Friday, October 7, 2011


Hey fellow bloggers and blog readers --

I haven't been around much on the Internet lately. Actually, I haven't been around much at all. My mom was in the hospital for surgery and you know how crazy it gets when you have someone in the hospital. You sort of dash around living on coffee (hey, it's from a plant source, right? add milk and you've got calcium, a cheese danish with cherries and you've got protein and fruit -- need more?) We couldn't wait for Mom to get better, get out, and our lives to get back to normal.

 Unfortunately, none of those three wishes came true. It was very unexpected and we are all left sort of in mid air. And truth being far stranger than ficiton, there are several other areas of craziness going on in my life that have coincided with this event.

I'll be back around. I'm not sure when, but  I'll come visit you all soon.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Blog Hopping and Banned Books

I'm blog hopping over to Donna's blog at Bite My Books to kick off Banned Books Week. Stop over to rant with us!

Sunday, September 18, 2011


I have always wanted to be one of those Zen-like relaxed people who nod and listen and never worry. This past summer, a woman I met was talking to me about yoga. I figured if I tried yoga, I would become more Zen-like and calm. Right? Isn't that how it works?

While she was showing me some of the positions, I was following what she did as fast as I could. Finally, in a softly, barely perceptible tone, she said, "Anne, you don't rush through yoga. You have to let things flow more."


So I did. I relaxed. Well, I thought I relaxed. I slowed down and tried to look sort of beatific and focused at the same time which is how she looked. (Go ahead - try to look that way; it's not as easy as it sounds) She finally said we should try it on a day when I wasn't quite so harried. 


Only I wasn't particularly harried on that day. That's kind of how I am. I tend to speak and move quickly, put on dinner while folding laundry, talking on the phone, and going through the mail. I have trouble driving at the speed limit. I never leave the house for only one errand: I average about four. I figure out my lesson plans while I'm grocery shopping, organize my paperwork while on the bank line, think about writing while doing dishes.

I think I'm just geared sort of twitchy, and the yoga woman is geared more gently. It's pretty much inbred. I couldn't imagine her saying to her kids, as I regularly do, "Salad or colon cancer?" "Sun block or melanoma?" or get texts back such as, "Mom, don't think I'm dead! I just had no service in the mall." No one in our house bats an eye at any of this. Then again, the yoga woman had no kids...

But I think, too, how we move, how we are geared has an effect on our writing. I don't think Emily Dickinson moved too fast - she noticed things like grasshoppers and that certain slant of light - whereas when I read Dr. Seuss, I would think from the pace of his writing that he would be a little more twitchy than most.

I'm revising a YA, yet again, and that's what I realized about it: it has a rushed quality that it can't have since it deals with a serious theme. Well, yeah, I was writing most of this late at night, and rushing, and it shows. But I put it away for a month and only noticed that during a fresh read when I was moving more slowly. 

I was contemplating how I would slow down the pace, how I would make the story unfold more easily while deleting all the spam from this blog. So in case you're wondering what happened to all the comments, I was rushing and accidentally deleted YOUR comments and not the spam. There's a lesson there. 

Still, I think I'm onto something. Rushing makes for thin, undeveloped writing. Maybe even if you're not geared to move quickly when you're writing and trying to finish, it will show. I'm wondering now if that's the essence of revision - slowing things down, having scenes and characters unfold more slowly?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Firsts! (and Mutant Wings)

We've had a lot of firsts around here in the past few days. We finally celebrated  Emma and Grandma's hurricane-delayed party (they share the same August 25 birthday) and we finally met my oldest brother's new family. And  we  I celebrated the first day of school. Celebrated may be pushing that verb a bit for the kids, but I actually think, deep down, they were glad to get back to see their friends.

Philip's artistic girlfriend, Tiffany, decorated the cake. She remembered that Emma is completely insane for zebra stripe and that's not particularly easy to translate into cake, but I think she did a great job. 

And these are our adopted grandparents, the Baos, who are as gracious and lovely as people can be. They are also calm, so I was a little worried about introducing such gentle and balanced people to my house, with my three teenagers, their friends, and half a dozen animals, but somehow it all worked. 

Eric Spollen, Jing and Chris Spollen, Grandma Bao
And Emma, now officially thirteen, is in her first year of being a teenager. She's my first girl teen, so when she came home from the first day of school, I asked the usual Mom questions. I was expecting, "It-was-ok-where-are-the-pizza-rolls?" then off to play video games. But girls are different.

She began by explaining how the rain was the perfect weather for such a terrible event as returning to the middle school. She ended with a thorough critique of one of her teacher's eyeliner application.

"You know the wing, Mom? When they extend the line up and out like on Jerseylicious?"

"Ummm, sort of."

"Well, I think she was going for that. But it didn't work. I mean, not at all. I felt so sorry for her. She was up there talking and she had this like mutant wing. I would be so embarrassed."

Maybe the best thing about firsts is that they bring seconds.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Earthquakes, Hurricanes and Thirteen

We've been having a lot of "weather events" as the news calls them. I secretly love weather events because it usually means we lose power and my kids have to unplug and actually talk to me for more than a few minutes. I like when they have to sit around and listen to lots of radio static by candlelight. It's spooky and old fashioned. Add some lightning, sirens and heavy wind and it's a weirdly connected family moment.

This weather began with the earthquake. I've been using that as a barometer to assess exactly how weird or normal my friends and family are (the results are falling very heavily on the weird side) I was folding laundry while chatting on the phone. The kids were in the yard. Christopher came in just as the earth moved - the table seemed to be tipping and I felt a shudder beneath my feet. The call dropped. My immediate thought?


Who else? I had seen The Exorcist, I knew he shook walls and floors before announcing his sinister presence.

"Feel that tipping?" I asked Christopher, "what is going on?"

"What tipping?"

I should say he's a teenage boy, and he was eating over the sink at the time. If you've ever been or ever taken care of a teenage boy, you know that when they eat, they go into a zone that not even an earthquake can shake them out of. Literally.

"The whole house is moving!"

"Huh. I don't feel anything. (still chewing) "You all right, Mom?"

"How can you not feel that? Everything is MOVING beneath our feet!"

He laughed. "Mom, it's okay. You're probably like hungry or something."

And he went outside, another sandwich in hand.

We had a few days of nice weather, then Irene. Here, in South Jersey, we had several tornado watches to go along with it all. In the middle of all these weather events, on Thursday, Emma turned thirteen. Her party had to be postponed when they closed most of the roads, but I was thinking how apt a metaphor it is to turn thirteen and have an earthquake, tornadic activity and a hurricane accompany the event. It's such perfect literary symbolism in a setting that I'll bet most editors would have us tone it down as being too obvious.

At least, I'm hoping it's setting, but most likely, it's foreshadowing.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Late Summer

Things are underway here for Emma's birthday celebration which is really more of a birthmonth celebration - her bd seems to stretch from mid-August to the first week of school. (Around the Fourth of July she begins asking for things, saying, "But it's soooo close to my birthday..." )
Her bd also means summer is nearing its end which is always bittersweet. I'm not sure I actually believe that last sentence - everyone always says it, but I never want to see summer end. Summer is my absolute favorite season and seems about as long as a three day weekend. But in honor of its end, it's time for a seasonal assessment. These are the three top things I remember about this summer:

1. We went to Exit 0 on the Garden State Parkway. I never knew there was an Exit 0, but on the way to ride go karts (see #2) we decided to travel south just to see Exit 0. I thought it was the perfect name for a YA novel.
2. My kids can talk me into almost anything. I was taking THEM to ride go karts. I brought the camera and drinks, never expecting that they expected me to actually go around the track with them. I am seriously not mechanical and these particular go karts had the look of reimagined lawn mowers. "I am NOT getting on that thing," I remember saying. Five minutes later, Philip and Emma waved as they passed me on the track.  

3. I didn't plant a garden this year, not officially. I have perennial beds of oregano and sage that I weeded a little, but I didn't do the customary tomatoes and peppers and zucchini. I kept meaning to, but time has a way of slipping past, and it never got done. This morning, I went into the backyard and found pumpkins growing where I had buried them last fall - the seeds apparently took and there are vines all over the place.

I'm keeping that surprise as a really hopeful sign for the coming year. That may sound strange, but having taught for so many years, I tend to think of the "new year" as beginning in September with new classes. And those unexpected pumpkins I'm keeping as a good omen.

What did you do this summer that you remember the most?  

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Postcard Blog

Here's what I've been thinking about lately: gators, swamps, lizardy things that scamper everywhere, and hillbilly hand fishin'.

That's right - in the middle of August, my best friend from college and I decided to celebrate three decades of friendship on the outskirts of Orlando. We're not doing the Disney thing. We did go to SeaWorld because it's one of my favorite places on earth, but this is kind of the inverse of Disney. It's way more nature-y, and let's just say that's a learning experience for me, a person who views camping as a kind of disorder.

This is the swamp  lake outside of our condo:
which seemed lovely enough with the family of mallards drifting past and the paddle boats. I definitely wanted to take a paddle boat out and go around the perimeter of the lake until I read this sign:

Florida wildlife? What does that include? Would there be mallards and people fishing if there were alligators? My friend, who has a shady history of talking me into things I wouldn't normally consider (actually, that's one of the things I like best about her) assured me no ducks would coexist alongside alligators. Wildlife, she insisted, meant things like fish and the little lizardy things. I believed her. Sort of. So I asked at the desk.

There are alligators in every body of water in Florida they told me. Why worry? They sleep at the bottom and won't bother you. Only worry if they come up on land when you're down there.

Come up on land? What? Maybe we should have booked in Disney. I didn't worry long because that's when a man with a heavy Southern drawl began talking about catfish and hillbilly hand fishin' - which I thought was some kind of regional joke.

 It's real. Apparently, it's a sport that devolves humans from using tools to catch prey. You reach into the depths of a muddy creek with your hands and grab a fish until it bites. You then pull the fish out of the water that way. It's so widely known that there's a show about it. I'm not kidding -

I can't imagine walking into that water with the sleeping gators at the bottom and your hand as a lure, but it's something I won't forget about this vacation.
Oh, and the thirty plus years of friendship is pretty great as well.