Salamanders and Podcasts :: Some Favorite Things

Here are a few of my favorite things from this week.

Raised by TV. A very funny podcast where Lauren Lapkus and Jon Gabrus talk about television they watched as kids. It’s like being in a conversation with my favorite friends, which is fantastic, though it’s hard when you’re trying to surreptitiously listen to a podcast at work, and Lauren Lapkus saying “One time the computer turned on by itself at school and I thought it was a leprechaun” makes you choke-laugh.

Axolotls. I already knew about this animal, but I processed a children’s book on these little Mexican salamander things this week and I was reminded how adorable they are.

Image result for axolotls

My writing group. I was just mentioning offhand a problem I was having with a story, and they managed to convince me to keep trying, and got me excited to start working on it again. Proof that it’s always, always good to get a group of writers in your corner.

Too Late to Wait

I was right on time for my recent doctor’s appointment. I blew into the office at 1:30 exactly, and had only just scrawled my last answer on my paperwork when the nurse called my name. I didn’t have to wait one minute.

I was so disappointed.

I like to wait. Sitting at the doctor’s office, camping out in the airport. I even look forward to my time sitting in the dirty, dirty waiting room at the car mechanic’s. When I’m in those places, there’s no where for me to go. No chores or tasks or background noises to distract me. I’m trapped, and so I can focus, reading or writing or whatever it is I want to do, with no guilt or sense that maybe there’s something more important I could be doing, right up until a stranger calls my name.

Books with Baby

Here are some books my daughter has enjoyed having me read to her — and that I’ve enjoyed reading right back.

Duck and Goose Colors by Tad Hill. A cute book with the Duck and Goose characters, comparing things that are the same color. “The tip of Goose’s beak is black, like ants.” I think she likes the shortness, and the bright colors.

Babies on the Farm. A lift-the-flap book where a couple of goat kids go around meeting the other baby animals. It’s a thick board book with thick board book flaps, so she can’t easily destroy this book, and the art is very cute.

Hello, Cape Cod! by Martha Zschock. A pair of seagulls show you all the things you can do on Cape Cod. The rhyming is fun and easy to read in an upbeat voice. I also love when the seagulls are obviously in Provincetown, and you see a book store, a candy shop, and an LGBT flag.

Llama Llama Trick or Treat by Anna Dewdney. She loves baby Llama and has no sense of when holidays take place, so this book is perfect.

God Bless You, and Good Night. This was a gift for my daughter from my mother-in-law after her baptism. Sweet-looking fuzzy animals going to bed. I love how the text reinforces how much the parent loves the baby.

I Love You Through and Through by Bernadette Rossetti Shustak. Speaking of reinforcing how much I love my baby, the text declares love for all parts of the baby, both fun and difficult. “I love your happy side, your sad side, your silly side, your mad side.” Plus Church’s illustrations are very sweet, and my daughter has actually leaned forward to kiss the baby on the face while I’ve been reading. (And yes, I almost died because my insides melted from the raging fire of adorable.)

Those are some of my daughter’s favorites, this week at least. What do you read to your kids over, and over, and over again?

 

Writing from the Hard Parts (Who my Characters Are)

On a recent episode of The Yarn podcast, Victoria Jamieson (author/illustrator of the middle grade graphic novels Roller Girl and All’s Faire in Middle School) spoke about how hard being that middle school age was for her, and how that informed the way she wrote her books.

I hadn’t planned on writing a middle grade book, it’s kind of naturally what the books have fallen into… When I write my books I try to write about some of the hard parts of being that age because as a kid I liked to know that other kids are going through what I go through.

Jamieson writes about middle schoolers because that age was so hard.

The Yarn Podcast interview with Victoria Jamieson

Ten years ago I would’ve picked the same spot for myself. And I did pick it, with all the longer stories I wrote focusing on 11 year old girls. But, that was right at the beginning of my 20s, my actual hardest age, as I was about to discover. I didn’t know who I was, or what I was going to do with myself. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do with myself.

In my late 20s, and now early 30s, I finally feel more settled with who I am, what I need, what I want. Also finally, after a lifetime and two degrees, I’m getting the hang of writing. So is it any wonder the novel I’m currently querying stars an awkward 20-something? Is it a surprise that the story I’m anxious to brainstorm now is about a woman fresh from adolescence who doesn’t understand what she needs and wants? (I’m also sure there’s a metaphor in their enemies being ghosts and demons, respectively.)

This isn’t to say I won’t attempt middle grade stories still (I have one written and waiting for a readthrough and other ideas stewing) but now that I finally feel settled, I keep pulling from a time of frustration and confusion to write.

Does your writing center around a hard time in your life? Do you pull your characters from somewhere else?

Love It Enough to Steal It

After story time a little girl ran up to a table of painted rocks, clearly marked “Don’t Touch!”, and proceeded to touch every one of them.

“Stop it!” the mother said, and the girl dropped her hands to her side. She continued to stare at the rocks, bright green and blue, paint swirled and spotted .

“I want to put one in my pocket.”

Her words were so quiet and clear, the confident voice of someone who knew exactly what she wanted out of life: to take one of those smooth, bright, carefully colored rocks, and keep it in her pocket just for her.

She didn’t get to, obviously. The mother towed her away before she could filch anything, which is probably for the best. But I hope she was able to find something else to stow away, something pretty and perfect and all for herself.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a6/St._Martins_Ocean_Floor_Rocks_%2825368017705%29.jpg

Writing Problems :: Letting Go and Moving On

I have a hard time letting things go.

I get attached to things where I made a start. My worn out Monchhichi I’ve had since a baby still sits on my shelf. Moving out of the condo my husband and I lived it depressed me, even though we’d outgrown it (before miss baby even came along).

Stories are hard to let go of, too.

Read More »

Busy with a Baby :: Writing Page by Page

Surprising news: it’s hard to write with a baby.

She has her bad days, where she cries and whines, and needs to be held and rocked and read to. Even on the good days she holds tight to your arm while PBS (or, let’s be honest, something on Netflix) plays on the TV, she finds today’s favorite book and wants you to read it again (and again and again) or grabs your hands because it’s time to practice walking again.

I’m not complaining (ok, maybe a little bit); I love to hold her and play with her and listen to her laugh. Still, all of this interaction leaves little time for writing during the day. I cram a few paragraphs in while she naps, and try to get some writing done when she’s down for the night, between spending time with my husband and getting some actual rest. While this helps me relax (going to long without writing makes me feel itchy) it always feels like too little. A page or two, a few days a week — how much am I really writing.

A decent amount, it looks like.

Proof of the writing I've done, page by page, word by word

I usually write by hand, a benefit of which is when I feel stalled up in the story, I can take a break from writing and type up the chapters, getting myself back into the story. I’ve hit my second snarl of this write-through, so I began flipping back through my notebook to find where I’d last started up my writing.

And flipping back and flipping back…

I can see by the way I’ve gone through my outline some of the progress I’ve been making as I sit at the desk, hunched over my notebook in the glow of the baby monitor. But seeing this chunk of pages is an actual measurement of what I’ve done, of how far I’ve gotten as I move forward inch by inch.

 


Bonus content: I’ve always had problems fitting in my writing, the baby is just the most recent excuse.

Babies have preferences — who knew?

Before my daughter was even born, I wondered: what kind of things would she like? What would be her favorite shows, the books she read again and again? I figured I had a while before these preferences set in.

Related imageThen around 10 months, I read Llama Llama Red Pajama, repeating the story every time she flailed her arms and grunted, “Unh!” (It was many times, over many nights.) One afternoon she hit the PBS Kids app on my phone and accidentally started an episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, thus beginning an ongoing love of imaginary tigers singing infuriatingly catchy songs. And she has not yet had her fill of this bunny video…

Her personality set in so much faster than I realized it would. Every day she becomes more distinct, more herself, and watching this happen is so exciting.

 

I’ve Been That Kid (When You Can’t Stop Reading, Ever)

As I helped set up the kid’s movie at the library recently, a boy filed in with his family, his nose in a graphic novel. Moms chatted, kids flopped on cushions, and this kid kept reading his book.

Ninety minutes later the movie ended, and we turned on the lights. When I noticed the kid again, he was standing among the other kids, book open, looking down. It was seamless, as if he’d never closed the book since I turned out the lights and hit play on the movie. And maybe he didn’t– maybe he read straight through, more interested in what he could read then what he could watch. Or maybe once one form of entertainment ended, he slipped back into the other one at hand before I could even see the transition.

I was the girl who read Animorphs on my lap between lessons, who couldn’t leave the house without a book in my bag, who couldn’t handle a trip to Maine until her mother took her to a bookstore to restock. So kid, I relate.

Graphic Novel Shelf.jpg

Gone Too Long from Blogging

Well, that was a long hiatus.

I got pregnant, which isn’t much of an excuse because the baby wasn’t here yet, but that’s what happened. I let myself get distracted by new clothes, rearranged rooms, doctor appointments, the complicated, borderline torturous task of finding child care. There were family illnesses, family deaths. The holes were filled with writing, editing, critiquing, all with a constant film of worry over what kind of country I was bringing a kiddo into.

Then, the baby came. She became everything. A whole pink cooing farting world. Caring for her, and sleeping, were my only concerns.

And then they weren’t.

She didn’t become easier (I think she’s harder now) but we’ve grown used to each other. I started reading more, and I wrote my novels.

My blog was still untouched.

Now a year has gone by since everything changed — for the better, though sleeping past 8 is still a fervent dream. Even longer since I hit “post”on something more elaborate than an Instagram picture.

But as everything else eventually settled back into its place, maybe this is coming back to me, too.

Baby Toys.jpg
The varying things a toddler loves.