Monday, November 29, 2010

Tainted Tea & Delicious Unpredictability

My favorite tea, Candy Cane Lane, which only comes out during the holidays, made its appearance this weekend at the Co-op, only the shelf was bare. By the time I got there, shoppers had snatched it all up.

After Dominic, Daney, and I bought our other stuff and packed it into the car, the kids told me they'd found a big box of groceries just sitting on the Co-op floor, which included three boxes of Candy Cane lane. So they'd grabbed one.

That was the first surprise.

Then, they went on to say that when a man picked up the box, they'd realized the tea was his. Instead of giving it back to him, though, they shoved it in a rack of raisins.

And that was shocking!

The mom in me was sad. I thought I'd raised kind, honest kids. I sent them back into the Co-op to get the tea for the man.

But the writer in me was thrilled. While I sat in the car waiting for the kids to straighten out the situation, I was thinking what a good story this was. That Dominic and Daney were usually pretty level-headed, that they always did the right thing, but that this was the very opposite of anything I'd expect of them.

It's exactly what I need to do in my writing!

This week, I am going to think of surprises I can put into my story: unexpected things the character does, or says. The root of those decisions. How she recovers.
I'm going to work on plot twists that keep the reader interested, excited, perplexed.

I'm going to drink Candy Cane Lane and taste irony and imperfection and regret.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Under Water

Reesie (9) overflowed his second toilet this week, only this time, we didn't catch it as quickly. This time, the water ran and ran, flooding our bathroom, our bedroom, our closet and garage.

Yes, it's two days before Thanksgiving. Before we have five families over for the feast. And instead of thawing the turkey, we're pulling up carpet.

Dave and I could be mad, really mad.

But we're trying not to be. Instead, we're working together with the steam vac and mop.

We had to throw out all the kids' artwork I've been saving for 13 years (which is ironic, considering my last post). We had to throw out my school picture from first grade, Dave's firefighting books.

It was hard at first, but then it got easy. We tossed stuff into garbage bags without even looking at it.

There's now lots of nice space and a smooth floor between the white walls, like it was a decade ago when we moved in. I love it.

If you and I could do this with our writing, if we could let go of "stuff" and keep the essence of the room, what would that bring to our stories? How would our writing become more focused, richer, clean, and clear?

And honest to God, why, when it's snowing outside right now, does Reesie have the hose turned on?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Art Attack!

Art is everywhere, and I'm loving it!

This weekend in Eugene, Mary, Daney, and I went to an incredible art fair. There was pottery, paintings, silver, silkscreenings, soap. Weavers spun wool, glass blowers blew, and Young Bollywood dancers pranced across a packed stage.

When I came home, I framed and put up a few of the kids' pieces: Dominic's bright bald guy sitting on a couch with peace pillows, Daney's watercolor owl under the moon, Rees' colored pencil "Duk Bil Platapoos."

Tomorrow in class, I'm sharing my love; we're doing a lesson on writing essay titles with a billion little worksamples from Pacific Northwest artists.

One of the things I love about art is how long it takes. That it's a process. a quick change, making the world different, better.

I've planted all kinds of bulbs and perenialls outside. Nothing will pop for four or five months, but the seeds are all there, the color is waiting.

If you are in need of some reds, greens, and purples, if you're craving pretty, look up Catherine Denton's blog. You might win yourself some inspiration!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Outside Shot

So, I have a reputation for being a bad sports mom.

I don't wear the jersey and go to every game, clanging a cowbell.

But I'm trying.

The deal was that if Dominic (13) didn't play football this year, I'd step it up as a basketball mama. I would go to more games. I wouldn't bring any papers to grade there. I would pay attention, and at the end, I would know whether Dominic's team won or lost.

Last night, Dave and I drove an hour and a half to Klamath Falls to watch our boy on the court. From under the basket, he waved at me enthusiastically. I love that kid.

By the third quarter (44-24, Klamath Falls), I got a little antsy, though. A grandma sitting near me was scribbling down her shopping list, and I was coveting, obsessing over that notepad.

Eyes on the game, I couldn't stop thinking. What if education drew the same support that sports did?

What if parents drove an hour and a half twice a week for Brain Bowls, Odysseys of the Mind, Spelling Bees, music recitals? And what if half the school showed up to watch?

What if teacher to student ratios were 1:6?

What if money used on transportation for coaches' stipends and team transportation were matched in school libraries?

What if the learning process used the team concept, where students shared a common goal and worked together for months to achieve it?

What if academic school pride matched that of the athletic kind?

What if hordes of parents got together to cheer on students with math?

What if kids practiced reading and writing for two hours every day after school?

What if the arts were as valued as baseball?

What if weeklong celebrations like homecoming revolved around science instead of football?

The bottom line is that athletics are great. They keep kids fit, involved, and out of trouble. I played soccer forever, was on swim team, joined college intramurals. I married a two-sport college athlete; together, we made us some sporty babies. I know the stats, too: higher SATs, lower drug use.

But, from the bleachers, I can't help wondering why if a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of these young athletes will go on to use their talents professionally, what is happening with the much larger number of them who won't?

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Bones of our Family

For the fifth year in a row, my kids put up a Day of the Dead display in our library.

We've been collecting these skeltons since before Dominic was two. We were living in Arizona, and told him he could pick any book at the bookstore. He chose this $28 photo gallery from Pomegranate Press:which we thought was pretty random. Until we took him to Mexico a couple months later, and our little toddler chose a clay basketballing eskeleto.

This was our 2008 display:You can see that our display began a little skimpy.

Here's 2009:

In the past 11 years, we've added so many pieces from Cabo, Tijuana, San Francisco, San Diego, even Portland. People send them to us, too.

And we've made some--some from felt, some clay ones with Steven.

It's kind of a funny family hobby, I guess. But aren't these skeletons great?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

My Dad, Super Editor

Last night, my dad called with his edits on my revision. This is the first of my big things my dad has ever read. And I'll tell you what: he was incredible!

"I liked it so much, I was sad when it ended," he told me. "Your wrote stuff down and I'm seeing it in my head. It's amazing!"

There was lots of love for Drain. And there were some good tips, too, especially about car stuff like fuel lights, back seats, and putting it in Drive.

He caught a big problem with some characters' names: Willy Ray, Wade, and Billy Wade. Yes, I really had them exactly like that. Duh.

Halfway through the story, my dad had emailed me this: "I really like Kat so nothing bad better happen to her!"

There were tips on character, on preserving mystery, on word choice. My smart Poppa also brought up probability stuff and likeliness.

It was so great, having a 63 year-old man's insight into a literary YA novel. I loved working with my dad on this.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Ashland Icon

Today I borrowed Reesie from school and took him to Omar's Steakhouse for the $1.64 Anniversary meatloaf and mashed potatoes.

It was yummy!

While we noshed, we admired the folks in their 80s and 90s who surrounded us. They've been coming here for 64 years now, I told Reesie.

This is a feat for Omar's. Not just any eatery can survive in Ashland. Since Dave and I moved here in 1993, these national restaurant chains have folded:

Pizza Hut
Dairy Queen
A & W
Papa John's

Yep, Ashlanders are definitely picky about their food.

And that meatloaf and potatoes today, it won Rees' taste test!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Super Loose Ends

My friends, I've been working hard, so hard, on a revision.

I've added, deleted, changed scenes.

There's more plot, more magic, more scary.

But I'm finding that every time I un-do or re-do something, I have to un-do or re-do a whole lot more. My writing partner, Christy says that when you untie one part, other parts unravel. That's just the way it is.

Has that happened to you?

This revision is so much stronger. I wish I'd thought of this stuff before. Before the excellent feedback.

Anyway, it's tomorrow. The last day of un-doing and re-doing, before the story goes out to some trusty readers.

I'm looking forward to giggling over the holes they find, then fixing it all up!