Saturday, November 20, 2010

Short Rant...I promise

I just want to express for a moment how frustrating it is for a writer who's tried to hone their craft, follow every rule, only to find the rules continually broken in published books.  And then I promise I'll stop because I don't want to be a downer.

I've been attending writing conferences, talking one on one to editors, visiting some very insightful agent blogs, reading/studying about writing, etc. etc. for a very long time.  The advice is all about having a distinctive voice, an alluring first line, conflict throughout.  And read all the time they tell you; read everything.  So I do that too.  I picked up a book, got it at a recent writer's conference no less, and started to read.  I've read probably four chapters now and have yet to figure out just what the conflict will be/is.  How did that author get away with that???  This is the same conference at which a highly respected editor told me she wants to know who the main character is and what their issue is on the very first page!

All right then, that's enough of that.  Just wanted to get it off my chest!  On the bright side,  we just got our first real snow of the season so the kids are preoccupied and I have a shiny, bright new idea for a novel I'm working on....much to be Thankful for.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Friday, September 3, 2010

“8 Year Old: Professional Cliché Finder” or “My own personal nail in the coffin”

I’ve been polishing my latest draft of Storyteller (a middle grade fantasy I wrote) and decided it was time to read it, out loud, to my daughter, who is now eight years old.  She’s a bit young for middle grade reading (12-18 yrs), but I figure she can easily handle the story if it’s read to her.  She’s been wanting to read it for some time and been very patient with my brush offs, like “Leave me alone!  It’s not done!” She’s even suggested some of the plot points I ended up using, so I obviously owe her big time for all her love and support.

            So, she’s in bed (where we usually read) and I’m reading a chapter to her, trying my hardest not to start editing the thing, when I read a line that says something to the effect of “Lily knew it was probably the nail in her coffin, but she didn’t care”. 

“Huh?” says my daughter.  “What’s that?”  Now you try explaining this figure of speech to someone who lives in a world where coffins only appear around Halloween time and they rarely have nails in them anymore anyway.  It was a wakeup call for me and the phrase was immediately erased from the manuscript.  Now, if my daughter says “huh?” there’s a big circle around it for closer inspection later.

            The whole episode led me on a wonderful “find and replace” adventure with my manuscript.  I had no idea I had so many glances over the shoulder and so many occurrences of the word “suddenly”.  Thank goodness for word processors!  Reading out loud to a human being other than myself has helped tremendously and I resolve to do it with everything I write from now on.  Well, almost everything. ;)

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Gardening Blues Part Dos

Holy cats!  If I wasn't sure before, now I know that gardening in Idaho has to be something akin to Sisyphus trying to roll that stone up hill.  This year, we've had frosts into late June, wind like you wouldn't believe, a population explosion of voles, which resemble large mice with chopped off tails, and now a plague of grasshoppers.  I've just about had it!  My bee balm is starting to look like a collection of sticks, my rose bushes like swiss cheese.  I can live with a few bugs here and there, but when the grasshoppers toppled my tallest hollyhock stalk that was just about to bloom by chewing through the base of it, I lost it.  I broke down and bought a can of "spray".  Tonight I went out to the flower bed and, even though the wind was blowing about 15 mph, I unloaded my frustrations on the bee balm, the catmint, the roses and the hollyhocks.  Then I stood around and gloated at the writhing bodies of my foes in their last gasps on my patio.  I suppose the sprinklers will wash off the spray later tonight, but at least I'll have the satisfaction of knowing at least some of them feel my pain.

Friday, June 4, 2010


“Drink up!” he said. “Salude!” My temple was aching slightly from the two glasses of tangy, red Spanish wine I had drank prior to this one. I took one small swallow, but not all of it.
     “Salude! Finish it,” Elias encouraged me. Not wanting to disappoint him, I swigged the last of it finally. Elias smiled as he took my glass.
“You just became Basque!”
     That’s how I’ll always remember Elias Corbitarte. I only met him a few times, but he treated me like a long lost friend. Maybe it was because he was Basque or maybe it was because he was a special person; I think it was both. I regret that I didn’t get to know him better. I am thankful I had the opportunity to meet him. Our brief friendship reminds me to appreciate each person I know. So often, we take each other for granted. I guess we have to operate that way. If we truly tried to live each day as if it were our last, we’d drive ourselves and everyone around us nuts. Perhaps the lesson is to live your best life, every day you can. I’m pretty sure Elias did that.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


When I was a gangly, awkward junior high kid, I had a teacher whom I’ll never forget. She taught me so much more than history, probably without even knowing it. Mrs. Robertson was easily the smallest person I’ve ever met. A bird-like woman with ebony skin and long plaited hair, she teetered around the classroom on four inch heels no ordinary person could have maneuvered. She would shout our last names like a tiny drill sergeant, as if sounding big would make her bigger. We hated her from the beginning.

My friend and I entertained ourselves by passing notes in class. One day I wrote some very cruel things about Mrs. Robertson in a note and my friend accidentally dropped it on the floor as we were leaving class. Mrs. Robertson stalked the class on her clicking heels the next day, shouting my last name and the last name of another Lisa. (There were two Lisas in the class, so she didn’t know for sure which one of us had written the note.) She challenged “If you have something to say about me, say it to my face.” She demanded the guilty Lisa come retrieve the note from her desk in front of everyone. I looked at the other Lisa. She looked at me. My horror froze me to my seat. Neither one of us moved.

Mrs. Robertson must have known. How could she not see it all over my face? But she let it go. I never wrote notes in her class again and she never spoke of it again. As the school year went by, I actually came to think of her as a friend. When I think how she must have felt when she read my hateful slurs, I still cringe inside. If I could go back and ask the forgiveness of just one person I’ve wronged in my life, it would be her. And I feel quite certain her answer would be “I already did.”

Monday, May 31, 2010

My Gulf Memories

I haven’t been to the Gulf of Mexico since I was a kid, probably 6 or 7 years old. Our family drove all the way to St. Petersburg, Florida from North Carolina. It’s not something I would recommend doing in a 1970’s Toyota Corolla with kids and dogs and no air conditioning, but once we arrived, it was a wonderful place. We stayed in one of those little 1950’s style motels on the beach, one story. Not one of those giant, ugly condos you see up and down the East coast now. I remember the walk out to the water seemed like at least a mile. The beach was wide and flat and clean, as far as the eye could see. Blues, grays, whites color my memories. I don’t remember any dunes or sea grass on the beach, just a huge expanse of flat, white sand and water. The clear water had hardly any current or waves. It lapped the sandy shore softly and warmed you like a giant bathtub. A storm overnight explained why the motel was so far from the water…the Gulf surged all the way up to the motel and flooded the parking lot. Even with the puddles everywhere, it was a wonderful trip.
I’ve been watching the news of the oil spilling into the Gulf, helplessly wishing it wasn’t so. It makes me think there are places in the world I need to hurry to show my children before they are destroyed forever.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Gardening Urge

This is the time of year when my thumbs get an itching to be green, but I have to make them wait because the wind is still blowing 25 miles per hour and the nights are still 38 degrees in Idaho. I can plant spinach, lettuce, peas and potatoes now, but what I really want to plant are squash and tomatoes. And flowers, lots and lots of flowers! Unfortunately, there aren’t really any flowers that can hack 38 degrees besides pansies, which I do have in flower boxes by my porch. What I really want are those giant zinnias and morning glory, sweet peas and nasturtiums. I did get some lovely tomato plants yesterday, but I’m trying to decide if I risk planting them in the ground yet, or if I want to keep them in containers all summer, which is risking that I’ll let the pot dry out. Hmmm…
As you can probably guess, growing a traditional garden in what qualifies as a desert is all about water. I don’t think it’s possible to over water anything in Idaho. These people practically invented “flood irrigation”, which if you don’t know, is the practice of periodically flooding a field to soak it. It was the only way to grow anything here before they got the big, industrial sprinklers. Makes you wonder who in their right mind ever got the idea this would be a good place to farm. We grow more rocks here than anything. Every spring, you can see the poor farm hands “picking rock” out of the fields, some big enough to be called boulders. They put them in piles near the fields. After 50 years, some of the piles are pretty huge.
Luckily, in my little garden spot, most of the big rocks are out. I managed to find a little patch a soil that’s fairly deep, but I’ve decided there’s something not quite right about it. Raspberries, which are supposedly indestructible, won’t grow in my garden more than a year. If they make it through the summer, they don’t come back the following year. Maybe the soil is so alkaline it burns them to a crisp? A friend who lives nearby told me a trick to try, so I’m doing it this year. She said to dig a deep trench, fill it with potting soil, and then plant the new raspberries in the potting soil. I figure it’s one thing I haven’t tried, so I’m sacrificing two more plants this year. They were looking pretty good, but the dang wind gave them a good whipping yesterday. Hopefully, they’ll recover.
My son grew a pumpkin seed in preschool this year. It’s a beautiful little plant, complete with flower buds already. I’m thinking we should plant it in potting soil too, but when do I dare set it outside??? They say to be a gardener is to believe in tomorrow. I think maybe being a gardener in Idaho is some form of insanity!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

No child left indoors

Today, I went on a hike with about fifty second graders in Little City of Rocks and I remembered, just for a moment, what it’s like to see through the eyes of a child. When you’re seven, everything is new and interesting to you – a mouse burrow, an animal track in soft mud, the sparkly grains of quartz in a rock. Boulders look like bears and giant turtles and camels, even faces. The world is a magical place. How could I forget?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Land of Milk and Honey

Clementines, Charmin,
Cherrios, chocolate chips,
Seattle's Best with half-n-half
melted cane sugar on my lips.

Tart apples out of season
any time of year,
caramels to coat them,
fifty-seven kinds of beer.

Feta, munster
colby, brie
foccacia, hummus
all for me.

Shelf after shelf,
isle after isle,
boxes, cans and bottles
go on for miles and miles.

Born in the land of milk and honey,
we have so much for so few.
Don'cha ever think it's funny
we can't ever seem to get enough to chew?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

remember mom...

Someone sent me this years ago and I kept it.  It's worth sharing again.

To All Mothers 
 This is for all the mothers who have sat up all night 
with sick toddlers in their arms, wiping up barf laced 
with Oscar Mayer wieners and cherry Kool-Aid 
saying, "It's OK honey, Mommy's here." when they 
keep crying and won't stop. 
This is for all the mothers who show up at work with 
spit-up in their hair and milk stains on their blouses 
and diapers in their purse. 

For all the mothers who run carpools and make 
cookies and sew Halloween costumes. And all the 
mothers who DON'T. 
This is for the mothers who gave birth to babies they'll 
never see. And the mothers who took those babies 
This is for all the mothers who froze their buns off on 
metal bleachers at football or soccer games Friday 
night instead of watching from cars, so that when their 
kids asked, "Did you see me?" they could say, "Of 
course, I wouldn't have missed it for the World," and 
mean it. 
This is for all the mothers who yell at their kids in the 
grocery store and swat them in despair when they 
stomp their feet like a tired 2-year old who wants ice 
cream before dinner. 
This is for all the mothers who sat down with their 
children and explained all about making babies. And 
for all the mothers who wanted to but just couldn't. For 
all the mothers who read "Goodnight, Moon" twice a 
night for a year. And then read it again. "Just one 
more time." 
This is for all the mothers who taught their children to 
tie their shoelaces before they started school. And for 
all the mothers who opted for Velcro instead. This is 
for all the mothers who teach their sons to cook and
their daughters to sink a jump shot. 
This is for all mothers whose heads turn automatically 
when a little voice calls "Mom ?" in a crowd, even 
though they know their own off spring are at home. 
This is for all the mothers who sent their kids to 
school with stomach aches, assuring them they'd be 
just FINE once they got there, only to get calls from 
the school nurse an hour later asking them to please 
pick them up right away. 
This is for mothers whose children have gone astray,
who can't find the words to reach them. 
For all the mothers who bite their lips sometimes until 
they bleed-when their 14 year olds dye their hair 
What makes a good Mother anyway? Is it patience? 
Compassion? Broad hips? The ability to nurse a baby, 
cook dinner, and sew a button on a shirt, all at the 
same time? 
Or is it heart? Is it the ache you feel when you watch 
your son or daughter disappear down the street, 
walking to school alone for the very first time? 
The jolt that takes you from sleep to dread, from bed 
to crib 2 put your hand on the back of a 
sleeping baby? 
The need to flee from wherever you are and hug your 
child when you hear news of a fire, a car accident, a 
child dying? For all the mothers of the victims of all 
these school shootings, and the mothers of those who 
did the shooting. For the mothers of the Survivors, 
and the mothers who sat in front of their TVs in horror, 
hugging their child who just came home from 
school, safely. 
This is for mothers who put pinwheels and teddy bears 
on their children's graves. 
This is for young mothers stumbling through diaper 
changes and sleep deprivation. And mature mothers 
learning to let go. 
For working mothers and stay-at-home mothers. 
Single mothers and married Mothers. Mothers with 
money, mothers without. 
This is for you all. So hang in there.  "Home is what 
catches you when you fall-and we all fall."

Friday, May 7, 2010

Amish Friendship bread

I'm making Amish Friendship bread, which is funny because it's neither Amish nor bread.  I know it's not Amish because the recipe calls for a box of vanilla pudding mix.  I don't think it qualifies as bread either, because it's loaded with sugar and tastes more like a decadent coffee cake. 

It's made with a sour dough-like starter, which probably isn't safe because it ferments on the counter for 10 days.  How is that possible?  It doesn't kill you.  I'm living proof of that, because my friend gave it to me.  That's the friendship part.  You divide the starter into four portions and cook one for yourself.  You're supposed to give the other portions to your "friends" and hopefully, you don't poison them.  In gifting your friends, you sentence them to a 10 day wait, in which they must churn the starter each day and add a cup each of flour, sugar and milk on the sixth day.  Then, you have to be ready to cook it on the tenth day.  It's kind of a pain. 

Luckily, it freezes well.  At least I'm told it freezes well.  We'll see how this batch turns out.  It's been in my freezer since January when I got it.  I'll let you know how it turns out in FOUR MORE DAYS.  On that day, I'll have to add more flour, sugar and milk, and then decide which "friends" to inflict it on.

howdy from the high desert

So I've got this great theme here that looks absolutely nothing like central Idaho where I'm sitting.  Spring is very, very slow to open us and show us the love this year.  Maybe when I get the hang of this thing, I'll figure a way to get Idaho pictures on here.  For now, just know I'm an aspiring children's writer, plodding away at my craft in the FREEZING high desert.  Send blankets!!!

Maya Angelou sez...

"I've found that people won't remember what you've said, or what you've done, but they remember how you made them feel."