Sunday, March 30, 2008

Did you know?

Did you know that there's such a thing as CSA? CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. My pal Becki has introduced me to this recently and honestly, I had no idea! Rather than buying one's produce at the grocery store, you become a member of a CSA. They hook you up with an organic farm somewhere in your area. And for your yearly fee, you get your once a week bag of seasonal produce, plus access to other farms at which you might purchase stuff like artisan cheeses, organic eggs, poultry and the like. Now some of these folks are a little intense for my comfort zone. They go on a bunch about pastured chickens (which I was reading as pasturized and getting mightily confused) which are basically chickens that are out in the open kind of running free their whole lives (until they get slaughtered so I can eat them) rather than cooped up with no space just pumping out the eggs and polluting the waterways with their miles of poop. And they tend toward being the type of folk who are into sustainable everything and thus know how to make cheese and knit and skin a deer and all those skills that evade me and probably always will even though I've boycotted Chilean fruit for years because even if they give me grapes out of season and make some nice wines, they never did bring Pinochet to justice and eventually he just died without something being done. (yes, I know, a little crazy, but hey, we all have our causes and that was mine)

Anyway, in my world, where right now there are only two of us in the house most of the time and we honestly wouldn't eat our way through an entire bag of produce each week and then I'd feel guilty that I totally lacked skills in canning and processing and whatever the hell else one would need to do to make use of all these vegies besides make an overload of vegetarian chili or dump them in a freezer bag or keep inviting the cul de sac over for dinner, I probably won't be joining a CSA any time soon.

But the idea intrigues. And I know Becki is really enjoying her double yolk eggs and artisinal lettuces and raw milk(yet another thing I honestly don't have the inclination to figure out what to do with). Becki is cool that way and knows how to brew her own beer and a zillion other things that blow my mind. And I like the warm and fuzzy of being able to take care of ourselves locally. That's a good thing, I'm sure.

Til next time...

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Reading List

I'm in the middle of Cecil Castellucci's Beige and have to say I'm enjoying it. Plunks you and the MC Katy in the middle of aging punk rocker scene in LA. Katy's parents are both recovering addicts. Both love her very much. But dad hasn't been much of a parent lately and now he's getting his chance. Whether Katy is going to really reconnect with "The Rat" and break out of her "beige" ways, I've yet to discover although I'm feeling a happy ending coming on. But happy or not, Castellucci has written another winner as far as I'm concerned.

On the not so happy end of the scale, just saw "Othello" at The Alley Theater. Actor James Black scared the pee out of me with his ultra evil Iago. This guy is bad. Baaaaad. Leather pants and boots bad.

As I've mentioned here before, I am quite the bad guy girl, to be honest. Iago, though, is a puzzle to me because I don't ever really understand why he's bad. But he's so slimy that it sucks me in anyway. But the bad guy always fascinates. Evil Angel in Season 2 of Buffy will always be one of my favorites. One moment of perfect happiness and the pesky returned soul from the gypsy curse goes poof, the leather pants appear and wacky mayhem ensues. I never tire of those episodes.

Chuck Bass in Gossip Girl. Delightfully slimy. But not all bad, I would say. There are some feelings in that bad boy.

FNL's Tim Riggins wants to be the bad boy... but oh Tim Riggins. We can't get enough of you. Ever.

Of course there's always unredeemably bad. Javier whats his name's character in No Country for Old Men. Yikes! Definitely Iago bad. But at least he's got a clear "I want the money" motiviation. And the worst hairdo I've seen in awhile.

The Hills' Spencer Pratt, for example. Sorry, Spence; you may not be homicidal maniac Iago bad, but I'm just not feeling any sympathy for you, pal.

And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention every character played by James Spader during his 80's teen movie phase. Baaaad.

Anyone feel like posting their favorite bad guys?

Til next time...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Hail to the critique group!

So there's five of us. Dede, Kim, Suz, Bob, and I. (me? It's late. My brain hurts) And without the other four, where would I be? Not nearly where I am, that's a fact.

These are the people who read my drafts and tell me the things I need to hear. Tonight Kim showed me nugget of information that I'd almost gotten but not quite but which would be one of the crucial underpinnings of everything that happened later. It was there. I just didn't see it.

We celebrate each other's good fortune and commiserate with the lows. We sneak wine and cheese into the library for each other's birthdays. We pass the red boa along to each other when someone gets published. (It's living at Kim's right now) We gripe and moan when the going gets rough. We sometimes make Bob wish there was another female in the group when we prattle on too long about Gilmore Girls or Kim's new purse or other girly talk. But Bob knows stuff. Like what happens when a grenade goes off. And all about rocks and Alaska and good stuff like that. And he writes cool things like his story about the local ferrier which if you were ignorant like I am, is the guy who shoes all the horses for the mounted patrol people at our mall! We go to conferences together and laugh a lot and work really hard at our craft.

These are the people who met me when I joined up with them about five years ago thinking I might try my hand at some picture books. They were there when I discovered I had other stories to tell. They were there to tell when I received THE CALLs that have changed my life in many ways.

I hope they'll be with me for a long time to come.

Til next time...

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Revision time

Been toiling on the second draft of my book that's set right here in Texas. Three areas in particular that I had to work on. In one case, I needed to increase the role of a particular crucial character. In another, I'll work on tweaking a love triangle a little more. (ouch!) And in a third, I needed to make a revelation/secret a little bigger. A little more worthy of its function in the story.

Last night I finally got the hang of what I needed to do. I swear, sometimes I just sit there, staring at the page hoping for that great inspiration to strike. And sometimes... nothing... birds chirping... crickets... Last night I realized I already had the hints for what I wanted imbedded in the story; I just needed to do more with them.

Has that happened to anyone else? Did you ever realize (ala Dorothy and those red slippers) that you had the answer all the time but just didn't know where to look?

Guess that question could apply to lots of things, not just novel revision. Huh! Didn't see that one coming.

Anyone want to chime in? Writing or otherwise, have you ever found that you knew the answer all along, it just never occurred to you?

Other than that, it's Tuesday. Taught Rime of the Ancient Mariner today. Got my geek girl self excited that I remembered that Mary Shelley had quoted it in Frankenstein. Cool, eh? Okay, maybe not. But hey, gotta put that crazy expensive NU education to work somewhere. Might as well be at, well, work.

And on a completely unrelated note, let me say that Chai Green Tea is a delightful new flavor I've discovered. If you plop two bags in a large mug of water and microwave for 2 minutes then a squirt or two of honey, tis delightful. yummmmm.

Til next time...

Friday, March 21, 2008

Adventures in D.C.

Had a rollicking blast in Washington, D.C. Other than a brief weekend for a wedding about eight years ago, I hadn't been as an adult. And let me say - much better trip than when I was thirteen and got rushed through every site in like, I don't know five hours, so we could get back on the road to Colonial Williamsburg and see people make candles and take pictures of ourselves with our heads and arms in the stocks. (but enough on my family's odd and limited vacation habits, which, by the way, limited themselves mostly to things that were just off the interstate and within easy reach of either a Howard Johnson's or a Sizzler. I'm serious, folks. I did not grow up in a household that vacationed well or often. My husband often takes this into account as he tolerates the LIST of places we MUST see because damn it I never went anywhere and I'm making up for it now)

But anyway. D.C. Loved it. Well, okay, except for the endless crowds of school kids being dragged from monument to monument so they could get back on the bus and head to Colonial Williamsburg to see those candle making folk.

As for us, we did a lot of Metro riding, museum hopping, monument touring and walking. Lots o'walking. Explored Georgetown and Dupont Circle and Foggy Bottom and Capitol Hill neighborhoods. Walked that Mall area for all it was worth. Waited in line behind the aforementioned school kids at the National Archives. (heard more than one slightly bored teen comment versions of, "I'm too tired to really look, but I can say I've seen it" and one very diplomatic ten year old tell his mother at the Lincoln Memorial about nine thirty one night, "I really appreciate you taking me and all, but my legs hurt. Can we go back to the hotel?") Spent over three hours at the Holocaust Museum, which I have to say is the most moving and meticulously designed museum I've ever been to. By the end, I sat in the Hall of Remembrance and simply cried.

In between the museums, we walked some more, ate great food, chatted with some great Brits at the hotel happy hour and decided that the three story Barnes and Noble in Georgetown was the best ever. And a thankful shout out to friends Kim and Robb who now live in Capitol Hill in this awesome hundred year old row house and who took us to all their favorite haunts and even did the monuments at night thing with us which is definitely more touristy than one needs to get if one sees said monuments on the way to work every day.

And couldn't end this post without a report on the pandas at the National Zoo, whom I did not see because they spent six unsuccessful hours trying to mate on Tuesday (feel free to insert your own mental image) and then were taken out of commission for artifical insemination on Wednesday. We were also in DC for St. Patrick's Day and for the protests on the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war, but as there was no parade and the protestors mostly protested in front of the IRS building and (no joke ) Caribou Coffee, the pandas were really more interesting. Shouldn't have been. But they were.

Til next time...

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Beware the Ides of March

Okay, so only English major geeks would be aware that today is the Ides of March. But 'tis so. Thus - beware. Especially if you're name is Julius. Or Caesar. Yup. Beware. I'm just sayin'.

And in other news, I had my first phone conversation yesterday with my Sourcebooks editor, the delightful and funny Lyron Bennett. We set the stage for the revision work that is to come as SPARK marches its way towards Fall '09. Let me just say, Lyron rocks! I am a very lucky girl. And as always on this journey - humbled and honored and crazy excited.

If you're on the academic schedule and it's Spring Break for you, be careful out there! If you haven't seen a Spring Break since college, well, have a good week anyway. St. Patty's Day on one end, Easter, if that's what you celebrate, on the other. And hopefully some good, non Idesy days in between.

Til next time...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Random Wednesday Musings

So it's Wednesday - which btw, was one of my favorite words to spell in elementary school because for whatever dimwitted reason I loved telling myself Wed-nes- day, like it was some crazy secret. ( was sort of fond of Feb-ru-ary, too, but whatever)

Texas state legislature has dictated that this year each student in each grade, along with their teachers, participate in a bus safety drill. I missed the first one because of son's graduation. But today, I got the honor of sitting on the dirty bus floor and hopping out the back along with my Creative Writing class third period. And let me repeat - every kid, in every school, on a bus, gassed up with close to $4 a gallon diesel fuel, manned by a paid bus driver, twice a year. We're talking hundreds of thousands of dollars, folks, and that probably doesn't count the video we watched. Or the educational time missed. Or the man hours planning the thing. Now husband, who was uncharacteristically positive about this, muttered the platitude about if it saves one life, then it was worth it. I might buy that with one drill a year. Two drills... well, not quite so much. Any thoughts out there?

Other random thoughts:

What's the deal with all these governors and their wacky sex scandals? Wouldn't ya think they'd have caught on by now that they're going to get caught? And that the public isn't going to view this in any particularly positive light? I mean, come on, people. Get a clue!!

WIP's are coming along. Adding some scenes; expanding at least one character's role. Still having fun with it.

Counting down to Spring Break.

Lots of my guy students have discovered Laurie Halse Anderson's Twisted and they're loving it. If you've not read this one yet, go grab yourself a copy and dig in. She's really nailed the voice of her male MC and she's captured boy world, at least according to my guy readers. (and I'm really paying attention since my full first draft WIP is a guy world book and I'm hoping I've nailed it, too)

Off to critique group. Then 25 book reviews to read and grade. Then I plan on staying up and zoning with the last of season one of FNL. I'm close to the end and it's worth giving up sleep for.

Til next time...

Sunday, March 9, 2008

One hundred posts!

When I started this blog back in June, SPARK had not yet sold. I was still feeling my way around what in the world I had to talk about in this forum. Yet to be college graduate son was staying in Phoenix for his internship and I was missing having him home. And I was waffling ridiculously about the money to attend the national SCBWI.

So now... well, kid has graduated. Still in Phoenix. SPARK has sold. I've had time for other projects, one of which has made through a full first draft. Another full semester and a half of school has come and gone. Bunch o' holidays. The requisite good, bad, and ugly of living. Births, deaths, weddings, a couple of engagements - my friends and family have been through the whole gamut! Even the crazy Texas Two Step caucuses on Primary Day. And I've gone ahead and bought a plane ticket to LA for August!! Yay! Yes, even before the registration forms are available. National SCBWI, here I come. No more waffling for Joy. No sirree.

And as for me, well, maybe, just maybe, I feel like more of a professional in this writing biz. A little less newbie, a little more seasoned. But still amazed and awed that I get to do what I love and that next year someone else will be able to find my words on a bookshelf. Crazy amazing.

Til next time...

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Is it break time yet?

Spring Break is on its way... but not soon enough. The entire world seems to need one. Wouldn't that be wonderful, folks? If the entire world took a healing spring break? Just all went to the beach together or perhaps skiing if you're into snow, or perhaps to one gigantic dude ranch in the Texas Hill Country. A morning ride, a little Cowboy breakfast, some nap time, another ride, happy hour, dinner, karaoke and sing along. (Personally, I recommend the Mayan Ranch in Bandera, but I'm not sure even the enormous Hicks clan could handle the entire world, although if anyone could do it, it would be the fantabulous Hicks family and I seriously recommend their fine establishment) And maybe everyone would stop shooting and blowing each other up and just do a few tequila shots together and maybe sing some Def Leppard off key or maybe a little country. And for just a few days, no one would do anything but smile. No kid would die in a drive by or in a market in Iraq and no one would blow up students studying in Jerusalem, and even all the presidential candidates would just hang out at the pool and tell jokes and eat nachos and knock back a couple beers together. We'd drop the labels, drop the banners and signs, and stop telling each other how to live. And we'd all take a breath and just be.

Wouldn't that be lovely?

Til next time...

Sunday, March 2, 2008


No - not stages of life. Stages Reperatory Theater in Houston. Just came back from seeing Lady by Craig Wright. Fascinating little three character play that uses the war in Iraq as a catalyst for revelations among three middle age guys who've been friends since childhood. Sad, poignant... worth seeing if it comes your way.

I love Stages because it is a small venue, very intimate. The same guy is always behind the counter before the show and at intermission. He brews his own pots of coffee. Sells Hershey bars for a dollar! The way it should be, darn it. Unlike when we went to see Spamalot (yes, I loved it, but that's not today's point) and you had to sell your first born for a tiny plastic cup of Coke. And I love Stages because they take risks, stage shows that the bigger theaters aren't showing. (Not that I have anything against seeing Arsenic and Old Lace or Jersey Boys, but they're sure things. Whereas the one man "I Am My Own Wife" or an all male version of Romeo and Juliet are less certain... )

Anyway -Stages, you guys rock!

Til next time...