You Can Call Me Granny :)

Today is full of fun!

First:

It’s true, it’s true! ¬†I have reached granny status ūüôā ¬†Just goes to show, you can be a grandma at 29 ūüôā ¬†Our first grandchild, Annabelle, arrived yesterday afternoon, 7 lbs. 7 oz., and perfect in every way! ¬†Mother and baby are doing well. ¬†Here she is:

Second:

I have been featured in the August Author Spotlight on What’s Up Sippy Cup (good timing, no?) ¬†Please pop over and enjoy their site, full of all kinds of great information for expectant parents as well as parents of babies, toddlers, and preschoolers (including such helpful nuggets as DON’T feed them chocolate pudding and cream before their first birthday! – OK, not really, but that could be there…) ¬†To read the author spotlight interview, go here and scroll about halfway down the page.

Third:

It is apparently National Book Week (who knew?) and Face Book has a game that I’m borrowing and altering slightly because it’s fun. ¬†Here are the rules:

Pick up the book you are currently reading. ¬†Go to page 56. ¬†Copy the 5th sentence on that page in your comment below just for fun. ¬†Do not mention the title or author (but if anyone has guesses, by all means guess!) ¬†Here’s mine:

“We listen to Dr. Dre and Tupac, and then we blast “Baby Got Back” and all sing along.”

I have to say, that is by far the shortest, least informative sentence on that page!  The 4 before it are so long that that one is half way down!

So, share your sentence, check out What’s Up Sippy Cup, and feel free to leave comments on cute baby picture! ¬†Have a great Monday!

Stage Fright

Today, I’d like to thank Brooke Rousseau (please visit her awesome blog!) for bestowing the Irresistibly Sweet Award upon me!

Thank you, Brooke! ¬†I’m honored.

I don’t know if I’m sweet, but the fact that Brooke gave me the award certainly proves that she is ūüôā

I’m not very good at these blog awards. ¬†They all have rules you’re supposed to follow, and then you’re supposed to pass them on, and I can never choose who to pass them to because I don’t want to leave anyone important out or make anyone feel unchosen… and honestly, I’m not sure what the rules are for this one. ¬†Usually they include a “something you didn’t know about me” or “random facts” requirement, so hmm… what can I tell you?

How about this: ¬†(as always, I have a point… eventually :))

I started taking piano lessons when I was 4. ¬†My music teacher didn’t usually take kids younger than 5, but my hands were strong and my ear for music attuned so she made an exception.

I loved playing the piano. ¬†I loved that you could sit before it and coax forth beautiful melodies to suit any mood you were in. ¬†I loved the way music made me feel… (and that, if I was practicing, I got first dibs on the living room and my siblings had to wait to watch TV – ah, the power :))

My music teacher had high standards to which I did not always measure up.  Her emphasis was on performance, and when I reached high school she lobbied strongly for me to go to Julliard.

But therein lay the rub. ¬†I loved to play the piano, but by myself. ¬†I HATED performing. ¬†I didn’t even like practicing when family members were in the same room.

But because I attended a serious piano school, I had to perform, twice a year, and I absolutely dreaded those concerts.

I had to walk to the front of the auditorium.  Alone.  In front of all those people.

Raise or lower the piano stool to the appropriate height.  Check.  Adjust.

Then stand before the expectant audience and say the name of my piece and its composer in a clear voice, loud enough to be heard.

Then sit at the piano, place my fingers lightly on the keys, take a deep breath, and begin.

Sounds simple, right?

But my legs wobbled, threatening to drop me on my royal highness. ¬†My voice stuck in my throat. ¬†My hands trembled and my fingers turned to ice, and if you’ve ever tried to play Beethoven or Chopin with frozen fingers, you know they lose all dexterity and it’s VERY difficult. ¬†But the worst problem was that, at the moment I was supposed to begin, my mind went completely blank. ¬†I couldn’t remember where or how to start. ¬†My heart slammed. ¬†My mind careened crazily. ¬†I was horribly conscious of all those people looking at me, waiting, and with every rapid breath that passed through my dry lips, the notes I needed spun farther away.

I’m having a panic attack just thinking about it!

More than once, humiliation of humiliations, my music teacher had to step forward and place my fingers over the opening keys.

By the time I was 10, I had learned to write the first chord on the back of my left hand. ¬†Then, when my mind deserted me and I couldn’t think where to begin, I could glance down and see C dominant 7th or whatever, and it was enough to get me going.

Once I got started, muscle memory usually carried the day.

But there you have it.

(Are you ready for the point I promised?)

Any wonder that I have the same problem speaking in public? ūüôā

I know some writers are very outgoing and love to get up in front of an audience. ¬†I am not one of them. ¬†(Bear in mind, I am not referring to school visits here. ¬†Although I did have to get over my initial fear, I now love visiting with kids. ¬†It’s running workshops and giving speeches that I haven’t conquered… yet!)

Have any of you ever had stage fright or been paralyzingly afraid to do something? ¬†If you’re a writer, do you like speaking in public? ¬†What scares the bejeesus out of you (writing-related or otherwise)? ¬†Please share ūüôā

P.S. ¬†As for passing on the award, I really can’t choose. ¬†I am so grateful to all my fellow bloggers who take the time to visit and comment and show their support. ¬†All of you are truly awesome… and sweet ūüôā ¬†So don’t try to make me choose! ūüôā

Buns Afire

Yes, I know Tuesday is not a usual posting day for me, and yes, given my cooking skills, “buns afire” ¬†could be referring to a catastrophic kitchen incident – that would not be at all out of the realm of possibility… or even probability…

But actually, it’s all about¬†the fact that today, I will be in THE HOT SEAT on Cally Jackson’s fabulous blog, Cally Jackson Writes.

And, yowza! the stars must be aligned or something because 3 of my books are also being reviewed on Catherine Johnson’s poetically perfect blog, Catherine Johnson, Writer!

Please take a moment to click over to these lovely ladies’ blogs, since they were so kind as to write about moi, and see how awesome they are!

And then, if you haven’t read my actual post from yesterday, please feel free to read that too and share your organizational insights (or nightmares :))!

A Little Help From My Friends

I wonder if there is a gene for organization?

If so, I don’t have it.

I WANT to be organized.  But I think, when it comes to organizing, I have ADHD.

Here’s what happens: I walk into my office. ¬†I look around. ¬†I take in the books piled on every available surface, the reams of papers waiting to be filed, the Christmas wrapping paper still lying on the floor by the closet, the school supplies that I was told were crucial to this year’s learning efforts (yet are somehow still in a Staples bag in the corner – and it appears the kids may be learning without them), and a whole lot of other stuff that I’d be hard-pressed to even identify. ¬†Truth be told, I feel a mite panicky.

But I plunge bravely in.  I start on the books.  Onto the shelf they go.  But should they be alphabetized?  Or organized by genre?  Or topic?  Or size?  Or paperback vs. hardcover?

Hmm…

While I decide, maybe I should file some of the papers. ¬†There’s a pile of royalty statements (don’t confuse this with actual royalties – these are just pages that say how many books have sold – not usually as many as the pages of paper they use up writing about it!) ¬†But should I file them by the book they’re related to? ¬†Because if I do that, I’ll have to make copies of some because all the books from Little Simon, for example, are on the same statement. ¬†Or maybe I should file them by publishing house? ¬†But then I’ll need some new file folders…

Hmm…

While I decide, maybe I’ll put the wrapping paper away in the closet. ¬†So I open the door….

Do you see what I’m up against?

So I go to the cookie cupboard to fortify myself and decide maybe I should blog about organizing instead of actually doing it!

Oh, and I didn’t even mention organizing time! ¬†I appear to be missing the gene for that, too. ¬†Although not in the same way. ¬†When it comes to time, it’s not a matter of ADHD, but of BTE (I’m a Bad Time Estimator!)

I am convinced that I can do anything, or get anywhere, in 5 minutes.  This has turned out not to be true.

I know.  It boggles the mind.

Is there anyone else out there who feels that organization should be an Olympic sport?  Or anyone who has advice for the terminally disorganized?

Please share. ¬†Feel free to comment with schedules, lists, useful categories for filing, and/or organizational tips of any kind. ¬†I need all the help I can get. ¬†Or you can commiserate with your own organizational woes and then, even if I’m still disorganized I will feel better for knowing I’m not alone ūüôā

P.S. ¬†Speaking of organization, those of you who have visited before may notice some new tabs across the top. ¬†As yet, they are blank, but as soon as my organizational ADHD alights here for a moment, they will be extremely useful in the organization of this blog ūüôā

Plant Aside

There can be little doubt.

As of today, April 29th, it appears that Spring has at last found its way to Blueberry Hill.

In spite of temperatures still dropping below 40 at night, we’ve been assured the danger of frost is past. ¬†The grass is growing. ¬†The robins are busy. ¬†The lower tier of the forest is misted with green, and the trees are budding.

Ah, Spring!

It brings out my inner gardener.  I love flowers, and long to have a yard that looks like the Home Depot commercials.

But herein lies the problem, a Jekyll and Hyde situation if there ever was one.

By day, I’m a mild-mannered mom and writer, but when it comes to plants of any kind – flowers, vegetables, I’m pretty sure even weeds – I become – duhn-duhn duhn-duhn – The Black Thumb of Poughquag!

Kind of strikes terror into your heart, doesn’t it?

I can take any perfectly healthy flourishing plant and kill it within a week.

Really.

The only exception to date is impatiens. ¬†The front of our house faces directly north and gets virtually no sun. ¬†In the years when we haven’t had a puppy to dig them up and I’ve had the time to put them in (I think that equals maybe 3 years out of 18) I have planted impatiens along the front and they have blossomed heartily in spite of me. ¬†Clearly, they have more lives than a cat, or have discovered the secret antidote to The Black Thumb of Poughquag!

Despite my appalling track record, I’m eternally delusional optimistic. ¬†Each year, when spring rolls around, I think, this will be the year my yard rivals the Botanical Gardens!

So I have this sweet little lavender (I think) plant that was given to me by a school I visited. ¬†It has lived in my house for a month plus because my husband has been taking care of it. ¬†In a few days, it’s going out to the garden…

Say a prayer ūüôā

And feel free to share any helpful gardening tips… ūüôā

P.S. ¬†In case you’re wondering how this relates to writing, well… it doesn’t. ¬†Unless you want me to compare weeding and pruning (at which I am abysmal because I can’t tell the weeds from the plants I’m trying to grow and I never know what to cut off) to the revision process. ¬†Which come to think of it is a very apt comparison because I have the same problem trying to weed and prune my manuscripts ūüôā

First Challenge!

Okay, folks, this is exciting! ¬†We are off and running with the first writer’s platform building challenge today! ¬†The winner will receive an awesome prize, and as you well know, I ¬†am all in favor of prizes ūüôā

As of the writing of this post, I have deliberately not read anyone else’s challenge yet, because I didn’t want to be influenced (or intimidated out of even trying!) so I’m really looking forward to reading them all once I’ve finished mine. ¬†The rules state that we must include one secret, one lie, one interesting quirk, one annoying habit, one of our best character traits, one of our favorite things in the whole wide world, use the words bloviate, fuliguline, (yes, those are actual words and yes, I will have to look them up before I can use them!) blade and rabbit, and accomplish it all in 300 words or less in any writing form we choose!

Ready?  Go!

Susanna was not like the other rabbits. ¬†She liked to get up at 5 AM, not 6 or 7. ¬†She preferred the openness of the meadow to the safety and confinement of the briar patch. ¬†She loved how blades of spring grass tickled her feet, like fuliguline down. ¬†And while the other rabbits were quiet and kept to themselves, Susanna liked to hop up on the back porch steps of the farmhouse where the sun was warm, and bloviate at length about the merits of vegetarianism to anyone who would listen. ¬†She spoke especially firmly about this to the dogs, a habit the other rabbits found bizarre. ¬†Why would anyone talk to dogs? ¬†The other rabbits figured that the reason she enjoyed public speaking and communing with dogs was because she was adopted. ¬†No denying she was odd, but they were willing to overlook her eccentricities because she was loyal and kind and always quick to help when called upon. ¬†Susanna loved her home and her family, but sometimes she felt her differences and couldn’t help but wonder where she had come from, and how and why she had ended up here. ¬†Still, she was a happy rabbit – how could she not be with all the good fortune bestowed upon her by not just one but four lucky rabbit’s feet ūüôā

There you go – and only 220 words – pretty good for the queen of long-windedness ūüôā ¬†Those of you who have read Punxsutawney Phyllis may recognize the familiarity of the opening lines ūüôā

Now, here is the question: ¬†I may have revealed something about myself that isn’t strictly true (actually, of course I have, because the rules required one lie!) ¬†Can you guess what it is? ¬†The answer will be in my next post, but I will look forward to your guesses! ¬†If you want to, feel free to try to guess the secret, too, and/or follow the guidelines listed above and submit your own list/paragraph/story/poem in the comments for us to enjoy and guess at if you’re not already in the Crusader Challenge (because I know a bunch of my followers are very creative and not crusaders!)

So, see if you can guess and/or add your own attempt!

Goldilocks and the Three Hairs

Rapunzel and I have something in common.  Neither one of us spends a lot of time getting her hair cut.

Rapunzel and I also have something in common with Goldilocks. ¬†We all have blond hair. ¬†Or at least, we used to. ¬†I’ll get to that in a second.

Anyone who knows me will attest to the fact that I take fashion ignorance to unprecedented levels.

I wear blue jeans if at all possible.

I am not really sure what a pump is.  (The kind for your feet, not the thing that gets water out of the basement when it floods.)

I have never, in my entire life (which according to some began during the stone age) had a manicure or a pedicure.  (No, I am not making this up.  Get your jaw off the floor.)

I have never worn make-up, unless you count the time in 9th grade when, for a bit part in Wild Oats, I had to wear mascara.  It made my eyes itch, so henceforth I have avoided the stage.  And make-up.

Hairstyles?  Handbags?  Haute coutour?  Forget it.

Fashion.  Ignorance.

So when I tell you that yesterday I had my annual haircut you will understand that it was a Big Deal.  My concession to fashion, such as it is.

Really, once a year is enough. ¬†I can’t be bothered to go any more often. ¬†I have too many other things to do. ¬†And anyone can trim their own bangs. ¬†(Although I read somewhere that trimming your own bangs was a sign of self-loathing…. ¬†hmmm….)

I used to get my hair cut every 18 months or so, but that all changed when the three hairs showed up. ¬†(This is the part I was getting to. ¬†You can stop holding your breath in anticipation.) ¬†Allow me to explain…

Locks of Love is an organization that accepts donations of hair to make hairpieces for financially disadvantaged children who suffer long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis.  The minimum length requirement is 10 inches, and I found that if I grew my hair for about 18 months I could donate that without shaving my head completely.  Then, one fine day, the three hairs showed up.  Unmistakeable.  Impossible to hide.  Three gray hairs, front and center.

The ladies at the place where I used to get my hair cut (which has since gone out of business… coincidence?) informed me that Locks of Love would not accept hair with gray in it because it didn’t hold dye evenly. ¬†Foolish me. ¬†I believed them.

Here’s how I discovered my mistake yesterday:

I seated myself before the lovely Veronica, whose unenviable job it was to hack off my golden tresses.

“What would you like?” she chirped.

Before I could respond, she began flinging around terms like, “layers,” “highlights,” and “side bangs” with reckless abandon. ¬†I was forced to throw cold water on her blaze of enthusiasm.

“Hold it,” I said. ¬†“Let me explain. ¬†I wash my hair. ¬†And comb it. ¬†That’s it. ¬†There will be no styling. ¬†No blow drying. ¬†No mousse, no gel, no spray. ¬†Nada.”

Her face fell. ¬†“So, just a simple cut?” she clarified, no doubt hoping against hope that she had misunderstood and there was still time to talk me into a devilock, a pixie cut, or anything with a name. ¬†Even a mullet.

“Just a simple cut,” I confirmed. ¬†“The simplest.”

With a sigh she set to work. ¬†Snip, snip, snip. ¬†I could almost hear her thinking, “Bor-ing!”

“You know,” she said conversationally, “another three inches and you could donate to Locks of Love.”

“No,” I responded, secure in my superior knowledge. ¬†“I have three gray hairs. ¬†Locks of Love won’t take it.”

“Yes they will,” she chirped, once again enthusiastic.

What???  Could this be true???  Had I really been so completely hoodwinked???

I refrained from raining on her parade by saying a better time to have mentioned this would have been two minutes ago before she started snipping.

7 inches of prime hair Рunbleached, uncolored, un-permed, undamaged by hair products or blow dryers of any kind and blond except for three hairs Рwas currently hitting the salon floor.  Wasted!

If I was going to make any donations, I would have to start from scratch.

“Well,” I said, “maybe next time.”

I then made good use of the rest of my time in the chair by asking her questions about beauty school. ¬†You never know, I might want to write a character someday who has talents and/or aspirations in that direction. ¬†So the ordeal wasn’t a total waste of time. ¬†I like to keep a weather eye for useful material.

The moral of the story? ¬†Don’t let a few gray hairs stop you from donating. ¬†In fact, I believe Locks of Love will accept your hair even if it is mostly gray, or even all gray. ¬†As for Rapunzel, she could help a lot of kids if she’d get out of that tower and share her hair!

And me?  Now that my head is lighter, maybe some great ideas will float out of it.  You never know!

A Ram In Writer’s Clothing

HINT for Beth’s Birthday Hunt Clue #2

A  B  C  D . . .
Z  Y  X  W . . .

If you still don’t get it, email me ūüôā

I have the exact wrong kind of personality for being a writer.

I hate waiting. ¬†I’m a total plow-ahead type. ¬†I’m impatient and overly fond of instant gratification. ¬†I’m liable to act first and think later more often than I care to admit. ¬†And I want results now! ¬†(Come to think of it, I sound a lot like a preschooler, which may explain why I write for that age group :))

I blame it on my zodiac sign. ¬†I’m a ram, after all, and they are¬†not¬†known for their tiptoe-along-the-sidelines approach to life, but rather for barging headlong at whatever is in their path!

Anyway, take all that burning impatience and match it up with a career that requires months and months (well, let’s be honest, often years!) of waiting – for the writing process itself, which takes time; for my agent to decide whether a new ms is good enough to submit; for editors to read and ponder and pass or accept; and if they do accept, for an artist to be chosen, and then draw/paint the book; and then for printing, shipping, and finally publication if I’m lucky – ¬†and you’ll see why I should really stay away from caffeine ūüôā

But I’ll tell you why I stick with being a writer, in spite of the frustration, the waiting, the lack of guarantees.

It’s because I love to write and can’t imagine doing anything else.

It’s because every now and again, a little idea I had becomes a new book, and that book makes its way to classrooms and homes where it hopefully brightens the day a little, whether by encouraging a child to believe in himself the way Phyllis does, or help a child know she’s not alone in her conflicted feeling about the arrival of a new sibling like Rose, or just learn about something new that they find interesting, like freight trains or airplanes or construction vehicles.

It’s because sometimes, when I visit kids in classrooms, one shy hand will go up and its owner will give voice to the dream he or she has of becoming a writer, and the fact that he or she has had the chance to meet a writer makes that dream feel more possible. ¬†And that writer is me.

So the next time I’m banging my head, ram-like, against the wall in frustration and proclaiming that I’m not cut out to be a writer but should go get a job at the local Stop-and-Shop, you may feel free to tell me sharply to knock it off and get back to work!

Because a writer is who I am.

Good Ol’ Pen and Paper

I would just like to say that I would NOT have made a good pioneer.


Really.


I’m way too fond of modern conveniences like coffee makers, central heating, and indoor plumbing. ¬†How did those poor people face the day without a nice hot shower? ¬†Lyndon B. Johnson, our former president who wasn’t even a pioneer, said, “Every man has the right to a Saturday night bath.” ¬†Really? ¬†Once a week?


Not only that, but as soon as cold weather hits I’m all about staying warm. ¬†I don’t know about you, but heading out into sub-zero temperatures to fetch water and slop the hogs wearing nothing but buffalo skins or whatever does not sound fun. ¬†No down jackets or GORE-TEX or thermacheck fleece for the pioneers!


So it may come as a surprise to you that I like to write my first drafts by hand.


That’s right. ¬†Good ol’ pen and paper.


There is something about physically writing down the words that helps the cogs turn. ¬†I like the feel of the pen in my hand moving across the paper as the words flow from my mind. ¬†Somehow, it helps. ¬†Once I’ve got a first draft, I type it into my high-tech very un-pioneer-like Mac book and revise from there. ¬†But the initial ideas always begin as ink on paper. ¬†Is that backward? ¬†Or just quaint?


Now don’t go thinking I’m turning all old-fashioned on you. ¬†I didn’t say parchment and quill. ¬†I’m not about to trade in the Dogmobile (for the uninitiated, that’s my 2002 Toyota Sienna) for a horse and buggy.


Although I do love horses.


And actually, what with the holidays approaching, a sleigh and some jingle bells might be kind of fun…


Maybe there’s a hint of pioneer in me after all! ¬†But I draw the line at slopping the hogs if I’m only going to get a bath on Saturday!


What about you? ¬†Do you like to write on a computer or by hand? ¬†What’s your favorite modern convenience – the reason you couldn’t be a pioneer? ¬†Please share your comments!

Mondays

Lest you be wondering why you did not hear from me Saturday or Sunday, let me hasten to assure you that I was NOT slacking off at the post! ¬†(I know, I’m such a punster!)


Since this is my blog, I get to call the shots (mwa-ha-ha, such power!) and I have decided that I will post on weekdays when there is serious work to be avoided, and not on weekends when I can legitimately be away from my desk without feeling guilty ūüôā ¬†Good plan, no? ¬†And I intend to stick with it until I change my mind, which may happen at any moment!


Now, on to today’s important topic: ¬†Mondays.


Poor Mondays.  They get such a bad rap.  Through no fault of their own, everyone hates them.


Except me. ¬†Being just a tad contrary by nature, I actually like Mondays! ¬†Mondays are like morning: ¬†full of possibility. ¬†Who knows what good things could happen this week? ¬†I could get a great idea and write the best story I’ve ever written! ¬†My agent could call and say the four little words that are music to my ears – I’ve got an offer! ¬†I could know all the answers to the Sporcle Minute Morsel!


I realize my fondness for Mondays springs from the fact that I am one of the fortunate few who love what they do. ¬†Which is not to say it’s easy. ¬†As A.A. Milne said,¬†Ideas may drift into other minds, but they do not drift my way. I have to go and fetch them. I know no work manual or mental to equal the appalling heart-breaking anguish of fetching an idea from nowhere.” ¬†Truer words were never spoken!


Except these by Elizabeth Berg: ¬†‚ÄúWhat you have to be is in love. With writing. Not with ideas about what to write; not with daydreams about what you‚Äôre going to do when you‚Äôre sucessful. You have to be in love with writing itself, with the solitary and satisfying act of sitting down and watching something you hold in your head and your heart quietly transform itself into words on a page.‚ÄĚ


I guess it’s about achieving balance. ¬†Writing is hard work. ¬†You have to love it to do it. ¬†But although it can be frustrating and difficult, it can also be so satisfying and rewarding that it can make every day, even Monday, worthwhile!


Share your views in the comments! ¬†What’s your favorite day of the week and why? ¬†What’s writing like for you – pleasure, pain, or somewhere in between? ¬†And, perhaps most importantly, how good are you at Sporcle?!