Tuesday, January 29, 2008

E's Zac Efron Adventure a Page Turner in the Making

I can't help but keep a nervous eye on the weather as we prep for E's trip to LA tomorrow to meet Zac. The entire Chicago area is under a winter storm warning until midday Wednesday. I've been wishing for a Chicago winter like the ones I remember, the kind where the snow keeps falling and doesn't have a chance to thaw until spring. But not today. Today's timing is lousy. We're supposed to fly out of O'Hare mid morning tomorrow.

The parallel between life and fiction at this moment is unmistakable. Consider the set up: Enter E the day of her trip. She is layered in High School musical gear, her suitcase on her right side, her faithful service dog Jewel on her left. E stares out the window at the blowing snow. Jewel nudges E's hand, as if the pup knows her owner is worried. The camera cuts away to E's mom hunched over her laptop, Weather Underground confirming the worst snow storm of the New Year. Cue appropriate music (sympathetic yet tense). End the episode and cue the narrator. Will E get to the airport on time as the storm rages and traffic crawls along the expressways? Will the plane take off for LA at its designated time or be stranded in Chicago? And what about Zac? If the flight is postponed or canceled, will he wait for E to arrive?

Stay tuned. Same bat channel.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Three Days and Counting Until Make-a-Wish Trip to Meet Teen Idol Zac Efron

E was flying high today as she boarded the bus to school. Who wouldn't be in her position? Thinking back to my teen days I was nearly disfunctional after the WLS Radio van drove up to my girlfriend's house saying we'd won a chance to meet the Osmonds before a Chicago area concert. Even with a whole room of people and less than a minute's time to stand next to Donny and Marie and get picture proof that it all happened, I was in heaven. E will be one of only three Wish children to have an audience with her heartthrob. I can imagine how she must be feeling. 35 years later I still remember the way my heart raced when Donny kissed my cheek.

More later. Time to head to the vet with E's service dog to get her health certificate so she can fly.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

5 Days and Counting: Make a Wish Dream About to Come True

We received a call from Make a Wish Friday with great news. E is being granted her number one wish: an audience with teen heartthrob sensation Zac Efron. E's estatic. We're frantic. The limo to the airport picks us up first thing Wednesday morning. The meet and greet will take place Thursday or Friday on the set of Zac's new moive, 17. He co-stars with Matthew Perry and Michele Trachtenberg ( who played Dawn in Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Exact timing will depend on where they are in the production schedule when next week comes along. Aaack! I need a clone.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Muckraking on the Writer's Front and Other Flotsam and Jetsam

On the home front: Our Friday visit to Shriner's Hospital went well. Felt like a luxury chatting with a physician on such relaxed terms, probably because we weren't in our usual "emergency" mode.

Bottom line: I like Dr. L. She engaged E in conversation, encouraged questions, and took the time we both needed to feel comfortable with her answers.

Another plus: She's on staff at Children's Memorial, which means she's an automatic member of E's team, ready to be called to bat if and when we need her.

On the writer's front: Heavy into revisions of my latest version of KM. Managed to keep writing a priority last week, despite E's illness for the majority of it, and her full-day's visit to Shriner's.

Number of pages written last week: 30-something. (I wish I could say all of them are editor ready. If I did, it'd be a lie.)

My process works something like this: write 30 pages, and, if my characters cooperate (and the planets align just right), get 6-10 critique group worthy pages out of it by the time I rake through the muck.

On today's agenda: Finish shoveling the car out of the drive and stop by the library to pick up books 8 and 9 of Darren Shan's Cirque du Freak series.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Illness and Vampires in the Zone

E's been sick all week, but is finally (cross your fingers) on the mend. P's been ill since Saturday, with a sore throat and cough that won't budge. He refuses to admit he's sick enough to see a physician. Amazingly, through it all, I've managed to sit butt in chair and make progress through my latest draft of KM.

Shriner's Hospital for E today where we meet with a new neurologist. Somehow, we've managed without one for a couple of years, relying on the expertise of our neurosurgeon instead.

The fact that we're going at all is proof our family's finally left the bunker mentality we had for so many years. Instead of reacting to most everything in our lives, we've had the luxury in recent months of digging through reams and piles of projects we set aside to deal with "once things settle down."

Finding and making an appoinment with a new neurologist is one such task. Organizing my writing space and writing projects is another. Curious how the more organized I get on the outside, the more energized and oentered I feel on the inside, especially where my characters are concerned.

Current read:
Book 7 of Darren Shan's Cirque du Freak vampire series. I started the books over Christmas break. Wow, no wonder these books are so popular with kids. This author can write!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Garlic, Holy Water, and O'Dark Thirty BIC Time

An unexpected call from the high school this morning cut my BIC time short. Turns out, E was running a fever and wilting in the nurse's office. I'd be crabby about this turn of events if I hadn't already done my two pages for the day during o'dark thirty BIC time . I need to remember this fact next time I'm tempted to reset the alarm clock after it rings at 5 a.m. By the way, word at the high school is that students and staff are dropping like flies. E's symptoms, like those of many of her classmates, include cough, fever, aches, sore throat, and general malaise. Did I mention the illness is similar to the one that broad-sided P this weekend? Time to dig trenches, find the quarantine tape, and stock up on vitamin C, garlic and holy water. Edited 7:10 p.m.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Be Still My Fantasy Writer's Heart: Tolkien Papers So Close Yet So Far

Growing up in the Chicago area (and cutting my fantasy teeth on J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy), I had no idea the treasure trove that existed so close to home. Turns out the original manuscripts and multiple working drafts for Tolkien's most celebrated books, The Hobbit (1937), Farmer Giles of Ham (1949), and The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955), as well as the original copy of the children's book Mr. Bliss (published in facsimile form in 1982) are holdings at Marquette University, a mere two hour's drive away. Be still my fantasy writer's heart.

Since our oldest returns to MU today after Christmas break, we made arrangements for the entire family to examine/admire/salivate over the collection after unloading at the dorm. Imagine our disappointment yesterday after receiving word that our appointment time would need to be rescheduled for another weekend.

Majorly bummed at this turn of events, as I admire Tolkien's skill and tenacity, and often joke that I'm on Tolkien's timeline of writing my own fantasy novel. (Word is Tolkien worked on his masterpiece 15 years before it was published.) Motivated to plan a return trip to Milwaukee soon in order to see the holdings.

Edited to add: Drove past Raynor Library (where the manuscripts are held) several times during the visit. Sigh. So close yet so far.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Writer On the Run

Reasons why I'm a bit crazed today:

1. Crit group today. Traveled to Monee this am to meet up with J & A for our biweekly get together. Ours is a working meeting, held mid morning through lunch time with each member getting a minimum of 45 minutes to hear what's working and what raised questions about her submission. Some of today's more lengthy discussion topics: ways to deepen a character's emotional throughline, techniques for strengthening a story opening, and approaches for reworking an entire scene. As always, I came away energized and inspired. And like always, I made notes on the way home, and tried not to drive myself off I-80 in the process.

2. O'dark thirty BIC time. This morning I dragged myself out of bed WAY TOO EARLY (the alarm went off at 5 am) to write in the dark. Did it without caffeine this time in order to keep myself as close to a dream/creative state as possible (a recommendation made by Jane Resh Thomas). Amazed by how close my characters were and by how much coherent work I managed to produce sans my usual mug of tea. Though I'm less than thrilled with how tired I am right now, I'm encouraged enough by the exercise to try it again tomorrow.

3. Preparing to attend a local Romance Writer's of America chapter meeting tonight. Looking forward to the topic: "Write More, Stress Less," because I always appreciate hearing how other writers honor their creative process. I'm also looking forward to networking. I've a been a card-carrying member of the group for a couple or three years (the monthly magazine alone is worth the annual membership fee), and I've attended several members only events. Unfortunately, I haven't had the time or energy to do much more than that locally. I hope to change my ways this year because the organization is truly dynamic, and I firmly believe it has alot to teach this children's book writer about networking, marketing, and self-promotion.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Writer's Resolutions for the New Year

Happy New Year. The beginning of 2008 would be incomplete without a new, improved set of writer's resolutions. Not only does stating them give them power, so does setting them in cyber stone. This year, I will:

1. Not should on myself. Worrying about how much I should have written or should be writing drains valuable creative energy. Instead of shoulding on myself when the time comes to commune with my characters, I resolve to channel negative energy into writing instead. (Note to self: even something as simple as writing notes on index cards counts.)

2. Sit but in chair daily. If this means adjusting my writing schedule so that every day is a Writing Experiment Day, so be it. Better stock up on the caffeine. Dragging myself out of bed at 5 a.m. to write this holiday season has been *lowers her head and scuffs her foot* a challenge. (Note to self: revisit point number one, and study point number three (after I've drafted it.))

3. Honor my process. Perhaps the biggest gift a writer can give him or herself is respect for how quickly his/her characters come together in a story worth telling. My head knows this truth thanks to my mentors at Vermont College. However, I have to be honest with myself. Some days are darker than others when it comes to my writing. Doesn't always need to be a rejection to trigger me. Sometimes good news does it. A colleague might win a contract, or finish a draft he/she started after me. I celebrate. I sincerely do, and then the doubt sets it, and I find myself wondering if I'll ever finish my story, and I seriously consider changing professions. This is where point number 4 comes in:

4. Ignore the monster. It's caged again--and gagged--after escaping it's confines over the holidays. Insidious creature. Sometimes days go by before I realize it's freed itself from its bonds again. It lurks in the shadows and feeds off my fear, becoming far too fat and comfortable before I realize it's escaped again. I captured it not too long ago. Even managed to put it on a diet. It's less than pleased with its new surroundings, but will need to get used to them. I'm in a place of power, and nothing my mugwump says or does will keep me from finishing my book this year.

5. Renew my commitment to my writer's group. Meeting with J and A every other week isn't just good for keeping my mugwump in check, it's necessary for my muse. *Raises cyber glass of the good stuff* Here's to fellowship, built-in deadlines, and the knowing we all share that together we are invincible against the mugwumps of the world.

6. Finalize (and submit) KM. Last year my muse would have scoffed at such a statement. This year, thanks to the hard work we did during Plotting the Novel (and afterward), we both know it will happen.

*Raises another cyber glass of the good stuff to fellow writers everywhere.* May you honor your process and find victory against your mugwumps. See you on the other side of 2008!