Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Speaking Your Truth

When children ask Patricia Polacco if her stories are true, she says, “Yes, but it might not have happened.”

As a writer, I appreciate the importance of truth in expressing emotion, rendering dialog and detailing description – whether the story is fiction or nonfiction.

As a former scientist, I think of truth in a different way. Textbooks relate facts, but working scientists rarely speak of truth. We talk about replicating controlled experiments and data that are consistent with a larger hypothesis because often it takes a long time to figure out how nature actually works.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about truth in a political sense. In America, we expect truth, and find fraud, cover-ups and misappropriation of funds scandalous. But this isn’t true of every country. My friend, Fang Shimin (net name Fang Zhouzi), has devoted his career to exposing scientific corruption in China. Last weekend Shimin was attacked by two thugs, apparently in retribution for his role as a whistleblower. Fortunately, he escaped with only minor injuries.

Today, I’m thinking of freedom of speech, the privilege of living in a place where truth is expected, and the great gift of a legal system equipped to fight dishonesty.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Mystery Photo

What is it?
The answer will be posted on Saturday (9-4-2010).

Sunday, August 29, 2010

What, No Sunday Nature Photo?

For years now, I’ve managed to come up with some image of the natural world every Sunday morning. Not today, though. I recently purchased a new camera (Canon Rebel T2i), and I’m trying to figure out how to use it and manage the files. My previous photos were taken with a Sony Cyber-shot which is basically a point and shoot. Now I need to learn something about photography.

I will have a mystery photo up tomorrow – taken with my old camera. I think it’s an easy one, but then I know what it is.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Overheard #108

"Nagging never helped anyone."

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Another Frog

Sometimes gray treefrogs will pose on a pink lily.
And other times they insist on the hose rack and wear a dead spider on their foot.

Monday, August 23, 2010

For Want of an E

While proofreading my WIP, I discovered:

We cut through the ally.

Ouch. Apparently, I’ve been reading too much historical fiction involving swordplay. While I’m typing random letters:



Sunday, August 22, 2010


the thinker
the little mermaid

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Write by the Water

I'm a guest blogger at writebythewater today.

It’s All About Stealth

I walked toward the pond at Fenner Nature Center. Plink. Plink. Plunk. My footsteps had scared several frogs and maybe a turtle into the water. I turned on my camera. Plip. Plop. More were frightened by the electronic whir. I stalked a sleepy-looking fellow, floating with his head above the surface. I focused, wondering if reflected sunlight would spoil the picture or make it more interesting.
“Is there anything in there?” a woman shouted as she came up to the pond.
The frog disappeared into the murk. I turned so she could see my camera.
“What are you taking pictures of?” She yelled even though she was standing next to me.
“Frogs,” I whispered, hoping she’d turn down the volume.
“Oh, I see ‘em now.” She hadn’t taken the hint.
Plunk. Plop. I put my finger to my lips.
“They’re all over the place,” she shouted.
“Could you please be quiet?” I whispered. “I don’t mean to be rude, but you’re scaring the frogs.”
“They’re all over the place! They’re all over the place!” Her voice kept getting louder.
I sighed, and eventually she left. Then I managed to photograph some of the braver individuals. Stop by tomorrow to see more frog pics.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Overheard #107

"What makes you think I don’t want to be bothered?"

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Teen-Parent Relations

On Monday, NPR did a piece on teen-parent relations that I found interesting both as a parent and as a writer. The examples mentioned in the article didn’t seem real to me as neither my kids nor my characters get hysterical about what they’re going to wear on school photo day. The part about teens not foreseeing the consequences of their actions is golden.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Art Imitates Life

or is it the other way around?

Recently my kids have been living out some of the dramas I’ve written about. In Chapter 6 of my WIP, Michael lost his keys, and last Monday, Jeremy lost his wallet. Fortunately both boys recovered their possessions. In Chapter 20 of one of my previous novels, Lia parked near a college campus and returned to find her car vandalized. Unfortunately, Sam had the same experience in July. The repairs on Lia’s car were fast and inexpensive, but in reality, quick, cheap auto repairs are totally fictional. In Chapter 14 of my WIP, Michael flagrantly exceeded the speed limit and didn’t get caught. Jeremy was not so lucky.

You might say this is coincidence, or I could claim I’ve nailed the teenage experience. Either way, I seem to be predicting the future. I’m tempted to change the mom’s career so she’s a highly successful novelist.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


A friend told me this is a white-faced meadowhawk.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Overheard #106

"There is never a reason for tediousness."

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Curmudgeonly Rant on Spelling

Why is it okay to spell some words in more than one way? Just decide already. Don’t tell me that ocher is just as good as ochre. How can gallivant, galivant and galavant all be correct? One spelling should be enough for any word.

In a fit of pique, I looked up ocher and gallivant.

Merriam-Webster prefers ocher to ochre. The Free Dictionary also likes the ER spelling and suggests ochery and ocherous are real words. Cute Writing tells me ochre is the British spelling. Microsoft Word shows no preference.

Merriam-Webster likes gallivant better than galavant and doesn’t even mention galivant. The Free Dictionary prefers two Ls and an I, but lists galivant before galavant. Microsoft Word only accepts gallivant.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Writing Retreat

When you think of a writing retreat, perhaps you envision peace and quiet, a respite from the responsibilities of family and work. Maybe you see long stretches of uninterrupted creative time, solving thorny plot problems and finding new insights into characters. You might imagine time with good friends, belly laughs and shared ideas. Or does the idea of a writing retreat summon fears of having nothing to say?

The retreat I just left was wonderful. I worked hard on revisions and made good progress. There is something about sitting across the table from another hard-working writer that keeps me on task. I solved some problems with my WIP and discovered other issues that need to be fixed. I enjoyed the time with great friends. Thankfully, writer’s block left me alone.

This was my fifth writing retreat and the third with my awesome critique group. It occurred to me I have never done new writing at a retreat. I always spend the time revising. Okay, my process involves lots of revision, but still …

Maybe next year.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


I chased this hummingbird clearwing moth all over the yard.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Overheard #105

"It’s hard to escape the criticism of a red-winged blackbird."

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Photo by Jean Eddy
This week, I’ve been volunteering at band camp. This is a six-day stretch of early morning to late night days at which the high school marching band learns next the new halftime show. The maturity difference between the incoming freshmen and the soon-to-be seniors is astounding. Five minutes with the incoming freshmen totally validates the concept of the Tween novel.

I was appointed photographer of Jeremy’s metal band. I need a better camera.

On Thursday, The World’s Greatest Critique Group goes on our annual retreat. I hope to finish the revisions of my current work-in-progress.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


This picture is a little confusing, but it's so hard to photograph butterflies and moths.