Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Early Morning Refresher

Now repeat after me...

Two negatives is a postive
Two positives is a positive
A negative and a postive,
regardless of their order, is a negative

Again, with feeling...

Monday, January 30, 2006

Thank you George Lucas

I am finding the rewriting process difficult somedays, and hard on others. I have this story that I'm dying to tell, a good story. But I also want the story to be the best it can be. So during these rewriting times I am trying to remain open to the ways of the plot. I need to let it flow and not force it just because I wrote it that way. Truly, this story has a life of its own. It lives and breathes without me.

To help with the second draft, I had been picking up editing tips off the web, out of magazines, off subway walls, and by reading books. However, lately I've found another well of knowledge. I been getting a lot of my move the story along advice while walking on the treadmill. I have been listening to the commentary for the Star Wars films.

George Lucas is wonderful. In the commentary he explains many of the plot changes that took place as this epic story unfolded. Instead of one death star they ended up with two. Instead of Wookies being the creatures sixth episode he introduced Ewoks. He goes on to explain that you have to be open to these changes to tell a really great story. I guess you have to let go and use the force.

Thank you, Mr. Lucas. I'll be your writing padawan any day.

What is Love?

Love is going over the addition and subtraction of negatives numbers for an hour with your emotional and stressed sixth grader. And then promising to do it all again before breakfast.

Friday, January 27, 2006

They Bought It


I'm not dead! And when I get word of when it's coming out in press, the celebration is on me!

I've just committed writer's suicide

I'm laughing. I'm seriously out of my mind. But I've just committed the biggest writing flub of my short and now very brief writing career. True confession to follow.

I love to write, hence this blog... And lately I've been wondering if what I write is in anyway publishable. It all started around Thanksgiving when I handed off my first ever attempt to be published, outside of the scientific community, to an editor friend of mine. He in turn handed it off to an editor friend of his and viola I got a by line. And I'm dancing in the street.

Since then I've been sending an essay here and an essay there, testing the waters. Nothing. No rejections. No responses. But inspired by FC's blog entry on persistence I decided to follow up on one of my essays. I basically emailed with the questions: Remember me? Did you like it?

And wouldn't you know I actually got a response. Got it. Haven't read it. Will get back to you within the week.

I almost died, right then and there. And if I had, this death I'm feeling now would be for not.

A day passes and he does indeed get back to me. Love it. Will use it. But the last line is kind of strange. I thank him for his time, and promise to move heaven and earth to fix the offending line.

So I emailed my toughest critics, asking them for guidance and prayers. After receiving their comments and blessings, I worked and reread and reworked and pondered etc... the entire essay until I had what I wanted and sent it off.

As I went to bed I started to question some of my changes. When I woke up this morning. I knew the essay wasn't its best. So I re-edited it again and emailed it off with my sincerest apologies for cutting my writers teeth on his newspaper.

So if this editor has a heart filled with patience and a sense of humor, maybe he'll cut me some slack, and I won't die today. Maybe he'll see the sending and then the resending 6 hours later as food for a new sitcom about writers, and publish me out of guilt for stealing an excerpt of my suburban life. It could be worth millions.

Stay tuned. I know I'm on the edge of my seat.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Today I will not blog

Today I will work on my book.
Resisting all ideas that miraculously percolate into my head.
No blogging on the art of placing a girl scout cookie order.
No inspired paragraphs on tadpole development.
Nor rants regarding the word hussy.
I will remain focused on chapter 8 and then move onto chapter 9.
I may get up from this desk to feed and water the children,
And taking them to school would be a good thing too.
Permission will be granted for greeting the FEDEX or UPS man.
After all he could be the bearer of good news.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Now this is winter

I woke up this morning to more snow. Snow piled high on the car, and still more falling from the sky. Finally all is right in this very small corner of the world, and winter has returned to its senses. And yes, Didi -- the kids have school today.

I do not love the deep cold of winter. From November to May I can be found wearing at least three layers of clothing and if it's really cold -- a hat -- inside. I don't embrace snowball fights and the making of snow forts and snowmen as the girls do. But there is something very unnatural about 50 degree weather in the middle of January. And as much as I love spring and warmth; it bugged me.

This winter, and I use that term lightly, I have become a Weather Channel junkie. I admit it. If given the choice between Days of Our Lives and The Weather Channel, I pick the later. Why you ask? (Or why not?) The reason being if the weather turns to the high 40's during the day for a period of 10 days or more, the maple trees get the idea that spring is coming and the sap starts to run. If it warms up more, the leaf buds swell and and maple sugaring season is over. This year, I thought the season was going to come and go before February! I found myself marking days off on the calendar and wondering if it was prudent to just set one tap and see if the flow had started.

I even discussed this with my dear Vermont-born husband. He is not the sugarer in this family, but he too was starting the worry. We both agreed that since we only tap 9 trees (and not the hundreds that one taps up in Vermont) to risk losing a producer due to the return of winter was a bad idea. So the taps are still in the garage with the buckets. And I am trying to relax and go with nature's flow.

Of course, this is much easier to do with 10 inches of snow on the ground.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

My Desk is a Mess

That is the understatement of the year, my life, the era. And as I look at the mountains of papers, books, pens, markers, and work that encroach on my elbow space it is no wonder my brain is a prime candidate for a good dose of mental draino.

I tell myself every stack has a purpose. Like the pile of writing books that are suppose to remind me I need to start looking for an agent. If I put these books away, will an agent magically appear at my door? Large advance check in hand -- bowing, and praising my writing skills. I think not. One of these days I need to spend some time among these pages and start the begging process for people with publishing power to read my book.

And what about the photography how to books? How can I get a better understanding of f-stop and depth of field if I don't read with camera in hand for experimentation? Mind you the camera is at arms length as well. Just waiting for me to pick it up and improve my skill.

At my left elbow there are enough CDs and DVDs stacked up to jack up a small SUV. I've been through them many times. Some are first and second drafts of digital slideshows that I've created over a year ago. I think a better system is in order. Final drafts get placed upon high with reverance. For the rest, it's the circular file.

There are 5 copies of my book that friends and relatives have lovingly read and commented on. These I cherish. For in these pages are the sweet secrets to my future success. Give me a clean flat surface, on which I can lay out these copies to harvest their ideas and suggestions.

The girls pile up art work on my desk. Paintings, beaded necklaces and bracelets, paper airplanes with love notes they have fired at me when I've been too busy working among the mess. Gifts extended for all the love and hugs that I lavish upon them. In turn I can't seem to bring myself to part with any of their artwork. But then, why would I?

The latest addition to this dig site are Girl Scout cookie order forms. I'm the cookie mom for my daughter's troop. I love this job. How could anyone pass up the opportunity to have 1000 boxes of girl scout cookies in their house? I couldn't. Thankfully all that is on my desk are the order forms. When the cookies are here they take up the living room and dining room and the house is filled with the sweet aroma of minty chocolate...

I read somewhere that a spotless, uncluttered, dust-free desk is a sign of a uninteresting shallow person. But I think having to burrow my way to the keyboard it's just too much.

Monday, January 23, 2006


I love the cool fresh smell of falling snow.
The way the icy flakes fall lightly on my face.
The white silence that blankets everything.
Calming the rush of daily life.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Who will come to your service?

The husband of a writer friend of mine passed away after a 15 month battle with cancer. I had never met this man, but I had read about him in the book she is writing, Molten Moments. (And if there is ever a book that MUST be published, it is this book. Watch for it.) I knew they had been a missionaries in New Guinea for a long time. I knew he was a good man. I went to his memorial service to pay my respects and to support my friend.

Being Catholic, I assumed that this Christian memorial service would span the usual 50 minutes to 1 hour like a funeral. Five hundred unwavering people listened to tributes, sang songs, and prayed for 1 hour and 45 minutes. The service was too short.

Of the tributes, some were funny, others serious. Both brought tears to my eyes. Especially the story of how this man who stood only 5 foot 5 inches was compared to a whirlwind when they entered the missionary training center. The story goes that for weeks after their departure the trainer was saying, "Who was that man?" Thankfully he met up with him again years later in New Guinea and then had the real opportunity to know and experience his love and friendship.

Legacy was the title of the song his son wrote and sang for him. There wasn't a dry eye in the place. His son-in-law shared with us the moments of their first meeting. There were gales of laughter followed by a deep sense of lose.

The photographic slideshow highlighting this dear man's life was so inspiring I could watch every day for the rest of mine. In those images I saw a person filled with compassion, unconditional love, humor, and grace. I found myself feeling empty and sad that I didn't get a chance to meet him. I found myself wanting to run up to my friend to urge her to finish her book so that more could know him.

His pastor challenged us to pitch in and spread God's word, as this man had done for most of his life. He told us the story of how when he had accompanied this dear man to one of his radiation treatments, he said, "You're a Pastor, why don't you tell these people about the love of Jesus?" The Pastor's response was, "You're killing me." This faithful man of God admitted to feeling safe upon the shore where my friend's husband enjoyed chasing the horizon.

I went to offer my love and support. I came away with a blessing.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Kitchen Chairs

She walked into our house and her expression of shock and horror, when I offered her a seat and a cup coffee, took me by complete surprise. As she composed herself, I too tried to dismiss the awkwardness of the moment. Later, after "just a quick cup" and a polite visit, I wondered what went wrong. I looked about and my eyes landed on our kitchen set; an old table passed down from generations to generations and an unmatched set of chairs -- equally as old. But as I looked closer I realized the chairs were in a very sorry state. All had rips in their vinyl covering and some were even missing the batting that helped to cushion your seat.

When did they get so bad? When we got married they were in perfect repair. I remember the first few tears. We quickly taped them up and vowed to be more careful. A year later we bought seat pads to cover the expanding cracks. Now, wood showing, it's not uncommon for pieces of vinyl to be swept up with the crumbs. When and how did this state of kitchen dining become acceptable?

As I pondered the chairs, I thought of another much more serious situation that can creep up on people. It is domestic abuse. It starts with a raised voice, followed by a promise to never let it happen again. But instead of going away, it slowly builds until the verbal abuse seems normal. Then the hitting starts, and the promises and excuses are repeated, "Please don't leave me. I'll never do it again. If you weren't so perfect all the time, I wouldn't be this way." And unfortunately, and unthinkably, over time even these abuses seem normal.

Just like our chairs.

Like the seats, the mental and physical scares are covered over. The battered start to think if I am just better, if I don't complain, if I lie low, if I lose some weight, then I won't be picked upon. But like the chairs, even with pads, the exposed vinyl ends, are still easily torn and the abuse escalates.

It's only when our lives are mirrored in the eyes of others that we really can tell if our everyday life is normal, free of abuse. And if it's not, then its time to break out more than just a few strips of tape.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Martin Luther King, Jr.

"If a man is called to be a streetsweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry.

He should sweep so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great streetsweeper who did his job well."

Sunday, January 15, 2006

The Ghosts of Christmas Past

It's strange to still be writing about Christmas when I am sure most people have de-holidaid their homes weeks ago. Except for the nativity, we undecorated right after the New Year. We keep the creche up for Little Christmas and we celebrate the wise men making their famous journey to visit the Infant Jesus. That was well over a week ago now and they are still sitting in our living room. I think I'm not ready to say good bye, until next year, to our ghosts of Christmases past.

Our set is a hodge podge of figures from our relatives long past. Most come from my grandparents on my mother's side. My grandfather build the creche when my grandparents first got married. The straw in the roof is from their old garden. Before they were given to us, each of the figures had been lovingly repainted by my grandfather so that their faces would remain bright and their clothes pure.

My grandparents gave us one sheppard boy whos styling is a little different from all the rest. This year my Aunt told me that it comes from my grandfather's mother's set. I remember seeing her only once in my life. I was six and it was at her funeral. She seemed short, was wearing a light blue dress. I told my grandfather that I thought she was beautiful and he cried. I'll never forget that.

We also have figures from my father's parents as well. This makes for duplicate pieces so when we set up the nativity we decide which baby Jesus we are going to use, and if we have room for all the sheep. This year the baby Jesus, an angel, one of the sheppards and some sheep are from their set. You can tell if you look close that they don't really match. But it doesn't really matter.

A few years ago we added a piece of our own; a fourth wise man. The story goes that he wanted to make the trip with the other three, but came across a man that needed his help so he missed the caravan. Not to be discouraged, he set out on his own and eventually meet up with Jesus 33 years later in Jerusalem. Our wise man has a place of honor at Easter.

Now, in the middle of January, I look at the set, I see the figures praying, and the animals tucked in safe in their stalls. But what I feel is the loving presents of my relatives, and I'm not ready for them to go. And I wonder if my girls will do the same. Will they struggle when it comes it to put the nativity away in January, or February, March?

Do you think people would talk if the creche stayed up all year?

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Second Draft

I've been working on the second draft of my novel and I am finding the process liberating and scary.

It's liberating to go in and rewrite entire interactions. When Sarah was mad at her dad I had the flat text stating "Sarah was mad at her father." With this rewrite, Sarah is screaming at him,"I'll hate you for as long as I live." Hopefully making the book stronger and more real for the reader. God knows, I've heard those words around here... Kids say the funniest things don't they. One minute they hate you the next they're all lovey and kissy because you said there is dessert with supper. Sometimes, no, more like all the time, my head is spinning from all the changes of heart. Oh well, I digress...

And on the other side, this whole editting thing is scary because I've been deleting paragraphs of fluff. Okay not really fluff, but descriptive text that I may not need to move the story forward. I have old drafts on disk and paper just in case I get delete happy.

If you're one of the two people that read this blog when there is nothing on TV, you may have read the entry where I calculated that over the past 6 years I wrote 22 words a day towards the completion of my book. Well, today in one quick mouse stroke I deleted 3 weeks worth of words. It's staggering... Will I have any text left at the end of this process?

And to think I waited 2 months to start this rewrite so I wouldn't be so emotionally attached to each and every word. Good thing, huh.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

New Years Resolutions

Don't you just hate them! In a somewhat drunken stupper everyone promises to by kinder, exercise more, work harder, or work less, or work towards world peace, not litter, not swear. I could go on forever.

My resolution was to write an essay a week, and submit it some place. And to resume working on my book. So far I have been working on an essay for the Erma Bombeck Essay contest, but there has been no book work yet. I can feel it coming on. It feels like gas rumbling through my intestines. Is that a good thing?

Anyway, if I'm not blogging it doesn't mean I've fallen and I can't type. It means I am trying to stick to my resolution and working on the rewrite and submitting essays.

Actually I am looking forward to getting back to my book. I miss Sarah and Molly and Martha and Charles. They're all good people and we are well overdue for a visit.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

I Love to Write

And I guess that is good, considering I'd like to be a published author someday.

But the writing process really consumes me. I love slaving over my computer, weighing each and every word, wondering if "this is the best way to say it", worrying about my lack of vocabulary. It is such a mental rush and now I am realizing it is an escape. I allow myself the freedom to take a vacation from the everyday world. The kids screaming and arguing over a once forgotten toy, laundry, dishes, dusting, and the clutter, all slip away as I focus on transitioning paragraphs and word choice. The one task that I truly need to worry about is cooking. When it's 5 o'clock and those little eyes look to me for food... it's best to plan ahead.

Such escapism.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

I'll say it now....

before the bickering and fighting sets in and I am ready to pack the girls off for an overnight on the front steps of their respective schools.

I am so happy today is a snow day. As I watched the weather forecast yesterday I was hoping and praying for just one more day. The girls have been so good, for the most part, that I wasn't ready to return them (us) to the rigors of structured life. For I knew when school restarted we' d be enslaved by the calendar once again.