Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Time to Write

My husband, bless his heart, exemplifies what people seem to think when they hear that I'm a writer and a teacher.

"You have the whole summer off!" he extols. "Think of all the writing you can get done!"

Yes, just think of it.  A whole summer, like one ginormous blank page, just waiting to be written on.

I find it absolutely terrifying.

So far, I've revisited my folder of works-in-progress... tweaked one here, adjusted another there, added a bit to a third, and reread most of my WIP collection, both the cringe-worthy and those full of potential.

But so far, I haven't written anything new.

I want to write.  I want to be prolific, a beloved author of children's books like my idol Jane Yolen, who could fill an entire bookshelf with her published work.  I want to crank those manuscripts out, so that the downtime between publication and my next book is short and sweet.

But first, I need to figure out what to write about.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Author Photo

I don't like to be photographed, to be perfectly honest.  I'm overweight, and I just don't like the way I come out looking in 99% of all photos snapped of me... especially candids.  I look at the pictures of these happy family events and think, "Is that really me?  Do I really look like THAT?!?"  It's hard on the soul, when your mind "sees" you one way and your photo reveals the grisly disconnect.  As a result, I try my hardest to be the photographer, not the photographed.  Or, if I cannot escape in that way, I plant myself behind my son, or some other handy person/object/prop of the right height, so as to reveal only a portion of my bulk.

But there's this thing that you kinda-sorta-hafta do when you want to write for a living... a thing I was dreading, that I put off as long as humanly possible, promising myself that I'd lose the weight and that everything would be just fine.  Only I didn't, and I had to eventually face the fact that if I wanted my face on my first-ever book jacket, I'd need to be professionally photographed.

I decided to make a day of it.  Knowing that I would likely hate the result, I gave myself as little wiggle room to hate it as possible.  I scheduled my haircut for the same day.  I got the lovely lady working at Bare Minerals to "show me how" to put on my makeup.  I picked two of my favorite tops, knowing that this would be a head shot, and maybe not as bad for all that - at least I knew I'd have the worst parts of me off-camera.  And, walking in to my appointment, I told the nice young photographer exactly how nervous I was... about the photo itself, and about why I was being photographed at all.  This would be my first book with a jacket, I told her... my first author photo.  I so, so badly wanted this to come out well.

And what do you know... it did.

I can't say I'm 100%, had-over-heels thrilled with my picture.  I like it very much, but I still look at it and see the weight that needs to come off.  But I do look authorly, at least... I can see one of these shots on the back cover of a book.  It's nice to be able to feel that way.  And if... WHEN... I do manage to take off the weight, I'll at least have a nice "before" shot for my "before and after."

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Snow Day

Snow is a funny thing.  It's so soft, so light, and yet it has such power over us... power to thrill and terrify.  My students were abuzz yesterday with the coming storm, a day off from school being taken as a given thing long before the official cancellation was announced.  I'm not sure what they do on a snow day, these nine year olds of mine, but it certainly beats being in school - at least in their eyes.  I like to think that they spend at least a chunk of the day frolicking out-of-doors, rather than plastered to the living room floor with their eyes on a big screen all day.  Or, at least, curled up with a good book.

Yesterday evening was a different story, as I stopped by the grocery store to pick up brownie mix (this constituting my entire plans for the day off work - making brownies with my boy).  The parking lot was solid-packed with cars, and all about me hustled grim faces and carts filled to overflowing with survival rations.  You'd think that the weather had been predicted to blizzard for three days, rather than a one day dump of six to twelve inches.  Not a smile to be seen, up and down the aisles - employees stone-faced, restocking shelves picked over by the shambling mob, parents looking vaguely desperate in the breakfast cereal section.  I had to restrain myself from laughing out loud; we New Englanders are a notoriously sturdy bunch, and here were people behaving as though they'd be snowed in for a week on scant provisions.  Didn't they listen to the weather?  Or were the family larders really that bare?

Or does something else happen in between childhood and adulthood?  Something that changes a snowstorm from a one day "get out of jail free" card to something more sinister?  It can't be just the shoveling, though I'm no fan of that myself and am happy to leave it to my husband - at least until we  join the technological world and invest in a snow blower.  I doubt that it's being home with the kids, though cabin fever sets in quickly for me, so I can empathize with others who feel the same.  Could it be the snow itself, awakening some long-buried racial memory of a time when even a one day storm could and did cause rations to be guarded and people to hunker down for days?  Or maybe we're just programmed to dread winter weather as we age... those of us who can, fly south for the winter; those who can't, well, we stick it out one way or another.

Snow is, for sure, a funny thing.

Sunday, January 1, 2017


Today ends the week of the In-Betweenies.

In between Christmas and New Year, in between the end of one year and the beginning of another, in between the joy of decorating for the holidays and the melancholy of taking down the tree, in between that period of holiday lights brightening up the December night and the beginning of the Long Dark of winter in earnest... that's the In-Betweenies.

I don't like the In-Betweenies much.  As a person who struggles with the seasonal blues brought on by too much dark and insideness and cold, Advent with its candles and the holidays with their myriad lights are my tether to brighter times - but of course, they can't last forever, no matter how I wish they would.  I spend a good bit of the In-Betweenies refusing to take down my Christmas decorations and  trying to stretch the holidays out as long as I can.

For me, the In-Betweenies are primarily the harbinger of the Long Dark, that period peculiar to northern climes where all there seems to be are early dusks, bare-branched icy dawns, and nights where you don't stay out too long to look up at the stars due to the chill and damp.  Like our ancestors before us, we must face that Long Dark as best we can.  The lucky can pack up and head south, combating the Long Dark with milder nights that invite you out walking and days that laugh at the sour northern winter latitudes above.  The rest of us huddle under extra layers and rush from car to door and back again, and dream of spring.

I'm a bit jealous, really, of those who are outdoorsy sorts, like my friend Steph - for her, the In-Betweenies are the gateway to the rest of winter where, if she's lucky, enough snow will fall to let her get out and snowshoeing.  If it doesn't, well, Steph is a committed hiker in all seasons.  For many outdoor lovers, including scores of children, the rest of winter is a time of hoping for snow enough for making snowmen and snow forts and for sledding or skiing, for hot cocoa with marshmallows, for exulting in the tingle of icy skin made warm again when outdoor time is done.  Me, I'm a weather wimp.  My idea of getting outside in the winter is going for a drive.

For others, the In-Betweenies are positively welcome for the homeyness they bring - they herald the end of the hectic rush of the holiday season, or the emphasis on holidays they don't celebrate to begin with, and signal a return to Everyday Life, albeit a bit colder and darker for a bit... a time for stews and comforting soups on the stove, fresh-baked breads, and indoor activities of the recreational or necessary variety.  These folks clean out closets and reorganize pantries, scrapbook or quilt or knit, catch up on shows they've been meaning to watch, complete jigsaw puzzles, or websurf places like Pinterest to get newer, better ideas for how to feather their nest in cozy and charming ways.  Me, I have more ideas than talent and tenacity to put them into action.  Pinterest is not my friend.

But today, the In-Betweenies officially end... a new year is started, regardless of whether it is greeted with great joy or trepidation, regardless of how we plan to use it.  And my grouchy, anxious feelings about that in-between time of the year morph into thoughts about the wide-open spread of 2017 that stretches far beyond the Long Dark of winter.  It's a feeling not unlike looking at a blank page, and wondering what to write on it.  There's always a bit of anxiety there, too - but as soon as the first word is written, that feeling passes.

It's time to get to writing on this new year.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

November Rain

There is something deeply melancholy, but at the same time deeply soothing, about the sound of a heavy November rain on the rooftops.  I'm not sure how this is making me feel tonight... I'm in the throes of creating my very first Facebook author page, and contemplating how to make this blog of mine a bit more dynamic, so I suppose I feel both.  Melancholy for the knowledge that I could have been managing my online presence more proactively... comforted and soothed, because it's wet and clammy out there and I am warm and dry inside, in front of my computer, able to focus on one of the great loves of my life... my writing.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Yay! It Happened Again!

I'm thrilled to report that my second picture book, THE STABLE CAT, has been accepted by Worthy Kids/ Ideals and will be released in November 2017.  It's a Christmas fable that I wrote for my church some ten years ago, after becoming tired of never seeing cats included in any Nativity scenes.  (I rarely see dogs, either - a gross oversight, in my most humble opinion!)  I've been sitting on the manuscript, waiting for "the right time" to send it out - in my mind, when I was established enough to have a say in the choice of illustrator or illustrative style - until I realized that "the right time" wasn't ever going to get here, at the rate I've been going.  I haven't been getting any nibbles on my other work, and I knew that THE STABLE CAT was well-received by pretty much everyone who had read or heard the original draft.  So... why wait?

Worthy Kids/ Ideals is a firmly established and respectable house.  They've published Berenstain Bears titles and Eileen Spinelli, as well as Veggie Tales books and a pair of children's devotionals that I'm particularly fond of.  Honestly, I couldn't be happier with WorthyKids/ Ideals as a home for my book - and I can't wait to see the finished product!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Character Creation: Twitch

Once, in a writing workshop, the topic of character creation came up - specifically, how similar or dissimilar our characters are from ourselves.  It was a fascinating conversation, and one that really draws a line between the beginning writer and the professional.  Writers beginning on their journeys, or so the conversation went, have a tendency to try to create - or to create unintentionally - characters that are very similar to themselves.  Fanfiction writers, it seems, are particularly guilty of the sin of fictionalizing themselves and placing those characters into tales as the saviors or love interests of the established characters they have chosen to write about.

Writing a character so close to yourself, it seems to me, is dangerous for the writer.  Not in any real-world peril - but more in terms of making it hard to distance yourself from rejection.  If you're writing a novel and the protagonist is a thinly-veiled you, or a you-that-you-wish-you-were, how easy is it to take even constructive criticism?  How much will it sting when the novel is rejected?  Our written works are our babies anyway - but to have them be an extension of ourselves is risky to our creative hearts, thick skins be darned.

So I set about to create a character who was the virtual opposite of myself... just to see if I could.  To see how difficult it would be to get into the head of someone intentionally Other.  I created Twitch, who I saw as a sort of Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH protagonist.  Her story hasn't gone far, though I keep thinking I'd like to play around with it... it's mired in the planning stage right now... but I found that I truly liked Twitch, the sassy, anti-human, who-needs-romance leading lady.

Well, a lady of a sort...


Let me start off by saying this:  I do NOT like you.  No, really.  I really don’t give two whiskers what you think of me, or if you think I’m out of line for saying it.  It’s true.   I really, truly, can’t stand you people.  But it’s nothing personal.

Okay, it’s REALLY personal.  

I am a rat.  Yes, a rat.  Not a mouse.  Not a hamster.  Nothing that you human types would consider remotely cute and fuzzy.  A rat.  R - A - T.  Rat.

I do not wear clothes.  When I was a little squeak, I read some human book where the mice and moles and badgers and all were dressed up as monks from the Dark Ages - robes, sandals, the whole shebang - and lived in a castle of some sort, just their size.  Unbelievable.  Besides the walking on two legs, which is insane if you want to get anywhere fast, ROBES?  SANDALS?  Seriously?  

And don’t get me started on Beatrix Potter.  Puh-leaze.  

For the record, NO animal wears clothes, except you humans and those humiliated little dogs some of you insist on dressing up like dolls which is, really, incredibly disturbing.  So - no clothes.  Real animals don’t need ‘em.  Fur is more than fine, thank-you-very-much.

But back to the point.  I am a rat, and if you have issues with that, I don’t want to hear about them.  No “eww, that tail” or “gross, a rat” or any of that turd-drop stuff.  You don’t like rats?  Fine.  There’s the door.  Don’t catch your tail in it on the way out.  I couldn’t care less, because - as I said before - I hate you people.

You can’t blame me here.  Rats - decent animals going about minding their own business, trying to find food, shelter, water, and raise the next generation.  Humans - not so decent animals who can’t seem to pass a rat on the street without screeching, stomping, throwing something, or trying to kill it in any one of a thousand barbaric ways.  Humans have been waging genocide on rodents for centuries… poisons, traps, tortures, you name it.  And then, if that’s not enough, you’ve bred an entire population of rats purely for your own scientific tortures.

If you were me, would you like you very much?  Didn’t think so.  And don’t give me “but not all humans are evil.”  Not all rats are filthy disease carriers, but that doesn’t stop YOU people, does it?