Friday, October 31, 2008

School Spirit

The pumpkin on the left is my husband's university. The pumpkin on the right is my sons' high school.

The digital camera doesn't seem to be as good for photographing pumpkins as our old 35 mm. Maybe we haven't figured out the settings yet.

The Druid Suit Rides Again

When Jeremy was in 7th grade, he had to give a book report in costume. My little darling chose a book on Stonehenge. No one knows what the Druids wore, if anything. They didn’t even build Stonehenge, but we decided a Druid costume would fit the bill.

I found a remnant of pseudo-suede on sale and sewed a garment that was cross between a graduation gown, Gandalf’s robe and a belt-less monk’s habit. The following Halloween, he added a rope belt, a fake sword and fuzzy dice to become a Dungeons and Dragons nerd.

Now Jeremy is in the high school marching band. Every year at Halloween, the band performs in costume at the three local elementary schools. For some of the larger instruments, costume creativity is limited by steric hindrance. Sometimes the base drum players get away with wearing rabbit ears and going as Energizer Bunnies. You might think the Sousaphone section would be similarly restrained. But no. They went as Renaissance characters, and my son managed to play his instrument while wearing The Druid Suit.

Note: When Jeremy was in 7th grade, the Druid Suit was floor length.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sheep Are Not Little Cows

The first half of my graduate education was spent in a laboratory on the top floor of the Animal Sciences Building at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. One day, I overheard a scientist say, “Sheep are not little cows.” Later, I asked my advisor if there was a deeper meaning to this apparently obvious statement. He explained that cattle are expensive to feed and house, even in America’s Dairyland, so some scientists study sheep and try to apply the results to cattle. But sheep differ from cattle in significant ways.

Teens differ from adults in significant ways. Although we persist in referring to teens as young adults, no writer in this genre should be lulled into complacency by that misnomer.

I almost always enjoy the mysteries of a well-known writer whose name I won’t mention. He is the author of over 60 books and more than 50 have been bestsellers. Recently he has written a couple books for the YA market. My first reaction was, “Can’t you stick to your own playground?” Breaking into the YA market is tough enough without competition like that. I tried to read his first YA novel, but couldn’t make much headway. I recently checked out the second and again had to put it down.


The teens in these books seem like adults who haven’t finished growing, filling out or going to high school. They have teenage bodies, but not teenage voices.

On the other hand, when I learned this author has a new mystery for adults, I raced to my library’s webpage to reserve it. The local library system bought 36 copies. All are checked out, and 20 holds have been placed ahead of me.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Blog, Blog, Blog

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Debbie Diesen put a blog list on Jumping the Candlestick, so I put one in my sidebar too.

I haven't been blogging much lately because ...

I've been doing tons of paperwork related to my mom.
I attended The Fall Festival of Bands. (Jeremy played Sousaphone.)
I cheered on Sam's football team as they won a spot in the playoffs!
I attended the Intermediate Choir Concert (Jeremy sang bass.)
I watched Jeremy earn a green stripe on his 2nd Degree Black Belt.
I helped Sam apply for college. (He's written the essays, but only one application is complete, so far.)
My brother came to visit. (This involved some pre-cleaning, shopping and cooking, plus the time he spent here.)

Except for the paperwork, life has been good.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008



by Jon Scieszka

Viking, 2008

Jon Scieszka’s “tall tales and mostly true stories” about growing up in a household with six boys made me laugh out loud. I adore my two sons, but if there were four more of them running around the house, life would be far less placid.

For a simple model for the current economic crisis, read chapter 17.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Overheard #29

"If they're really out to get you, you're not paranoid."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

On Volunteering

When my term as Regional Co-Advisor of SCBWI-MI ended, I vowed to reduce the time I spent volunteering. I announced that I would still help out with my sons' activities. I'd endeavor to do my little jobs pretty well and never demonstrate a single organizational skill.

So far, it's working pretty well. This year's model is Jill of All Trades, Master of None. I wash band pants, serve football players breakfast and help out at Tae Kwon Do tournaments, but I will not be in charge. I achieve this by avoiding the planing meetings where they sign people up for the big jobs.

Many of the parents who devote their lives to these organizations also have full time jobs and families that are larger than mine, so I admit my attitude is unconscionably selfish.

So be it. I have a novel to finish.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Senior Photos

Okay, Jay Asher started it. He posted his senior photos on the Disco Mermaids blog and challenged other YA writers to post theirs. Elizabeth Bird posted hers on Fuse #8. Jackie Robbins posted a childhood picture.
I wanted to play too. Unfortunately, I couldn't find my senior portrait. Perhaps it was lost in the mists of time. A copy may exist at my mom's house, and maybe my brother will send it to me. Someday.
I did find a picture of me going to the senior prom. Is that good enough? My hair was down to my waist, but my parents always insisted I hide it behind my back for photos.

Back in the Saddle

Yesterday was a great writing day, topped off by Write Night in the evening. Right now, I'm feeling positive about this writing career/WIP/revision business.

That could, of course, change at any time.

On Revisions:
I now have a method to my madness. Taking time away from my project added insight. (duh)

On Writing Goals:
My October Goals are out the window. But hey, it's almost Halloween, and around Thanksgiving, I start thinking about my yearly writing goals. Perhaps I'll plug along with deadline-free revisions until Turkey Time.

On Write Night:
We worked on voice. Tim Bogar brought magazines with lots of photographs, and we each chose a picture and wrote something pertaining to the picture, keeping voice of the character in mind. This is a fine writing exercise and something that could be used as a warm up or in writing workshops.
I also learned that I cannot and never will be able to write anything at all in a Scottish brogue.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Watching from the Wings

One of my present revision problems is breathing life into a character who is often off stage in my story. I learned much from reading Hattie Big Sky. In this novel, Hattie has a friend who is fighting in WWI. Consequently, he never appears in Iowa or Montana where the story takes place. We meet him through Hattie's letters to him, a few of his letters to her and small memories (sometimes called back-flashes). Larson didn't have to resort to using two points of view or long flashbacks to get this character on the page.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I wouldn't have guessed how many things need doing when a relative dies, but I'm glad for the opportunity to be so busy. I'm making progress with burial arrangements, my mom's little apartment is almost cleaned out and I've started chipping away at the mountains of paperwork. I've notified the experts (lawyers, accountants, financial advisers) who will explain the legal stuff.

Many people at my mom's assisted living place have told me what a great lady she was. It is amazing what an impact she made in just a year. Ironically, she probably wouldn't have remembered or recognized most of the people who speak so fondly of her.

I'm looking forward to Friday. I get up early to serve hugely hearty breakfasts to 50 high school football players at a local diner, then I go home to prepare "festively wrapped baked goods" for the band craft sale. We have a football game in the evening, and both my sons will play. Sam plays nose tackle; Jeremy plays Sousaphone. This week's game is also parent night when the football families are introduced, and the boys give their moms a flower. Life goes on.

On Monday, I hope to find some time to dive back into my novel revisions. The paperwork mountain will require my attention for a long time, but I have a new idea for Aunt Kath that I'm eager to experiment with.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Women and History

We Are Our Mothers' Daughters

by Cokie Roberts

Perennial (Harper Collins), 1998 & 2000

One morning last week, as I was about to dash off to the hospital, I stopped by our basement bookshelves to find a small paperback that could fit in my purse. This title had obvious appeal. The book is a history of women's advances, liberally sprinkled with personal anecdotes. The following quote came from Cokie Roberts' reminiscence about summers on a farm.

"It was the women we spent time with, it was from them that we learned about other generations, about how things used to be, and how things would forever be."

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Verna Christine Finkelstein

9-16-1916 - 10-12-2008

She was the best mom in the world.
I miss her.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Sunday on Thursday

Photo by me.

My Sunday Bouquet is late. Amy Huntley gave me these flowers on Sunday, but I didn't get the photo posted until now.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Novels have pacing and so does life. Sometimes life's pacing precludes working on a manuscript. I will probably have to strike all three of my October writing goals. Life is like that.

During my many hours of sitting in a hospital and not sleeping at night, I managed to finish Brisingr by Christopher Paolini (Alfred A. Knopf, 2008).

Publishers Weekly reported the first print run was 2.5 million, and 550,000 copies sold the first day.

I'm starting to think that everything I know (about pacing) is wrong.

In case my notions about plotting, pacing, tension etc. are on track, I plan to attempt Darcy Pattison's shrunken manuscript trick as soon as I finish the current draft. Sarah Miller has photos and a short video on her blog.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Positive Thinking

When the phone rings at 6:00 AM, it rarely brings good news. Yesterday morning, one of the nurses at my mom's assisted living facility called. I waited for her to say, "First of all, there's no emergency." She didn't. Instead, she explained my mother's medical condition, and said they'd sent her to a local hospital by ambulance.

As I drove to the emergency room through the predawn darkness and misting rain, I expected the worst. When I got to my mom's room, she didn't look great, but she wanted to know where she was, why she was in the hospital, and how she had gotten there. My mom wasn't unconscious for her diagnosis or the trip to the hospital, but her memory worsens in times of stress.

"I feel fine," she said. "They must have gotten the wrong person."

Nice try, Mom.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Strike Number Two

Yesterday was an amazing day when I drove my older son, Sam, to Jackson, MI (about an hour away) so he could take the SAT tests. The tests lasted five hours. I had a wonderful opportunity to visit with my friend and fellow writer, Vicky Lorencen. I spent the remainder of the time working on revisions.

During that writing time, I came to the conclusion that my October Writing Goals are off base. Perhaps I'll finish this draft in October. Perhaps I'll even do some market research. This manuscript will NEVER be ready to submit this year. There is still way too much to do. Strike goal #2.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Overheard #28

"Loaves make the squirrel grow round."

Yesterday's Insight

Last night at dinner, I asked my older son's advice about a scene in my WIP. (My younger son was away at a band event, so I couldn't ask him too.) I delivered a lengthy description of the plot up to that point and the scene in question. Then I asked his opinion of a line of interior monologue that might be too ambiguous.

"It's great," Sam said. "Use it to end the chapter."

End the chapter there? Lightning flashed in my head. The kid is brilliant!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

October Writing Goals

I like the beginning of October. Fall color is beginning yet my roses are still blooming. I start accumulating Halloween candy and shopping for pumpkins.

Yet this year, I feel a bit blue. Perhaps it is the aftermath of the conference or simply the realization that another year is almost over and I accomplished little. Sure I worked hard, thought hard and wrote/revised a ton. I submitted G&G (previous WIP) and eventually decided to abandon it. I revised CBL (current WIP) many times, but it isn't ready to submit.

Maybe what I need is a short list of realizable goals to see me through 2008.

1. Finish current revision of CBL by Halloween. (This idea is not as scary as it seems.)
2. Query 5 agents before November 15. (Agents, like the rest of us, are over-scheduled at the end of the year, so I won't send anything during the holidays.)
3. Investigate nonfiction book markets. (At the conference, I realized that if I am to have success as a writer, it is more likely to be in nonfiction.)

Around January 1, I'll let you know how I did.