Hi, Moon

Last weekend my husband and I took the kiddo and the doggo for a walk. Part way through the walk, our daughter started looking up, and saying “Hi.”

“Is she saying ‘hi’ to the moon?” my husband asked, looking at the faint white portion of moon visible in the blue sky. A few minutes later, she waved again, again saying hi, and there was nothing she could have been looking at but the day moon. She wasn’t acknowledging birds or squirrels or cats, instead her focus was stolen by that barely visible shape.

This past week I started reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar with her at night. As we’ve been over, she loves Brown Bear, Brown Bear, so I figured she’d like the illustrations of the caterpillar. But we didn’t even get to him before she was drawn in. On the first page, while the caterpillar still lies in his egg at night, the moon with a faint face smiles at us.

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She doesn’t babble, or say “Hi!” She’s wordless as reaches out and touches the subtle features even she sees as a face, her attention captured by the simple detail.

Building Writing Up and Up

I wrote for 40 minutes straight today.

It’s a small thing. A pathetic thing, even. Writer friends of mine write for hours every day. For me, since my daughter’s been born, it’s hard to squeeze my writing time out of the day. And when I do squeeze out that time, it’s easy to think of other things I want to do: clean the house, eat lunch, watch the first third of a movie. I want to write, I want to write more, but it’s hard to build up the energy.

Except now it’s been getting easier. I’ve been marking off my writing time, and it helps. I can’t stand a blank spot in my list of dates, so even on long busy days where I couldn’t get to writing in the morning, I sit at my desk at night and try to get 10 minutes. 20 minutes. 30. And now 40.

It’s a muscle. My brain starts to fizzle by the end of it, not used to keeping a steady pace for so long. So I build it up. Work myself up. Find the space to care for my daughter, live my life, and fit writing in. Until it’s 50 minutes. An hour.

More.

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Writers with kids — how much are you able to fit into a day? How do you do it? Do you wish you did more?

She Will Be a Reader (And This is How I Know)

She does not read yet. Still, to her, books are objects to hold. Pages are to be thumbed, flipped, bent, tasted. Pictures are things to touch, caress, and kiss.

Reading is sitting in a chair, mom or dad as a cushion, while milk is drunk and llama llama rhymes drift into her ears. Or it is storytime, standing 2 inches from the page the librarian holds up, giving a hard stare to the story she tells.

A book is thrown to the ground, pushed away, in favor of the one she really wants. She may choose to watch a favorite movie, decide to bang on the back door until we go outside, but a book is a thing she returns to when she sits in her bed or pulls everything off the shelf. A book is how she ends her day before she goes to sleep.

Maybe books will be her everything, or maybe just something to use to pass the time. Whichever way, she will be a reader.

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Kate Leth’s #simpofriends is Joy

Growing up I had a love for The Simpsons that was greatly fueled by the fact that it was not allowed in our house. (I’d say “banned”, but can you really ban something that syndicates in the slice of time when your children are home from school but you’re still at work before parental locks existed? No, you can’t.) I never became the huge fan that some of my friends were, but there’s no denying that some of those episodes that aired during my childhood were some of the best things I’ve ever seen. (“Summer of 4 ft. 2” particularly spoke to me in a way that television, on a whole, never had before, in a way that 10-year-old me could not articulate.)

Since the 90s I’ve dropped and picked up the show, losing some love during some bad episodes, coming back for the HD, loving or at least being amused by newer jokes, falling in the nostalgia hole when FXX does its days-long marathons.

All of this intro is to talk about how Kate Leth, one of my favorite comic artists and Internet people, has been putting up goofy comics riffing on The Simpsons all summer, #simpofriends. it’s a bunch of simple line art done on actual lined yellow paper. It kind of makes fun of the show (“The bad father has arrived.” “Oh no.”) and kind of honors it, it’s goofy (Milhouse is a vampire?) and straightforward (Homer hates his sisters-in-law, they don’t care), and it’s a little dumb and kind of smart. Basically simpofriends is great and perfect, and my day lights up whenever a new one pops up on my Instagram feed. I don’t know how long Kate Leth plans on doing this, but I hope it’s basically forever, or at least another year.

Writing Problems: Stitching It Together

I’m still chugging away, reworking the middle of my novel. I’m at a portion where I’m not just rearranging or redoing parts, but entire chapters have been chucked out and are in the process of being rewritten. None of this changes the beginning or the real outcome of the novel, but some motivations are different, reasons for doing things, information that the characters have going in has shifted, and as I go, trying to write the entire thing through, I keep changing my mind about where things get revealed, and how.

Thread and needle by liftarn - Converted to SVG from clipart on “PC för alla” CD 3-2003.Every now and then, I realize a scene in one part is better if a character does or does not already know something, which was or not revealed in an earlier chapter I just finished tweaking a few days ago. So I either have to go back and change, disrupting the writing momentum, or I have to make notes, fix it when I type it all together, and what with my fantastic memory that makes things a bit risky.

So, basically, after writing out dozens of new pages, I have a bunch of scenes that don’t exactly match together anymore, that I have to tweak and stretch and cut, so I can line them up and stitch them together like pieces of a quilt. And then I have to hope that after I’ve typed, tweaked, read, and rewritten, that the scenes move smoothly together, and don’t take on the appearance of some awful stitched-together monster.

Habits (and a Snow Storm)

There’s a snow storm happening, and I’m pleased as punch. I love the insulating feeling of the snow all around, the guilt-free knowledge that I actually can’t go anywhere today (even though I probably wasn’t) and the free pass I feel I have to wrap my afghan around me like a poncho and read on the couch.

No, I don't think I'll be driving anywhere.
No, I don’t think I’ll be driving anywhere.

But unfortunately, as snowstorms do, this messes me up a little. Not in a terrible way — I’ve got a roof, food, as well as blankets and flashlights a plenty. No, my only issue is that I can’t go to my 9:00 am Wednesday Bikram Yoga class.

This is a non-issue, I’m totally aware. These classes are every day, several times. I can just go Thursday before work, easy-peasy. And I will. But it’s not my habit. For months, maybe a full year, I’ve been going to yoga Wednesday morning once a week, unless extra work or an absence from town prevented me. And I haven’t even skipped for more than an extra half a week in a long time since my body’s sort of become addicted to sweating buckets. I used to do either Wednesday or Thursday depending on my mood, but not since I started working Thursday afternoons. So basically, I’m used to doing yoga on this specific day, and changing it up almost makes me more uncomfortable than skipping an entire week.

I’m gonna bring this back to writing now, since that’s sort of what this blog is about. I mentioned in my last post that something that makes me feel unproductive is that I can generally only get real writing done in the morning.  Over the past few years, writing in the morning has become a deeply ingrained habit. So, when something comes up that interrupts morning writing time, I kind of flail around and feel uncomfortable, like I had an important task but I missed my window. But maybe I didn’t miss my window, maybe it just moved to a different time, but because it wasn’t the time I told myself is right, I let it slide by again.

Habits are good for writing, and for yoga. It gets me used to doing something specific for a certain period of time, so even when I’m having a bad writing day (or a bad yoga day) I still sit down on the chair (mat) and write (sweat) it out, and come out feeling great. I just have to remind myself that sometimes, there are snow storms that won’t work around my habits, so if I don’t want to lose my momentum I have to step out of my comfort zone and get my stuff done in the time that’s granted me, even if it’s not ideal.

New on Manga Bookshelf: Nursery Rhyme Comics

Nursery Rhyme ComicsThanks to school, and my own inability to focus on a single idea, I took a bit of a hiatus from my Comic Conversion column over at Manga Bookshelf. But last week I finally made myself focus and wrote a new article.

For this one I looked at Nursery Rhyme Comics, a collection of adaptations of nursery rhymes from — surprise! — comic artists. There are 50 comics in all, each done by a different artist. I was interested in doing this one since it’s a little different from what I normally review. With the rhymes, you don’t WANT to cut out portions of the text, but then you still want to show something that the text doesn’t necessarily reveal. It was fun to look at, and it took a little less prep work since it didn’t involve reading a giant novel beforehand. (Which reminds me, I want to look at the Thoreau graphic novel next, so I need to finish rereading “Walden”.)

Final MFA Residency – The Last Days

Today was my graduation, my final day of being a Lesley graduate student. But let me backtrack a bit for the days leading up to it.

Thursday night, I read the first chapter of Speaksong, my middle-grade fantasy novel, for my graduate reading. My hands shook, and I stumbled on a sentence, but I’ve been practicing this, so I read it carefully, and I think clearly. My aunt, grandmother, and sister came up for the reading, which absolutely thrilled me. I think everything went well. I got hugs from Susan, Tony and David (the three greatest teachers I could ever know), and went out for drinks with my husband, Lesley peeps, and an undergrad friend.

Friday was my seminar (cutting out the narrative distance between the reader and your third person point of view character). I had been worried that I would fall short of the minimum time limit, but between questions asked by the students and the writing exercise I coasted right in on 45 minutes. After that was Rachel Davis’s (my residency twin) seminar, which focused on how you can characterize your setting.

Then came today, graduation. In the morning we went to Sharon Chan’s seminar on showing your character’s emotion. Then was a publishing panel with a group of editors, followed by breakout sessions where some of the editors looked over the first pages of people’s work. I went to the session with Liz Bicknell from Candlewick Press, and she gave me some good notes on Speaksong. Following this were the last readings, which included both Rachel and Sharon. Both were so fantastic.

Finally came the graduation. Pam Petro gave the faculty speech, but the real show was Jodi Sh. Doff’s student speech. Jodi’s speech was funny, and touching, and was the greatest sendoff we could get.

Afterwards was the usual reception. Tired as I was (still am) I stayed for a while, talking to friends and mentors. I kept dry-eyed through the final goodbyes, until Rachel Davis gave me a wonderful, unexpected gift: a piece of art commissioned from an ex-MFA student we both know, based off a scene in my first chapter. I fell apart. I love her so much. I miss this already.

I have some retrospective things to say about the program in general, but I’ll save that for later. Now it’s time to rest, soak it all in, and remind myself that it’s real.

Back On Track

I’ve been dealing with wedding planning madness, plus the first month of a brand new semester, so I’ve sort of fallen off the wagon as far as posting here regularly. But I’m making a new effort! Starting next Monday I’m going to try to concentrate my reviews here rather than on Suite 101 starting with a weekly series of short reviews. I also want to have a post about writing at least every other Wednesday, if not every Wednesday. I’ll start with that; we’ll see where it goes from there.

New Article on Manga Bookshelf: The Alchemist

Quick update: today my second article on Manga Bookshelf was published, Comic Conversion: The Alchemist. I compare the novel by Paulo Coelho with the graphic novel that was released last year. Follow the preceding link if you care what I have to say.