Wednesday, December 30, 2009
I'm sorry I'm not that mom at the basketball court, the one on the sidelines, wearing your team colors and clanging a cowbell, the one who yells out your name, who yells at the ref, who scribbles out efficient plays on my clipboard.
I'll go to some games, I promise.
But I won't love you because you like sports. I'll love you in spite of it.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Monday, December 28, 2009
Check out http://shannonkodonnell.blogspot.com/2009/12/hear-ye-hear-ye.html to enter.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
It was magical.
The kids were teachers. Today was a welcome reminder to be accepting, to be encouraging, to be creative and cooperative, to just get together and have a great time.
Maslow would say that man's basic needs for survival -- breath, food, water, and sex (this last one is what "Community" was getting at -- define him.
My friend Wendi tells me that people are good, that it comes down to the choices they make, most of which are right.
My husband, the criminologist, is matter-of-fact: People are good. Statistically, there are less bad people, maybe 2 out of a hundred, he guesses.
Me, I see a lot of greed. But there's also a fair share of hope.
I like to trust the other people on the planet. I'm hoping I'm raising kind kids.
It's the perfect time of year to believe in humanity's goodness.
Friday, December 18, 2009
Are humans inherently good or evil? Is personality created through nature or nurture?
From Paradise Lost to Star Wars, art has attempted to provoke answers.
What is it? And how does it clarify whether man is good or evil?
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
The young men's naivety was refreshing. Here they were, the age of most of my students, but with no Play Stations or iPods or even running water. They were infatuated with electricity, were taught not to throw garbage out the window, and ate butter straight, asking if it was cheese or maybe meat?
All were dedicated to working one, two, even three jobs in factories and fast-food restaurants.
They wanted an education, but taught more to the Americans than they could've ever possibly learned themselves. There was no sense of entitlement. Of victimization.
To our afluenzic culture, this is anthropologically fascinating. And also spiritually.
"I feel sorrow for them," one boy said about his community of brothers left behind in the refugee camp. His sending money did not assuage his guilt at having a "nice place" (an apartment in Pittsburgh).
Over and over, each boy empathized with the refugees stuck in Africa.
It made me think about living here. In America, in Ashland. Where folks pull their hybrid Hylanders to screeching stops at Bikram yoga studios and sweat it out in mountain pose, their hands at their hearts.
Here we have everything--running water, electricity, butter--and we have to learn, to practice, to achieve the basic principles of kindness, of understanding, of love.
These boys didn't have much, but they did have that. In terms of everything, that is a lot.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Bill came out and showed us where the waste comes in, and how it's mixed with "good bugs" before being blasted by a UV light, then spit into Bear Creek. Bill had on a baseball hat and a Carhardt coat. His beard froze as he talked about detritus feeders, and the diapers that come through the system. He was a good guy, Bill was, anyone could see it: the kind of guy who worked hard all week and appreciated a 20-ounce Budweiser on a Friday night.
After I had almost thawed out from the field trip, The Husband dragged me halfway up Highway 62 to slap some drywall mud around a woodworking shop. (Yes, Dave had quit. There was a little relapse here. Any drywaller could tell you the craft is a disease.)
My man's Wolverine boots clunked across the floor, as I sat outside with my face to the sun, and gave gratitude for clean water and warmth from walls, and all these workers who keep the world going. I'm telling you, there's nothing like a few hours with freezing BM and drywall dust to take you down a notch from being a college professor.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Sunday, December 6, 2009
That if you wrote a book, it got published.
That when it was published, you earned at least a six-digit figure for it.
That after you remodeled the house, you traveled the world, talking about your novel, in places like Bhutan.
That your chances on getting on Oprah with your book was maybe one in three.
That when that book then became an instant bestseller and award-winner, you spit out another masterpiece in no time, then another four or five.
For a while there, I must've confused myself with John Grisham.
Friday, December 4, 2009
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
My mind began to wander. While the speaker power-pointed feeder streams, I studied everything on the walls: taxonomic charts, quotes by John Muir, lists of prepositions. And after it was all committed to memory, I crossed my feet under the table and tried to listen about groundwater absorption.
I wondered how much longer until we could go outside and actually do something with watersheds.
And when we finally did go out into the morning fog, my hands froze, and my ankles bled from slogging through blackberry bushes, and I wished we could go back inside.
The shovels were heavy. The dirt was dirty. And I thought how lucky the kids in Manhattan were to never have to think about watersheds.
Hungry and hurt, tired and cold, I swept up a pile of ivy leaves. Dominic and his friends yanked vines from the earth with gusto and cheer, as I slunk off toward The Beanery.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
It's a classic fairy tale, the rise of the youngest brother in the group of five, dedicated to overcoming the abuse he suffered as a child, and how that dedication ultimately led to his demise. The fortune and fame of being a world superstar were no consolation to Jackson's invisible demons. He may have transformed physically. He may have had everything in that dark, cluttered mansion, but he struggled with basic human needs: love, acceptance, identity.
He could change his face. He could change the entertainment industry. He could impact world poverty. But Jackson couldn't fix the damage done to him by his own father.
Only through drugs could the Man in the Mirror escape his past, and his future of having to grow up. He tried desperately to create a family and a home. Although the world was at his feet, the icon ironically died empty and alone.
I was never a fan. True, Jackson was the emblem of my generation, but the moonwalking/ crotch-grabbing/teeth-clenching, the falsetto interjections, even the epic music videos were just not that appealing to a California girl who just wanted to have fun with a certain rainbow-haired vocalist from Queens.
Like all great artists, however, once the King of Pop proved his mortality, he became significant
--even to me.
I suddenly saw the innovation and expression of his work. I listened, really listened, to his lyrics: "You Are Not Alone," "Scream," "Cry," "Unbreakable"; and I began to understand his suffering. We may have all grown up with the boy, but no one ever knew him.
The tragedy does not lay in this effigy's death. It was in his life.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
When my EMT husband is around, I go ahead and let him deal with the accidents and injuries. Since it's his hobby, and everything.
I watch his craft, and listen to his stories about blood, guts, spit, snot, vomit, and liquids of the bathroom nature.
I'll even watch "Trauma," NBC's troubled drama (hence the portmanteau).
But something about the show really irks me, and it's definitely not the setting (San Francisco).
All the male characters have this need to take care of Nancy, an otherwise capable and experienced paramedic. And I'm talking all the males: the ER doctor, Nancy's current riding partner, Nancy's ex-partner, the helicopter pilot, her dad.
I can deal with her low-cut uniform shirt and her low-rise pants. But I can't deal with the premise that although Nancy can take care of the most critical patients, she can't take care of herself.
Maybe if the show had been a little more feminist (okay, I'd settle for a little less sexist), it wouldn't have flatlined.
Maybe if NBC had stuck to the blood and guts (and the Castro episode), even viewers like me would've given it a better chance.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
More students will go to private universities, where tuition is higher, but so is aid?
Greater population in community colleges?
The eventual privatization of higher ed?
Greater number of "gap years," when students work after high school instead of going straight to college?
Wider national chasm between rich and poor.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Saturday, November 14, 2009
He talked mostly about the World Trade Center memorial lights: how he had first seen them while driving back from the airport after flying in from London, how they illuminate the city during the anniversary of 9/11.
He said that Claire's pilgrimage mirrors his own, that she was the character hit hardest by the tragedy. The passage Levithan chose to read was "The Lights," narrated by Claire.
He explained the reason his climatic scene starts in the first chapter.
There were no books to buy; the store had run out before the visit began. But Levithan, in his well-ironed shirt, was unruffled; he crammed wisdom and his autograph onto skinny strips of stickers.
And he gave me a CD of songs he had made. I listened to it all the way home, partial to tracks 4, 6, and 10.
Before I left, though, I had asked Levithan about the conclusion. I teach my college students there are only so many kinds, I said, and I've tried and I've tried, but I can't figure this one out.
That's because there is no real end, he told me, It's like the tragedy itself; it's just not all wrapped up.
Then he put his arm around my daughter for a picture, and I thought, this man is love. He writes about love and he talks about love and he walks love, walks it right in those nice but well-worn shoes.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
To get to see my new fave, David Levithan, author of the deep and redeeming Love Is The Higher Law, I've had to cover two boys overnight, plus an entire class of writers.
But I did it.
I had to.
This guy has blown me away. I used this novella in my community college class, to show the integration of fiction into research, to prove that fiction is worthy of critical thought.
And speaking of "critical," Levithan's timeliness is. The novella debuted two weeks before the eight-year anniversary of the World Trade Center's collapse. It packs three teens' self-searches in a destroyed New York into a slim 163 pages, narrated by three voices.
I know. Crazy.
How does Levithan do it? Along with being clean and tight, the plot is simple: under 9/11 rubble, these kids struggle before finding community. And humanity. And hope.
Every word is chosen meticulously. Here's Claire: "I want to have faith in strangers. I want to have faith in what we're all going to do next. But I'm worried... Wouldn't it be wonderful if we really came together, if we found a common humanity? The hitch is that you can't find a common humanity just because you have a common enemy. You have to have a common humanity because you believe that it's true."
Who could not love the honesty, the wisdom there?
Oh, I hope Levithan reads that part in Portland tomorrow. That, and pages 105 and 106. And of course page 153.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
The winning pairs have been an old family friend and The Future Housewives of America, my cousin and The Alchemist, my daughter and Mandy, my aunt and Patty Jane's House of Curl. There was also my son's teacher and Possessing the Secret of Joy. And my college roommate and Like Water for Chocolate.
For some reason, it's easier for me to match literature to females, but successful relationships have been formed between my brother and Godless, an acquaintance and Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, and a doctor and Freakonomics.
On rare occasion, someone will give me a book that fits perfectly, like a pair of shoe orthotics that are between being nicely broken in and too worn thin. These have included Pobby and Dingan from my sister, Someday This Pain Will be Useful to You from Christy, and, though I hate admitting it, Four Blondes from my husband. Because I read a lot/teach English/write, I guess, well-meaning people are always loaning me literature they think I'll love.
But as you know by now, I'm a tough critic.
When someone asks to borrow one of my books, I am both eager to lend it and doubtful; I want to be sure it comes back. After writing my name prominently on the front cover, I stress that the book is one of my favorites, to please return it. I know: anal. I always remember who has my book, when I gave it to them, and whether or not it's returned.
You know where this blog is going.
Yep. Someone jacked my beloved The Shadow of the Wind.
Here's how it happened: in June 2007, my kids were in swimming lessons at the park. I had just gotten back the Gothic novel from my friend, when a colleague noticed it laying on the lawn, and took interest in it. Said Colleague is a professor of literature, from Europe, with a fetish for all things foreign. I couldn't believe he hadn't heard of the book. It was such a fit! I handed it over with much enthusiasm.
And have waited a year and a half to get it back.
I've missed that $14 book. Since I gave it away, I could've lent it to other readers a hundred times over.
I've hinted at needing the book back, even flat-out demanding. No luck. Though I'd like to, I can't imagine forgetting that Said Colleague has my book stashed away on some shelf, buried by dust. Excuse me while I grab a tissue.
Recently, a funny thing happened. I was (early) Christmas shopping at a big gift store, when Said Colleague sauntered over, wearing the store name tag. He explained that he was moonlighting during the holidays, earning extra cash for some hefty wish lists. He'd be happy to give me his employee discount card, he said. I could save 30 %.
Of course I took him up on his offer. He had my cherished book hostage, remember?
With the employee discount, I pocketed a $14 savings.
Guess what I did with it.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Dominic's middle school Spanish class decorated sugar skulls.
Reesie's class made calaveras puppets.
These Catrinas cheered from Main Street on Halloween:
And here's our annual display by the check-out desk of the library:
Viva la vida (and los muertos) in Ashland!
Friday, October 30, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Like all teens, Jasper, Claire, and Peter had been searching for their selves. But after what Jasper calls "the tragedy," that search becomes critical; the emptiness needs fulfilling. Purpose needs to be realized.
These are wise kids, yes, but they're also just kids. They live for music, and they hang out and talk, and they have heaps of hope.
I particularly love Peter's early chapter, "The Date"--one, ten-page paragraph. One stream of consciousness, one string of events.
I also love that the novella begins and ends with Claire.
While gobbling up this morsel, I had no doubt that Levithan knows kids, that he knows gay kids, that he knows New York. That he understands suffering and the search to end it.
This book makes me want more out of my own life: more meaning, more depth, more substance.
It is one of those fiction pieces that makes you want to tell all the nonfiction believers in the world, "Hah! Take that! This book made me think! I mean, really think. So, it wasn't true, exactly. But try to get all that out of an encyclopedia."
Love is the higher law. And Levithan is the Supreme Justice.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
5 -- kids who came over to play this afternoon, besides my own 3
23 -- graded 2-page papers
36 -- minutes I could put up with watching "Transformers 2" before getting distracted by Megan Fox's permanent lip gloss
64 -- times I Googled the cause of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict until I began to kind of understand it
101 -- thoughts I had of exercising instead of doing all of the above
Monday, October 19, 2009
Slowly in the dark, I began to spin a tale, a non-fiction piece, actually, knowing it was easier to borrow than to have to create.
Halfway in and gathering steam, I was hearing all these pops and clicks. "What IS that?" I asked (not very nicely).
"A gun," said Rees, eight.
Honestly, I was too tired to get up and turn on the light and see what he was talking about. So I yelled, "Mac!" and my seventeen-year-old brother busted down the bedroom door, to see what I was panicking over.
"Please," I mumbled into my pillow. "Take. The gun. Away. From Rees."
Mac flicked on the light and Rees handed over the busted pellet gun. Then the paint gun. The dart guns. A BB gun. And three toy rifles.
I laughed myself wide awake seeing Mac in the doorway with guns under his arms, pinned to his sides, between his knees.
"What is this?" he said. "An arsenal?"
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Save yourself hours of reading with these highlights:
The September 2009 issue of US News & World Report claims that a third of college freshmen will drop out after that year, and another 20% before graduation.
In America, women make up the majority of co-ed student bodies.
Florida State University declares a black graduation rate of 72%, higher than that of whites.
In Britain, most high school graduates take a "gap year," before college, during which they travel, work, or volunteer.
While colleges struggle to accommodate students with dwindling funding, some consider privatization.
Admissions essays to Ivy League schools earn big points for proving why the college is a match. Standardized test scores (like the SAT) are under scrutiny.
If money's an object, as it is for the vast majority of the nation, the ends of the spectrum are suggested. Try community college, which enroll 6 million students in the U.S, and which are emerging in the academic recession as financially and curricularly savvy. Or aim high--for Harvard, Princeton, or Stanford, the top 1, 2, and 4 financial-friendly schools.
Saturday, October 3, 2009
Because of state furlough days, our instructional time is cut; I'll only see my students for about two months.
On the first day, we learned how to strengthen our writing by what not to put in it:
cliches, irrelevancy, redundancy, overuse of modifiers, a generic hook and a general title, "you." And then we came up with stuff with boosting power: strong verbs, transitional phrases, stylistic devices like imagery, a satisfying conclusion.
The critical piece is the proof. The who/what/where/when/why/how. The specific details. Thesis support.
It's a lot, I realize.
And when I told the students--all ba-zillion of them--that revision was to be the most important part of their process, that it should take the longest and be the most challenging, they looked at me at blinked. I've seen that look before. At the beginning of every term, actually.
They believe they won't survive it.
They don't think so, but they'll get there. I know it enough for all of them.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
I had my hestitations. I mean, we'd memorized the football team's moves to "All the Single Ladies" in the last "Glee" episode. What could stack up to that?
Ten minutes into the remake, my boys were suffering badly; nothing on the screen was transforming into destructive robots, or firing space lasers at rebel alliances.
Hang in there, I told them.
But I was barely holding on, myself.
Where was the humor? There was room there for some. Any. A little, at least.
Where were the homosexuals? This was a school. An arts school. In New York. Yet the only gay student was alone and suicidal. Unfair representation.
Where were the interracial romances? Why did the whites hook up with whites, the African Americans with African Americans? Real kids don't care about that. Why did these kids?
And along the lines of stereotyping, why were the characters and plot predictable? The Italian kid's family owned a restaurant. Malik came from the Hood.
"Fame" was really insightful for me. I craved a big twist, an unlikely character, and more than anything, for the cast to bust out in Pat Benatar's "We Are Young."
That would have made the movie.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
I haven't, I told her, nor a Monster.
And I've never texted while driving, either. Or bungee jumped, or sky dived, or had any kind of heights-related "fun."
I've never swallowed black licorice or owned a shiny leather jacket or a big, fluffy bathrobe.
But I've never not dressed up for Halloween. And I've never not struggled with math. And I'm never going to get to sleep if I don't post this blog. And I might need one of them there Red Bulls in the morning.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
What I've been doing is... a lot of school stuff with my kids. Because when school starts for me, I can't do much else. So I've been walking to the pond on field trips. And to the farm. I've been driving around forgotten lunches. And having "goal-setting" conferences.
I've done drywall.
And yesterday, Dave took me up to the point of origin for the 160-acre Deer Creek Fire.
I've been gathering up medical receipts for reimbursement.
And taking pictures of the lack of posted speed limits where I got a ticket a couple of weeks ago.
I've watched the "Don't Stop Believin'" part of Glee with Daney about 25 times.
I've read with Rees, and helped Dominic with the Challenge Problems of his math.
I've had breakfast and lunch and dinner with girlfriends. Then walking and running and doing yoga to burn off at least some of it.
So, see, I've been working. Just not on writing stuff.
Friday, September 18, 2009
Halfway through a Nirvana track, Dominic rightfully claimed that the prior decade was musically much superior. In the '90s, he went on, talent must have been optional.
Monday, September 14, 2009
No master of brevity, Tarantino whittled "Inglourious Basterds" to over two and a half hours, with serious devotion to dialogue.
There are chapters, obscure actors, interwoven stories, and a (distracting)comic infuse.
There is action.
My favorite part of going to the film was not only admiring the movie itself, but watching viewers leave the theater with looks of sheer shock and perplexity. Tarantino delivers big concepts to small towns.
This is not a documentary, though, which is important to remember. "Inglourious Basterds" is entertainment. And art. And an exercise of the "What if..."
Friday, September 11, 2009
I should have cleaned. I should have queried. I should have written, or revised, or something.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
There were truffles.
And magic lemonade. Spiderman's mom brought it to me in mass quantities.
The lead singer from the opening band, "16 Frames" ditched his backstage party to whoop it up with us.
Oh yeah, and there was music.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
"That looks so good!" he said, wiping the drool from his chin. "I want some of it so bad!"
"Would you like a bite?" I asked him.
"A drumstick," he said.
And two years ended, just like that.
Monday, August 31, 2009
Friday, August 28, 2009
Like, what if chocolate was poured into mini muffin tins.
And then another kind of delicious other flavor was dropped inside. Cherry? No. Mint? Not quite. But maybe...Skippy or something.
Like Reese's peanut butter cups. Invented by a former Hershey's employee. Almost a hundred years ago.
At 6 AM today, I'm already a little behind.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Sunday, August 23, 2009
I mean, the "body artists" and the "receptionists" are fooling around with squirt bottles one minute, and at each other's inked throats the next.
There are catfights and hook ups and a lot of drinking...out of coffee cups. Oh, and there's some tattooing.
This show makes me sentimental. It reminds me of my (short lived) PhD program at Northern Arizona University, where the bottom line was totally the same. Where both are the centers of their universes. The people involved are the most important people, as is the dialogue, and the day-to-day goings on, not to mention the mission.
Both worlds take themselves very seriously.
They have no idea the other, or any other, exists.
When I watch "Inked," I relive my doctoral days, relieved to have left them behind. And speaking of "behind," thanks to the show, I'm thinking about getting a little monarch butterfly...
Thursday, August 20, 2009
It's a new season, now. A new crop. I run the path alone, while my big kids sleep in.
But just to remember, I pluck off a berry and it rolls on my tongue for a second, and I close my eyes and taste those sweet days of yesterday.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
I thought it didn't have a chance.
It's the only adult piece I've ever written. And I didn't make it to the awards ceremony two weeks ago; instead, I went to my cousin's beautiful wedding, where she invited me to read a piece of magic from The Alchemist, and where two of my three kids threw up on me.
But Bakersfield Baptism had power. I knew it. It's a camouflaged personal story: How could a woman ever live with the loss of her child, if there were anything she could do to prevent it? What would be her vessel for forgiveness?
The two critiquers raved about the 14-page story. One was really, truly, deeply affected.
Before I had sent it in, I read it aloud one more time. To Dominic. Who cried. This writing stuff is tricky. Not the writing exactly, but all the other stuff.
Look for a sign, I told myself in bed last night.
And here it is.
Now I need to think about what it means, and what to do with it.
Thank you, PNWA, for the hope. For giving Gracie Mae a living chance. I love you.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
I mean, when did the surfers and skiers start taking themselves so seriously here?
All these folks in their designer sunglasses and their mammoth SUVs are scuttling along frantically to get to their tanning appointments and personal trainers and their kids' Kumon classes. They're checking their watches and furrowing their brows and tapping their horns, with one foot on the break and the other on the accelerator.
They are definitely not smiling.
It has to be the recession.
Sure, these former affluenzics have had to trade in their boats to make the mortgage. And due to furloughs, their summer vacations are drearily extended. Retail is almost non-existent. Plus, the construction industry has all but died, minimizing the good times at PF Changs and all but extinguishing trips to Puerto Vallerta.
But the folks here are still alive. Their kids are healthy. And the plastic surgeons' doors are wide open.
The one great thing about California, I told my dad in the middle of 7 PM traffic, used to be its ability to laugh at itself. Hollywood had shown the world that we were silly and we knew it. We were anything but hypocritical.
Before my dad could say anything back, though, a big black Escalade with a "Greenpeace" bumper sticker laid on its horn , then cut us off.
Saturday, August 8, 2009
And everyone here in California has a pool. So the kids and I have been pool-hopping!
We're having a good time. And we're getting tired and tan.
Reunion's tonight. Am hoping for more of a glamor than troll look.
Watch me do a triple flip off this diving board!
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Monday, August 3, 2009
My brother was here for a wedding, and he and I hung out a lot. We took walks, got coffee, and spent a half-day lounging around, discussing the meaning of life.
This is a boy who, like his friends, snowboards and mountain bikes and watches "The Office" and has four more months before deciding where to apply to college.
But unlike his friends, this boy has no mom. He hasn't since the week before his sixth birthday.
And yet, he is wise beyond belief. Inquisitive. Deep.
He's wondering if he and his girlfriend will stay together when he moves south in a year. He's worrying about finding purpose.
He's comparing himself to his older brothers, and asking himself if he stacks up.
It was refreshing to see that after this young person was unplugged--from satellite TV, from his X-box, from his cell phone and his iPod--there was a soul-searching, free-thinking human with a calling for compassion.
He wants to be happy, and to live his most meaningful life.
And he's doing just that. A novel in the making.
Friday, July 31, 2009
My first book was about everything I didn't really know: boys, Division I recruiting, crime. It was interesting to write, and I had a focused macroperspective, but I had to talk to a lot of boys, especially athletes, and coaches, and judges, and probation officers, and criminals to be able to deliver it.
Afterwards, I wrote Drain during the hardest three months of my life. Of Daney's life.
Newly diagnosed with epilepsy, the nine-year-old had launched into a long serious of daily grand-mal seizures. She was ambulanced and hospitalized and tested and treated. And even with the medicine, she's had two more seizures.
Now, Dave and I are not strangers to tragedy. Since we were 18, we've pulled each other through deaths and sickness and surgeries and other things that will wait for another post.
But this one killed me; I couldn't get past seeing Daney shake and stop breathing.
My writing group let me take two weeks off. And when I came back, crying, with Daney all loaded up with books and sketch pads and Calico Critters because I couldn't let her out of my sight, they gave me seven days to return with something.
I told them there was no way.
But the next Wednesday, I brought Daney again. And the first few pages of Drain.
I didn't really know what I was writing: the story of a Seer. Her voice was hollow. She was all alone, despite all the people around her. She suffered over not being able to change things.
It was starting to sound pretty familiar.
I didn't know what I was writing, but I was Writing What I Knew.
Next time, I would love to write a quirky book: lighthearted and funny.
It's not in me right now.
But it will be.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Dave had come off a busy shift and had taken me to Morning Glory for a mocha and famous oatmeal pancakes, before catching a few winks. I loaded up the kids on their bikes and hit the sunny Bear Creek trail. Yes, it was almost noon. Yes, it was a million degrees. But we had the whole trail to ourselves!
Three miles in, though, I started to get a little hot. Okay, really hot. Like, burning up. Baked.
Now, I can usually seriously tolerate heat. I mean, it can be ninety degrees in the kitchen, and I can be whipping up a sour cream chocolate cake, no problem. Once, I stayed in a day spa sauna so long, the front desk girl came in to check on me. Plus, I put Texas Pete and pepperoncinis on everything. Except sour cream chocolate cake.
Anyway, I was running and roasting, and by the time I got home, my whole cooling system had somehow blown. I was red and panting and ready to hurl. Or die. Ponds of perspiration were forming in places I never knew could sweat. Even my gums were steaming.
Dave was up. He took one look at me before laying me down with my feet up and a package of frozen peas behind my neck.
He took my pulse and fed me gallons of water, and my kids covered me with organic otter pops. And ponds of perspiration were forming in places I never knew sweat.
Now that I'm finally cooling off, I completely understand why the trail was deserted. Everyone around here is way smarter than me.
Including the people who buy regular Otter Pops. They're so much better than these fruit juice things.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Me: You know, what she might be like.
Rees: Oh! Well, she has to like cats. That's obvious.
Me: What else?
Rees: I don't know. Do you have any recommendations?
Me: Sure. Do you want her to be smart?
Me: And do you want her to be funny?
Rees: Uh, yeah.
Me: And will she be pretty?
Rees: Hey! I have an idea! You're smart and funny and pretty. I'll marry you!
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
The costumes were more beautiful than ever. So was the dancing.
And Daney was her usual cute self.
After the show, we took pictures in the amazing park.
home. With ice cream.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Maybe it's because I ripped off my own toenail (getting into the car) last month, but I seem to be seeing and hearing a lot of toe and finger tragedies.
There's the guy at Dave's fire department who severed his pinky at the knuckle when it got caught in a ladder.
Another brother sliced his finger a few days later.
My little friend Riley tore off her big toenail.
And my friend Linda was run over by a grocery cart, then stepped on by a coffee shop customer.
What's interesting about these stories is not so much the plot of it all, but the characters' reactions to it.
Honestly, it's quite telling, the way one responds to driving a hammer into one's thumb.
Though I'm sorry for these folks' suffering, I am, admittedly and sickly, except for the lost finger, amused by the effects. There's been some crying, some swearing, some shrieking, some grace.
I guess there are two things to learn from all this: to study people in appendage crises, and to be extra careful right now when walking barefoot or shutting doors or using electric knives.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Okay, math might be a bad example. Because unlike math, I love writing. It's weird, though, not thinking about writing the next scene, or revising the conclusion, and although my kids have begged me not to write any more (and although I really am considering that), a few tiny ideas are swirling around my head.
For now, though, I'm just letting them swirl. While I:
* do yoga
* read to the kids
* listen to the kids read to me
* sip Noble coffee at early morning swim lessons
* pick blueberries
* cook complicated, delicious vegetarian meals for Rees and Daney, who often get the food shaft because of the high-profile carnivores around here
* hang out with the girls
* go to plays
* go to the dentist
* go to the movies
Wow! When there's no writing, there sure is a lot of living!
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Friday, July 10, 2009
Since I'm so new to the bizz, I had no idea what that was.
So I Googled it.
And, wow! Continuity is cool!
I found out that "The Wizard of Oz" movie had over 170 continuity mistakes. But still, much less than I'll probably have. If I make it that far.
And NPR has a fascinating interview with a Harry Potter continuity editor, who admits to a mistake involving toilets.
It's funny, though, my man has been quite the unofficial continuity editor for some time. He was the one who showed me the huge then diminutive plate of nachos in "Napolean Dynamite," among other fun things.
My eyes are open now. I'm going to be watching...
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Bandon was beautiful, and super fun!
We stayed in a yurt-- with bunk beds, and a heater, and everything!
Rees explored an underwater cave at negative tide. He found oodles of starfish and crabs and sculpins, and even ghost shrimp and a chiton!
There were no cell phones, no computer, just a lot of salt water and a happy little family. A great last hoo-rah. Before diving into the next revision.
Saturday, July 4, 2009
Of course, I am all over the parade with "Cabaret" in it:
Best ever? The cast of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," with Dominic, who was part of the show two weeks ago. Check out the monster on Coneybear's finger. Hi-larious!!!
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Monday, June 29, 2009
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Friday, June 19, 2009
Tahoe was fantastic... well, most of it, anyway. The kids had a great time with different cousins at different beaches, and Dave and I did this thing we never do: relax.
Here we are at Sugar Pine Point State Park. Ahhh...
I'm not sure how many more years of jumping off the rocks at DL Bliss Dave and I have, but we managed to do it this time!
Yep, there's nothing to take one's mind of a revision like a plunge into 58 degree water.
The kids caught crawdads, counted pine cones, dug in the sand, and swam.
Now. The not-so-good? The FOOD! Terrible eats, and even worse service.
We experienced everything from menus thrown at us to forgotten toast to a long black hair in our steamed clams.
What the heck?
At El Toro Bravo in Truckee our last night, though, things finally turned around. Thank God. And Poppa.
Next year: same people, same place. We'll just bring our own food.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Yesterday, Dave and I sat on the patio of Gar Woods grill, overlooking the glassy lake, and decided that this wins first place in the natural beauty category.
It doesn't matter that the weather's not perfect. This, plus the state of the economy, has seriously dwindled the number of tourists. We're all alone on sandy beaches and at resort restaurants.
There's no cell phone reception at our cabin. No Internet, either. But we're not at the withdrawl stage yet.
For two nights, we traded in Dominic and Rees for a fourteen year-old niece, and today we're getting two high school juniors.
What can we do with all these crazy teenagers? Just pack up a huge cooler and hit Sand Harbor, of course!
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
They can be cool and supportive like in Looking for Alaska. Or they can be negligent and mean, like in Matilda. They may even be absent, as they are in Harry Potter.
Whether absent or present, parents add depth to the central character. It would be tough to write a book about an extraordinary kid with ordinary parents. On the flip side, Matilda and Mr. Potter included, it's easier to write about an ordinary kid with extraordinary parents.
In the first draft of my MS, I didn't flush out the folks. They were one-dimensional, predictable, flat.
Now that I've added their intentions and motivation, my main character has grown. What he says and does is more understandable and believable. His actions are justified. He is deep.
How important are parents in books? As important, or even more, than they are in reality.
Right after I post this, I'm hitting the MS one more time. To clean things up, make sure it all makes sense. Triple sure.
It's funny. I had gotten hung up on conclusion. The thing I hit really hard with my writing students. And I couldn't come up with squat.
But a couple of weeks ago, I remembered the list of the only 8 or 9 kinds of conclusions in the world. And I tied a few of them together, and came up with a string of three words. A question.
And I've tried it out on a few readers, and the answer can go either way.
Even though I know the truth.
Monday, June 8, 2009
"Um, I don't know. Who?" he asked.
To get some perspective, I then pointed to People. "Do you know who they are?"
"Yeah! The Jonas Brothers!" Rees said. "Kevin, Nick, and Joe."
We've got some serious work to do over the next ten weeks.
Sunday, June 7, 2009
Here's what got me through shrinking 55,000 words down to 40K, while flushing out characters and motivation, backstory and arc:
* faith. That what he told me to do was brilliant.
* hope. That I did what I was supposed to do. That he'll like it.
* long walks.
* days when I didn't work but when the kids were in school.
* a serious love of my character.
* a planned week in Tahoe, following re-submission.
All that. Plus some serious caffeine.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
In this little clip, she's paired up with Tim McGraw. My Other OOMA.
Short break while I swoon for a second...
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Do you find yourself rinsing out baggies and water bottles so you don't have to buy new ones? Your frugality is actually helping the environment.
The same goes for turning down/off your air conditioner.
Are you buying local produce to get fresh food that doesn't use pesticides or require transportation?
Have you signed up the kids for fewer activities? While you're saving money and gas, you're also spending more family time together.
This is true, too, if you've cut cable or movie memberships.
In that vein, are your kids aware of the economic crisis? Could spur some great family discussions, and their sense of thriftiness.
So instead of the kids playing on team sports and watching TV, they're thinking and talking. And reading and finding bugs in the yard. The kinds of things kids did before...well, okay, that's a different blog.
Plus, how's your work ethic? If you were lucky enough to keep your job, you're probably working pretty darn hard. And if you're at home, it's definitely the same.
Travel's cheap, and summer's here. Maybe you've planned a trip you never could've afforded. I offer this at the risk of being hypocritcal about the gas thing. Maybe the offset is family time, education, and appreciation for other cultures.
Speaking of that compassion, do you realize that while we are in this crisis, we are still living far above the conditions of most of the rest of the world? We are lucky, yes, lucky. Is there anything we can do for the less fortunate, even when we have less ourselves?
And education, incredible! The country is going back to school. My community college's predicted enrollment for fall? 150 percent increase!!!
I know times are tough. Believe me. This family hasn't been untouched by the recession.
But while money's been tight, there's been an opportunity to re-evaluate priorities, right?
We can choose to be worried and frustrated and anxious and angry. Or we can make the most of what we can for our families, the environment, and the world.