Thursday, June 30, 2011


I don't know why I feel like listening to William Carlos William riffs today--maybe it's the summer weather, or the crisp watermelon I had for dinner.  Regardless, here are a couple videos.  Enjoy!

The second one isn't read perfectly, but hey--Kenneth Koch's parody is brilliant, and fun to think about!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Query Letter Hell... a very helpful forum.  I should've gone there ages ago, given my aversion to query writing, but I didn't know about it back then.  I'll probably keep waiting on the fulls I have out now before I keep querying, because I love the agents who have the manuscript (the novel is much better than any query I've ever made, probably due to the fact that I spend my time reading--and writing--fiction), but I'm an impatient sort, and if nice people can help me make a better hook for my book...well...yay!

It's raining, but I'm off to bike now.  Maybe.  Probably certainly.

Here is a picture from the Sandman comics, which are marvelous and combine both Hell and dreams...and isn't that what querying is all about?  :)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


I love swimming.  Running is hard, biking is...well, fun, but hard uphill.  I finally went swimming last night, though, and swimming feels good.  It stretches out muscles in my arms, in my back, in my legs, and I don't get all sweaty and sticky as I fall into the rhythms I already know.

Triathlons seem fairly runner-centered, though, so hopefully I can learn some rhythms for running.  Eventually, at least...

Doesn't that look refreshing?  Too bad it's only a 400-meter swim--that's not even a warmup.  Ah, least you get to go down the hills you go up for the running and biking!

Monday, June 27, 2011


We have a family of four, and two of the birthdays in that family happened over the past four days.  More than one party for each boy (my husband counts as a boy, right?), plus the opening of Cars 2 (our first full-family in-theater movie experience), plus me being the one to plan everything...well, it's been crazy.  Which is why I'm off to Carl's Jr. to get my husband's dinner:

At least I got some good writing done in spite of everything!  Although our house is...well, "cluttered" sounds cute (too cute), and the (little) boys are pretty tired, and mom needs to train a bit (read: a lot) more for her triathlon...

Saturday, June 25, 2011

My Little Ponies

 Okay, so this says everything better than I could:

 We watched Cars 2 today.  I got nostalgic.  There seems to be a lot of TV for boys with machines and trucks and stuff, but I wanted to know if there was ever a good My Little Ponies Show.

There is, and it makes me joyful.

And I told my husband I won't watch Transformers 3 unless there's a live-action My Little Pony movie.  It's win-win!

Thursday, June 23, 2011


When we bought my husband his Father's Day present, I felt pretty proud of myself--until he asked our three-year-old Lightning what it was.

"It's a secret," he said at first.

"What is it?" the manipulative Daddy asked again.  "You can tell me."

I honestly didn't think he'd remember.  But then he looked right at Dad, grinned, and said, "It's a movie.  A bad movie!  About dragons!"

And so Daddy knew.

It's my husband's birthday (and my parent's anniversary!) this Sunday, so we bought his present(s) today.  This time, however, I prepared Lightning with a lie.

"If Daddy asks, tell him we bought him a horse made out of potatoes," I said.  "It'll be a funny joke."

Sure enough, tonight at dinner Daddy started his clever bid for information.

"Where'd you go today?" he asked.  "Anywhere interesting?"

"We bought your present!" our three-year-old declared with a grin.

"What is it?" Dad asked.

Lightning looked at me, paused, and said, "A horse made out of potatoes!"

He stuck to that story.  Thanks to lies, we've still got a surprise!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Hales...

We went to a book reading at the King's English Bookstore tonight, and learned a few things:

1.  Goats are hard to move when they don't want to go somewhere.

2.  Dean Hale is very funny, and also very tall.

3.  Shannon Hale is super nice (and also funny, but not nearly as tall).

I got my three favorite Shannon Hale books signed (The Book of a Thousand Days, Princess Academy, and Austenland), and our sons got a copy of the cleverly-rhymed Scapegoat signed by Dean Hale.  They're such talented writers--I discovered Shannon Hale's work last year at the library, and most of my Christmas presents from my husband were books she'd written (yay!).  And this time I didn't get all mumbly, like I did when I met Eduardo Galeano, or nervous, like I did when we drove Marilynne Robinson to the Salt Lake City library (but--Marilynne Robinson!).  Kids help kill jitters, I think.  Anyway, I made a vow that I'd never pass up an opportunity to meet a creative person I like, and I'm glad we went tonight.  Plus our three-year-old is actually staying in bed after we read Scapegoat!  Maybe a goat's more essential to good parenting than I ever suspected...

Look that chubby little goat in the eyes...

...but not too close, or you'll see how freaky goat's eyes really are from inches away!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A query

I don't like writing queries.  Getting published is a process, and I don't mind revising (in fact, I like revising), or writing every day, or reading lots of books in my genre (and out of my genre, too!).  I'm even dealing with the waiting (yay for kids! and husbands! and books and games and more writing!).  It's just...I don't like writing queries.  And I've been avoiding agents who require a synopsis, because I'm not too keen on writing that, either.

Actually, if I think of queries in terms of the back of books, and writing to a potential reader, they're not so bad.  It's just that I have very limited writing time with two young kids, and I want to spend all that time on fiction.  Fiction is fun.  I can understand the need for queries, though.  For those of you who don't know the steps to publishing: first you write a book, then you write a one-page letter pitching that book (the query), and possibly a synopsis too (if you're brave).  You send the query out to agents, who decided if they want to read more of your manuscript--and once you (whew!) get an agent, they (intrepid souls!) submit to editors at major publishing houses, who choose to buy (or not) your book.  Whee.  It's worth it, though, and I'm glad other writers have been courageous enough to go through the process--that way I can read their books!  Anyway, I'm rambling, so I'll stop, because I finished a two-and-a-half-mile walk-run, and I really should take a bath now...

This is not a commentary on this post.  In fact, I added this poster to make the post worthwhile.  Because it is awesome, and I am glad it exists.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Lyrical birds

These birds are awesome.  Seriously.  My sister showed them to me, and our whole family thinks they're hilarious:

I could tie it in to writing by saying something like "I wish I had that kind of ear for description," or "Wow!  Mark Twain wrote dialogue like a lyre bird!"  I didn't post this because of writing, though.  I posted it because knowing there are birds out there like these makes my life just a little bit better.

Friday, June 17, 2011


I had a student last year who wrote that he doesn't think cliches are all that bad--they once were a great way to say something, and he thinks they still have a place in modern writing.  I try to avoid cliches like the plague (okay, I won't do that again), but I hope he has a point.

Wait--hear me out.

Some students come to English from another language, and to them cliches can seem fresh.  Evocative.  And then there's the tropes in stories: prophecies, parents who disappear in children's fiction, dragons who guard treasure and breathe fire, sexy vampires...I wouldn't want all those tropes to go away.  Now I'm not saying I don't see far too much of some things--and yes, of course I love new twists on old ideas.  But I was looking at young adult novel cliches today, particularly cliches in the paranormal romance and urban fantasy, and while I'm definitely sick of some, I wouldn't want other to disappear.  I like them.  Other people like them.  And if they're written well enough--or seen from a fresh perspective--they really can sparkle (I swore I'd stop, didn't I?  Oops.).

So what do you think about cliches, in plot or down at the sentence level?  I love seeing people play with cliches (Terry Pratchett comes to mind), and that sort of play can't happen without a base...

The Wee Free Men from Terry Pratchett's Tiffany Aching series!  Terry Pratchett is a genius, and every time he writes a new book there is much rejoicing.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


I want to say cliche things right now, about how life is precious and time is a gift, but those phrases are trite and overused.  I'll try to put it in my own words:

I love many people--I can't force them to make good decisions, but I care about them more than my job or my writing.  I wish I could keep them safe.

Just...tell someone you love them today, if you can.  And remember what really makes you happy.

Don't worry--these guys are doing great

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Biking downhill (or a tasty recipe)

Biking downhill today, the wind blowing through my hair, music running through my iPod into my ears and through my brain, I thought, "Why don't I post a recipe on my blog?"  I like food.  I like cooking.  So here is one of my favorite recipes:

Norwegian Pancakes (rolled like crepes—makes 10 to 12)
2 c flour
¾ c whole wheat flour
¼ c sugar
1 t salt
½ t vanilla
3 eggs
2 c milk (may need a little more if batter is thick)
2 T melted margarine or oil

Beat together the eggs and half of the milk.  Add flour, salt, and sugar.  Mix in the rest of the milk.  Add more milk of too thick.  Pour 1/3 c batter into hot buttered shallow pan.  Pick up frying pan to spread batter in pan.  Once the outside edges become solid and the bubble break, the pancake is ready to turn.  Cook until both sides are lightly browned.  Immediately roll warm pancake and leave with seam side down.  When ready to serve, put a filling inside the pancakes and re-roll.  Serve warm or cold.

Suggested toppings: whipped cream and cinnamon sugar (or strawberries), powdered sugar, jam, peanut butter, fruit syrup…

Hey, I never said it was good for you.  Except it tastes good, and if you add strawberries, it's practically healthy!  Plus--look!  Whole wheat flour!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Well, if I must go biking...

...I might as well bike to a bookstore.  While I do that, here's a movie starring Portal's Chell to entertain you:

Yay for cake!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Mary Cassatt

I went to Washington D.C. with my mom during my sophomore year in high school.  I'd managed to wheedle money from the school board (I'd won a Scholastic writing gold award thingy, and I promised I'd wear T-shirts from the school district and say only wonderful compliments about my education if they'd help me get there), and I didn't have near as much time to see the sights as I wanted to.  In fact, between ceremonies and such we barely got to run by the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Smithsonian.  But I managed to visit the National Gallery of Art three times, because they featured a collection of paintings by Mary Cassatt.

Mary Cassatt is an amazing woman.  Born in 1844 (on the day before my birthday!), she struggled for many years against the educational limitations society put on women.  Determined to be an artist, she taught herself what she needed to know, and eventually joined the Impressionist movement.  Her recognition of both motherhood and creativity inspires me, and she's always been one of my favorite artists.

Here's one of her most famous paintings:

I like others better, however.  Like this one:

And this one:

After talking to one of my friends the other day, I felt frustrated at how little stay-at-home moms are appreciated.  Anyone can become a parent, but not everyone can be a good parent, and there's a lot of condescension involved in many people's responses to mothers who stay home.  I like how Mary Cassatt captured some of the quiet moments in parenthood, and I love her genius at painting.  I don't know why I want to write about her today--I guess I think she should be remembered, and honored, and I'm glad I got to see her paintings all those years ago!  She's an example to me still, a model of independence, perseverance, and excellence with texture, color, and subjects who need to be seen.

Friday, June 10, 2011

A quick story

One time, when I was in fifth grade, I ran down the outside corridors of my elementary school with a lunch cart, rammed into one of the doors going inside a little too hard--and shattered the glass in the door's two windows.

I felt embarrassed.  Guilty.  Frustrated.  I was only trying to have fun, and I broke a door.  A heavy door, with windows on the top and bottom.  Into pieces.  Oops.

I didn't get in trouble back then, so it wasn't bad in the long run.  But today felt kind of like that, only I'm bigger, so the emotions seem smaller, proportionally.  There was the dentist appointment we missed--twice--the potty-training accidents, the folded tube in the tire of my newly-tuned-up bike, the oh-no-all-the-bottles-are-dirty-and-Ninja's-starving baby moments...blah.  Ah, well.  At least I wrote.  And at least I biked five miles, and my husband had the car at the place where I biked, so I was able to get a ride home.

I'm not actually feeling all that upset right now...I just wanted to share how clumsy I could be back then.  Earlier today, though, after missing the second dentist appointment, there was a certain amount of annoyance going on.  At least I have a wonderful manuscript I'm editing that makes me happy--and cute children, and lots of books to read, and summer sun shining outside...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Exercising... hard when you've been out of practice for a while.  I ran two miles yesterday (if you stretch the definition of run to "walked half, jogged half"), and I biked three miles today (home from the tune-up bike shop!), and I've decided it will be a while before I can get any authority on what it's like to run or bike when you're actually in top-notch shape.  Like my character.  Right now I've started remembering what sore leg muscles feel like...and stitches in my right side while I run...and ear buds that fall out of my ears while I'm moving fast.  Oh, and burning lungs.  I've got some experience with those now.  Whee!

It'll get better, though.  Just like writing.  Just like anything you practice. 

Triathlons aren't for wimps.  I hope four months is long enough to take me out of the wimpy category.

For some reason this is the first picture under a Google search for "wimp."  Poor little guy!  I'd cry, too.  But his sorrow in no way reflects my attitude towards exercise--and his curly hair in no way resembles mine, either.  So there's that.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The three-point rule (or Why I'm Glad Agents And Editors Put Lots Of Good Stuff On The Shelves So Readers Can Find New Books)

I've realized what it takes for me to buy a book by an author I've never read before, and I call it Three Good Things.  Here's how it worked the other day:

Step 1: I went to the bookstore.

Step 2: I took my sons to the trains in the back and had my husband watch them so I could browse.

Step 3: I went over to the Young Adult shelves and started looking.  When I noticed an interesting title, name, or cover, I'd pick up the book.

Step 4: Once I have the book in my hands, I examine a few things: the cover art, the summary inside the jacket, the author bio/dedication, blurbs, and, if at least two of those things impress me enough, the first ten to twenty pages (I tend to read more than most people might because A) I'm a fast reader, B) I love slow-starting books like Gilead and Middlemarch, and C) I have empathy for other authors).  If I love the pages, I buy the book.

Obviously a lot comes down to the pages, but a lot goes in to getting me to read those pages.  A friend's recommendation is huge.  So is author recognition (when I know the author from novels I've heard of/grad school/book lists).  But the title and cover art and back summary and author bio all matter, too.  And if I see something I don't like in any of those sections, I put the book back on the shelf.  Like a book I won't mention by name except to say it has "Witches" in the title--I like witches, so I picked up the book.  The cover was okay, and the introduction on the fairy tale elements had me interested.  But when I read the author bio, and saw the author really liked New Age stuff like crystal therapy and soy, I decided I'd only give it five or six pages instead of my regular twenty.  Within four pages, I knew I didn't want the book.  I might pick it up at the library, if it's available, but I've found that it takes three things for me to buy a book (plus pages), and only two things for me to pass.

There were two books I recently purchased based solely off the three-point rule, although I didn't realize it consciously.  The first time it was Sunshine, by Robin McKinley.

Now, this is sort of a cheat, because I'd read McKinley before.  But it had been a long time.  So there was 1) name recognition, 2) a blurb from Neil Gaiman saying it was "a perfect vampire novel" (or something like that), and 3) it's about vampires, which for some reason I'm not sick of yet.  Oh, and what a moody cover!  So maybe that's sort of four things.  But I bought it, and I enjoyed it.

More recently I wanted to see what made for a good summary, and I found the book Wither:

I haven't read it yet--it's on my list--but here's why I bought it.  1) Look at that cover!  Look at it!  Wow.  2) I love the title--Wither.  What a wonderful word.  Plus it's part of the Chemical Garden Trilogy.  Doesn't that sound fascinating?  3) The summary is so very, very intriguing.  It's detailed about plot, yet shows a lot about character, and I want to read about the world.  Oh, and the first twenty pages are awesome.

So there you have it.  What makes me buy a book by an author I've never heard of (a hardcover, no less!).  I'm sure I'll buy more debut books as I get back my teaching income in September (and/or if I sell my own book!), but right now I'll still visit the bookstore and trail my hands along the covers and read the summaries and author bios and blurbs and, if I get at least two points, or one point that's super good, those crucial first pages...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Cat on my lap...

...and she's licking my left hand, so I'll make this brief.

Running shoes are expensive.

I get my tuned-up bike back tomorrow.  I love biking!

Also, I hope potty training gets easier, and that I can find advice in a book that's useful, because it's crazy.

That is all.

Monday, June 6, 2011


In my work-in-progress, my protagonist is very sporty--she likes to move, to bike and swim and run, so she prepares for triathlons, which combine all three.  She never races in those triathlons, but she prepares.  And, smart author that I am, I decided to do some first-hand research into what she's doing, mostly to get in shape, but also to make my writing stronger.  I didn't have too many worries about swimming or biking: I was a swimmer and water polo player in high school, and I biked to grad school.  But there's running.

Unlike my character, I won't train for the running unless I have to.  So I signed up for a local sprint triathlon to make myself train.  400 meters of swimming.  9 miles of biking.  5 kilometers of running.


Well, we'll see what happens.  No gators involved in this one, or not that I've heard, and it isn't until September, so there's still time to train...

Friday, June 3, 2011


Graduation done.  Must enter final grades.  Can't write much, except "Go awesome students!"  (Oh, and they played the Star Wars theme as the graduates and teachers exited the stage, so here is a video in honor of that:)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Barbeque 2011

Well, after a flurry of email exchanges, grading, and rewrites, I managed to attend the barbeque.  I signed yearbooks for an hour-and-a-half straight, until my u's looked like o's (I don't have the best handwriting) and ink stained the side of my hand (because of the odd way I hold my pen).  Next year I'll type responses for each student--that way I can put in more thought for each entry, and actually eat lunch at the end-of-the-year social!  I only got food today because a former student snagged me a hot dog (yay!), but it was worth being a little hungry to tell students how creative/funny/cool they are.  Anyone who grumbles about "those teenagers today" doesn't know the upcoming generation at all.  I'll miss my musically-gifted, intelligent, creative class, and I'm sure my students will have wildly successful futures.  Congratulations to the AMES Class of 2011!

Here is a nicer-looking version of my lunch.  I'd show you my students, but I didn't bring the camera after all!  Which didn't end up mattering, given how busy I was with the signing...

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


I shall post another picture of a bed today, in the hopes that it'll remind me to get some sleep early tonight.  Bedtime for our three-year-old has turned into something of a battleground, largely because he stayed up too late on Sunday night.  I hope tonight goes better (oh, I hope!)--but at least once he does go to sleep, he stays that way, so it's not terrible.  Anyhow, here's the bed:

I actually don't like hamburgers enough to want to sleep in one, but it is funny.  Does it make you hungry?  Or sleepy?  I know which way I'm leaning right now...