Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas in West Jerusalem

Our family has established our own Jewish tradition for Christmas, inspired by my childhood in west Jerusalem in the early sixties.

We are the outsiders, looking in.

We take a walk on Christmas Day, beginning in the late afternoon. As the sun goes down, the Christmas lights go up. Front lawns twinkling, colored lights on trees placed by windows, and an occasional neighbor who’d gone Santa-wild with bobbing reindeer on the roof and illuminated giant Mr. & Mrs. Claus waving mechanically. We come home, chilly but jolly, to hot chocolate and the calm harbor of our Jewish home.

No, I didn’t have any of these winter lights displays in my childhood. If fact, west Jerusalem streets, pre-1967, didn’t have a single overt sign of Christmas. The Jewish part of the city, then cut-off from its older parts, had neither church bells nor a whiff of a hint of any but the Jewish Holidays.

My mother was a member of the local YMCA. We treated it as a health club and a good place to park me, the daughter of a single working mother, for summer camps. Its Christian character was so subtle that you’d blink and miss it.

But one Christmas day, when I was seven, my mother decided we’d take the bus and go to the YMCA on King David Street to see the Christmas tree in their lobby. The YMCA had the only Christmas tree in town. She felt I should at least know much of the world was experiencing something that day.

There is nothing like the first time of something. My first glimpse of the towering green pine, a real tree in the corner of an indoor space, all adorned with twinkling colored lights, was the stuff imprinting memories are made of.

It was so beautifully exotic.

To this day, my viewing of others’ holiday decorations has the same intriguing and fabulous effect on me. It isn’t mine, it is of the other, and it is lovely.

I have no wish to bring it into our own living room. I like being an outsider looking in. I like that you wish to share it by putting the light so it is visible to us.

Merry Christmas, friends.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Shades of Gray

Because one blogger compared my book to it, and another writer thought The Voice of Thunder belonged on the bookshelf along side it, I am now reading BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY. No, not the world-wide best-selling but decidedly smutty other book.* This SHADES is a critically-lauded literary award-winning Young Adult book, by Ruta Sepetys. The only smut in this book is the outrageous behavior of our species when we are convinced we hold the right to abuse one another in the name of “truth.”

Yes, this book. And it deserved every glowing review it got.

*The one I’m not reading is “GrEy,” British spelling, whereas the good book I am  reading is “GrAy, American spelling. Who knew we’d have one over the Brits in taste and literariness?

This got me thinking about how I have always had a visceral recoiling from black-and-white thinking. I come from a region where everyone (that’s everyone) has an opinion about everything. My parent’s idea of social get-togethers consisted of friends coming over for tea and cookies after dinner, and arguing together. The evenings often ended in raised voices, declarations of mental inadequacy on the part of the other, and, finally, a walk to the door and an agreement to do this all over again next week.

And my parents and their friends were the open-minded ones. They discussed things. They didn’t throw stones or vow to kill. They only committed to arguing and trying to persuade. But they did feel, strongly, that they were “right.”

And so I came to this great melting-pot, the U.S.A.. Here the pervasive cultural ethos, sometimes referred to as WASP, was the polite avoidance of arguing. Underneath, many still feel they hold the absolute truth. But polite conversation avoids religion and even politics, the mainstays of both social connectedness and divisiveness where I came from.

It suits me fine. My interior meter tells me black-and-white is the illusion. I do believe there are higher truths that are not shades of gray. I also think it is the height of hubris to think we are privy to those from our perch. I’m a shades-of-gray lady.

For me- black & white is for wearing, not thinking.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Holiday Time is Not for Dieting

Dieters and health fanatics, beware. This is not a post for you.

An acquaintance passed on to me what she felt was a fantastic new recipe: Fat Free Potato Latkes.

If you know that Hanukkah is about celebrating the miracle of sacred oil, which was to last only a day but lasted for eight days and kept the temple’s sacred light glowing, you would not be cheering fat-free. I pointed to her that the holiday is not a celebration of the potato.

“But fat-free is so healthy,” she said.

What’s health got to do with it? This is where the health-nuts will leave me, I know.

Because The Miracle of the Oil (not the Miracle of the Potato, which could make an interesting holiday) is nourishment of the spirit, and fat-free, forgive me, isn’t.

Imagine Thanksgiving without stuffing. Then you’ll get the gist of this holiday robbing Grinch who’s roaming around to steal the meat of celebrations.

Celebrating is not fasting, and it isn’t dieting. That we can do during times of penance, and every great tradition has those.

Now, that doesn’t mean you should eat eighty-three latkes, full fat with sour cream on the side. (I might, though I’ve not committed to it yet.) But spare me your fat-free and let go of my Latkes, yearning to breath free.

Here’s the recipe I use, something I got from my mother who got it from hers. Enjoy!

Full-fat Latkes

4 cups grated, drained (squeeze hard and then squeeze some more) potatoes

I cup grated drained onion
3 eggs, beaten

½ cup matzo meal (I prefer to use breadcrumbs, but I’m not supposed to say it)
1 t. salt

½ t. pepper

Mix all the above. Shape with your hand about half cup of mixture at a time, and fry in LOTS* of good vegetable oil.

*Lots and lots = at least half an inch deep

My friend’s kids endorse them in South Korea. Go Latkes!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Great Business of Publishing

With all the angst, tribulations, anguish and trials writers go through on the road to publication, it’s no wonder we whine, cuss, and even throw rotten eggs at this amorphous thing called The Publishing Business.

And what better time to point the finger at the publishing establishment and wag it? Its failings, its consolidations, its being usurped by the self-published… Ha! Told you, Publishing! You weren’t doing your job! See?* (*Sometimes this really means you failed to accept my book or my best friend’s book, or properly promote the best book I ever read.)

Now that I am in the “published” section, I can attest that frustration doesn’t end there. It morphs. I’ve seen it years ago with published friends, complaining about aspects of publishing that I could only secretly dream of being able to complain about.

So I decided to do something different here. I missed being publically thankful on Thanksgiving, but there’s no expiration date on gratitude. I woke up determined to find three great things about the business of publishing.

It was easy. I could probably list ten. But lists get tedious after three. Here goes:

*Publishing is about books. The business makes books, not weapons, or doodads.

**Many, if not most, people in the business love books.

***Best of all, publishing produces some great books.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

What Does This Rejection MEAN?

A few days ago one of the kid-lit writers on my favorite chat-board asked if there was a code to decipher the ubiquitous rejections that state something along the lines of, “nice, has potential, not for us.”

Most writers answered by saying that it means nothing. Since the rejections that say nothing clear and specific about the story are essentially forms, the only thing they mean is that your offering is not accepted. That’s it. For people who are not accustomed to putting themselves in the line-of-fire that comes with competitive endeavors, (like writers, actors, musicians etc.) explaining the form rejection would be to say that it’s akin to getting the standard polite letter to a job application. You know, the sort stating that you were among the best applicants but alas they cannot offer you the job. It’s a step above not getting any response, but it tells you nothing. Not even, truthfully, that you were in fact among the best applicants. Maybe, maybe not.

The chat-board responders were right, of course. The letters may have been personalized with the writer’s name and the story’s name. The story may have been referred to as “cute,” “clever,” or “interesting.” But until it said something along the lines of “the story would be stronger if Mary is the one who figures out how not to have her little lamb follow her, instead of the teacher giving the answer,” until then it was not a reaction to her story. Without comments specific to the story, no decoding will make it so.

Repeat: forms mean NO, and nothing else.

Feeling stuffed full of holiday pie, and with many form rejections in my journey’s baggage, I sat to let out some of the steam with what I think these forms would say had they been one hundred percent blunt and said exactly what they mean. Here’s my version of the decoded message.

Dear think-you’re-a-writer,

I don’t rightly know if you are a good writer, nor do I know if your story has potential. I barely had the time to glance at the first two lines, and the only thing I know is that I don’t want to read further.

I can’t tell you what to do with your story, because I don’t care. As we won’t be publishing it, I don’t have the time to think about it.

If you saw my heaping pile of submissions, you would not feel special in getting this form. It’s just what mass submissions have brought overworked people like me to.

Nothing personal,

Ms. Pretty Drained

Lesson? None. Other than it’s time to move on, and think no more about it.

And if you get a truly personal response, one where the editor/agent has something illuminating to say about how Mary and her lamb may someday break their pattern so the teacher doesn’t have to come up with the answer, kiss that letter and send virtual air blessing to the editor/agent. They bothered, in the middle of wading through a huge pile, to craft a response. I’ve been fortunate to get some of those, and they were helpful. No decoding needed.

And please don’t cry, Mary.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Timely and Timeless

When I first began querying editors with what was then a story picture book called The Voice of Thunder, my query included the word timeless. For some reason I felt that I needed to emphasize that a story set in the past was still relevant.

After expanding the story into a longer story for readers in middle grades and up, I added the word timely to the query.

Some part of me knew that it was both. Now, only months after the novel’s release, war has broken out again. More than forty-five years (and a few wars in between) after the story’s setting, once again Israelis everywhere have cleared their basement shelters and readied them to serve for what they were intended when built.

In the intervening years many of the shelters became storage spaces, filled with bicycles and unused furniture. The two Gulf wars brought scud missile attacks, but for these Israelis were told to use sealed rooms in their homes and gas masks. The basement shelters remained filled with clutter.

In Gaza the war never ended. I don’t know if the building codes there are similar to Israel’s, where every residence must have a shelter. But the ongoing shelling and bombing from the air is a sad part of the reality, even as it is spaced by periods of a lull in violence.

My story is tragically as timely as ever.
©Shalom of Safed
I pray for peace, and by definition peace can only come when it is peace for all.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Can Opposites Both Be Right?

A person much smarter than I am said this: “The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. The opposite of a profound truth may be another profound truth.” His name was Niels Bohr, one of the twentieth century’s most important physicists.
Bohr was a physicist. This is not about G-d or unearthly matters. Neither is my post. It isn't even about the sanctity of scripture. it is about the variety of human perceptions. This, from my perch, is a crucial aspect of writing good fiction.

That’s the way I see the election cycle we just passed. I never seek profound truths in politics. Politics is the worldly art of deal-making. But parties couch their drives with underlying philosophies. The philosophy of small government and self-sufficient individuals, and the one of government that re-distributes some resources to the weakest in our society, both of them contain deep truths about how to be good human beings.

That’s also the way I feel about the conflict in the middle east, where The Voice of Thunder, my novel for middle grades, is set. There, too, is a story of two rights.

As writers (unless we write “How To…” books) we are searchers not so much for the pragmatic but for profound human truths that give our stories their value. Yes, it must be served up as entertainment. Sure, it should reflect a lot of what is and not just what it should be. Granted, it should not come across as preaching. (This I get to do here, wink.)  

But in the end if a story is to be good literature, it will contain profound truths. No, this^ isn’t one of my many typos. I wrote truthS, plural.

I don’t mind being labeled a relativist or even wishy-washy when it comes to this world, human theories, and human perceptions. My life’s experience has led me to perceive those who think otherwise as fanatics.

I even think we need fanatics at times, to stir a ship that has run too far off course. That is how fanatical I am about the reality of many human truths.

Trust that it isn’t a copout. It’s harder. Accepting that I wasn’t given a ticket to view the ultimate is humbling to grasp. It’s also more difficult to write about many truths.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


NaNoWriMo, that Klingon-ish sounding word, is setting the American writing world on fire. Haven’t heard? Think I’m kidding? Think I slipped on first-rains puddle and bumped my head?

Well, any of the above may be true. But NaNoWriMo is real also.

A few years ago someone thought to make November National Novel Writing Month. It wasn’t one of those acts of congress, like declaring August National Pickle Month. (You’d think they don’t have enough to do.) What started with fewer than a hundred participants has mushroomed. In the last ten plus Novembers it has caught on, and the nation is writing.


Now that the self-publishing outfits have become sponsors, the writerly engines are full on. (CreatSpace, Amazon’s service for self-publishing, is listed on the NaNoWriMo site as an official sponsor.) One blogger in-the-know said almost a quarter-million people have committed to it.

Committed to what?

Over the month of November they will write a fifty-thousand words (or more) novel, with a beginning middle and end. They will reach the end before November reaches its end.

Now that’s quite a commitment.
I have never accepted writing by the pound, or by the (word) count. I’ve found my own way to creative productivity. But if this is what throttles your engine, go for it. It’s only (gulp) 1,666 words per day, and if you don’t have a job, as many of us don’t, it can be 208 words per hour, eight hours a day, everyday of the week. That’s about one printed page an hour. But who’s counting?
Well, NaNoWriMo is, actually. That’s why I’m not doing it.
To all the brave souls who started, I wish you a great adventure. Maybe even a masterpiece.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Let It Be Enough

On one of the kid-lit writers’ chat boards, a multi-published author was lamenting her lot. Yes, she has a great agent, a strong major publisher, and commercial success. But she has yet to get a single literary award, and now she must come to terms with the notion that maybe she just isn’t that kind of writer. A No-Newberry Nelly. Never.

The discussions on this board are always thoughtful and, not surprisingly, articulate. Writers chimed in to say that they only dream of the sort of success she has. That they can’t get their foot in the door of a New York publisher, or any publisher. Some said that while they are published, their trajectory pales next to hers. Others went on about how much they and their kids adore her books.

But then the conversation made a wrong turn.

Writers poured in their angst at all things literary. They declared they would read her amusing and joyful books over any Newberry winner, any day. To my un-humble mind, this was sour grapes. The fox can’t reach them, so he declares the grapes not worth having. 
©Von Bandersnatch
As often happens on the board, someone brought sanity back in. A writer told of the first time she saw her own book in print, and knowing the insatiable appetite for more worldly success and recognition, she said to herself, “Let it be enough.”
Wherever you are today, I wish you just this. May it be enough.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Author, AUTHOR!

We’ve all heard we must not let others define us. But last Saturday I did, and it was one of those *moments.* Whatever you may say about shoulds and shouldn’ts, there they are.

I attended a regional SCBWI conference. This unwieldy acronym stands for Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. You’d think such a literary bunch would have come up with a less awkward name, longer than some picture books. Regardless,  it’s a good and supportive organization run entirely by volunteers, and it welcomes all from the never-published to veteran professionals.

I’ve attended this very conference before, three years ago. Back then, my father had just been admitted to the hospital in what I sensed would be the final time, and I hadn’t had any book accepted for publication. I felt my ever-present shyness more than anything else.

This time I returned as a PAL author. (PAL=Published And Listed, and “listed” refers to SCBWI’s own list of "legitimate" publishers. They are not as accepting of vanity and self-publishing.) Their conference had my book for sale, and I had a desk with my name on it for signing.

I feared no one will buy my small and un-jazzy looking book, stacked next to the very spectacular offerings from other authors. (Three of the authors are famous, at least in kid-lit, and others have very trendy looking books.) But it did sell, and I did sign some, and the separate session for published writers was useful to me. My father is in the next world.  All an all, now is not three years ago…

I returned home with what DD described as a strange glow.

 “I’m an author,” I said to my husband.

“I know,” he said. “That’s what it says on our tax returns.” He was looking at those on screen. I squinted and looked also.

“No, it says ‘writer,’” I said. “I’m an author.”

He and DD looked at me funny.

“I sign books!” I said. That was about all they could take.

They didn’t get it. But you might. The very act of signing a book I wrote, which a stranger had just purchased, was one of those moments.

Yes. I’m an author. And I’ve got the sign from the conference^ as a memento.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Some years ago, when thought of writing with the intention to publish was still a private one, I got the best advice. This bit of advice sustains me to this day.

It was a cozy morning of light rain falling outside, and tea and cookies inside. I was the mother of a kindergartner and a preschooler, and another mother from my son’s class asked me to her home for tea. I thought it was a getting acquainted sort of invitation. It turned out to be more than that.

The other mother showed me her work space, a corner oak table with a computer, and printed manuscript pages scatted about. She was writing a novel. She had asked me over not to talk about our sons or their school. She asked me to her home because she was hoping to pick my brain.

Really? With what I thought I had put out, I couldn’t imagine what pickings were there. But a comment I had made about a biblical character had sparked her fire, and now it was smoldering, just like the logs in her fireplace. I am so immersed in Old Testament stories it had not occurred to me that whatever I said reverberated. I didn’t even remember the comment. Now her fire was dying down and she had invited me to re-ignite it.
© Baba Buffalo
I no longer remember what her novel was about, only that the biblical character of Rachel bore some resemblance to her main character. But the whole setting sent me into a place I had neglected.
Except for my husband, on our very first real date, I never told anyone I intended to write for children. The chance of ever being published seemed remote, and it was better to keep such an endeavor private. But for some reason I told this mother, who I barely knew, about my secret hope and ambition.
“I have a few stories I would like to tell before I die,” I said.
She asked if I’ve been writing, and I said, “Not yet.”
“Maybe,” she said, “just maybe, if you don’t think of it as something to finish before you die, you might start and then even finish one.”
It was one of those sacred moments. Someone I barely knew had given me the key to unlock the door.
I have lost touch with this writer long ago. I heard she was agented and that her novel had sold. I looked for it periodically under her name, but never found it.
Wherever you are, KC, I owe you this chapter in my life.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. And inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”

Groucho Marx


Let me linger with my favorite friends for a wee bit longer. Books. And this time I mean, specifically, paper printed books.

It was suggested, in a comment to my last post, that the solution to the space guzzling of my book-addiction is the great innovation of E-books. So true. So efficient. And also so contrary to the idolater in my nature.

To me a book is more than content. A book is presence. You can hug it like you would a dear friend, and glace at it with gratitude months after you met, got to know each other, and became part of each other’s lives.

It’s the idolater in me that keeps insisting the book, that physical presence in the form of a rectangular flattish sort of box, is a being that reciprocates to me what I am to it. I have hugged a book I loved, and even kissed a volume that opened my eyes just as only a dear friend could.

How do you hug an E-book? Pray tell. Really.
There is something ephemeral about all of e-things. Maybe it brings us back to the illusion that is all existence, or all matters of this world. Maybe there *IS* only thought, and E-books are a far closer representation of it. That’s a nice and very spiritual way to look at it. But I’m not evolved enough for this Jorge Luis Borges sort of ruminations in my everyday life.
I need my physical books, the way others hold to religious artifacts. I need physical reminders for what is supra-physical. 
And back to that deep thinker, Groucho Marx. E-readers now come with their own light. You now can read even inside of a dog.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


I generally avoid temptation, unless I can’t resist it.

I should avoid bookstores when money is tight. I always tell myself I’ll just look, read a little, and only purchase if it is a must.

And must it almost always is.

I don’t have issues with chocolate, or intoxicants. I have an issue with books.

Now it occurs to me why, no matter what living space I’ve occupied, I was driven out by books. First they asked me to just move over, squeeze a little. I’d do it for books, because they are worth it, and each one asks for only a little. Then they took over.
©Painting by Shelagh Duffett
I may have to sleep on the lawn, but I most certainly wouldn’t think of leaving my books there. They might, you know, get wet.
Now that I think of it, my parents’ home was walled with books. When they divorced, my father left with, as he later put it, only his books.
Briefly we had some shelf space, and then we didn’t. My mother eventually replaced the space he left with more books.
And my father’s home with his second wife got lined with books.
With such a legacy, what chance did I have?
I read them, I write them. But most of all- I get them. Then I get more.
I really should avoid temptation, unless I can’t resist.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Asking for Forgiveness

On the eve of Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, we are to ask others for forgiveness for offenses committed in the past year. “If we cannot forgive others,” said the Hassidic Master Israel Ba’al Shem Tov, “how can we expect G-d to forgive us?”

But it occurred to me that the effort not to be offensive can lead to not saying much and not doing much. I have been guiltier of that than of doing the wrong thing. Not only this last year, but most of my life.

The down side of only saying nice things is that sooner or later no one can take what you say as having any weight. No writer wants to end their days having said the equivalent of noting.

So rather than asking for your forgiveness for what I may have said or done that caused offense, I ask for forgiveness for all I should have done, could have done, but didn’t.

The times I should have stepped in to help.

The times I should have spoken up, even if some people wouldn’t like it.

The times I could have stepped out of my comfort zone, but I hid in my safe space instead.

Please forgive me.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Quotations as Inspiration

I often use quotations when I sit down to write on this blog. It’s a propeller for me, and a kick-starter for the post I’m about to write. Then I realize they said it best, and leave the quotation in.

I’ve heard variations on the notion that quotations are inspiration for the uninspired. I bow my head and say with uncharacteristic humility- I need every help I can get. Doing anything in a disciplined way means that at times I’m working when uninspired.

Once I start, the well begins to yield- first a drop and then a bucketful. But it’s that ‘how to get started’ thing, combined with the commitment I made to self, that requires aides.

How do you do it? How do you start to clean a house that needs so much you don’t know where to start? By starting. How do you get that ‘starting’ going?

Hopefully you avoid the pharmaceutical solutions. My only vice there is caffeine. A good cup of tea is the start of everything. If the situation is dire, Mr. Coffee is called in.

My second helper is a sort of parental inner voice that says, “You may NOT do [whatever you feel like] until you get that done.” That voice is not as scary as it is convincing.

But sometimes I need more convincing than other times. That’s when quotations come in.

Life itself is a quotation.” ~Jorge Luis Borges

I’ll be pondering that one^ for a while.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Happy *Jewish* New Year

Wishing all of us who celebrate Rosh Hashanah*, the beginning of a Jewish New Year, a blessed and fruitful time of healing and fortification. I chose an Israeli card from the early 1960’s-

I like the image because it suggests you go and make your own canvas, while looking at what has been done before.

*And to anyone who wants to come along~~~

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Writer as Reader

“There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.”

Joseph Brodsky


The first advice given to would-be writers is to ‘read-read-read.’ Unless we’re James Joyce, we are not reinventing the wheel. There is more to learn from those who came before than any instruction book could offer.

But I discovered a curious thing about the relationship between reading fiction and writing it. At least for me, I must stop reading when I’m about to write a first draft. I need a few days to ‘clear the air’ and calm the other writers’ voices, so mine can emerge.

The practical ramification is that I must alternate between reading and writing. This is easy to do when writing picture story books. It takes a stronger discipline when it comes to tackling longer stories.

My to-be-read pile grows ominously tall in those times. You wouldn’t want to brush against it accidentally, or you may get buried as the precarious stack collapses. My guilt at ‘not reading’ would grow also, but I know what I have to do, in order to do what I do.

Yes, it’s one of these times. I just cleared my pile, or almost. For the next few weeks it’ll have to start growing again.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The School of Experience

“Experience is a good school, but the fees are high.”

                                                                                                Henrich Heine

When I started writing with the thought of publication, more than seven years ago, I read something the late (and great) Sid Fleischman said- that his first three years were ‘tuition.’ At the time that seemed such a long time to be writing and making un-publishable stories, and I resolved to have every story count. Whether someone else finds them publishable or even makes an offer to publish, they would nonetheless become part of my writing resume, if only in my own eyes.

Some years later, and with two books strangers can actually purchase, I look back at my early efforts. Not without merit, but also no longer publishable even to my mind.

So I thought about Fleischman’s ‘first three years’ saying, and wondered how long it took me before I wrote well or, ahm, better.

It was about three years.

Oh, and did I mention that Fleischman was also a professional magician? It was both hubris and naiveté to think I can get anywhere faster than Sid Fleischman. But it was also necessary for me to feel that I wasn’t at a rehearsal, that this was the real thing, and every writing moment counted. That’s the way I work.

Maybe there’s a reason university degrees take as long as they do. The school of life can take a lot longer.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

To Say or *NOT* to Say

“The trouble of talking too fast is you may say something you haven’t thought of yet.”

                                                                                                            Ann Landers

 She^ said it, and I doubt she regretted it.

The other day it occurred to me that in this new age, such ‘talking’ is often a comment left on a chat board, or to a blog post.

Oh, sure- you can delete your own blog posts, and you can edit or delete reviews on your own site. It’s true that once ‘out there,’ the Internet Wayback Machines can find deleted material. But who would bother?

It’s a different story when it comes to certain blogging services and the comments you leave on them. If you delete these, a record is left of who you are, and that you deleted whatever it was. I always find these ‘deleted by’ creepy, even though they were probably just correcting a typo. These deletes scream- SO~AND~SO SAID SOMETHING THEY NOW REGRET AND WANT HIDDEN. Talk about wanting less attention…

I’ve stopped posting anyplace that will not allow me to un-post or correct my typos in a seamless way. As I won’t post anonymously, I don’t need that inevitable ‘from’ turned to ‘form’ haunting me forever. (From/Form is my number one typo, present in every letter I ever typed. You’d think I have some subliminal unfulfilled bureaucratic ambitions.)

And this doesn’t even begin to touch on unintended offensive remarks. (The intended kind deserves a separate post.)

Because I like chiming in on others’ good blog posts, and love when others come to mine, I will try not to talk too fast. Like Winnie the Pooh, got to think. Think. Think.

Not a simple thing in this fast paced E-realm.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Getting Off the Duff

The end of summer also means the beginning of my writing year.

Oh, I write during the summer. I write Emails and blog posts. I write letters and grocery-shopping lists. I even revise my fiction and write critiques for writing friends. But I don’t write first drafts of new fiction stories.

I developed this pattern when my kids were little. As they had no babysitter, summer was at Camp Mama. It’s the nature of the Mama Job to be interrupted all the time with every sort of urgent task, and the focus that is required for new real writing wasn’t possible. Although I swear my kids still seem to think I’m eminently interruptible, I could probably manage to leave them alone and go off to some dungeon now. But the pattern of summers off was set, and I found it was good for me.

When the second part of August shows up, I begin to feel the twitches. Like running one’s hands over the car door, jiggling the keys, but not inserting the key or pushing the start button. Not quit yet.

And with that comes the Doubt Elf. Can you do it? Will the engine start? Doubt Elf brings with him the Excuses Guy. Excuses Guy says thing like, “Don’t start quite yet, you still have weeding/straightening/whatever to do,” and “Shouldn’t you be promoting your just published book?”

Excuses will end when you stop making them

Mirka M. G. Breen, August 2012

She’s right^. I remind myself of another thing-This is *for me.* I’m happiest writing the first draft.

On your mark, get set---
©Tony Carrillo

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to The Voice of Thunder

What is an author feeling when the real-honest-to-goodness paper Author Copies arrive?

First this^

Then this-

And finally that-

(^Thanks to DD for documenting, and rightly putting Author on cloud-nine with a bit of photo-finish^…)

And only days later, a note from the publisher said the release date was moved up to August 14. Wait a minute, that’s-

***Happy Birthday to you, THE VOICE OF THUNDER***

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Road Taken

Sometimes the road not taken was a life lesson, because the road you wound up on was a vast improvement.

Take for example the flight back home DD and I were supposed to be on- last flight out of Cleveland, fully booked to the last seat. A gate full of tired passengers waited when delay after delay turned into a flight cancelation, with the announcement that the airline had only enough hotel vouchers for half the passengers and will book us on the next available flight the next day, or whenever.

As we rushed to the customer service line, I told DD to prepare to spend the night on an airport bench. Instead, we were given vouchers for a nonstop flight not too early the next morning, vouchers for meals, and vouchers for a hotel nearby, all at the airline’s expense. Mind you, ours were the most economy-fare tickets, so we had no reason to count on first class treatment, which even first-class fare-payers can’t anymore. The hotel shuttle took the scenic route because the stand-up comedian driver said he wanted to do something special for his carload of ‘distressed passengers.’ I thought I had landed in the middle of this Thomas Kinkade Painting.

And then we found ourselves in the luxury suite, with a whirlpool bath in our room.

This made me think of another circuitous route that ended well- an offer from a publisher I had turned down a couple of years ago. The enthusiastic offer to publish my middle grade novel came with a condition for certain changes. This was just before I had an acceptance for my first picture book, and I was over the moon. After all, they only wanted me to cut one character, change the behavior of another, and change some minor details. None of the suggested changed seemed right to me, but, hey, I’m a novice and they are, well, experienced publishers who know what they are doing. Everyone says that you should ‘sit’ on such suggestions and maybe even sleep on it. Right?

But they wanted to change the ending too. That last one, no matter how much I tried to talk myself into, was a deal breaker. Oh, I did sleep on it. I also ran it by my beta reader who’s been with the story almost from the beginning, and he said, even more vehemently, they were wrong-Wrong-WRONG.

This same novel for middle grades found acceptance at the able hands of another publishing team, where the many editing rounds (three major, two minor) never stirred the story the wrong way. THE VOICE OF THUNDER is less than a month from its official release, and I could not be happier about the road I didn’t take and the one I did.

This brings me back to our relaxing extra night in Cleveland, and the following day’s flight. This time the plane was not full; we had empty seats between us. We arrived home in the middle of a beautiful sunny day, not in the dead of night.

One case where I had a choice and one where I didn’t. But both felt like emerging from darkness to light.

The road taken, once again, was the best road.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Breaks & Vacations

Well, it’s almost August, and I’m back.

I can still hear an elderly neighbor I had many years ago saying, “I need a vacation from my vacation.” She often went on cruises, and returned very tired. Seems she had way too much fun, and she needed the quiet of laundry, house cleaning and meal preparation, to recover.

That is about where I find myself. Fun and exhilarating moments can take a lot out of a person.

DD had the best time of her life (her words) at the international piano competition and managed to get through two of the four elimination rounds. They started with thirty semi-finalists, and she made it to the top ten. It was farther than she thought she'd get in this caliber of international competition, with the best of her generation of young pianists. Even better, while half were eliminated after the first round and never got to play their full concerto, (quite a feat) she got to the third round (the concerto round) and did very well. She made a good impression, and made some good friends.

I think it was good for me also. Most of all- while I suspected it, I didn't realize how important it is for me to stay off the Internet now and then. Ten days may be a lot, but it took about three days to adjust and get through Internet-withdrawal, so I may make it a yearly 'week off' from now on. At least for me it's the right thing to do.

I’m happy to be back, and after the three hundred and eighty seven Email messages get filed in their proper places, the real recovery will begin. That- and the task of getting household items into their places. The guys kept house, and with only ten days under their management, it is unrecognizable. They have an intriguing system of what belongs where. For example- Cheese crackers surely have a practical reason to be stored inside a hat. You get that, right? I’m a little slow, so don’t hesitate to solve that mystery for me.

Glad to be in blogosphere also and eventually I hope to get caught up with who’s been thinking about what.

But just for a few more moments, I need a vacation from my E-break vacation.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Artistic Competitions

While the guys hold fort at home, DD and I will be going to an international piano competition. She- as a semi-finalist, and I- as her devoted chaperone.

DD adores competitions. We never signed her to any, as both DH and I are ambivalent about artistic competitions. She has signed herself, has won many, and insists she loves them. We have allowed it, but my ambivalence has not abated. I had to recognize that my way is not hers, and allow her to don her own wings.

I know that every time I submit a manuscript I have entered a competition of sorts. But to me competitions are like sausage- I don’t want to see how they are made. I don’t want to see who I’m up against, and be there when results are announced. Give me the privacy of a rejection letter opened alone, and I can deal with it.

In addition, the nature of artistic races is peculiar. I’ll take an honest running race with a stop-watch, a whistle, and a clear finish line. The Olympics, anyone?

DD, on the other hand, finds the gathering of the talented to be inspiring, and has formed friendships with kindred spirits. She loves listening to the music-making of others, and it helps that she often wins or places in these. She is much better suited for this world- bless her.

And this makes me very happy.

{While we’re there, this blog will go on a mini-vacation, as its driver will be in the service of that other venture. Great opportunity to re-charge the blogging batteries, and take a break from all things computer. I’ll be back early August.}

Monday, July 9, 2012

Blog Awards

~It’s summer, time for fun and *games*~

And I got tagged for two blog awards. Summer says I’m playing. But just like  Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks,  I’m going to do this run differently.

The {Booker} (not to be confused with the UK's The Booker) is for blogs that are at least 50% about books and the writing of books. This one comes with the request that I name five favorite books. If I name (only five?) wonderful books by writers I know or have ‘met’ in blogosphere, some very good writers will be left out. So I’m going to do this-

1.      The Teacher’s Funeral by Richard Peck

2.      Here Lies the Librarian By  Richard Peck

3.      The River Between Us By Richard Peck

4.      A Long Way from Chicago By Richard Peck

5.      A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck

{Detect a running thread here? I don’t know Richard Peck, and he surely doesn’t know me. No payment changed hands.}


The second blog award is called-

I noticed the ribbon is purply-pink. I’ll have to work harder for a blue ribbon.

For this one, I get to name five things I like and five I don’t.

First, the good news-

1.      Good books.

2.      Good movies.

3.      The Bay Area in summer.

4.      Jerusalem in winter.

5.      Strawberry-Rhubarb pie.

Now the bad news-

1.      Formulaic genre fiction = bad books.

2.      Blockbuster sequels = bad movies.

3.      The Bay Area in fall. (We don’t have real fall here)

4.      Jerusalem in summer.

5.      Soft-boiled eggs when the white isn’t quite cooked and still transparently jiggly and the waiter says it’s just right.

All right, I cheated a little with symmetry. But I did have a tiny twist there at the end.

Now I get to pass both awards to five worthy bloggers:

Have fun and don’t forget to kick some sand.