Saturday, February 26, 2011


This week, my executive brown chair and I became closer than ever.

Perhaps too close.

There was no school this week due to a little thing called "ski week." True.

I only know one person who was actually going skiing. Everyone else......well, off to do fabulous things. For example, my boss went to ROME! Yes, that Rome. The one with the Colosseum and all of that cool Roman stuff.

I am trying hard not to be jealous.

I mean, I got to do something cool, too.

I got to sit in my chair.

A lot.

The first half of the week, I spent revising Keelie of the Lake before it went off to my writing group. (I have a love/hate relationship with sending stuff to terrifying and yet completely freeing. Nice to have something out of your own hands for a bit.) But not five minutes after I finish, the line-edits for Trinket arrive.


What is a line-edit? I wish I could scan a page and show you, but that would take precious time away from me and my chair...I mean, I would have to stand up and go over to the scanner....too much time away from chair.

We are as one now, executive brown chair and I.

But a line edit is when your editor lets you know that you used the word looked already three times on the same page, and perhaps you should save italics for when you really need them, and my, aren't you fond of those little dots....(there they are again!) and how can your character possibly see if the other character gulped when you said on page 137 that she is behind the character? And how could she pull such and such from her pocket on 198 if she left it on the table on 195? And you explained the situation this way on page 145, yet this way on 215...which is it? (You used those dots again!) Can you tone down the hungry bits? Your characters are always starving.

In other words, line edits for me = hard work. Brain work.

But I am getting there.

I'd like to have the line-edits done in a few weeks. Hopefully. March is one crazy month. (Remember, I am the mother of Irish dancers.) And next week, my lovely Writing Club 5th graders are performing the world premiere of A GOOD KNIGHT'S REST to kick off Read Across America.

And one of my babies has a birthday in early March.

Busy, busy, busy.

(Shhhhh...I kind of have an idea for a new picture book.....shhhhh....not allowed to work on it now or anything.........or am I?)

Get back to work.

Uh oh. Executive brown chair is bugging. Sheesh.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I am a Big Faker....

Sometimes, I wonder if I even deserve to be a writer.

What if people find out what a fake I am?

I mean....there are literary classics that I hated (sorry, Herman Melville, I just couldn't get into the whole Captain Ahab thing.....and Nathaniel Hawthorne, well, at least The Scarlet Letter was kind of short) and worse, there are literary classics that I haven't yet read (I can't even put this in a regular-sized font....Pride and Prejudice*). I write only the stuff I feel like writing, and when it gets tough, I just get up and have a non-healthy snack or something. No important stuff flies from my fingertips on to my outdated laptop. Just stuff that amuses me. And speaking of outdated computers, I've got no twitter, no facebook, no I-pod upon which to create my playlist......What in the world makes me think I can or should be an author?

And yet, here I am, still chasing the dream. Still writing my books because there is nobody that says I can't. And I guess that is my message today, to myself as much as anyone. There IS nobody who says you can't.

Only yourself.

And as long as you can sit down with the blank page, just the two of you, and create something where moments before there was nothing, then you are a writer. As long as put the time in typing the words, learning from the mistakes, trying everyday to make the words string together more beautifully than the day before, you are a writer. As long as the ideas in your head create an undeniable urge to touch pen to paper, regardless of how messy and wild that writing may be, you are a writer.

So, um, that's where I am today. Hope the words help you if you find yourself in the same spot.


*Here's the dilemma with P and P. What if I read it and hate it? Then I'll just looks like one of those hoity-toity "Oh, Jane Austen is so bourgeoius" people or something like that. Sure, I'll probably like it...but my expectations are HUGE. I mean, it's just about everybody's favorite book. So, that is why I choose to remain ignorant. It's supposed to be bliss, right?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Real Entry From the Writing Journal-Poetry

Jane Yolen (one of my favorite writers) is trying to write a poem a day for 2011.

A poem a day. Wow.

I can't even write a poem a month. And that started me thinking.........

True life journal entry, 2/7/11

I was a poet before
I was a storyteller
and that is the truth.


A poem to bemoan the fact
that poems rarely
find me these days.

That is because I
am the one
who must seek them,
isn't that so?

Poetry has not called to me
on the wings of an old black owl
or in the glimmer of a moonbeam
or from the depths of my marrow
for a long, long time.

True, I do listen
and search
and quest
for the words that play upon
my tongue,
and lips.

But they are words
that serve the story,
whispers that breathe life
into the tale.

They exist for a purpose
apart from themselves.

I want to open my eyes
to see the images that
wait, quietly
for a poem
to come.

Instead, it is only my ears
that are alive...
and they hear
but fleeting echoes.

So, um, I don't even know what that is up there. But I do know that I want and need more poetry in my life. Maybe everybody needs more poetry in their lives. Again, ironic because I write bits of poems with kids every day, but I discard them like those little shreds left behind when someone tears the page out of the spiral. (Note: those little things really need a name. Shredlets?) I need to keep those bits of poems. I need to start seeing life as a poem...or a series of poems.

I want the poet inside of myself not to be so intimidated by the storyteller.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Coming Full Circle

First of all, the winner of a prize pack including:

Cool mini-bookmarks!
A Cold Winter's Good Knight!
A mini blank book for saving ideas!
A reusable LOVE shopping bag!


Karen Akins!

So, Karen, just email me at storyqueen at gmail dot com with your address and I will send your package right out.

Now for other things.

Twice within the past week, I have been visited from spirits from my own past. (Not in aCharles Dickens kind of way, but in an oh, yes, I remember that person I used to be kind of way).

I used to be a very young teacher in a school called Monte Vista in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I used to teach a combination class of first and second graders. But one year, I think my third year of teaching altogether (which would have made be about 23 or 24), I got to teach a second/ third combination. Oh, I loved this class. It was very diverse in many ways. And the kids were such fun. Imagine my surprise when I got an email from one of them the other day! Not only did I remember him (who must be around the same age I was when I taught him) but I remembered me, that young, idealistic teacher who thought she could make a go of being a teacher, who thought maybe she could make a difference in the lives of kids.

I am so honored that you remembered me, H.

And then, gmail held yet another surprise for me. I got a letter from a coach of a speech team in Iowa asking if a student could perform my story, GOOD NIGHT, GOOD KNIGHT for a show. Have I ever mentioned that I was PRESIDENT of the Speech and Debate Team? (Seriously, you are not surprised, are you? I mean, if you'd ever met me in person you wouldn't be surprised.) My claim to fame was a piece I performed which used over ten different voices. I think it was The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by James Thurber. And now, one of my stories is getting the speech team treatment! And with that little thrill, I was visited again by a teenage girl who practiced funny voices and planned outfits to wear to Speech Tournaments (yes! Tournaments!) that wouldn't look too business-like nor too casual, the girl who could memorize a new story in less than a day if necessary, the girl who wrote her own speeches and practiced while she vacuumed so no one would hear her. Teenage me was so confident and so completely non-confident at the same time.


The funny thing is, I should feel older. I haven't been a teenager or a twenty-something for quite a while.

But I don't. I just feel a bit strange and protective of these earlier versions of me...and how glad I am that they never gave up their hope, idealism or silly voices.


Friday, February 11, 2011

Belated Thank You, I am a Cheapo, and a Giveaway

First, I want to thank all of the fabulous folks who brought their children out to Barnes and Noble in Oceanside to support Mission Meadows Elementary School. What a great event. It was lovely to see so many kids so excited about reading! This is my third year appearing for Mission Meadows and I can tell you that I'll absolutely be back for a fourth.

On the I-am-a-cheapo front, I thought it would be nice to have some bookmarks to hand out at the booksigning and I only had a few left from the batch I made up for ALA (and they were kind of giant....not what I had in mind for an event like this) so I thought I would enlist my old pal, vistaprint. However, I cannot for the life of me figure out how to make a reasonably sized bookmark on vistaprint. Either a postcard or a business card or a brochure. That is what you get.

"Darn!" says I.

"There must be a way!" says I.

Just then, my inner-cheapo (who hangs around a LOT) said, "Why don't you just do a vertical business card, punch a little hole in the end, add some ribbon and voila! You have a little mini-bookmark!"

I love my inner-cheapo. (One time my IC convinced me to make my daughter's Irish Dance Dress. These things run about 1,000-3,000 bucks. Seriously. I had many people ask me who my dressmaker was! Just me and my glue gun.....hahahaha.)

And I love mini-things. Tiny little donuts......Lego people....itty-bitty cupcakes.....who doesn't like little things?

So, I took the advice of my inner-cheapo and made the most adorable bookmark/business cards EVER.

Very pleased with myself.

Now to the giveaway part. You, yes, YOU can get some of these bookmarks for yourself. BUT THAT'S NOT ALL.

You can get one of these:


You also get a lovely reusable shopping bag that says LOVE and a cool little blank book to fill with your own ideas.

And the only thing you have to enter is to leave a comment about why you love dragons....or knights.....or both.

Oh, and promise not to tweet about the contest. Just kidding. I don't have twitter, so I'd never know anyway. I just wanted to put something in about twitter so I would look cool.

Which I am not.

But I am okay with it. I mean, I am that kind of trumps cool in some places.


P.S. Contest ends February 14th, the LOVE day, at 11:59 p.m. I'll randomly select a winner from the sugar bowl of despair.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Inner Dork Revealed


It's true.

I mean, who else but a total dork like myself would get so excited to receive this in the mail?

Yes. I know. I complain that I have no time to put a dirty dish in the dishwasher....but now I can make my own CAULDRON CAKES!! And Guinness Stew for Children (wha?)

Anyway, I am jubilant with my dorky little purchase, which would be more understandable were I twelve. But I am a far cry from twelve and yet, I am in the midst of planning my great-hall-style-feast!

And then, as if that weren't enough, I am in love with this:

I mean, don't you just love this little guy?

What dorky things do you love?


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Who Do You Write For Part #2

This is the middle-grade novel edition.

When I am working on a novel, I am not writing for the Queen (shhhhhh!! Don't tell her. She might be listening.)

I am writing for the child I once was.

I am writing the book I wanted to read when I was eleven.

Eleven year-old Me was such a little conundrum. I loved watching Star Trek re-runs with my dad (the really old ones. "Why does it look like Mr. Spock is wearing eyeshadow, Daddy?"), and found Monty Python hilarious when I sneaked a peek of it on PBS. (More than once. And just for the record, the parrot WAS dead.)

Eleven year-old Me still played with dolls sometimes. Barbies. Yeah, I know...but they really did have them back then. I wanted a princess dress badly, but never, ever had one. And I thought it would be cool to be a general (nice medals) or a super-hero (flying power and super-strength, please.)

Eleven year-old Me created stuff all the time. Seriously, all the time. I loved projects, messes and art...and baking cookies.

I lived in my head a lot.

I was rarely bored.

Don't get me wrong-- I have not written a book with Star Trek or Barbies or Generals in it (yet). My current book is a far, far cry from such things. However, it is still for eleven year-old ME, that little girl that I knew so well. She would have loved something different from what other kids were reading. She would have loved the adventurousness of the MC and the quiet magic that unfolds with the story.

I think she would have read my story more than once. She would have dreamed she was the girl in my story when she closed her eyes.