Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sneaked Peek

I'm not supposed to be reading anything until Friday, when I finish revising.

But I couldn't help peeking at the first page of Sara Gruen's new novel, Ape House:

"Give orange give me eat orange me eat orange give me eat orange give me you." -- (Chimpanzee) Nim Chimpsky, 1970s

"Gimme gimme more, gimme more, gimme gimme more." -- Britney Spears, 2007

Hilarious, no?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Intro to Editing

This week after work, Reesie and I attended his teacher's "How To Help Your Child Edit" workshop.

It was brilliant.

As the third graders read their work aloud, the parents put stars and underlines for things they did right, and asked them to re-read the parts that weren't so right.

I especially love the way we learned to communicate--"As your reader, I'm confused about this part"--taking the sting out of the child's being crushed.

At the very end of the reading, we counted up all the words on the page and circled it at the bottom.

Just like us writers: "How many words did I do today?"

I wanted to use this gentler approach with my community college writers yesterday. But there wasn't time. I had to get to the point: "Exactly what drugs were you using under that bridge?"

So content is defintiely different.

But there will be a day--and it will be soon--when those papers are filled up with lots of lines and stars.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Good Excuse?

My lovely husband invited me to see "Jackass 3" in 3-D with him last weekend.

I politely declined, however, telling him that I hadn't seen the first two, and it might mess up plot continuity.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Really Remarkable Read

Every so often, I find a book that's so interesting, so unique, so compelling, I can't put it down. I read when I'm supposed to be grading. Or writing. Or making dinner. And when I'm not reading it, I'm thinking about it.

Room is one of these books.

Emma Donoghue crafts a journey that five-year-old Jack narrates from a lifelong captivity in an 11-by-11-foot shed into the Outside.

After Jack's birthday in Room, Ma feels an urgent need to escape, with Jack as the pivotal piece of the Plan.

The book is divided into five parts (Jack's favorite number)--Presents, Unlying, Dying, After, Living--the essence of which is the adjustments moms make for their children, the subconscious selflessness beyond sacrifice physically, mentally, emotionally.

Ma is real. She tries to be strong, and she is, mostly. But the burden she carries of doing what's best for her son sometimes overcomes her.

Jack is intuitive, bright, and curious. Readers will love and admire his courage and clarity, his sensible names for common things: "persons," "littles," "switching off."

An unexpected vessel to Jack's healing in the Outside is Legos, with "so many tiny pieces all colors, it's like a soup," which he discovers and builds with Steppa, his step-grandpa.

Room is the place where certain moms live: the un-boundaries where the health, happiness, and safety of their children comes at a high but never counted cost. A place where these moms do the best they can with what they have, even if it's a Plant, a Lamp, and a Snake made of eggshells.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Is This My Last Post?

No. Not yet anyway.

But I'm swamped with revisions, with grading, with laundry, with flu.

Am filling the spare moments with a really good book.

What have you been up to?

We'd all love to hear about it!

Monday, October 18, 2010

As Close As I'll Come To Clooney

This is the real thing -- the very exo-skeleton George Clooney wore in the 1997 filming of "Batman."

It's part of a traveling costume exhibit at the Turtle Bay Aquarium in Redding, California.

Other fun gear: Darth Vader (1977)

The Wicked Witch's hat from "The Wizard of Oz."

And my favorite (though I'm kicking myself for not taking a picture): the Riddler's elaborate threads worn by Jim Carrey.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


This is what Rees came up with when I told him to put a happy thought in his heart during Picture Day.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Writing Group Theme Song

This is it.

The theme song of my writing group.

This is really it., no joke.

Not so much the words...but maybe the melody?

I promise, you'll be humming it all day.

Click here to sing along.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"High?" Concept

If you get what "high concept" is, I'm seriously jealous.

I want to know. I've tried to know.

Last spring, I listened eagerly to a really great workshop that HarperCollins editor Jordan Brown gave on "High Concept." And I still came out with no idea.

I get that there's something about being able to sum up the work in one sentence.

But the "Books" section of the San Francisco Chronicle does this with 40 books every week.

And I went through my bookshelf, and could apply "High Concept" to everything in there.

Magic Treehouse # 36: Blizzard of the Blue Moon: Jack and Annie search New York for a unicorn tapestry that will bring hope to the Great Depression.

Pete Hautman's Godless: Four middle-American teens make up their own religion that becomes exactly what they're trying to avoid.

Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible: A missionary family is more changed by Africa than Africa is changed by it.

It seems to me that anything can be High Concept.

Wikipedia is no help.

Okay, I get the "concept" part. But what the heck is that "high?"

Monday, October 11, 2010


Say what you will about Ashland's first gay pride parade, but if you love words like I do, you have to smile about this real estate float's sign:

Thursday, October 7, 2010

6th Plus 1 = Eighth?

After five weeks back in school, Dominic just figured out that he'd skipped a year and is in eighth grade math.

It's called "Transitional Math," so what's obvious is how Dominic and I thought he was in a special class that gave students a little help or something.

What's not so obvivious is how it took my boy over a month to realize his class was all eighth graders.

The whole time, though, I've been thinking this stuff seemed pretty tough for twelve year olds.

Every night for about two hours, we've been converting bar graphs to pie graphs, decimals to fractions.

We've found medians and modes, predicted probability.

When I was about 10, math stopped making sense to me. So this is a whole new thing.

Somehow, over 29 years, I've absorbed some kind of math mind.

For now.

But I already know that these days of helping my boy are numbered. Next year, it's Algebra!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

My New Favorite

store is.... HARBOR FREIGHT!

This is a tool place, and I LOVE it! Every Sunday, Daney and I clip their coupons out of the San Francisco Chronicle, and we hit up the wide aisles of wire and screws and containers for both of those.

We buy our battery tester for $2 minus 20% and get a free pair of utility scissors, a free flashlight, and a free electrical meter with it.

Last week we got a six-piece screwdriver set.

Of course we don't just shop.

One big question we ask ourselves every time is why all women work in a store like this, with wire and screws and containers for both, with toothless man-customers, under the blaring flourescent lights.

Of course we feel guilty buying this stuff made in China, wrapped in plastic.

But we get all crazy guessing what we might get next Sunday with our coupons. We're waiting for the something that will make all our boys here green with envy.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Halo Update


is unplugged.

Too much fighting during it.

Before it.

After it.

Fighting over the game.

The controllers.

The characters.

Fighting with Nerf.

Fighting with Legoes, even?

One week.

No Halo.

No fighting.