Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Happy Holidays!!!!

Happy Holidays to Everyone Who Writes to Me and/or Comments or Reads This Blog Silently!

 These are my three demons kids who begrudgingly happily posed for a quick Christmas shot. We have the official White House portrait, but this was just a quick one that I think captures them more naturally. The boys look just so enthralled with the camera.

I love this week between Christmas and New Year's. I like the quietness of everything, love the blizzard and the snowed in slowness of these days. I finally got to some writing yesterday, after all the ho ho stuff, and I made a list of what's on my desk. It reads:

Chapters 1 - 4 of a paranormal YA (early YA)

Chapter 1 of an adult novel with an outline

Chapters 1, 2 and 3 of a YA

Revision of Middle Grade about 60 %  done

Page One and Outline of a YA novel with a boy protagonist

So that's five things I'm working on. Yikes. No wonder I get lost when I sit down to work. I need more weeks like this with no work and no demands.

Do other people make lists of what they have or what they're working on? Probably not since this is not a sane way to write. I'll bet most folks go chapter by chapter with one, possibly two pieces.

Actually, my house has lots of "begun" projects that have been tinkered with and sort of abandoned. I have every intention of painting those shelves, stenciling that cool old bookshelf, organizing Christopher's baby album pictures now that he's just turned 19.

So this is my writing resolution: no new and shiny chapters until I finish all five of these. Yup, that's right. I am publicly humiliating myself so I don't begin yet another writing project. It clutters up my brain and I suffer from terminal tinkering which means I don't finish stuff at the pace I would like. I can abandon one or more of these wip's, but I can't start a new one until I see these through either to a manuscript or fodder for the compost heap.

So along with being able to identify a muscle in my body without a CT Scan (that is my physical resolution), I am going to have to identify these five beginnings into some kind of ending. I may be a little late with some holiday stuff, but with these resolutions, I'm starting early.

Do you have any writing resolutions for 2011?

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Season of Epiphany

Baby Cat Touching the Moon
This is a kind of blurry picture of BabyCat who finally, finally got onto the highest window in the house to bat at the moon with her paw. Of course, that's not really the moon. It's the reflection of a hallway light, but she got to bat at it nonetheless as we left a ladder near the window to put up lights. She was completely baffled as to why that light didn't move like her toy balls do.

I liked that the Escher print beneath also had a moon and a lot of white and black - it just struck me so with a ton of Christmas stuff still undone (and just a ladder, no lights), I went and found the camera and took some pictures of her.

Now, what on earth does BabyCat chasing reflected light have to do with epiphanies? Well, in my tired-I've graded-way-too-many-term-papers-this-week brain, a lot. BabyCat isn't really capable of revision. And since I was kind of stuck in my revision, while I was watching her, the whole idea of why two scenes weren't
working came to me: she wasn't really batting at the moon, and my character wasn't really revealing her truth either. So after watching her, I left the lights and the wrapping undone, and wrote down notes for a new direction for my character to take. In about two seconds, while watching BabyCat, it dawned on me what I needed to do.

But those two seconds took about three months to arrive at, and I think that is the nature of any epiphany. The online dictionary says an epiphany is: "a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience..."

I'm not sure BabyCat up there on that ledge is homely or commonplace, but I guess it's simple. And it's weird the way our brains fire, jumping from one image to other ones that don't seem connected at all.

On some level, you are thinking of how to solve a problem, either in writing or in some other area of your life, but you aren't really conscious of it. I have had so many areas of my life demanding my time lately, that writing has had to take a very distant backseat. I was glad though, in those few minutes of downtime while watching her up there trying to play with something that wasn't really there, that I found my way out of the bog I had landed my character in.

Now all I have to do is finish shopping, baking, cleaning, wrapping, writing out cards, grading and submitting grades and I can get back to rescue her from that bog...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving and Three Heads and A Habit of Gratefulness

I always have this idea that Thanksgiving is going to be one of those calm holidays where we bond as a normal family with a long car ride, and I don't know, stories of how wonderful our lives are or how wonderful something is. It seems that other families are driving into New York City all calm and happy with children coloring in the backseats. Maybe they are just better at using silence as a cloak of dsyfunction. I'm not sure. I like to think that's what it is.

Our holiday began normally enough. We were within an hour of our time to pick up the kids' grand uncle. (Yes, he brought his hair clipper so my husband could clip his ear hair - if you are familiar with this blog, you know Uncle Jack's ear hair cutting is a somewhat unusual, but expected, holiday tradition - if you want to really, really stretch the word tradition)

Around ten minutes into the ride, Emma asked me how many fingers I could hold from my hairline to my eyebrows. I sort of didn't want to answer, but I did. "Umm, four."
"See, that's my whole problem. I can only hold three fingers there. I don't have a forehead. I have a three head. And that's what aliens and cavemen have."

I turned to look at her brothers who were very, very innocently gazing out the window.
And our usual wildly weird conversation went on until we reached Grandma's. That's when I thought I'd take some nice holiday pictures. Here is a lovely shot of Philip growling while Christopher politely tries to duck the camera:

And here, poor Philip looks like he needs corrective surgery.
 But it was at some point during the dinner, maybe when I realized they were actually pretty nice kids when people other than me spoke to them, that I realized I have to stop thinking about the serene families. I'm lucky to have them. They only pass the green bean casserole and whisper, "Some vomit in a bowl?" to each other when no one is within earshot. And even though they never colored or sat quietly, they do all pile in the car and endure the strange conversations of their elderly relatives (yeah, it's about that, complete with amount, consistency and frequency) without batting an eyelash.

We will probably never drive down the road without our minor battles and our own brand of three headed weirdness, but at least we are all together and we are all talking. It's really corny, but I like that Thanksgiving reminds everyone that we should be in a habit of gratefulness rather than think about it only on one day.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


I remember a graduate class where the professor seemed pretty much stuck on the idea that character and plot were one in the same. We talked about it for seven thousand hours, going over seven thousand lines of Henry James whereby that professor proved, undeniably, that Henry James could make both plot and character equally dull and therefore indistinguishable from one another.

I'm really sorry, but I can't stand Henry James.

 I'm not really sure why I took so much American Lit in grad school since that seems to be all we did. I actually do think there's a big difference between plot and character. What interested me way more, and what we almost never talked about, was the importance of setting.

Someone I read in grad school, when I was supposed to be reading Henry, was Eudora Welty. I saw her name on a bookstore shelf and I loved it.

Go ahead, say it: Eudora Welty.

It sounds like a children's book protagonist who is orphaned then left a fortune.I loved her name so much that I opened the book and saw it was about writing so I bought it. And she said this about setting:

"Every story would be another story, and unrecognizable if it took up its characters and plot and happened somewhere else... Fiction depends for its life on place. Place is the crossroads of circumstance, the proving ground of, What happened? Who's here? Who's coming?..."
When I sit down to write, I see a person, then I see where that person is standing or sitting or looking out a window. I have absolutely no sense of that person until I see where they are physically. It kind of fills in: rainy, city, Saturday afternoon, boy on bus, looking out sooty window. That kind of thinking. I put the character in the setting, then their personality sort of emerges.

I think I'd like to go back to graduate school now, as the teacher this time, and talk for a really long time about how setting is really a character in the story, right along with the characters who talk and interact and change or remain static.

I always wonder how other writers start their stories. I definitely think place before person. If someone said, "Quick! Write about a wedding!" I wouldn't think about the couple. I would think about where: if it was the Presbyterian chapel in Swedenboro, Minnesota (if there is such a place) it would be an entirely different couple than the couple waiting on the steps of the Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas. The Minnesota couple would have begun saving for their first home and decided to use only green cleaning methods; the Las Vegas couple might be able to use the same public restroom.

I think everyone who writes works from a different circuit board. I'm just wondering what comes first for writers out there: the character or the place?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Vampire Families and Theme Parks and Stuff

I have been blog-neglectful in respect to my own blog and other folks' blogs. I sort of get lost in my life and don't have time for even a few minutes at the computer. Of course that's not because I'm actually writing or cleaning the house or reading or doing any of the things that would make me timely and organized and increasingly published. It's because I'm doing...stuff.

One of those things did was take the kids to Six Flags, or two of the three kids and a friend. And of course then there was Halloween which completely absorbs me. We went to Six Flags just before Halloween.

Now, we are not a theme park family, but every once in a while, I roll a wheelbarrow of cash into one of those places just so we feel connected to the rest of theme-park loving America.

None of my kids are hugely into roller coasters, but we walked around, went on a few rides and let teenagers jump out at us and scare the scream out of Emma. Philip kept reminding her to "look cool" because the people paid to scare you "prey on the weak." But Emma is too young not to look terrified, so she provided those folks a perfect target.

What scared me the most was the family of vampires. Not too many people who weren't hired by the park were in costume, but this family stood directly in front of us on line with their fanged teeth and capes. After a few minutes of watching them, it occurred to us, I think simultaneously, that they were really, really, really into being "the vampire family" - in other words, you sort of got that they wore these costumes at times other than Halloween. Way scarier a concept than roller coasters.

I'm not sure what's wrong with us that we don't enjoy theme parks. Its seems sort of un-American.

I remember right after Emma was born, we took the boys, then four and six and a newborn to Florida. We stood in the middle of Disney World and only then did my postpartum, exhausted brain realize that we never really participated in much Disney stuff. We watched Lion King and Barney and knew the names of animals, but we didn't go to Disney movies or watch commercial tv. My boys did not know who Buzz Lightyear was and Philip grew absolutely terrified when Lincoln began speaking. In fact, he began wailing with terror. Christopher was in tears because he wanted to drive the go carts and after about ten seconds, he realized that the go cart was being controlled for him and not by him. "This place stinks," he pronounced. I remember going back to the hotel thinking we were the strangest family in the United States. What kids don't like Disney World? Well, mine.

But we did have fun afterwards talking about the vampire family, imagining them going shopping for their small, medium and large capes and fangs and pointy collars and sitting for the family portrait:
But now it's boring, wet November and I have to actually get back to doing stuff that isn't just stuff, like finishing a revision and adding at least 100 words to NaNo. I'm really hoping there is someone else out there who joined NaNo and hasn't started yet. There has to be: if the vampire people found each other, I can't be alone in procrastination, right?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

NaNoWriMo and Ganguros

I just signed up for the NaNoWriMo even though I'm not really sure of the rules yet. I want to try to write an adult novel and I figured it might be fun to do. I know you can't have started the manuscript yet, except maybe mentally. Of course I don't have a whole lot of time to devote to this, but I can try. It's really a way to force me not to agonize and just get stuff down on paper, and it might be fun to do it with other folks. I actually don't know anyone who writes adult books...maybe I will after this. And I think there are forums, but I haven't gotten that far yet.

In other exciting news, I am HAPPILY REVISING. Now that might seem like an oxymoron, but I can assure you, it's not. Usually, I approach revision with the same enthusiasm I approach a pile of ironing with, which is to say none.

I suffer through revision. I feel very, very sorry for myself and console myself with hidden stashes of chocolate (not Mars or Hershey's either, the good kind, from Europe) I work slowly. I consider abandoning writing and taking a full time job in a middle school where I force twelve year olds to circle the subject of sentences. I stop and start and stop again.

This time, I didn't take advice. I just went with what seemed right to me and it's coming out much, much better than I thought. It may not be perfect, but I think confidence in actually listening to yourself is a writing skill that is largely ignored.

I'm always worried about craft, about having it sound exactly the way I intended it to, but if someone, even someone who doesn't write or doesn't read much, says, "Hey, have you ever thought of including Satan in that picture book?" I stop to consider that as an option.

This time, I just did what I thought would be better and it worked. You would think I would know that by now, but you know what they say (actually, I'm not sure what they say, but they must say something about learning things after the fact, I just don't know what it is)

And things just keep getting better and better. After several days of wondering how I went so woefully wrong as a parent that my daughter wants to go out as Snooki for Halloween, she has decided, instead, to be a Ganguro Girl. Apparently, she liked a specific cheetah print dress that Snooki has worn, and when the idea of wearing that wore off, she landed on the Ganguro Girl. After she showed me a picture - here are Ganguro Girls:

I got really worried that they were a certain class of working girl in Asian society that Emma may not realize. But they're not.

 Apparently, researchers in Japanese studies think ganguro is a kind of fashion revenge against traditional Japanese society. I have no idea how she found out about it, but she does read fashion magazines. I am just really hoping they are not a form of the Japanese Snooki.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Hillbilly YA

The other day I was reading a short story that was, in a word, dreadful.The hopeful writer who asked me to read it is an acquaintance of mine who is looking to make some holiday cash by penning a few short stories. What I didn't tell him is that you get paid in copies for years, and an acceptance can be months, or even years, in the offering. He would be better off stocking shelves at Toys 'R Us.

(Expert 1)

                                                                                         (Expert 2)

I think there's a whole misconception out there that writing is easy, sort of like a hobby. I've said this skadey eight million times, but when I meet people, I almost never confess to being a writer. I've gotten too many weird glances, like I'm saying, "I shrink ocelot heads in my basement and make garlands from their teeth." So I just say I teach English and change the subject back to something about them.

(Expert 3)
But I know I have to say something to this man about his work. It was dreadful due to the dialogue. It went something like, "She's at the beauty parlor." "You don't say." "Yup, she is. Getting her hair all done up for this Saturday night."

Now, I'm paraphrasing that sample, but if you're thinking they sound like hillbillies sitting outside the gun shop, that's pretty much the impression I got. And it's YA. Hillbilly YA. Maybe hillbilly teens still say "beauty parlor" but I doubt it. I'm sure even they go to the Daisy Duke Spa.

You don't necessarily have to have teens to write successful YA dialogue, but I really think it helps to either have them around or work with them in some capacity. I have a ready panel of YA experts. They never seem to mind when I swipe their phrasings. This is one example of a recent dinner:

Emma: Did you guys ever meet someone with an eye that doesn't quite...
Philip: Yes! You mean a slow eye?
Christopher: Mom, didn't you have an aunt with that?
Emma: This girl has it and she talks to me all the time. Like all the time. And I know I have to talk to her or Mom will lecture me on how lucky I am...
Philip: I know. To have two good eyes or something.
Mom: I'm sitting right here you know.
Christopher: I have a paper due in ten hours. It has to be five pages long. Mom, have you ever read...
Emma: So here's the problem. When she looks at me...
Philip: Who ate the last slice of pizza?
Christopher: So what happens when she looks at you?
Philip: You definitely ate it last night.
Emma: I never know where to look. It's just that there are too many...you know, decisions to make on what part of her face to focus on.

And so it goes.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Halloween Choice

My kids change their Halloween ideas a few times before settling on one costume. It's kind of a ritual that they go through. Well, I should say Emma and Philip do this. They always loved costumes, dressing up, all that stuff when they were little. Christopher wore a Batman suit as his sole foray into dress up world, and every Halloween he knew what he wanted to be by Labor Day and he stuck to it. Of course, his particular weirdness was to eat all of his Halloween candy on Halloween night and well...you sort of know the rest if you've ever run a highly necessary wash at 3 am.

But not being able to make linear decisions is genetic. Emma and I went into the basement to look at all the Halloween stuff we had lying around. I saw a bunch of coats in a box and remembered the coat drive for the homeless. I was trying on a coat that I once really loved: this red, wool coat with big buttons that I haven't worn since I was maybe 25. I thought I looked pretty good when Emma looked over and said, "Wow, Mom, you look just like Clifford in that." In case you haven't traveled with the under 12 crowd recently, this is Clifford:

I put the coat in the box. Then Emma announced what she wanted to be for Halloween. "I need a new wig," she said, "since Snooki has long, black hair."
This is my interpretation of Snooki: 

Needless to say, I got judgmental. The Jersey Shore is everywhere around here, particularly since we live at the Jersey Shore, only here's the thing: they act and speak just like people from North Jersey or Brooklyn or Staten Island do. They don't act at all like the folks down here who spend a lot of time quilting and quadding and thinking about ducks. After explaining to Emma all the reasons why she shouldn't go out dressed as her, she shrugged and said, "That's my final decision."

I appealed to Philip. "You talk to her," I said, "since she'll listen more to you." I was going on and on about what a terrible role model she is, how I was not happy, and he looked at me and smiled.
"You don't get it all, Mom. You act like this is serious. It's Halloween."
"Yes, but..."
"You're acting like she's going to be Snooki as a career or something. Emma thinks Snooki is a joke. She laughs when she sees her clothes. She's going out as her to make fun of the whole thing."
I was thinking about what he said when Emma walked in, her face red. "Philip, there is no way you are going out as that."
"As what?" I had been so preoccupied with Emma's choice that I hadn't asked Philip about his.
"A clown," she wailed. "An evil clown. I can't stand clowns. I won't go in the parade with you if you do this. Clowns are like my worst nighmare."
I'm fairly certain neither one will budge about their costume choice. This should be an interesting Halloween.

Maybe I should dig out my old favorite coat and just get a pair of big red ears. 

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Getting to be That Time

About two weeks ago, this was "our" beach, but now it's definitely getting to be Halloween around here. Right after Emma's birthday, in late August, my kids start talking about costumes, and today we are going to start figuring out how to make them. I know it's more than a month away, but already our neighborhood is all orange and golden and there are plastic tombstones jutting out of lawns, lots of hay bales, and those gigantic blow up things that flatten out in a way each morning that is far scarier than when they're inflated into a twenty six foot Pumpkin Snoopy.

Last year's six foot werewolf; I finally found the picture that shows the tail.

Is it me, or has Halloween gotten to be a much bigger celebration than it used to be?
Ghosts don't scare me. Nothing mystical or spiritual does. Teen driving, that scares me. Boy teen driving in particular scares me, especially when there are other boys in the car. Philip and Emma conspiring also scares me. I think that thumbs up is a cover up because he looks plenty guilty.

Actually, when any of my kids acts quiet, I feel fear. Quiet is never good in this house. I think of other quiet things like lurking murderers in the basement or bugs waiting to pounce.

 And I am not really big on crawling things like snakes or spiders. And my eel phobia is legendary. Come to think of it, I've never seen an eel costume for Halloween...

Speaking of spiders, here is my pick for scariest pre-Halloween video: five foot spiders. I kid you not. A spider the size of Emma. Good Lord. I mean, really, say you're in the basement dusting off the Halloween decorations and you see an actual five foot spider. Just typing that creates a sleep-depriving image in my brain.

I once had a literature professor who told us that autumn has always been the time when the margin between the living and the dead gets very, very thin. It was one of those archetypal patterns in human existence. Sometimes I look at the blow up Draculas, the ones that are purple and green, and think that we haven't really made all that much progress in adhering to our archetypal patterns. I think we've gone in a whole new direction.

I include myself in that. I am going to spend at least part of today figuring out how to transform one of the classic Schwinn bikes into Ghost Rider. That's after I get the decorations out of the basement.

And if I come across one spider down there, even if it's smaller than a bottle cap, I'm out of there.

I realize we're early because my kids love Halloween second only to Christmas, but has anyone else begun Halloween or plans?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Teens Read Too Blog Visit

I'm blog hopping again, today over at Jen Wardrip's great teen blog, Teens Read Too. Stop by for a chance to win a signed copy of Light Beneath Ferns or The Shape of Water. She has tons of great interviews and all kind of interesting links. Hope to see you there!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Late Summer, Odds and Ends and Non Hurricanes

I haven't been on the computer in so long that I had to use a DustBuster and damp rags to get BabyCat's hair off the keyboard. She is so weird; she loves nothing more than a nap on a nearby keyboard. There's a bed and a comfy chair not far from this keyboard, so that kind of doesn't add up. But that's the nature of cats: they resent assumptions.

This is such a strange time here, calendar wise. I'm not wild about the ten days or so before school starts. Being a teacher and having three kids as students means a whole lot of odds and ends have to get taken care of. There have been all these little things to do that don't add up to much but take up entire days like buying school supplies, going to redundant meetings, and standing in lots of lines. All this preparing for Tuesday when everything opens. 

Then there's the hurricane preparing. The hype caused our neighbors to remind us tie down deck furniture for a hurricane that never materialized. No one would go anywhere near the beaches for a few days. And that's a shame since the beaches are gorgeous right now. Late August and early September are probably the best times for a beach, or maybe that's just when I like it. We live right by Long Beach Island.

Here's our beach - I love the fences around the dunes. You can't see them so much in this picture, but most of them slope and have this great wobbly effect:

And the dock over the bay:
I just finished a book about writing theory and it said, "Never use weather to open your setting. It is too obvious a device." I think preparing for a hurricane would be a great opening to a book. I was thinking about writing theory as I read that book last night, and I'm not sure there is one - a writing theory I mean. I do remember running to the campus book store when I was 21 and ready to write my first novel. I bought about five of those books, anxious to get started. And I remember how the advice pretty much conflicted. I think I would sum up my writing theory as: Tell the story clearly, just make sure you have a really good story.  

I think this blog post is rambling since that pretty much matches what's been going on here lately. I did manage to figure out the "voice" in my next YA book that I've been struggling with for a year now. It's totally different from when it started and it's the first one I don't doubt. So maybe there is a reason that hyper type people like me are forced to wait. Even if it is for hurricanes that don't appear or classes that haven't started  or voices in novels that don't speak in a way that convinces me they can carry the story I intend to write. Maybe all this waiting is a writing lesson of some sort. 

Friday, August 20, 2010

It's Almost Over and....???

Last night, the bog near our house had that Keatsian autumnal look - all misty and spiritual. I had a nice poetic moment of gazing at the bog while the kids stood there very quietly - so peaceful and poetic. That was just moments before I had to pull Mazy away from eating a fresh load of her favorite appetizer - goose poop. With bogs comes geese, and with geese comes...well.

But the end is drawing near. Emma's birthday decorations went up today (from Emma, "My birthday is more of a season than only one day...") True, since we have different birthday events planned from the 23 through the 30. Since she was born the last week of August, it must mean summer is ending. Yikes.

Because I've either been in school or taught school most of my life, September is my secret new year. Forget dull January when I'm working off debt and extra pounds. September always seems like a new beginning. And while the winter seems endless, summer seems about a week long.

I had really, really high expectations for the summer.Out of the three kids' rooms, I got one sort of cleared out, one done, and the other, Philip's, still looks like a DMZ.(He's not too worried - that's him up there during his last beach visit) I don't have my photographs organized, the yard is still spooky looking, and the book I was finishing in June is still languishing on a flash drive.

What I did get done was a revision of an MG, lots of new ideas for stories, one area of the basement cleared, and most of my fall curriculum written. And we found a new, more deserted beach a little south of here. That pales compared to my list, but with the start of the secret new year, I'll just roll them over there. (I'm sort of swiping that from the cell phone company - if they can roll over minutes, I can roll over ambitions since they both represent time in a wobbly way)

I can't be the only sitting here missing summer already and thinking time is speeding up. Did you have plans bigger than two months would allow? What did you get done and what's still waiting?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Was it Confuscius who said, "She who attempts to do three rooms at once will only do one room at a time despite many lists"?

Maybe that was a Russian aphorism, but I am here to say: IT IS VERY TRUE. And because there is stuff all over the place in this house and it's weird, crazy hot and swampishly humid outside, I need to avoid both my writing work and the housework. So I've been keeping a new list: one of words that are new to me but not new to the under 18 set. 

For those of you who are YA writers, take heed. The majority of these were lifted from sentences of the teens who infest my living room. In no particular order, here are the ones I've culled:

TwitLit - a "dumb" book that has no depth - taken from the mind numbing supeficiality of Tweets

Bacne - the appearance of zits on the back and/or shoulders

AFK - Away From Keyboard - as when asked any question as in, "Philip, what is the capital of Delaware?" It is answered, "IDK AFK" because the actual BOOKS are in the other room and he's already on the couch

Butter - a term that has nothing to do with what we once spread on toast; this now means that something is wonderful or the best

In this sentence, the bolded words all mean the same thing: That idiot is such a tool and his friend is like totally 404 (as in the message error 404 for vacant page)

How was the movie? Great, it was intense and riveting (Mom) Same sentence in teen: It was H (for hardcore)

Mouse Potato - replacing the Couch Potato of my generation who sat in awe of cable movies playing on the living room tv, this is a person who engages in much of the same nothingness in front of a computer screen

Swipe Out - when a debit card funded by a 'rent has been ground down to zero dollars

See if you can figure this out: I saw Erin chillaxing and she looked fly. She got new rides.

Answer Key: Erin was not stressed, she looked good and she had new sneakers on. It took me a bit to get rides meant shoes and not boyfriends who drove.

Maybe I was being a wanksta which I'm pretty sure is the dorky version of gangsta, as in a person who is trying to be all cool and fly but is in fact, a mom or a teacher (or in my case, both...)

Then there is this strange one: "So just because I asked for ONE belly piercing, Mom, you don't have to get all salty on me, ok?"

Say what? Am I the only one who thought of old, grizzled sailors cursing into their beers while sitting in seedy, dockside bars? Apparently, salty here only means difficult.

Then there is Christopher, back from his college summer, explaining to me that the girl I thought was lovely at the freshman orientation had, in fact, a tramp stamp visible above her thong. Ok, I thought, do I want to know? I couldn't resist; the rhyme forced me to press onward and ask. A tramp stamp is a tattoo (a tat in teen) right above the rump. I could have gone right on living without ever having known that little nugget.

Also in college, there is the dreaded, rushed paper called a Wikidemia which is writing solely researched on Wikipedia.org that a student submits hoping/praying that the professor will not check sources

College kids also run off to check their vitals, which means they run to the nearest electronic device to check their Facebook page (myspace has gone the so yesterday route of "emo" and voice mail), their texts and emails.

In the car today, Emma said breezily that she couldn't wait to see her bra back at school. After much confusion and a sense of surrealness that I had lost track of time, my children, and the motions of the planets, Emma explained that a brah is the female equivalent of a bro, or a best friend. 

Right. Got it. Or rather, I'm down with it.

Friday, July 30, 2010


Right now, because I am almost entirely crazy, I promised all three of my kids that I would help them re-do their rooms - at the same time. In fairness to my sanity, when we moved here, it was a DIY job, with chairs and bureaus shoved into corners at 2 am so we could unearth the box storing the clean underwear. Things have sort of remained that way, and now the kids are pretty much due actual furniture that remotely matches and  they can fit into.

Rooms are really important to teenagers. I'm trying to recall when writers show that emphasis, but I'm not coming up with any titles. They come home exclaiming how "cool" someone's room is, how amazing the colors/posters/speaker system/flat screen is and how much fun being in that kid's room was.

Chances are, you can remember your room as a teen. I know I spent a fair amount of time organizing it, finding spots to hide my diaries (I kept two; one my friends read at sleepovers and one that I wrote "the truth" in - )

I'm also working on revisions to a middle grade novel and what I'm finding is the prevailing sense that everything takes longer than I thought. And also the feeling that I am never going to finish anything. Here are a few notes from my recent undertakings:

Emma is doing her room in hot pumpkin, fuschia and zebra stripe. I kid you not.

She can't believe how beautiful this combination is. Her 'tween friends are all in OMG agreement that this is going to be THE room. No wonder they're a difficult age to write for...

Christopher believes that his fourth grade spelling folder, his last two hundred candy bar wrappers and his wet bathing suit create a force field around his bed that will keep the dark forces away. I can't think of any other explanation for some of the things I am finding as I strip his room down to the carpet and paint.

Philip can't part with a three foot high plastic penguin that blew onto our lawn during a snowstorm. It wears a Darth Vadar Halloween mask. Above that is a large, plastic hand puppet of Godzilla's head that Philip has given lip rings to and a few other piercings. Let's just say it's not a room Martha Stewart wants to die in.

I go back and forth between the mess of laundry baskets, bookshelves and paint cans and the mess of my WIP. In both revisions, I keep adding and deleting as I go along. The one wonderful aspect of revising a manuscript instead of a room is there is no one saying, "Mom, are you KIDDING? Why are you putting THAT into the donate pile? It's not like it has an odor..." I can sort of do what I want with the story which, at this point of the summer, is starting to look better and better.

After a few days of revising the kids' rooms, I've changed my mind that the rooms would be easier to tackle. If you had a choice, which would you prefer to strip down and redo - a room or a manuscript?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Of Bums and Blogs

Many thanks to Tiffany J., who created a website for Light Beneath Ferns. She's a really talented, artistic teen who has much more patience and timeliness than I do - not to mention technical ability. More on Tiffany when she gets her own website up and going (sorry T.J.J. -just a slight push there)

And here's another kitten picture I really like. We should probably stop calling them "the kittens" at this point, since they just turned a year, but they may be stuck with that name in the way BabyCat is now two or three years old and still BabyCat. (She was feral so the shelter couldn't be exactly sure of her age)

I have been a total blog bum, sort of like the kitten picture, and a bum in many other ways for the past couple of weeks. I went down to Long Island for a few days and left Dad in charge of the kids. I left food in the fridge, the kind made with simmering and vegetables and seasonings, but they ordered pizza both nights.

The rest of the time I've been cleaning out a scarily crowded basement, working in the herb garden and figuring out what I want to write/work on next. I haven't been around the Internet at all, but I'm sort of back now in the way anyone can be back on a computer during nice weather.

I have to thank Jemi for the The Versatile Blogger Award which she awarded me back in...maybe June? It's been awhile. In any event, the rules are:

1. Thank the folks and link them
2. Share 7 things about yourself
3. Pass along to 15 bloggers
4. Comment on their blogs to tell them of the award

But since it's summer, and half of the bloggers I read regularly are on a temporary hiatus, if you read this blog, consider yourself nominated. That's the great thing about blogs; you can bend the rules into circles. Ok, so seven things about myself:

1. I almost never watch t.v. It makes me a total misfit (that's right, just that, and nothing else) I don't know anything about those sexual selection shows or any of the plots of the medical dramas. It just bores me.

2. When I do watch tv, the kids run from the room because I like to watch weirdomentraries like: The Boy With Three Ears or The Woman With the Ninety Pound Tumor. It's kind of a weapon: "Ew, Mom's watching TV!!!! It's another of those medical nightmares!"

3. I could be a bum. Very easily. I have no work ethic. Maybe that's why I like cats so much. Their occupation is preening between naps. That sounds pretty much ok to me. And a little bit, it describes a fair amount of my adolescence.

4. Speaking of cats, I get really scared when I think about the kids leaving and look around at the amount of books and cats I already have in my middle age. My fear is turning into one of those grotesques in Charles Dickens who lives with too much dust, too many memories and way, way too many cats. I mean, I'm sort of there now...

5. I can't stand writers who take themselves oh so seriously. You know, the kind who meet you and give you an autographed bookmark five seconds after saying their names and launch into a long explanation of their latest plot struggles. They seem so angsty and pained by writing it makes me wonder why they do it at all.

6. When I can't sleep, I look at real estate on the Internet. Not local real estate or anything I could buy. I go on tons of virtual tours. Last night, I was all over Rhode Island.

7. When I write, I have at least two full time stories going. I work on one or the other depending on my mood and my latest ideas. Other writers tell me this is a very, very strange way of getting anything done. So I never tell them that I often choose between three simultaneous stories. There have to be others who write like this.

And that's it, for now. If you've read this, you have my nomination to do one of these. Since mostly writerly types stop by here, I can vouch for their versatility.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Post Graduation

That's Coco, one of the kittens Emma got last year. She's a lot bigger now, but I still think she is one of the world's cutest cat sleepers. Maybe her posture is a metaphor for the end of the school year. Kids seem so exhausted by the end of June.

 Christopher didn't get much of a chance to relax. He graduated and at eight o'clock the morning after his graduation, he began a college summer program. Remember I'm the mom who always told the kids they could sleep over OUR house; I never really let them sleep over or go to camp or do any of that normal stuff. So I just paid the price when I dropped him off.

He made me swear not to cry or embarrass him in any way in front of his new roommates, so I cried before and on the ride and in the parking lot. Then I was cool. Really cool. We organized his room and took a walk around campus and went to the orientation barbeque. Still cool. So what if it felt like someone was ripping my lungs out? I acted like Christopher was going for one of the sleepovers finally at someone else's house.

It was almost time to leave and the counselor suggested I show him the laundry room. I was explaining how to work the machines when he looked at me, then at his I Touch. He had been looking at that device all through the orientation and all through my advice lectures and all through the long, boring introductions to things like the bursar representative and the tutoring center hours. I finally said,  
 "Christopher, you have to pay attention. I'm not driving down here just so you can do wash."

He looked back at his I Touch and said, "I was just thinking how great it would be to have a Mom app on my phone." Okay, so corny. But it did me in. I got to that line, then I started crying. Fast forward: he's doing fine, and he brought home a huge load of dirty laundry. I have him until tomorrow, but I'll be cool when I drop him off this time, Mom apps and all.

And in other good news, one of Philip's friends is in the process of making a website for Light Beneath Ferns. I haven't seen it yet, but I will later on tonight and I'll post a link to it here. They may not want to learn how to do their own laundry, but teenagers come in handy in a lot of other ways.

It's a little harder to get to the computer with everyone home, so I'm a little more behind than usual, I wanted to wish everyone a Happy Fourth!