Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Sword Fights, Miracle Max and Bribing the Muse

Rough night.
E's still sick.
103 on Motrin.
Bleary eyed,
Both of us.

Need shower.
Need to write.

My characters?

Hoisting up bribes.
Bright pennant promises of:
close calls,
bad guys,
good guys,
not-sure-whose-side-they're-on guys,
witty dialogue,
even a dash (or two or three) of romance.

Uninterrupted butt in chair time
will be mine...
As soon as this damn fever breaks.

Do you suppose Miracle Max makes house calls?

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Coughs, Ear Infections and a Muse Gone Missing

The cough started Sunday. We were downtown Chicago, doing booth duty at the dog expo in support of the Morris Service Dog Program. The 9:45 a.m. service dog demonstration came and went. E did great, showing everyone how Jewel retrieves her cane, carries her books and school supplies, and offers support while walking. Shortly afterward something changed. While chatting with booth visitors about Jewel, E started coughing and looking a bit wilty. At first I thought she was reacting to all the dog dander in the air. Cough drops and sips from a juice pouch didn't work. Neither did tissues. We said our good-byes, bundled E up, and headed home. The coughing worsened during the drive home, and then--as it often does--the fever came. Along with a sore throat, chills and body aches.

Yesterday was standing room only at the doctor's office. The pediatrician diagnosed an ear infection, wrote a script for antibiotics, and sent us on our way. Now all we have to do is pray that the meds kick in sooner rather than later so we can all get a good night's sleep.

I'm also praying that seeing E on the mend will coax my characters out of hiding (which they tend to do during times like these.)

Keeping my fingers and toes crossed they return soon.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Writer's Rant and Regrouping

Life’s been more than a bit crazed lately. The end result: less butt in chair time than I’m used to, which means I'm a bit crabby.

Some of the projects/issues/commitments I’ve been juggling this week (in no particular order):

1. Crit group submission. Met with crit group Tuesday, which meant punching out a new J chapter late last week and part of Saturday, and subbing it in time for J and A to review prior to meeting. So grateful to have a biweekly deadline with J and A. Without it, I KNOW life would find a way to erode all my writing time.

2. Eye doctor. Took E to the pediatric opthalmologist yesterday, the first time in three years. This was a victory of sorts, because up until this school year, E’s been too sick to keep any appointments. Then with last year’s aneurysm surgery, her surgeon recommended waiting a good six months or more before making an eye appointment. Anyhoo, it’s been so long since the last visit, E endured a three-hour extravaganza of eye drops and testing and whatnot. Thankfully, E’s prescription changed far less than expected. To an overworked writer mom who already feels guilty about how many balls she drops any given day, this was welcome news.

3. Parents’ Meeting. Attended a parent group Saturday for a meeting sponsored by the Morris Service Dog Program, the organization that supplied E’s service dog, Jewel. The topic of the day: services dogs in schools. Extremely helpful to exchange ideas on what works and what doesn’t with the Powers that Be. We also received great news. Equip for Equality, the disability rights organization that represented P and I during the Jewel-at-School incident last fall, will be meeting with our parent group next month to give us the tools we need to advocate for our children and their service dogs at school and in the community.

4. Flat tire. Not the kind that allows you to limp around another week or two before you find a convenient time to fix it. No, this tire was on my primary hall-around-the girls-and-all-their-gear car. And, of course, it decided to go all-out flat. No problem. Just let me get a fix on that clone I ordered…

5. Bum engine. About the time I figured out I couldn’t coax the tire another couple or three days, the engine light came on. As I type this post, I’m waiting at the car place to hear the verdict. Updated to add: it’s the gaskets. Thank the Powers that Be for extended warranties or we’d be in serious financial doo-doo.

6. Crazed Wednesday. Yesterday was the day from heck. Rarely do I allow my days to get so overbooked. I ran from the time I dropped the girls off at school to the tire place to fix the flat. Back home to eat a quick lunch, throw dinner in the crock pot, and pack up supplies for a special Scout meeting (see number 7 for details). From home back to school to get the girls. From school to the Scout meeting to help S get dressed in her hanbok and set up her display. From the meeting back home to eat, assist the girls with homework (both need one-on-one help because of special needs which makes for interesting evenings). Then out to the store for dog food because we were totally out. (A rare occurrence, running out like that because it feels like I’m at Target enough times during the week that I should own stock. Anyway, the fact that the pooches didn’t even have one nugget of Purina One to share between them is an indication of the last week’s insanity.) After returning home: collapsed, stoked up the teapot, sipped green tea, and, much to my surprise, perked up after the girls got to bed. Why? An incredibly enjoyable read: Lily’s Ghosts by Laura Ruby.

7. Mandu out the wah-zoo. Over the weekend S and I made nearly 100 mandu (the Korean equivalent of the Chinese egg roll) in preparation for a Tasting Tea at Girl Scouts. The tea gives the girls and their guests a chance to taste all sorts of food and drink from countries around the world. S picked her own country, and decided she wanted to serve mandu (S loves mandu so much that she eats a whole plate when we go out for Korean, which is amusing given how tiny she is). Anyway, she was so excited about sharing her birth country with everyone she even decided to dress up in her hanbok. She looked like a princess.

8. Talent Show. A sign that our family’s finally on the mend: S had time to try out for and make the talent show at school (something she wouldn’t have had time to do last year between E’s surgery, recovery and after-school therapy sessions.) The performance was last Friday. It was so delightfully amateur, that we had great fun watching it. Imagine one big living room get together where the kids all decide to do a show, and announce, “Mom, Dad, we want to show you our dance.”

9. Paying it Forward. Made stir-fry with egg rolls and fried rice, and packed it up for one of the families E and Jewel train with. Turns out the Dad of one of E’s friends was diagnosed recently with leukemia. How fair is that? Already dealing with a kid with significant special needs and now this. Families at the center organized to make meals while the Dad undergoes harvesting of blood in preparation for future treatments. Making this and other meals like it is my way of paying it forward for the meals and errands so many people did for us during Elena’s surgeries, recoveries, and hospitalizations. Having homecooked meals on hand made a big difference in our lives during those early days because after sitting at E's bedside all day doing the simplest of tasks--like a load of dishes or returning phone calls--took gi-normous effort.

10. There’s more. I’m sure there is…one that comes to mind for the top of the list: prep for tomorrow’s teen writer’s group which means slogging through 60-plus emails to be sure I’m up to speed on our theme for the day. As for the rest...

More later after I decompress.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Amusing the Muse--Eowyn Challenge Update

One of the most valuable lessons I learned while pursuing my MFA in writing from Vermont College is the need to care for my muse. If she's content, I am, too. And when I finally sit butt in chair to work on KM, I find I'm able to enter my characters more fully, and, more often than not, end up with creative that reads well enough to keep the next day.

One activity that continues to amuse my muse: my participation in the Eowyn Challenge in which a walker can track his or her mileage based on Frodo and Sam's journey to Mount Doom and back again in J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy. My first goal is to walk to Rivendell. Following in the hobbits' footsteps, I've logged enough miles to dine with the elves, meet Merry at Buckleberry Ferry, escape the black rider, spend the night at Crickhollow, and enter the Old Forest where it won't be long before I meet Tom Bombadil.

Happy Birthday Edge of the Forest!

Edge of the Forest celebrates its first year in cyberspace today. Don a party hat and blower and surf on over for virtual cake and a sweet sampling of interviews, reviews, and food for thought on all things kid lit. See Kelly Herold's blog Big A little a here for details. Contributions by yours truly include an interview with children's author and educator Mindy Hardwick about her writing life and her work with youth at the Denney Youth Detention Facility in Everett, Washington.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Capris, Birks, My Trusty Writer's Notebook...and No Interruptions

Hello all. Writing in capris and Birks from Naples, Florida. Being here is a testimony to how far we've come in the last year. From E's neurosurgery to clip her aneurysm (amazingly, today is the one year anniversary) to where we are now--confident enough to leave the girls with Grandma and Grandpa and jet away for a long weekend. While P does his obligatory business meetings today and tomorrow am, I hope to go shelling, dip my toes in the warm Gulf waters, catch up on reading, conduct a couple of e-interviews for Edge of the Forest, and write. More later.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Crit Group, Re-Visioning and Trusting the Process

Critique Group meets tomorrow, which means I've spent much of today immersed in J's and A's worlds. Doing so never feels like work. I'm sold on their characters and stories, always eager for another installment. And added bonus: their worlds are much warmer than the sub-zero temps we've been experiencing here in the Midwest.

I'm also eager to hear what J and A thought of my sub. It's still a bit rough around the edges. (The dialogue needs tweaking, and the language needs a few more hours of spit and polish.) But, plot and character wise the scene feels as if its nearly finished.

There's no logical explanation for how I come to this space where a paragraph, scene, chapter--or even the entire draft--feels as if it's achieved "doneness." There's no pattern. No magic formula. I might spend three days on a section or three hours. At the end of my writing day, I either know that piece of writing is finished or not. This has been the case with every draft of KM that I've written. I have an inkling of where I might be headed, but I don't know I've arrived until I reach it.

The process is unnerving and very much a leap of faith, especially when reaching "the end" doesn't necessarily mean my work's editor ready. It only means it's reader ready--for someone I trust to critique the piece for key story elements. Theme and language. Character and plot. Setting and logic.

One key comment can upset the balance. Not in a bad way, but in a way that might cause me to rethink the entire shape of my story quilt, and the threads I've used to stitch it together. The reality is: making the decision to rework that thread, add or subtract a character, or re-vision the entire story from another POV very often means delaying a sub to an editor by months or years depending on your process.

For those new to the business, I imagine this revelation is less than encouraging. For anyone truly serious about his or her craft, this part of the process is a necessary evil. Many days go by when I long to declare my story editor ready. Rather than rail at the Powers That Be about working on yet another re-vision to KM, I try to remind myself of how much I've discovered each time I've gone back to the world's name, the many aspects its rich history, my main character's true mission, my antagonist's need to tell his story. So on and so on.

This said, my most current rewrite feels the closest yet to being editor ready. Will I feel this way after I reach this end of this draft? My toes and fingers are crossed, but this is no guarantee. If another supporting character demands the spotlight (and makes a compelling case for why I should allow him or her to share center stage), I'm prepared to stick with him or her for the long haul.

After all, my characters are the ones driving the story. I'm just along for the ride, recording their journeys there and back again to the best of my ability.