Friday, April 22, 2011

Mama Bwoke a Twee Down...

Tuesday morning Coen followed me into my bedroom and noticed a toy train he'd left on our bedside table.  He walked over happily, picked it up and began to scream. For a moment I thought he'd gotten an electric shock from our alarm clock, but when I swooped him up he was grabbing at his neck and when I pulled his little fingers away a squashed wasp fell to the floor.  His pinky and his neck began to swell. And he cried. It was awful.  I held him and snuggled him and he called daddy on my phone.

He said: "Daddy, make you feel better?"  It was heartbreaking.

Things improved when he went down for a nap.  It was his first in days and an extra long one--probably due to all the wasp venom.  He woke up refreshed and the swelling from his stings had subsided.  We all happily went outside to play.

While they played in puddles I walked over to check out a tree.  It had red leaves and pink blossoms and was lovely save for a gnarled, dead branch that looked barely attached.  Yet when I yanked it, to my utter surprise, the whole tree came crashing down.

Someone screamed and I spun around.  Coen, my little shadow, was under the tree.  My heart stopped.

Miraculously he was unscathed save for a few, faint scratches on the side of his face. He stood right in the middle of the canopy but, somehow, the heavier branches had missed him completely.

Pat arrived home from work minutes after it happened while I was still snuggling and consoling the little munchkin.  The tree was lying across the driveway, straddling a plastic flowerpot that marked where Coen had been.  With the little guy crying on my lap it did not take much for Pat to decipher what had happened.  But Coen quickly cleared it up for him anyway:

"Mama bwoke a twee down and it scwatch you!" He sniffled.  "Daddy make you feel better?"

 Yep that's a robin's nest. As though I didn't feel guilty enough! :(

Sunday, March 13, 2011

We're workin' as a team--yeah, yeah!

Mama and son-bonfire time! 


Thursday, March 3, 2011

I'm in Deep....Litter

Yesterday I spent about three hours cleaning out the chicken coop.  We used the "deep litter" method this winter which means that we'd regularly add dry layers of bedding on top while the bedding beneath started to compost and so release heat into the coop.   It worked great.  But I ended up hauling out a pile of used-bedding two straw bales wide, one bale deep and taller than me!

I've known for a while that everyone at our house was full-of-it, and now it's been proven beyond a doubt that our chickens are too.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Eking is good

I've started a new blog for writing-related thingy-ma-bobs.  It's at  I am going to try to get this one back up on its feet as well.  I've been reading over the archives and laughing at the memories.  I know I'll be happy I made time for it someday.  Time to eke out time.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Conference Reviews for Writers

These are my experiences with the writer/book conferences I've attended. Perhaps they'll be helpful to other writers.

SCBWI National Summer Conference (LA): Such fun. An amazing event with a lot happening. Great place to meet other writers and learn about the business. You can possibly meet face-to-face with agents/editors if you arrange for a paid critique, but sometimes you end up in the overflow with an author--which is helpful, but not likely to get your manuscript requested. Or you could hit the jackpot at an open-mic, but I didn't see many professionals attending the one I participated in.

If you attend the workshops you will often get a free pass to submit directly to the speaker afterwards, and I've heard stories of that working out to a writer's advantage. But, it would be really hard to approach/mingle with an agent or editor outside of scheduled events--even if you have the cajones--because they don't usually stick around. They tend to leave together and have special events for them alone that the average schmo can't attend. If they *are* around, they are usually surrounded by a small crowd.

I met some wonderful and welcoming authors there, though. I chatted for a long time with Sid Fleischman (obviously this was several years ago) which will always be a warm memory for me. I asked him to sign a book for my husband and he wrote: "I love your wife!" :D All this to say, I *Highly Recommend* the conference and would go every year if I could. It was the most fun of all of them, really, but I still felt it would be a tough place to make that personal contact with a professional that we all want.

ALA: This was great for the free books and bling, but, also, the people manning the booths? Editors! The people walking around talking to them? Agents! And librarians and authors and other outrageously cool people.

It's much less structured than an SCBWI conference and eager writers are fewer and farther between. So, if you're willing to put yourself out there and be friendly and sociable with perfect strangers--and NOT be obnoxious about the fact that you're a writer but wait for somebody to ASK you, then you WILL make those important contacts. Seriously. You have to be brave, though. Gush about the books you love. Ask questions. Let them know that you know how things work and you're not an idiot who is just trying to sell them something.

I had several editors request my book including my editor now--though he didn't remember it. This happened 5 years before he bought it (It took me 9 years to write my book--all 40,000 words--eesh!). It wasn't until he requested it again that I told him he'd requested it before at ALA. :) I figured that previous request had long ago expired so I wasn't going to bring it up--it was too pathetic. But it made it especially great to get a brand spanking new one. :)

Local SCBWI conferences: These are awesome. Small, cozy, fabulous, inexpensive. I would also highly recommend getting involved with your local chapter of SCBWI. Volunteer! For me, after several years of volunteering and trying to help breathe life into our local chapter, I started a new listserv and began moderating it. Our subsequent, amazing RAs asked me to continue doing so and then, eventually, I ended up being asked to join the INSCBWI Steering Committee. So now I get to help with events, go to most of the local conferences for free and even join the special guests for dinner, etc. It does mean I might miss some of the "show" because I'm off being helpful, but the paybacks are enormous. It took several years to start reaping the rewards, though, so do it just for "the love" if you do it at all.

I really think you get the most bang for your buck with local (and regional) SCBWI conferences--and I'm not just saying that because I sold my book as the direct result of one. Don't think just because they're small they're not effective.

Last but not least,

Big Sur Children's Writing Workshop: Beautiful location. Great agents--though limited to one agency. (Amendment: I've been informed by one-who-would-know that sometimes agents from other agencies attend as well. Cool beans!) Time to write and hike and think. Personal/professional feedback. Marvelous writers to befriend. And, the best part, for me, was that I got a request for my book and years later that agent still remembered it and asked a friend I attended with, who is repped by an agent with Andrea Brown, if I'd ever finished it because she'd still love to see it. When he told me that it made my day/week/month.

The bottom line is, attend any professional conferences you can manage to attend. Make friends, cherish the hard-won pats on the back and return them in kind. It's the connections that make this business tick and you never know where they might lead you.

There are plenty of other fabulous conferences out there and others will have experiences that support or contradict my own. I'd love to hear them.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Living a charmed life

I don't know how I got so lucky. I have two gorgeous children, the nicest, most hilarious husband in the world, a beautiful house (that could stand to be cleaner), healthy animals, a greenhouse full of greens. And now a book deal. Something many, many excellent writers face years of rejection to accomplish. What did I do to deserve all of this? With so many people in the world struggling, it makes me a little squirmy to have so much good fortune, and some part of me wonders when the other shoe will drop.

So I try to justify it: I've worked hard on my book for many years. I go out of my way to be generous and kind to people--even those I've never met. I try not to take the things I have for granted, though I sometimes don't appreciate my life as much as I should. But no matter how I justify my good luck, I feel like I'm just asking to be walloped by the Universe one of these days.

So I'm going to enjoy it while it lasts, and keep trying to do my part to make everyone else's life as charmed as mine.

Now, some recent funnies. :D

Funny words:

Fintan: Macnin (napkin)

Coen: Apkin (napkin)

Fintan: Venomen (venom)


Coen: (says this a lot at 5 a.m.) "Downsteers? No get back in bed! Downsteers? No rocking! Downsteers? No bites! (pacifiers) Downsteers? Yay! (He claps and smiles and gives a big hug to whomever he's suckered). Eat cupcakes?"


Fintan (yelling from the bathroom): "Mommy, are you still in there?"

Me: "Nope, I escaped!"

Fintan: "Well, after you wipe my bottom I'm getting my rope and taking you right back to jail."


Pat (to Fintan last night at bedtime): "Tomorrow afternoon you get to go with me to see where I work and then we'll meet Papa and Nini and go to a basketball game! And we're going to eat dinner at Steak n' Shake. Do you know what they have there? Teeny tiny french fries!

Fintan: "and shrimp?!"


Pat: "There's something sticky on the floor over here."

Me: "I have no idea what it could be."

Pat: "I'm guessing candied drool."


I love my boys. :)

Monday, August 16, 2010

When I grow up...

Do I want to be a farmer? Apparently. I have 26 chickens, 19 guineas, 3 turkeys, 2 ducks, 2 dogs, 1 giant rabbit, and 1 cat who lives on the neighbor's front porch. I also have 1 large, unhappy garden with a few large, happy watermelons and two dozen tomato plants that boast tomatoes only above the level to which a chicken can jump--and a chicken can jump surprisingly high as it turns out.

Do I want to be a writer? Certainly. Will I ever manage to finish my novel? Yes. In approximately 5-6 more years at the current rate.

Do I want to be a mom? Wait, do I have a choice? Oh, right, made that choice. And who wouldn't want to be a mom to these two little nuggets of nuggety goodness:

Do I want to be a housekeeper? Not even sort of.

A blogger? Of course. Can't you tell?
I just need a few more hours in the day and I can be all of it. If I ever actually grow up, that is.