Thursday, September 30, 2010

This Is Where I Stop Fooling Myself

It's been going on for a few years, now:

I buy myself a fancy little coffee at a fancy little place, and I consider it free of carbs, calories, and sugar because I didn't see the barista put any in the fancy little cup.

I mean, I could make a fancy coffee myself. But it would require my actual observation of fatty milk and sweet flavory things. And then I would know for sure that maybe it wasn't the best thing to be coating my teeth, stomach, and thighs with.

But I can't keep forking over four bucks to trick myself.

It has to stop.

I'm have to go out abd buy some cream and some caramel syrup. It might be just as unhealthy as the java in the fancy little places, but it will definitely be cheaper!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

How They Sit Here

In Ashland, the people, they sit very close.

Tables don't divide partners, pairs.

Families,friends, lovebugs, they sit side-by-side.

Laughing, chatting, whispering

By the creek on the plaza across from the park.

Have you noticed Your People?

How they sit?


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Let There Be Light!

There's this lamp on my mind--a little lamp with a little beaded shade you might've found on a cabaret table in Berlin in the '20s--that caught my eye my first year at San Francisco State. I was riding the bus home, and there it was on Mission Street, right in the window: the light of my life.

I must've passed that thing a hundred times before I finally went into the shop one day and asked about it.

"It's a Tiffany Lamp," the woman told me sternly. "It's $300."

I wanted that lamp so badly. But of course I didn't have the three bills to flip for it.

Twenty-one years later, I still remember what that lamp looked like. And even more, I remember how bad I wanted it.

I wanted it more than I had wanted anything so impossible.

Until now.

Now, I'm wanting something terribly badly and terribly impossibly.

And if it happens to happen, the first thing I'll do is order that little red Tiffany Lamp I've already found online.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Cerebral Week

By Thursday night when my writing group resumed after our summer break, my head was seriously swirling.

In four days, I had drafted a new curriculum for the community college writing classes I start teaching on Monday. I began writing a new novel with my husband. I critiqued a fabulous manuscript, went to an inservice day at school, and penned an 8-page essay about my dad. (A couple of these were done simultaneously. Guess which?)

Plus, there was the middle school math homework: Dominic's statistics and Daney's factoring.

Thank goodness for the season premier of "Glee."

Nothing soothes me like some Sue Sylvester.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Yes, But Does It Have Literary Merit?

My boys were begging me to buy the new "Halo: Reach" game for the X-Box their uncle had just given them.

All I'd heard about the "Halo" games was bad, bad, bad. Bad premise. Bad violence. Bad language.

But I checked it out anyway. 4 1/2 out of 5 stars. A new "team" approach. Great graphics. For around 60 bucks.

The economics weren't an issue. Dominic said he'd pitch in $15, and a $20 gift card came with the purchase, so I'd really only fork over $35.

Like everything else that comes through our door, though, I wanted the game to have some kind of literary merit.

We bought it.

"Play with us," the boys then begged, after they'd "tried it out" for a couple of hours.

I did the usual Mom Thing: "I'll just watch you guys play."

Nope, they wanted me to play.

So there I was, sitting on the edge of the sofa, controller in hand, bumping my character -- Noble One?-- into a rock over and over and over.

"Mommy, follow me," Dominic told me.

I couldn't find him. I just kept running, er, jumping my guy into rocks and water and over bridges.

"Mommy, you're shooting me," Dominic said as kindly as he could. "Now you're just running into a wall. And why is your night vision on? And why are you throwing granades at yourself?"

Okay, this "Halo," it has absolutely no literary merit. But I can't tell you how long and hard we all laughed at my "skills."

Sunday, September 19, 2010

My Baby's A Miracle!

Nine years ago, Reesie needed some saving after he was born all quirky.

A little premature with really underdeveloped lungs, Reesie was Mercy Flighted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Rogue Valley Medical Center.

After almost two weeks on the ventilator, Reesie pulled through like the (quarter of a million dollar) fighter we now know he is.

Every year since 2001, Reesie has joined hundreds of other thriving survivors at the Children's Miracle Network's Miracle Baby Reunion for cake, carnival games, face painting and a stroll past the NICU windows, where brand new miracle babies warm under blue lights.

Today we saw 10 week-old triplets -- all girls-- and Rees' one-on-one NICU nurse, Karen.

What a super special celebration, Reesie Roo!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Middle School Must-Have

Oh my gosh, one of you writers who's drafting a middle-grade MS has to put this in:

My sixth-grader, Daney, now has two weeks of middle school under her sparkly rainbow belt.

And mostly, she's nailed it.


There's this one guy, an aide or something, at the school, who blocks off the hallways at lunch, everywhere Daney's trying to go. Library, bathroom, homeroom, gym, it seems this guy is everywhere with his sign: "No Students Past This Point."

So Daney has had to wear chocolate-milk stained white leggins around because she couldn't go wash them off. She showed up in class without the library book she was supposed to check out at lunch. And she roamed the cafeteria all alone when her friends got past Sign Dude and into the gym somehow.

To be continued...?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

CONTAINERS!!! (and pants) (and other stuff)

Last weekend at the Ashland High School Water Polo garage sale, the boys and I scored!

While the boys stocked up on containers--tackle boxes filled with tackle boxes, Pokemon Tupperware, tiny plastic boxes for Star Wars guns--I rifled through the pants, and came out with two pairs of jeans each for them.

After an hour, Dave took them home, and Daney and I stayed for hours, browsing the books and the jewelry and other lovely girl things.

The biggest treasures of the day: a four-pack of vintage Star Wars figures for $1!, little blue and silver earrings for Daney, and a turn-of-the-century vaudeville novel for me! Mmm hmmm!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Even after 12 years of having boys, I can't tell the difference between Clone/Sand/Storm Troopers.

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Great, Great Day!

Today is such a great, great day!

It's my lovebug's 39th birthday, all the kids are all the way back in school, my MS is out on submission to publishing houses, AND...

I won a signed copy of Denise Jaden's LOSING FAITH and a gorgeous handbag from Warehouse Fabrics Inc. over at Caroline Starr Rose's blog.

Caroline's interview with Denise is thorough and inspiring. I especially loved the part where Denise reminds us that publishing is a slow business. Because that is easy to forget.

I wish Denise joy and success with her writing, and Caroline, too.

Am thinking of ways I can pay back this goodness...

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Hardest Part?

I've been thinking a lot about voice lately. How to do it. How it varies, specifically. What makes each one special.

In one of my manuscripts, narrated by 16 year-old MC Kat, the voice is hollow. Sad. Kat's been bounced around from foster home to foster home and lands in The Middle of Nowhere, Oregon. Kat is sensitive, but strong. Young but growing wiser. Completely trustworthy. You could tell her anything and listen to her favorite band with her for hours.

In my other manuscript, Josh, a 17 year-old basketball blue chip from Sacramento, narrates the seedy side of sports. Josh is wise beyond his years, but is jaded and unreliable. It's not his fault, right? Because everyone has made him who he is. Because he has to survive his life somehow.

Two very different tales.

Two distinct voices.

Okay, I'm not a master of voice craft, for sure, but here's what I've come up with that might help you strengthen your MC's voice:

* Know your MC! I mean, really know them: their wants, hopes, and fears; when they're from and where they're going; their favorite shirt; what they drink and how they drink it; 20 adjectives that might describe them.

* Know the other characters. So the reader has no trouble understanding/believing why MC does and says the things she does.

* Know your audience: ages, interests, gender.

* Know how you want your story to "sound."

* Know setting. Does the MC stand out or fit in nicely? It's all part of the story.

* Stay in character with dialogue. Think word choice, sentence fluency, length, and structure.

* Think paragraph length and structure.

* Use flashbacks. What was significant in MC's past that relates to his/her story?

* Make the most of tone, cadence, punctuation. Match it all up with plot. Use other stylistic devices, too: rhythm, repetition, humor...

What else?

How do you define and use voice?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


When I was an undergrad at San Francisco State, I took some fabulous art classes. One of them was a sculpture class which was assisted by Ptah*, a tall, wiry Rastafarian with a real smile.

Ptah was a graduate student. He was broke and 40-ish, and any day, any time, you could find him in the studio: helping strugglers like me, or mixing or firing the clay, or smoothing his art with his large, kind hands.

One day in class, Ptah told us to look at our works from a different perspective. From above, perhaps. Or from below. To turn it, and see it from the side.

I was making a big African head--maybe a planter?--that I thought was almost finished.

But when I turned it, I noticed that the chin and cheeks were under-defined and the nose was way too big.

It needed some serious work. Revision.

Twenty-one years later, I've been thinking about how I can apply all this to writing.

Can anyone help me pay homage to Ptah and use his advice?

*The last day of class, we found out that Ptah named himself after the Egyptian God of Creation.

Monday, September 6, 2010

This One's For the Girls!

Here they are! Meet them and love them -- the amazing women in my life!

There's Mary, my auntie, my Godmother, my friend, with whom I chat and laugh and scrap. And Jeanne, my younger auntie, who I stayed with in San Francisco so many high school weekends, who gave me freedom and trust to run all around the city.

I wouldn't be the same without my sisters: Amy, smart and beautiful; Erika, ambitious and resourceful; Brigit, big-hearted.

Mo's been my bestie since kindergarten. I still remember her peeking out at me from behind her mom's legs on the first day of school. Mo and me, we've played socccer and survived Catholic school, and when we get together like we did last month at the American River to catch minnows and tadpoles with our babies, it's like no time has passed at all.

Andrea made it through St. Joseph's with us. She had the whole collection of Strawberry Shortcake dolls, and she didn't get mad when I took them swimming the summer of second grade and they lost all their smells.

Lisa W. had a knack for making papier mache. She zipped Kristen, our deep and wise gal pal, and me all over in her brown Toyota. And Lisa A. had an infectious giggle and superhuman algebra ability.

Wendi was Dave's friend first. They lived in the same neighborhood, and Wendi got her first speeding ticket with him in the passenger seat. Twenty years after long, lazy summers of lifeguarding, Wendi and I have kids 10 days apart, and we live 12 minutes from each other.

In college, Stephanie lived on the other side of my wall. We both ended up teaching middle school.

Karlee, from the college days, is a part of my every day. She is one of the kindest, hardest-working people I know.

Then there are the writers: Christy, Julie, and Anjie: insightful and bright, and right more often than not.

And Daney, who I haven't known a long, long time, but who I've known the very best: my daughter, who I'll have a rich, deep love with forever and ever.

And many, many more sharp and talented women: Maddy and Miah, my nieces; my cousin, Heidi; Genny; Aunt Nancy; Polly, Linda, and Leslie. Kim and Amy. Daney's bestie, Gracia, and Gracia's mom, Becky. Dominic and Rees' friends' mamas. Holly Root, agent extraordinaire! And all you super cyber-women.

I'm a lucky, lucky, lucky girl.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Giving Ol' Will A Chance

So, after 16 years of living here in Ashland, I finally hit up a real Shakespeare play -- "Twelfth Night" last night.

What was keeping me away? you might ask.

I mean, I've seen almost all the other OSF plays, and nearly everything Off-Bardway (isn't that the funniest word? it means all the other theaters in the area.)

Anyway, it was the language.

I just never felt driven to sit for three hours and decipher mid-sixteenth century English.

But I don't know what I'd been worrying about.

The language was so not a problem!

I want to go again! I want to see everything -- the dramas, the comedies.

And the setting -- the open, outdoor theater, with bugs and bats and the teeniest breeze!

And the costumes -- the lace and brocade and rhinestones!

Oh, and the actors! They were charming, funny, incredibly pro! Veteran Michael Hume is always a treat to see. And "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" director (and my new friend) Chris Moore made the perfect Malvolio.

Okay, I was home late (11) looking up words like "pestilence" and "accost" and "usurp." And I still can't figure out why the whole thing was titled as such.

But now I know where this comes from: "If music be the food of love, then play on!"

Oh, and this little gem I tucked under my shiny belt: "Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them."

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

It's Time!

It's September! September 1st! The very first day of a very good month!

The kids go back to school. I go back to school. It's my 18th wedding anniversary. And! It's the Big Submissions Month! When lots of amazing stories are pitched by agents to editors.

I'm hoping, hoping for a little magic. And doing good things. And sending good thoughts. Particularly for a certain character of mine to come to life on paper.

What about you?

How is this month extraordinary to you?