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Tuesday, September 30th, 2008
10:11 pm - Advice for Poets
On the Menu: Cod with green seasoning, tomato and bean salad with red vinegar-honey dressing
I'm reading: Manuscripts

Now that I'm a manuscript reader, I have a bit of advice for poets: don't send more than three poems at once, even if the magazine doesn't mention limits in the guidelines.  If I don't like the first poem, it influences my reading of subsequent poems - even though I try not to let it.  Also, if I see a whole stack of poems, I feel discouraged. 

I think the poet's theory is: I'll send what I've got, and let them decide what they like.  (I know because I try this with new ideas for books on my agent - and quite frankly, when I send more than three, I think she gets tired by the fourth one too!)  Anyway, it's just a suggestion.  No, actually, my real suggestion would be: send each poem separately.  Most poems are only one page, at the most two, so it really wouldn't cost that more - granted that postage adds up.  And of course I'm just one reader, maybe other people like to get a collection so they can see a range of poems, or something.

But that's my thought for the evening.

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Wednesday, September 24th, 2008
10:03 pm - Thought on the Bailout
On the Menu: Small plates dinner: eggplant dip, homemade pita bread, meatballs, tzatziki
I'm Reading: Manuscripts

Back in 2003, when the Bush administration was trying to sell the Iraq war, I knew the issue really, really well.  I'd spent years in the Middle East - I'd just come back from Sudan, actually - and I'd studied the region for a long time.  I knew that Bush's arguments were really stupid and unfounded.  I usually knew the experts they were using to sell those arguments and was able to assess their claims based on their positions and their histories. 

This time, as many people have pointed out, the administration once again trying to sell their 'trust me, there's going to be a huge disaster,' argument.  But for me it's doubly disconcerting, because this time I don't know.  And for the first time, I'm feeling some sympathy for all the people who were swayed by their arguments over the war.  It's not that I can't understand the bailout plan, or Dodd's amendments to it, or the counter plans that have popped up by a variety of economists across the political spectrum.  It's that there's so much competing information and I don't have the tools to assess it.  So, um, I don't know.  My gut feeling is 'let the banks fail' but I take it on faith - I do, I think I do - that that would be bad for all of us.  So I have to go with 'let's get the best bailout plan we can.'

Not that we have any say in it anyway.  Sigh.

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Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008
5:56 pm
On the Menu: Cold yellow pepper soup, fresh bread
I'm Reading: Economic blogs on the financial crisis, manuscripts for work

For a long time now, I've lamented the fact that I wasted so much time in grad school.  I often think: why didn't I spend all that free time writing books, improving my craft, etc?  Now when I scramble to write, take care of my kids, cook, exercise, work, I remember what seems like endless free time.

This weekend, I reconnected with some writing friends.  I also had a old friend contact me via facebook, and we exchanged several long, catching up posts.  Today, I had a long, leisurely coffee with a friend here that I used to see almost every week, but that I've barely seen at all since I started my new job.  I remembered: that's what I used to do with some of that free time in grad school, talk to my friends.  And it didn't seem so much like wasted time after all.

The thing is there's only 24 hours in a day, and you spend them doing something, even if it's staring at the wall, even if it's sleeping.  And whenever you start putting considerable time into something new - as I've been doing the last few months - something, somewhere has to give.  And one of the things I've really given up is - and this is sad - is people.  Not my family: I play with my kids, I connect with Trini every night.  But other people, the friends who for so long have made my life so rich. 

And I don't think that's something I'm willing to give up, I'm really not.  I can read less, sleep less, worry less - but I really need that time connecting with people who really understand me.

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Wednesday, January 30th, 2008
10:05 am
I'm Reading: Last Child in the Woods by Louv; the Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum
On the menu: Southwest red pepper and tomato soup with grilled roast pork Cubano sandwiches

Thanks for all the great suggestions for bread crusts and crumbs.  I never feed bread to water fowl, for what I think is a very good reason.  When I was 22, just out of college, I went to spend a month at my parents' beach house in Massachusetts to write a novel.  (Do you see a theme of my life here?  I was so free then - no kids - but unfortunately, I didn't have any discipline either.)  It was October, and I was basically much alone with the wind, and a couple of swans, who sailed from the pond across the street, down the brook, and into the ocean. 

I saved my bread crusts (I was thrifty, even back then) and went down to the water's edge to feed the swans.  All went well until I ran out of bread.  Then the swans started quacking, swam in closer, and one of them even came out of the water.

Do you have any idea how big swans are?  I didn't, until confronted face to face with one.  That swan was at least six feet tall.  (I...um, am not.)  I turned and ran.  That greedy swan followed me!  He chased me all the way up the beach.  My legs pumped, my heart pounded - and since my parents put up their stairs up for the winter, I had to pull myself onto the deck, swan nipping at my heels.  He then kept me prisoner in the house for over an hour, before finally trundling back to the water.

And that is why I don't feed water fowl.

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Tuesday, January 29th, 2008
10:52 am
I'm Reading: Last Child in the Woods: saving our children from nature deficit disorder by Richard Louv
On the Menu: Cod with mushrooms, garlic and vermouth

I'm collecting bread.  I didn't mean to - what I'd really like to collect would be...well, I don't know, I'm not really a collecting sort of person.  I'm too apt to break things or lose them or forget them.  Anyway, if I were planning to collect something, it wouldn't be bread.

But my kids don't eat their crusts.  So I got the bright idea, about a month ago, that I would cut off their crust *before* I made their sandwiches and stick them in a plastic bag in the fridge.  Presto, I thought, I'll have fresh breadcrumbs whenever I need them.  I patted myself on the back for my thriftiness.

Except...I had no idea how fast bread crusts add up.  (Collect?  Reproduce?)  I now have a huge bag of breadcrumbs in my freezer and an equally huge bag of bread crusts, not yet crumbled, in my fridge.  And here's the other thing I didn't realize: we don't use bread crumbs very much.  In fact, we haven't eaten them once since I started this project.

But having declared myself thrifty, it feels wasteful to throw them away.  Or even to toss the new ones.  I have tried convincing my 5-year-old to eat something for lunch besides peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but he's very set in his ways.  So the bread crumbs keep coming, and collecting, and reproducing and taking over my cold storage facilities.  AGH!

Any suggestions?  Maybe I could use them to make macrame?  (since I have no idea what macrame is, that might not be a good idea...)  I could, uh, fill a box with them in the backyard and pretend it's a sandbox?  I could just give my son a plate of bread and jelly with no bread?

Gotta go dig myself out of the breadcrumbs...

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Wednesday, January 16th, 2008
1:20 pm
I'm Reading: Miss Spitfire by Sarah Miller, The Spellbook of Listen Taylor by Jaclyn Moriarty, A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban
On the Menu: Flounder in puttanesca sauce, fresh salad

What is it with the no socks thing?

Don't get me wrong, I don't like socks either.  Well, I do like them, when I'm home, and it's chilly outside, and my feet are cold - like right now.  I like to wear them to bed, too.  But I do *not* like to wear socks with shoes.  I don't like the way they look, and I don't like the kind of shoes that go well with socks. 

But when it's below freezing, or even twenty degrees above, I wear them.

I know when I lived in Montreal, I had a much lower threshold for wearing socks - in the forties (Fahrenheit) was practically spring for me!  In fact, when I went north last November, I didn't even bring socks with me, because I saw the weather was supposed to be in the 40s.  But when I got there, my ankles almost froze off -  I bought some, the very first day.  And when I looked around, I saw that everyone else was wearing them too.  Maybe I didn't look at any teenagers though.  Or tweens.  Or ten year olds.

The girls at my son's bus stop refuse to wear socks.  In fact, they refuse to wear any jacket heavier than a sweatshirt.  I know what you're thinking - I live in North Carolina.  Yesterday morning, it was 32 degrees here.  This morning, it was 22 - and one of the girls not only was wearing no coat and no socks, she had capris on!

I would think these were just some crazy local girls, but I was reading A Perfect Kind of Crooked by Linda Urban over the weekend, and the main character buys socks for her friend's birthday and all the other (sockless) girls look at her in scorn.  And when she tells her mother, no one wears socks anymore, her mother says, 'In Michigan?  In March?  When there's still snow on the ground?'

The answer to that would be: No socks.

But since the POV character in the book wore socks herself, I'm still not sure when or why this sockless fad has reached such cold proportions.  However, my 2-year-old is happy to join in: she doesn't mind socks, actually, but she insists on wearing green shorts and a sleeveless shirt every day.  Ahem.  Tries to insist, I mean.  And my son puts on shorts, too, as a matter of course

As for me, I'm bundled up right now: long pants, sweatshirt, two pairs of socks - and I'm in the house!  Maybe I've reached old age, where I care more about comfort than style.  That must be it.

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Thursday, January 10th, 2008
1:47 pm
I'm Reading: Othello by William Shakespeare
On the Menu: Tonight is pate night: fancy cheeses and pates and fresh bread and salad

I've been trying to guess the New Year's resolutions of the people closest to me.  Ms Slinky: Stop sleeping in the afternoon.  Never wear any outfit longer than 20 minutes.  Make sure that bath water covers every inch of the floor before you get out.  Captain Zula: Never let more than 15 seconds go by without talking.  Open a decorating business and start by covering his own floor with papers, puzzle pieces, books and toys.  Trini: Get to bed every night by 7:00.  Eat and drink more.  Drive faster.

As for me, 10 days into the New Year, and I've already broken every resolution, even the private ones I didn't record here.  Too bad I didn't make the right resolutions.  Eat more chocolate.  Sleep in.  (Well, till 7 a.m. anyway).  Pay close attention to politics.  Yell louder.  Those are resolutions I've kept, even though I didn't make them.

All the same, I've gotten back into the swing of writing, and I'm not doing too badly.  Most of my problem is not a matter of will power (although there is that chocolate thing), it's a matter of time.  I really, really need more time.  I keep going through my schedule, trying to find things I can cut out.  The problem is, there all things like: Do dishes.  Vacuum.  Make bed.

I would gladly cut out anyone of those.

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Thursday, January 3rd, 2008
8:35 pm
I'm Reading: Girl in Hyacinth Blue (still)
On the Menu: Fresh bread with brie and sliced meats (ham, roast beef, etc.)

Am I the only person who actually thinks that the Democratic caucus in Iowa sounds cool?  Everybody goes into a room and stands in a corner for their candidate - hey, there's a little exercise, and something so visual about your vote.  And then people get to urge and cajole voters whose candidates didn't get enough votes.

Granted, this is an opportunity for pushy people to make noise, and in general, I hate the way our society rewards pushy people.  (When I worked at Michaels some years ago, my supervisor said to only give the 40% off coupon to people who insisted and I thought that was so unfair.)  But here's the thing: they can push as much as they want, but you still have the final word.  The final vote, so to speak.  And sometimes pushy people can push you right off their opinion, or their candidate.

Anyway, I think the whole thing is kind of cook.  So, if you live in Iowa, go vote.  And not that I'm cajoling or anything but...Go Obama!

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Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008
12:55 pm
I'm Reading: Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland
On the Menu: Salmon bisque with fresh bread and salad
Running Log: I got up at 5:10 and ran 2 (very slow) miles in 26 degree weather.  Yay me!

Ah.  My baby is asleep, my kindergartener is in school and it's time for me to get back to work.  Except...I'm not sure I know *how* to work anymore.  It's one of those cyclical things.  I'm feeling a bit depressed about writing, because I haven't been doing any work, which makes me not really feel like doing any work, which makes me depressed about writing.


I am seriously thinking about becoming a pastry chef.  Think of all the buttercream!  Of course I just made all these New Year's resolutions about eating simply and inexpensively and healthfully, so maybe this is not the time to take up a career that churns on butter and sugar.  Hmmm.  Maybe I'm just avoiding my work again.  It's like anything else: go for weeks without writing and your muscles get rusty.  The solution is, of course, to write.

So, um, I think I'll try that.

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Tuesday, January 1st, 2008
8:25 am - Resolutions
I'm Reading: Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland
On the Menu: Bagels with cream cheese and salmon for lunch; (leftover) prime rib sandwiches for dinner

2008 Resolutions:

Writing Resolutions:

Write 2000 words per day

Stop worrying about the market and focus on the integrity of the work

Revise, revise, revise

Reading Resolutions:

Last year I had reading resolutions.  After 3 years of immersing myself in YA lit, I began to feel a little cut off from the reading world, so I forced myself to read different things: memoir, biography, non fiction, adult mysteries, even things I never read like category romance and thrillers.  (I never did get to a western though!)  This year, I want to keep a balance, 50% Kidlit and 50% other.

Cooking Resolutions:

The Year of the Fish

This January: International Soups

Use more whole grain flour in my breads

Continue to eat healthy, interesting meals but try to spend a little less money on food.

Other Resolutions:


Get back to running (I haven't run since before Thanksgiving!)

Make an appointment for a check up (I hate doctors)

And of course...

Write more often in this journal!

To a happy and successful 2008, everyone...

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Tuesday, November 13th, 2007
12:54 am
I'm Reading: Quaking by Kathy Erskine

On the Menu: tilapia in lemon dill sauce, spaghetti with peppers, scallions, tomatoes and dill

Thanks to all the people who have sent me kind thoughts and encouragement about being stressed. As is probably obvious, I've had no success in lobbying God to give me a couple of extra hours in the day. My going to bed at 8 – or even 9 or 10 – is a thing of the past. Doubling my daily word count has definitely taken a toll on me. At the same time, I do feel good about all I'm accomplishing, so there is that.

Thought of the day: When I was in grad school, I decided that there was no way I was going to marry another academic. One reason was that academics in the same field often find it difficult to find jobs together; living in different states – or even different countries, like one couple I know – can make it hard to make a marriage work. The other was that sometimes people can get bitter when their partner gets the things they want for themselves. Not everyone, but some people. And I am secretly very competitive, so I worried that I would be some people.

So I married a guy in IT. We have our own problems, but at least we live in the same state. And the upside of marrying someone more emotionally straightforward: we have very happy children. (Note: I'm not saying that ALL IT people are more straightforward; just that Trini is.)  Today I told my daughter she could have some yogurt and she literally jumped up and down, saying “Yippee! Hooray!” My son goes off to school every day with a smile – he can't wait for PE and art and recess and lunch, all the things I hated about school as a kid. Granted, they're very young, but my mother loves to tell a story about when I was around 4 and she found me crying on the back step. “What's wrong?” she asked. “I don't know what to do,” I said. “I want to go roller skating.” “Well, put your skates on.” “But if I roller skate, I won't be able to play in the backyard.” “Well, then, go play in the backyard.” “But then I can't roller skate.” And so I sat on the back step, sobbing my little heart out. Angst at age 4.

Hopefully, my kids will be spared that. And right now, it's looking good for them...

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Wednesday, November 7th, 2007
3:14 pm
I'm Reading: The Mistress of the Art of Death
On the Menu: Baked salmon, fresh bread, salad

Yesterday evening, I was feeling a little stressed.  You know that anxious feeling you get when your problems are just overwhelming you and you can't sit still?  I tried a cup of tea, but it did nothing to calm me down.  So I had this theory: if I went outside, and ran as hard and as fast as I could for as long as I could, I'd be breathing too hard to worry about anything.

My mother-in-law was visiting, so I asked if she would watch the kids for a few minutes.  I changed my clothes, went outside and put my plan into action.  And here's what I found out: after doing this for as long as I could (not too long), I had forgotten all the things that had previously been worrying me.  However, I was *now* worrying that my lungs were about to break.

End result:  Me 1, Worries 1.

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Wednesday, October 24th, 2007
8:40 pm - Paula and the Horrible, Terrible, No Good Very Bad Day
I'm Reading:
On the Menu: Sausage with onions, garlic and pepper sauce with pasta primavera

Today was a bad day from the moment I woke up - not feeling well - and got Captain Zula up late enough that he almost missed the bus.  I realized there were several things I needed from the store, that I could not wait another day, and then looked out the window: pouring rain.  (We haven't had rain for, literally, months.  Should have been an omen.)  Several other bad things happened, and I was already depressed when I went to the bathroom this afternoon.  I knew I should have brought Miss Slinky in with me, but it was only going to be for a moment...

I came out to find my laptop absolutely demolished.  Every single key had been torn off the keyboard.  Oh, excuse me, she'd left me 'M' and 'T' - trying for symbolism, perhaps. The white plastic pieces underneath, that hold the keys in place, were scattered across the floor.  Even the spongey material underneath the white plastic pieces - you probably don't even know it's there, unless somebody you love has decided to un-piece your laptop - had been torn up and thrown around.

Five minutes, people.  Forget nuclear war.  The best agent of destruction: Miss Slinky.

All 30,000 words of my brand new adult historical: on that computer.  The first four chapters of my YA contemporary: on that computer too.

I very calmly - and I mean that - sent Miss Slinky up to bed.  Then I lay down on the couch and bawled my eyes out.  Then I went back to the computer to see if there was any hope.  And lo and behold, there was.  Working very slowly and carefully, I managed to slide the spongey material back into place, reassemble the plastic pieces and snap the keys back on top.  Most of them.  'D' is still a little tricky and the 'shift' key is giving me problems.  But I can work around them.

Still, I'm emotionally exhausted.  Here's hoping for a better day tomorrow.

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Friday, October 19th, 2007
4:06 pm
I'm Reading: Prime Choice by Stephanie Perry Moore, Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian (has anyone read this?  I thought the end was cheating...well, really, that the only way the end worked was by him cheating throughout the book, if that makes sense - I'd love to hear other people's opinions)

On the Menu: I'm taking the kids out.  Trini comes home tomorrow - woo hoo!  I can't wait.  And Sunday we're going to the State Fair - so lots of chance to eat yummy, once-a-year things there.  (You should have seen Miss Slinky chew on a fried turkey leg last year!)

Today was the first day of the rest of my life.  Sort of.  Since the beginning of the school year, I've been hoping to double my word count, from 1000 words a day to 2000.  I haven't been doing this, mainly because I've been revamping the premise of my new YA.  But I finally got all the pieces in place, and rewrote the first two chapters to work with the new premise.  (I had to ditch chapters 3 and 4, but luckily that was as far as I'd gotten.)  So today I was able to start chapter 3.  It's a much stronger book, and I really like where it's going.  BUT I feel mentally exhausted.  Is this just because  I'm just starting out, or is 2000 words too much to handle?  (For me, I mean, of course there are people who write much more.)  I know in the beginning, 1000 words was too much to handle, and I had to creep up to it incrementally.

I have written two books at the same time before - I did notice that they sort of bled into each other, both plot and language-wise.  A character in one book got kidnapped, for example, and a few days later a character in the other book got kidnapped too!  But those were both first person YAs.  The books I'm working on couldn't be more different: the adult historical is third person past, the contemporary YA is first person present.

Keeping my fingers crossed for a productive fall!

Have a great weekend everybody...


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Tuesday, October 16th, 2007
1:51 pm
I'm Reading: Beauty Shop for Rent by Laura Bowers
On the Menu: Pizza

Writing is going great at the moment.  I have almost 25,000 words on my adult historical - I'm expecting it to end up between 80 and 90,000 words, so that's between a quarter and a third of the way done.  And it is SO much fun. 

AND I think I've finally gotten my YA outline in place.  (Well, the five elements I mentioned yesterday - but I prettied it up and made it look like a narrative before I sent it to my agent.)  I've been working on this outline since mid-summer!  To be fair, I did revise Three Witches and I've started the historical and done a couple of NF pieces, but still.  I've spent a lot of time on this.

Sorting it all out has made me think about theme - or maybe a better way to put it is, 'threads running through your writing.'  Because I don't mean a profound, abstract theme like 'never lose hope' or 'family is always there for you' or whatever.  I describe my books as 'serious fiction with a suspense twist', or 'thrillers that revolve around a serious issue.'  But they also almost always have some sort of multicultural element to them - usually involving Islam and the Middle East, which makes sense because I lived there for so long, but sometimes involving Trinidad, which also makes sense because I live with a Trini.  There's also almost always something about religion - which is funny, because I don't consider myself a religious person.

Even when I write funny middle grades (which I occasionally try to do, although they always fail) or chick lit (those fail too) or urban fantasy (I have yet to get past the first chapter but I have SUCH a great idea that I keep trying - I have about 14 completely different first chapters for this book now.  14 first chapters and nothing else!) there are always Muslim and/or Trini characters and encounters popping up here and there.

I worry sometimes that I will get typecast - that people will think I am the woman who writes about religion, or the woman who writes about the Middle East - but I try to incorporate these threads in very different ways.  People who have read both In the Name of God and Three Witches often note that they are very different, but they also connect in some surprising ways.

What do you think?  We all know authors who write the same book over and over and we don't any of us - I don't think - want to do that.  But we also have certain expectations when we've come to really like an author.  Do you like it when an author has threads that run through all their books, or do you prefer it when they give you something new every time?  As an author, do you celebrate and encourage certain threads in your writing - or do you ruthlessly scrub them out like cliches?

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Monday, October 15th, 2007
1:28 pm
I'm Reading: Nefertiti by Michele Moran (both better than I expected and not as good as I hoped); The Off Season by Catherine Gilbert Murdoch; The Professor's Daughter by Joann Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert; The Nature of Jade by Deb Caletti

On the Menu: Trini is gone for the whole week.  We've been doing fish-dishes for a while, so I think I'm going to try to continue that, but when it's just me and the kids, I try to be a little more spontaneous.

I'm a recovered outliner.

I wrote my first book using an outline - a legacy of my academic past.  I also rewrote and rewrote and rewrote my first book using an outline.  My crit group suggested I try just writing a book and seeing where it went, so I did...it went to 45,000 words of really cool people running around looking for something - but they had no idea what they were looking for, and neither did I!

After a lot of experimenting with different processes, I've figured out I need five things to start a book:

1.  Premise.  This is something like 'girl becomes a suicide bomber' or 'three girls try to raise a boy from the dead.'  It should be what the book's about, in one sentence.  For me, this is the very hardest part of writing.

2.  Character Arc.  How the character changes over the course of the story.  I don't always DO the character arc in a first draft, but I need to know what it is before I can write the book.

3.  Inciting Incident.  How the book starts.  I like to start right in the middle of an action scene.

4.  Midpoint climax.  Something exciting in the middle of the book.

5.  Conclusion.  How it all ends.

Those five things can take me weeks to sort out.  (Hopefully while writing or revising another book.)  But once I have them, I can bang out a first draft in 2-3 months. 

Then the real work begins.

On a personal note: I was reading The Off Season this morning and my two year old was lying on the floor, coloring.  Suddenly she stormed across the floor, grabbed the book out of my hand and said, "No reading!"  Do you think it was that particular book or she just really, really wants me to take up art??

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Tuesday, October 9th, 2007
10:47 am - What's Up, Duck
I'm Reading: I'm all out of books right now.  But never fear, a trip to the beloved library is on today's calendar
On the Menu:
Avocado, smoked salmon and tomato sandwiches on fresh bread

I am not a picture book author, but I've read a ton of picture books in the last 5 years.  Picking up on my last post (about Fix It Duck, at least tangentally), one of the things I've noticed, is how often the 'duck' is the quirky, eccentric character in the stories.  There's Fix It duck, of course, but there's also the duck in the Doreen Cronin books, and I know that there have been others.  My kids have a puppet show house with finger puppets, and my son always picks the duck puppet and makes him do crazy things.

And I've been thinking about it, in larger terms, because there's this emphasis on being 'fresh and original' for writers.  But at the same time, that needs to balance with ideas and memories that resonate with readers.  Is this more true for picture books/picture book readers - the resonating part?  I don't think so.  I think the whole 'readers want the same but different' is part of this.  And I think it's an important thing for writers to think about.  Yes, of course we need to write our own stories - but we also write as part of a tradition.  On one level, you want to tell an underlying truth about something.  On the other hand, we're part of a novel-writing tradition, maybe even a YA-writing tradition or an MG-writing tradition.  And there are expectations there - of course, sometimes it's turning those expectations on their head that 's the point of the story, but not always.

Hmmm...this is getting vaguer and more confusing the more I write.  But I'm sure there's something important here.  It's not just about creating real-life characters rather than stereotypical characters.  It's more about this balance between writing within a form and telling your own story.  I struggle with form a lot - while I appreciate that it often makes books meaningful, I also find that my stories seldom conform to it.  I think that is, in large part, because the underlying 'what I want to say' does not necessarily fit in with YA storytelling forms.  YA tradition. 

But then that's the great thing about a tradition.  Either you're conforming to it, or you're struggling against it.  (I can't remember who said that - wither Hams Gadimer or Alistair MacIntyre.)

I've decided to do a lot of posts and discussions about craft this fall.  It's what I feel passionate about right now.  And most of the people reading this journal are either writers, book lovers, or people who know me - and otherwise I'd probably be babbling about this over the phone to you!

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Monday, October 8th, 2007
8:45 am - Ode to Libraries
I'm Reading: A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb (ooh, I loved this!), Evolution, Me and Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande
On the Menu: Tilapia in Thai chili-garlic sauce, jasmine rice

Have I mentioned, recently, how much I love, love, love the library?  I love the very concept of a library - a place where you can get things for free.  (Well, I can't because I always have fines to pay, but I don't even *mind* paying them, because it means the library can buy new books!)  I also love the fact that when you read one book by an author and you love it, you can immediately go back to the library and pick up their backlist.  And you can order books from other libraries.  And most librarians are so friendly and helpful, especially when you love books.

On Friday, I was zipping in and out - Miss Slinky picked up a Dora book, I grabbed a Magic Schoolbus book for Captain Zula, and then I snatched a random board book - Fix It Duck by Jez Somebody - that I thought Ms Slinky would like.  (I try to balance out her character books with other books.)  Well, truth to be told, she didn't.  But Captain Zula LOVED it.  We read it, no exaggeration, 20 times this weekend.  I'm going today to pick up the other books by the author.  I will also, almost certainly, buy one or more of these books for Captain Z. for Christmas.  (I'm such a cheapskate and Christmas-lover all rolled into one!  Once it turns October, everything I buy goes into the Christmas pile.  I love to have tons of packages to open on Christmas Day.)

I would never, ever have bought this book in the bookstore, and that's a fact.  I would have just passed right over the author.  But the chance to try it out led me to pick it up, and now this author has gained a fan for life.  I know I'm nowhere near the first person to say this.  But I just feel like the chance to be in this atmosphere where books are loved and reverenced is such a gift.  Many, many countries do not have free public libraries and I just feel like I had to write something today about how lucky I am to have this great library.

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Monday, October 1st, 2007
9:07 am
I'm Reading: Into the Wild by Sarah Beth Durst; Isabel and the Miracle Baby by Emily Smith Pearce
On the Menu: Snapper au poivre, rice and spinach

Last weekend I went to the SCBWI conference.  To be honest, I wasn't expecting much, because last year was a bit of a dud.  This year was fabulous!  On Friday night, I met up with about 15 other writers - I knew 2 of them in advance, but the others were all new and very interesting people - and it was a great experience, because it made me feel very connected to the conference.  This year, they had a seminar on developing your web site (very helpful, although ultimately he gave the same advice as Trini: hire a professional!) and a couple on marketing, which were also useful - although, as a friend pointed out to me, knowing what to do isn't the same as wanting to do it!

Saturday night, Joy Neaves from Front Street came to dinner.  Trini kept the kids all day AND cooked a fabulous dinner: accra - which is salted cod, mixed with spices and fried - dipped in home made mango chutney, tilapia in Thai curry sauce and Trinidad spinach and rice.  (Yes, we're having leftovers tonight - but the snapper is fresh, so there).  It was so much fun, to have a whole conversation about books and writing - and kids and soccer and cooking and Asheville and college and ...okay, I guess we talked about lots of things.  Captain Zula and Miss Slinky were fairly well behaved - well, except for trying to steal Joy's cell phone.  But Miss Slinky kept the food out of her hair and Captain Zula talked mostly to other people and only a little to himself, so mostly they were a success.

And yesterday I had lunch with my two wonderful friends from my critique group - both brilliant writers - who I love to death!  They handsold my book to everyone who would listen to them (and even a few people who wouldn't). 

Overall, a very inspiring weekend.  And I am totally ready to get back to work.  I have 10,000 words already on my adult novel - at this rate, I should have a first draft before Christmas!  And I have two other projects I plan to hammer out this week...

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Monday, September 17th, 2007
1:39 pm - All About Me
I'm Reading: Mira, Mirror by Mette Ivie Harrison
On the Menu: Barbecued spare ribs, split peas (daal) and other leftovers

Review News: I got a lovely write up in the Greensboro News and Record: interview, my picture, picture of the book jacket and a great review - unfortunately, it's not online, but the editor was kind enough to send me a copy.  I also got reviewed in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs; this was a superthrill for me, because I used to spend hours reading copies of this publication when I was in grad school.  It wasn't a long review, but it was positive.  I also got a write up in Muslim Girl magazine; very glossy with an ultra-pretty layout. 

Other Book News: I've been hemming and hawing about this, but I'm going 'on tour.'  Sounds way more glamorous than it is: basically I'm just going to wend my way north - to Baltimore, Trenton, NYC, Massachusetts - and try to do some bookstore signings/schools/libraries, etc.  Not sure how feasible it is - I'm aiming for the end of November (after Thanksgiving) and it may already be too late to set things up.  But it can't hurt to try.  (Well, except my ego.)  I do have half a dozen invitations already - to places like my former high school, where they know me! - so that bit is nice, but I'm still looking to speak/answer questions, etc. in a few other places.  So if anybody in these areas has a book club or writing group that would be interested in having me come speak (or anything else, I'm very flexible), feel free to let me know! 

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