Monday, August 31, 2009

I Won the Lottery!

Two lotteries, actually, but not the monetary kind, the SCBWI-MI conference kind. The first page of TAoCBS will be analyzed by the panel of experts, and I will be able to participate in Jennie Dunham's workshop on writing a pitch.

I've been to several first page panels over the years, and I know the comments tend to be absolutely honest. I'm channeling my inner pachyderm, and reminding myself that if my first page is not compelling, I need to know ASAP, so I can fix it.

Each participant in the pitch workshop is supposed to bring a completed manuscript, and I'm not sure which novel to bring. I'll probably present this conundrum as a discussion question at Saturday's critique group.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Photo by me.

This is a fly masquerading as a bee. It's called a bee fly.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


We had about one week of summer this year. The cool, wet weather made it seem like I was on vacation in the Pacific Northwest - except the trees are different.

School is starting way too soon.

Next week my older son goes to college. I'm proud, excited, sad and scared.
(My writer friends are scribbling "show don't tell" in the margin, but that will have to wait for later posts.)

My younger son had his first highway driving experience. Not all the bad things that happened were his fault.

I'm reading through TAoCBS, and the pacing is too fast at the beginning.

I signed up for the SCBWI-MI fall conference in hopes of getting chosen for the first page analysis or the pitch workshop. I've heard the number of entrants in these lotteries reached record highs, so it all depends on luck or statistics.

I also applied for a Highlights Founders Workshop on writing YA novels. I'll let you know if I'm accepted.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Parallel Parking

The Michigan road test includes parallel parking, so a few days ago I gave Jeremy his first lesson. He did pretty well, partly because I drew him an diagram and said, “Make the car do this.” He practiced a few times and then …

Me: Are you ready to go home now?
Jeremy: I have the wheel, and you can’t stop me.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Getting Closer - Progress Report

I haven't posted much about writing or revising lately, but I am working. Usually when I have a novel ready for critique, I get two or three people to read it, but nearly everyone in my critique group wanted to read TAoCBS. So, I've been pondering and balancing the disparate comments of six highly intelligent individuals. Trust me, it's not easy. The comments are all good, but they don't all mesh, and in the end it has to be my novel.

Revising is a long and arduous process, so I'm taking it in small chunks. At the end of each day, the manuscript should be better than the day before, or at least my ideas about it should have progressed.

I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Overheard #71

"The dynamic marking is mp, which does not mean mighty powerful."

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Photo by me.

Friday, August 21, 2009

An Equal and Opposite Reaction

The light changed to yellow, and Jeremy stopped the car.
Jeremy: I didn’t block the crosswalk, and I didn’t slam on the brakes.
Jeremy: But your head hit the headrest.
Me: I didn’t say anything.
Jeremy: Actions speak louder than words.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Brainstorming vs. Head Banging

My revisions are stuck have been stuck in the sludge. A scene in Chapter 12 needs a major alteration, and this change will affect scenes in several later chapters. Every time I think of a way to fix A, I see what will happen to B and realize that what must happen to C won’t work.

I’ve been banging my head against the monitor instead of brainstorming.

Yesterday, I compiled a list of who, what, why, where and how questions pertaining to the sequence of plot events. I started typing answers. When I ran into problems, I added additional questions. If the problems persisted, I started a new set of answers at one of the previous questions, and color coded the solution threads to keep them straight.

The result? I have a plan. I still have to write it, and sure, it might not work, but at least I’ve escaped the sludge in Chapter 12.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Overheard #70

"You should pretend that was deliberate."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Kreativ Blogger Award

Casey McCormick of the wonderful Literary Rambles blog nominated my blog for the Kreativ Blogger Award.

WOW! I’m so jazzed. So, I’m supposed to list my seven favorite things and nominate my seven favorite blogs.

Seven favorite things, in no particular order:

1. Laughing with my family. They are a hilarious bunch.
2. Bodysurfing. Unfortunately for this one, I live in Michigan, and no, you can’t ride the waves on the Great Lakes.
3. My writing group, aka The World’s Greatest Critique Group, is a constant source of intelligence, inspiration, fun and friendship.
4. Solving a creative problem (in writing, photography, parenting or life).
5. A glass of red wine enjoyed with people I love.
6. Nature. Pretty much any ecosystem will do.
7. Daring to dream.

Listing seven blogs is a harder task. One of my faves seems to be on sabbatical, another is brand new, and the ones I read most often are written by agents or editors who might not want to take time to play this game. I managed to come up with five.
My favorite blogs, again in no particular order:

Jacqui’s Room. The entire world should enjoy life as much as Jacqui Robbins. I tip my hat to Tink and Captain Destructo.
Jumping the Candlestick. Debbie Diesen's blog provides a dose of intelligence and humor. Check out Michigander Monday and Poetry Friday.
Ellie McDoodle. Ruth McNally Barshaw doesn’t post frequently, but her blog sparkles with her warmth, creativity and wonderful illustrations.
Life on the Bookshelf. Boni Ashburn provides great updates on what’s cool in picture books.
5. Sarah Miller: reading, writing and musing. Sarah writes awesome book reviews, and her blog is where I find much of my "to read" list.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Music Animation Machine

I recently discovered this YouTube rendition of Clair de Lune. What a marvelous way to introduce intervals and rhythm to beginning music students.

Here are links for Music Animation Machine and the composer, Claude Debussy.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Stone Age Rock and Roll

No one knows when prehistoric people started making and using complex musical instruments. The August 6, 2009 issue of Nature reports the discovery of bone and ivory flutes dating from 35,000 years ago. The flutes were found in caves in southwestern Germany.

The bone flute (picture) was made from the radius of a griffon vulture. Bird bones are hollow, which makes them ideal for flute construction. The flute had five finger holes, and was marked with fine evenly-placed scratches near the finger holes. The scratches may have been used to measure the location of the holes for tone calibration. Anthropologists believe the two V-shaped notches in one end of the flute served as a mouthpiece.

Fragments of two ivory flutes were also unearthed. An ivory flute was more difficult to make than a bone flute. First the mammoth tusk was shaped to the rough form of a flute. Next, the tusk was split longitudinally so the inside could be hollowed out. Finger holes were drilled, and the two halves were cemented together with air-tight seals.

It's hard to guess what the earliest music sounded like, but it probably wasn't like this.

Conard, N.J., Malina, M. and Munzel, S.C., New Flutes Document the Earliest Musical Tradition in Southwestern Germany, Nature, 460:737-740 (2009).

Friday, August 14, 2009

Two Unrelated Conversations

Me: Steer away from those mailboxes.
Jeremy: Aww. They're friendly.
Me: Until you hit them.

Now you might think that friendly-until-you-hit-them is one of those universal truths, but it isn't.

Yesterday I received an email from a member of my sons' Tae Kwon Do studio about an upcoming event. When I replied, I identified myself as the mother of Sam and Jeremy because my last name is different from theirs. The gentleman wrote back, "I'm very familiar with your sons. Sam has kicked me in the head a few times." He meant it as a compliment.

There's also friendly-even-after-you-hit-them.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Little More on Teen Driving

As an ongoing service to YA writers who may not have the opportunity to teach a teen to drive, I offer yet another car conversation.

Me: Slow down for that turn.
(Jeremy reduces his speed, executes the corner beautifully, but hits one of Michigan's ubiquitous potholes.)
Jeremy: See what happened?
Me: You were supposed to slow down and miss the pothole.
Jeremy: I'm not that much of a ninja.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Overheard #69

"Move nebulously."

Monday, August 10, 2009

Birthday Rose

Photo by me.

Yesterday was my birthday, and my husband gave me roses.

Band Camp

Last Friday, I volunteered at Band Camp and found myself immersed in a teenage world that is different from the one my kids display at home. I observed teen fashion trends and learned about the intricacies of pocket texting (sending text messages from a phone that is hidden in a pocket). I watched freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors interact. I listened to the way kids spoke to their parents, teachers and mentors. Some students loved Band Camp while others were clearly suffering. Band Camp was a kaleidoscope of experiences, but two points stand out in my recollections.

1. The protagonist of my Work-In-Progress would fit right in at Band Camp.

2. Hope is the great motivator.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Things I Should Have Realized a Long Time Ago - Part 6

This evening, while waiting in line at a small local grocery store, I overheard a conversation between a box boy and a box girl. The box boy was wearing a rubber wristband that said Prom 2009. The box girl looked to be about the same age.

Box boy: Why does your mom want you to have blond hair?
Box girl: She wanted me to have highlights for my senior portrait. And she said my roots were showing.
Box boy: It must be difficult to maintain it, with all those different colors.
Box girl: (shrugs)

Okay, if I put this conversation in a manuscript, my critique group would never believe a boy would be so interested in a girl's hair color. [I never discuss my hair color with my husband or teenage sons.]

I guess, if a boy is really interested in a girl, he'll talk about anything.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Back in Michigan

I forgot to bring the camera on an evening walk out to Picnic Point so I couldn't photograph the full moon over the Capitol dome. It was a magical evening with moonlight reflected on Lake Mendota, and fireflies zooming around us.

I saw old friends, colleagues and mentors.

I still can't explain why I am a former scientist. (See sidebar bio.)

Madison seems to be experiencing an economic boom. The recession is much more obvious in Michigan.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Overheard #68

"If I thought more slowly, it would be safer."

Monday, August 3, 2009

Greetings From Mad City

You know you're in Wisconsin when the rest stops have signs that say Cheese Gifts. So far, mostly I've visited with old friends and eaten too much. We stopped by the Henry Vilas Park Zoo this morning, but the flamingos and the rhinos weren't quite awake.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Lazy Person's Reading Group - August Update

Hmmm. I guess I've been lazy since my July update.
10. A book that pertains to a skill you do not, and never will have.
Another Day in the Frontal Lobe: A Brain Surgeon Exposes Life on the Inside by Katrina Firlik. Don't read this book when you have a headache, especially if you have a tendency to self-diagnose. Sections of this book were fascinating, but other passages, I just skimmed. The most important take-home message is WEAR A SEAT BELT.
8. A book that has recently received rave reviews. Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy by Ally Carter. This is the second book in the Gallagher Girl series, and again the voice and the rising tension combine to make an enjoyable read. This time around, I could see some of the plot twists coming.