Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Attention All Channelers: Storyboarding Technique a Winner

Are you a channeler? If you--like me--follow a whisper, image, or line of dialogue for reams of paper before discovering your story, surf on over to Jo Knowles' March 27th entry. In it, she details a storyboarding technique used by Carolyn Coman when drafting a novel.

Looks like a winning technique for this intuitive writer's toolbox. I'll report back later after I try it out.

Current read: The Seeing Stone by Kevin Crossley-Holland, a fresh retelling of the Arthurian legend recommended by J, a fellow crit group member and fantasy fan.

On deck: In search of Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, reviewed recently by Cynthia Leitich Smith on her weblog, Cynsations.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

March "Edge of the Forest" Hits Cyber Newstands

If you haven't already done so, surf on over to Edge of the Forest. The March issue features reviews, interviews, columns and more about all things kid lit. Thanks to Editor Kelly Herold of Big A Little A for launching this promising publication.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Weekend Visitor Shines

Shortly after the girls arrived home from school Friday, they were greeted by an unexpected guest. Jewel, E's potential companion dog.

Jewel's trainer, Jack, suggested we try her out for the weekend. Doing so was a bit early in the process, but with Spring Break this week, and Jewel and E bonding so well, he thought the timing made sense.

What a sweet dog. Jewel is bright and strong and gentle, though she outweighs E by at least 20 pounds.

We used the weekend as a dry run on several different levels. To see how Jewel would do with our golden retriever, Buffy, and our cat, Mr. Ginger. To see how E would do with a companion 24/7. To see how we'd tolerate another canine under foot. So far so good. But I have to admit the Jewel-E relationship is still green enough about what's expected that I'm looking forward to Jack's taking the lead again. We return Jewel after tonight's teen group get-together, and service dog training session.

Appetite for writing: None, but I'm not surprised. Too busy with Jewel this weekend, though I'm sure on some level I've been writing oodles behind my back about the adventures of a girl, her friends, and their canine companions.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Good Company, Field Trips, and Writing Together

Met a dear friend, K, at Panera Bread Tuesday. Our goal was simple: keep each other honest about doing the hard work of writing by meeting in a mutual place, sitting butts in chairs, and just doing it.

Universe be praised. No one's kids got sick the night before. No one's car broke down. The school didn't call with concerns about either of our kids. The plan worked.

Amidst the murmur of patrons, clink and clatter of cups and saucers, and heady aroma of fresh brewed coffee, I felt rather like one of the Inklings--or an honorary one, anyway. K mused over her steaming mug of coffee. I sipped English Breakfast tea. We discussed our kids and the business of writing. K shared her frustrations about the challenges of writing historical fiction when few primary sources exist. I talked about the latest incarnation of my fantasy novel. And, surprisingly, we wrote.

Though getting out of the house on time was a bit rushed, moving my writing routine to another venue felt great. The good company and change of place gave me a fresh perspective on my current project, enough so that I'm convinced this crazy quilt of a novel of mine will benefit from adding field trips with K to my writing toolbox.

Current read: Valiant by Holly Black.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

What Yoga Taught Me About Writing, Part IIa

During Saturday's yoga class, our teacher J mentioned something that has me thinking again about the parallels between yoga and writing.

The "difference between a beginning yoga student and a more advanced one," she said, is the ability to enter a position so fully that all other distractions fall away. The advanced student isn't worried about deadlines or kids or finishing the class in order to cross it off his or her to-do list. The end all is attaining the poses and becoming one with them.

As I breathed into my spinal twist, I wondered about what J had just said. And made a connection. Isn't this our goal as writers? Don't we strive to enter our story so fully that we are truly one with our characters? Of course, now I was doing the opposite of J's advice by thinking outside myself.

Rather than curse the digression, I thanked it. Not only did it provide insight into my creative process, it was proof that for a time I'd been fully yoga, immersed in the pose and the present.

Hmmm. Writing. Yoga. More later as I consider the parallels between the two.

Friday, March 17, 2006

What Yoga Taught Me About Writing, Part I

I'm not sure what made me take up yoga again. All I know is that in January the daily walks weren't doing it any more.

Probably didn't help that around that time, my gym shoes needed replacing, and the weather was way too cold for walking anyway, and the surgeons hadn't yet scheduled E's aneurysm clipping, which meant the offending vessel could rupture at anytime.

Nope. Probably didn't help at all.

But here's the thing. It doesn't really matter what helped or what didn't. What matters is that when late January rolled around, and the doctors finally called with a date for E's surgery, my current routine was so broken, I had to replace it. Fast.

And while I didn't know what would take its place, I couldn't afford to wait until after surgery to do something. I had to find another outlet--a healthy outlet--or risk losing myself at a time when my family needed me most.

I suppose some people would insist that the events that converged next did so by intelligent design. And maybe those people would be right.

Thanks to a chance encounter with an old friend one sunny day in January, I learned about a local health club offering free classes to prospective members. One of those classes was yoga.

Yoga, I remember thinking. I used to practice yoga. I used to bend and balance and salute the sun.

Three lifetimes ago.

Maybe that's why I was ready. Maybe one of those lifetimes--the one least broken--lifted up and asserted itself that day.

Though E's surgery was three weeks away and counting, and my body was nowhere near as light or limber as it used to be, I had to join, if only for the three-times-a-week yoga class.

Yoga did what I hoped it would do. It returned my flexibility, and increased my stamina. I survived E's surgery and recovery because of it. What I didn't expect was how it would help me with my writing.

I've yet to articulate all the hows and whys of how yoga has helped me, but I promise to do my best in coming posts. This much I know: the single greatest benefit I've gained from yoga in recent weeks is focus.

Appetite for writing: Savoring every word.

Current read: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo.

On deck: Valiant by Holly Black.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Amazing Delivery

Our mail carrier delivered a surprise to the door recently. A small, sturdy white cardboard box decorated with cheerful stamps depicting some of today's favorite children's book animals.

The return address? Megan Shull, author of the chicklit hit, Amazing Grace, the book I raced home to save from the rain. The book I squeezed water from, but enjoyed the heck out of anyway.

Inside the box, I found all sorts of goodies, including a dry copy of Amazing Grace.

Thanks, Megan! You made my day. And you made a new fan out of my fourth grader, S. She claimed the copy of Skye's the Limit!, declaring she loves Skye.

I like her, too. She smart and spunky. Reminds me of my girls.

Current read: Meg Cabot's Avalon High, a modern-day twist on the Arthurian legend.

Appetite for writing: On deadline for the new online children's literature magazine, The Edge of the Forest.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

A Jewel for E

Early last August, P and I met with Jack, the head of the Morris Service Dog Program, to discuss the possibility of a canine companion for E.

We made it far enough in the process that E play-tested a dog that might make a good match. We even observed a series of dog training classes for existing child-dog teams in order to build a wish list of what we'd like a dog to help E with during the school day.

Then came the news of E's aneurysm. We put the plan on hold, not knowing when the surgery would happen, how long we'd need for recovery, or how E's needs would change because of it.

Months passed, and in the midst of our dealings with E, getting back to normal, and juggling life in general, I'd put the notion of a help dog so far down on my to-do list that I'd forgotten it was there.

Until Jack called last week.

"I have a dog," he said, "one I think will be a good match for E."

Her name is Jewel. She's a sweet black labrador, smaller than average, surefooted and strong. She's smart, and knows the basics. Sit. Stay. Come. Heel. Take it.

But the basics are just the beginning for a companion dog. Now, Jewel must be trained to meet E's specific needs. And she must be socialized to our golden retriever, Buffy, and our cat, Mr. Ginger, or the match will not work. In all, the process will take six months or more of weekly sessions.

Jewel and E worked together for the first time last night, E learning how to summon Jewel to heel, and Jewel learning to stand still while E uses her for support. The long-term goal is for Jewel to attend school with E next fall.

So far so good. By the end of last night's session, both were well on their way to becoming fast friends.

Edited to add: Can't help but notice the many story possibilities in this latest journey of E's. Keeping notes and pics as my muse considers the options.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Faux Pas of All Faux Pas

I know how it happened. I was in a hurry to pick up the girls from school early enough to make the dental appointment. On the way out, I took a cooler with E's afternoon meds, and my current read, Amazing Grace by Megan Shull.

I left with the book. I swear I did. But when we arrived at the dentist's office, I couldn't find it.

I checked under the front seat. I searched the floor beneath E's electric scooter. Nothing. For a time I convinced myself I was wrong. Maybe I'd only thought about leaving the house with the book. Maybe I'd left it on the little oak table near the front door.

A family came into the office, stomping the rain out of their hair and clothes. Rain? When did it start raining? And then I remembered.

So not good. Sacrilege. The faux pas of all faux pas.

Before running back into the house to retrieve a forgotten magazine, I'd left the book--a brand-spanking-new chicklit selection from the local library--on the front porch ledge alongside the mini cooler. And it was still sitting there.

Getting wet.

I should have fawned over my girls' dazzling smiles and new toothbrushes. I should have ooohed and ahhed over news of their great check-ups. Instead, all I could think about was racing home to rescue the book.

Thirty minutes later we pulled into the drive. And my heart flip-flopped. I'd done it. I'd really done it. There was the book, water beading up on the plastic cover, water dripping over its sides. I shook the rain from it, shoved it beneath my coat, helped E and S into the house, and assessed the damage.

By a turn of luck, most of the inside pages had escaped the rain. The small area that did get wet, dripped water when squeezed. The damage didn't look permanent. I stacked a huge pile of textbooks on top of the book, hoping the pages would dry flat overnight. Sigh of relief. They did.

Appetite for reading: Even soggy, Amazing Grace is an enjoyable chicklit read.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Wow. He Wasn't Joking

Dr. B's assistant called early yesterday evening with amazing news. She had in hand an email sent by the other Dr. B., the surgeon who'd done the actual aneurism clipping. Seems he'd had time to study the results of E's post-operative angiogram, the brain mapping done the day after the surgery to check placement of both aneurism clips.

His findings and recommendation: The angiogram looks very good. I see no reason why E can't wait five years before a follow-up.

Five years? Wow. I guess he wasn't joking when he found P and I in the waiting room after surgery, and said with a smile that he'd given E another 100,000 miles.

Appetite for writing: ravenous.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

It Must Be Spring

Hi all. Please bear with me while I experiment with a new look, and attempt to figure out why my profile info, links, and recent posts moved to the bottom of the main page during spring cleaning. Advice encouraged from other writer/bloggers who've dealt with this issue.

Edited to add: Yes! Fixed it.

Processing...Processing...Writing When Life Conspires

You know the hourglass icon on the computer--the one that blinks and processes and blinks some more if you give your computer too much to do at once? Something a fellow Vermont College graduate said in a recent email helped me realize my hourglass has blinked constantly--or damn near it--the last six months while dealing with E's health issues.

As my friend so wisely put it, most all of the underground-CPU-work that should have been spent working on revisions, creative, and character was spent coordinating with various doctor's offices, conducting physician visits, keeping level-headed around the kids, and worrying.

No wonder I feel more focused these days. When I refill E's weekly med box, I no longer worry if it'll be the last time I do it. When I order ahead school lunches, I no longer wonder if we'll be at E's bedside when it's time to eat. When I tuck E in bed, I no longer fear what the next day will bring.

Appetite for writing: Bring on the feast.

E report

E and I met with E's neurosurgeon late last week for a brief follow-up visit. Dr. B was thrilled with E's recovery.

After removing E's stitches, Dr. B sent us home with notes excusing E from gym for the rest of the year, and clearing her to return to physical therapy twice weekly at Easter Seals. Doctor also prescribed an antibiotic for E because a small area of the incision looked a bit red. Dr. B wasn't overly concerned. But as she put it, given E's bronchitis type cough at the time of the visit, and the fact that she's recovering from major surgery, a conservative route made sense.

The meds made a big difference. Overnight, the redness in the incision went down. Two days later, E's cough was much improved, and her fever had broken.

To borrow a phrase from one of my hubby's favorite posters from our college days: Better living through chemistry.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Fun Quiz: Which Literature Classic Are You?

Gakked from Book Moot who gakked it from So Many Books:
Which Literature Classic Are You?, a quiz from Quizalla.

Here's my result: J.R.R. Tolkein's Lord of the Rings trilogy. Quelle surprise.

Appetite for writing: Finishing up second breakfast.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Presenting...The Carnival of Children's Literature

Check out the Carnival of Children's Literature for a refreshing variety of voices, musings, insights, and opinions on all things kid lit. A don't-miss carnival of links for fans of children's literature. By the way, you'll want to bookmark the site. A new carnival pulls into the fairgrounds on Monday, March 6th.