May the year be merry and bright and productive. And may I acquire a new laptop. And definitely completion of the current novel and definitely long before the end of this shiny new year. And may I continue to exercise brain and body. And remember to live in the moment, such as appreciating the time my son reads a book by sitting down with a book of my own and reading alongside him. I wish only the best for everyone, such as: beachwalks, good dreams coming true, and homemade spaghetti pie. PS. That’s a coat I’m holding, not my stomach. I’ve been asked.
Yours in a fresh year of creativity,
230am, the dog’s nose a wet Q-tip on my ear, his drunk-carny’s breath. I rise, stumble to the patio door, let him out. Waiting, I realize my right foot is wet. I panic: blood? Cat vomit. I stumble to the kitchen, use paper towels and water until I’m pretty sure my foot can touch our sheets again. The dog leads the way to the bedroom. I burrow under the comforter. Toss and turn. The kits scale my body, even when I switch sides, one touches a paw to my eye. I rise and stumble to the laundry room, fill cat bowls, mutter screw it, serve them a can, too. I stumble to bed, burrow. And obsess on the sequel I’m writing. 4am. I should just rise for the day, brew coffee, write, but even 5 is better than 4. I toss and turn. Big Boy bangs on the front door. I rise, let him in. He lopes by me, his creamsicle coat a beacon, he is that fabulous. I escort him to the laundry room and listen to him eat and purr simultaneously. It’s closer to 5, but I burrow anyway and plummet into a dream in which I am Mary Louise Parker in a movie with Tom Selleck who is helpless on a runaway gurney and I launch onto a gurney of my own and am about to fix everything, but my husband’s hand thumps my stomach. He mumbles something I will never ask him to clarify. 8am. We rise. I make coffee. Our son stumbles into the kitchen. I make pancakes. We’re going house hunting and I’m writing this before we leave because if I don’t write something, anything, I’ll forget why it is I am cranky. I’ll forget to catch myself when I snap an order, forget to apologize for not remembering: If I don’t write at all during the day, even if I’m blocked, 230am will torture me. Not to mention the pets.
Whenever it was tickets first went on sale for this event? Stayed up until 12:01a.m. so that I could be one of the first to nab them. Can I just say–I’m glad I was a night owl as the event did sell out and, because I bought tix so early, we weren’t #1,005 for our turn to meet and greet the author–we were #21.
The Redondo Beach Civic Center is a trek for us valley dwellers, so as soon as I picked up my son from school, we zoomed down the coast (as much as you can zoom on the 405 Freeway), rendezvousing with my husband as he made his way there from work. We were early, so we had a tailgate Pilkey Picnic before lining up to go inside the civic center.
If you can ever attend a Dav Pilkey author event, I (as a writer of kidlit, as a parent of a kid who loves Captain Underpants and Dog Man), super strongly urge you to GO. DP is humble, engaging, and he imparts positive messages, such as: practice what you love to do, especially when life feels extremely hard.
When it was our turn for the meet and greet, DP welcomed my son, shook his hand, looked him in the eye as he asked him a few questions about himself, offered to answer any questions my son might have, then high-fived him–all before picture taking started. My son, shy as he was, came away from that encounter feeling as if he’d been acknowledged and seen and heard by a hero slash rockstar. Our 11 year old teenager dropped any moodiness in order to gush to his parents for the next couple of days about meeting Dav Pilkey. The event truly meant a lot to him.
Which meant a lot to his parents.
Can I just say: TRA LA LA!!! (Captain Underpants reference, as if you didn’t know)
Yours in secretly high-fiving-each-other parents,
Volunteering at my son’s school library means I get to help kids discover books they didn’t even know they wanted to read–and also means I can check out books without exceeding my son’s 5th grade (3 books per student) limit.
I get my own limit of books to check out. Because I’m a volunteer.
As a writer of kidlit: HOW HELPFUL IS THAT.
Currently, I’ve checked out a little stack of books on the planet Jupiter and one of Jupiter’s many moons, Europa, perhaps the most important moon, because it might harbor life in its ice-blanketed ocean, which suits my sequel perfectly.
Yours in planets, infinite possibilities and what is, so far, fun research,
PS. an arm of my prescription reading glasses broke off. I find it no easy feat to read, turn pages and hold glasses steady. Reminds me of my juggling days, only now I’m not as coordinated…
My novel is completed (as previously blog-blurted) and sent to the interested party.
And now I wait.
I’m halfway through writing chapter two of the sequel. My husband read chapter one aloud to our son at bedtime the other night and I received uber-positive feedback–my anchors (spouse and 5th grader) are my most welcome and formidable (therefore most welcome) middle-grade writing critiquers…nee oracles…
I also entered novel #1, the novel being read by the interested party, in a couple of 2019 middle grade writing contests. Felt very proactive.
I did stray from kid-lit to revise my adult novel, but it felt too much like Little Red Riding Hood meeting the wolf, or Goldilocks annoyed by the wrong beds, so my focus returned to my sequel. I love being back in the world of novel #1, although dealing with exposition is challenging. However, dealing with exposition is forcing me to make my characters grow/evolve as they guide me through the sequel. I like that!
Today? A break from writing–we are going biking/rollerblading in Santa Monica. Can’t wait to gaze at my ocean and breathe it in.
Yours in challenging writing experiences and sparkling vistas,
I finished my novel. All the writing, beach walks, and kitten-breaks seem to have paid off.
Let the revising begin.
Actually I’ve been revising all along. I adopted a habit of backing up a few chapters, reading/revising them before going forward. This ‘backing up’ has worked well for me, helped clarify and inspire. And now revision commences as though I’ve never read a book in my life. Yes, the old book-as-unicorn trick as I approach revising with as fresh and bright and wide-awake a critical eye as I can muster–or beg the universe for.
I can honestly say I’m enjoying the revision. I wish the read-it-out-loud-to-self part went a little faster, but it’s okay. I’m not hurrying, panicking, putting pressure where it doesn’t belong–this book deserves this time, no matter what my brain says. My gut wins.
I’m constantly reminded (especially before that first cup of coffee) that I keep on keeping on. And I’m pleased about that, very pleased. Om.
Keep on keeping on,
Yesterday I was driving home from Trader Joe’s, my mind deep in my novel. I am SO close to finishing it I can see the end and I was excited about what I was seeing. Then a street sign yanked me from my thoughts: I was crossing Roscoe, but Roscoe didn’t look like Roscoe. My breath came a little fast. Why is the world weird? I wondered, passing the street I usually take to cut over to my house, but because that street didn’t look like itself either, I refused to turn. My worry accelerated to panic. I’m a mother! I thought. I don’t have time for a brain tumor! Luckily, the main thoroughfare appeared. I turned down it and my little pocket of suburbia promptly normalized. Figuring it out only took a few seconds: I’d simply turned down the street prior to the street I normally turn down, but my brain, rummaging through my novel, obsessing on certain ends, sent no confirmation of this move. If I hadn’t seen the Roscoe sign, perhaps I’d still be driving.
Regardless–I’ve got my ending.
Yours in dire conclusions,
There is still only finishing my middle-grade novel (see previous post).
However, life outside writing continues to happen– my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday AND Mother’s Day, during which I was presented with a Hufflepuff hoodie, a Mother’s Day card from my son, we had breakfast at Three Broomsticks, hot butterbeer and time with my MIL who made it clear to her family that Hogsmeade was her birthday venue of choice.
No wonder I adore her so.
Yours in writing-frenzies, revision-rappels, gratitude for extraordinary MIL’s, and luck,
There is only finishing my middle-grade novel.
Getting my son to school, helping him finish his science project and get it to school; hurtling towards summer–school, science projects, math tests, helping at the school book fair, end-of-school-year requirements and the usual at home with the small zoo. And kittens.
There is only finishing my middle-grade novel.
Stretching my limbs on the yoga mat each morning. Maybe jogging. Maybe driving up the hill to the YMCA and it’s treadmill with TV attached. Because the stretching must be done.
There is only finishing my middle-grade novel.
With brain breaks.
I’m SO close. Thrillingly close. With a tinge of bittersweet.
Your’s in not freaking out when writing the climax of a book, remembering to enjoy as many writing moments as possible,
I won runner-up (there were only two of us who won in the Middle Grade category). SCBWI-LA Writer’s Day, Skirball Cultural Center . I pitched an agent, connected with a dream agent, dashed around assisting the totally-on-it RA’s, made new writer friends–and it was rainy outside, an absolute bonus: The Skirball looks as lovely in rain and mist as when the sun is shining. Over 200 writers attended! If you’d like to read about the Day, go here: I can’t recommend it enough. The lineup was exceptional. I was so anticipating Gary D. Schmidt’s keynote, as I said in my last post. His talk was filled with advice on being there for children and what ‘being there’ means beyond the printed page. Gary D Schmidt is timeless. Listen, when we meet for tea and scrumptious finger sandwiches? I’ll tell you all about the grounded GDS talk. As long as clotted cream is served with the scones and little cakes comprising dessert.
This is the weird part–if we were having tea right now, I’d pause to refill my china cup and say: I’m having an exceptionally good time writing AND revising this novel. My first novel felt like ripping my hair out as I carried on writing. Not the case now. Is experience kicking in, at last? Well–I’ll give myself some credit for research, reading, and years of consistently writing. And I’ll just plain go with it.
Because shouldn’t half the fun, if not ALL the fun, be in the process? As you create via a medium you love?
I’m the lady on the far-right, by the way. I was handed my certificate, experienced a coughing fit, fled the auditorium in search of water and returned just in time for the photo.
Yours in positive writing vibes only,
Gary D. Schmidt is giving the keynote. That’s right, author of one of my favorite YA books: ‘The Wednesday Wars’. You’ve probably already read it, but here’s the SCBWI GDS Interview from 2/16/18. I especially appreciated this part: “I really don’t have any advice on productivity other than to say this: Don’t waste time…Focus on a specific, given set of tasks that are very well defined, and get those done.”
This advice resonates with me. Lately, I’ve surprised myself by morphing from my Organic Crunchy-Granola writing methods (many cups of coffee spiked with coconut milk, scratching chins of cats sprawling around my computer, Alexa blaring my Bent/Sigur ros radio station) into: Taskmistress. Effective! (Although the cats aren’t happy to be kicked out of the office and I’m not that wild about kicking Alexa out, but it’s better, it’s just better). Also, I follow Susan Orlean on Twitter and she tends to tweet word count goals for her writing day. Inspiring. And brings out the Competitive-Taskmistress in me, a whole other writing animal.
GDS will deliver the keynote at the Skirball Cultural Ctr, one of the most beautiful venues
for any writers day, anywhere. As long as brush fires aren’t concurrent.
There are colors involved with this Writers Day. I’ve chosen the Green Level, but 2 other color levels are also offered. If you’re going, you know what that means. If you’re still in the throes of procrastination, the colors mystery can easily be solved by clicking this link:
I am not getting paid to cheerlead for SCBWI. I’m just excited about showing up (as I did last year), sitting in the esthetically lit theatre and listening. And eating what I hope is a comparable lunch to last year’s, which was Wolfgang Puck-ish in caliber (IMO).
I’ve only just recently learned what IMO means. I have no excuse for being late to the IMO party as I have known for years what LMAO means.
See you there. I’m a volunteer this year, so say hello!
Yours in important hilltop events,
Usually I’m the one taking our kid on a road trip and usually during the summer, but this week my husband took our kid on a road trip for 2 days to visit family up north and I was suddenly:
a l o n e…
I hit the gym, Trader Joe’s, de-Maddona-Inn-ed our home (see pic), ordered Alexa to play Joni Mitchell as I mopped floors, mopped residue of 3 visiting doggies, aired out guest room, washed towels and rugs and ordered in from The Stand (ahi tuna sandwich wrapped in lettuce instead of bun/extra cilantro aioli sauce–they’ll do that, replace the bun w/lettuce, just ask), reclined on the porch couch-swing in eyes-annihilating sunlight and chatted on cell phone w/older sister and my in-laws who had just departed that day (that’s how much I love them), turned on all lights, inside and out, stayed up late watching the new Blade Runner, woke up at 3 a.m. on the couch, staggered to bed, onto which I invited both dogs, the 2 kittens and my cat, woke up the next morning staring at ceiling thinking: I will find a housesitter.
Mostly I was good at solo living. Both of the L.A. apartments I rented (1 for 4 years, 1 for, thankfully, less) were within walking distance of hiking and I did, I walked and hiked.
I threw potato soup and wine parties (who doesn’t, when you’re single!). I hosted book clubs and poetry nights. My apartments rocked, the best one in Los Feliz (I could walk to Birds and the Bat Cave), although the Echo Park apartment, the last before throwing in my lot (including my potato soup pots) with my husband, had an amazing view of downtown and beyond and I wrote well there, inspired by the expansive view: actual trees, the green skyscrapers of downtown, intriguing haze, Griffith Observatory’s domes, occasionally a glimmer of ocean.
My living alone: all good! Except for the panic bits–when I called my older sister, wailed:
WILL I ALWAYS BE ALOOOOOONE!!!!!!!!
When you live in Los Feliz or Echo Park you constantly hear people or maybe even yourself insisting, I WOULD NEVER LIVE IN THE VALLEY, the VALLEY part spoken as if you’ve just stepped in dog poop.
I have never appreciated my scorched valley and our A/C laden home more than with my 2 lights being away. And though the view here is limited to a bamboo-lined yard, it’s a yard where sword fights and archery matches take place and dogs run wild and a turtle enjoys her outdoor pen and a fat orangesicle cat sprawls on his back in the forever-sun and this weekend, once my 2 lights are back, we are going to play croquet in this yard with the set Santa brought us.
This valley is fruitful, despite the scorch. Who knew.
May your day be merry and bright and here are two fast-growing kittens and insert the Christmas emoji here. Peace on Earth mantra in full swing.
It’s always an emotional rush to post great news: All evacuations have been lifted in the Santa Barbara fire zones (see previous post pbwrites).
Best news, best news.
In my little bit of the valley it’s blowing like heck again. The hammock has flipped, again. I would call the hammock a turtle on its back, but we have a box turtle and one time she did flip, so forget that metaphor. This time? The hammock stays flipped on our vaguely green lawn–aggravating my inner Martha Stewart. Who cares? I don’t. Fire is 60% contained in SB. Let it blow!
In the photo above, a phoebe is perched on the red chair, searching for insects. I love that phoebes return to our yard. I don’t know if it’s their feather-crest, or seemingly good-natured diligence—but they always make me smile as they dart around our property, audibly snapping up prey—hopefully mosquitoes.
Yours in fire-free celebrations (especially if you’re planning on deep-frying a turkey for the first time), yours in phoebes and kittens and little boys who still believe in Santa despite friends telling them otherwise, yours in the lovely snowfall WordPress app, love it, despite so distracting, love it, and yours in Peace,
The Thomas Fire.
3rd largest in California, making its way to 1st largest.
I watch the burning via my computer, 70-ish miles south of family who live in Santa Barbara, Summerland, Carpinteria. My family evacuate, return, evacuate again due to cold/high pressure systems (meaning destructive weather occurrences stuck on replay?).
Sundowners. Santa Anas. I grew up with both. But not like this.
My advice to news stations: Keep up the aerial views. Pan out. And thank you.
As for us valley dwellers? We turn on our heat in the morning, the A/C around 2p.m. We watch the news, although sometimes we just can’t. We send money to fire victims. We pray for rain.
This is not the new normal. This is insanity.
“Hey, Mom?” my son said casually as he attached a Lego palm frond to a multi-colored Lego wall he was building on the coffee table as I ironed pertinent clothing near him and my husband raged in front of a Sunday sports event on the wall mounted TV. “Remember that mobile I’m supposed to make?” my son asked.
“STOP EVERYTHING!” I screamed, and unplugged the iron.
Between bites of his chicken nuggets, my son glued pieces of bark together to form a canoe, created seaweed cutouts and other cutouts as I scoured our arid grounds for sticks as my husband rummaged through office drawers for a ball of rawhide twine as I procured glue and scissors and my husband lashed the sticks that I’d thrown at him with a slow-motion yell: dooooo iiiiittttttt, with the rawhide strips and drilled a hole in the bark and attached our son’s creations to the mobile and suddenly it WAS a mobile and my son had finished his written report that was due with the mobile and the Dodgers lost one of their crucial World Series games and IT WAS TIME FOR BED.
These are the good old days, indeed.
I didn’t look at Twitter for 24 hours a few days ago. #ROSEARMY
I posted a bit on FB. #metoo
I switched FB from public to only friends. #WTH”FRIENDS”???
I’ve been reading FB and Twitter in bed before turning out the lights. I have NEVER done this before, at least—-not with consistency/possibly commitment and I don’t condone it, and I am doing it. #weirdtimes
I will be the change I wish to see, I have been the change I wish to see, but the “must” part of I must be the change I wish to see—missing from daily life. More like–I’m just constantly processing IT IT IT ad nauseum (see below re: SNL) #it–w/sighs
Yours in more than thoughts and prayers, yours in good health, in mothering selves and children, yours in Love, yours in Peace, and yours in pushing back, yours in watching the BBC Emma Thompson interview, and SNL from last Saturday, and, most of all, yours in the healing effects of kitten power,
SCBWI Working Writer’s Retreat, September, 2017
The “working” aspect in Working Writer’s Retreat (for me)=the retreat provided printers, so there was no excuse (for me) for not sprinting to my sparse (sweetly existential) weekend bedroom after a workshop, whipping open my laptop and revising my work based on inspiration or comments from said workshops, comments so helpful, I could have cried into my savory tofu-in-mushroom-sauce dinner (I ticked the vegetarian option), or any meal served in the hall with a view of spreading oaks backed by tranquil sky. Felt transported from Los Angeles into a Buddha’s serene blink.
Workshops were scheduled so that when your roommate was in a workshop, you had the room to yourself to feverishly revise, if you wished. Brilliant.
Each of my workshops featured the same 4 writers (5, with me) presided over by a different agent or editor. So the same 4 writers heard, from me, my same first chapter revised throughout the weekend. This worried me: I didn’t want to keep presenting the same effing thing–but I reminded myself that the ‘same effing thing’ is key to my whole effing manuscript. And I had eagle-eyed critiquers. So–I took advantage of their eyes. Thanks, my group, eagles. Thank you, so much.
Retreat? Yes, but–we were so noisy, us introverted writers, we were asked by Holy Spirit admin to keep it down, as in addition to our retreat, a Silent Retreat was also taking place at The Center.
But Saturday night’s karaoke fest was far too much fun to remember warnings. Only later (shuffling wearily to our rooms), hearing a nearby Encino neighborhood’s rage (uber-peppy DJ w/uber-amplifiers) did we proffer: Oh dear, the silent retreaters must be challenged. And that night I slept as though encased in fathoms. No breakfasts to prepare, no child to ferry to school, no dogs to shoo from licking my hand at 3.a.m.–I was OUT.
This was my favorite SCBWI event to date. Retreaters were open to sharing–from critique to favorite authors and kid lit info to pix of pets and kids. Conversations with my roommate were both professional and family-related (I luff her!). I returned home to my husband, son and 2 new family additions–kittens–feeling creatively inspired. A few weeks later, still feeling it. Although fairly sleepless due to kittens. Silent retreaters! Your revenge is complete. Insert smiling face here…
Anticipating next February’s SCBWI Skirball event.
Yours in productivity, creativity and, of course, kittens, PB
Me–prepping for the upcoming SCBWI Working Writer’s Retreat:
Fortunately I got in, thanks to iphone alerts, Alexa/Echo alerts, the wall calendar with a particular date circled so thickly in red it could never become invisible, no matter the million times I pass it in my daily life. This event sells out every year. I’m lucky to be a part of it. I’ve had weeks, now, to prep, print, use the read-it-to-me feature on Word, buy a new memory stick and pens and despite doing all that? Despite my writing satchel being (over) packed?
All prep still feels last minute.
Maybe because I’m excited, nervous, terrified of the karaoke aspect included with the retreat (participation highly encouraged–perhaps I’ll get lucky and channel an inner Meryl?), and hoping I remembered to check the vegetarian option when I registered. Also: Must. Not. Forget. Yoga mat.
Yours in conferences completely overrun in helpful critique,
Temperature: 109 & rising
I was in Trader Joe’s for last minute holiday weekend supplies. I don’t usually notice conversations going on around me in Trader Joe’s as I squint at my list, trying to remember what I forgot to put on it.
But this day, I did. Listen. And whatever TJ’s section I was in—crackers, nuts, where they keep the salmon dip–all anyone was talking about? Weather. Especially since the La Tuna Canyon fire was raining ash city-wide, and actual rain reportedly gushed in pockets of our teeming metropolis, pockets like Reseda (I was witness) and Malibu, but not, sadly, La Tuna Canyon.
“Loading up and heading to Malibu. Weather there insane, rain, sun, lightning, but, you know, I LIKE that. Me, personally, I LIKE weather.”
—gesticulating older man in shorts and flip flops to a TJ’s clerk. Clerk told man to have a wonderful time in Malibu, for her. She meant it.
“My daughter’s fine, my daughter’s fine, no, my daughter’s fine, no flooding in her condo? But it ain’t pretty. She’s a new college grad! Wow. Wow. Wow. What an education.”
—TJ’s checkout clerk to a customer nodding rhythmically as she bagged her own goods. Customer was on the verge of tears.
Crowd at the tasting/coffee area–so many people and carts, the thruway was blocked. Two TJ’s clerks behind tasting counter shared info and intel and research regarding floods and heatwaves with crowd. Samples cups were discarded on the counter, littered floor. No subsequent samples were being prepared. Yet no one left the tasting area. Everyone wanted to talk.
“Flashlights, freeze-dried food. Like–meatballs. Ice cream. Space blankets. Solar powered phone chargers. Running shoes in your car, oh, and twine. Like for camping. Everyone has this shit, babe. Come on.”
—TJ’s customer pushing basket super slowly down frozen food aisle, speaking into cell phone balanced between shoulder and ear.
“Bee’s wrap. Shut. Up. Do it.”
—customer on cell phone hovering near my beloved salmon dip.
I took two dips. And, seconds later, a baguette.
I thought: I am going home and I am going to revise the crap out of my manuscripts.
Update: Salmon dip w/baguette was, as usual, amazing. Earthquake kit checkup proved we have a solar powered electronics charger, a year’s supply of astronaut food, space blankets, a hand-crank radio, water purifier and loads of other items. I researched bee’s wrap on the internet, but am leaning towards hemp wrap so as not to stress out the stressed out bee population. Late Labor Day afternoon? We took our dinner to Zuma Beach, Malibu. We swam, ate, watched the sun set and dolphins cut through giant, greeny waves. Rain fell on us. Felt like a blessing.
Manuscripts? Revisions? Coming along, Toto, coming along.
Early days of 4th grade for the boy coincide with consecutive days of triple digit heat for valley dwellers, a box turtle possibly on a hunger strike because I won’t put her in her outdoor arena in triple digit heat, melted-looking toadstools popping up around the base of our pop-up outdoor swimming pool, fungi I believe our dog has licked or eaten because suddenly poop abounds, inside house, outside, in reception room of vet’s office, all manner of bugs landing in pop-up pool, mostly–sadly–bees, although I watched a wasp land on the surface, remain for 4 seconds (I counted) then wing-activate and zoom safely away (wasps are the new dragon-fly? Removed a dead dragon fly from pool, rainbow wings soggy, long body done, so…)
In this heat, I’ve sent love & money & more love & money and this will continue until floods are tiny puddles.
Fire in La Tuna Cyn eating its way over brittle terrain towards suburban Burbank neighborhoods, ash on our cars, ash on the pop-up pool’s cover, ash in the turtle’s outdoor arena, ash smearing my windshield because my wipers suck–here, changing windshield wipers never makes the To Do list. Triple digits, fire and now a mugginess/humidity-soup pushed to us from a storm torturing Baja. Triple digits predicted today. The hottest summer since we moved to the valley 7 years ago. Loved those glorious rains last Fall, but how quickly their good was eaten by multiple heatwaves tucked into all subsequent months, to this month’s 109, 111, 116, etc.
4th grade has not included playing outdoors at lunchtime. Will be forcing self to open the next water and power bill. One day, will the turtle forgive me?
I like to watch video of the people dressed up in T-rex costumes, all clumsily making their way across a green in Washington D.C., protesting a latest legislative injustice. I like pondering gladioli. I am grateful for our A/C.
I like sending out prayers for rain. And prayers for closed floodgates. And prayers for rain.