Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Last week of school

Things are crazy right now, given that all my seniors are graduating. Graduating! And they're going to be awesome--I know it!

Right now I am watching Sherlock, Season 2, which is available on the PBS website for a week or so. Exciting stuff! I promise I will be a better blogger (and submitter of my novel) after all this distracting-brilliant-TV-show-end-of-school madness, though. Really!

Can you see why I'm distracted?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Snow White

The creepiest retelling of Snow White I've ever read is a short story by Neil Gaiman. And Snow White was the only princess who didn't have blond hair in the Disney movies when I was growing up, which meant I liked her best until I realized I'd rather be a witch than a princess anyway.

So I found a new song by Florence and The Machine, and it's part of the soundtrack for the upcoming Snow White and the Huntsman. There's a rather freaky witch, and Thor, and butterfly-flowers, and creepy monkeys. I have to admit I'm intrigued...

Here's the video, which is a mix of movie footage and song:

What do you think?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Monday, May 21, 2012

Monday fireworks!

I'm at the end of the semester, the beginning of my birthday week, and (hopefully) the start of my submission process for my second book. Can I be a lazy blogger on my birthday week? I hope so!

Without further ado...fireworks! Made out of candy! Yay!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Lazy Friday

I've taught every day this week, and I have to say that full-time teachers deserve a LOT of respect. Now I am feeling tired, so I'm going to post a rather bad video, as requested by the four-year-old on my lap:

Happy Friday, everyone!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sunshine Award

 I got another free blog post award from the brilliant T.L. Bodine, who writes books and should get requests from every agent in the Writer's Voice Contest because of awesomeness. I could tell you more random stuff about me, or I could steal some questions and answer those. I stole the questions! So...yay!

1.  Did you always want to be a writer? No.  I've always been a reader, but it took me until high school to realize reading gave me some writing skills, too.

2.  Plotter or Pantser?  Pantser.  I like to make a really, really rough first draft, read through it, and then make a plot chart. Maybe someday I'll try plotting (insert evil laugh here)...

3.  Best day job you've ever had? I like teaching. I get awesome students who play lacrosse or do magician stuff or snowboard near-professionally, and I can help them learn to express themselves on paper!

4.  Fictional character crushes? Maybe...Batman? Well, the one from the TV show Batman Beyond. I don't know. I don't form crushes on fictional characters easily, even if I do like or admire them.

5.  Besides writing, what's your best talent? I can paint pictures on my wall. Oooh! And I'm pretty good at reading really fast. Also, I can eat good food, and sometimes make it, if I'm given the recipe.

6.  Any hobbies? Playing with children takes up most of my day. I like gaming on occasion, and painting. The only thing I set aside time to do, though, is write.

7.  Do you listen to music while you write? No. I tried that once. I get distracted.

8.  Who are your biggest literary influences? Hm. Growing up I had a limited selection from our library, but I fell in love with Patricia Coombs, Roald Dahl, and E.B. White pretty young. Then I read a lot of books by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, Tamora Pierce, Patricia Wrede, Shel Silverstein, and Jerry Spinelli. Chaim Potok hooked me on literature. As an adult I've discovered Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, and lots of literary stuff by Edmund Spenser and John Milton and Marilynne Robinson (who once rode in my car!). I could go on forever, actually--those are just a few names that popped into my head. I'll stop now, though.

9.  Why do you write in the genre that you do? My first genre love as a reader was fantasy. I've written literary, realistic fiction (that's what you do in MFA classes), but I'm a lot more excited when I add magic.

10.  What's a word that bothers you a lot to hear misused/overused? I dislike it when people use "loose" when they mean "lose." Oh! And I once had a student write an essay about the Lake Powell Dam called "The Lake Powell Damn." That one actually made me laugh pretty hard--and he laughed, too, when I gave it back to him.

I'm supposed to tag other people, but I'm only going to tag Sophie Morgan. Mostly I just want an excuse to link to her blog, because she is a very cool critique partner. Feel free to tag yourself, though, and let me know in the comments if you answered the question--I always love hearing about other writer's processes!

Monday, May 14, 2012


Right after I had my first son, I went back to school. And there I told my students the biggest sleep-deprived, love-induced lie ever: "Being a mother is easy! Getting my degrees was harder."

I never took it back, not that semester, even after I knew for a fact it wasn't true. And it wasn't true, not at all. Being a mom is the most difficult, terrifying, awesome thing I've ever had to do. Being a mom is worrying about low weight gain and healthy menus and making dinner every single night with vegetables because suddenly you can't skip meals without tiny people having a meltdown. It's chasing a toddler down the sidewalk after you drag your garbage cans out to the curb because he loves running so much that he can never wait for you to finish before he dashes off. It's holding your kid during a public screamfest because he wants SOME GUMBALLLLLLS NOOOOOW, snuggling with two children while looking at a giraffe at the zoo, and rushing towards your son as he scoops dust into his shoes and starts to spin--all on the same afternoon. There are moms out there who have kids with SMA, moms who work ten hours a day, moms who stay home and keep all the laundry food bills house kids working and (mostly) happy. There are pressures: to be organic and breastfeed and use cloth diapers. It's okay to make individual choices, though. All kids are different, and so are their parents.

I respect my friends who have children. I respect my friends who don't have children. But I think it's in everyone's best interest to value children, and support parents, and pretty much help families of all kinds be in the happiest place they can be. Because those little girls and boys? They're the ones who will design our buildings and fix our hearts when we get old. They'll write our books. They'll make art. They'll take care of the world. I, for one, want all children to get the best education possible, because that could make the future so much cooler.

My point? I guess my point is that society should value parenthood more. I get respect for being a professor. I never get societal appreciation as a mother. I'm so, so lucky that I have a chance to work in a place I love and take care of my children the majority of the time. But it's a tricky balance. Working mothers feel guilt. Stay-at-home mothers get dismissed. But all the mothers I know personally are amazing, and even on days when their four-year-old throws remotes and screams (not that I'm describing today at my house) it would be nice for them to get some respect. It would be better if there could be childcare readily available at every workplace and community teaching groups for parents on lots of topics (sleeping babies, teaching preschoolers to read, responding to remote-throwing tantrums...), but I'd settle for the recognition that moms have the best stories, and should be treated with care--and then you might get to hear those stories!

I'll give you a story example:

Yesterday my four-year-old decided to be a zombie.

"I will eat your brain!" he announced to my husband. "NOM, NOM, NOM!"

My husband fell over, suitably eaten.

My zombie looked at me. "I will eat your brain, too!"

He started to lurch towards me, but then he paused. "Wait. It's Mother's Day. I won't eat your brain because it's Mother's Day."

Then he pivoted after his one-year-old brother instead, who laughed while his brains got devoured.

He never ate my brain the entire day.

The end.

I swear I'll stop rambling now, and I'll get to other blog thingies that I'm supposed to get to later this week. But look! Zombie Elmo! Aren't you glad there's a zombie Elmo?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Kreativ Blogger

Some awesome new friends have given me a couple of awards recently (read: free posts that I don't have to come up with all by myself!), and I decided to do the first one today.

The Kreativ Blogger Award is from Jaye Brown, who is lovely and brave and honest about her writing. First you post this picture:

And then you list ten things about yourself. So...

1. I spent time today looking at creepyhilarious stuff about Maurice Sendak. I get sad when authors I admire die, but I'm grateful for the words (and, in his case, pictures!) they left behind.
2. I can wiggle both ears. One at a time, even. Have I mentioned this before? It is my one physical talent.
3. I can't dance. Really. I did a musical play in high school with some of my friends, even though I was never really a drama person, and I'd go right whenever I was supposed to go left. I'd warned everyone I was missing the brain connections to dance...and after that they believed me.
4. I read all of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels during the long nights after my first son was born. They kept me sane through all the crazy new-parent adjustments.
5. I saved a huge jumping spider from my cats the other day. I always save jumping spiders.
6. If I'm reading a book I really like, I literally can't hear what people are saying around me.
7. On a related note, I sometimes got detention in fourth grade for reading through various lessons in class.
8. My dad play-tested Magic, The Gathering, and I'm nerdy enough to like playing it, too (but only with family and friends!).
9. I can like pretty much any type of story. I'd never read much romance--until I started reading the books of my awesome romance-writing critique partner. So much fun! I don't think there's any genre filled with only books I would dislike (although I could be wrong).
10. I used to swim in high school. I was pretty mediocre, but it was fun. And my freshman year, I won the Most Improved plaque, which looks pretty impressive even if it only means that I was really bad at first (and I managed to get less bad as time went on).

Now I'm supposed to pick six other bloggers to play, but there is a cat on my lap, so I'm going to cop out and say that if you're in the process of submitting a manuscript (any manuscript!), you win this award! Take a break, and remember that your creativity is a wonderful thing!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

My (late) A-Z retrospective

Whew! The end of my semester at AMES (the fourth-best high school in Utah!) overlaps with the beginning of my semester for the U of U summer course (next week), so I've been crazy-busy. I have to say, though, that the people I've met through both A to Z and the Writer's Voice blog fest are amazing writers--and kind, too, which is awesome!


A-Z took up time I maybe kind of should've been writing on my WIP, but Paint is an awful lot of fun. I'd open it each day, Google the monsters on my list (the list was the only thing I did in advance!), pick one, draw it, and write a quick blurb. Writing was actually the hardest part for me, since I do that so much for my work and my creative outlet. Drawing pictures was kind of a relief! Oh, and the best part of the blog fest was the people with smart blogs about food or culture or libraries or books--and the fact that some of those people started comment-conversations with me! I connected even more with some the bloggers I already followed, too, which made me happy. And my son started drawing! On his own! This also made me smile.

I have to admit I'm glad it's over, but that's mostly because of the overlapping-semesters thing. Next April I will probably join again. Maybe. And my Paint pictures will be even worse. (This is not really a threat, just a truth--I'll most likely be holding a two-year-old and a five-year-old by next April).

Oh, and the Writer's Voice blog fest inspired me to tighten my query more before I start submitting, so yay for that! I love my manuscript, and I'm excited to show it to people!

Bye, A-Z! I posted this song in honor of you.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Writer's Voice blogfest #23

I've never entered an agent contest like this before, and I'm so excited! I'm supposed to post my query and the first 250 words. Oh, and the contest is hosted by Cupid, Monica, Krista, and Brenda! All their blogs are awesome, and I'm glad I finally edited my intro to include all four. :)

Anyway, on to the query!

When Ashley tells her famous lunchroom anecdotes to the new high school senior, Thorn, she’s hoping to distract herself from her grief over her older brother’s “accidental” death. 

But then she finds out Thorn’s a Taker who feeds off of stories—or human lives. And she’s a newly-awakened Storyteller who can spark magic with her words. Thorn offers her a bargain: if she gives him a story every night, he’ll protect her family and friends from things like him. Ashley agrees, but when she doesn’t come up with a satisfactory story one evening, Thorn sends her younger brother to the hospital.

Ashley is furious, even after Thorn explains he only took enough life to survive when other Takers would have killed. Her rage fuels her nightly stories so that a tale about a boy who can control the weather causes a snowstorm in Arizona autumn, and an anecdote about her brother’s pet creates a zombie cat.

All that loose magic draws Takers who do seem more homicidal than Thorn. He tries to protect her family, as promised, but he’s losing. Thorn claims Ashley can send all the Takers away forever if she tells him her most powerful story. Ashley knows the right story, but breaking the silence surrounding her older brother’s death would devastate her family—and if Thorn’s lying, she may be giving him the strength to threaten her loved ones for the rest of her life.

Storyteller is a 65,000-word YA contemporary fantasy loosely based off of The Arabian Nights. Thank you for your time!

And now, on to the first 250-ish words from my manuscript:

            In the beginning, I chose you.
            He could see his thoughts etching into the surface of the shark's tooth. The tooth looked mundane, but when he paced over to the window his thoughts kept twisting onto its flat surface.
            I can see you, the light of thunder gleaming overhead, the rain dripping down your face. You run, but you're not blinded by storm or speed--you notice the brown grass, the paint flakes on the fire hydrant, the crack on the sidewalk overflowing with water.
            I watch you now, and wait for your power to wake.
            His fingers closed.
           And if you find my gift, and take it, you may live through the waking.
Chapter 1
Ashley could see Ryan in the lane next to her—a flash of dark hair, tan arms gliding through the water, smooth and swift. She kicked faster, shutting her eyes, trying not to think about the way he would have changed by now, the skin hanging off his bones, the empty sockets of his eyes filled with chlorine and shadow.
She grabbed the edge of the pool near the bathrooms, breathing hard, her whole body shaking. She didn’t think she could finish the mile, which was just as well. It was past the end of high school swim practice anyway, and she was sure her teacher-coach wanted to go home.
Ashley kept her eyes closed while she pulled off her goggles. She never used to see him. Sure, there were the mornings when she’d wake up and call for Ryan, and the nights she’d wander into his room and look for him, but that felt different. It made sense that if she’d lived with someone her whole life she’d expect them in unguarded moments; that was okay, as long as she didn’t see anything.

Hooray for Storytellers!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Art from a four-year-old

I mentioned that my son liked to sit on my lap while I drew the monsters. Well, now that A-Z is over, I can post some of the art he made, because he begged me with his awesome small-child begging abilities.

This one is a pegasus. Or it was.

What can I say? The kid likes red. And black. And, apparently, a little smidgeon of purple.

This is a turret gun from the Portal games.
Yay for creativity! Yay for four-year-olds!