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Monday, February 16, 2015

A little of this and a little of that

Things have been busy here. Last week, I was a guest on USC Trojan Vision's CU@USC television show. It was really a lot of fun and everyone was wonderful, even though I was battling a really crummy cough.
Me with the producers and crew of CU@USC. Remaya was my interviewer. I was her first interview and she was so cool, calm and collected. She is right on the other side of my books. On my right is AnnaLiesse. She is the head producer. Thanks for having me, guys!
We talked about the Good Knight, Trinket, and No, No, Kitten! (which comes out in only 2 weeks!!) I'll post a link to the interview soon. It's full of embarrassing factoids about yours truly.

I've also been busy reading this book:
Those of you who know me in real life are laughing right now. I can hear you through the screen. Yes, I know, it is probably impossible to make someone who has spent the majority of her life in a state of constant clutter a neat-nick. Probably. But maybe, just maybe...

(Actually, I've gone through my clothes and discarded tons of things and I've had a clean closet for 72 hours now. That, my friends, is an all time record for me!)

And I read this to my class:

 I highly recommend it. Days and DAYS after I read it with them, students were still bombarding me with theories about the ending. I won't spoil it for you, but if you are a teacher and you haven't read this to your class, you must. If you are a student, no matter your age, read it and share it with your classmates.  Then let the debates begin!

I am also writing some things. I got a new idea for a picture book which is always like a special treat. I finished a middle-grade science-fiction novel that I have been working on for quite some time. I need to get some eyes other than mine to read it now. But it is scary because, well, I am a chicken and this is different from other things I have done. But writers must be brave, everyone knows that. 

And, as I already mentioned, this is happening in just a few weeks:
And I happen to know for a fact that a trailer is coming soon, too!  Yay.

And I got to see the cover for SECRETS OF SELKIE BAY (my novel that comes out in July) and all I can tell you is that whatever you are thinking it looks like, you are probably wrong. I was. (But in a good way!) Hopefully I can show it soon.

Take care, my friends. Keep writing 


Sunday, February 1, 2015

A Small Thought on a Sunday Night

On February 2, the American Library Association will announce their Big Prizes (Caldecott, Newbery, Printz, etc).

I have such mixed feelings about this.

On the one hand, I love finding out who the winners are and adding them to my TBR list (or cheering if I was fortunate enough to have read them already). It's important and special and all the winners make me feel proud to be part of the world of publishing.

On the other hand, I read a lot of wonderful books this past year. And I know this for certain: No award can change my personal connection with a book. I have loved many books over the years and many of them did not win awards. Not at all.

Awards are wonderful, don't get me wrong.  But the real prize is reading. The real prize is when you fall in love with a book and that book becomes a part of you, changing you forever. So, to the books I have adored this year (and you know who you are), if your day tomorrow ends without a shiny sticker, believe me when I tell you that you are still beautiful, just the way you are.


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Hello 2015

So this is what I am striving for this year. Harmony. Harmony in my home. Harmony at work. Harmony in my writing. Harmony in life.

I have to ask myself exactly what I mean by this. (It is one of those things that looks good on paper, that has a nice sound to it, but how will I know if I a leading a harmonious life?)

For me, I think I want to make sure that the diverse elements of my life are working together, making me stronger, as opposed to pulling me apart in so many different directions. It is a sense of togetherness that works to make something that...sounds good? Well, better than something sounding discordant.

When I think of harmony, I naturally think of peace, too.

I'd like to live a more peaceful life. I'd like to help the world become more peaceful by the way I choose to live my life.

If this sounds like a resolution, I suppose it is, sort of.

Speaking of resolutions, I want to eat more meals that look like this:

or this:

These are re-creations of school lunches from around the world from this article.

So, that's it for me this year--harmony and better food.

What's on your resolution plate?


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Amidst the Bustle

I love decorating for Christmas. When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to do was to "remove" a few of the more interesting ornaments, lie under the tree and play for hours. Every ornament had a backstory.  As a grown-up, I most treasure those decorations with backstory--and if there isn't one then of course  I make one up!

Here's a glimpse of what it looks like around here:
These two trees are gifts from the Grinch.  He'd stolen them from Whoville and had meant to give them back, but forgot when he took a nap after eating all of that Roast Beast.  When he discovered his mistake, he couldn't find a graceful way to return them without having everyone think he was being "Grinchy" again, so he stashed them here. I didn't mind too much.

This is Dude.  He is from Hawaii. He is very cool--though not very happy about the hat. 

Sean gave me the Santa Brothers for Christmas years ago. Now they have a little puppy whose name changes every year.  It's not because I forget what I named him every year...not at all.
Oh, and next to them is Baby Noel.  My daughter got her for her first Christmas.  She used to hang from the tree, but somehow dropped and has a small crack now, so the Santa Brothers watch  over her.  Kind of like Three Men and a Baby, but with two Santas...and a really GIANT baby.

I have many Nativity scenes, but this is one of my favorites. Someone small in the house was playing and lost the Baby Jesus, so they substituted a Fairy Winkle (remember those?) thinking I wouldn't notice.  Well, I noticed, but I rather like it.

Made by my Great-Grandmother on my Dad's side YEARS ago.  It was my favorite thing in her house.  I am so lucky to have it.


No, your eyes are not deceiving you. I HAVE TWO OF THE VINTAGE JEWELRY CHRISTMAS TREES!! The bottom one was made by my great-uncle on my mom's side.  He must have read the same craft magazine as my great-grandmother did because they BOTH made one of these YEARS before the families were related by the marriage of my parents. SO WEIRD!! But awesome that I have them both.
Oh, and yes, those are my dogs in holiday sweaters.  In California where it is 70 degrees.  What can I say--my 15 year-old did it!

Tree-topper:  A star from a paper shop in Albuquerque and a picture of Trinket. When Noel first saw the cover for The Seven Tales of Trinket, she said it looked a bit like a Byzantine Baby Jesus.  I thought she was right. When I look up at the top of the tree, I am reminded that you can see holiness everywhere, if only you are willing to look.
(Oh, if you look above the tree, you can see a glimpse of a few of the members of my own personal Action League.  They are on the highest shelf and watch over Christmas to make sure things stay on track.  You can see Sun Kachina to the right (Made by my daughter from a tp roll,) and the Good Knight, and to the left, there is a likeness of a stature of Moses by Michealangelo backed up by Robot.  Not pictured:  Lego Indiana Jones, Irish Penguin, Chicken Wizard, Lego Han Solo.)

So, Merry Christmas to all!  May your holiday be filled with stories!



Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Illusion of Balance

Probably the question people ask me the most is How do you do it?  How do you balance everything? How can you be both a teacher and a writer?

And even though I've answered this question hundreds (yes) of times, my answer really isn't that good.  I don't actually know how to do it all.  Most of the time, I struggle.

I love being a teacher. There is something so incredible about living a life dedicated to the future of our world. Everyday, I get to see evidence that what I do is making a difference in the lives of children.  It's

And I love being a writer.  Being able to conjure something in my imagination, being able to put it into words and having those words be the right words is a puzzle that I can't stop playing with. Knowing that the stories I write are read by children in schools or to children as they lie in bed each night makes my heart soar.

But these two endeavors take time.  And we all get the same amount of time. I don't get more time than anyone else, so I struggle with how to stretch my time to accommodate my two passions. And with that stretching comes the understanding that sometimes (most of the time) I have to let other things go.

I've been deep into drafting a new novel.  I thought the last novel I wrote (SECRETS OF SELKIE BAY in case you were wondering) was HARD, but this new one, this strange sci-fi story that eleven year-old me won't give up on, is HARDER. I started it in 2013. I wrote 10 pages and stopped, then revisited in May of 2014 and have been deep into it since. But pouring so much of my soul into getting these words right means there is less of that soul left for other things. One of those things that I've had to give up a bit is my blog.  Aauugghh. It makes me so sad when I open my blog (which is where I always click onto my twitter) and see that I've not posted in weeks.  And although I really appreciate it when people read my blog (THANK YOU!!), my blog's true purpose is for self-reflection.  It is a web-log of my journey, both as a writer and as a teacher.

I hate when I have to let that kind of think-time go. It makes my head jumbly and forgetful.

But, as I said, there is only so much time.

And if you are wondering if my house is messy, it is.  Dinners are MUCH simpler right now. If it weren't for crock-pot Mondays and salad Wednesdays, we'd probably starve.  

This time of year it gets extra tricky because of Christmas (which I love). I have decorated, but with a lighter hand this year. I had to cut myself some slack.

I think that is probably what I am trying to get at here, what I am trying to reflect on more for myself so that I can understand and embrace it.  There is not enough time to do it ALL. There just isn't.

So I have to cut myself slack.

There is so much more I want to say about this, about how I basically get to watch NO TV, how reading is the most luxurious treat--but only if I finish my daily word count, how I have actually hit my head on my desk falling asleep trying to write more (but the next day finding out it was jibberish anyway), but I am running out of time. Again. This post was supposed to be filled with advice about how to manage a life such as this. Obviously I am in no position to give advice. Ha.

I guess all I can say is, when you are trying to balance your life, cut yourself some slack.

That is how I balance my life.  With slack. (How do YOU manage it?)




Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thankfulness (and no whining)

 I am thankful that I even get to write books at all.  I mean, it really is an honor to be a part of the world of children's literature, to create stories and books for kids---it's just really the best.

But I do whine about it sometimes.  I whine that I don't have enough time to write.  I whine that what I am working on is "hard" and that revising it is "hard".  I whine that I am too tired sometimes to put a word on the page after a day of teaching school then coming home and being a mom. I whine because my characters decide to do things other than what I'd planned for them, or worse, when my characters do nothing at all and I have to keep throwing things at them to get some kind of authentic action.  Man, I do whine about that a lot.

I whine when I lack inspiration because it feels like the muse is giving me nothing--and then I whine when I am inspired, SO INSPIRED, because the muse has given me a ton but I don't know where to begin.

I whine because it takes me a long time to be satisfied with what I am creating and I wish I was faster. (I whine to myself about this almost daily.)

Whine, whine, whine.

But tonight, the evening before Thanksgiving, I will not whine that the pie crust is not made because my characters cannot decide how they are escaping from an secret library underneath Mont St. Michel. Nope. No whining (even though they are driving me crazy!!)  I am remembering to be thankful.  I am so fortunate that the stories from my heart are finding their way into the lives of children.

It's just really the best thing ever.



Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Pep Talks I Give Myself

*Who am I kidding?  I cannot write this kind of book. I don’t even know the kind of book I can write, but it is not this. Maybe I should just give it up.  Okay, fine. I give up. BUT THEN WHAT??  What then would I write?

*What story calls from my soul, demanding to be told?  That is tough to find sometimes.  But keep looking. Keep listening.  It will be worth it.

*Do not lose faith.  Each story is its own entity.  It cannot be anything other than itself, just as you cannot be anything other than yourself.  

*Right now, it’s just about continuing.  The ability to make this happen.  The ability to reach the end.  That is all it is about right now. Continuing.

*When I have scenes that I don’t want to write, it is usually because I have lost my voice somehow—I no longer know what/how to say it. Find the voice again and the words will come. 

*Having compassion for ourselves and where we are is one of the most important things. Do not forget.

*It is amazing how 238 little words can bring me such hope and joy.  And it will allow me to write the next bit because I know that this bit exists.

Hoping these words bring you a little encouragement if you find yourself needing it.