Friday, December 31, 2010

wrapping it up--2010

Christmas Fireworks
One year ago today, I wrote a post outlining my writing goals for 2010.  I...could not even have imagined, 365 days ago, the thrilling successes I would experience--finding my dream agent, selling my YA debut, working with a brilliant editor, finishing a draft of another YA manuscript, meeting so many amazing writers (and having them come here, to my blog, to say hi and offer their support! WOW!)...and so much more.

I do think it's funny how cyclical writing is, though.  Case in point, my first goal last year:
I'd like to remain thoughtful, objective, gracious, and rational about anything that happens with this book.
This book?  At the time, it was known as The Dharma Bum Business, and shortly after I wrote that, Sarah Davies offered representation, and we started working hard to make the book the best it could be before putting it out on sub to editors.   The letter arrived--pages of questions, suggestions, cautions--pushing me to take my book to the next step.  I kept those words from my goal in mind (I'm not going to say I always succeeded, but I tried!), and they helped me as I revised the book now known as Kiss the Morning Star.

Thoughtful, objective, gracious, and rational.  Well, a year later, and I'm still pushing this book--still working to make it the best it can be, this time working with the feedback of my editor, Melanie Kroupa.  A year ago, I was close to putting this book away, "trunking" it.  I had gone through many revisions, many rounds of querying agents, and I thought I had pretty much done everything I could for it.

I have a long and unfinished post saved to my drafts folder about the process of this book becoming what it is, and someday, when the process is actually over, I may post it, but the moral of the story is...time and again, I have believed that the book is as good as I can make it, and time and again, I have been proven wrong.  And every time, the bar is higher, and the process is harder.  And I say those words like a mantra--thoughtful, objective, gracious, and rational.  And now, as I project this manuscript into a future where it will have a shiny cover and real pages and--OMG!--readers, who will be more than willing to give their feedback, I will cling to those words for support.

So I think that needs to be a permanent goal.

My other goals from last year were all accomplished:

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.
 Done!  And though I still love this ms., it is sitting to the side for now until it fits better into the plan (it's a fantasy story.)

Third writing goal is to decide on the next project.... I'd like to get one more novel rough drafted by the end of this year.
 Done! My Cassandra WIP needs another go-around of serious revision, but I finished a draft, showed it to Sarah, and I hope I will be able to wrestle it into a shape worthy of submitting during 2011!

And last is for me to keep working on the one story, you know the one.
 Done! Not much done, but this book is making baby steps in and among the other projects, and it still excites me.  In addition, I wrote half of my very first attempt at middle grade with my summer-camp ghost story WIP, In the Hanging Shack.  So overall, my 2010 was a year of writing.  Tomorrow I'll share my goals for 2011, since this post has rambled on long enough, but I think a few more of them will focus on the personal life outside of the writing life.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Took a short break from my editing (by the way:  AAAAAACKKKKK!!!) to sign my contract!  Hooray!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

dangerous sweets

If there's one thing I shouldn't hate about Christmas, it's the cookies.

In fact, I love the cookies, the candies, the sweet and elaborate creations that come from the kitchens of those amazing people who manage to carve out time during the busy holiday season to slave over double boilers and bubbling confections.  YUM.

But with Jabber's confirmed peanut allergy and both kids untested for all the tree nuts, I sort of find myself hating these goodies, or at least hating the danger and uncertainty they add to my son's life.

The thing is, we don't know--and I'm hoping we never find out--what will happen if Jabber eats a peanut.  We carry our epi-pens and antihistamine and keep our house safe from cross-contamination.  We set up health plans in the school and accompany him to birthday parties with his own safe cupcakes.  But even with all our preparations, there are so many things that could go wrong, so many variables we can't control.  And that's scary.

Christmas Eve, for example.  Jabber feels safe with all his family around, and I looked up and found him eating one of Grandma's sugar cookies.  Instantly, I jump up, confiscate the cookie, track down the plate he got it from, and inspect it for nuts.  Sure enough, there were peanut-butter cookies sharing the plate, but my mom assured me that she had personally chosen a cookie that wasn't touching any of them.  How sure am I that the cookies hadn't shifted at some point?  How do I tell my son, who is insisting he feels fine--and of course he insists, since those are good cookies, and everyone else is eating them!--that I don't feel comfortable with him eating it?  How do I explain later, when my grandma offers both boys cookies from another plate, that they aren't allowed to eat any of the treats?  How do I keep him safe from this entire family of people, all of whom are now potential dangers, walking around with peanut-butter cookie crumbs on their clothes, peanut proteins on their hands? 

It's hard to find the balance between keeping my child safe and depriving others (demanding that everyone wash their hands and all surfaces they have touched, locking the unsafe foods that people slaved over in a forbidden cupboard?)  It's hard to explain why we won't let Monkey eat any of the foods, either, even though we're not sure if he's allergic (why risk it?)  It's hard to speak up, and it's even harder when it's not family. 

At one point during the festivities, another child was eating a slice of potica at the "kid table", where Jabber and Monkey were eating, too.  I watched the crumbs going all over the tablecloth and imagined how someone could scatter those little walnut particles all over the living room with one unthinking movement as they collapsed the card table and got the room ready for present opening.  I thought about how my kids could be sitting there on that deep shag carpeting, opening their gifts, and have a reaction to the tiny allergens.  And it was so sad to have this delicious food suddenly turn in my mind to a very frightening enemy, as I carefully gathered up the cloth, washed the table and chairs, and double-checked that the bottle of antihistamine was handy.  What if I wasn't there?  What if I didn't see the potica, or know that it has nuts in it? 

How many people in Jabber's life will be walking around completely unaware of the fact that their food is potentially dangerous to him?  Is this any different from the hundreds of thousands of other dangers that could befall my children?  I'm not trying to be overly dramatic in this post, but I know parenting is a fearful journey for everyone--there is only so much we can do to keep them safe, and it only gets harder as they get older and move away from our control.  Sigh.

I don't hate Christmas cookies.  Thank you, to all those wonderful people who stirred and dipped and frosted and rolled and sprinkled and arranged their holiday sweets.  They were delicious.  And I'm just a little bit glad that they are gone.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Happy Birthday, Jabber!

When he was nearly three, Jabber patted my gigantic belly and said he would share his toys, he would share his bedroom, but he absolutely would NOT share his birthday with his little brother. So how did that work out for him?  Well, I have to admit that he only readily shares the toys he doesn't much care for.  And the two brothers only peacefully share their bedroom for about sixty seconds a day.  But when Monkey was born the day before Jabber's birthday--an act merely the beginning of a long series of "ME FIRST" moments--Jabber handled the situation with a graceful sort of resignation.  He the best of his abilities, a kind and patient and generous big brother. 

One thing Jabber savors is stories.  Over the last couple of nights, we've been telling stories of the kids as babies, and Jabber hangs on every word.  He loves to listen to a book read out loud, especially books about heroes just a teensy bit more adventurous than he.  He feels deeply, right along the characters, his whole body twisting with anxiety when the action gets tense.  For a while he hated reading--cried and freaked out every time he was asked to do it. He could read.  He could sound out the words.  But it was so much effort--how can you enjoy a story when you have to sound it out letter by letter?  I fought him to get the homework done, and I simply hated the fact that our favorite activity, story time, was turning into a stressful battle. 

Finally I managed to get to the bottom of this issue and I talked with him about how, once you get a lot of practice at reading, you can identify whole words or phrases in one glance.  We used the word automaticity, and he giggled as he said it.  We started reading each page in a book in unison, twice, and then he would read it on his own in his "automatic reading voice."  Which meant fast.  Instantly, all our fights about reading disappeared.  Jabber wanted to practice reading so that he could get automatic: he just wanted to move beyond the letter-by-letter decoding stage and back into the enjoying stories stage.

I can't believe how far he has come in the last year, between age six and age seven.  I look at him sometimes, or overhear some tidbit of wisdom he is either mumbling aloud or trying out on me, and I can't even believe he's for real.  He's such a thinker.

This morning we were, as we often are, running late for work.  It was his birthday, and I was trying to go easy on him, to let him enjoy the feeling of waking up with the whole day belonging to him. But the clock keeps ticking, and the van needs scraping, and the younger brother--tired out from his own ME FIRST birthday--is grumpy, and...well.

"Jabber," I said, as he stood in the bathroom with his toothbrush in his hand, in exactly the same position I'd left him five minutes earlier.  "Why aren't you doing anything? Come ON."

"But I was doing something," he said, slowly lifting his toothbrush up to his mouth.

"You were not doing anything," I argued.  "You were just standing there, holding your brush."

"I was thinking," he said.  And of course he was.

(It's a Pikachu cake)
Happy Birthday, my Daydreamer!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Happy Birthday, Monkey!

Monkey is four today, and it's a ridiculously busy week, like it always is on his birthday.  Midterms have gone out, so my inbox is full of dutiful parents checking up on their children's assertions that they have, indeed, completed and turned in all that work that was missing, and the students themselves are in rare, pre-holiday form.  Sickness has trampled its way through the family and back again.  We are behind on every possible mundane task imaginable, and I remember--

--I remember a very similar week, four years ago.  Monkey still wasn't due for several weeks, but I had a feeling he was coming early, so I had been working like a crazy person to get sub plans in place that could be stepped into at any time, and by anyone, in case my sub wasn't ready yet when I went into labor.

Sure enough, I remember one morning--the day before Jabber's third birthday--when I got up and thought, "Oh, no way.  I really cannot see how I am possibly going to keep doing this for the next week and a half." It felt like there was no possible way there was even a millimeter more room in my abdomen to house that lively child, and there wasn't a chance that I was going to be able to find the energy to complete a single thing that evening.  Nothing, that is, except labor and birth.

And then...everything stopped.  Life grew slow and syrupy sweet, and whole stacks of hours passed doing nothing more productive than snuggling and gazing and nursing. 

He's still that person, even at his craziest, most frenetic pace.  He can stop time, for a while--erase obligations--with the magic of his hugs. 

Happy Birthday, Snuggle-Buggle. 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Portals Arrived on the Young Heroes' Birthday...

What perils will the Heroes face? What adventures will they have? Happy Birthday with the family--Saturday, December 11, 2010.

Thank you, Aunt Sharon! 

Friday, December 10, 2010

sick day homeschool

So all three of us were out sick today with a creepy, fever-cough flu-thing, so I was lying in my bed drifting in and out of consciousness while the boys were supposed to be "resting" in their bedroom.

Before long, I heard some rather organized imagination play going on.  From the sounds of it, Jabber and Monkey were playing school.

For a while, things went well.  Jabber got out some paper and pencils and labored to teach his brother the art of  proper letter formation.

Jabber:  Oh!  That's a very nice E!  Normally, we only use three lines going across, but you got it facing the right way and everything.

Monkey: *makes siren noise*

Jabber:  Monkey! It's time to do the R!  Come on.  Start with one line down, like this.

Monkey:  WhoooooooooOOOOOOOOoooooooo!

Jabber:  Are you even listening to me?  Monkey!  Monkey.  Come on.  This is serious.  See my R?  See if you can do it just like that.

Monkey:  *jumps up and down*

Jabber: You can't make your R look right while you're jumping.  Please sit down.  PLEASE SIT DOWN!

Monkey:  I did it already!  I'm done!  I'm done! *jump jump jump*

Jabber: (exasperated)  MONKEY.  Where is your paper??

Monkey:  (completely unconcerned comment tossed out in between his enthusiastic gun-shooting sound effects)  Oh, that paper?  I dunno.  I threw it on the floor over there somewhere.

Jabber:  What?  We don't throw our papers on the floor, Monkey.  You have to turn them in to your teacher.

Monkey:  *cackles loudly, interspersed with more gun sound effects*  Well, go pick it up then.  I don't care.  SCHOOL IS BORRRRRRING!


Oh, dear.  That is all.