Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Writer-ly To-Dos and Catching Up

With the Jewel-at-School saga finally resolved, and my girls back at school full-time, much of the week has been spent catching up on all the writerly to-dos I abandoned while advocating for E.

So far this week:

1. I've written at least six drafts of an essay due Friday for an anthology called "Special Gifts: Women Writers on the Heartache, the Happiness and the Hope of Raising a Special Needs Child."

2. I signed up for Lauren Barnholdt's popular online writing YA class blogged about by Cynthia Leitich Smith here.

3. I attended Crit Group today. Last week I was forced to miss our meeting because of the Jewel-at-School saga. So grateful everyone agreed to meet again. Why? The feedback's informed, the company of other writers does my muse good, and by articulating what works and what raises questions in other people's work, I find I inform my own.

4. Started and finished Melissa De La Cruz's new YA novel, Blue Bloods. A fun read for anyone who loves vampires.

On deck:
1. Edge of the Forest contributions for September.

2. My ghost story--Yes, M, it's coming.

3. My next read: California Demon, the Secret Life of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom by Julie Kemmer

Friday, August 25, 2006

Sixth Carnival of Children's Literature

Looking for inspiration, reviews, and more about all things kid lit? Surf on over to the Sixth Carnival of Children's Literature.

Don't Miss This Month's Edge of the Forest

The new Forest has appeared. For insights into children's literature, reviews of the latest children's books, an interview with Newbery winner Linda Sue Park, and more, explore the latest issue of Edge of the Forest here.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Jewel at School Update

Hi all. I apologize for not posting an update sooner. Between the Jewel-at-School situation, last-minute school supply shopping, and my oldest daughter's departure for college yesterday, life's been more than a bit crazed. I'll begin where I last left off:

The slingshot handed us late Thursday afternoon worked much better than expected. By Friday afternoon, the school offered to meet with us before classes started to discuss our "misunderstanding," and finish up last-minute preps before Jewel arrived.

Jewel's trainer, Jack, P, Jewel, E and I attended the Monday meeting. We learned A, B and C were no longer required before Jewel was allowed at school. We held a mock fire drill to see how Jewel would do when an alarm sounded. To say the alarm was loud would be an understatement. Didn't seem to bother Jewel. She nudged her nose against E, tilted her head from side to side, and stared at us staring at her, almost as if she wondered what everyone found so interesting.

Tuesday was the official first day of school. E, Jewel, S and I navigated the crowded sidewalk to S's 5th grade door, escorted S to her classroom then wound our way through the halls to E's class where we met up with Jack. After the teacher took attendance, Jack introduced Jewel. E's classmates asked lots of great questions, and seemed to relish having the scoop on Jewel before anyone else.

Later that morning, the entire middle school gathered for an assembly to hear about Jewel and meet the new teachers and principal. Jack's presentation was excellent. He talked about service dogs, and involved the audience in a discussion about how dogs can and do help individuals with disabilities. In addition, he talked about how Jewel helps E, and how her classmates can help keep Jewel on task.

After Jack took the last question, and the gym erupted with cheers, the principal said a few words then donned her teacher hat.

Ok, everyone, she said. Let's see what you learned. Can you touch Jewel?

No, hundreds of voices said at once.

Can you feed Jewel?


Who's in charge of Jewel?


Meanwhile, E was grinning ear to ear, and Jewel just laid at her feet, seemingly unconcerned with all the fanfare.

P did dog duty at the school yesterday while I moved my oldest to school. Again, Jewel did extremely well.

So far so good.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Slingshots and Ghosts

In an earlier post I made reference to how much of a David I felt in this David vs. Goliath situation. Turns out, in the space of just a few harried days filled with lots of angst and phone calls, the world's looking a lot brighter.

Why? Late yesterday, someone handed us a big slingshot, and offered to show us how to use it.

On the writing front, the Jewel-at-School issue has taken up so much of my energy lately, I've had precious little uninterrupted time to work on my ghost story. Luckily, the deadline's been extended. Also helps that after an exhausting string of phone calls yesterday, I had a breakthrough on a project that's been stalled for quite some time. Very exciting.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Writing? What's That?

If I billed someone for the time I've spent so far this week on phone calls, consults, web research, and record-keeping re the Jewel-at-School issue, I'd be able to buy dozens of Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market guides and then some.

Ever so grateful for the Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen as I contemplate the continuing inanities of this situation.

School starts Tuesday. Time left until Jewel and E arrive (and the fun begins): T-minus seven days and counting.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Morning Pages, Blowing Off Steam, and Allies

Morning Pages have been filled lately with mutterings about Jewel and E and what may come the first day of school, along with an odd mix of excitement and loss as I anticipate my oldest daughter's departure for college next week. A theme emerging out of my most recent writings re Jewel and school: I'm feeling very much a David versus a Goliath.

Current read: M.T. Anderson's The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen. Quirky, quick, pure, laugh-out-loud Tobin. A perfect foil to the inanity of current events.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Jewel at School? The Saga Begins

Just when we thought E's school had become comfortable with the idea of a service dog at school, we learned via email late last week that the dog will be refused admittance unless A, B, and C are in the administration's hands beforehand.

The email was sent last Thursday. The first day of school is next Tuesday. Interesting timing.

You know that space between a rock and a hard place? I refuse to enter it.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Adventures in Camping, Part II

Nothing like a camping trip to restore the muse, and remind you of the pros and cons of the activity. For example, when you're camping:

1. Sleeping late is not an option. A tent (and a pop-up) becomes a sauna once the sun clears the trees, especially in Illinois in August.

2. No matter how much bug spray you apply, mosquitoes will find the one spot you couldn't reach, and feast on it all night.

3. Two retrievers in a camper is doable, unless they're wet from a day at the beach, or one--like Kate DiCamillo's Winn Dixie--has a pathological fear of thunderstorms.

4. You're reminded that stars do still shine in the night sky. Other than the North star, Big Dipper, and Orion's belt, we rarely see the stars anymore from our Chicago suburb in the Midwest. The night sky from our campsite was another matter. Shooting stars lit the sky each night we camped, their tails trailing behind them like shimmering ribbons. And we saw so many satellites crossing this way and that I seriously wonder how they manage not to collide on any given night.

5. Rain in a pop-up is a lot less soggy than a tent.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Adventures in Camping, Part 1

We didn't end up leaving home for our camping trip until mid afternoon last Wednesday. Packing took way too much time thanks to last-minute items we'd somehow left off our master list. Forgotten items included essentials like toilet paper, hand sanitizer, sleeping bags, dog food, etc.

Since our oldest, L, works at the Renaissance Faire during the weekend, we drove two cars up to the campground so she could leave Friday evening to meet up with a girlfriend. I rode with L, chatting with her about college (which begins on the 23rd), her pirate boyfriend, and her adventures as a Maid of Honor at the Faire.

The excitement began along the I-88 somewhere west of Dekalb after we drove into a line of thunderstorms. The wipers had trouble keeping up with the rain, but other than that it was no big deal--until L spotted a dark, low-hanging cloud drifting off to our right.

"Check that out," L said, her voice low and almost reverent.

The cloud lowered, forming an anvil shape. "Is that a tornado?" L asked.

The music from Twister began playing in my head. A few mile markers later, the anvil dropped out of the sky, lengthening like a bit of rope.

"My gosh," L said. "I think it is a tornado."

"Maybe we should get off this road," I said, paraphrasing a line from Twister. Unfortunately we were surrounded by cornfields and miles from the next exit.

By the time I decided maybe we should pull over and dive for cover, the rope lost form, the remaining tendrils floating off in different directions.

"Cool," L said with a smile in her voice, "I've always wanted to see one of those up close."

By now the sun was breaking through, and I realized I'd been holding my breath. I loosened my grip on the steering wheel, took a deep breath, let it out, and smiled.

One thing was certain. If I had any doubt my image banks would lack for filling up, they left me then and there. Here's to camping weekends and storm-chasing maids of honor to show a writer-mom a good time.

Current read: Gothic, Ten Original Dark Tales edited by Deborah Noyes

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

My Place of Power, II

Another view from Sooke:

Road Trip Reads

Books on tape the girls picked out for our camping trip:

1. Kate DiCamillo's The Tale of Despereaux (We read when it first came out, but the girl's loved it so well, they jumped at the chance to hear it again.)

2. Eleanor Estes' Ginger Pye (a new read for everyone).

3. Laura Ingall's Wilder's Little House on the Prairie. (Another favorite.)

A book I'm this close to finishing (hopefully, tonight after settling down at my mom's, I'll get a chance to finish it):
Absolutely, Positively Not a first novel by David Larochelle about a high schooler Steven who declares he's absolutely, positively not gay, although signs indicate otherwise. Sensitive subject, handled with humor and grace.

Laugh-out-loud book my youngest girls are working their way through:
Babymouse Queen of the World by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm. Actually a graphic novel, this book is ideal for both girls who struggle with reading. It's tiny, pink, funny, and friendly to reluctant readers.

Camping Today

Well, this is it. We're leaving today come heck or high water, and judging by the weather report it'll be both. Today marks the seventh day in a row with temps nearing 100 degrees. Add to this the fact that we're expecting a front to move in--a violent one that's spawned multiple tornados in its wake. Yee-hah.

Shouldn't be surprised. P and I have been rained on so often while camping we call this phenomenon the (insert our last name) rain effect.

Bring it on. The rain's bringing MUCH cooler weather (20 degrees difference), and the fact is we won't popping up the camper until well after the front goes through. Tonight we plan to "camp" at my mom's place which just happens to be a few blocks away from the state park where we're headed.

On the to-do list for today (which means we're still hours away from leaving, which means we'll probably be driving through the front, which means our trip should be really exciting, but we're still going, darn it):

* check the wheel bearings on the camper to be sure we won't have to abandon it on the side of the road (P's putting down the camper as I post so he can take it to be checked)
*load firewood (the idea of a fire right now in 100 degree heat is unappealing at best, but the front is rumored to be coming through later on today, and what's camping without a kick-butt fire?)
*pack the food/coolers
*stop the mail and paper, put lights on timers, buy last-minute groceries, pack for myself
*there's more to do
*I guess we're a bit out of practice
*No, scratch that...I know we're out of practice
*there's a message in here somewhere for a writer, isn't there?
*the closer you stay to an activity--say, like camping, or writing--the easier it is to begin again without reinventing the systems needed to do it well.