Monday, November 23, 2009

Flaky Preparations and Discharge Systems

One of the weird things about publishing a novel is it thrusts you into a public position even if you resist it. This never happened when I published poetry or parenting essays. Then I was just an anonymous mom who wrote for a little extra diaper money. Every once in a while, I would get a letter (the stamped kind in the mailbox) from someone who liked what I had written: always a mom, always with kids the same ages.

Now I get regular emails about writing or comments on the book, and teenage girls write to me pretty often. I get requests to read and "fix" manuscripts or I am asked to pass them along to my editor or agent. Kids ask me questions to get extra points on their book reports.

I was asked to speak at a luncheon the other day. The median age at that luncheon is around 78 -- I'm going to stand there and talk about an angsty girl who sets fires in the woods and speaks to fish that reside in her head?

The other day I got some books in the mail. At first, I couldn't figure out why anyone would send me books in French. I teach Spanish now and then, but French? Then I looked closer. This was MY book, in translation. (Seeing my own name gave it away...duh)

I forgot they might translate it. I was feeling very international when Emma walked up and looked at the cover.

"You wrote a book about a pink mermaid?" She was very excited.

"No. This is The Shape of Water. Only in French."

"The same book?" (disgusted, disappointed) "I thought you finally wrote something I would like."

So much for feeling international and writerly. This morning, someone found it and sent me the page review in French. I put it into the Google translator and this is what I got:

See availability in branch Flaky preparation nonavailable Summarized more The mother of Magda had always said that the world was filled with strange secrecies and marvellous qu' they only could see. But now qu' it n' was there, the world of Magda found itself bathed d' distresses and of loneliness, even of madness. When an imaginary family of fish quarreling started to torment it, the only discharge system of Magda was to cause splendid but destroying fires in the surroundings of the marshes, close to the house. The form of l' water draws a picture sinisterly lyric and surprising daily newspaper and of l' unreal, in which Magda starts to disentangle the secrecies of its family and to seek a stable place in the world.

I like it; I think it's sinisterly lyrical in its own Gallic way.

Monday, November 16, 2009


Since I am the kind of parent who is up until 2 or 3 a.m. on Christmas Eve, and I wrap birthday presents in the car while my kids are waiting to go inside to the party, I've decided to celebrate Thanksgiving early. I'm never early, but here it is Thanksgiving already on my blog. See? People can change.

So what am I grateful for? I think most of all, I am grateful that my kids are turning out okay. Yes, they slam doors and act like Dracula on a regular basis (dark, brooding, filled with angst), but that's pretty normal I think. Philip told me yesterday that, "You're the kind of mom I'll like again when I'm like 30." But I think the larger stuff matters more.

Over the weekend, we had a birthday party for a teenager whose parents decided she is too old to have a party (she turned 18). We ran around the warehouse store looking for presents since everything else was closed. We came up with flowers, balloons and an enormous pumpkin pie. The girl likes to draw, so we found some art supplies, charcoal pencils and drawing papers. She didn't mind that we wrapped her presents in colored tissue paper and put candles in a giant pumpkin pie. I really liked that the kids worked together to put up crepe paper and get out the birthday tablecloth and some balloons. They were doing all this for someone else -- they couldn't believe parents wouldn't celebrate a birthday.

We had no guests other than ourselves, so we invited the cats, our Malaysian houseguest (who took the house down with Happy Birday - and that's not a typo - things really, really do get lost in translation).

Anyway, there we were, with five cats, Mazy, the German shepherd, the three kids, two parents, a Malaysian houseguest, and a pumpkin pie the size of a pizza with old Barbie candles blazing - and we had a good time. And that brings me to number two: I am grateful that my kids accept weirdness so readily. I mean, they have to, living here, but things don't have to be perfect for them to have a good time.

And I am grateful that they get along so well. This Halloween, Philip wanted to go out as an Eskimo and have Emma attached to him as an igloo - I think that's pretty telling (except once Emma found out what an igloo was, exactly, she protested) But moments like this make me grateful:

and in the rare Christopher sightings:

I am grateful that I have one quieter kid to balance out the other two chatty ones.

And I am grateful that even though I have very little time to write, what I do write seems to get published.

What I like about Thanksgiving is its positive thinking - it's like asking what's GOOD about your life? That's a great question. It makes us forget how dreary November can be.

So tell me -- what are some of the great things about your life?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

CatWheels and Writing

I just finished writing notes on Emily Dickinson for one of my classes. She actually had it very easy: that room in Amherst, a rich daddy, no interruptions. I can't imagine that kind of leisure. Actually, maybe I can. It would be wonderful. She didn't have to work or chase the cats or do anything really. She could spend all day on a single line of poetry if she wanted. Doesn't that sound amazing?

I sat down to write this afternoon. Just a little. Each of the kids had something to do and I had just gotten back from teaching my Saturday morning class, and I thought, Great, I can finally have an hour to work on something. That's when this innocent looking creature:

got together with her equally innocent looking counterpart/sister and invaded Baby Cat's straw fortress while Baby Cat was on watch:

which resulted in flying fur, claws and a wheel of cat spinning across the living room. The other two cats, much older than the kittens, have a feline respect for Baby Cat's spot; the kittens are more like toddlers jacked up on sugar.

After I got Baby Cat back into her spot, and put the kittens into the bathroom to calm down, Emma figured out how to get the Karaoke machine to work. I thought that phase was gone, but then I remembered: it was only gone for the boys. She was still young enough to discover it.

Our Malaysian houseguest is back and he likes to sing. He really, really likes to sing. A World Lit teacher once told me that the Asian culture has an underlying framework of shame; Western culture has an underlying framework of guilt. I thought about that, about shame and all, as he sang the lyrics to Emma's current favorite song, Fun House, by Pink. It sounded like this:

Eet use be fur house
but now it fill with effel cloows

only really, really loud. Over and over. Apparently, his particular area of Malaysia does not function on that framework of shame. The kids could not stop laughing. He then picked up a guitar and added that to the karaoke party. He had to sing that much louder to compensate for the guitar. All this caused our dog, who howls at sirens and other dogs' howling, to howl.

I thought about moving to Amherst. The only problem with moving is I would probably have to take them all with me.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Illustrated Halloween

Hope everyone had as much fun on Halloween as we did - Here's A Werewolf Costumed As Teen with Vampire Mom:

Philip as a changeling - from boy to werewolf -

A Glittery Devil:

Werewolf, Glittery Devil and Kitty:

Trend Alert - New YA Motif - Changeling Skateboarding Werewolves -- Hey, it could catch on -- think how silly vegan vampires sounded on the drawing board...

And all is well as BabyCat is still living in her basket and watching it all -