Saturday, December 31, 2005

A Writer's Resolutions

New Year's Eve. A time for reflection, looking forward, and resolutions.

Unfortunately, promises made under the influence of good friends and libations in the wee hours of New Year's morning are often broken by year's end.

So what's a well-intentioned writer to do?

Most experts agree that the more specific and realistic the resolution, the more likely a person is to keep it. Resolving to "write the Great American Novel in 2006", for example, is hardly realistic, and unlikely to be achieved. Resolving to write a solid first draft of a work-in-progress, however, is realistic and do-able.

Jazzed by caffeine and ideas fueled by what worked for me while pursuing my MFA in Writing for Children from Vermont College, here are a few of my writing resolutions for 2006:

1. BIC (butt in chair) from 10-2 Monday through Thursday working on creative (except for my once monthly SCBWI chapter meeting days.) All web surfing, "Kat's Eye" and listserve business, reading of other writer's blogs for inspiration, and emails MUST be completed outside of BIC time. No exceptions. This applies to phone calls, too. None allowed, unless caller i.d. indicates the school or a physician.

2. Marketing Fridays. Each week, I plan to dedicate Friday to the business side of writing. What do I mean by the business side of writing? All those tasks that we know we should be doing in order for our work to be read by The Powers that Be, but rarely get around to because it's safer that way. Or we spend too much time doing research and "business stuff," instead of doing the hard work and sitting BIC. So, I'm setting aside a day for the market stuff.

Some of the activities Marketing Fridays will include: researching the children's market for theme lists and contests, selecting items of interest to pursue, and prioritizing my writing schedule around these deadlines. During this time, I'll also read professional children's writer publications (including the SCBWI Bulletin and The Horn Book), analyze children's magazines for trends and preferences, draft query letters, and yes, gulp, submit something--even if it's just a query--every Friday.

3. Take at least one writing class to further my craft. Earning an MFA from Vermont College was one of the best decisions of my life. Not only did it save me from losing myself in caregiving for E, it immersed me in the craft I love, and connected me with a vibrant community of writers and teachers and friends for life. To achieve this resolution, I will identify a writing class before the end of the month, and sign up as soon as I learn when doctors plan to perform E's surgery. Taking a writing class will build in writing deadlines, allow me to improve my craft, help keep my skills fresh.

4. Attend meetings with my face-to-face writing group to twice monthly. The one-on-one meetings are an excellent way to keep constructive critiquing skills alive. The accountability keeps me writing. And the deadlines gives me permission to keep writing a priority.

5. Attend local SCBWI chapter meetings monthly and regional meetings regularly. These meetings are crucial to my writing life. Without them, it's easy to forget that every writer--even those who are published--wrestles daily with his or her inner critic.

6. Read. I'm a firm believer that writers need to read. How else to train the inner editor to learn how to recognize the beat of language and the music of prose? At VC we were required to log the books we read in an on-going bibliography. Not only did the list record our progress, it taught us about the movers and shakers of the industry, and increased our sense of who publishes what type of books. These days, I log books read in a separate notebook, making notes about what I liked/disliked about the work.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Hangman, Adventures at Children's, and Waiting for my Muse

You know how I hoped our visit to Children's Memorial yesterday would be painless enough that I'd have time to make creative notes in my journal in between appointments?


Upon check-in for our 10:30 appointment, we learned that E's kidney ultrasound was scheduled for December 27th of '06, not '05. When the woman at the desk learned how far we'd driven to get there, she took pity on us, promising to squeeze us in.

Four coloring pages, three hands of Fish, one Winnie-the-Pooh memory game, five Connect Four games, and the beginnings of a headache later, they called for E. By the time the test was finished, we'd missed our next appointment by 45 minutes, and my headache was full blown.

We headed off in search of the C elevators, praying the echocardiogram people hadn't yet called for E. A handful of wrong turns later, we found the right reception area.

Turns out arriving on time wouldn't have mattered. The echocardiogram was scheduled for December '06, too. So much for trying to journal in between tests.

12:10. The waiting room was packed. I rubbed my forehead, trying to concentrate. Our window of time to complete the echo and eat lunch before our one o'clock with the liver specialist had evaporated.

"I could try to fit you in," the receptionist said.

E and S leaned against the reception desk like they needed a place to sit. My head was pounding.

I imagined leaving the hospital right after our 1:00. We could beat rush hour, cutting our commute in half. Time enough to fix dinner, help E with her shower, read the younger girls another chapter from The Chronicles of Narnia, do bedtime, and settle into some serious writing before I got too sleepy.

"You guys look overbooked," I said to the receptionist. "Maybe we should just try to come back another day."

"Oh, I'd hate for you to make the drive again," the receptionist chimed. She clicked a few keys, studied the computer screen. "Tell you what. You have a one o'clock in the liver clinic, right? You'll probably be done by 3:15. Come back then. We should have openings by then."

Probably? She's expecting us to take that long in clinic? Swell. So much for getting out of here before rush hour.

"Sure," I heard myself say, "We'll check in with you when we're through."

12:17. Just under 45 minutes left to find lunch and return to 5th floor for the liver clinic which was located down the hall.

Thankfully, there's a McDonald's in the basement. Not my usual choice for lunch for the girls, but by now they'd earned it. The only downside was that the eatery is such a popular destination for patients and their families that it was out of Narnia toys. The girls ordered Happy Meals anyway.

Refueled, we navigated our way back to the fifth floor with one minute to spare. I took notes in my journal determined to use it for some form of writing that afternoon.

Long story short, the liver doctor sees no reason why E can't have surgery. He ordered a test to review liver function, adding another stop at the hospital before we ended our day there. "Just as a precaution," he said, handing me the order. "I'm not expecting any surprises."

"No problem," I said. I inserted the order in my journal, resigned to spending the rest of the afternoon at the hospital.

We did the blood test. We played multiple games of hangman in my journal until they fit us in for the echocardigram. We arrived home well after dinner time. Colonel Sanders cooked for us.

Now all we need is a new surgical date.

Appetite for writing:
Hungry, but still too exhausted to string together anything longer than this blog entry. I shouldn't be surprised. Traditionally, P's done the majority of lengthy visits with E, and I've done the shorter ones. Yesterday was the first time in many months I felt prepared enough emotionally to do a longer one on my own.

Edited to add:
Now, I'm required to do something that requires equal doses of faith and patience, both of which are in small supply these days. I must wait for my muse. Until it recovers and resurfaces again, there's no use indulging my need to finish my revisions to my work-in-progress. My head might be in it, but not my heart. And experience has proven that work forced when my muse isn't cooperating requires major cutting the next day.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

On the road again

We've been spending a lot of time in the car the last few days, driving to this celebration and that. My sister hosted Christmas for my side of the family this year. What a spread she put out. Italian beef sandwiches. Steaming spaghetti sauce over angel hair pasta. Fresh grated Parmesan cheese. Fresh-cut veggies and dip. Italian pastries and not so Italian, but just-as-good-because-they're-tradition crescents, iced sugar cookies, kolachkies (sp?), chocolate chip cookie bars, and more.

All my sisters were there, even B and J and their kids from Arizona. Visiting with everyone is always a blast, especially hearing their versions of events from our growing-up days. Not only are their stories a constant reminder of the good times we had, they're proof of the differing points of view people bring to an event and take away from it.

Edited to add:
On the menu for today--
Though I'm hungry for writing, I'll probably have little time, energy, or opportunity to do so. We're off to Children's Memorial for the second of E's required specialist visits prior to surgery. We expect to spend most of the day there.

First up is prerequisite testing for the last specialist we saw. Then we get a face to face with the GI doc. My fingers are crossed we get in and out quickly. I'm planning to take along my journal in case I have free time to jot down ideas or impressions of our visit. Or anything else for that matter.

Edited to add:
Didn't have time to crack the binding.

Friday, December 23, 2005

You're a Real Writer When...

"So are you published yet?"

The question is bound to come up at least once over the holiday weekend. It's inevitable after someone learns what I do, especially when that someone doesn't appreciate the real reason writers write.

Real writers aren't in the business for fame and glory, and they're not in it for money. A fact most friends and family members don't understand.

I used to feel obligated to justify my career choice at parties and family gatherings. Not anymore. Not since Vermont College gave me the confidence to pursue my craft. No matter what.

The fact is, though a host of celebrities think otherwise, writing for children isn't easy. The best picture books are works of art, requiring an economy of language that takes months to achieve, and months more to refine to an editor's satisfaction. What's more, today's award-winning novels demand authentic characters and prose that sings.

When you think about it, the question "are you published yet?" begs a question. Why is publishing the only sign of a real writer? Baseball players aren't required to win the World Series before they're paid beaucoup bucks. Lawyers don't have to argue before the Supreme Court before they can hang out a shingle. Why should writers be held to a higher standard?

Our first party of the weekend is tonight. When the inevitable question comes, I'll be ready.

"Not yet," I'll say when asked if I've sold my book yet.

I'll sip my wine, savor it, wait. If experience holds, the small talk will shift to another subject. Inwardly, I'll be grinning, grateful for the patience and perseverance I learned while pursuing my MFA.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Merry Writing to All and to All a Goodnight

Woo-hoo! The last bus of the year arrived at our house just under an hour ago. Winter break has officially started. From now through January 3rd, we're free.

No need to keep E on task in the morning so she and her scooter are ready in time to meet the bus at the end of the drive. No need to enforce bedtime so E gets the sleep she needs in order to make it through the day. No need to time meds just right so E gets her last am dose before getting on the bus.

The break's not a total break. Therapy is still on. But, there is a plus side. Since Easter Seals is closed the Mondays following Christmas and New Year's, we only need to make the 30-minute trek across town once each week during the holidays instead of twice.

On the writing front, the next 13 days could be a bust or a creative treasure trove. I'm hoping for the later. Some of the tactics I've used in the past to leverage uninterrupted time while my kids are on break:

1. Treks to the library followed by reading and video fests.

2. Bribing of my oldest daughter to "keep watch" while I lock myself away in the office.

3. Hiring of a church youth as a mother's helper if my oldest daughter is unavailable.

4. Kid swapping with a friend. (I'll watch yours if you watch mine.)

5. Writing before anyone else wakes up. (I learned this technique from Jane Resh Thomas. I find it very useful, especially when I need to get unstuck.)

6. Writing after the girls go to bed. (Though I rarely use this tactic unless I'm on deadline because my most productive writing rarely occurs during this time of the day.)

7. Writing while the girls entertain friends elsewhere in the house. With Elena home sick so often, I've learned to write with the TV or stereo going in the other room. Doesn't always work because of the inevitable interruptions for drinks and snacks and ushering E up and down the stairs.

*Raises glass of sparkling grape juice.* Merry writing to all and to all a goodnight.

Edited to add:

Appetite for writing--Hearty.

Now all I need to find is an Alice to help me finish up Christmas, cook and clean, and entertain the girls so I can curl up with my laptop and indulge my appetite. Sigh. Highly unlikely in this universe, but it's fun to fantasize.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Early Christmas Present from Editor Cheryl Klein

While surfing the web this a.m. (rather than finishing up my holiday shopping or sitting butt in chair for serious revision work), I discovered an early Christmas present on a fellow writer's livejournal.

Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic editor Cheryl Klein has authored a sweet little e-book called Rules of Engagement, How to Get (and Keep!) a Reader Involved in Your Novel based on a talk she gave at the Rocky Mountain SCBWI Fall conference in October 2005. Whether you're a serious writer, or someone who's just getting started, you'll want to read this book. Klein's insider advice is engaging and knowledgeable. And free!

To download your free e-book, log onto You'll need to register first before you can add it to your cart, but no need to promise your first-born child to get it. The info they ask for is basic, and so worth the extra 60 seconds to complete.

Thanks to Vermont College student and Des Moines Register teen-lit reviewer Kellye Crocker for posting the link to this e-book gem on her livejournal recently.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Pastels, Portraits and Time Stops

Delivered a long overdue pastel and colored pencil portrait today to P. She'd bid on the artwork at a church auction a couple years ago in anticipation of the birth of her first grandchild. By the time she delivered pictures of her new grandson for me to work from, I was hip deep in Vermont College packets, and E's constant illnesses, unable to give the piece the attention it deserved.

Felt good to get back to my art. To hear the scratch of pencil on paper. To feel the weight of the pastels and pencils in my hand, and smell the pastel dust on my skin.

To lose myself so completely in a piece that time stood still.

The place where time stops is where I suspect all writers and artists strive to be. In that place, all cares and fears and worries disappear. All that matters is your art, your story, and living in the moment.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Dashing Through the the Dr.'s Office

The streets were already slick with snow at 6 a.m. when we left home for downtown Chicago. Radio Disney kept E company as I white-knuckled my way into the Loop.

The appointment was for 8:20. The trip normally takes 45 minutes. If we catch all the lights. We made it to the doctor's office with 20 minutes to spare.

E and I broke out our Winnie-the-Pooh mini playing cards while waiting our turn for Dr. L. Forty minutes and a half dozen wars later, he finally appeared. And was worth the wait.

Easy going, fifty-something, and slim, with curly brown hair and wire-rimmed glasses, Dr. L engaged E in a lengthy conversation about school, friends and family. And he seemed genuinely interested in all her answers. E warmed to him immediately, eager to share all the gossip about her sisters and her best friend and her pets.

After a time, Dr. L wondered why the anesthesiologists didn't go ahead with the surgery the day before Thanksgiving. Apparently, he'd been in the building the day the procedure was cancelled, and would have gladly given another OK had anyone bothered to call him. But no one did.

I suggested that maybe the bit about the E's liver had been the deal breaker. He shook his head, saying that shouldn't have stopped them from going in.

When I commented that maybe the anesthesiologist was skittish, he looked up, smiled, and said, "I see nothing here to keep E from having surgery."

Hmmm. One doc down. One to go. Then it's all on the anesthesiologist's plate. Oh, and there's the matter of a date. We still need one of those.

Appetite for writing: Um, yeah, I have one. And I have ideas to show from my drive downtown. Here are some of the notes I jotted down in the half light on the way to the doctor this am.

One--a note to remember how frantic our oldest soundest this am when she sprang from bed and leaned over the upstairs railing. Is everything all right. Why is everyone up? What's wrong? (Turns out we'd forgotten to tell her I was leaving with E early for our appointment. When she heard us rushing to get out she must have thought the worse...)

Two--a note to remember the joy in E's voice as she belted out the words to all her favorite songs on Radio Disney, a station we can't get in Lockport, but comes in just fine the closer we get to downtown Chicago.

Three--the beauty of a doe, shrouded in the early morning snow, grazing alongside railroad tracks near the expressway.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Packing list for doctor's visit

I plan to bring along the following tomorrow for our visit to Dr. L:

1. Backback--for my stuff and E's. E does pretty well on her own with cane in hand, but she's sure to need an extra hand navigating the sidewalks in and around Children's Memorial once tomorrow's snowstorm starts.

2. Files--multiple--containing all my notes, copies of tests, medical records, etc. about Elena's old aneurysm and her current one.

3. Playing cards--S's Winnie-the-Pooh deck if she'll let us--for all the waiting I'm expecting to do. (And I have to admit, having those particular cards with us tomorrow makes sense on so many different levels.)

4. Book to read (after E tires of playing War). Already packed: Goodbye, Charley by VC classmate and fellow graduate, Jane Buchanan.

5. Meds--E's--in case the heavy part of the storm hits during our drive back, and E ends up needing her afternoon dose before we get home.

6. Cooler--with snacks and drinks--so we're not caught empty-handed should we get stuck in traffic on the drive back from downtown Chicago.

7. Barbara Park's books on tape, Cheater Pants and One-Man Band, in case E tires of her Cheetah Girls' Cheetah-licious Christmas CD.

Switching Gears

Shortly after loading E onto the bus with her scooter this am, I received a call from the kidney specialist's office. We had a cancellation, the scheduling secretary says. Doctor L can meet with E tomorrow morning. Do you want the appointment?

My mind's racing at this point. Meeting with Dr. L tomorrow rather than January 4th gives us that much more time to do any of the tests he'll need in order to "clear" E for surgery. Not that we have a surgical date yet, but I'm still holding out for the sometime-in-January date the lead surgeon gave us. And meeting with Dr. L means there's one less hurdle on our end to scheduling something.

"I think that might work," I answer, then tense as I scan the family calendar for tomorrow's agenda. Shit. Tomorrow's the school field trip. The one to the glorious theater production of "A Christmas Carol" at the Paramount.

E missed nearly every field trip last year because of illness. But this year's she's been on a roll. She's been feeling great. Tomorrow was a go. She was looking forward to her first outing of the school year with friends.

Poor E.

My inner Eeyore moans at this sudden change of plans; but, knowing E, she'll probably see the trip downtown as an excuse to seek honey.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Checking In, and searching for honey with Pooh

No word yet on a new date for the surgery.

The lead surgeon's office has been playing telephone tag with the other surgeon since the Monday after Thanksgiving. (By the way, the lead surgeon has said she won't--absolutely won't--operate until the other surgeon is at her side. If that means waiting till March when he's free, we wait till March. The lead doc thinks we shouldn't have to wait that long.) The best I can get from her office for a target date is sometime in January. Until then we're to go about as usual.

Whatever that is.

My inner Eeyore wants to crawl back under the covers. My inner Pooh wants to use our free time to go out searching for honey. I'm heading out in search of honey. Our local SCBWI group meets this am.

I SOOOO need this meeting.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Because It was a Book First

In honor of the upcoming movie release of C.S. Lewis' classic, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, I sat down with my youngest girls, E and S, last night to read them the book that inspired it all.

"Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy. This story is about something that happened to them when they were sent away from London during the war because of the air-raids."

So begins C.S. Lewis' fantastical tale. Not the most memorable opening in a children's book. Yet, the silence that descended on the girls as I read chapter one was undeniable. Even the ticking of the Winnie-the-Pooh clock on S's nightstand seemed intrusive.

What hooked my girls so early on? I couldn't depend on them to articulate the reasons. An "I liked it, that's why" was the best I could expect, given their ages. And besides, the lights were out, and it was way past bedtime.

My guess is that they empathized with Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy because they were living away from home when something "happened to them." I suspect my girls were drawn to the reassuring, story-telling point of view of the omniscient narrator. And I wonder if they heard the promise of intrigue and adventure woven so seamlessly into the opening pages of the story.

By the end of page one, for example, we learn Lucy was "a little afraid" of the old Professor, despite her siblings' willingness to accept him. By the top of page three, we read that from Lucy's point of view the Professor's house is filled with "long passages and rows of doors leading into empty rooms" that leave her feeling "a bit creepy."

And then there's the wonderful tension Lewis builds. There's no denying the skillful way he contrasts Lucy's unease with her sister's and brothers' welcoming attitudes. "This is going to be perfectly splendid," Peter says of their new home."I think he's an old dear," Susan says of their host.

Lewis' novel is a first read for me. Like my girls, I was hooked before the end of page one. (So much so that I plan to steal into the girl's room tonight after they've gone to sleep so I can secretly read ahead. And analyze more about what's working and why.)

Note to self:
Remember to read aloud more often, especially those authors I admire most.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

As the Muse Turns

My muse has been unpredictable lately as we ride this roller coaster with E.

Some days, it awakens as soon as I summon it, eager to make suggestions as I re-vision my work-in-progress. Some nights, it awakens me from sleep, eager for me to find a pen. Other times--more often than I'd like to admit, my muse refuses to surface, and I wonder whether or not I'll ever find the words I need to make sense of the world.

To understand my process (and come to terms with it), I've turned to a number of craft books. Some are rereads. Some are new reads. Most all were purchased during one Vermont College MFA in Writing for Children Residency or another based on recommendations by friends and faculty. They are:

bird by bird by Anne Lamott

Writing Past Dark by Bonnie Friedman

The Writing Life by Annie Dillard

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg.

I'm particularly fond of an essay called "Write Anyplace," from Writing Down the Bones. Goldberg launches the piece with a long list of excuses and reasons why we don't write, why we can't write, why we won't write.

"Okay," Goldberg says in the opening paragraph. "Your kids are climbing into the cereal box. You have $1.25 left in your checking account. Your husband can't find his shoes, your car won't start, you know you have lived a life of unfulfilled dreams. There is the threat of the nuclear holocaust..." And so on and so on.

The litany of excuses rings true on so many different levels. Lately, instead of writing, I give in to the siren's call of laundry and dishes and clutter clean-up, answer the phone instead of letting the machine pick up, surf from one blog to another--just one more--instead of focusing on my work-in-progress, and I mull over E's health files and reports as if I will find a miracle solution the doctor has overlooked.

I reread Goldberg's list, nodding all the while. I've been there. Done that. I've made lists. If I put them end to end they'd fill an entire chapter of her book, if not the entire book.

Goldberg doesn't end the essay with her list. She throws the litany down on the page like a gauntlet, then utters the following challenge:

"In the middle of the world, make one positive step. In the center of chaos, make one definite act. Just write. Say yes, stay alive, be awake. Just write. Just write. Just write."

I closed the book, pushed away from the sofa, paced from the living room to the dining room and back again. Stared out the picture window. Watched the snow drifting to the ground, felt the chill pane beneath my hand, heard the click of our golden retriever nails on the hardwood floor. Buffy's warm body leaned against mine. Her cold nose nudged my hand.

"In the center of the chaos...Just write. Just write. Just write."

I combed my fingers through Buffy's ruff. All this time I've believed my muse the problem child. All this time, I've believed it uncooperative.

Goldberg's essay suggests my muse hasn't been the problem. Following her logic, my muse has been waiting and willing all along. All it's ever wanted is to write. To make sense of the chaos. To claim it by making "one positive step (...) one definite act."

All this time, I've been puttering at my keyboard, giving in to my guilt over not writing more, comparing my process to others. Granting my inner critic too much power.

I'm reminded of Jane Resh Thomas' advice for taming the inner critic.

* Write a list of all your fears and regrets.
* Burn the list and collect the ashes.
* Take note of how little space they take. Remember how little they weigh as they pour down from your hand.

The semester I had Jane for an advisor, she gave each of us a tiny enamel box crafted in the shape of a butterfly. The box fit into the palm of my hand. Store your fears in the box, she said, so you no longer need to carry them.

My fears never overflowed that box when I used it. Despite the lists I made, the butterfly was always big enough to hold the ashes.

Time to write my list. Time to write it and burn it and summon my muse.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Waiting Game, Part Deux

We finally connected with E's lead neurosurgeon last night. Bottom line: January is likely the soonest the surgery will take place.

January? *Sighs and lowers her head* Another month?

Another month.

The grateful mom side of me is thrilled we'll have an uninterrupted holiday season. The worried mom side wants the surgery over with yesterday so we can learn what the universe has in store for us this time. The protective mom part of me stares at the phone incredulous.

But, doc, I want to say for the umpteenth time, we've first-hand knowledge of an aneurysm rupture. We've lived the downsides.

There was that bright humid day in July 2001 when we raced after that helicopter, wondering if E would still be breathing when we arrived at the hospital. And the chaplain who met us at the door. Not to tell us that she'd died, as we feared, but to tell us she was very, very sick.

We prayed by E's bedside that day and for days to follow, not knowing if she'd awaken from her coma, not knowing whether she'd recognize us if she did. Weeks later, we held E's hand as she pulled herself up to sitting for the first time, too weak to stay up more than a second or two because her muscles had atrophied from two months in bed.

Four years E has traveled this road, re-learning how to sit and stand and walk and talk. Four years, doc. Four long years. Knowing the downsides, you'd think clipping an existing aneurysm would be considered an emergency.

It's not.

Seems so counter-intuitive, hearing the doctor say the clipping of E's aneurysm is considered an elective procedure. Yet, the fact is--and this is the rest of what the lead surgeon reminded P of yesterday--the risks inherent with this type of surgery are extremely high.

Preparations must be deliberate and planned. All possible complications--however remote--need to be investigated beforehand to increase E's chances of success.


Counting down from ten to one.


Reminding myself that our children are on loan to us from God. Praying that the last red flag was raised because docs needed to know about it. And have time to investigate it before something awful happens. Because E's journey here on earth is not yet over.

Here are just a few of the very real risks inherent in the clipping of a cerebral aneurysm:

* E could bleed out during the procedure, the aneurysm rupturing too quickly for docs to react.

* The procedure could result in stroke or seizure or both during the surgery, or in the days immediately following the operation.

* The kidneys could be compromised because of the stress on her system.

* The surgery itself might raise E's blood pressure dangerously high, resulting in another kind of bleed or rupture.

* The surgery could introduce enough tissue into her internalized brain shunt that it becomes plugged or infected within days or weeks after the surgery.

* The surgery is long--every bit of 6 hours--increasing the chance of complications.

* Add to these risks the fact that E is a primordial dwarf, one of a very very small group of individuals (less than 50 known individuals exist world-wide with her type of dwarfism) with health issues that are yet to be fully understood.

It's sobering seeing this list on paper. And a reminder to all my mom sides of how blessed we've been to have come this far. Given the risks, I praise the fact that E's physicians are willing to take them.

And respect their need to take all the time they need to be prepared.

Location, Location, Location

What a difference a change in location makes. Writing from Panera Bread this morning. The bottomless, steaming cup of green tea is a welcome respite given today's near-zero wind chill. And the steady stream of people buzzing in and out sounds and feels like a vibrant community.

Puts me in mind of Capitol Grounds, the great coffee bar located near the capitol dome in downtown Montpelier, Vermont. It's a common gathering place for Vermont College students looking for a decent cup of coffee, tea, latte or iced chai. And it's a good excuse for an outing during Residency--winter or summer.

I've a feeling my reminiscing about Vermont College today is stronger than usual for a number of reasons. First, I finally finished my first run through of Kathi Appelt's lecture on controlling belief and character. Very compelling ideas she sets forth on the need for all characters in children's books to hold one controlling belief. With it, an MC can drive a story. Without it, an MC becomes so passive, a story will drive her. Hmmm. I plan to listen again before making a more complete post on the subject.

Another reason for my VC musings: Cynthia Leitich Smith's online interview with writer and Vermont College MFA in Writing for Children faculty chair Kathi Appelt about the VC MFA in Writing for Children program. Makes me faklempt and proud and so honored to have had the opportunity to experience VC. Surf on over and take a look. It's good reading.