderful, amazingly passionate and hard working new friends to share it all with. Because that's the other best thing - I get to talk every day with so many writers who share my passion for story telling, for people, and for telling stories for children and teens that get the heart of what it means to be human, who care deeply about getting that right. We may disagree on some little things, but we agree on our committment to our audience and to the craft. I can't ask for any better, braver group of humans to share things with.

Bravo fellow 2k9ers. You inspire me each and every second of the day.

Til next time...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Going to the fair and other AZ adventures

Just got back from our trip to AZ to see the prodigal son, hang out and generally have a rollicking wonderful time. I middle seated it both going and coming home which is not my favorite, but husband likes window and I don't want to be anti social, so... but you know if I hadn't been the middle, I might not have chatted with the guy next to me Thursday nite who was having a rather loud conversation with a reporter on his cell, which he ended to ease himself out of his aisle seat (okay, he was, while nice, not the smallest fellow on the planet) and comment to me re: reporter on phone - "Doesn't she realize she's speaking to a leader of a nation." So what do you say to that? Hi, this is my husband Winston Churchill and I'm Queen Elizabeth? Turns out though, that I guess he is - of a Native American tribe in Michigan. Huh...

Beyond that, we ate, drank and were very merry the entire weekend. Piano bar on Friday nite, some serious shopping and hanging out on Friday day. Great breakfasts out which I love. Visits with the kid, his girlfriend and even her family who were in for the weekend as well. We all watched ASU get routed by the Oregon Ducks but had a blast none the less. Hit the bars some. Got some face time with the adorable Andrew and Dan and tried to pry Amazing Race info out of them. Nope. Not telling! But they are still friends so obviously whatever the outcome it did not change that! And spent an afternoon at the AZ State Fair amidst more fried food than is humanly possible, puke it up rides galore, side shows like the largest alligator in the world (sad gator in a shallow pool of water that you pay an extra buck to see...), free SPAM samples from the SPAM Mobile - "You can have as much as you want." Me: "Oh goodie." Watched the pack llama competition (Rick the llama won; we yelled for him; not sure if that's the proper llama deocrum but rowdied it up for Rick, especially when he had to do the llama limbo...) watched sheep shearing, spinning wheel demos, pigeon competitions and my ultimate moment of ick when one poor guy's arm was wrenched in two (picture what happens when you pull the drumstick off a turkey and you've the mental image needed) during the Arm Wrestling Championships. I screamed. Loudly. It will live with me forever.

Til next time...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Embracing the changes

Patience and the love of change. Two things I endlessly lack. You'd think I'd have learned... cause I'm certainly getting enough experience.

As many of you know, there was a real shakeup at ABLA when my fantabulous agent of two years, Michelle Andelman, decided to move to a career as a book scout. When you're with an agent for two years, people, it's honestly like being married. You know each other's quirks, likes, dislikes, work habits, patterns. This is the person who negotiated my first contract, who sold my first book... it's joined at the hip time - until suddenly it's not. And all of sudden you're feeling like you did in college when you had that bad breakup just after Valentine's Day with the rebound boyfriend... But I am delighted to say, that as the dust lifted, I am now partnered with the delightful, passionate, and absolutely smart as a whip Jennifer Rofe. And - as was to be expected - back in the revision cave for one more set of fixes on the project that has been the love of my life for awhile now. (and Jen, if you read your client's blogs, I think I know how to get 'er done!)

Now if only someone could figure out how to solve our country's financial woes, assure me that we're going to elect the right people, and help me figure out why The Hills' Audrina took off her top in the pool for Justin Bobby...
Til next time...

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Something for Sunday

Lots of somethings, actually. In no particular order:
  • If you are here in Houston, go, go, go to see the new musical Unbeatable, which is a: about a woman fighting stage three breast cancer and b: absolutely fantastic. This is the first play in Stages 08-09 season, to which husband and I are subscribers. Stages is an amazing reperatory theater and while I also love and support The Alley, Stages is a smaller, more intimate venue and takes more risks in their offerings. Ike (stupid #@%& hurricane!) caused some serious damage to Stages facility so last night's performance was at the smaller theater in the Hobby Center. And because yesterday was also Race for the Cure, the audience was filled with cancer survivors and those who support them. Next week, the show moves back home to its own stage. Like I said, GO! You will laugh and cry and sing along. And if that's not enough, the actress who plays Tracy's mom, Janet Carroll, also played Tom Cruise's mom in Risky Business. Okay, maybe that's not a pull for you. But it was cool for me.
  • I am now on Facebook. Go ahead. Friend me. Even my own son did. Thanks to Kim O for a little shove on finally setting up my page.
  • Episode two tonight of Amazing Race. According to my inside sources, things get more exciting for Andrew and Dan.
  • Reading The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman. Wowza! Woman believes she can wish people dead... then she gets hit by lightning - and survives. But nothing is going to be the same. It is a phenomenal read.
  • Waiting on all publishing issues. Waiting for line edits. Waiting for the moment we'll send my next "baby" out on submission. Waiting to get my cd of my professional photos. (they're pretty darn good, actually, considering what they had to work with, which is, well, me).
  • Waiting for FEMA to pick up the enormous piles of storm debris (trees, branches, whatever) that are everywhere. And by enormous, I mean f-ing huge. And by everywhere, I mean everywhere. Every. Where. Our bags o' crap were taken away on Friday! Yay!!! But the piles of limbs lay (lie?) rotting away. Oh Ike, you were one mean, mean guy.
  • Still mulling over the VP debates. This election is nothing if not fascinating.
  • Still mulling over the Bailout. People, did you all learn nothing from Enron? What's that I hear? Crickets? Birds chirping?

Til next time...

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Amazing Race is coming!

Andrew and Dan! Andrew and Dan! Please watch Amazing Race as it premieres this Sunday and cheer on my son's frat brothers Andrew and Dan! (okay, only if you want to, but they would be really really happy!) Andrew has been a house guest of ours in the past and let me say that I am fascinated to see how this guy (he's one who bears an uncanny resemblance to Seth Rogin) managed to race around the world. He was, let us say, very laid back. In any case, I can attest, they're both great guys and are obviously contractually bound not to tell anyone - even their parents - what the outcome was! So watch with me.

Til next time...

Monday, September 22, 2008


Serena's back to being bad. And the guilty pleasure just got guiltier. And more pleasurable. Not quite up to the all time best of the BTVS ep where Angel turns bad after sleeping with the Buffster, but still, not too shabby GG, not too shabby.

Just sayin'

Til next time... XOXO

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Getting ready

Going back to the "real world" tomorrow. School's starting up. The high school where I teach has power, sustained little damage. Likewise for our 9th grade campus. Most of our feeder schools (the elementaries and middle schools) are still in the dark. Meaning that most of our kids are, too - and I mean that in a literal sense, of course!

Still kinda crazy here. Still a million or so without power in the region - that's a lot of hot, cranky folks. Galveston is trying to rebuild. It will be a long, long haul. The area around Bolivar Peninsula is simply gone for the most part.

And we are going to have to finally replace our fence, which while still standing politely does not quite stand in the same exact spot and thus one of the gates is never going to actually close again on its own.

Think I'll move to posting about things other than hurricane, but it's sort of hard. Lots of things in my world are in flux right now, some bigger than others. Gonna be interesting to see how everything shakes out. (yeah, I'm being cryptic; some of you know these stories; none of them are post worthy quite yet)

TV has sorta lost its luster for the moment. We're keeping the AC on, but at higher temps than we normally do both to conserve and in a sort of lame solidarity with those who have none. (Yes, I know it's 95 degrees in your bedroom. But I'm keeping the thermostat hovering just under 80 if it makes any diff to you. It doesn't?) We've been opening the windows more than usual cause we got used to it. I finished Tom Perotta's The Abstinence Teacher and adored his spot on characterizations but felt a little let down by the leaky sort of ending. My refrigerator hasn't been this spotless since it was delivered. I actually dusted my dresser. A lot. Dusted all the mini blinds, too. Got a reminder of the days when I wasn't teaching full time and writing full time and sleeping little. Okay, that was a three day period a few years back. But I remember it fondly.

But oh how I'm glad that land line is back.

Til next time...

Friday, September 19, 2008

Back on the grid

But feeling a little guilty that so many still aren't. I drove around yesterday afternoon in honor of the return of the land line, distributing bottled water to any lineman I could find. Thank you electric workers, aT&T workers, tree guys... The list is vastly endless for those profound thanks.

So much to process through all this. I can quip about how everyone would stand outside in the street facing east holding their cell phones up trying to get bars. Or how absurdly happy I was to find that my walking distance Starbucks reopened yesterday. (real coffee! WiFi!) It was a hive of happiness as we all checked our emails and just breathed in the caffeine. Or how clueless the info disseminators were for awhile, with their announcements of "Call us at ____" or "check our website at _____." So which part of close to 100% of us have no power and no land lines and virtually no cell phone service and had to just promise something really creepy to some guy named Kyle at the At&t store just to get a car charger don't you guys understand? Cause I'm saying - if we could check the website, we wouldn't be standing in line for ice.

But here's the other stuff, at least some of it. I could afford to throw away my rotted food and will slowly (once I'm sure this is all sticking) buy more than just what I need for one meal. I had baking soda and cleaning products and a shitload of 409 to clean the fridge. In fact, I keep our old fridge in the laundry room for drinks and water and the like and I cleaned that too. My house didn't flood, only almost. I teach public school so I have a job to go back to once the school gets power which will probably be Monday. They paid us early cause they knew the storm was coming. I have good neighbors who know how to cut stuff down. One who runs a landscape company and has a crew of guys with lots of chain saws and muscle. A husband with a Prius and a bunch of ingenuity who's even relatively interesting to talk to in the endless dark that began around 8PM.

But what if I didn't? What if I couldn't throw away my milk because I couldn't buy more and I couldn't walk to the FEMA POD or I had three little kids and the line was too long and I didn't have a support system to help me. What if I had no insurance? What if I was only one crisis away from homeless? (Hey, most of us are probably only 2 crises away anyway, so it's not such a huge stretch and if you think it is, think again) Money makes a difference. I always want to think it isn't so. And people yak like it isn't so. Just a little love. All that stuff. But it ain't so. Not to me. If you can't rebuild, you're stuck. And if you take away our ability to get out cause there's no gas to fill the car and our ability to network cause the communication infrastructure fails for too long, and limit what and when we can purchase... well folks, you've got the problems of every third world country and lots of poor areas right here in the good old US of A. And I always knew that. Only now it's really, really clear. Oh money might be bartering stuff and having skills and talents to share and to survive. People do it all the time. Lots of people doing just fine with their choice to be off the grid. But what if it wasn't their choice. Just bad luck and poor education and a whole bunch o' other stuff which might even include lack of intiative but mostly is just circumstances piling beyond one's control. When even listening to the area news on 99.7 - in between Johnny Cash songs and endless looping of Kid Rock's All Summer Long - do you know some stations around here censor the "smoking funny things" line? I mean seriously folks! Get a life. - doesn't really tell you what to do.

Okay rant over. Soap box put back in bathroom so I can wash the floors.

Til next time...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Like Pilgrims with cell phones

If only the cell phones worked, that is. Or as my friend Anne just texted me, "Like pilgrims with cell phones and banjos" because her husband has a banjo and has been playing it in the evenings.

Last night I got very excited while shopping for dinner in the darkened Krogers because I scored a tiny little hot rotisserie (sp?) chicken and a bag of lettuce. It beats the peanut butter.Power is slowly returning. Not in our neighborhood, but mother in law had hers for almost a day til it went off again this morning. The customers served by Entergy (including us) were about 97 percent out of power after IKE. Centerpoint (Houston) was about 80 percent. Centerpoint seems to have some easier fixes. Some places, like the Galleria shopping center and surrounding homes never lost power. Husband's office, obviously, has power or I wouldn't be on line. But up in the northern suburbs, we took the eye wall, so they say, and the result isn't pretty. You know, I think because this wasn't the loss of life like Katrina, the media has stopped showing all of you what's going on. Well let me say, just so you're sure - the 4th largest city in the US is still largely living like a third world country. But the convoys of electric trucks keep rolling in. So help is here.I keep pretending it's like camping.

Last night we: ate our little chicken. Checked on Alva next door who lives alone and spent some time chatting. Went for a drive to charge the cell phones. By 8:45 it was too dark to drive around safely. So we sat on the porch by the propane lantern and listened to AM radio. There are two types of people in this world: Those who think it's a good idea to call in to AM 740 and say things like "Do y'all know when the power will come on?" or "What we all need to do is just put a little love into this" and those who just want their power on and don't really want to chit chat pointless platitudes but nonethless find it entertaining to listen to the clearly stoned 16 year old calling from his father's car to whine that he has had to spend 8 hours a day with nothing to do and does anyone know when his (he gave the name but I'm keeping his stoned self anonymous out of courtesy) high school would open up again cause he really, really needed to know. (Uh, dude! Could it be any more obvious to the listening public that your dope connection is a fellow student and you're running low on weed?)

Til next time...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Surviving Ike

So, what happens when a Cat 3 hurricane hits you? (they say it was one mile less per hour than a cat 3 and thus a cat 2, but I say that's quibbling)

Well, the good news is that our house and our neighbors' houses sustained little if no damage. There was one dicey 30 minutes where someone's pool sort of backed up into our back yard with lots of sludge and husband and neighbor Rod had to get out shovels in the pouring rain and dig a trench so Ike didn't end up in our kitchen. But they dug and water flowed out onto street rather than into our house. There was the long night of wind and things hitting the house. A little squabbling - "Joy - you can't scream every time something bangs into us!" Me: "I'll try..."

And now... no power, no land line for reasons I can't fathom since that's why I kept the old wall phone in the first place..., spotty cell service, and lines for ice, food, gas - whatever there is of it. Houston is coming back on piece by piece. Obviously, I'm typing this in a piece that is lit up. It is better known as husband's office. I just drank hot coffee. I'm in ac. There's a working McDonald's across the street. I'm trying not to be a baby about this. I got excited when the at&t store opened up yesterday and I was able to score a car charger for my cell. (cash only; let into store only if bouncer in front deems you as someone they could actually help; my Russian genes have kicked in at this point - "Is line. Go stand. Maybe something good at front. This pogrom won't stop us...")

I've emailed my editor. We're supposed to move on line edits now. (wasn't gonna blab about that quite yet, but I need to talk about something positive, so yes, I nailed the macro edits and get to move on and Ike or no Ike I want SPARK to stay on schedule. Fall of 09!!)

People have endured worse. Right now weather is unseasonably cool and dry. 60's? in Houston? in September? Crazy talk!

Ike sucks! Long hair and no ability to blow dry and flat iron sucks. (okay, I'm still a shallow gal) But we are alive and kicking and have great neighbors and lots of water and hot showers and the promise of power... some day...

Til next time..

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I hate IKE, but -

I had to love the sixteen year old girl who asked me the following when I told her that because of the impending landfall of Ike on the Texas coast, school was cancelled for tomorrow:
"Do you think they'll like cancel the mall, too?"

Til next time...
And if you're in Ike's path, stay safe and dry.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Must read

Yes, you must read Leonard Marcus' Minders of Make-Believe if you want a meticulously researched book on the history and shaping of children's literature in America from Colonial days til now. I heard Leonard Marcus speak for the first time at SCBWI in LA and I was hooked. He's amazingly smart, and that really great combination of lover of children's lit and first rate historian. If you want the "dish" about the publishing houses and editors and you want it in historical context, then this is the book for you. I've also now read (most of) Marcus' Golden Legacy, which recounts the history of Golden Books (just the pictures alone will send you on a nostalgic journey) and his The Wand in the Word, which is interviews with fantasy writers. But Minders of Make-Believe has been my favorite so far. If you think of names like McElderry as only the name of an imprint, pick it up and find out about Harcourt's actual Margaret K. McElderry. Find out about who liked whom. Who fired whom. Who thought certains books would be good or bad ideas. And of course, the industry changes sparked by Harry Potter which, among other things, Marcus reminds us, sparked the creation of a separate NY Times bestseller list for children's books only designed as Marcus puts it, "in an effort to make the world safe for Danielle Steel and Tom Clancy." He follows that up with Harold Bloom's snarky opinion about HP and Bloom's request that readers shun the book!

A good read. Try it.

Til next time...

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Just sayin'

Now Michael Palin - that would be a creative Palin choice I might be able to enjoy. Cause couldn't ya see it? McC and MP clapping coconuts together as they walked through the White House? Instead of shooting a moose, they could toss one off the roof?? Just sayin'

Til next time...

Thursday, August 28, 2008

What's inside

So here's the thing. When I was little, I was an unfailing optimist. I was a dreamy little girl who told herself stories and talked to everyone and never met a stranger. I had older parents who were lucky I was basically a good kid because they left me to my own devices and I guess I managed just fine. I walked around under the assumption that things would turn out okay and honestly, more times than not, they did. And then somewhere along the way, the world kind of got in the way. I wasn't quite the optimist any more. I knew stuff didn't always turn out as planned. The good guys didn't always win. Idiots sometimes prevailed. And even if none of that was true, I got busy with trying to get by. And then I got busy paying bills. And then I got busy being a mom...

And then - about five years ago - I figured it was now or never. I was still trying to get by, still paying the bills, still being a mom... but - I was going to write or I wasn't. So I did. And I did some more. And some more after that. And if you read this blog you know the rest. I kept writing. I got lucky. And here I am.

So here's the thing. It makes me so happy I'm bursting with it. It's the hardest I've ever worked - and I thought I worked hard. It's scary and it's risky and it's all on me to turn a blank piece of paper into a story. And I love it. I get to talk every day to people who love it as much as I do. I've got a book coming out and a couple more for which I have high hopes. I'm doing what I love and it's loving me right back.

And I guess the bottom line is, it's finally occurred to me that it's okay to want that. That dreams don't get met if you don't dream them.

Til next time...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

back to block

Ah the luxury of the block schedule. Okay, it's not so luxurious. But compared to the Bataan Death march of a seven period day with me teaching six packed classes back to back to back and having to leave my room during my conference period because someone else was using it for a freshman communication class and leaving it hot and smelly and dirty each and every day, it is heaven. Heaven I'm telling you. Okay, the part where too many of us have 32-36 kids in each class (remember we each teach 6 classes... of English...) is a bit much. But the logistics of the rest of it - not bad. As I've posted previously, agent and editor seem to feel I'm a quick, tireless worker. But that's because I'm used to a work schedule that doesn't usually even give me time to pee and where if I do, I'm already behind on grading. So yeah, I'm deadline girl. Of course.

Speaking of agent - she's right. She's always right. Told me that the beginning of Sweet Dreams, my WIP needed a little something. Well, I found it. Shoved that conflict up front and center into sentence one and there ya go. Makes all the difference in the world. Wish I could show you. But unlike all my Teaser Tuesday pals, I just like to keep things to myself - and my critique group - until there's really something to tell. As in a finished book that's sold. Guess I'm just superstitious that way. Anyone else feel like that? Or do you just tell all and not worry? To create a Carrie Bradshaw moment - In the world of blogging, how much is too much?

Til next time...

Saturday, August 23, 2008


As in The Amazing Race. As in - tune in starting on Sundays some time in September because my son's two fraternity brothers and good pals from ASU, Andrew and Dan, are on it this season! This is totally cool. Of course we don't know if they won or not. Have no idea how they did. Personally, I'm quite curious! So help us cheer them on. (Okay, yeah, I know it's over already, but I'm going to pretend it isn't!)

Til next time...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Either you do or you don't

Still trying to get my brain around Misty May winning beach volleyball gold and then sprinkling her mom's ashes on the sand to celebrate. I think it's one of those things that either you think is the greatest idea since sliced bread or - you don't. And I'm thinking I'm in category two. I fully and wholeheartedly believe that when SPARK debuts next year, my parents -both deceased far too early -will be with me in spirit. Whether they'd hope I sprinkled their ashes around the YA section of Barnes and Noble is quite another story.

Til next time...

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Back in the saddle

Going back to school tomorrow for a week of inservice and possibly the equivalent of a work day in my classroom. So the truth is, I've been up there already, pushing desks around, re-arranging, sprucing the place up. And I spent a couple of hours pounding out some lesson plans on my laptop at Starbucks one morning. (Some things just go better with a cup of coffee. Okay most things. And to think that I actually gave up caffeine for a year at one point. What the heck was I thinking?) So here I am, sucking in a big breath and getting ready to balance the writing world with the school world, a task that gets harder and harder sometimes. But I do have to say that the energy was, well, energizing. ROTC kids already back and drilling or whatever it is they do. Cheerleaders and flag girls practicing their routines. Band kids walking sideways in the heat spelling out whatever it is they're spelling out. Ginormous line of seniors waiting for their schedules and parking tags. And even though the cleaning crew had left my file cabinet in very different place than I had left it in June, and even though all the adult politics seem exactly the same level of crazy as I'd left them, I actually (shhhh - don't tell anyone) found myself looking forward...

Til next time...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

And because I'm always listening for dialogue-

I have been "collecting" favorite Olympic commentary lines. Two I've adored so far, both about gymnastics and both by whoever's doing the color commentary during prime time coverage:

1. Re: the American girls team getting ready to perform: "They must feel like they're waiting for Godot." Really? Seriously? Cause that would mean, uh, they're never going to compete, wouldn't it? Plus, isn't this a sort of rareified reference for broadcast television?

2. Re: One of the Chinese gymnasts - the 20 year old, I think: "She's another one who was taken from her home and family.... Not kicking or screaming or anything." Heh!

3. Re: gymnastics scores: "9.5 isn't what it used to be." Oh? Did it like used to be 9.8 but inflation got to it?

Til next time...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

going for the gold

I'm not an obsessive Olympic watcher - especially not when I live thirteen hours behind the events and you can check the scores long before you watch if you so desire. But still... I get sucked in anyway. And even if it's clear that some of the Chinese female gymnasts are closer to to playground age than sixteen. Or if because of the long delay between actual event and US evening broadcast they can follow up someone's win with a commercial featuring him. Or if I know I'm waiting fruitlessly for any real discussion of those pesky human rights violations...

It's great to watch Michael Phelps win. Okay, it's even greater to watch him in that half pulled down onesy thing they wear to swim in. (husband ruins my moment by referring to it as tight capri pants, but whatever) And it's great to watch the phenomenal Dara (sp?) Torres in her 41 year old totally ripped and absolutely awesome glory!

And it's great to have a couple of weeks where winning is the objective. Get out of our "well, as long as you tried" mentality that I have less and less patience for these days because the world seems to use it as an excuse as to why it's someone else's fault if things don't get done or work is shoddy or Johnny is failing. Doping and cheating birth certificates aside, either Johnny won the race or he didn't. There is no middle ground.

On another note - finally got myself to Dark Knight. Oh Heath Ledger. You died far too soon. Sometimes I had to cover my eyes because I really believed he might just cut someone's face to ribbons just for grins. And yeah, the movie was too long. And a few plot threads got ignored. But that performance was worth the ticket price.

Til next time...

Sunday, August 10, 2008


Reading the current issue of Time, and I just learned the following (besides the fact that James Poznewiak (sp?) spent a page justifying his love of The Hills with intellectual hoo ha - just say it's a guilty pleasure James. Seriously. No need to refer to Spencer Pratt as Laddie Macbeth, although it was cunningly clever of you): Robert Frost was never our Poet Laureate. Seriously? Color me surprised. This was one of those things I always - until yesterday - believed was absolutely true. And now - well - it's not. Like when I found out I'd spent years pronouncing forte wrong. I was saying fortay - as in - Math is just not my forte. But no, no. It's just forte as in fort. As in I built one. Or oops it's being attacked. Which has never - even though I've made a personal effort to be correct - sounded as good so often I just slip back into my bad old ways just to be perverse.

Throwing it out to my dear readers. What have you learned that completely turns upside down knowledge you've held dear and now discover is just a bunch of hooey?

Til next time...

Friday, August 8, 2008

How did it get to be Friday?

Catching up from my two West Coast jaunts in a row. I think that would take some getting used to if I commuted like that regularly... Plus when you fly west so close together, they don't even change the movie! I have now seen Be Kind Rewind twice. A fitting irony in there somewhere, particularly because on my way to Portland, the movie actually messed up and they had to, uh, rewind it! It played through all the way on way to LA.

And now, as I sent (fingers crossed) my first round of editorial revisions off yesterday afternoon and can actually breathe again, I present my belated LA highlights!

  • Managing to find people and have a blast even though I came alone and conferences in general make me a tad neurotic because it's like getting to the first day of a new school and realizing (not that you didn't already know) that the popular kids already all know each other, have their own lunch table and while they smile at you and possibly even speak, you are definitely not going to be drinking your pomegranate martini with them nor will they be laughing at your jokes. (okay, I didn't drink martinis at lunch during high school. Cut me some slack here, people. The metaphor still works. Really. Read it over and think about it) So you occasionally stumble into some awkward conversations. But you still have a great time on the whole and meet your own groups of people and get over your shy, introverted self.
  • Lisa Yee's revision advice. I'd always pasted sections and/or printed out sections to revise away from the manuscript as a whole. You know - separate the bad cow from the herd or whatever. But it had never occurred to me to shift the chapter or scene into another font when I worked. She's right. It just looks so fresh and new that your brain kicks into higher gear.
  • Getting to be around so many author/editor idols for four days. Seriously, if you've never been to a national convention (I hadn't) or if you've never been at all - you can't take a deep breath without stumbling over someone who's written or edited or won a prize for a book you love. Which for us writer geeks is like rubbing elbows with rock stars. ( "OMG - I just rode in the elevator with ________. He talked to me!!")
  • Meeting some of my Verla and LJ friends face to face. And Verla herself! Meeting some of my 2k9 pals and having our lunch together which was ver, very cool. (Until the moment I turned my head while waiting for my fish sandwich at Breezes and got all fan geeky again because it was Ellen Hopkins eating a few tables over. Ellen - I love your books. My students love your books. )
  • Realizing while with some of you wonderful 2k9ers that they feel the same way I do about all this - it's a darn miracle! We're going to have a book on a shelf. It's really happening. How the heck did this occur?
  • Getting to arrive right after the earthquake and return to Houston during a Tropical Storm/possible hurricane. (It fizzled out but you never know)
  • Everything else, including: Pinkberries green tea yogurt with strawberries and blueberries; getting invited to a tour of FOX studios and getting to eat lunch there and see the street set for the Royal Diner on Bones. Yes, I stood next to something that David Boreanaz stands next to. Feel free to touch me anytime. (thanks to the person who included me!! You know who you are! ); seeing some relatives I hadn't seen in awhile ("Please come get me. I'm begging you. It's Sunday night and I'm burned out." And so they did and took me on the fastest tour ever of LA. "Look quick. It's Rodeo Drive." "Crane your neck. There's the Hollywood Sign.")

Til next time...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Two for Tuesday

1. Just finished Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. I know I'm a little late in joining the wow parade on this one, but let me just say - WOW! Loved it. It's not a perfect book - I was pretty sure how it was going to end - but the getting there was amazing. Gruen's circus details are so specific and memorable as her Depression era setting. Jacob is a delightful and multi-faceted protagonist that I could root for and the minor characters are all fully developed. Started it on the trip to Portland, but it was more than just airplane reading. It was definitely something I'll page through again.
2. Getting the butterflies for SCBWI in LA. Will I bring the right clothes, meet the people I'm hoping to meet, find people I'm supposed to find, go to the workshops that are best for me, find people to hang with Thursday night even though I'm getting in well after everyone seems to be going to dinner... And most of all- will I finish these revisions before I have to pack?

Til next time...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Me and Lewis and Clark

Back from Portland, OR. Well, hello fantastic place to live! Although certainly the fact that it rarely crawled out of the 50's - in July!- making it 40 to 50 degrees cooler than Houston, was a pleasant shock to my bod! Stayed with a dear friend from high school. Actually she was my very first friend in h.s. We'd moved over the summer and I was forced into the dreaded march o' high school death where you walk in the first day and everyone knows each other... except you. So when I realized that Marjorie was in almost all my classes and lived a few blocks away and even had a brother who was in junior high with my brother and best of all shared my wacky sense of humor, well, the friendship didn't take long to solidify - and it's stayed that way even with me in Houston, her in Utah and now OR.

Anyway, in no particular order, here are Joy's reasons why you should visit Portland if you've never been:
  • Self-service gas stations are against the law. Someone comes out and fills your tank. Can you imagine??
  • You are surrounded by mountains. Mt. Hood. Mt. St. Helens. (okay, it could erupt, but whatever). You can ski and snowboard on Mt. Hood in July.
  • You can go hiking at Multanomah Falls near the Columbia Gorge. It is amazingly beautiful.
  • In 90 minutes you can drive to the coast. Check out Haystack Rock. But go while the tide is low.
  • Powell's Books!
  • Coffee People coffee!
  • Farmer's Market and the Pearl District
  • Great light rail
  • Trilogy Videos - a video store that mostly stocks indie films!
  • Tons of shops and restaurants and Oregon wines and beers. Like a mini Napa with more social consciousness.
  • The Portland Rose Garden. Acres of roses since 1912. All for the public to enjoy.
  • Pittock Mansion and grounds. Great view of everything. (okay, mostly the mountains kept hiding) But they'd peek out now and again.
  • And did I say coffee? The entire city enabled my already raving caffeine habit.
  • No sales tax.
  • Portland airport had a pianist, wine tasting, and a I bought a tall coffee plus a bottle of water all for $3.50. In the airport!

So, if you are the outdoorsy/coffee/organic type, Portland is for you. I would go back tomorrow.

Til next time...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Instead of revising, I

  • got a free coffee for getting down to "Play that Funky Music" with the baristas (okay, they got down; i mostly watched, but they still gave me the gratis tall coffee)
  • put $ in the tip jar for the above
  • got my roots touched up so they are no longer screaming, "Color me!"
  • got a trim while we were at it
  • caught up on summer sex tips in Cosmo while the hair dye was doing its thing
  • ditto in Glamour
  • Mulled over the above
  • Flipped through fan mags and wondered about the whole A Rod and Madonna thing.
  • Wondered about it some more. Decided i just don't get it.
  • Am now back at computer, getting back to work, all coffeed up and with really pretty hair!

Til next time...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tuesday tidbits

Still immersed in SPARK revisions. Don't see myself getting out of there any time soon. Have one more plot element to tidy up and then it should be smoother sailing. Crossing my fingers... and toes.

Prodigal son returneth this weekend for a friend's wedding. How he can already have friends who are getting married is freaking me out. But football buddy Kevin is 21 and tying the knot and registered for gifts at Pottery Barn. Last time I looked up he was cross dressing for the annual Homecoming pep rally where the senior guys all dress up like Homecoming Queen candidates. Now he'll walk down the aisle. (okay, in between he's gotten a college education and played some more football and fallen in love...) In any case, the kid is spending the weekend and I'm thrilled.

And finally this morning I'm getting jazzed up about SCBWI LA. I have never been. And I've never been to LA, either. Squeeee!!!

Til next time...

Friday, July 11, 2008

Get a life!

Okay, I need to get one, too, but between revision land and mother in law rehab land (me: Can I run a vacuum in here for you. Her: No. Me: I can do it. Really. I do it at home all the time. (okay I was lying, but I know what one is and I can plug it in, I'm positive) Her: I'll have to think about it. Me: Think about what? Her: All of this is making my head hurt.), I don't have time for much these days.

But I did glance at the Houston Chronicle yesterday. Article on toxic gulf fish problem. Accompanied by pic of preggers lady in bikini fishing in Galveston Bay. I'm assuming their connection was that preggers woman better not eat any of that tainted fish. Whatever. Today, enormous follow up article because of the spate of outraged crazies who were horrified, not by the fact that the water is f-ing polluted but because the Chron had the nerve to print the photo and according to one letter, "I couldn't enjoy my breakfast." Seriously folks. Give me a break! (bangs head on computer a few dozen times) I mean really. You wouldn't have seen me standing in the Bay fishing in a two piece when I was 7 months pregnant. But you wouldn't have seen me fishing before then either. Or after for that matter. I don't fish. But I'm not offended to the point of losing my Crispix and blueberries over it. Where do these people think babies come from? And don't they know that the guy I just pushed my cart by in Walmart wearing a sleeveless sweatshirt and a gimme cap while he packed his basket with Blue Bunny icecream and beef jerky was let me say for the record, far more offensive than woman with child?

Til next time...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Do tell

I admire so many writers that if I tried to actually post about them, I'd never get any work done today. I mean honestly, I keep meeting so many amazing artists, keep reading book after book that just blows me away, particularly in, but not limited to YA. And as I'm a tv watcher, I find my influences there, too. Movies, I think are another category entirely for me. I'm a film addict, but episodic television is closer to what I work with when I write novels, so I'll stick to that. So, in no particular order, and with the understanding that if I know you or you read this and you write and you're not on the list, it's not that you don't belong there, just that I'm giving this about two minutes!

  • Sarah Dessen and Anne Tyler absolutely rock for their creation of quirky, makeshift families of characters that never, ever leave me. If I can ever dip a pinky toe in their shoes it will an honor.
  • Holly Black made me love fairy lore even when I swore I'd never like it. Melissa Marr kept me there.
  • Joss Whedon turned the hero story on its ear with Buffy and I will honestly never forget the day -about three episodes into the series in its first year - when I gave it a chance and realized that this was storytelling I could (pun intended) stick my teeth into and never let go. I suspect there are many of us who owe some inspirations to the Whedonverse.
  • The Palladinos created Gilmore Girls. They taught me pacing and wit and dialogue and respected my brain and my addiction to pop culture
  • The writers of Friday Night Lights let me know that you could tell a Texas football story in ways that were true and real and that all stories, really, are about family.(see Dessen and Tyler, above)

I'll post more later this week, when I'm not so crazy busy. But now I'm throwing it out to you. Which writers of which genres simply blew your heads off and taught you some of things you really needed to learn?

Monday, July 7, 2008

Digging In

Still digging into SPARK editorial letter revisions. I love working on SPARK because I get to play with more than one narrative voice, since the book alternates the POV's of Anne, Ethan, and to a lesser degree (currently becoming more than lesser), Anastasia. Took a few days to chase KC Sweet from Sweet Dreams and Andy Meyers (my darling boy Andy) of CUT BACK from my head. Honestly, I doubt they're really gone. And actually I'm pretty sure SPARK (soon to have a title change, btw) is stronger for them. SPARK is not only my debut novel, but the first novel length piece I'd ever written, so having marched my way through two other manuscripts in that waiting time between sale and revision is a good thing. Very good. But it's still been sweet to get back into this story. I suppose for me there will always be something exciting and pure about it - it was after all the first. And maybe other works may surpass it some day (which honestly is how I think this is all supposed to work; you're supposed to grow in your craft) but it will always be the first one - that part won't change. And as they say (whoever they are), you never forget your first.

And on that happy metaphor - (Yup, it turned into a metaphor, although imagine if you could go back to, um, other things and tinker around with the first time and make it really phenomenal rather than huh, it's all over, did I do this right?) - I shall get back to work.

Til next time...

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Revision cave

Entering revision cave... beware! Had great phone meeting with my ever so brilliant Sourcebooks editor, Lyron Bennett. So much food for thought that honestly, revision cave or not, I took the rest of the day off - swimming/laying around at neighborhood pool, followed by a delightful roasted veggie pizza and two really smooth glasses of Harp at the local faux Irish pub with spouse for our anniversary outing today. Faux in that we're in steamy Texas not Dublin but supposedly the bar is imported from Ireland. Whatever. The Harp was tasty. And hopefully former student who sat us on the patio did not instruct waiter to spit in my pizza. (I'm just saying...) Tomorrow, it's back into the cave with exits only for the ongoing adventure that is mother in law's rehab and eventual return home.

Anyway, I'm really jazzed about this next step. Feeling a little Velveteen Rabbitish - I'm a real author. Yup. Real.

Til next time...

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sunday Updates

  • Excited that my web master, the delightful Dina, has helped me figure out how to set up the email that I can have from my hosting site and is up and running although not yet appearing on the web site itself as an option until she has a chance to stick it there. I know there's really not much use for it quite yet, but it's nice to know I've conquered (well, with help!) another aspect of my great world domination plan. (translate: I'm a technology dweeb and I'm grateful for all the help I can get so that I can continue my small attempts at self promotion and communication!
  • Rehab is going mostly well for mother in law, which has been a blessing, honestly. Thanks to all those of you who've asked about this. She's been moved to the more active patient wing which means she no longer has to room next door to the lady who yells out 'help' followed by a random name everyone two and half minutes.
  • Conquered a full 10,000 words of Sweet Dreams which made me feel awesome!
  • Have got to figure out anniversary gift for husband since said anniversary is on 7/1. He has put up with me for yet another year, it seems... Okay, maybe it's the other way around...

Til next time...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

And some more on that...

Following up to my post on True Colors concert. Joan Jett - fierce, fit and...almost 50. Cyndi Lauper - funny, phenomenal and.... 55. It's women like them that make me LOVE being a grown up woman who let's face it, is old enough to have a son who's 22.

And in other news, while checking out rehab facilities and convalescent centers for mother in law for post hospital/post surgery stay and recovery, let it be duly noted that the beauty salon in the Woodlands Health Center - where let it be significantly recorded, I observed mostly elderly women nodding off in their wheelchairs in the somewhat whimsically named Express recovery wing - offers the option of.... wait for it.... Brazilian waxes. Now after my opening paragraph of this post, I'm not judging. Perhaps the woman in the Alfred Dunner pants outfit recovering from hip replacement has a frisky husband who comes to visit. I don't know. But it does boggle the mind.

Til next time...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

I love rock and roll!

True Colors Concert last night. Five hours of absolute fun. That Cyndi Lauper sure knows how to throw a party. And we even missed one of the "surprise guest" openers because we couldn't get there right at 6. Carson Kressley (of Queer Eye fame) hosted and joked and changed outfits all evening. Wanda Sykes did her comedy routine. Andy Bell sang. Cyndi Lauper came out and sang acapella with him. I was in heaven! I've never seen the main act come out on and off all evening, but she did. To sing with Bell. To stomp down to a platform near the sound/light booth area and climb up with her mic and promote getting out and voting and her equality message which obviously being True Colors was the theme of the evening. We all matter - gay, straight, black, white, Jew, Protestant, Druid tree hugger, whatever. - Lauper's awesome. She's got near perfect pitch, can fix the sound system or tune the dulcimer, chat up the audience, support her causes and sing like a dream. Plus that voice when she 'tawks' just makes me grin. She is the real deal as a musician. No synthesizers hiding that chick's voice. AND -a set plus encore by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. I LOVE Joan Jett. Who doesn't rock out to "I Love Rock and Roll"? Seriously. You'd have to be dead. AND - the B52's!! who have never been my total favorite but hell, they sing Love Shack and like I say, who doesn't love that?? Five hours of a huge smile on my face. Husband having an equally great time. Okay, it was hot out. And humid. Lauper was worried that her makeup was gonna run. But it was the perfect summer night.

On other fronts, mother in law's back surgery went well. The recovery I'm less certain of. Cue a certain famous Amy Winehouse song. (see if you can figure it out, gentle reader)

Filled hospital waiting time with two YA's -Ethan Suspended by Pamela Ehrenberg and Meg Cabot's Jinx. Although it might seem odd to link them, they actually are. Both Ethan Oppenheimer and Jean (Jinx) Honeychurch are running from something they've done. Both have to adjust to worlds with with they're unfamiliar. For Ethan it's his grandparents' house/life in DC as the only white and Jewish family in a now all black neighborhood. For Jinx it's the private school, Upper East Side Gossip Girl type of world at her relatives house, rather than her former life as a preacher's kid in Iowa. And for both, the secrets they are trying to escape aren't so easily ditched. Other than that, the books are obviously not the same, although both mix humor and serious moments. Cabot's voice delights as always. and Ethan Suspended is Ehrenberg's debut novel from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers and came out in 2007. I'm glad I stumbled on it and I'm hoping she writes some more!

Til next time...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What's Up Wednesday

Am now an official member of Class of 2k9 which is a group of debut authors whose children's market (mostly MG and YA) books are coming out in.... you guessed it loyal readers... 2009. Have had fun so far (it's only been since Monday night) "meeting" everyone. At least three of us share the delightful and brilliant Michelle Andelman as our agent so that was definitely exciting.

Son (aka - my current hero) has volunteered to create and maintain Facebook page for me. (or maybe My Space, so feel free to debate the merits of these as publicity tools. Note the last two words, people - publicity tools. Between real life, writing, that pesky other full time job, and my pitiful attempts at blogging plus the new 2k9 stuff, I have no need for this as a social tool. I will not be picking up guys or sending out bulletins about my next kegger - although honestly, after mother in law's impending back surgery on Friday, I ought to throw one and invite only myself)

Enjoyed Melissa Kantor's Break Up Bible. Her humor just tickles me. A lot! Funny, enjoyable read!

Okay, putting my head back into Sweet Dreams.

Til next time...

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Six for Sunday

1. Love, love, love Sarah Dessen's latest, Lock and Key. Ruby Cooper has been living with her mother in what can kindly be called a hand to mouth existence. Moving from place to place. Hiding from landlords and creditors. And, it turns out, from Ruby's sister Cora, too. Only Ruby believes that it was Cora who abandoned them. Went to college and then never looked back. But the truth seems to be something else. Now mom's disappeared, too. Ruby thinks she's doing okay living on her own, waiting til she turns eighteen and can stop hiding it. Only maybe Ruby's not doing as well as she thinks. So when, through circumstances beyond Ruby's control she comes to live with Cora and her husband in their luxurious house in their gated neighborhood and is moved to Perkins Day School, Ruby must confront not only the life she used to live, but the one she's living and the longings of her heart as well. Stir in Nate, the boy next door with secrets of his own and Dessen's usual Anne Tyler-esque mixture of quirky secondary characters like Ruby's new friend Olivia and her new boss at the jewelry kiosk in the mall, and you've got a book that I couldn't put down. Sarah Dessen has a way of storytelling that leaves me in awe. Her prose, her dialogue - it's all brilliant. If you love her work or if you've never read her, pick up Lock and Key.

2. And speaking of books, I do believe it's time to thin the herd around here. Oh, so painful to give away books. But sometimes the clutter becomes too great. Gonna cull through the rest of the clutter of, well, stuff, while I'm at it. (Can you tell I was at my cousin the interior decorator's house last night? Her house is homey and comfy, but clutter free and I'm having a little neatness envy thing this morning.)

3. Finished draft two of CUT BACK and sent off to Michelle this week. Fingers duly crossed. 'Tis amazing how much time one can devote to writing when one is not, oh, what was it again? Oh yes - getting up at 5:30 AM and getting to school at 6:45 AM, teaching from 7:20 til 2:35 with zero break in between. (okay, I occasionally took time to pee) and then staying for meetings and grading til at least 4, followed by at least another hour of grading/work each nite, usually two or three hours. Yeah, I'm feeling the extra time. No wonder I noticed the above mentioned clutter.

4. Have been in the character development stage for the next WIP. Liking my new people. A lot. All I'm saying on that so far.

5. Watched 27 Dresses: cute but oh so contrived. Eye candy only. Finally (I'm the last female on the planet for this next one, I do believe) saw The Notebook. And I've decided that girl world is divided into 2 camps on that one. Either a:OMG it's the most romantic thing I've ever seen or b:Good lord could they just get on with it and who the hell doesn't realize that James Garner and whats her face are actually Noah and Allie. Enough already. Please. Maybe Allie is just faking the Alzheimers to get herself out of this plot (I'm sensing, gentle reader, that you know I'm in the b category. Feel free to send Notebook defenses if you must. I know it is wildly popular. I know it and the book have made millions. I know. I know.)

6. Finished Season 2 of Friday Night Lights, as did my critique pal Kim. So we're both rooting around for another series that's on DVD to take its place. Any suggestions would be welcome. But let me say from both of us, there is no replacement for Tim Riggins. Nope. None. Nada.

Til next time...

Sunday, June 8, 2008

That Day

We all have some. "That day" - the day when... We share some communally, September 11th, 2001, of course, and others that depend on culture or age. And some, well, some are just ours alone.

For whatever reason, I seem to have more than my share. My life, it turns out, happens in clumps. I go along with no discernable excitement and then bam! everything piles up on one day or a couple days. Maybe this happens to lots of us. Maybe certain days just draw that kind of energy. Who knows? I just know it's very distinct for me.

Which takes me to this past Friday, June 6th. Even historically, it seems to be a whopper - D Day, 6 Day War kind of big, both of which happened on or during 6/6. The day I graduated from high school (okay not so big). It is also my son's birthday and, nine years after that, the day my mother died, as though perhaps she wanted to make sure I wouldn't forget or something. So emotionally, another whopper. This year, it was also the day school finally ended. But as in my world that couldn't be enough, it was also the last day one of my dearest work pals ended her tenure at our school. It's a rare miracle to find someone at work who has your sense of humor and your back at the same time, and my pal Beth Ann was both of those. We'd taught next door to each other for a number of years and she was definitely my touchstone, the person I'd go to when I had to ask "Don't you find this ridiculous?" (She always did) or "You're not going to believe what this kid did! (she always did) or "Good lord, Crazy Johnny has set his mohawk on fire, do you have a spare bottle of Ozarka?" (she always did) or "Do you know that math teacher down the hall has never said hello to me once and always averts her gaze when she passes by me in the hall which is like forty five times a day and has been doing this every day even though we've worked twenty feet from each other for five years? Do you think she's pathologically unfriendly?" (She always agreed) So the fact that she'll be doing her thing elsewhere now really just has me a little crazy. Schools, if you didn't know, aren't always filled with people you can trust. So when you find one, it's such a miracle you hate to lose it.

Anyway, that's my June 6th story. My kid is now 22!!! which is kind of odd since I'm only 29, but what can you do? Anyone else have clumps of events fall onto a single date?

Til next time...

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Still missing Aidan

That's just my opinion, anyway, after having seen Sex and the City with a friend yesterday. Don't get me wrong - the movie was fluffy, naughty fun. But here's my take, for what it's worth, which for some of you may not be much. All that self-absorbed navel gazing and waffling that caused Mr. Big to break Carrie's heart so many times during the series? I might have let him get away with it when I was in my 20's or 30's. But how a self-respecting 40 year old Carrie could (SPOILER alert; please avert your eyes if you don't want to know. Or please just read on because for heaven's sake how the hell could they make a movie of this and not let the two of them finally get hitched up at some point?) let him humiliate her and then still take him back as the too old, too stuck in his ways but okay obscenely wealthy enough to buy a penthouse apt. (pre-war, with excellent light) on 5th guy of her dreams is honestly more than I can accept. So is her anger at Miranda (who spent most of the movie looking terribly constipated and unhappy and who also needs to just put on her big girl panties and grow up) for telling Big that he and Carrie were stupid to want to marry. I could buy Carrie's anger if Big were, say, 22. 22 year old guys could be thrown off their game by one too many Coronas or by looking at the mini blinds or whatever. But an over 40, probably 50ish guy? C'mon. Now that makes him into a nicer looking version of your eccentric cousin who according to all the aunties just couldn't find the right girl because he was picky.

The NY setting was gorgeous. I want to marry again and have the ceremony in the NY Public Library. I want that dress. Those shoes. That apartment. The Closet!! But I'm not sure I want to be friends with these ladies any more.

And as per the title of this post, I really miss Adain. He should have been the one. (okay, I miss the Russian, too. Can't get enough of him in the reruns, but he was just as into himself as Big only with a cooler accent and that post ballet body to die for)

Til next time...

Friday, May 30, 2008

Ch ch ch changes

I'm not good with change. Okay, that's not exactly true. I LIKE change. But it scares the pee out of me. Always so hard to let go... except when it isn't. But I'm embracing it with a full heart right now because my life really is different. And I've needed to make some changes to keep it that way.

To be specific - It has finally and truly dawned on me that SPARK really is coming out next year and that my work in progress, currently titled CUT BACK, is getting through its 2nd draft and I'll be polishing it up for submission some time this summer or early fall. SPARK's designed as a trilogy, so those are in progress in various stages in hopes that that will actually come to be. And another novel, my frothy Sweet Dreams, is poking around as well. In short, a full time job worth of stuff. Now of course, I have a full time job, which is about to go on hiatus for the summer. But come mid August, I'll be back at it. And will most likely stay at it for some more years. But honestly, something had to give. I was teaching three separate preps - and something had to go. My brain could only continue to divide itself so many ways without just imploding.

And so.... I requested something of my principal that surprised me. And he (or rather, the AP delegated to this task) said yes. I have given up the honors classes and will teach only 12th grade level English and a section of Creative Writing, both of which are more than enough.And you know - I thought my ego was going to have a hard time with this. But surprise... it didn't. I'm totally okay with giving up something that I know a few years back I'd have never let go. Which tells me something else kind of exciting and new - I've changed. Didn't see it coming. But it did. I can't do it all, so I'm not even going to try. Writing is where my heart is these days and I've embraced that. I've watched the sharks circle to snap up my honors classes. Nodded when they went to the right person. Embarked on a process of cleaning out files (when you've been at this awhile, your files can be sort of a world of their own, esp. if you started prior to everything being kept electronically. Yes, there was such a time and it wasn't that long ago honestly, at least within the school building. Most of us kept to the manilla folder route for a long while if only to reuse certain quizzes and handouts and not run off new every single time).

And moved on.

Sometimes, you just surprise yourself.

Til next time...

Monday, May 26, 2008

Still revising

  • Still revising/re-writing.
  • In awe of agent Michelle, who swore to me that there was more between MC and his former girlfriend than I had suspected. She was right. Crazy amazing how she can do that. And then I have to lie and say I knew it all the time.
  • Have been to a baby shower, a birthday happy hour, a quick drink with friends who were in the area for a graduation, a Memorial Day Sunday cook out, an impromptu drinks and dinner with neighbors and their visiting grandson, the very handsome and dapper Nathan Paul, and a birthday dinner for a dear friend.
  • Have gift shopped and groceried and even vacuumed and laundried. (I'm making up those verbs as I go along people. Just accept it and move on.)
  • Almost through a set of Ender's Game essays. Have one more set to go and then that IS IT for the year. Wahooooooo!!!! As usual, it's a mixed bag. Some killer analysis. Some boring plot summary. Some confused rambling. Get it together folks.
  • Defrosting chicken and burgers for tonights cookout a duex. (meaning, just husband and me and then cooked food for freezing so we can make it through the next two weeks til I'm done with school and am only working one job and not two)
  • Bought a plane ticket to visit high school best friend I haven't seen in over 10 years who now lives in Portland, OR. I am very excited.

Okay, back to plowing through the grading. It is always sooooo hard to focus this time of the year. Especially this year.

Til next time...

Saturday, May 24, 2008

When ideas come

Lately, it seems my best writing ideas pop into my brain when I am least able to take the time to flesh them out. I'm in the middle of getting ready to go somewhere, or I'm in class, or for whatever reason otherwise occupied. (as opposed to those moments where I sit down at the computer and then - nothing. Birds chirping) But anyway, the result is a trail of paper scraps all over my house so that eventually, when I get the time, I've at least jotted down the opening phrase or the basic idea, or something that will clue me in later when the muse is no longer striking but I finally have time to actually work. Only here's the thing - I have simply got to force myself to write legibly. I still can't figure out one word I scrawled on the back of something this morning. I get this gist of what I was going for, but it looks like a great word, only I've nary a clue what it is. Possibly witless. Maybe ruthless. Maybe it's butless, which isn't even a word but is as good a guess as the others. Useless? Sigh... I truly cannot read what I've written on the back of some tiny memo pad from Hyatt Place, wherever that was/is but I'm thinking is somewhere husband stayed in Dallas during a recent business trip.

Anyone have any better plan for how you jot down ideas when you're on the run?

Til next time...

Saturday, May 17, 2008


(Cross posted on LiveJournal)

Okay, so it's been years since I treated myself to a manicure. Pedis I do regularly because I obviously walk like a truck driver or something and my feet are always cranky and cracked and anyway, once you start having them, you realize how incapable you really are of getting your toenails to look like that and then you're simply hooked. But manicures? Haven't had one in years and honestly I think that one was the only one. For all intents and purposes (and a little bit of revisionist history), I was a manicure virgin. And spa manicure? Never. I either did it myself (okay, I'm feeling bad about the virgin analogy now but seriously, get your minds out of the gutter) or went without because I'm a nail picker and they never get too long.

But son - dear boy - decided I needed one for Mother's Day. Popped for an eyebrow waxing, too, something else I haven't done since, well, I think since before the kid who just gifted me with all this was born. And let me say - an hour and half of heaven. Mani included an arm and hand massage. Kim of Dionysys Spa has one strong pair of hands. The blood is now flowing again! My nails look healthy. My hands feeling happy. And I think I'll be going again. Ditto with the eyebrow grooming. I'd been hiding them behind bangs. Hoping no one looked. But yikes this is awesome! And really not that painful.

Guess when I read the part of my Sourcebooks contract that told me I had to get head shots for publicity, I decided I better shape up. Soon. So when SPARK is on the shelves in '09, please look at the picture on the jacket and tell me how fab my eyebrows look.

Til next time...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

May madness

If you're a parent or a teacher or both, you always know it's May. May fills up. Every day there's something - final tests, final papers, banquets, graduations, something. I always joke that I'm really not that nice of a person to have this many committments lined up like little soldiers on my calendar. But still they keep on comin'.

On the revision front, I'm doing the dance of joy! (personalized reference and also ancient Angel reference all rolled into one!) The edgy new opening has passed approval. Life is good. Rest of draft two of WIP can forge on.

Started into Melissa Marr's Ink Exchange which I have absolutely no time to read but will probably finish in the next couple of days because Leslie's story is haunting and compelling and I cannot wait to get back to it.

Likewise with my wonderful Mother's Day gift from husband - Season 2 of Friday Night Lights. I had (as I've mentioned here before) cut myself off from watching when it was actually on because the WIP (the one revised above) is in part a football story and I didn't need someone else's plot lines to leech into my brain. And then of course, when I could watch, the season was basically over and I had to wait for the release to catch up. And let me say, just as amazingly compelling. Truly the best show not nearly enough people were watching. Go out. Buy those DVD's or rent them. You will not be sorry.

Til next time...

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Sometimes it just doesn't matter

That's what was happening in this week's ep of Grey's Anatomy - sometimes, regardless of your intentions or abilities you just get screwed. Been there on that, I can tell you. Too many times to count.

George has a heart the size of the Grand Canyon, but he spent the hour in the fake position of Chief's intern, primarily so the Chief could get back with his wife. Mer and Der want to save lives. So far, this new experimental, inject a virus into people's inoperable brain tumors surgery has been a dismal failure. They haven't saved anyone. In fact, two people have died. Christina Yang wants to be the best. She's the smartest. She works the hardest. She knows freakin' everything. (okay, her people skills suck, but isn't this a meritocracy?) But she can't get the surgeon she wants to mentor her to give her the time of day most of the time. And the specter of Dr. Preston Burke returns to stick her in the ass with his wonderful award that he doesn't even deserve.

Like I say, been there, done that. (okay, not exactly those things) But I've watched men get away with laxness that women never could. Watched some of the greatest teachers I know get ignored because the next best thing looked shinier. Watched "teachers pets" (the adult variety) get kudos for smoke and mirrors. Been snubbed cause I had a brain.

So what do you do? Well, if you're Mer and Der, you buy a bottle of bubbly and put it away for the day when you get it right. (okay, I'm hoping they open it anyway, get tipsy and get busy with one another, but whatever) If you're Yang or George, hopefully you lick your wounds and keep on trucking. And just swallow down the pain of being the one who held Preston Burke's scalpel (that's literal, not some skanky metaphor... although...) when he couldn't and then got nary a thank you.

And if you're me, you thank the powers that be for the world of publishing, which, while glacially slow some days, and certainly not perfect (see: James Frey) has given me my first delicious taste of being appreciated for my brain and abilities and not for coming up with a really pretty power point that actually has the intellectual depth of a blueberry muffin. Maybe less.

I'm lucky and thankful and crazy in love with the craft and all the truly clever people I'm getting to meet and work with.

Til next time...

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

That's how bread goes stale

Poor Spencer Pratt. Even his sister is telling him to put the baggie tie back on the bread bag so it won't go stale, just like my patience with him and the whole on again off again Heidi thing. "That's how bread goes stale, Spencer."

Didn't think the Hills gang really cared about the freshness of their bakery goods, but obviously I was wrong.

And then there's LC and Lo, ditching Audrina at the recording studio so they can go watch sushi wander its way around on a track and then go buy a really cute puppy with blue eyes. "Just like us!"

To steal a phrase: I think I just threw up a little in my mouth.

Til next time...

Monday, May 5, 2008

book talk

Finished A Curse as Dark as Gold by the incredibly talented Elizabeth Bunce. What an amazing book. Bunce retells Rumplestiltskin here, but she makes the tale her own. Charlotte Miller loves her wool mill with a great and all consuming passion. But there's a curse. And bad luck has tampered with generations of Millers. Her father has died with some important secrets. Her mother's death holds mystery as well. Uncle Wheeler appears with some dark ulterior motives. Creditors want the mill gone from Miller hands. Sister Rosie is desperate enough to call forth some mystical forces. And then two other gentlemen appear. Well, ultimately three gentlemen appear. The handsome and kind and more powerful than he looks banker Randall Woodstone is one. The mysterious and magic and malevolent Jack Spinner is the other. And eventually, Charlotte's newborn baby son is another. All these people and forces collide into one brilliantly written novel that brings the wool industry and rural England in times gone by to life fully and lushly. I'm in awe, Elizabeth Bunce! Truly and utterly.

Four out of four stars.

Til next time...

Friday, May 2, 2008

So here's the thing about horses...

More TAKS test proctoring today. Last day of it, actually Couldn't come a moment too soon for me. As I've said, watching kids take a test definitely qualifies as a mind numbing activity even if someone gives you a doughnut and a cup of coffee. Cause honestly, all I'm thinking is, gee this doughnut tastes good but good God I'm bored out of my skull.

But anyway, the horses. Was partenered up with the ag teacher the past two days. (ag as in agriculture if you're city person and don't know of such things) And for whatever reason ( I try not to think of this too deeply) he launched into a lengthy discussion of why horses get colic which is because they can't throw up because their throat muscles go only one way so if they eat too much hay and drink a bunch of water and eat a bunch of oats, it all sort of turns to sludge in their intestines and they can't poop basically and they blow up with gas and could die. (he didn't use the word poop, by the way, but a more colorful term and you can feel free to insert your own)

So let it not be said that I did not learn something today. And during my enforced silent time while doing the aforementioned watching the kids bubble in their scantrons, I also finally came up with a new idea for how I should really begin the current WIP so perhaps 2nd draft will get finished now and my brain can stop feeling like the mental equivalent of the horse who can't, well, you know.

Til next time...

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Almost May... and a little T.S. Eliot while I'm at it

Goodbye April. Goodbye all that mixing memory with desire stuff. Good old T.S. Eliot and I share a September 26th birthday, btw. Eliot's right about April, I think. It's such a tease - even here where sometimes February chill just leaps into heat and humidity and never does give us a spring. But April. You can taste summer, but not quite. The calendar fills up with obligations til June. Your brain spins. And all you want to do is ignore it all, but you can't. So you measure out those days with coffee spoons. Eliot was right about that, too, crazy old coot. Although perhaps now we might say measure out our days with Starbucks sleeves. Okay, not as eloquent or memorable.

Who can tell I'm procrastinating from that final stack of research papers?

Til next time...

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Tuesday tidbits

Don't have total brain power left for more than randomness since I spent the entire morning watching 10th graders take the math TAKS test. Test proctoring of any sort is a mind numbing process for those not actually taking a test. You can't take you eyes off the little suckers, so you need to occupy yourself for endless hours with the excitment of watching fifteen year olds take a test. The thrill wears off about minute two. The last hour usually involves bathroom requests and the mental challenge of alphabetizing their answer sheets as they turn them in. Occasionally someone's pencil wears down and you get to bring them a fresh one. But honestly that's the way you want it. No cell phones going off or projectile vomiting or whatnot. Might liven the seconds but the ensuing paperwork just isn't worth it!

Showing the seniors Mary Shelley's Frankenstein to follow up Romanticism unit. Ooey, gooey, bloody, this particular version. And honestly, not great cinema. The transitions are so predicatable, Kenneth Branaugh so overwrought, Robert De Niro's monster currently so slimey and gooey from the whole birth thing (ewwww, Mrs P! Is that why he was going around collecting all that birth goo?) that we ended up supplying much of our own dialogue just to liven things up, which was actually quite entertaining. And Helena Bonham Carter needs to do something about the hair. Seriously. She's a great actress and all, but the hair. It's distracting. And of course, many are disappointed at the absence of Igor and neck bolts. Ah well...

Am at a serious crossroads with WIP. Two distinct ways I can start. And no current answer in sight. A serious epiphany better be in the offing.

And finally - prom is coming. Oh the emotions and preparations of the week that ends in prom. Tux talk and dress talk and nail talk and date talk and party talk and expectations about, well, everything. Even the most jaded are talking.

Prom is bigger than it was when I was in high school. No limos and professional mani/pedis back then. Much more do it yourself. But it still felt like a rite of passage even if we weren't quite sure why and even if I spent the evening becoming increasingly certain that the current boyfriend wasn't going to last much longer. (okay, he lasted til new year's eve of that year, but only because we were at separate colleges and weren't actually going out in any tangible fashion and I never had to actually inform him that I was crazy in lust with someone else) I do believe it was all sparked by that horrible moment when he asked for a coke without any ice because, as he leaned over and informed me, you got more coke that way. My inner ack meter turned on and never went off.

And btw, the parenthetical crazy in lust guy? Ended up marrying him. Go figure.

Til next time...

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Highlights of Austin SCBWI

You put on a great conference Austin chapter! Here's the highlights (briefly since I'm now even more behind on grading than ever and itching to get back to 2nd draft of WIP so I need to finish those research papers NOW!):

The best stuff included:
  • husband deciding at 4AM yesterday that he had time/energy to accompany me so that it became a mini-vacation
  • NOT getting a ticket, but only a warning, about 6AM from the Burton, TX patrolman who pulled us over for doing 74 in a 70. ("It's 65 at night" said he. It's morning thought the two of us. "What y'all doing out at night?" he asked. Still morning, thought the two of us.... and on like that. But it was only a warning. And maybe he was lonely. Burton, we noticed on the way home has a pop of 359... In any case, thanks Burton PD, for letting us go unscathed)
  • Meeting Cynthia Leitich Smith and husband Greg Leitich Smith, Texas authors extraordinaire and gracious and friendly human beings.
  • Meeting Jo Whittemore, fellow ABLAer who is also repped by my intrepid agent Michelle Andelman, who let me mine her brain about things like school visits.
  • all the wonderful presentations.... agent Erin Murphy, Little Brown editor Alvina Ling, Candlewick editor Deborah Wayshack (who edited Cynthia Leitich Smith's fantastic YA Tantalize), IU professor Peter Jacobi and others, including Austin chapter published authors in various "success panels."
  • beers and burgers at Texas Chili Parlor in the evening and the wonderful weirdness of all things Austin (6th street, Congress Ave bridge bats, music, music, music...)
  • the UT Club conference location because where else can you see a photo essay on a day in the life of Bevo? Seriously, where else? Nowhere!
  • gospel music brunch at Threadgills this morning. Three words: sweet potato pancakes!!

I came away energized and inspired, which is always what I hope for. Ready to get back at it and keep working to put the truth of what I see into my story telling. Ready to keep honing my craft. And excited to spend a day with folks who are as geekily excited about books and words as I am.

Til next time...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Mer and Der...

One more day til the return of Grey's Anatomy. I have no right to be watching television. I am behind on every aspect of my life and adding to the behindness (ooh - new word. This must be why they pay me the big bucks! hahaha) by going to SCBWI Austin on Saturday. But come on - it's Austin. I love Austin.

But back to the point. Grey's is back! Tomorrow. And I will be there.

Til next time...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Crazy small world

So here's the thing. Last July I posted about my writing roots and how my 2nd grade teacher, Mrs. Norma Bernsohn had inspired me to put word to paper. Never really thought about it much after that. Why would I?

Until last week.

Because that's when I was perusing the comments on my recent post. And found a message from Emily Achenbaum, reporter for the Chicago Tribune. Turns out that Emily was writing an obituary for, you guessed it - Mrs. Bernsohn, who had just passed away at the wonderful age of 91, after a long, full life. And that a google searched had popped up my July post. Would I be willing to let her interview me for the obit? Sure I emailed her. I'd be honored. And then I sat there, amazed and wonderous. How was this even possible? How could a random post result in that message? And in the subsquent comments from some of Mrs. B's relatives, including her granddaughter whom I actually remember because she used to come into our classroom all the time?

Obit came out yesterday in the Trib. And there I was, telling about writing my Thanksgiving play that November. And about how inspired I'd been by this wonderful woman.

Small world, this one I live in. Tiny. Things come 'round and amaze me all the time.

Anyone else have stories about people who cycle back into your life when you least expect it? About random moments that result in crazy amazing connections?

Til next time...

Monday, April 21, 2008

Micro magic!

So we finally acquired a new microwave, all black and shiny and with many, many exciting settings. Just so you understand - the microwave we just schlepped out to the garage so we can recycle it somewhere into old microwave heaven is the same microwave I used to heat baby bottles in. I have not had a baby living in this house for quite a while. But the microwave was obviously made of sturdy stuff and kept on ticking, although clearly not as efficiently as it probably should have. (honestly I don't want to think about all those stray microwaves...)

But the new one! It has a button marked potato. Tonight, I put in a raw potato and pressed the button. It did its thing for however many minutes it decided it needed. And ding! Perfect potato. Seriously. This potato was amazing. How is this possible? How did my little microwave know? It's obviously smarter than I am, that's for certain.

Welcome to the fold, little micro magic machine. I don't understand how the picture gets in the television. I'm iffy on how the words get into my laptop. Couldn't tell ya how my email lets me attach stuff. And I'm ashamed of my Rock of Love habit. But my microwave rocks!

And in other news... Gossip Girl is back. 'Twas me, the couch, my blanket and tea and cookies and an hour of trashy bliss. Blair. Jenny. Serena. Nate. And oh that bad boy Chuck. And dialogue to kill for:
Lily: Take your dirty package off my table.
Chuck: If I had a dime for every time someone told me that...

(actually the dime amount may be wrong. I was laughing too hard to really hear once I saw where the joke was going)

Til next time...