Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Our next-to last presidential campaign featured the winning slogan, CHANGE YOU CAN BELIEVE IN. I wasn’t sure then what it meant.  All I know is that while change is inevitable, I have a hard time with it.

Another cliché, change is the only thing you can count on, is the solace I give myself as I struggle with small changes to my routine.

The big ones seem to take care of themselves, maybe because others come to our aid as they recognize the challenges of loss, moving, and financial set-backs. Happy but monumental changes get celebrated with communal support, be they the birth of a child, marriage, or a new job. There is an expectation, from self and others, that these adjustments call for circling the wagons. There’s a self allowance for turbulence, and chocolate.

It’s the little changes that are the bane of my existential struggle.

Like when my favorite brand of cereal is no more. Who’s going to cry with me about that? Our next door neighbors, who haven’t lived in the house for years, finally sold it. New neighbors = change. So? Windows 8 isn’t behaving like windows 7; it’s supposed to be much better. So why, with every use, am I feeling worse?

Yup, it looks like summer is over. My least favorite season, but still, why did it have to change???


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Dog Days of Summer? More Like Mad Dogs

From the middle of June and to the end of August, I take a break from first-drafting new stories. What starts out as a joyous way to re-charge the creative batteries, begins to feel downright depressing by the end of summer. I feel hollow, empty and positively lethargic.

Enter The Mad Baker.
 Mornings begin with muffins. Banana muffins make a nice breakfast, don’t you think? And such a clever way to use rotting fruit, too. So do buckwheat, or oatmeal or whole grain with soy grits muffins. A healthy breakfast never hurt anyone. It may have saved the world from a few over-grouchy nit-pickers, and it certainly saves the Mad Baker from feeling another pointless day has begun.

Mid-mornings call for a re-charge, so a nice batch of scones will do. Scones are always nice and easy to make, and the Mad Baker scours the pantry for imaginative add-ons to the basic and boring plain scone recipe. Chopped dried apricots make a nice addition. So do raisins, currants or prunes. So what if it’s past breakfast time. Prunes are good anytime. So what if they are really old, from three years ago. Old prunes are good anytime. Scones done. Come and get it while they’re hot!

Post-lunch doldrums bring the real breads out. Homemade egg bread?  Rye with corn? Middle Eastern Pita? Who can resist right-out-of-the-oven bread? Family, it’s now or never.
And pre-dinner calls for cake. Because five o’clock tea needs cake. It demands it. And it better have chocolate in it, somewhere.
Pots and pans clean now, drying on the dish rack. The Mad Baker feels productive and vindicated. Family is satiated. The freezer is a bit fuller, too. She made double of everything, because you never know.

And it all begins again, furiously, the very next day. Those Mad August Baker days.
Family members, at first delighted, begin to protest. Good is one thing. But a freezer with no room and expanding waistlines are another.

Family can hardly wait for September, when The Mad Writer returns.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Been Done Before?...

What should a writer do when they find published books a bit too much like their WIP? (=work in progress)
And then on a kid-lit chat board they find others whose WIP sounds eerily similar?

A writer has three choices. Probably more, but this is what occurs to my still shocked pea-brain.

The first is to surmise that others have a portal into writer’s brain, and are borrowing (polite for stealing) freely from said brain.

The second is to conclude that one’s brain is too limited to call itself a writer’s brain, only capable of derivative thinking and subliminal channeling of others. Quit now, before you do more damage.

The third is to soldier on and tell the story only this writer can tell. Because similar in some ways is not = the same. Because all stories have been told, but not in all ways. Because, dagnabbit, only you can do what you do the way you do it.
I’d opt for reason #3 every time.

When I worked with antique textiles, collectors valued and paid a premium for examples that, while following the norm for their type, had something unique about them. The use of an uncommon dye or insertion of an unusual design element made the example fetch many times the price of the more typical.
{Which is the rare one? White ground Yomud Asmalyks are less common}

This is how to think of creating stories: they have many things in common. It is our job to think of the few twists and turns that haven’t been set to print before. Just enough not to betray the classics, but to open other entrances to their domains.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

On the Perils of Learning How to Use NT*…

…*NT= New Technology= new to me=my new cellphone.

DD & DS informed me that a text message is much preferred to that old fashioned thing, a voice phone call. If I wanted to get a prompt response from a progeny not in a state of annoyance, texting was key.

I learned to text. It was rough. It was tough. But I got it down, with all the annoyance on my end, not progenies’.

Problem was I learned on that now-ancient keyboard, the sort where letters are bunched in threes and fours, and too many back-erasing clicks will send the text to Draft, if I’m lucky. I learned and perfected my texting on an outmoded, passé, obsolete device. If I complained about their texting preference, the reply invariably referred me to getting a new full-keyboard phone. Really, Mom!

So I did. And pro-geniuses were right. The typing of texts is now a breeze.

But it isn't only a full keyboard. It’s also a touch-screen. Very slick, ey? But I’m not used to it. In the process of re-leaning, I have at times done the wrong thing with this over-eager screen. My mere whiff of a stroke executes a command before I even have a chance to think of what I would care to ask it to do.

That’s where I was yesterday, attempting a text to DD to come out of the house and help bring some groceries in from the car. {I was parked at the curb, rest assured. Driving and texting is a never, not-ever, won’t-do-it.}
 Instead of texting, it called, and her voice said, “What…” to which I hastily said, “I didn't mean to call you. Come out and help me.” Then I hung up.

She didn't.  I considered whether my faux-pas, calling instead of texting, was the reason. So I took the groceries in myself. I figured I’ll raise the issue with DD when I have sufficiently recovered my strength, and my frustration with her was reduced to a manageable level. Then, hours later, I asked her about it.

“Oh, I would have come, but you never called me,” she said. Uh-oh.

I checked my new and improved device, and lo, the phone call was made to a dear friend I have not spoken to in a few months. A big Oopsy, because all she heard was my statement that I did not mean to call, but was in dire straits. She was next on my Contact list, and that touch screen… you get it. My fingers are just too thick or dumb for it.