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...

Monday, April 14, 2008

Dear Diary

If I'm ever feeling too full of myself (which honestly if you teach school you almost never are since getting up in front of a room of teenagers pretty much guarantees someone thinking you're an ass or a geek or a whatever and thus does not exactly put the bloom on your self-esteem rose some days.... yes, I know teachers who seem to never feel that way, never own up to a single awkward moment, but honestly I think they're definitely too full of themselves and that, folks is certainly another story that involves dividing all teachers into two basic categories - those who loved high school and were queen bees of everything and those like me who tolerated it until they could move on to the rest of their life which was so much better of an adventure) all I have to do is pull out that remnant of my geeky self past - the diary I kept during grades 6-8.

It is, as one would expect, filled with the angsty drivel of my junior high self. Page upon page of unbridled longing for some guy named David who at this moment I can't even picture in my head except that he had dark hair, I think. Endless post mortems of parties I went to. Even more endless angst during the couple of months when I was thrust into social Siberia for befriending someone everyone else decided they didn't like and the crappy things I did to regain favor from people who absolutely didn't deserve it.

But somehow, I've never burned the darn thing. Because I don't think it's a bad thing to remember how that all felt. So good and bad and horrible and wonderful all at once. So much feeling you thought you'd die from it.

So David, no last name, wherever you are - if you're wearing a black hoodie and ancient jeans, well so am I. It's a sign, David. Just like in seventh grade when we both wore blue on the same day two times in one week.

Anyone else have humiliating diaries lurking in their t shirt drawer??

Til next time...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Little less stress... little more bliss

Every year about this time I start to feel like I'm climbing a mountain. Right now, I'm resting on a little cliff. Research papers aren't in yet, nor are my writing class's latest stories. We hung out last night and made ice cream sundaes and watched Dan in Real Life (which moves glacially in the 1st half and then perks up and has laugh aloud moments and tender moments and while not a great movie is a good movie which is about all I ever ask for these days). And this afternoon it's back to Stages for Rounding Third, a play about dads coaching little league baseball, thus coincidentally framing my week with real baseball and now fictional. Plus if it's play day, that means we go out to eat dinner afterwards. So... not bad. Definitely of the good.

Am I still secretly stressing over rewrites, revisions, grading, and where the prodigal son will end up next year? (work? grad school? on that fishing boat in the Bering Strait with that crew on the Discovery Channel?) Yes. Yes. And oh yes. But, whatever. Even the weather is lovely today - cool and sunny and dry and very unHouston like which is just fine with me.

Article this morning in the paper about housing prices. (Gee, imagine that - people writing about housing prices. Or gas prices. Such a freakin' shock, eh people? Not.) But here's the quote from a local realator (note that I am not capitalizing that word. I don't understand why suddenly they all capitalize it. I mean, I don't tell people I'm a Writer. My neighbor doesn't say he's a Doctor) that I love. "A million dollars just doesn't buy what you think it does."

Really? Okay, call me a middle class boob, but hey, if I would ever contemplate shelling out a cool mil for a house, it damn well better buy something fairly substantial. Just sayin'.

Other than all that, I'm enjoying Elizabeth Bunce's A Curse as Dark as Gold. Beautiful prose, description and skillful plotting. It's a modern re-telling of Rumplestiltskin, but it's much more than that and it's a fantastic book.

And I've discovered more about my main character and his former girlfriend during my revision stage of the WIP. Stuff I really needed to know! Reminds me of what author Joan Bauer said at an SCBWI conference a few years ago. That she generally writes at least 25 pages of back story for each character before she even gets into the book itself. I was just about half way through SPARK then, and I remember thinking - no way. I couldn't ever have that much to know about these characters. Turns out I could. And should. And basically do. Because unless they're that real, we're not doing our job at story and world creation.

And back to Dan in Real Life... I might have said it wasn't the best movie I'd ever seen, but its issues keep lingering. I love that it reminds us that love is messy. That sometimes we fall in love with the right person at the wrong time. Or the wrong person all together. Or even the right person at the right time but we're too stupid to realize it. And that it's a trick to balance romance and parenthood. And that sometimes we need to just give ourselves a break and act crazy. Even if it shocks the people around us. Or to quote an old ep. of my forever beloved BTVS, "Love makes you do the wacky." Yep. It does. Wouldn't have it any other way.

Til next time...

Monday, April 7, 2008

It's raining men...

Just back from the Astro's opening day. 4 homers plus one run batted in, one delicious barbeque sandwich, some shared peanuts and a large Diet Coke, a little bit o' beer and the Navy Seals Froggy Sky Divers parachuting into Minute Maid before the game. Six very hot Navy Seals leaping from a plane, people. And we were in the field boxes on the 1st base side. So we were very close.

Ahh, baseball...

Til next time...

Sunday, April 6, 2008

If it's Sunday I must be stressing

I try not to stress on Sundays, but I'm a miserable failure at it. Especially now that I've added working on at least two book projects to my to do list. And especially since every Saturday I tell myself I'll hurl out of bed at 7AM and get at it - it being grading papers and writing lots of wonderful pages that actually make sense - and then end up sleeping late, drinking coffee, noodling around on the computer and reading the Sunday papers, all of which make me feel great, but then I remember - oh crap, I didn't do what I was supposed to and there comes Mr. Stress again.

At which point I promptly either go walking or convince husband we should go for breakfast/brunch/whatever we can manage to find without an incredible amount of effort.

So if you read this, send me a telepathic reminder that I promised myself a finished new first chapter of the WIP because after I read Michelle's notes I actually came up with some really good ideas. (once I got done with the stressing stuff) And that I'm supposed to grade 3 sets of Caesar scene re-writes. And write two scholarship recs. And plan some lessons. And clean the bathrooms. And cook some meals for the week so we're not always eating cereal for dinner. And return at least three emails and phone calls I've been ignoring.

And don't worry. I'll do most of it. But I'll still be stressing.

Til next time...