Thursday, December 31, 2009

goals an' stuff...

I made some writing goals, and I've shared them on my lj but not here. But I should share them here, on the public me. So the public (all four of you!) can gaze upon them and shake your heads disparagingly at me when I fail. Um, I mean encourage me when I'm faltering? No! Cheer me on when I'm kicking ass!

So hardest and most important goal for me is about receiving feedback on the ms. that's out there, spinning around in the world right now. I'd like to remain thoughtful, objective, gracious, and rational about anything that happens with this book. (dudes. get ready to shake your head disparagingly cheer!) I mean, I've done what I can to give it its best shot now, and there are a lot of factors at play here. I can keep my head and think of the journey. Yes.

Next goal is about the next book, and that is to finish editing it and send it out there spinning into the world as well. It has come a long way in the last few days (nothing like a deadline to get elissa to spring into action, let me tell ya), but my vision for it goes beyond this round of prettifying. This feels okay.

Third writing goal is to decide on the next project. Got a lot of ideas bouncing around, a lot of different directions, and some of the decision depends on what happens with TDBB and ATW. In any case, I'd like to get one more novel rough drafted by the end of this year. Totally do-able.

And last is for me to keep working on the one story, you know the one. No? Well, I know the one. And it excites me, but I get the feeling it's a simmerer.

So now you know. My writing goals for the year. The rest of my life could probably use a little examination, too, you know, but I can do that later. (oh, wait, was "stop procrastinating" on my goals for this year, by any chance? impossible.)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Guest Blogger: Jabber



To Papa Rick
2009

This is a race car going over a ramp. And he’s going really fast, so that’s why I drew little yellow stripes saying that it’s fast. And there’s puddles, ‘cause it’s raining. The mountains far, far away. The clouds, wind, rain. And here’s the sun, it’s just starting to come out.

Papa will like it because I drew him what he wanted, which was a race car with flames on it, all painted yellow. Also a back tail fin, the motor sticking out of the hood, and that’s it.

From Jabberwock
(Barcode)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

reflections on the gaudy Christmas lights...

So I'm obsessed with memories. Or with memory. Or both, really. In almost all of my writing--whether it be fiction or goofy blog entries--what I'm trying to do is capture moments so that they feel so real and true and whole and...well, like you're living them. And for most of that writing, I rely heavily on my memory. The way things looked, the way people speak, and most pressing to me, the way I felt in that moment.

I've noticed that a common feature in my novels (and hey, even in that old short story I was reading the other night from years ago...) is that something will happen--maybe a look, a smell, a kiss!--and it will trigger a memory in my character's mind. Sometimes (a lot of times), I write these memories without any real idea of where they will ultimately go in the final narrative, and maybe even less of an idea of how they fit into the theme and the pace of the story. They surprise me, almost every time. And they also, very often, become these tiny pieces of the story that make me fall in love with it.

In real life, the triggers of memory can be subtle or vivid, and I love exploring the path my brain takes when I can trace it. Driving home a couple nights ago, I went past this house all lit up for Christmas, a house I go past every single day on my way from work to home. The lights are a little gaudy for my taste, but the other night as I drove past, I was instantly reminded of another night that I passed that house lit up like that, a night the lights made me burst into tears of happiness and hopefulness and...well...hormones.

It was six years ago, when I was pregnant with Jabber, and I know it was close to his birth day because a) the house was decorated, and b) my belly was wedged in behind the steering wheel so tightly I couldn't breathe properly. It had been a long day, and I remember looking up at that house all lit with its gaudy green and red poinsettias hanging off all the trees and thinking, "Wow. I'm getting a baby for Christmas." And I cried. And I can remember the little flurry of squirming that went on at just that moment from within my giant abdomen, as though Jabber were jumping for joy within his cramped quarters.

So all it took to revisit that memory was a glimpse of some lights strung up on a couple of trees in a yard I drive past every single weekday. Instantly, my whole body was awash in the sensations of that moment from over six years ago.

Amazing!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

kids are disgusting

I mean, really.

the anti-santa

'Twas a week before Christmas
and two little boys
are weeping 'cause Mama says,
"TOO MANY TOYS!"

...

"What are you doing?" says Jabber, his voice nearing hysteria. I'm caught, in the dining room, with my sack flung over my shoulder and a guilty look.

"Are you Santa?" asks Monkey, jumping up and down.

"I'm the anti-Santa," I say. "Don't look in the bag."

"What's in it?"

"Just don't look in the bag, and you'll never miss it."

Two suspicious boys give me uncertain looks.

...

This is the second year we've honored the tradition of Anti-Santa Day, which I've decided occurs on the first free Saturday between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Celebrations include filling a large black garbage bag full of broken toys and junk found at the bottom of the toybox, cleaning and assembling the parts for toys we've outgrown and want to donate, and best of all, a lively reading of David Shannon's TOO MANY TOYS.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

progress and looking back...

I got my first computer just about nine years ago, in January of 2001. (Actually, that's a total lie, and I just realized it. My dad actually bought me a computer when I was like eight years old--a Texas Instruments thing that I plugged into an old black and white television and copied pages and pages of Basic Programming from a battered manual over and over again in a vain attempt to "see Mr. Bojangles dance"--but this doesn't fit into the story, so let's pretend that computer doesn't exist, okay?)

Up until then, I had done all of my writing on a Smith Corona typewriter in high school, and when I left for college, my family bought me the step up from that--a word processor that had a monitor and could save to a floppy disc, though it still typed my papers out onto the page like a typewriter with a loud, rapid-fire style that really annoyed my roommates when I printed out my essays in the middle of the night.

I still remember how exciting it was when David and I took out a personal loan and bought that shiny Mac G4. It's funny to think about that, how we took out an actual loan to buy a computer. I had been a teacher for two years and had left to go on an adventure out West with my boyfriend and was working in the prepress department of a printing company, a job that had no homework. I was going to be a writer!

It wasn't the first time I had considered being a writer, you know. I wrote stories in endless spiral notebooks from elementary school on, and I remember a point during my senior year when my amazing English teacher (*waves at M.S.*) pointed her fork at me in a somewhat threatening manner and demanded that I become a writer. But it wasn't until I bought that first computer that I felt like I could actually accomplish this goal.

It was that year I started my first novel, The Star Crossing, as well as countless poems and fiction pieces and journal entries. I collected rejection notices from every short story magazine I could find in my thick, dog-eared copy of Writer's Market. I made flyers on my new computer for a writer's group and met every week with the two amazing women who responded. I wrote, wrote, wrote--even penning stories in my journal in twenty-second spurts while I burned plates for the printing press in the tiny plating room.

I had occasion last week to fire up my old computer (which I used as my primary computer up until two years ago, actually) to pull up some business-related graphics for David, and I grabbed a couple of photos and an old short story on my flash drive to transfer to my lappy for the nostalgia. I have most of my documents from that time transferred, but because I was using different software on the Mac, and because I'm fairly lazy, I haven't had a chance to get it all copied. So I spent some time looking over the short story I was most proud of in those days, a story called "Shadows."

And it was weird, so very weird, to look at this piece of writing I hadn't seen for six or eight years, to try to connect it with me--to believe that I wrote it. There's a scene in The Dharma Bum Business where Kat says she doesn't want to design her own tattoo because she knows her art will improve. There may be a point where she's embarrassed of where she was before, and she doesn't want to face that embarrassment every time she looks in the mirror. Looking at my old story, though, I wasn't so much embarrassed as completely perplexed: who was this person who wrote like that?

The writing is rough and naive and yes, I can totally understand why it was rejected, but...the spark in it, the fierce belief in itself, in its own daring...well, I think my current self could learn a thing or two from that writer--the writer who hadn't yet learned about the ups and downs, who hadn't yet doubted herself or censored herself, who hadn't yet worried about the market and whether her work would sell, who believed utterly that the world would instantly adore her brilliance. Reading my crazy old story made me smile; it made me excited about writing, about possibility. And it made excited about the thought of looking at my writing in another eight or nine years, to see what lessons my current self will have for future Elissa.

So along with the story, I dug up this photo of me, with my computer (we named her CalliopeCheetah, the Silver Ponder) and my stacks of notebooks (see them up there on the shelf?) and my keyboard sitting on a board balanced across an open drawer. This is where I became a writer.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Waiting

I horrified my Lovely Daycare Provider this morning by revealing that I haven't really started my Christmas shopping...a statement that is not *quite* true, in fact, but it's close. I haven't started my shopping for David and the kids. Now that's the truth. And it's not an unusual truth, either. I admit that I am awful--really terrible--about buying gifts for people for specific occasions. I actually like giving people things, but I don't like waiting to give them on a particular date. I cannot even tell you how many times I've bought D. a gift for some reason and then given it to him right away instead of hanging onto it until a special occasion. I basically have no patience.

So then I started thinking about queries, because I'm in the query stage with novel number three, and querying involves a lot of waiting. First you send out your queries. And you wait. And then you may get requests (well, I finally got a few, anyway!), and you wait.

And then an email comes.

Different writers have different ways of dealing with the appearance of an agent email in their inboxes. Many of them cannot look at the email right away; they need some time to prepare themselves mentally. Me? I have opened them heedlessly when checking my email during my prep period at work. It's like ripping a bandaid off; I can't let that message sit there, unread, knowing it's in there. It will drive me crazy. And yes, this is probably a bad practice because there's a lot of emotion tied up in those emails. So sometimes I'm a little giddy while teaching class. And sometimes, of course, the opposite is true. But that's good for them, too, to see what it's like for a writer--and really, to see that with any goal, a person will encounter some exciting strides forward and some disappointing setbacks. I think it's good for them to see me keep on keeping on.

Which brings me back to Christmas, sort of. So I have my manuscript out in the world in various places (one of which shows up when I google myself--a fact which still gives me chills)(what? you don't google yourself? I'm just impressed that most of the items on the first page are now me instead of a Mormon polygamy trial!), and I know it's pretty unlikely to hear from people before the holidays are over. So here I am, being patient. Finding ways to keep myself busy, like revising novel number four!

I suppose I could try shopping...

Monday, December 14, 2009

Happy Birthday, Big Brother!

Sometimes Jabber doesn't think it's fair that his little brother sneaked in the day before his third birthday, earning himself a lifelong position of "first," even when he was not, chronologically speaking, first. (It doesn't help that Monkey keeps proclaiming himself to be "SIX!" every time anyone asks him how old he is...)

But when you are in kindergarten celebrating your Monday birthday with treats and paper crowns while your little brother is yesterday's news at daycare, it feels all right to be the grand finale.

I looked at Jabber this evening, telling him bits and pieces of his birth story just as I told Monkey his the night before, and I am so amazed by how far he has come, especially in the last few months.

He can read. He can do math. I mean, tonight the two of us snuggled in his bed and took turns with an easy reader, and he even read the silent e words! Like...when did he learn that? And then he said, "I'm six, and that means I'm four plus two. I'm three plus three. I'm five plus one. I'm..." He paused a minute. "I'm four less than ten."

He has permanent teeth, two of them.

He teaches his little brother songs.

He comes up with big words, big concepts. "Monkey and I are playing animals under the table, and we're nocturnal," he says. "That means we're active at night." Another day, waiting for bus call, he lists the buses that come first to his school and to my school and states, "Well, I think we have a pattern here."

If I'm amazed at the unique personality that Monkey is developing, I'm totally floored by the way Jabberwock thinks. "You and I are just alike, Mama," he said to me on the drive home a couple nights ago. "We spend all our time thinking and dreaming and thinking and dreaming."

Happy Birthday, my eldest! I love you so!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Happy Birthday, Monkey!


It's late...this day has been full of running and grading papers and writing and singing songs to little birthday boys, but I wanted to take just a moment to say happy birthday to my little Monkey, who turned three today.

Three is a good thing. We've spent some time talking and telling stories from the day he was born, and we've eaten a good deal of lovely cake...my mom made a train for Monkey and a whole fleet of tanks for Jabber...and there hasn't been a moment all day where I haven't found myself looking at this child with wonder--thinking about how on earth did he get to be such an individual?

He has grown wiry and athletic, his baby roundness slipping away...this afternoon he almost learned to skip in the living room, and last night the way he stood in his new ice skates made David afraid for our future as hockey parents.

He has grown witty and wise...I watched him tease my cousin Jim with surprising sophistication and laughed out loud when he and his papa were exchanging puns about the cake "Tank you...tanks a lot!"

He has grown fiery and independent...he knows his own mind and woe to any who stand in his way.

Monkey knows the way to push me to the edge, and he knows the way to melt me with the smallest of smiles. His arms still wrap tightly around my neck, even as he shouts at me to go away. Most of all, I am amazed at what a unique little person he is, and I wish him a happy birthday.

I love you, Monkey.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

blue monkey group...

prodigal blogger returns...with a little cute?




Monkey decided on a favorite color, I guess. He crouched behind the buffet this afternoon and started coloring himself with marker. Luckily we noticed the strange quiet before he had progressed beyond the palm of his hand.

Monday, November 2, 2009

aniversario de boda: ocho anos!




David and I were married on November 1st, and David's cousin got us a souvenir from Mexico for our wedding with a dia de los muertos skeleton bride and groom getting their portrait taken by a skeleton photographer (which was doubly meaningful since D. is a wedding photographer!).

Since then, we've bought Day of the Dead decorations for each other (okay, I admit, mostly he has bought them for me because I suck at giving gifts...) for all our anniversaries.

This year was our eighth anniversary, so I snapped some (not that great) photos of our collection.

Here they all are!


http://www.flickr.com/photos/32155717@N05/sets/72157622594740041/

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Calling all tooth fairies!

(the lazy dialogue posts continue)

Jabber lost his first tooth!

I was the devious mom: Ooh, lemme see! Wow, that's really loose. Do you want me to pull it out?

Jabber: Nooooo, I don't want it to hurt. Maybe it will fall out tomorrow.

Me: But it's barely hanging by a thread!

Jabber: We'll just let it hang there.

Me: Okay, but I'm kind of worried it will fall out in your sleep and then you could swallow it! Do you want a tooth in your tummy? *tickles his tummy* Tooth Tummy!

Jabber: Um...no, I do not want a tooth tummy. But I don't want you to pull it out. It will hurt.

Me: Okay, well, here. I'll just sort of dry it off with this washcloth, and then you'll be able to get a good grip on it and wiggle it better, okay?

Jabber: Okay!

Me: All right, open up...WOOHOO! There's your tooth!

Jabber: MOM! Did you pull it out? That hurt!

Me: But there's your tooth!

Jabber: *giggles* MY TOOTH!

We've actually had a week of firsts, but I haven't had much time to write about them. Jabber and Monkey went to their first Haunted House last weekend, at a pumpkin patch party in one of our local parks. That was the first time that Av had a motorized ghost get stuck in his hair, and the first time that Jabber had to lead the way through a dark, scary maze with Zombies jumping out at him. It was also the first time that Jabber had someone enthusiastically hand him a Snickers Bar, and the first time he realized that not all Halloween candy has been carefully de-peanutized and approved beforehand by his mother. Of course, the candy was whisked away into my pocket, and we tried to stay cool as all the little children in the area snarfed their Snickers all around us like allergen death traps.

It was also the first time I took both boys out to eat at a real restaurant all by myself, and the first time they were able to demonstrate proper manners in a really impressive way. Granted, there was a tricky moment there when Monkey decided that he didn't really want the quesadillas he ordered, and instead the pancakes that Jabber had ordered looked far more appetizing. But it was the first time, when confronted with such a dilemma, that Jabber stepped up to the plate and generously offered part of his pancakes, which, along with my dinner roll slathered in strawberry jelly, was enough to appease the small sticky boy with the loud voice, and we made it out of the restaurant without any scenes.

I personally had my first time with general anesthesia as I had my wisdom teeth out, and the first time in a long time that I've had four days off of work in a row. I thought maybe it would be quiet time to get my book reports graded and maybe catch a nap or two (this pain medicine makes me sooo sleeeeeeepy), but this morning Monkey woke up and decided to be the FIRST of our family to get the dreaded flu, so...fun times!

And my final first of the week: filling out my first conference sign-up form...I mean, from this end of the transaction, anyway! How exciting!


Not a great photo, but my battery died on the camera and this was all I got, but here are the kids feeling like superheroes after conquering the haunted maze!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

more jabbering

Jabber: I DON'T LIKE LENTILS. I'm not eating them.
Me: Okay, but that's your lunch. So if you don't eat them, you'll be hungry.
Jabber: I'm going to eat jelly toast instead.
Me: Too bad no one is giving you jelly toast until the lentils are gone.
Jabber: unnnnnnghhhmmmamaaahhh!
Me: Not to mention licorice.
Jabber: WHAT? LICORICE? You know what, Mom? I can just turn off my tongue. I mean, I could slurp these lentils right into my mouth, and my mouth would just not taste them anymore. *slurps*
Me: I don't care if you taste them, as long as you eat them.
Jabber: I'm eating them!
*ten minutes pass*
Jabber: I'm full, Mom. My stomach just told me it can't hold another bite.
Me: Oh, did you finish your lentils?
Jabber: Well, no. Because my body is telling me that it's too full for one more bite. I might explode, Mom.
Me: Oh, good. Then I won't have to get up and make jelly toast. Or get licorice.
Jabber: But Mom. Didn't you know I have two stomachs? Like remember when I told you I had two stomachs, one for food and one for liquids? That wasn't real. ACTUALLY I have two stomachs, but one is for sugar and one is for non-sugar. Lentils go into the non-sugar stomach. Even if there's natural sugar, that falls into my non-sugar stomach. But my sugar stomach is completely empty. It wants licorice.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Nightmares...

Both of my children can recite Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are by heart, but I'm hesitant to take them to the new movie for fear it will give Jabber nightmares.

I think it's sort of telling about their personalities that Monkey likes to go to sleep at night while snuggling this book, There's Something in my Attic, by Mercer Mayer. He stares at the illustrations in the dim spill of light from the mostly closed bathroom door and talks softly to the monster while he falls asleep.

Across the room, Jabber huddles around his nightlight and complains about the book. "It makes me so nervous," he says. "I'm just going to look at my pillow." He buries his face in the pillowcase and tries hard not to think about the attic above his head.

It constantly surprises me how alike and different my two children can be, how they complement each other and how they contrast.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Dear Mister President


Jabberwock is makin' money. Of course the neurotic parent inside me hopes that this is not a telling side-effect of his deep anxiety caused by listening to David and I discuss our own personal budget shortcomings, but if it is, I suppose we'll have to work a therapist into our budget somewhere down the line. As it is, I suspect he's mostly thrilled to have mastered the concept of the tens and ones place and almost mastered the skill of writing the number five in a consistently non-backwards way.

Also he likes to cut things into little pieces.

Anyway, after he made a set of prototype currency featuring simply the denominations in green marker (including the rare but very useful $1,004-dollar-bill), he decided to battle the threat of counterfeiters by adding an image.

Specifically, the image of our U.S. president.

He churned out about a dozen bills with the image of President "BarackObama" artistically rendered in green, mostly with his mouth open in a giant grimace of executive enthusiasm. Then, if you look at the bill in the center of the photo, he tried something new.

"Mom?" Jabber looked up from where he was sprawled on the living room rug. "President BarackObama has a mustache, right?"

"No, he does not."

"Oh." He considered his drawing. "Well, he should. He'd look good with a mustache."

***

(I know, I know. I've been slipping again in my bloggy resolve. I've considered blogging about my to-do list, but you know, seriously, it's depressing...)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

avert your eyes, then...

Scene: living room, after dinner. Monkey plays on living room floor.

Monkey: LOOK DADDY! Look what I can do! (throws plastic hammer up into the air and makes a half-hearted attempt at catching it)

David: Oh, Monkey. We don't throw toys.

Monkey: But I like it! (throws hammer)

David: Yeah, but we're in the house. And that's a hammer. We don't throw hammers.

Monkey: I do! (throws hammer)

David: No, Monkey. I really don't want to see you throwing hammers.

Monkey: Okay! So go away, Daddy!

Baby Neal Cassady?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

before I forget...

Earlier this weekend, I was reading a book with both boys about a firefighter, and I asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up. I expected them to answer that they wanted to be firefighters, since that's what we were talking about.

Just as I suspected, Monkey talked about being a firefighter (but also a zookeeper, which surprised me), but Jabber shook his head.

"No, I'm not going to be a firefighter," he said. He seemed so completely certain--totally confident in his decision.

"You don't want to fight fires?" I asked.

"Well, no," he said. No hesitation. "Because I'm going to be a tattoo artist."

Hmm.

NO POLKA DOTS!

I know I've already written about this, but life with a toddler and a kindergartener is not free of repetition, so my art shall imitate life. (oh, stop scoffing. I didn't make it Art with a capital A or anything...)

Monkey astounds me all the time with how vehemently he declares his likes and dislikes, and although these are sometimes changeable (for instance, last night he fell asleep while muttering over and over, "I love my daddy and I hate my mama. Mama is a bad mother bad mother bad mother. I love my daddy and I hate my mama..." but this morning he loved me again), one thing he does not change his mind about is fashion.

The child knows what he likes. And even more, he knows what he detests.

He's also very good at making it impossible to dress him in anything that falls into that last category.

Each morning when I help him dress himself (he will no longer allow us to dress him, which is unfortunate on the days when I am particularly rushed...), I have to offer a broad selection of clothing for him to choose from. Right now, he is not interested in any form of clothing for the lower half of his body that isn't "JEANS JEANS JEEEEEEEANS!", for instance. There are some shirts that, inexplicably to me, are completely unacceptable, even when the laundry situation is such that there are no other options. His Star Wars shirt and a T-shirt that proclaims him to be a "Noisy Little Monster" are two such shirts. I mean, I understand his reluctance to wear the monster shirt, especially because when he does, everyone reads it and laughs at him, but Star Wars??? Come on, kid.

Anyway. On to our latest vicious battle of wills disagreement.

Diapers.

He refuses to wear the diapers we bought, which are generic because as any parent knows, diapers are freaking expensive, and dude, if it doesn't give you a rash and it's on sale, that's what you are wearing.

He refuses to wear these diapers. Kicking, screaming, thrashing, wailing, hitting, biting--refuses.

As in, "WHAT? I cannot possibly wear those ugly ass diapers that have polka dots on them! I HATE POLKA DOTS. How could you even imagine that POLKA DOTS were an acceptable pattern for something as respectable as a diaper. How can I even take myself seriously in POLKA DOTS? Have I mentioned I HATE POLKA DOTS? Sure, Blues Clues was a bit demeaning, but I endured it (except the green ones. God, I hated wearing the green ones. I don't mind the pink, the purple, the yellow, and the orange Blues Clues but I have to draw the line somewhere, you know? And green...it was just too much.) with only a modest amount of protesting. But this...this is an abomination. I will not wear them. I WILL NOT. YOU CANNOT MAKE ME."

And you know what? I can't, either. With all that kicking and thrashing and...undulating...I can't get the damn things on in any kind of manner that will actually accomplish the one thing it is meant to accomplish, which is NOT to make a fashion statement. And the one time I did get it on straight and fasten it up properly? He ripped it off in mere seconds.

Like, okay, you're almost three years old, child. Don't like your diapers? You can go on the potty. But seriously. You don't like your diaper because it has polka dots?

We battled. We tried to force him into wearing the damn diapers. No dice.

We bribed. We cajoled. We bargained. We made promises. We explained.

"Monkey, we don't have any other diapers. These are the kind that Daddy bought. When we get a different kind, you can wear those, but look, baby. WE HAVE NO OTHER DIAPERS."

Nothing.

And then.

"All right, Monkey, let's put on the diaper."

"I HATE POLKA DOTS!!! NO NO NONONONONONONO!" (kicking, thrashing, etc.)

"Oh. Well, good. These diapers don't have polka dots."

(stops thrashing) "They don't?"

"Nope. These have balloons. Without strings. Free balloons that float through the air and have dance parties all over the place."

"Oh. Okay."

Diaper success. For now.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

jabberish

Well, we all survived the start of school, and Jabber seems to have enjoyed it the most out of all of us. He sums up his experience with these great words of wisdom: "Kindergarten is...um...kindergarten is cool."

We've had some good conversations about the process--one rather amusing one in which Jabber told Ms. N. and me about making a new best friend.

Jabber: Well, you know, I made a new best friend today, but I don't remember his name. He had a coat with stainless steel buttons, though. They were shiny. And he had a voice like a doctor.
Me: (laughing) A voice like a doctor? So like, did he use really big words or something?
Jabber: (shrugs) He just sounded like a doctor.
Ms. N.: What does a doctor sound like? Can you show me what he sounds like?
Jabber: (gives Ms. N. an incredulous look) Well, I can't repeat it, you know, because I can't change my voice. I have MY voice, not his!

We laughed. I have to admit, I want to meet this nameless kid with the shiny buttons just to hear his voice.

On the second day, the bus--which picks Jabber up from my school--came early, and we missed it. Ooops! MOMFAIL. David drove over quickly and picked him up, and all was well, but the next day I suggested that Jabber accompany Mr. L., the "Assertive Discipline Coordinator" for our school, down to the buses, since then he'd be sure to not miss his bus. I had a meeting, so I asked Jabber if he'd be willing to go alone with Mr. L. He surprised me by agreeing without hesitation (Mr. L. is a very nice guy, but I'll admit he does look capable of some pretty assertive discipline). After school, I said, "Jabber, I'm proud of you for being brave and going down with Mr. L. all by yourself."

He shrugged and said, "Oh, that's okay, Mom. I just pretended he was you." Um, okay.

In other news, he has started reading after one week of kindergarten. The two things may or may not be related, but all summer we read together and occasionally talked about letter sounds and stuff. At the time, Jabber didn't really "get" it; he totally nailed the initial consonant, and everything else was a big mystery. But the other night we went for a drive in our new car, and suddenly we heard Jabber shouting from the backseat, "PISS! PISS! PISS!"

I turned around, rather alarmed at the language (he MUST have picked that up from school, I thought), but Jabber was gleeful and excitedly pointing at the red seatbelt buckle. "IT SAYS PISS!"

"Oh. I think you're missing a letter," I said, laughing a little. "There's an R in there."

I didn't really expect him to be able to change his sounding-out strategy, but sure enough, he whispered back there for a few moments and then correctly said, "PRESS! PRESS!"

It was exciting, but not nearly so exciting as the following morning as I was driving Monkey to daycare, and I overheard Jabber teasing him from the backseat.

"You have letters on your leg, Monkey," Jabber said, and I didn't pay too much attention, my mind on the day ahead. But then I heard him back there making those "sound it out" noises, and eventually, he said, "F...R...S...A...L!"

Well, that doesn't actually spell anything. I dismissed it as jibberish. jabberish. But then.

"MOM! I'm going to write letters on Monkey's leg that say FOR SALE! Can we sell him now?"

Wow!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Kindergarten!

So I'm flippin' exhausted today, after my own first day of school, but not too exhausted to CELEBRATE Jabber's very first EVER day of school! Yay, Jabber, and welcome to the educational system! Because of my schedule and David's schedule and money and a bunch of other factors, we never sent him to any kind of preschool, just a lovely home daycare, where he played like a champ and slowly learned to stop biting and hitting people (though his brother obviously doesn't count as people). I've worried just a little about how he would deal with school--with the structure and the long hours (he goes from 8:30-4:00 every day!), but he did a splendid job on the first day of kindergarten.

Here he is, back full circle to hanging out in my classroom in the mornings, attending the teacher meetings and eating his breakfast out of tupperware while Mama makes copies. When Jabber was an infant, David worked from some godawful early hour to 8:00 am, when he would come and pick up the baby from my school and care for him the rest of the day. I have lots of memories of Jabber jabbering through morning meetings or maybe sleeping in my sling or even exploring the amazing treasures of the art teacher's closet, but my favorite memory of that time has got to be the day my boss made the mistake of trying to lead our meeting while eating a banana. Jabber basically would not let the meeting proceed until he had relinquished it.

Anyway, I like having my little guy around once again, and I feel good that his first bus ride is a short trip with no stops (and no middle school kids on the bus).



And here he is on the bus itself, though I had only a moment to snap it in between explaining his allergy to the bus driver and trying to show him what you do with a backpack the size of four kindergarteners in the cramped confines of a bus seat. He was brave and happy on the bus, and David says he had no trouble finding his way to the classroom once he arrived.

His first day went well, and he fell off to sleep this evening with the words, "I'm even more excited for tomorrow!"

We kind of thought it might be an adjustment for Monkey to be at daycare all alone, but when D. picked him up, they had this conversation.

D: Did you miss your brother today?
Monkey: Who?
D: Um, your brother? Jabber?
Monkey: Ohhh. Yeah. Where is he, anyway?

So apparently not. :)

Hoping for an equally good tomorrow, for both of us! And now, sleeeeeep.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

editing wisdom from a toddler

Me: ARGGHHHHHHH!

Monkey: Mama, what's wrong? I kiss you and make it all better?

Me: Oh, honey, it's all right. I'm having problems with the timeline in my story.

Monkey: I can help you.

Me: *laughs* You want to help me fix my timeline?

Monkey: No. I didn't said that. I said I CAN'T help you.

Me: Yeah, probably right, baby.

Monkey: You gonna have to help yourself, Mama. You gonna have to help yourself.

Friday, August 21, 2009

so many books...

So I bought a bunch of books, and it ended up depressing me. How does that work? Well, unlike the adult fiction at the sale, which are mostly donations, a lot of the YA books there were books that have been withdrawn from the library--maybe because the library has extra copies, maybe because they didn't circulate, maybe because they're old...for whatever reason, looking at all those discarded books made me sad. (Even though it means the library is replacing them with new books!)

(I searched and searched my brain just now for the word "discarded", and it simply wasn't there. Eventually I had to ask David, who promptly supplied the word and then said, "How's that for a son of a librarian?" /random aside)

So anyway, back to my woeful depression.

There are a lot of books in the two big grocery bags I came home with. A lot of books that I haven't ever heard of. Books that, quite honestly, don't look very good. And that could be depressing from a *whine whine* "But how come my books aren't published when there are so many dumb ones that get published?" *whine* kind of way, but I have been paying close attention to publishing for long enough to understand that those comparisons are pretty meaningless, really.

Instead, I'm depressed to see so many books that are so...forgettable. They have been discarded. They were published (hurray! the big pie in the sky goal!), they made it to the library (and maybe even the bookstore!), but for whatever reason, teens didn't read them.* They were not big hits. I have not heard of them. I haven't heard of their authors--those people who slaved away just as I have slaved away over an idea so nebulous and maddening, over characters and dialogue and conflict and query letters and revisions and marketing. Only to have their book, still shiny and new, tossed into a huge bag by a middle school English teacher who looks at it, raises her eyebrows dubiously, and says, "Well, you never know. Someone might like this one."

In a way, it makes me grateful that my first novel did not sell, since at the time I finished it I knew only enough to be mildly dangerous. In the last three years or so, I've learned SO MUCH about every part of the writing process, including the part that comes after the book sale, as more and more of my writing friends have books published before my very eyes!

(Check out Bethany Griffin's Handcuffs, Cindy Pon's Silver Phoenix: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia, Hannah Moskowitz's Break, and Suzanne Young's The Naughty List, by the way!)

Obviously I'm still terribly ignorant, but I'm learning more and more every day.

I'm rambling rather idiotically, but I guess what I'm feeling is a combination of my usual Barnes and Noble Syndrome: "Oh my god look, there are a lot of books in this world. How is there even room for one more? Why would anyone possibly need mine?" and the sadness of seeing so many books discarded and unwanted, left languishing for the three dollars a bag crowd. "I used to be somebody's baby, but now no one will even pay fifty cents for me," they whisper. Even if they are bad books, I feel sorry for them. But I'm a weirdo, I know.

I'll get over it. I'll keep writing. I'll keep hoping. And I'll keep trying to learn more about how to keep my own babies out of that discard pile, should they ever get to the point of being books outside of my own imagination!

Speaking of babies. Enough of this writing chatter. This morning I was getting ready to go to the library, and the kids were fighting about something or other. I asked them to stop, and Jabber replied with his usual anger word, a fiercely hissed, "STINKIN'!"

Monkey looked shocked (as though he has never yelled the same thing at me). "Mama's not stinkin'!" he said, patting my face with his sweet little hands. "Mama is Beeeeyooootiful!" Hard to feel too depressed for too long with that kind of lovin' in the house.



*I do realize that books are discarded for a variety of reasons, not always because they're miserable failures. I've found some really spectacular and successful books in the discard pile. But the general feeling I got from the books I picked up today was a sort of air of dejection--books that never really found their following. It may be that the authors went on to be perfectly successful; after all, there are a million brilliant authors I've never heard of. It's also highly possible that I just happened to pick up a particularly dreadful pile of books.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

moar books!

I just came home from a routine Target run bearing a "small" stack of books "for my classroom" (okay, I don't really bring David Sedaris in for my seventh graders, it's true. But the others are all young adult books! That's responsible! I mean, it's practically like working--for the YA writer elissa as well as the teacher elissa! See? It's like working DOUBLE TIME!)

David gave me a Look. The same Look he gave me when we were young and adventurous and living on the road with our belongings all in the trunk of our car and my path brought me dangerously close to a bookstore. He didn't say it out loud, but there's a good chance he was thinking that a hefty stack of books was not, in fact, on the List. (The List is mandatory for all Target trips, for all the good it does...that store is pure evil.)

To be fair, David came home yesterday from the library book sale with a pretty hefty stack of his own...I don't honestly think I could live with a man who wasn't at least mostly okay with the fact that my interior decorating skills revolve around arranging bookshelves, crates of books, stacks of books, boxes of books, and a general scattering of books on all available surfaces. Granted, many of those books now feature colorful illustrations of animals wearing overalls, but hey, Monkey's pick at Barnes and Noble the last time we went was The Manchurian Candidate, so perhaps there's hope for the grown-up books to make a comeback soon to the main floor of our home!

So speaking of the library book sale...tomorrow's the day! The BAG SALE! A whole bag of books for only three dollars! A whole room just for MG and YA books...so what if I currently have four full bookcases and a rotating wire rack full of books in my classroom? I'm there.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

draft two, in which she sharpens her machete...

So I know I write first drafts like a plague of vicious weeds--a blackberry tangle in the Pacific Northwest, perhaps.

My first pass of editing consists mainly of reading over paragraphs and thinking, "Why the hell is this even here?"

Delete.

Slash and burn.

I used to go in there all tentative--poking at the soil a little, trimming back adverbs. Now I'm more of a clear-cutter. I raze entire acres of this jungle draft. Acrid smoke billows up in my wake.

I'm ruthlessly ripping apart this scene. But I can see something, trickling down through the foliage. Sunshine.

Tiny tendrils of new words uncurl, all the more vivid green against the blank backdrop of my earlier demolition.

Draft Two, in progress. Ten of forty-six scenes are now pruned.

And just in time. I hear a Monkey waking from his nap upstairs.

performance anxiety

So all day yesterday I had this window open. Yeah, this window. The NEW POST window for the blog. I've got a lot to say, some pictures to show, you know. But nothing really...interesting.

Oh, god, not that old thought, I'd say. Delete.

You already told that story somewhere else.

Elsewhere in my online life, I've been talking with people about internet personas for writers. Like, the author website, the facebook page, the author blog, the interviews, you know. Your author brand. Branding yourself.

It all makes sense. Writing novels is not about only writing novels, or not if your goal is to publish novels. To sell novels.

An author's online presence can be huge. So okay. But that's scary. Here I am, puttering around on my little blog, thinking, but oh no! What if posting a picture of the Monkey after getting into a rumble at daycare:
makes people not want to read my books??!? (he was smacked in the face with a plastic train track, I guess? Monkey is badass.)

What if I post a bad review of a book on my LibraryThing account and make people not want to buy my book? Or not want to blurb my book? Or simply hate me forever? Do I need to stop reviewing books in order to not offend someone I'm trying to impress?

Or if there's a really strange blog at an address similar to my name, and people think it's me?

What if I say something OFF-BRAND?

HA.

So I've given it some thought, and I've decided I can't really handle having an "internet persona"--I'll just be a person on the internet. A person who sometimes is funny and sometimes is dull and sometimes posts cute pictures of her kid. And I have corners of the internet for being a mom and corners for being a writer and corners where I write my teaching blog, too. And places like this, where it all kind of comes together in a mish mash of me.

And here's a cool list I read a few weeks ago that talks about publicity and all the smart things writers should be doing as they write and sell a novel...I thought it was interesting and helpful,, and I bookmarked it for the time I may find myself farther down the list!

What You Can Do: Twelve Easy Steps

I liked that. Anyway.

One of the things I have done as a person on the internet is make friends, and last week I got to spend some time with some of the people from my online writing group, which was really cool. We all got in the minivan and took the kids to see some bears at a bear sanctuary way back in the woods. I was expecting something very roadside attractionish--a couple of tame bears maybe, but it turned out to be pretty amazing!The only complication was a minor temper tantrum when Monkey decided that he *really* wanted to touch the bears. I mean, we all did. He threw himself about in my arms for a while, wanting to get down off the platform we were on.

"I want get down and touch them!"

"I know, baby. But you can't touch the bears. They're wild animals, and they might hurt you."

"I WON'T TOUCH 'EM I JUST WANT TO SEE THEY SOFT!"

Uh huh. Here he is pouting.Yes, he was clean when we left the house. Or mostly.

Okay, now I've really got to do some editing.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

a tangential slalom course of a post

I go through these jags where I listen almost exclusively to Minnesota Public Radio when I'm driving my car, and I'm in one right now. If you were to see me driving somewhere, you'd probably be able to tell. I might be chuckling. I might be nodding thoughtfully. Most likely, though, my car will be parked and inexplicably idling at my destination--the children straining at their seatbelts while I shush them.

So yesterday I hopped into the car (I keep calling it that, but it's really a mini-van, sighhhh) to pick up the boys from a morning at daycare while I was writing, and this Harvard psychologist, Dan Gilbert, was speaking about happiness, or more specifically, why people mess up so much when trying to predict what will make them happy. A long time ago, I remembered watching this video of a shorter talk he did at some other...ideas thingy...because I remembered the interesting experiments he did with a photography course.

Short story is that he had college students take a bunch of meaningful pictures and create two beautiful prints, and then they had to choose one to keep and one to leave with the instructor. Half the students were told that they could change their minds in four days and switch pictures, and the other half were told that they had to choose and it was a final decision. In the end, the people who had an opportunity to change their minds were less happy with the pictures than the people without that chance. Like, a lot less happy.

Then he asked a new group of students which group they would rather be in, and over sixty percent of them chose to be in the group with the choice. They chose the class that would eventually make them unhappy with their photo.

This was interesting.

I started thinking about shopping, about the difference between the way I shop and the way D. shops. First, I make decisions and then I don't look back. Let's say I'm looking for a new pair of shoes to wear to work. I'll go to the shoe store, find my size, look around at all the options, try on a few pairs if I don't already have a tantrumming toddler, pick one, buy it, and I'm done. Those other shoes that I didn't buy? They aren't in my head anymore, unless I've made mental plans to come back for them after I've earned another pair of shoes or something.

David does pretty much the opposite. He will scour shoe stores for several weeks, repeatedly going in and trying on different pairs. He will research the finalists thoroughly on the internet. He'll read reviews of the shoes. He'll go back and try them on again. He'll pit the stores against each other to get a better price (seriously, he does this all the time, not necessarily with shoes, but I wouldn't put it past him). Finally, he'll make his selection, but much of the time it's a close decision, and he may waver a couple of times as he works through all the pros and cons of each.

The next thing is that I don't do returns. So let's just say I don't like shoes when I get home. They actually pinch a little. Wow, I didn't realize they made that weird little sighing sound every time I take a step. That will be awkward while I'm creeping around my classroom. I totally didn't notice that they made my feet look so boxy. Boxy doesn't really look good on my feet. I shrug and tuck them in my closet. Give them away to someone. Possibly I have slightly pinching, boxy, sighing feet for a while until I have a chance and the funds to try again. But it doesn't really occur to me to bring them back. I don't know why...I just feel like it's a lot of trouble. I made the choice, no big deal. I don't usually feel unhappy about the shoes. Shoes are great, but I'm not going to go crazy over a pair of shoes.

D. comes home from shopping and doesn't take the tags off of things until he's certain. Really certain. And then maybe he'll sleep on it. I guess I can't speak to his happiness with those final purchases, but from my point of view, it seems like if he realizes that there's a flaw in his purchase, he's more likely to wonder about that other option...maybe I should have bought that other one...I saw that one review about this on their website, but everyone else said it was fine...it seems a little like agonizing, to me.

Agonizing =/= Happiness.

So Gilbert talked about how choice--freedom--makes people less happy. Because you can wonder about whether you made the right choice? Because you also have the freedom of regretting the choices?

Oh, dear. This is not what this post was supposed to be about. Warning! Tangent! Where did it start? *traces back*

AHA!

Second paragraph. A likely place for a tangent to crop up.

What I meant to write about was the tiny snippet of the Aspen talk aired on MPR that was about CHILDREN. And how they make us less happy. I believe his three reasons that we still think of our children as sources of joy were Armani socks, Heroin, and Baseball. Maybe I'll blather on about that tomorrow. Or maybe there will be another tangent. What was I talking about?

Monday, August 10, 2009

infer what you will...

Jabber, coming home to find me sweeping the house,

(yes, sweetheart, we are expecting company, why do you ask?)

looks around excitedly.

"Where did you put all the new toys I haven't seen in forever?"

I finished!

I wrote the ending of the first draft of novel number four, A Tangled Web! It's almost 1:30 in the morning, but I'm on the edge of singing and dancing!

Now.

I will read through it and see how much crap it is made of! And then I will revise!

But first I will sleep. Whee!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Little House in the Big Chaos

So I bought a number of new skirts on Friday (shopping downtown was a part of our Friday Date Afternoon), and this morning I had to hand wash them in the tub before I can wear them.

I admit, I do not always wash my clothing before wearing it (and in fact there may have been a time in my life where doing laundry was such a pain in the ass that I bought new underwear rather than wash the ones I had...yes, I know, I could have washed them in the sink, but if you haven't figured out by now how lazy I am when it comes to cleaning stuff, you're a lost cause), but this particular store has a very lovely smell that I can handle smelling for about twelve minutes before it makes my head feel like it has been violated by an ice auger.

(please do not make any wild assumptions about my writing ability based on that sentence, thx.)

Anyway. So I'm hunched over the tub, my hands ice cold and raw, my back straining under the weight of all that heavy, stinky fabric, and I'm reminded of the book the boys and I are reading--that lovely classic Little House on the Prairie, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I started thinking about how Ma washed all their clothes in a couple of washtubs with water hauled up from the creek bottom all the way up to the prairie. How Pa had suggested that she go down and wash the clothes in the river like the Indians did, spreading them on the rocks to dry. How she had been offended and insisted she would do the wash like civilized people do. How much more work that seemed to Jabber and Monkey and me when we read about it.

(Incidentally, I'm very interested in any great non-fiction book suggestions on Native Americans, since this book is generating a lot of discussion among Curiouser and Curiouser...)

Yesterday afternoon Jabber and Monkey and I made cornbread, just like Ma. "Hey, Mama, let's play Little House," said Jabber.

"Little House onna Pare-Ee!" shouted Monkey, jumping all crazy on the top of the step-stool.

"Okay," I said. "I will be Ma." (I lack imagination.)

"Can I be Laura?" asked the Jabberwock, jumping too, though from a sensible floor-level.

"Sure," I said.

"Okay! I'll be Laura, and Monkey can be...." Jabber looked over at Monkey, who was sitting on the kitchen floor shaking his head from the fall off the step-stool--a little rattled but trying not to let it show. "Well, I guess I'm Mary, 'cause I'm the biggest. And Monkey can be...."

It all started to fall apart. He looked up at me. "Can Monkey be Mary but still I'm the biggest?"

"Laura's the most interesting, isn't she?" I said.

He nodded. "Mary isn't very much fun," he said.

"Yeah. Maybe Monkey could be Baby Carrie."

"Yeah. And then I can still boss him."

"Well--"

"MOOOOOONNNNNKEEEEY!" Jabber chased him into the next room. "YOU'RE BABY CARRIE AND YOU CAN'T WALK. YOU JUST LIE THERE AND BE BORING!"

Saturday, August 8, 2009

PSA

The words,

"Mommmm! Monkey doesn't have any pants on!"

shouted from the second floor

seldom mean anything good.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

to the washerwoman go the spoils

It's an unwritten rule, of course, that the person responsible for sorting and washing and hanging and folding and putting away the laundry gets to keep anything s/he finds in the pockets.

Last week I made $8.00, no lie. Not bad for fourteen hours of work.

Now, I suppose it's the difference between asking David to collect his dirty clothing for me like I did today and simply going into the bedroom and scooping up all of his clothing off the floor (even digging it out from under the bed!) like I did last time, but today the spoils of my labor consist only of one orange toy car, a dime, a rubber wheel, and a pink plastic drink sword.

I'm sorely disappointed.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

save it

Yesterday I read CDP's post in which she describes her son struggling with some of the same issues Jabber has struggled with regarding banks. Specifically, the idea of a savings account.

For a child who was thrust almost three years ago into a perpetual state of acute possession-awareness ("Don't let Monkey get my stuff, Mom!"), handing over the cash and coin, which he has been carefully threading through the slot in his porcelain piggy bank all his life, is not easy. I mean, this is literally his life savings. Why would he possibly want to give all of that away, to some lady he's never met before at a place we had to drive across town to get to?

"But what if I want my money back?" was his biggest question.

We've been doing mini-math lessons for most of the summer--Jabber's been learning to write his numbers, tell time, use a calendar, and count by fives and tens. We've been practicing by counting the money in his piggy bank. And although he has a lot of money, we decided to start with depositing forty dollars into this mystical and poorly-explained place called the bank.

Jabber agreed to open his first savings account.

So we get to the bank (the name and location of which shall be kept top secret, for security reasons but also because you know who you are, lady. More on that in a bit.). David and Monkey are with us this time (not like the last time we tried this and I forgot Jabber's social security number), so Jabber and I take a seat at the woman's wide desk and start answering her questions. Jabber answers like a champ: He tells her his full name and then writes it clearly on a form she had him fill out. He tells her my full name and his dad's full name. He points out his "sosha scurty" number and lists each of the digits for her. He repeats his phone number three times while she enters the information into her computer. He counts out his money carefully--three tens and two fives--and although he stumbles a little between $30 and $35, he gets it the second time through.

"And what's your address?" she asks.

Jabber spits out his phone number again.

"Oh, no, sweetie," she says, flashing a weird look at me. What was that look? "I mean, what street do you live on?"

"Oh," he says, and he tells her the street and also mentions the avenue that we are close to.

"But what is the house number?"

He shakes his head. He can't remember.

She gives me that look, again, and now I get it. It's disapproval. Judgment. "You're five, right?" she says to Jabber. "It's about time for you to learn your address. Before you go to school. That's very, very important." She gives me a final pointed look.

He nods, and the moment is gone. We finish up with the savings account, but now I'm irritated.

Save it, lady. Save the judgment. He knows his name, his parents' names, our phone number, and the two streets that intersect 25 feet from his front door.

This was such a tiny incident, but I found myself still annoyed by the attitude hours later while David and I were cleaning up from dinner. He said something, and I reacted, and then I said, "You know, maybe I'm too sensitive. Did you know I was seriously angry at that lady at the bank today when she made it sound like I was the worst parent on the face of the earth because Jabber didn't know his house number? Was I imagining that? Am I reading too much into people's innocent comments? Am I putting more pressure on myself as a parent that is just imaginary stuff?"

David laughed and shook his head. "No," he said. "She was just a bitch."

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Do you actually, like, write?

I had a couple of hours of daycare yesterday morning, time for me to write, and I thought I'd try to figure out what I actually did during that time. To be fair, I did write about 2,000 words on my WIP (the Twelfth Night with talking seagulls YA story set here in my home city), but that's only a fraction of what "writing time" means for me.

So yesterday morning, I:

  • read through my subscriptions to various writing-related blogs, noting items of interest to share with my online writing group
  • discovered a newer agent to query and entered her information into my query spreadsheet for The Dharma Bum Business.
  • discovered via the blogosphere that one of my favorite agents (I mean, favorite in the sense that I enjoy reading blog posts she writes and interviews she conducts...it's strange how writing becomes sort of a spectator sport at times!) is open for some types of submissions for the next month, and hey, my project fits one of those types!
  • researched both of those agents for submission guidelines, etc.
  • reread the first seven pages of TDBB that I include in my query letters with an eye to polish it up even more.
  • added a comma, removed an adverb
  • took away the comma
  • used a thesaurus briefly
  • deleted the whole sentence that used to be home to the adverb
  • followed a complicated process of saving as text to, one hopes, preserve the formatting when pasting the sample pages into an email (this process was maybe seventy-five and a half steps long and involved some burnt offerings and at least a dozen languages)
  • personalized my query letter
  • sent four queries and updated my color-coded spreadsheet
  • read several agent threads on a writing forum as research and updated spreadsheet
  • noticed that my google reader showed that several agents had updated their blogs
  • read blogs
  • made coffee
  • opened notes file for WIP and read through the summary of scenes I have left to write.
  • realized that the last time I was writing, I completely and shamelessly veered away from the "outline".
  • adjusted "outline". (okay, so the actual words I wrote were: "Oh no, I just realized this will all fall apart after that last scene, so...figure it out, all right? fix this. make it clever and shit.")
  • made toast to go with second cup of coffee
  • wrote 100 words of WIP
  • whined to writing group about how hard it was
  • posted excerpt, received praise
  • wrote another 100 words
  • checked email, found a rejection
  • cried
  • updated spreadsheet
  • reread query letter, trying to figure out what was wrong with it
  • took a spin over to Query Shark to look at query letters that *had* to be worse than mine. Instead, the entry is an example of a perfectly awesome query that I sure wish were mine
  • found that as usual, queries sort of all look the same to me, especially after I read a few in a row
  • got a headache
  • cancelled tentative plans to become a literary agent's assistant
  • wrote 500 words of WIP in a fit of pure, unadulterated genius
  • read a tutorial on synopsis-writing, and then another one
  • tried to start a synopsis
  • banged head repeatedly into desk
  • searched cupboard for jelly beans
  • sent myself a test email to make sure it wasn't malfunctioning
  • checked clock, found only thirty minutes remaining before I had to leave to pick up the kids
  • read over the last 700 words of WIP, found them to be utter crap
  • deleted and wrote 1000 serviceable first draft words
  • whined to writing group about how hard it was
  • checked clock, found that I was now going to be late to pick up the kids
  • sped away in the minivan like SuperMom, except unshowered and tardy and with no plans for lunch.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

write now

I realize that I haven't talked about much in my life lately other than the kids and their shenanigans. This is a main purpose of the blog, of course, but I used to give a little more context of life outside of the mom part of me.

Part of that is that I started writing about writing in a super secret friend-locked lj so I can whine wallow in self-pity post excerpts of my works-in-progress for my four or five friends. It seems like novel-writing is something I'm insistent on doing, despite any logic or reason, and starting this blog was largely responsible for my return to regular, productive writing.

Since starting the blog, I've become a part of an amazing online writing community (many of whom are also blogging here), and I've also finished two novels and drafted 43k words on novel number 4! This current WIP--a young adult contemporary fantasy book that combines Shakespeare's Twelfth Night with A Wrinkle in Time and talking seagulls--has been a particularly enjoyable romp to draft after the more serious journey toward completion (or what can ever serve as completion, with a piece of writing...*polishes, polishes, polishes*)of TDBB, novel number three.

But the fact is, novel three is complete, and even though I periodically hate it in that "How could I ever have thought myself a writer!" kind of way, I really feel that this book is the strongest thing I've written. The periodic hatred crops up, I think, because the book inside my head, the book of my ambitions, is never exactly what emerges. But sometimes what emerges is actually more beautiful, in its own way. Whatever may be the case, the time has almost come to start querying this one. Which I have started doing--cautiously, selectively--even though I swore I was going to wait until closer to fall...or for the economy to pick up...or for the right stars to align...

It's just that doing this is really scary. And it makes for a lot of doubt. And dread. And hope.

But mostly doubt.

So I'm cautiously, selectively beginning. Researching agents. Getting critiques on my query letter. Writing a synopsis. Thinking about how to answer difficult questions about the book. Searching for books that have a similar style, a similar feel, a similar marketing plan.

And for now, I'm hoping to finish up this first draft of the new book before going back to work in an un-counted number of days. So there's my writing update, and now for a while anyway, it will probably be back to kid antics and parentingfail.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Three Funnies, or Three for the Baby Book

A big part of why I started keeping this blog was so that I could capture some of these fleeting moments, allowing me to go back and look at them years later and remember the joys and tribulations of this period of my life--things I won't remember because honestly I'm pretty much exhausted all the time and anyway, I can't really remember yesterday.

Except that's a lie; all three of these events happened yesterday, but I actually TOOK NOTES in my little notebook so that I would remember to write about them.

I spent the majority of the day hanging out with Monkey, since Jabber spent the day with Dad. Monkey and I had our last swimming sessions, and he really wiggles like a little minnow. Afterward, since we didn't have to pick up Jabber right away from daycare, we went to a nearby coffee shop for some lunch. He's a fun lunch date because he talks to everyone he isn't giving the stinkeye stare to.

Aside: Monkey divides the whole world into two groups: people you talk to and people you glare at. It doesn't really seem to have any rhyme or reason. My sister-in-law: total stinkeye stare. One of the news anchors David works with? Also a stinkeye. Swimming teachers? (to keep this slightly on topic) Stinkeyes one and all.

Random guy in line at the coffee shop? Monkey decides to call him Daddy. "DADDY! THERE'S MY DADDY!" he yells, so that everyone in the coffee shop can hear. The guy looks nothing like David. It is confusing.

It is all resolved, but not until everyone in the vicinity is paying attention. All of the people in the coffee shop are people you talk to, I guess.

Later, after a non-existant nap. Elissa at the edge of collapse. Monkey insistently repeats the same, unintelligible phrase, over and over.

"POPPONDAWAH! POPPONDAWAH!"

I am clueless. He stomps over to the stereo and pushes the button to open it, growling in frustration and cranky fatigue. "POPPONDAWAH!" He points at a CD that has a bunch of kids' songs on it. I push play.

The first song is "100 Bottles of POP ON THE WALL." Gotcha.

And last night, Jabber and I are bonding over some Ramona the Pest. I ask him if he would like to be Ramona's friend. He gives me this incredulous look. "But, MOM," he says. "Why would I want a friction friendship?"

What? Well, nobody wants friction in their friendships, really. "But what do you mean?" I say.

"A friction for a friend! Ramona Quimby is...friction." He starts to look uncertain.

"OH! FICTION!" Haha, yes. "Good job on the genre," I say.

"Lasagna?" he says.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

books and books and books

Jabber has started a LibraryThing account, and he is going to be rating and reviewing all of the books that we read together as our bedtime stories (he says he will rate and review his favorites of the picture books, but mostly only chapter books). It's funny because so far he has rated them all with five stars. I think he's just so enthralled with stories, they are just the most wonderful thing for him. We've read a lot of great books in the last year or so, and right now we are reading Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary. Even Monkey comes running up happily when it's time for "More 'Mona, Mama!"

So tonight's chapter was about mud. And trouble. And Jabber could hardly stand to listen, though he begged me not to stop.

Ramona got shiny, new red rubber boots and found herself unable to resist a construction site filled with gooey-wet mud. Jabber was on the edge of his seat, even flipping over and over on the bed listening to me, covering his ears and his eyes and his mouth. “I can’t look! I can’t listen!” he shouted.

“What are you expecting to happen?” I asked him.

He shrieked as loudly as he could. “SHE’S GOING TO GET STUCK IN THE MUD!”

We tentatively read on, and then sure enough! Ramona got stuck in the mud. Jabber shook his head and groaned. He wondered aloud, with his hands clasped all earnest and worried-like, "Will she get in big trouble? Is Miss Binney going to be mad at her? Will the construction guys come along and RUN RIGHT OVER HER?"

His relief, at the end, when Ramona and her boots are safe, and she hollers to Henry Huggins that she's going to marry him (with her pink worm engagement ring), was palpable. He sagged against me, sighing in happiness. He really likes Ramona, but she’s way spunkier than he is, so she makes all these choices that really worry him.

Reading aloud with Jabberwock is my favorite thing to do.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

the serious business of learning

Jabber got an activity book about dinosaurs from the dollar bin at Target, and tonight he worked on a couple pages. He designed his own dino, and we talked about why we don’t know what color dinos are. This led us to have a pretty good discussion about rotting, about what is organic material and what happens to it when it decomposes. The whole discussion came into play a while later when we were hauling the compost bucket to the hardware store. We opened the compost bucket and experienced rotting with all our senses. Talk about hands-on science.

We've been pretending that we're at school lately, having "lessons" in each subject, since Jabber is pretty hesitant about the whole idea of going to school. He thinks (probably correctly) that he will have a hard time sitting still and paying attention. I worry that his perfectionism will make him anxious and unable to move forward on things, so we're working on having a "practice sheet" to make him feel like the stakes aren't quite as high the first time around (he gets sort of a little bit terrified at the thought of messing up a workbook page or a drawing or what have you...), and having a place to practice helps out a lot. Good thing to know, to be able to mention to his teacher.

We also got a little dry-erase board from the dollar bin at Target that has handwriting lines on it. You know, with the red line on the bottom, and dotted lines in the middle, and a blue line at the top? Jabber LOVES it. We're working pretty hard on learning the right way to form his lowercase letters and how to keep them in the lines. He loves it because he knows if he screws up, he can just wipe it off easily and start over. Then, once he has mastered it on the white board, he has no problem writing it on his real page.

Tonight we had "Phys Ed Class" by going for a walk/gallop/sashay with the compost bucket down past the road construction to the bin behind the hardware store. On the way back, Jabber spontaneously pulled all of his limbs and brain into concert and LEARNED TO SKIP. It was terrific, and we skipped hand-in-hand until he said, "Mom. I'm out with my breath!" But he was so happy and felt so important and grown up to have finally found his body coordinated enough to do what his brain was telling him to do. A very big day around here, indeed.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Guest Blogger: Jabberwock Talks...

This is Jabber, your guest blogger for the day, and he is going to talk to you about building a robot. Here, in case you are interested, is a photo series he worked on yesterday. More of his work should be showing up over the course of the summer.

This is my robot, and this is the first robot I've ever made. I don't know how to make any more robots, so this will be the last one I ever make, too.

Here are the steps to making my robot. First, I got a blue lunch bag. Also some construction paper. Mine was already cut up into pieces. Next, I got some glue and scissors from a grown-up. Last I glued pieces from my jet onto the lunch bag. I drew pictures of different things like the Statue of Liberty and towers and in the back I drawed buttons on it.

The coolest part was where I got to fold up the robot arms.

I think my robot is pretty cool. That's all that I think about my robot.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

old news, mom...

So Jabber and I were hanging out during Monkey's naptime reading our new books, and we were enjoying a little Ramona the Pest, which was one of his read-aloud picks this time around. I admit to gently encouraging the book, as it's about Ramona at age five, going to kindergarten for the first time, and Jabber is getting increasingly curious and apprehensive about kindergarten, which is to be expected.

So we're reading about Ramona's first day, and I'm explaining things like what it means to sit "for the present" and what "the dawnzer lee light" might be so the two of us can kind of giggle at Ramona and her silly naivete...

...and we get to the part where Ramona sees this boy, Davy, and instantly she decides that she would like to kiss him. I can't remember exactly how our conversation started, but essentially Jabber confessed to kissing Cute Girl from Daycare.

"Oh, did you kiss her on the cheek?" I asked.

"No, on the lips," he said, and his little mouth tweaked up at the corners like he wanted to smile but wasn't quite sure if that was cool or not. "I mean, Cute Girl's the one who said to kiss her on the lips."

We read a little more Ramona, and then the following exchange:

Me: So you kissed CuteGirl? Why?
Jabber: She told me to.
Me: So she told you to kiss her, and you just did?
Jabber: Seemed fun. She's the one who said it was to be on the lips.
Me: *cannot speak because she's holding back a laugh*
Jabber: I mean, half the time she doesn't even like me, Mom. But when she tells me to kiss her, I just do it.

I'm doing laundry now, so I have to go. Gotta fold all those little tiny kindergarten uniforms I just washed. Maybe I should check the pockets for condoms? Yikes. :P

Friday, July 10, 2009

This moment of momfail...

I have become a nagger. A ranter. A yeller. A font of negativity.

I have become that woman who rattles about the house flinging toys irritably in the direction of toyboxes while muttering things at a variety of volume levels--most of them sarcastic and an embarrassingly large number of them including the words "ungrateful" and "bend over backwards for you."

I have become a person who delivers long, angry monologues to a two-year-old. Who very obviously has no idea what I'm talking about anymore and clearly cannot remember the incident I'm ranting about.

I have become a mother who is out of patience, out of hope, out of tricks. Out of control.

This isn't meant to be a sad post, a poor-me post, really. I haven't ever really felt like being a mom is a competition. I'm not really interested in what my friends and neighbors think of me as a mom, as long as they keep it to themselves. I'm just interested in finding a way to actually enjoy being around my kids more often, to feel competent in my own right at being a parent. To feel like my kids are presentable--no, not in their appearance (so what if there's old oatmeal in Monkey's hair and Jabber has a snotty nose?), but in the more important things. Are they well-behaved in public? (No.) Do they have good manners? (No.) Are they, in general, kind to each other and other children? (No.) Do they listen to me when I try to keep them safe? (No.)

I know things aren't as bad as they seem. I know there are phases and extenuating circumstances. I know there are people raising twice as many, three times as many kids as me who are probably way more stressed out than I. I know I could definitely be screwing them up worse than I am.

But it's still no good. I feel like every moment I am with them (when they are awake) turns into a screaming match or a power struggle or a complete breakdown of everything good. I feel like I can't take them anywhere by myself, which makes me feel completely helpless and trapped here. When I do take them places--places I think will be a fun outing for us as a family--it ends up being a miserable disaster because they won't listen and be good and be safe, and then we get back to the nagging, the ranting, the yelling, the spouting of negativity. I don't know what to do.

So I'll just wait. And hope that eventually this too will pass. (And whine, I guess...)

Okay. Sometimes they're cute; I'll admit it. So here are two cute things they said lately to lighten this horribly negative and hopeless confessional of a post that I should really just delete.

One, I was talking to Monkey and used the word "frankly"--not exactly in most two-year-olds' vocabularies, I admit, but whatever, I'm not so good at speaking simply. So I said something like, "Well, frankly, I'm a bit surprised you managed to find that permanent marker and destroy yet another item that is precious to me in the four minutes it took me to shower." And he, indignant as only a toddler can be, stomped his tiny foot and said, "My name isn't FRANK! It's MONKEY!"

And two, (this one had David and I giggling for a while) Jabber was bouncing around the house, bored and determined that he should be watching television or something else we had forbidden at the moment, and he said, "There's nothing to do in this whole and tired house!" Well! I'd be tired too if I were almost a hundred years old and had to contain two fiery little boys, too!

I mean, I'm only 33, and they exhaust the hell out of me.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

up to our ears in hats...

We have a lot of hats.

Hats are awesome...they keep the sun off, they keep my ears warm, they keep the world from seeing that I still haven't washed my hair today. (Sadly, they cannot hide the fact that I'm not yet wearing actual pants...)

They also sort of drive me nuts, in that cluttery, never-to-be-found-in-the-same-place kind of way. Most mornings this school year, there's a distinct possibility of me actually getting to school on time, if only I had been able to locate all of the proper hats at the proper time. Our hat collection is impressive. Our organizational system for the hats is not.

In fact, it may be slightly telling to reveal that after that photo, I shoved the majority of those hats back on a shelf sandwiched in between a stray mukluk and a basket full of old batteries and pens that don't work.

I could have a hat storage area, maybe, like a hall closet or a mudroom. Except we don't have either of those, so the hats just sort of flutter down off of heads somewhere in the vicinity of the front door and then filter from there out into the home--landing on various hooks, chair backs, radiators, shelves, floors, and sometimes even toyboxes.

Truthfully, I'm sort of scared to store them too close to each other. What if they multiply?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Painting Pictures




Lazy picture post again today...sorry, I've been working on a new novel, and all my words keep getting diverted to this new creative venture...but we had some fun today while Jabber and David went "rambling" for the afternoon...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

monkeying around

Just a quick picture post from today...Jabber and his cousin enjoying our climbing tree.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

shackin' up


We moved Monkey's bed into Jabber's room today, and both boys seemed to enjoy the idea of it. Monkey jumped into the bed and pretended to sleep right away, so we let him try it, but the two boys got so wound up that it didn't work. Tomorrow night our niece will be sleeping in there maybe, so Monkey just went to sleep in our bed, like usual.

But here is Jabber showing off his new room. He was so excited by it, he asked me if he could "just sit and look at his room for a while." Luckily he hasn't asked for any of the toys I threw away in the process of cleaning and reorganizing his room!


And here's proof that I did try to organize the bookshelf. The boys each have a treasure chest on top full of all their favorite things!