Monday, December 31, 2007

The Big Question: Art or Commerce?

So, a dear friend of mine posed a question on the BB last week: If a genie granted you one WIP wish, would you rather have your published novel be a commercial blockbuster or a literary classic? How would you choose? (Thanks Franny!)

Difficult question. All my life I've been that idealist who wants nothing less than artistic divinity. But of course, I'm no George Orwell or William Shakespeare, etc., so I have to accept that reality. Sorry, can't suspend my disbelief quite that far. But then again, who says the two things have to be mutually exclusive?

One fellow writer decided commercial success was the one way he could get paid and keep writing what he loves. He further added that he couldn't stand to have his work dissected by scholarly know-it-alls (what? English teachers like me? Naaa!) Of course my brainiac husband pointed out that the world of YA fiction rarely ever registers with the scholarly crowd, and of course I argued otherwise. But he did have a point. Of course JK Rowling has been the subject of plenty of scholarly debate, at least I would call it that. And as far as I'm concerned, she has both in her pocket. The HP saga will find its place in the classic canon, one way or another.

But then, I am the one who wants it all, as foolish as that may be. But I also realize that I have a lot more writing to do before I ever hone it to a point even on the outskirts of art. So what would I choose? The romantic in me wants to live on through my work. Hand me that classic, Mr. Newberry. But the practical part of me has seen poverty up close and would much rather have something for my kids besides potential riches after I'm dead. At least I would like to keep writing and not starve. So what's the answer? I guess I'll have to wait and see what 2008 brings. I have a feeling it's going to be a good year!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Marauding Mushrooms, Electronic Dinosaurs...and Pigs! it is. As per Just Mom's request. The Pig! My daughter has been playing with non-stop, and just now asked me to find a Wilbur game for her on the computer--so she can keep the pig vibe happening. Now she wants a red elephant, and my son wants a horse--color yet to be determined. It's good therapy for my anyway. Keeping my fingers nimble and giving me some relaxation, which I sorely need.

Oh! And here's our little mushroom warrior preparing to take on the big boys in the back yard. So what if it's 38 degrees out! A pair of wellies and a warm coat are just the ticket for a backyard battle.


Mushrooms and Dinosaurs, Oh My!

My husband left on Thursday for his first interview and the MLA conference. My children spent the day dazzling me with their unbelievable resourcefulness and creativity. My 6-year-old ran around in a pair of lime-green capris, a t-shirt that reads "No Monkey Business; Bingo's Pet Shop--Going Bananas since 4000 B.C.," and a mushroom hat on her head. No kidding! A mushroom hat. She made the hat at the Winter Fair as part of a story. Meanwhile, my son is building a remote-control dinosaur out of Legos, until his buddy comes for a visit and all three of them run around with swords and capes and play hide-n-seek (the boys are 10--what good boys!). And what am I doing? Knitting a pig! Yep, I taught myself how to knit a few weeks ago, and now I'd like to do something a little more adventurous than great, long, rectangles. So, I followed a pattern and knit a pig. My daughter has been holding it and squeezing it ever since!

So where is my writing in all of this? In my head, ruminating. I was sick all during Christmas, so I'm giving myself a few more days to get my energy back and my brain fresh. Of course I've been a little pre-occupied with my DH's job search as well. He'll be back late tomorrow, but I can never sleep when he's gone. We have heard so little, and it's really making it hard to be positive, but I keep telling him, there will be more. I know there's a wonderful job waiting for him. I just hope it's not in the middle of the tundra!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Party's over--whew!

Yes, yesterday was full of parties, songs, games, and a lot of tears. It was my last day as a Waldorf teacher. The children were a hoot. They had so much fun. And of course it was sad. As hard as this job has been, I felt so connected to them. Perhaps it's because it was so hard that I feel so close to them. And to their parents. I got a tremendous group hug at the very end of the day--8 or so children gathered around and squeezing me tight. I said it so quietly, but they heard it. "I could use 100 of these." Yep, those little sweeties squeezed me 100 times, counting each hug at the top of their lungs. They gave me some beautiful gifts, too. This is an experience unlike any other.

It was my son's last day there, too, and his classmates surprised him. One friend kept him busy on the playground while the others decorated his desk and pulled up the rocking chair, laying fur over it and preparing it like a throne. When he came into the room, they all yelled "Surprise!" and gave him a bag full of gifts. They really treated him like a prince. The Waldorf school creates more than a community. It creates a huge family.

This has been such a hard year, but I feel truly blessed. So much love! And of course, now that it's all over, I'm getting sick with that nasty cold. Just in time for Christmas. Now to sleep until Santa arrives...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Still working it...

So I have yet to finish going over my MS before sending it to Blooming Tree Press. I hope my delay does not quash their interest. It's been so difficult to get it where I want it while I'm winding down my teaching. But there we are--a new 3rd grade teacher has been hired and next friday, the 21st, will be my last day as a third grade teacher. After the Thanksgiving holiday, I had some energy...for a few days--and thought "Am I just a wimp?" But it did not take long before the fatigue took over my body again and my feet began to hurt and other RA symptoms crept up. So that's it. If I could work one day a week, I would probably be able to do it, but of course that ain't gonna happen!

I'm glad they were able to find a replacement so quickly. She will be great, and she is a familiar face to everyone. She has been working as a support teacher for the middle school, so she knows the Waldorf ropes. But as I got the final word tonight, I found myself a jumble of emotions. I have to fight that feeling that I am a failure and try not to dwell on such thoughts. I am incredibly sad to be leaving these kids. As challenging as some of them are, I've grown to love them all so much. I am relieved that a good person will be taking them forward.

We are still waiting to see where DH will be next. Worried that the academic career is over (though I really don't think that will happen). Hoping we don't end up in the tundra somewhere!

Anyway, I'll press on and hope that this book finds a home and I get a real start in publishing soon. And I'll keep thinking positive for the whole job search and future plans. Now I think I'll go have a glass of wine and a good cry...then I'll be fine!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Yippee! A chance!

Well a couple of days ago I got a fabulous email from Blooming Tree Press requesting a full manuscript of my first YA novel. They put out a limited call for manuscripts in November, so I took a chance. I revised the first chapter one more time, suffered through the synopsis process (as you all read), and wrote a cover letter. I sent it off via email and in a few days got that fabulous response. So, as I write this, I am taking a break from putting a quick revision on the remaining chapters before I email the whole MS to Blooming Tree. I wish I could take a few weeks, but with school duties and such, even that would be difficult. So I am trying to get it close to what I would like it to be over this weekend.

Having distance from this story for a while helped me to take a fresh look at it now. I know what needs to be done. It's just a matter of having time to do it right. I will have the time after Christmas, but I can't wait that long to send them the full ms. So wish me luck that I can at least get something good enough to show them what this story can be.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

I know this has been a hotly debated topic in some circles, but as the deadline of the departure from my job grows nearer, I have been thinking about the dilemma many moms face these days--whether to work outside the home or stay at home with the kids. I have done both, and it certainly gets harder with each child. I loved teaching, but when I had my son, I was ready to stay home and grow a family. For the first 3 years I continued teaching and taking care of the family. With DH in graduate school, I had a lot on my plate, but I was able to do it reasonably. Then came the RA, sucking the energy right out of every cell in my body. Then came my daughter. At this point I gave up the job and in no time we were living on the poverty line until DH finished the Ph.D. and got his first professorship.

I've been writing and editing from home for the past 6 years and doing my best to take care of the home and family. I enjoy all of this. But of course there's the financial cost--no measurable second income. I went back to work to give my kids a better education (private school tuition--whew!). But, as a friend put it so well, the stress of it all has awakened the sleeping giant (RA) and I just can't continue. If I work, I have nothing left for my family at the end of the day, and I mean nothing.

But even without the disease, it's a hard choice to stay at home or go to work. I have always been a worker. I know it's not the same for everyone, but I always felt I had to work to be worth anything. Yes, this statement would offend many people. Blame it on my rotten childhood.

But now I see what a huge impact I have on my family. If I'm unhappy or stressed or exhausted, the whole family really suffers. (We won't even talk about the 6-foot dust bunnies crouching under the furniture!) This family needs me to hold it together, especially now. I just wish I could do it all--work and contribute some income and manage the house and the emotional needs of my family. But I can't. I am choosing to be that mom who can drop everything and run to collect a sick child at school or race around to this appointment or that one or just be available to bring the snack in on Tuesday. (as long as my own health cooperates, anyway.)

My writing feeds my soul, and I've been starving since I went back to teaching. Taking care of my family fills my heart, and I haven't been able to do that since I started teaching. It's interesting that we have to weigh everything with a completely different set of scales when we become parents. I love being a mom. I love writing. I love teaching. I can't do it all.

I guess I'm just thinking out loud, here. It's just interesting that I long for those things that my mother so freely abandonned. She didn't want to take us to the doctor or come to our basketball games or cook deeply satisfying meals. She had a career that she clearly chose first. If that sounds bitter, it is. But my choice is about more than doing a better job than my mother. It's about doing the job, period. Being a mom is a huge career, full of meetings and schedules and presentations and negotiations. How can anyone be expected to do all of that in two different place--at home and at the office?

Some people can, and at one point I was able to do it pretty well. But other factors have now forced me to truly make a choice. And I've made it. With a full and glad heart, I have chosen my path.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Time to Retreat...

I don't know how many drafts of the synopsis I've written and trashed, but I give up! After writing and re-writing whole new drafts of the blasted thing, I've gone back to my original and I'm just going to send it in to Blooming Tree Press, the mess that it is. I just can't look at it anymore. The holiday has fed my belly well, but my creativity is a little dry right now. Probably from all the stress of the job/health crisis and making the final decisions.

Anyway, I'm rambling in chaos now, but I will send off my little chapter and synopsis and just hope the editors can see something worth having in there. What I really want to do right now is read. Just dive into the stack of YA books I haven't read yet and get lost for a while. But it will have to wait until after Christmas.

I am leaving my job at that time, but my DH will also be preparing to leave his as he heads to MLA for some interviews (we hope!) In the meantime, my health is still rough and I'm hoping Christmas will bring some sorely needed rest and better blood test results. (RA stinks!)

Shake it all off...good thoughts, now!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

That Dreaded Synopsis Business...Again!

With my latest YA novel on the desk of my favorite editor, who is swamped for the time being, I've decided to throw my first YA back into the mix and submit it to the Blooming Tree Press open call. But there it is again--the synopsis question. I've revised the first chapter again and now I have to get that dreaded synopsis worked out before I can press the "send" button. I've read a number of suggestions (and I'll take more) but am still eluded by that "magic formula."

I've quoted a tidbit from the first chapter to introduce the primary question of the plot. But now what? I find myself wanting either to spill all the details or hold back too much. How do I find that happy medium? What does an editor really want to see?

I've marked today for answering that question. So off I go to tap my way to enlightenment on my laptop.

Here's hoping I find it.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Birthday thoughts...

So it is, indeed, my birthday. I'm not afraid to admit my age--43. And despite the drama of the past several weeks, I feel tremendously blessed. One of my dearest blessings, apart from the unfathomable joy of my children and the love of my man, is a particular friendship that started almost the instant we moved to Pennsylvania. I met Lee on Connor's first day of kindergarten. She had a baby on her hip as she was ushering her 5-year-old into the classroom for the first time, same as me. Our children were the same age, and Lee and I were of the same heart--full of artistic drive and passion for our children and the gifts this life has to offer--even though she stands about a foot taller than I.

She is an artist, an entrepenuer, a vivacious spirit who has untold depths of kindness and optimism. I am so thankful that I met her. She now manages an art gallery in town and is phenomenal at her job. But even more, she is a phenomenal friend. I have been lucky to have been blessed by a few such friends in my life. My oldest friend, Lisa Joy, and I have known each other since we were 9 years old, and we still talk as though we've never been apart, even if she does live 5 states away.

I guess what I mean to say is that on this day that I get to celebrate chance to be a part of this world, I am counting my blessings in friends. And I have met so many here on-line. You have given me strength, courage, inspiration, and lots and lots of hope. Not to mention a little faith in my own writing. So tonight, I will raise a glass to all of you and let my heart be glad of all that I do have at this moment.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Don't know much...

i'm not sure what to write today; I just feel the need to write. Autumn is finally blowing into town, bringing with it a drastic barometric plunge and blustery winds. Along with the wind, the personalities of my students have blown into the dust. Back to harsh tones and rude comments to each other. Where did our form go? More practice.

The date is drawing near when my family's fate is more officially sealed. I meet with the powers that be next Tuesday and explain my plans and trudge through all the muddy emotions that will make the next 6 weeks almost unbearable. Despite their lapse in manners, my students have become very dear to me. I harbor tremendous guilt either way, but I have to come down on the side of my family and my need to be an effective wife and mother, especially in this time of transition. My own family has got to come first.

On the brighter side of things, our prospects are looking more promising than we originally thought. The possibility of staying in East Pete are slim to none, but potential roosts include: Rochester, NY; Lewiston, Maine; Ashville, NC, Tuscon, AZ, a few spots in Virginia. Some of them may be a real blessing, especially Rochester, which is, after all, the setting of my masterpiece YA! Think of the added research possiblities for my next one!

Ok--bearing up. Ready to face it. (I think I can...I think I can...)

Monday, October 08, 2007

Waiting for a Storm--of Good News...

You know the saying, "When it rains, it pours..." Well it poured all over me this weekend. Bad news, that is. Not about the book, but about virutually everything else. Suffice it to say, our world could be changing dramatically over the next 7 months or so. I don't want to get into details here, but that change could include a move to a new city, though I am hoping that does not happen.

When I got the worst of the news, it was a very strange feeling. What I would imagine it is like when you are free-falling after jumping out of an airplane: hovering weightless over the clouds, all the breath snatched away from you for a moment, but no pain. Just being. Though this could be devastating, I think the change that is about to happen could be a very good thing, and I'm going to believe in that. It's really the only thing to do.

So, I know that I will not be teaching next year. I'm hoping that my book will be in the process of publication by fall. I'm praying that we will find our way to an excitingly good situation. I know this mess will all blow over, but I'm ready for a storm of good news to balance the typhoon of bad news we just encountered over the weekend.

There is no wisdom in this post, just endless hope.

Let it rain...

Saturday, September 29, 2007

A Knock-Out Saturday!

Halleluia! SCBWI-EPA held their annual Fall Philly Conference today, and it was fabulous! Just what I needed. Dianne Ochiltree gave a wonderful presentation on developing a picture book with punch, agent Stephen Barabara shared his wit and wisdom on the 7 Habits of Effective Writers, Joyce Moyer Hostetter showed us the STEPS to writing historical fiction, and Laurie Halse Anderson doled out a heaping helping of inspiration.

Boy did I need this day! Hats off to Laurie K.K and Marilyn H. and all the people who made it happen. Every topic hit the spot and fed my soul. I know how hard it is to put such a dynamic package together. And I wonder what other writers would like to see at a conference. Anybody have a topic they would like to explore?

It was great to meet some fellow blueboarders--hey Deena and Natisha and Jennifer! Saw more friends from the Poconos Retreat and met some new ones, too. The panel of editors offered some good clear advice, though I did not submit anything for critique (considering my fragile psyche these last few weeks, that's probably a good thing!).

I'll add more details later, but I'll leave this post with a thankful sigh and a bit of wisdom from Laurie Halse Anderson's DH: When Laurie injured herself this summer and could not run a race she was training, she was bummed and frustrated, as we would all be. Her DH told her, "The point is not to run that race; the point is to run the rest of your life."


Sunday, September 23, 2007


You all know that this transition back into teaching has been a tough one. I expected it to be very different from my previous experience, but I had no idea how draining it would be. I still don't know if I am cut out for this. I keep thinking they meant to call someone else...they pulled the wrong name from the pile. What did they see in me? There are good days when things come together and we all have fun together (my 14 students and I). But...

So the second part of my nervous breakdown...Am I going to lose my momentum? I want to start researching my next book, but frankly, I'm too exhausted to even get my own PJ's on in time for bed! I imagine that things will calm down soon and it won't be so overwhelming, but what if it doesn't? I feel as though I'm losing my grip on the writing world, which I have worked so hard to grab on to.

Of course I now begin the waiting game as well with my latest YA sitting on a desk at Philomel waiting to be judged. I know the editor is swamped, now, so my ill-fated dream of a faster response (because the sub was invited) are destined to ride the 4-month tidal wave of anticipation.

Anyone out there in blogland swimming in conflicting responsibilities and desires?

Friday, September 14, 2007

The WIP has left the building!

Yep, my rambling brat has officially hit the post and is on her way to New York. I finally put the last revision my baby, but it has taken me a week to get up enough energy to get the dang package in the mail. This teaching thing is killing me. I loved teaching at the college and teaching high school, but I'm not sure what's going to happen with this teaching 3rd grade stuff. Oi!

Anyway, I phoned ahead to the editor's assistant to let her know that the book was on its way. Why, might you ask, could I make such a call? Well, I was fortunate enough last summer to work with Patti Lee Gauch at the Chautauqua Writers Workshop, and she invited me to submit my MS and to call ahead so it would skip the slush pile. Of course I realize there are no guarantees, here, but at least I have a little encouragement and a spark of hope. This is my best work so far, and I really hope it finds a good home soon. my stomach will churn with spastic nerves as I worry whether I am doing irreparable damage to these poor 3rd graders as well as whether my book will be available on the shelves sometime in the next 2 years. All I really want to do is get started on the next book, but school is sucking every ounce of energy out of me for now. (but that's another story...)

Breath, MA, breath...

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Final Edit

I'm least I think I am. The last two weeks have been jammed full of teaching preparations while my two readers have worked their way through my finished manuscript, and now the time has come. Tomorrow I am dedicating the day to working through some edits. So far, I don't have anything major to work out, but a few transition points need more finesse.

Then my "rambling brat" shall be on her way to find a home, with any luck, at a reputable publishing house. I'll not call her the "ill-form'd offspring of my feeble brain" (though my thanks to Anne Bradstreet for the lovely imagery!) for the simple reason that I believe in her. This is the best bit of writing I've ever done. But I know there will be more. (okay...I HOPE there will be more!)

So I shall wash thy face once more, rub out the last defect apparent to mine own eye, though others are sure to find imperfections simply because they seek them. I shall send you out of doors well-loved and well-dressed.



Sunday, August 12, 2007

Done, done, DONE!!!

I am finally done with my three weeks of hell. If anyone is considering taking an online course, don't think it's a cake walk. I knew it would not be a breeze, but taking 2 courses in three weeks was absolutely insane! But I finished my requirements and now I have to send everything to the state for my provisional license.

So I can finally see my family again. I can finally enjoy my daughter's whimsical rantings instead of screaming at her because I'm too frazzled about the next powerpoint presentation I have to come up with or the 400 pages I need to read by Friday. I can finally give my son (who looks more like my daughter right now!) a haircut!! And my hubby...well, he'll finally get a little attention, too.

And the book! DH is still reading (what's taking him so long?!), but I'm just about ready to send it out to Patti anyway. And today, I'm going out with the whole family for some hangin' out. One stop will be the pet store, where my son hopes to get a Robo Dwarf hamster.

Anyway...I'm baaaack!!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Pig Heaven

Well, I'm taking a breath just long enough to guide my little family through a tragedy. Today, our beloved guinea pig, Pogo, met her maker. She was almost 5 years old, and my son was just recently beginning to really bond with her. He had taken over some of the responsibilities, very happily, so he feels a little cheated as well as sad. My daughter first thought it was a curious thing, death... Then she realized she could get a little more attention if she keened like an old Irish waif, and then it just got away from her and she really cried. My son drew a picture memorizializing little Pogo, and he'll weep for a while, off and on.

DH dug the hole, and we had a grave-side service. Connor said a lovely prayer and Maisie told Pogo about her new build-a-bear toy she got in her happy meal and hoped that Pogo could have one in heaven. It was sweet, except for the police helicopter that kept buzzing overhead (still don't know what that was all about--maybe they thought we had dug up Jimmy Hoffa!).

I'm in the midst of a panic over finishing my classes, so I'm not sure if all my grief was bound for the little pig in the sky-blue sheet going to her final rest under our pine tree. I have about 4,000 words to write between now and Monday, so before I pull all my hair out, I'll end this sad little post.

Pray that I am still sane come Monday...and that I still have hair!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Quick Update...

I'm not a pessimist...just realistic. I did NOT win the synopsis contest. Oh, well. Now to send it to the editor I worked with last year. (At least I won't have to share my royalties!)

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Coming Up for Air!

Whew! Week one down, two more to go. I think I've read 400 pages of educational theory in the last week, as well as developing a comprehensive lesson plan and creating a power point presentation and answered several discussion questions and written summaries, and logged into thread discussions 100 times...{{pant...pant}} Good news is...I got an "A" on my first big assignment. I know, that shouldn't matter, but I can't help it. I can't stand to do a job halfway.

Today, I went into my class room and painted...not the walls...lovely watercolor pictures. Well, mine wasn't so lovely, but it sure felt good. One of my new colleagues gave us a class on painting so we can figure out how to do it with our kids. I'm feeling better about it all the time, though I have a ton to do.

But I'm still smiling because my book is done! I'm about to plunge back into my studies. My DH left tonight for Vermont where he will be attending a conference with few other colleagues from the college. He won't be back until Sunday...blah! I just hope my kids can deal with a scatter-brained mama for the next 5 days. My 10-year-old can handle anything, but my 6-year-old might need a little more attention.

Now...deep breath...diving back in....

{{{ SPLASH }}}

Friday, July 27, 2007

Working through the Flu

Just stopping for a minute of air. On Tuesday, I started my courses--two intensive 3-credit courses in elementary methods--and along with the work came a stomach flu. I'm still not quite right, but I'm getting there. Spent most of Wednesday in the bathroom and most of the last three nights in fitful dreams and restless sleep. And the coursework...oi! It's a bit overwhelming, but I have no just but to plow on through.

Fond remnants of Harry Potter play in the back of my mind, just to keep me sane. And of course my own, now complete masterpiece!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Can We Say Productive?

What a weekend! So, I collected my sacred copy of HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS at Midnight on Friday, immediately read 100 pages before hitting the sack. Got up early on Saturday and drove to my DH's office at the college to get some quality quiet so I could finish the last chapter of my own WIP and totally revamp my synopsis. Achieved that goal. (Wahoo!) Returned home in time to take the family out for some Mexican dinner (no cooking for me!). Read a couple of chapters of HP to my son before immersing myself in the rest of it while he dreamed little dreams of broomsticks and horcruxes.

Woke up on Sunday and started reading, taking a break to finalize the synopsis and email it and the first chapter back to the contest. DH took care of dinner (What a guy! Brought me tea and bickies, too!)


Thank you Jo Rowling. I am satisfied and sufficiently gratified.

So what did everyone else do this weekend?

Saturday, July 21, 2007


My book is complete. Oh, how hard it is to say goodbye to these people who have lived in my head for so long. I see their faces. I hear their voices. Yes, I know I'll see them again--more revisions, in my dreams, on the shelf at the bookstore! The dead are buried and the living are on their way. And yes, people die in this book. But it's done!

Whew! Now I have to rework my synopsis and hope I don't drive myself completely insane with it. How do you crystalize 277 pages into 1 or 2 pages that still have that voice, still elicit such emotion? I have yet to discover the answer to that one. But I'll keep trying.

And don't'll find no spoilers for the Deathly Hallows here. My lips are sealed (on page 150 at this point!).


That's the sound of the air being let out of my balloon. After collecting my dearly awaited copy of HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS last night at midnight, I logged on to YAFiction to discover that the prize was not yet awarded--but there was a note! Apparently no one's synopsis really stood out, so the founder of the site has decided to extend the contest another 10 days to allow for revisions and more entries.

Nothing stood out?! Oh figs! I guess I have more work to do than I thought. So now, I have to finish my last chapter (only a couple of pages away!), revamp my synopsis, AND read Harry Potter over the next 3 days, before my course work gets started. Excuse me for a moment...


Okay, I think I can handle it. I'll be back...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Harry Potter and the Secret of the Hopeful E-Mail...

So Friday should reveal a couple of nagging secrets that have haunted my dreams for the last 2 weeks! Yes, I will be in line at midnight to collect my pre-ordered copy of HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS. But before I march out into the darkness, I hope to have news of the YAFiction contest. We just got the post that the decision will be made and announced on Friday, July 20th. A few more days to hold my breath. In the meantime, I had a fabulous weekend with my revisions and am now standing on the threshold of true completion--well, at least of this draft! I am hoping to squeak out some time over the next couple of days to finish it up. Then I'll be truly ready for whatever comes next. Keep those fingers crossed just a little bit longer!

Monday, July 16, 2007

My New Passion--Archery!

Since I was a wee one, I have always wanted to try archery, but as far as my father was concerned, my Red Ryder BB gun was enough. So I spent my entire childhood deprived...well, that may seem a bit melodramatic, but to a kid, that was a big deal. Now that my son has spent a few cub scout meetings at the archery range, my husband has become obsessed and decided that with some of the extra money from teaching a summer course, he would satisfy his obsession and mine. He was thrilled when I told him I had always wanted to give it a go, and before we knew, both of us were well armed for the sport.

In my first outing, I shot I don't know how many arrows before I realized that a huge welt was growing on my forearm, a nice little token from my bow string slapping my arm. I was having so much fun that I never noticed my bursting blood vessels! A week later, I have a lovely green patch, still tinged with a delicate hint of purple, about the size of a kiwi. The solution? An arm guard.

Yesterday, we went out in the morning and shot for a while at a target in our back yard. It was my first adventure since we were outfitted at the shop last week, so my first shots were a bit erratic. Take a close look at that target...the purple arrow smack dab in the middle is mine! Bullseye!

Do you think Robin Hood has room for a Merry Maiden?

Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Synopsis--Holding my breath until the 15th!

Well, I just hit the send button and the synopsis of my latest book is flying through cyberspace towards the generous founder of in hopes of a chance at representation. Yep! is having a contest for its members wherein the winning synopsis gets to submit the synopsis and first chapter to Maya Rock at Writer's House for consideration and/or critique. I've been revising the ms and the synopsis all day, trying to carve out that writer's time I've been worrying about. I can't believe it's already after 4:00 in the afternoon. I'm only halfway through chapter 12! But I got the contest piece out there, so wish me luck!

Now to forge ahead with the rest of the story... (thank you Paul Harvey, wherever you are!)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

It's official: I'm an American!

You Passed the US Citizenship Test

Congratulations - you got 10 out of 10 correct!

OK--so I was born here, but it's nice to know I remember a few things about our history. Thanks to Aisha for the fun diversion from my crazy deliberations over the job. Still have swollen eyes and an upset stomach...but it's coming. The resolution, I mean.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Well, It's All Hittin' the Fan, Now!

Yes, indeedy. Got a call last night regarding my certification and what 's required for the job I just got. Apparently, I needed Elementary certification, and of course, I have secondary certification. I don't have any elementary methods coursework, and that is what is necessary to even get the ball rolling. I wish I would have known that before, but everyone assumed that a license was a license. I've been a wreck. Spent most of last night crying over it, and even more so at my husband's disappointment that I won't fight through it. I just don't have it in me right now. I know my limitations. And while I think I can do a good job of it, I don't want to commit myself to a whole new life that will nix my writing and take me away from my family even more. More money is just not worth it. I want quality of life.

So, we're back to planning another year of scrimping to get by, trying to find ways to pay the bills and get at least my daughter in the private school. I can teach at the college. They still have classes open, though I may have less choice in the schedule. It's not much pay, but it would keep me open for other things. Since I went to the training last week, I have felt overwhelmed about the Waldorf job, afraid that I don't have it in me to meet their expectations and mine. Sure, everyone says, "Oh M.A., you'll be fabulous!" I know they mean well, and I believe they mean what they say, but I need comfort and validation of my emotions. My gut is trying to tell me something, and it has never been wrong.

So, here I stand--a disappointment to my DH, and an emotional wreck. He's trying to be supportive, and put away his own financial worries. Right now, I just need to plunge back into my manuscript and find myself again. That is where I need to live.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The MEME...

Okay, I've been tagged by Linda, so here it goes:

The rules: Each player lists 8 facts/habits about themselves. The rules of the game are posted at the beginning before those facts/habits are listed. At the end of the post, the player then tags 8 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

1. In 1985 (in a galaxy too long ago...) I rode a horse named Troy in the IURCA Irish National Championships, taking and individual third place and leading the team to a first place win, complete with cool trophy! If any of you don't know, I am a horse nut and have gone through some serious withdrawal since I had to sell my girl 5 years ago. BTW--I lived in Ireland for a year.

2. I love to cook, but I don't really care for baking. Rachel Ray is sort of a touchstone for me. I watch. I think. Then I wing my own creation. As far as baking, I have a good track record with home-made pie, but after school, the kids get cookies from a celophane package.

3. When I was in junior high school, Dan Quayle signed the back of my campaign t-shirt. My mother was head of the GOP in our town and had a huge fundraiser for him when he was running for congress. Okay...not particularly proud of that one, but what are you gonna do?

4. My husband and I hooked up because he rear-ended some other woman on his way to work. See? Sometimes bad stuff does happen for a reason! Seriously, he was new in town and glancing at the map on his way into the college where we were both teaching. Map, road, map, road, map, CAR! BANG! So, when he got to the orientation meeting, he stood up and shyly explained that he needed a lift for the next meeting because his car had just been towed to the shop. I don't know what it was, but something moved me to volunteer...and the rest is history.

5. I was a hopeless tomboy as a child--no frilly girl stuff for me!--and as a result, I have a plethora of lovely scars, though thankfully most of them are discreet. 3 scars on my chin (I kept falling on my face!); One finger that was almost cut off in a car door (2nd grade); lots of lesser but well-earned war wounds; a broken foot; a broken nose (which looks better now than it did before!--and I was 23 at the time and playing on a softball team).

6. My 10-year-old son still thinks his Mama is perfect (don't know how I managed that), though his sister is onto me.

7. My favorite home-cooked meal is pot roast with carrots, potatoes, and celery the way my mom taught me how to make it.

8. The house I grew up in was haunted by the ghost of a young Miami Indian boy. Ask me about it sometime...

So there you have it. I don't think I have 8 people to tag who haven't already been tagged, so don't worry if you've already been hit: Momma Roar, Gail, Stella, Judy, and Jess. (That's all I have for now.)

Friday, June 22, 2007


Ta Da!!! Yep, that's right. Yours truly was just offered the part of my benefits, my kids go to the school tuition free!!! I'm thrilled. I'm excited. I'm absolutely and utterly terrified! Everyone has been so nice, and one of the teachers has already called to welcome me. How awesome is that?

So...Sunday afternoon, I have to ship out for Chestnut Ridge, NY for the next week to attend an intensive training workshop. Wow! I can hardly catch my breath. But my man is so awesome. He came home loaded down with his work, prepared to man the battleship while Mama is away. Not only was he loaded down with all his work, but he came bearing Roses and Champagne, too! (big cheesy smile, here!!)

We have been struggling for so many years to make ends meet. Finally, we can take a financial breath. My biggest worry, though, is how much will my writing suffer? I will simply have to make the time. Carve it out of whatever block of cheese lands in my way. (don't know where that strange metaphor came from...) My summer has a whole new look to it. A big, hairy, scary look! But I will get my revisions done AND prepare for the job. Somehow I will make it work. So, unless you are blind or really thirsty for some death-defying fun, don't plan on coming to my house for dinner. Heaven knows what will be growing on the floor, or in the corners, or out of the toilets!

And Linda...the Meme's coming up next.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I don't even know what to call this post!

So, my interview with the Waldorf school was yesterday. It's one of those "I have no idea how it went" situations, and I'm not sure how I feel right now. I know--insane, right? My most pressing motivation for applying here was my children. Finding a convenient way to allow both of them to go to school there. But after the interview yesterday, I'm suddenly feeling a sense of panic. What if I can't do the job? I know I'm a good high school teacher, in fact, I would even feel comfortable saying I am damn good at that. But elementary school is a whole different ball game, and the Waldorf approach is completely different from anything I've experienced.

Don't get me wrong. I am sold on the anthroposophical wisdom of Rudolf Steiner, and I love the sense of community at this school. But am I comfortable with who I am in that setting? or who I might become, anyway? Part of my anxiety is undoubtedly connected to my intolerance of my own failure when others are depending on me. I can handle failure when if affects only me, although I do demand a lot of myself. But when kids are counting on me--mine and other people's--the stakes are just so high.

This job means a very different lifestyle for our family. It means a lot of work over the summer and beyond. It means putting my writing in a different slot. It means going to sleep every night with lesson plans brewing in my brain till it hurts. (been there before!) It means scheduling conflicts and priority shifting. also means a little more money coming in besides, the financial relief we'll receive on tuition for the kids. It means more intellectual stimulation (although I get that with teaching the college course too, though for less pay). It means a whole new chapter in our lives...period.

So what is the matter with me?

Monday, June 18, 2007

I'm Alive... Calling Mr. Spielberg...

Okay Folks! I should have news about the job in a few days, but for now, log onto A Bionicle Story
for a little treat. My 10-year-old son make a stop-motion movie for his talent show entry. He's pretty amazing...and pretty patient to shoot over 600 still frames, carefully nudging the figures into subtly new positions each time. Then the music and voice-over action...then the titles. As you can imagine, I'm sure proud of my little guy. Who, by the way, is not so little anymore. They just grow up too darned fast!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Back on the Roller Coaster!!

Here we go again, folks! So, I'm sitting here fretting about this decision to ask for another class at the college next semester--to make ends meet. I'm still up for a part time position at the Waldorf school, and I could teach the extra class even if I get the job, but I'm terrified of spreading myself over two different jobs without really helping our financial situation a whole lot. Waiting to hear about the part time job, resigning myself to slave wages, but all for a good cause. Maddening!

So this afternoon, I get an email from my contact at the college wanting to know if I am available to teach more writing classes. Okay...I decide to go ahead and call the Waldorf people after dinner and see if they are any closer to a decision before I call him. I'm still chewing my KFC extra crispy leg when the phone rings. The Waldorf people! An offer? ...No... A question.

It seems the teacher who was going to quit, then changed her mind, has now changed her mind once again, and a full time job is open again. Now, I have no delusions that the job is mine, but they would like to interview me again for this job and in a hurry. Cue the churning stomach and sleepless nights reprise.

Do I want the job? --Yes

Does the job terrify me? --Yes

Is that a good thing? --I believe so.

Dare I hope to have a full-time teaching position and my kids at that school I desire next fall?


So wish me luck and pray that the pieces fall where they are meant to, and that I keep my sanity in the process!

Friday, June 01, 2007

The Martian Chronicle...

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about the fabulous book
Mars Needs Moms
by Berkeley Breathed
Shortly after that, Mr. Breathed gave an interview on NPR
and has been soundly assailed by a host of children's writers on a poplular and beloved discussion board. The primary points of criticism:

1) He bragged that he knew nothing about children's books and wrote this with ease.
2) He is a celebrity trading only on his celebrity status.
3) He claims that his idea is thoroughly original but it's not.
4) His story is too dark and meant for an adult audience.

I understand that many of us who write for children are protective of our craft and offended whenever someone who writes for adults, or who wishes to, proclaims that writing for children is easy, so perhaps they'll start with that or maybe they'll take a break from writing heady, intellectual adult stuff and write some kid fluff. As we all know, that is a huge fallacy, and my own students discovered that last semester in their Writing Children's Literature course. HOWEVER, If you listen to Mr. Breathed's interview, you will find that he was not dissing us at all.

On the first point: He found something that came more naturally to him than he expected. He began with the art and let the story unfold for him. Somepeople see in pictures first. He worked from what many of us do...his memory of childhood and his experience with his own kids.

Second: Berkeley Breathed is a Pulitzer Prize-winning artist/writer. He's not some dizzy rock diva or movie star or dope injected athelete. His celebrity, whatever that may be, stems from his talent as a writer and an artist. Yes, his work was political satire, but ironically set through the eyes of children.

Third: He did not claim that his idea had never been explored before. He said it was "an area that had not yet been wholly explored." Many Picture Books stop short of entering the darkness and exploring deeper consequences, the darker implications of life and love. Mr. Breathed was committed to the idea that he wanted to face that question head on..."would a mother really die for her child?" The answer is yes. Of course he's not going to kill her off, but he takes it to the brink, answers the question, and then offers something wonderful: growth and understanding for the child. The child comes to understand on a deeper level the committment that "bellowing broccoli bully" has for her child. She loves him beyond measure, and he loves her, too. Mr. Breathed left his publisher of 25 years over this point because it was the crux of his story. I applaud his artistic integrity.

Which leads to the fourth complaint: There is some truth in the claim that adults will be drawn to this book for their own grown-up reasons. And yes, the climax is dark and threatening. But the language, the art, the rhythm of the story is a treat for young eyes and ears. The ending is thoroughly satisfying as a happy ending. Some kids may not be ready for a dark confrontation such as this, but many are. My two children were ready, and they love this book.

So...I hope that more people will check out this book and listen to the interview with a discerning ear before they pass judgement. I do despise people who make the lame assumption that anything designed for children is by definition easier to create. We all know how much work it is raising our children. Why would creating stories for them be any easier? But writers often work in different ways, crafting their stories from different angles, starting at completely different points in the process, exploring the same themes and plots with a different eye. We must not become self-righteous in our dedication to our craft.

'Nuff said.

Monday, May 21, 2007

More Wisdom from the Conference Notes...

Last installment of wisdom from Nancy Mercado: Questions to ask yourself as you work through your revisions.

13. Has what you've been saying been said a million times before?

14. Do your kid characters do real "kid" things? Do they talk like real kids? Think like kids? Act like kids?

15. Do you spend too much time flexing your "author" muscles? (overwriting)

16. Does your opening chapter make sense and come full circle when you've finished the book?

17. Have you left room for your reader? (or have you killed their curiosity by telling them everything already?)

The last few pieces of advice our Yogi gave us (and yes, she did lead a yoga session on the retreat):

1. Have somebody reading your work--critique partners, trusted writer friends, etc. Take the heart of their comments, not necessarily the specifics.

2. Consider whether you need a major overhaul or a minor revision and then begin.

3. Read your work ALOUD. (I do this all the time)

When it comes to cutting things out of your manuscript, consider its purpose. Is it doing its job for the “team” (the story as a whole)? If it moves you or makes you laugh, try to find a way to keep it. But if it just doesn’t work for your current story, cut it and file it for another story.

I hope these tidbits are helpful. I know I'm keeping them close at hand as I tromp through my latest WIP--so close to finished!

Sunday, May 13, 2007


I woke up to a beautiful morning, ushered in by my 6-year-old daughter ever so gently closing the door behind her (instead of slamming it as usual) and tip-toeing over to my bed to say quietly, "Happy Mother's Day, Mama." Then she crawled up and snuggled with us for half an hour. My son was downstairs flipping through the cartoons, patiently waiting for his lazy Mama and Daddy to crawl out of bed.

After a great cuddle, I came downstairs to another sweet kiss and a hug and flopped into my comfy seat on the couch. Then the first present came--a beautiful salmon-colored silk scarf, hand-died by my daughter and wrapped in a stunning watercolor painting, complete with a card decorated with delicately drawn flowers and her own lovely signature. Then...the book. From both my children (with a little help from Daddy!), an amazing book.

Above is a picture of this tremendous book, which in the span of 30 seconds vaulted to the very top of my list of all-time favorites. I spent my formative high school years with Bloom County and Berkeley Breathed, so his work here is even more dear. If you haven't read this gem, you absolutely must.

I really got spoiled this Mother's Day. Flowers, chocolate, a lovely new tea set, and a fabulous breakfast prepared by none other than dear hubby (big snaps to him for the whole plan). Wow! My biggest gift was getting to be a mom in the first place, so this is just icing on the cake.

All you moms out there, enjoy this day and snuggle your buddies close. And beware the Martians!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Pushin' a rock...pushin' a rock...More Revision questions

Here we go again. A few more fabulous questions from Nancy Mercado's session on Revisions:

7. Is your first chapter actually about your main character? Does it set the trajectory for the rest of the novel?

8. Have you shown instead of told? (don't show solely through body more)

9. Do you give us a reason to care about your Main character on the first page?

10. Is your first line exciting enough? Does it grab readers?

11. Are there too many stage directions?

12. Does what you've written make you laugh or cry? (It should!)

So there you go...a few more good questions to guide your revision work. I have just a few more tucked away for another post. I'm still marking finals, so my revisions have been on hold for the last couple of weeks. But tomorrow...

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Come Dance Around the Maypole!

After 3 days at the Waldorf School, Maisie got to join the celebration of May Day. How Beautiful! All the children made crowns out of willow limbs and wove spring flowers into them.

Then we all walked down to the park where the kids grabbed a piece of ribbon and danced around the Maypole, singing songs of Spring.

Already we have seen a difference in our girl...even her friends have noticed. We hit a small bump this morning, however, when she decided she wanted to return to the public school. I think that is mostly spurred on by the Daisy Scout Picnic last night, where she saw her old classmates again. But she has already made friends at her new school, and they are so open and so kind. Ahhhh--Spring!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Revisions? Gotta ask...

As promised, here are a few more tidbits from Nancy Mercado's presentation on revisions. She gave us a list of questions, and I'll post a few to get you started:

1. In a summary, would your book be all action and no Heart? Is there enough
emotional content?

2. Is your book more about a cool idea, or is it a story?

3. Do you have cliches taking up the real estate of your book?

4. Are you taking shortcuts in order to get around your shortcomings as a

5. Do you have a giant information dump anywhere in your book?

6. Do you have a count-down? Is there enough suspense building--what are we
reading to find out?

Ok...start with these six questions and see where you end up.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

What's the latest from the balcony, Waldorf?

For all my dear blogging buddies who read my post on the Waldorf school, here's an update. After a lengthy IST (Instructional Support Team) meeting on Wednesday, we left school with assurances that the public school would do their utmost to help our girl succeed in 1st grade next year. Then on Thursday morning, we took our daughter for a visit/assessment at the Waldorf school. She loved it and couldn't wait to go back. Of course, we have been aiming at sending her to the SWS in the fall, but after our conversation with her potential teacher on Thursday night, we threw all caution, deliberation, etc. to the wind. Long story short, we decided that, given the current level of tension our daughter suffers regarding school, why wait? At the suggestion of her Waldorf teacher, and after hair-pulling financial consideration and several previous sleepless nights over the whole issue, we have decided to go ahead and let dear daughter make the move now.

I have just composed a letter to her principal explaining that she will not be returning to the public school and will indeed finish the year elsewhere. There are many good, good people at the public school who have been more than patient with Maisie's outbursts and frustration over the year. But as it stands, the pressures of that little bastard known as NCLB are just too much for the current administration to battle. And until that changes, our dear daughter hasn't a chance.

So, our sweet girl is making the transition to a more holistic approach to learning. It remains to be seen whether she will progress to 1st grade or repeat kindergarten next year, but we know we are doing the right thing for her. Now...if I can just get that job... It's all still up in the air, but there are some promising developments on that front. If it all works out, we'll have two kids in the Waldorf system. Hurray! Stay tuned...

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Essential Truth

Nancy Mercado's session on Revisions at the SCBWI Retreat was excellent. She gave a list of questions to ask yourself as you go through your manuscript. All of them spot-on-point issues. But one that really struck me was the most basic question: What is the essential truth of your story? If you cannot answer that one, your manuscript is in trouble. But it is interesting, especially in the case of plot-driven stories, that we can sometimes forget to ask ourselves that.

I considered my own WIP. It wasn't that there was no essential truth or significant, overriding theme, but I do believe it wasn't coming through enough in the story. Your reader shouldn't have to look that hard for it, but at the same time, it shouldn't be some blaring "moral of the story" hammer to the head either. It should be there in the way your MC looks at his mother, or the way he cuts his steak, or the way he jumps into the conflict and tackles the problem, or in the price that he must pay for success, or in his failure to navigate his own obstacles.

So, I have already been going through my chapters and weaving that thread more clearly into my narrative, giving my story more depth and raising the stakes for my MC.

So what's your essential truth?

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Poconos Retreat

So here I sit in, tucked into my little lodge at the Sterling Inn in the Poconos, surrounded by writers, illustrators, editors, and a host of other creative people. There has been a great sense of camaraderie and collaboration, unlike any I've experienced at past conferences, and it has really been inspiring. Paul Acampora and Nancy Mercado have shown us how nurturing a writer/editor relationship can be. Although it may not be the typical situation, it's nice to see that it is possible. They are both so funny and interesting and have such a strong sense of who they are, which comes across in their books.

Lisa Wheeler and Ponder Goembel showed us how an illustrator might imagine a story differently in her head than the writer did, but together they create magic. What has been nice about this year's retreat is the sense of inspiration and affirmation that good communication and continued growth are really the hallmark of a good relationship, no matter what you are doing. And many of us have met as strangers, but embraced each other's work and shared a little bit of ourselves with people who understand how creative minds work.

Nothing clever or inspiring from me, today. Just reflecting on a nice weekend surrounded by clever, artistic people who love to tell stories.

Friday, April 13, 2007


Some writer friends recently blogged about the importance of persistence in a writer's life, and I felt the need to reflect a bit further. Persistence comes to us, or teases us, from more than one corner. our writing. Many friends have discovered spring fever lately and are having a hard time focusing on their writing. I have many things intruding upon my concentration these days, one of which was the subject of my last entry. As new life blooms outside, daily life inside begins to buzz at a fever pitch as well. Sports practices intensify, chores need more urgent attention, children need more urgent attention,... all very reasonable and tempting distractions from our writing. But if you're lucky, that story is still calling to you, twisting your stomach in knots of guilt everytime you pick up the dust rag instead of the keyboard. For some, the sight of their manuscript brings waves of dread and confusion. "I just don't know where to go next. I hate my MS!" But persistence gnaws at your conscience and drags your fingers into action once again, no matter how hard you try to leave it behind. our submissions. Everyone has heard, "I have enough rejection letters to wallpaper my house three times over!" We laugh and take heart for half a second and then send out two more queries, fully expecting two more rejection in return, but daring to let that flicker of hope keep burning. Some of us give up. My first article accepted for publication grew from a 4-year process...thankfully! I revised that story so many times, each time responding to criticism that accompanied yet another rejection. But it was constructive criticism and I constructed! I couldn't let it drop. I simply wasn't done yet. I knew there was a good story in there somewhere, and several editors were drawing clues all over my treasure map. Then I struck gold. Persistence!

And it continues. If I had given up 4 years ago, I wouldn't have 2 novels completed and in revision, one with a request from an editor. I wouldn't have earned 2 scholarships to wonderful workshops that changed my life. I wouldn't have an article accepted by a major children's magazine. And most important, I wouldn't be the writer I am now--exponentially better than the one I was 4 years ago.

Persistence is more than a path to publication. It's a journey to brilliance. To discovery. To satisfaction. To wisdom.

The next time you hear a presenter at a SCBWI conference tell you it's all about persistence, you can roll your eyes and heave a sigh...but don't forget to believe it, too.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Make Mine a Waldorf...(hold the Stadler)

Okay, for any of you Muppet Show fans, you'll get that joke. But the request is a serious one. I have been woefully absent from my writing of late because I have been researching the best educational route for my youngest child. She is a scathingly bright little girl with an imagination the size of the cosmos...which doesn't cut it in the traditional public school setting. She is only in kindergarten, but it is painfully clear that if we leave the nurturing of her tender mind to the current administration, she will die--well, at least her spirit and love of learning will.

Since when was kindergarten all about academics?! They are 5 and 6 years old! It's about self-discovery, learning how to learn, learning how to play, learning how to eat paste. All I hear is, "She refused to take her test today. They have another one tomorrow. No, they did not get recess today because they didn't finish their worksheets." What has happened?! Okay, I won't even get started on NCLB, and I swear I haven't given up on public education--yet. We have some truly gifted teachers out there, and my son has been lucky enough to have 2 in his 4-year career. But we have become so bent on fitting all our pegs into that flippin' round hole that we have lost sight of the wonder of those little square pegs and triangular pegs and oval pegs and hexagonal pegs and...

My daughter is a peg of a whole new shape, but they are hammering out all they beautiful corners and curves to cram her into their hole so they can claim success and get their accredidation and federal funding. My son will do well no matter where he is, but my daughter needs more. our investigations, we discovered the Waldorf school only 20 minutes from our house. If you are not familiar with the approach, check out these sites: The Susquehanna Waldorf School
and The Association of Waldorf Schools of North America

It's magnificent and exactly what our girl needs. Artistic and holistic and nurturing. But it is also a lovely fit for our son. The tuition, however, is not such a lovely fit for our budget. So, I have decided to go back to teaching full time, if they will have me, and I have applied at the school where my children would attend. It's very daunting and not a job for slackers or the faint of heart. Teaching is always hard work, but this will be a whole new world for me. But it means a whole new, and better, world for my kids, too. I'm both excited and terrified to do this, terrified that I won't be good enough. I've seen the kids at this school, and they are truly thriving. Strong, articulate, interesting, self-possessed young people.

So, for the last few weeks, I have been updating my resume, writing a biography of myself (blak!), tracking down references, and reading anything I can find on Steiner's philosophy and the structure of the Waldorf program. No writing, very little reading, struggling to keep up with the class I am teaching, not to mention a maddening lack of sleep, but hoping to lay a lifechanging path for my kids.

My writing may have to take a back-back seat again, but it will find its way to the surface eventually. Wish me luck!

Now...Stadler, tell us a good joke!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A Room of One's Own

Many of my dear blogging writer buddies have offered a peek at their literary digs, so I'm sharing my own humble hovel. I often fantasize about that space by a real window, with just enough wall space for my inspirational paraphernalia, flanked by a wall of well-stocked bookshelves. Maybe after a few best-sellers!

In the meantime...I'll entertain the muse in my little corner of the basement. Speaking of you go around the corner, you'll find the rest of my hovel, the space where I tend to stash most of my beloved creative mess.

Believe it or not, my little sweeties respect my space. They don't mess with Mama's desk or her work table. I had to laugh when I overheard my 6-year-old reading the riot act to a playmate who had started fiddling with the little things on my desk. "OFF LIMITS...OFF LIMITS...THAT'S MAMA'S!"

Of course, what lay behind me in my little slice of literary heaven?

The guinea pig, the toy box, the air hockey table, the pile of plastic doodads that no kid can life without,...and usually a kid, sitting right in the middle of it all. For some reason, my daughter's favorite place to play is 6 inches behind my chair. She hums, sings, or recites whatever little drama she's inventing with her chunky Little People or her My Little Ponies.

So, though I love my dear little corner at the foot of the stairs, I still dream about that wonderful desk in front of a broad, windex-clean window, lovely bookshelf stuffed with every tome I could ever want or need beside me, bluetooth printer tucked away in an easy-to-reach spot, and a DOOR. A door that actually closes. A door that shuts me in with my fickle muse, where I am free to roll around on the floor or rant or curse or slap the crap out of some villain (all in the name of writing, of course). Ahhhh...yes, Virginia...there is such a place.

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Latest Craziness on Scrotums and the Periodic Table!

Well, it just keeps coming...But thank Petunia that Susan Patron has an impeccable sense of reason and a clear voice as well as a marvelously creative talent with pen and paper. She has responded to the ridiculous attacks concerning the infamous "scrotum." Read it here

All I can say is I'm glad we have librarians like her keeping the doors of our freedom and the minds of our children open. How uptight and Victorian can people be in the 21st century?

On the lighter side...A wonderfully inventive nonfiction book has been launched. Check it out

I haven't seen the hard copy, yet, but my students are working on nonfiction for children right now, and this looks like a fabulous example of innovation and kid appeal.

So many people assume that nonfiction is the "non-creative" form of children's lit. I've taken a stab at it, myself, and believe me, good nonfiction draws most on a writer's creativity. Find an angle; give the subject life; define a character in terms of his actions and statements rather than just list his credits. Not all nonfiction can get wacky, nor should it, but those little nuggets of nuttiness can show a kid that real life is fun, too!

Saturday, March 03, 2007


Today, a hint of summer peeked under my bedsheets when my 6-year-old daughter padded into our room and whispered, "Mama, can we have a family cuddle?" Who could say no to that, even if it was barely 7:00am on the one day I can sleep in. Daddy whispered, "Go get your brother..." And within a few quiet moments, the bed was filled with the Scott clan, all snuggled in, under the blankets. This is the one ritual we have in the summer that I adore, and I wish we could manage it all year long. Since no one has to be up early in the summer months, we take that time when the sun finally makes it impossible to sleep, and we get in a solid snuggle before we start our day. During the school year, even Saturdays are often a bit too scattered to enjoy the family cuddle, so it's a real treat when we can squeeze one in.

This beautiful tradition was started by my then 5-year-old last summer. What a beautiful way to start the day. I swear, I don't think I've ever had a bad day on those mornings when we started with the family cuddle. I hope I can capture that magic in a book someday, but for now, I'll savor every drop of it in my blessed real life.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

How do you find the other end?

Whew! The climax is complete. But now what? I love what has happened to my characters, but where do they go from here? Have any of you writers out there struggled to write the denouement? I sort of feel the way I felt after watching the end of SCHINDLER'S LIST in the theatre...staring at the screen, numb and bewildered, not wanting to leave, face wet with emotion. So I sat staring at the last page of the last chapter I finished for several hours yesterday, trying to figure out where to go next. Only a few pages left and I'm frozen!

I woke up thinking about the problem, and...I have decided to go ahead and start the revision process. Perhaps by the time I have read through the book, start to finish, and picked my way through my notes and made all the adjustments I can conceive of, I will have a natural sense of what to do. I hope so. I love this manuscript. It is the best thing I've written, and I love my characters. I want to do right by them.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Death and the Novel

Well, the decision has finally been made. I have decided to spare the bad-girl-turned-good but kill her parents. As mentioned in an earlier post, I needed to decide whom to kill and why as I finish the climax of my WIP. Happily, our naughty girl gets her reprieve, but her parents bite it when the specter goes down. They deserve it anyway. It's their fault the girl was going wrong, and no thanks to them, she finally figures out what's important.

So I have this adrenaline rush--wooo! I'm within inches of finishing the climax, but it's like grabbing a hot plate from the oven without mitts. I just need to step away for a minute and run some cold water on my fingers! How many writers get so emotionally revved when they are about to finish the book? I would imagine most. There is so much tangled up in this process. First, it's just so exciting to conceive of the details of the climax...and I think that's a good sign. If I get this excited about writing it, I hope kids will get that excited about reading it. Second, the thought of putting my book to bed is exhilerating and depressing at the same time. Something fabulous is coming to a close (well, almost--can't forget revisions!) It's like watching your child graduate. It will have a new life when it leaves you, which is what you always wanted, but it won't be your baby anymore, and you feel the loss.

So if anyone else out there is nearing the end of their WIP, I'll have a drink in your honor. Cheers!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Cough, cough...ack!

Well, after 3 weeks of bronchitis and pure exhaustion, I am finally back on my feet. I haven't written a lick and am dying to get back to the climax (no pun intended on my last post!) It is always so hard to get back into the zone of a WIP that's been left on its own for too long. So, I've already started re-enacting parts of the story (in my head and in my room!) in preparation for jumping back into writing. I am also listening to my "writing" music, which always pumps me up. There is one song that I always imagine as the voice of my MC. Does anyone else do that?

So here's hoping that all the germs have gone underground for the duration and we'll all stay healthy until next year. I'm also hoping to head up to the Poconos for the SCBWI-EPA retreat in April. But for now, my daughter's 6th birthday is beckoning, so next weekend holds a swimming party (yes...swimming in February!) and some great fun.

Happy Writing, Everyone!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Giving up the Ghost--How do you decide who to kill?

So, I'm at the finale of my YA novel, and someone has to die--besides the bad guy. I have to kill off at least one of my good guys, and it's very tough. I'm not a huge proponent of killing off characters in a YA, but this is one of those cases that really calls for it. So, is it copping out to choose a background character rather than one of the more prominent characters? How do YOU choose? At this point, I think I've decided to take a bad-girl-turned-good to the grave. She will be doing something noble, and a deeper revelation into her character may also be in store. But what is the line between cliche or maudlin and dramatically effective?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Method Writing...

Have you ever spent time acting out your story for the sake of writing it? Well, as I sat at my husband's office, away from the kids and the noise and all the other distractions, writing the closing chapters of my latest wip, I found myself dropping to the floor and role-playing to get a better feel for where the action would go next. So there I am, on my knees, staring up at imaginary ghosts and reaching for imaginary people beside me. Thank goodness the campus is still on break and no one is watching my strange little ritual, or I could find a ride home in a nice padded white truck! I've done this before, and I must admit, I have to be careful where I decide to indulge in this "method" writing exercise. I've allowed myself to enjoy a little play-acting in the presence of my 5-year-old daughter, but within limits. Afterall, ghost can be a little scary especially when they inhabit the body as well as the imagination of your mother! But even when I'm out shopping or doing some other errand, I am often imagining what my mc would feel here or say about that, and hope that I don't actually speak it out loud (but on occasion the curtain slips!).

Sometimes I stop writing so I can experiment with the more physical aspect of story-telling: reaching a certain way or staring at my face in the mirror while I approximate the emotional response I'm trying to describe. Or even laying out a room with newspapers as furniture or other obstacles so I can describe movement more precisely or approximate measurements. I definitely need a keener body awareness both from without and within. By that I mean a better sense of how things feel from my perspective, and how I look from someone else's. Writing can be a three dimensional art as much as acting or sculpting, and I think allowing ourselves to be multi-dimensional in our process can certainly help our characters and our stories be multi-dimensional on the page.

So, now I plunge back into the climax of my story... See you on the shelf!