Monday, November 30, 2009

Fabulous Thanksgiving

I want you to know that part of this already appeared on Jenny Crusie's Blog. I know - it's cheating. But after I wrote it, I thought it wasn't too bad and I decided to export it over here and expand on it. I need all the help I can get. I don't think Ms. Crusie would mind, as the words are all mine. I don't think the three of you that read my blog also read Jen's blog so I'm not really repeating anything. Just borrowing.

Thanksgiving was wonderful. We have a foreign exchange student from Belgium living with us for a year. She’s wonderful (Thank Goodness) and when it came to her turn to say what she was thankful for she made us all cry – partially because she was crying herself and partially because she was thankful to be living with us. That’s a mini miracle.

After reading how Jen Crusie and her wonderful readers (Cherries is what they call themselves) make gravy from scratch, I have to confess: I fake the gravy. I use the stuff from the grocery and put the Turkey drippings in it. I know it’s awful, but really I’m not a cook. The Madhouse crew is lucky if nothing is burned and all their favorite dishes appear on the table. So in my eyes Thanksgiving was a success. Only I forgot to make myself a turkey sandwich for lunch today, so now I'm disappointed.

Now that the day devoted to food is over it's time to think about Christmas. What I want for Christmas – well I’m greedy and I don’t want you all to know it – so I’ll only put down the important things. I want to finish California Schemin’ before Christmas. Not going to happen – well maybe – a small possibility if I focus, focus, focus. Just the first draft. So I’ll have three months to edit it into shape.

I also want Jen Enderlin as an editor. She just sounds so fabulous. Not that I don’t like my editor – she’s perfectly wonderful. But there is only one J.E.

The most important Christmas wish is that I can get my kids a few nice things for Christmas without breaking the bank and having to catch up for the following year. It’s a challenge, and I’m in this one on my own as my dh likes to pretend that Christmas doesn’t exist until the day of. (Did I actually SAY that? Well yes I did, must be getting tired of being in charge of EVERYONE’s Christmas expectations. Sorry – but you notice I’m not deleting it.) So if anyone has any fabulous, but not too expensive gift ideas I’d love to hear them!

Hope you all had good Thanksgivings, and that the Christmas planning is not too stressful. We still don't have any snow. Very unusual. Smacks of global warming, the ground isn't even frozen yet. Oh wait, global warming is a myth isn't it, so it must be the effect of aliens flying their space ships above Vermont and heating our atmosphere.

Monday, November 23, 2009


In March I'm teaching a workshop on voice for the NECRWA conference held in MA. I'm excited about presenting and hope that I do a good job. Well not just hoping - I'm also doing my homework so that it comes out well.

I chose to do a workshop on finding your voice for a couple of reasons. There's been a lot of talk about voice lately. What is it, how do you get it, how do you recognize it? I think I have a fairly distinctive voice. And, I as I use a fairly natural voice, it was easy for me to come by it. So I'm passing on some small pieces of knowledge about writing. It should be fun for me and my audience - we'll see.

The thing about voice is that it can make or break your story. You can have a really great story - plot full of twists and compelling characters, but if you bore the audience with your style it won't matter. A good story is not enough. You also have to tell it in a compelling manner.

Just think about the books that you've started and put down before finishing the first chapter. Do you remember much about them? Probably not. Were the stories themselves "bad" stories. Probably not. After all, a good writer can make the grocery list a good read. Most likely it was the writing itself that failed you. The voice didn't grab you.

Think about books you love. It could be that the plot was spectacular, but most likely it was the way in which it was written that caught your attention. The words the writer used. They way the story was put together.

There's more to it than that, of course. There always is. But I'm willing to bet you forgive a lot of mediocre writing if the voice of the author speaks to you.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hair and Jealousy - it's not pretty

Have you seen Jennifer Crusie's new (well newish, it's been up less than a year, I think) web site and blog? I go there quite often as I am a big fan of her writing. It struck me today how beautiful her site is. Why today. Don't really know.

Maybe it 's because I laughed until I cried over a boy in my classroom with pigtails sticking up from his head and appreciation for art crept in while the tears were leaking out. The funny thing is that after the hair incident I opened Jenny's blog - and it's about hair! Strange hair. Which was worth another chuckle if not tears.

So why am I jealous of Jenny Crusie's site instead of just being appreciative of having a great place to go and read stuff? I'm not sure. My kids say I don't smile or laugh enough since I've started working again. That knowledge distresses me, and makes me crankier. I think the secret thought process is something like: Not only is Jenny Crusie and bestseller - and I'm not, but she also has a fantastically designed Internet presence and I don't. Sour grapes. Lack of appreciation for what I do have.

I notice I'm also jealous of the yet unnamed author who will be co-writing a novel with Janet Evanovich. Jeez, what ever happened to being happy for another person's good fortune? I do truly believe that there is enough success in the world for everyone, so why am I so impatient for mine to appear? It's my mom's fault. She claimed I was going to marry a prince when I grew up. Not figuratively. A real prince. As in Charles or Andrew. It didn't happen.

I think this disappointment has colored my entire life. And while I normally have a fabulous sense of humour, occasionally it slips away and other, less valuable, emotions show their ugly heads. Like envy, jealousy and the irrational belief that my husband was supposed to be a prince, damn it!

Monday, November 16, 2009

"You've got Mail" and Other Tales of Woe

This story is a tad circuitous, you'll have to bear with me and keep reading and hopefully by the end of the blog the connections will be made and it will all make sense. As much sense as I can make when I'm writing after midnight because my legs are so jangly I can't possibly sleep.

I was perusing Jenny Crusie's site ( as I'm apt to do. I enjoy her sense of humor and she has a way of writing that makes me feel like one of her friends. She's so intimate when she blogs that it feels like a conversation rather than communication with the entire world. Which is what it really is.

Anyway, (I did tell you this would be circuitous, didn't I?) Jenny has a section where she comments on mistakes in romance movies. One of the movies she comments on is Four Weddings and a Funeral - I'm not quoting here, this is just from memory - Jenny says the guy ends up with the wrong girl! So I'm thinking I've got to watch that movie again, because I can't figure out who the right girl could possibly be. Any ideas?

This got me thinking about You've Got Mail. When I first watched this movie I hated it. No way should Meg Ryan's character end up with the guy who puts her out of business. I was incensed and vowed never to watch that movie again. End of story.

Not quite.

Months later I'm pregnant with my fourth child who's due shortly and my blood pressure starts shooting up. Long story short I get put on a lovely drug with sulfide in it's name and labor is induced. I'm skipping the long, painful and fairly unsatisfactory night. Lizzie arrives and all is well, pretty much, but they want to keep an eye on us so we get to stay at the hospital for a couple of nights. My dear husband brings me movies to watch so I don't get bored. Three of the four movies are full of delightful scenes like where a man gets his eyeballs taped open and other horrid things happen. I stopped watching those movies after the first one. Yuck!

The other movie was You've Got Mail. Which I hate. But, given the choice between nothing and Meg vs. Tom, I take Meg and Tom. Lizzie and I watch that movie several times, which is okay because I'm still drugged and I keep passing out. Low and behold when I get home from the hospital what do I want to do? Watch You've Got Mail. Again and again and again. I become insanely fond of that movie - of course Meg and Tom should end up together, how else could it possibly end?

I'm sure a psychologist could explain to me why I ended up adoring that movie. I might even be able to explain it if I dug deep and pulled out some psychological terminology. But I think you get the point.

The question occurs: If Jenny Crusie had watched Four Weddings and a Funeral over and over again while bonding with her new baby, would that have changed her mind about which girl Hugh Grant should have ended up with?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Time Management - or my lack thereof

First I have to say I love the word "thereof." Don't know why. Couldn't define it if you paid me. I know what it means though, and in this case it's referring to my lack of time management skills. Like now, I have several projects on my plate. The most important being Chapter six of California Schemin'. So far today I've opened the file and noted that I've written 677 words so far - but none today. I also have a beaded necklace to finish for my niece's birthday. That's not any less important - and probably more important to her. I want to mail it tomorrow so it's high on the priority list. I've already fixed the mock turtles costume for the high school's performance of "Alice in Wonderland."

I have seven songs to memorize for the chorus I belong to. We perform the first weekend in Dec. That's pretty high up there too. I have one song written on the white board so that's started. There's the scarf for my daughter that's nine tenths of the way finished. And then the hat that goes with it. The scarf I promised to a student doesn't have to be done until January so that's low on the list, but the presents for Christmas are starting to scream at me. I managed to send out my daily message about Kate George's Shameless Self Promotion Week on Facebook this morning, but there's at least one other thing hanging over my head but I can't remember it at the moment. It will jump out at me later and give me a heart attack with it's urgency. Oh and there is the eight hours I spend babysitting high schoolers in study hall every day.

My friends say I take too much on. That could be true. But I think my real problem is that I don't manage my time appropriately. Like this morning, I could have been working on any of the aforementioned tasks (that's another word I really like - aforementioned) but instead I was answering emails, reading blogs, sewing the turtle shell - I have to give myself some credit for getting something done - Oh and I talked to one of my sons' teachers about his overdue homework. He had the flu and I think that's a good enough excuse, and now so does she.

How do you prioritize when everything is Important? The writing should come first, don't you think? But what about promises made to children - those are really the top of the top of the list. Can I work on each thing for fifteen minutes? Would that work? I tried delegating the necklace to a talented student, but she has homework to do. So somehow I'm going to have to get it all done. Starting with the necklace I think, then the writing, God knows what I'm going to do about Christmas...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The flu has arrived at the madhouse. It managed to sneak in one night while I was ferrying children to and from play practice. Ferrying takes a lot of time, mostly because I'm driving other people's children as well as my own. With no one standing diligently at the door, keeping the flu away, it was able to waltz in and pick its resting place with no opposition.

So the flu is here, does that mean I have to treat it like a guest? Probably. Flu thrives on adversity so if I pamper it perhaps it will die of… of what? What would the flu die from? Over feeding? Death from luxury? I guess if we knew that the dang, disease would be gone in hours.


Look at all that yammering I did. Here's all I needed to say:

I'm exhausted from late nights driving kids home from play practice, and interrupted sleep from tending to a child with the flu.

That's it. One sentence. The rest of it is just extra garbage and I'm blaming the lack of sleep for it.