Thursday, December 30, 2010

Resolutions From The Revisionist

I always worry about New Years Resolutions. I mean, they are in that barrel of monkeys called category. I mean, if you resolve to be more patient, does that mean that the universe is going to send you lots more opportunities in which you HAVE to be patient? If you resolve to lose weight, do you end up with a tapeworm or something which MAKES you lose weight?

Be careful what you wish for.....

Last year, I resolved to stop using the word DUDE. Just stop. Cold turkey. And I did pretty well...except that then there were so many experiences thrown at me that simply REQUIRED the use of the word DUDE (in a bit of a disparaging way....naturally.)

And I resolved to eat more vegetables, not realizing that the state would cut the education budget in a way that will pretty much force teachers to start their own victory gardens if they want to feed their families. (Okay, yes, I am exaggerating some....but be careful what you wish for.....veggies will soon be all many of us can afford.)

So this year, I am resolving to laugh more. Just laugh. A lot. And then some more.

I am trying to figure out a way the universe can spin this one....maybe I'll go all mental and end up laughing about pots and pans in some padded little room somewhere....ugh.

I sign this post The Revisionist because that's what my writing goals revolve around. Revision. A lot. And then some more.

But more on the writing goals next time. Right now I have to go and laugh at all of the dog poop my daughter's sleepover pals are tracking into my house......ha.....ha.......(it's not coming out right....) ha......ha...

The Revisionist

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Space Between

What I got for Christmas:

No, not actually Harry....just Harry's wand. Oh, I have wanted a wand for such a long time. I went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter over the summer, but the wait to get into Olivander's was four hours or something equally absurd. Four hours? In Florida? In July?

No. I think not.

But my wonderful kiddos decided that it was just plain wrong for me to remain wandless. So far, I have stupified everyone in the house....and disarmed them.....and, conjured countless patronuses (or is the plural patroni?). Now I just need to wave it over my revisions:


Deleto junko

Reworko chaptero sixo


I also got this:
And folks, this is so ultimately cool. You are not going to believe this, but on the lightsaber page, the lightsabers actually light up!!!

Now I just need to use the sabers to whack off about 2 chapters in my book......

Sensing a theme here?

Yes, I am revising.

And not on my own, but with the help of a very smart, very pointed, very helpful editorial letter.

Except that it is not easy. I keep having to remind myself that I need to look through future readers' eyes this time...not just my own. Future YOUNG readers.

And sometimes less is more....but the word count keeps creeping up.....

Hence the need for wands and lightsabers.


P.S. I also got chocolate, lots of it, you know, to recover from dementor attacks and such. I find that chocolate with salted caramel does the trick amazingly well.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Things I Love: The Christmas Vacation Edition

1. Any Christmas book by Robert Sabuda. I wish I could have one tenth of his talent. I collect pop-up books and his are the best. (And his Christmas ones are better than the best.) Love, love, love.

2. The first taste of the first home-made Scottish Shortbread of the year. Easiest (and best) cookie ever. I still remember the recipe (which I had to copy out of a book when I was in sixth grade and I did a report on Scotland and we all had to make a food from our country.)

Here it is:

2 cups flour
1 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar

Seriously. Does it get any easier than that? Oven at 300. Roll out the dough, cut into shapes (I like to cut mine into Scotty dogs usually, but I couldn't find the right cutter so we have stars...lots and lots of stars.) Cook until they are that lovely shade of golden.

3. Listening for the sound of that last drop of rain on the skylight. (I think...yes...last drop! No, wait...still one more......) It's been raining for days on end. Can't wait to hear the last drop.

4. The loveliness of an uncluttered brain. Sure, I've relatives coming and cooking to do and presents to wrap, but my brain has that lovely time to flit away and imagine stuff about the story I am revising and, wow, it's just so nice to be able to do that. Having time to think is the best, people, the best!

5. Getting to go to the bathroom whenever I want to. Ah, the simple pleasures. You know, I read somewhere that teachers have more UTI's than most people because they can never get to the bathroom....I know, TMI. (But sometimes I just go when I am home not because I NEED to, but just because I can...whenever I worries about if it's recess or not.)

6. Lights on the tree late at night.

7. Lights on the tree first thing in the morning.

8. The knowledge that I'll have time to clean up any mess that anybody (including myself) makes.

9. Making menus for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Christmas Eve:

Red chile enchiladas
Green chile enchiladas
Lettuce, tomato for garnish
(Don't you love all the red and green!)

Christmas Day

Appetizers: The Thomas Girl Cheese Ball (an old family recipe...naaahh...I really just invented it a few years ago with my girls and now it's a tradition.)
Shrimp cocktail

Prime Rib with cabernet sauce (if I remember to make it this year!)
Mormon Potatoes (Not a Mormon myself, but the recipe is courtesy of my brother, who is.)
Bacon Wrapped Asparagus
Artichoke and mushroom salad
Clementine, pomegranate, bleu cheese and pecan salad over baby greens
Sauteed Spinach (Ewwww...but other people like it and Sean will make it, so who am I to ruin their holiday spinach eating fun....but really? gross.)

Trifle (with angel-food cake, in honor of the birthday boy....Baby Jesus.) Okay, it's not really trifle, but it's in a big trifle bowl, with cake bits and whipped heavy cream and strawberries and raspberries....and it looks so pretty.! Yum.

10. I love that I have time to read blogs and catch up. Yeah, I know...perfect timing....just when everyone else is going on blog holiday!!! But at least I can catch up a bit.

Wishing you the happiest Christmas ever!


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Lessons from Charles Dickens or From the Mouths of Fourth Graders

I spent the week telling some of my favorite tales, even though I had the MOST miserable cold in the world. Thankfully, though the nose was stuffy, the voice never left altogether. It's hard to be a storyteller with no voice.

So, there I was, telling about ninety fourth graders Dickens' Christmas Carol. I've got my retelling down to about forty minutes, which includes a brief prologue about Dicken's life as a child, so they can get a glimpse into what might have influenced him as a writer.

Truly, it is a great story that keeps children on the edge of their seats, even if they've seen a version or two of it on TV. At then end, I asked the students about what they thought the theme of A Christmas Carol might be, you know, just to be literary and all.

What do you think Dickens' message to people was? Do you think he has a secret meaning in his story?

Ben's hand popped into the air.

Me: (handing microphone over to adorable, freckled fourth grade boy). Yes, Ben? What do you think that Charles Dickens was trying to tell people?

Ben: He was trying to tell people that if you are greedy and don't share, ghosts will come back from the grave and haunt you!

Yeah, I think that pretty well sums it up.

Sharing is caring!


P.S. Yes, I have seen the very scary version of A Christmas Carol with Jim Carrey. I think it went a little over the top....what with the demon horses and all. I prefer the Muppet version with Michael Caine....and Kermit and Piggy as the Crachits.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Evidence That the Universe Has a Sense of Humor

Here's the thing: My family has a Prius. Yes, it's a hybrid and yes, it's tiny. So, it gets Phenomenal Cosmic Gas Mileage, but itty-bitty living space (to quote Aladdin.)

Did I mention there are five of us? Did I mention that the youngest is almost twelve, and oh yeah, my older daughters are 5'7" and 5'10"?

Okay, so there we are, getting ready to drive back home from a dance competition in Palm Springs (which was unseasonably hot even for Palm Springs, I might add). The car is loaded to the tippy-tip-top with dance stuff, suitcases, golf clubs (don't ask) but we have to wait for the raffle to be drawn.

The raffle.

"And the winner of the 6 foot teddy bear is.......(wait for it)..........CALI THOMAS!"

Oh, the screams of joy (from Cali, who wanted the bear more than anything. All day she said, "I am just visualizing me getting the bear. I can see it in my mind....")

As for me, I wasn't holding my breath. I mean, the Thomas family doesn't really win stuff. One of my daughters has actually considered becoming a professional Cooler (like those guys in Vegas who walk around bringing bad luck to people.)

So, um, yeah.....I had to ride for two and a half hours home with a big bear's bum under my chin.
I can't even remember how we managed to fit the blasted thing in, across all of us. And why I ended up with the bum.....

Very funny, Universe.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Books I Loved in 2010 Part 3: The Late-to-the-Party Edition

I'll be the first to admit I am most often late to the party on popular books. (In truth, being part of the blogging community really keeps me on top of the new releases, which is awesome!) So, I know when books are coming out, and I know which ones intrigue me, but what I don't know is when I'll feel like reading it.

I'm an emotional reader.

No, that's not the right word....I don't even know what the right word is. Perhaps self-indulgent is better. Simply put, I read whatever pleases me to read at the time, depending on my mood. I wish I had more time to read, but I don't. So when I actually get to read, it's GOT to be something I really feel like reading.

Heavy books and dystopian books are kind of hard for me to read sometimes, especially when I am super busy. They require a brain-power investment and usually an emotional one as well. And sometimes there just isn't enough of me to go around.

But then the hand of fate stepped in, as fate is wont to do, in the guise of Target. Sure, I had heard of Suzanne Collin's Hunger Games series and was intrigued by the idea, but I hadn't felt like reading it yet. However on this perfect summer day, the kind where there is nothing that HAS to be done, I walked by the Hunger Games paperback on display for about 8 bucks.

"Okay," I said to myself, "I've heard about this. I feel like giving it a whirl today."

And the next thing I know, I'm counting the days until the midnight release of Mockingjay.

These books made me think. A lot.

And cry a little.

But mostly think.

They made me stay away from the internet so I wouldn't accidentally read a spoiler. They made me want to TALK with anyone/everyone else who had read them.

That's what makes a good story. One that stays with you.

For the record: I am Team Peeta and my favorite of the three was Catching Fire.

Anyone else late to the party on this one?


Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Blur That Was 2010

More books I loved next post.

I promise.

My parents just left. They came for a pre-holiday visit all the way from Albuquerque to see my kids in their various holiday concerts, which miraculously fell in the same week. (That will NEVER happen again.) They brought ornaments (of the garden gnome variety....don't ask) and New Mexican food (of the green chile variety.) It was a crazy busy wonderful week.

They said things like, "It's been quite a year."

And you know, it really has.

This time last year, I was trying desperately to figure out how to keep the writer part of me alive, while my job threatened to take over. Now I love my job don't get me wrong, but it is hard, HARD to work full time and get the writing done. It just is. Add to that the fact that I was in the middle of trying to discover how to query agents, since I figured all of my years of schlepping my manuscripts to editors on my own was just not going to cut it with a middle-grade novel. But querying is hard. It just is. (And my first few queries were kind of lame...Hi, I'm an author already.....blah, blah, blah.....I've written lots of stuff.....blah, blah, blah.....don't you want to rep me?)

Okay, not quite that lame, but probably pretty close. I am choosing not to look in the files to see exactly how lame they were.

But the more the rest of my life threatened to take over, the more the writer part of me squeaked its little head up, No! I will not be conquered! I will not be ignored!

And so I wrote late into the night. And at my lunch time. And in the car whilst waiting for kids to finish their activities. I revised. I queried. I revised my queries.....And within the last year, I finished a couple of books, got an agent, sold a book....and, well, wow.

On top of that, two of my daughters went to China to perform Irish dance, my youngest graduated from elementary school, I met great authors at some tremendous events, I got to see the galleys of my new book....and I went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!

It's been quite a year.

I'll be the first to admit, I don't always carry around with me the attitude of gratitude. I'm no Grinch, but I do my share of complaining that there just isn't time to do all that needs to be done.
There just isn't enough time.

What I think I long for is the time to appreciate how lucky I am. I mean, it was a great year really. But I am always rushing to the next thing....rush, rush, rush......too much to do and way too little time. And sometimes I just need to stop.


And remember to savor the moments, because otherwise they will become a blur.

So I am wishing you this week, before holiday craziniess takes more than just a foothold in your life, a few moments of quiet pondering.

May you find much richness and lots of roses to stop and smell when you think back on the blur that was 2010.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Books I Loved in 2010 Part 2

First off, thanks for your kind wishes about the book signing. It was awesome. I'll post a picture soon of the unbelievable crowd....we sold out of books! Well, not all of the books in Barnes and Noble...of course they had more books....just my books. Which was cool, except that we could have sold way, way more. Oh well. I was just happy that I was very busy and not having to direct people to the biography section or something.

It does happen sometimes.

Anyway, I wanted to let you know about another book I loved in 2010. This book has been around for a while. Actually, it has been in my house for a while. My daughter who is in college read it back when she was in 6th grade and I found it while going through the book case.

This is such a fun, sweet, and touching book. I recently found out that it is a movie, which is on video already, but I am not certain if I want to see it or not. You see, to me the brilliance of this book was its subtlety. This is a book that slowly warms your feet, your hands, all the way up to your heart and soul.

Wendelin Van Draanen masterfully weaves a story told from different perspectives, that of a boy and a girl, and how their lives intersect....and how they feel about it.

Just such a special book. I asked myself several times as I read it, "How did she do that? How did she do that?"

And the shift from boy to girl and back again just really worked. The setting is middle school, and Van Draanen captures the essence in such a unique and wonderful way.

Well done, Wendelin! (Say that three times fast if you can!)

Already in the comments, people are leaving me their favorite reads of the year, so keep them coming!

More soon!