Friday, October 29, 2010

Horror Story

This is the flash fic that I wrote for Horror at Hannah's - she posted the winners today and it was so much fun reading them - whooooa, shivers!!!  I've never written horror before so the push to write something different is always a bonus for me.  I really enjoyed it!



Breathe. Breathe in, breathe out. Gwen Evens convinced herself that she could slow things down, postpone the baby’s arrival through the night, at least until a gut-wrenching contraction made her grip the door handle with the same white knuckles that Tom had on the steering wheel.

When they arrived at Mercy, Tom snapped at one of the orderlies dressed in teddy bear scrubs, “Has anyone…?” But he knew by the way they avoided his panicked gaze. In the maternity ward, Gwen was examined and hooked up to IVs and monitors. Dr. Paulino arrived within the hour. Disappointment fleetingly graced his features, replaced quickly by a mask of hope. He squeezed Gwen’s hand and looked at his watch. “It may take time. We’ll go slow.”

But baby Joshua had other ideas. Two hours later, he came into the world and sucked enough air into his lungs for one great howl. The unfathomable silence that followed was quickly broken by another wail, a harrowing moan that filled the entire ward the way that only a grieving mother’s voice could.

The night breeze through the car windows blew Becca’s hair across her shoulders. She nestled into the backseat and wondered if Dave noticed. He leaned forward, telling Christian and Abby the three-legged cat joke that he had told her twice already, but she smiled when his hand slid between her knees.  Abby rolled her eyes at the punchline and reached toward the radio knob as they began to lose the station. 

“Where the hell are we?  I have to pee.”  The smoke Abby blew out her window came right back through Becca’s behind her.  Becca coughed under her breath at the sweet, pungent cloud.  She didn’t smoke that stuff, but she didn’t know Abby well enough to say anything.  Dave’s best friend Christian had only been dating Abby for two weeks.  He was the one who had planned the road trip.

As if on cue, they drove past a large white sign.  Dave waved his bottle at Christian.

“Dude!  Back up.  What’d that say?”  Christian hit the brakes and they all bounced forward.  He revved the car backward and stopped at the sign.  It was old fashioned, made of wood, painted white with black lettering. 

Welcome to Balance, Nevada.  Population 2,653.  A nice place to live.

“Hope I don’t have to take a balance test,” Christian snickered.

“A nice place to live?” Abby snorted.  “A sucky place to drive through.”

Dave smirked and squeezed Becca’s leg. “I don’t know.  Plenty of open space, nice long grass, lots of privacy…” He leaned over and kissed her. 

“What’s that one say?” Becca glared at the back of Abby’s seat in front of her, willing her to shut up.  Christian stopped the car again, next to another wooden sign.  He squinted and read it out loud.

“The land is to be allotted to them as an inheritance based on the number of names.
Numbers 26:53”

“Aww, man,” snorted Dave, “It’s one of those towns.  Hide the children, Jackie Sue, them there e-vil kids’ got al-kee-hol!”  All four of them laughed and Christian gunned the engine and roared up the road.

“Teenage heathens!” Dave gasped, “Batten down th-“  But no one battened down anything before the radio Abby was tuning emitted an ear-splitting screech and the gold clunker driven by Tom Evens plowed directly into her door.

Gwen’s eyes narrowed as ambulance lights reflected on her hospital room window.  Not now.  Not a mere three hours later.  She tore the IV from her arm, but the alarm it set off beckoned a nurse before she even got out of bed.

“No, you don’t.  You need to rest.”  The nurse’s grip was strong and before Gwen could protest, a needle was thrust into her arm and the room began to swim.

It was an itch that brought Becca back to consciousness.  An incessant itch on her right foot.  She needed to scratch it.  She willed her tired eyes to open, but her eyelids felt like lead.  After a few moments, she made them part slightly, looking through her sticky lashes like an insect in a Venus flytrap.  Something was wrong.  She couldn’t move.  Couldn’t move, but she could see the woman standing in the doorway.  She tried to speak, but her lips were concrete.  Exhausted, her eyes rolled back and she gave in to sweet darkness.

Gwen sat in the chair next to the girl.  The girl who had survived the car accident that had killed her husband and two other teenagers.  The girl’s eyes fluttered open again and she pulled confusedly at the restraints on her wrists.  Gwen smoothed the girl’s hair and sighed at the pained moan stifled by the tape on Becca’s mouth.

“It’s Sunday, dear.  There are no doctors.  We don’t work on Sundays here.  It’s a day of rest, of course.” The girl’s eyes widened and Gwen smiled, nodding toward the curtain that split the room.

“Don’t worry, though.  The car accident was last night.  Saturday.  So there was time to balance before Sunday.  I’ll have to try to keep that one alive through the day.  Might not be easy, but I don’t know where we’ll get anyone else, and you know what happens if we’re out of balance.” She got up and drew back the curtain. Becca could barely make out Dave’s mangled body.  Was he missing an arm?  Machines clicked beside him but he couldn’t possibly be alive.  Could he?

“You’ll get used to it here,” Gwen’s wistful voice pierced the fog in Becca’s mind. “I’ll raise you like my own.  He can be my Joshua.  I doubt he’ll tell me any different.  And you, my dear, let’s call you…” but Becca couldn’t focus any longer.  As her eyes closed once more, an image flashed behind her eyelids.

“The land is to be allotted to them as an inheritance based on the number of names.
Numbers 26:53”

Welcome to Balance, Nevada.  Population 2,653.  A nice place to live.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Curiouser and Curiouser

For this week's Sunday Scribblings prompt, "curious":

“Curiouser and curiouser!” cried Alice (she was so much surprised that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English).

The Mad Hatter eyed her, with a moment of stark lucidity. 

“How much curiouser can you be, child?  Unless it is a contest with oneself, it really is rather ludicrous to continue to heap curiosity upon itself.”

With that, he removed his rather large hat from his rather large head.  Alice wondered how his pencil neck supported such weight, and then stopped wondering just as quickly.  Perhaps he was right.  It was not her neck bearing the weight, after all.  What did it matter? 

The Hatter’s head began to shrink.  His hat took on a much more reasonably tophattish nature.  He looked quite like… like the men who worked with Alice’s father at Christ Church. 

As alarming as it had been to see the Hatter the first time, it was twice so somehow to see him transform, each quirk smoothed into the Average Man.

“Very good, child,” he nodded, sipping his ordinary black tea from his ordinary white cup.  “You are growing up.”

I'm Not Superstitious, But Bad Things Do Seem to Happen in Threes

I'm really not.  I'll pet black cats, walk under ladders, step on cracks.  I mean, I don't go out of my way to do those things, but I'll do it.  Probably the most superstitious thing I ever did was pass on buying a house with the address 13 Elm Street, lol. :)  That was pushing it a bit, even for me.

I have noticed, though, that the "Bad Things Happen in Threes" superstition tends to hold true.  Ok, you can really kind of reach and find 3 misfortunes that happen at once and make it true, but I tend to notice that it was true after the fact rather than waiting for the second or third hammer to fall.

So today, I took off work (sub plans are a bear to write, by the way, and I had to go in this morning anyway to make all the copies and stuff) to take poor, sick Curly Jones to the doctor.  She has had a nasty, wet cough and has been complaining of ear pain.  Tootsie Roll was Ear Infection Queen by the time she got ear tubes at 15 months, but CJ has been pretty lucky about avoiding this particular malady.

Anyway, I went to the dr expecting a diagnosis of ear infection.  Which she got... doubly (both ears are infected).  And the doctor said she is wheezing on both sides, which means we went home the proud new owners of a nebulizer along with some pretty potent antibiotics.  So it never occurred to me that I should be waiting for a third issue, but a little while after we got home, I went in the laundry room to get a load of wash started.  Antsy little CJ did not stay 5 feet away on the couch in the den, but instead followed me in and decided that opening the dryer would be fun.  You know how dryer doors stick... on purpose?  Well, she yanked really hard and it came flying open.  Right into her face.  Enter massive nosebleed.

Fortunately, CJ is one happy kid and was not overly phased by nasty Amoxicillan ("This medicine is good!"), 10-minute stints with the nebulizer mask on her face ("Tell me a story, Mommy."), or massive nosebleeds, apparently ("Am I still blooding?").  Definitely a trooper.

On a funnier note, tonight Tootsie Roll and I were reading Gooseberry Park and in the middle of a chapter, she stopped reading and said, "She started a sentence with the word 'and'?  That's very unusual for someone who is a professional author."  Ahh, T-Roll.  My consummate rule-follower! ;)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Merry Thanksgivween

We were at Target today, buying all sorts of necessary things like shampoo and hand soap and laundry detergent (amazing how we get low on all things soapy at once) and I remembered that I had to check the Halloween aisle for a Little Red Riding Hood cape.  My class does fairy tale plays every June, and every June I think to myself, "I have to remember to look for a Red Riding Hood cape this Halloween."  And this year I actually remembered!  So there I was, in the Halloween section of the store (which was surprisingly still decently stocked), and there the Target Team was, hanging up hundreds of Christmas wreaths.  One of the Halloween aisles has already been reassigned to spare Christmas tree lights, decoration hooks, and boxes of cards.

Hrm.  This totally weirds out my mojo.  I'm not a huge fan of Halloween, actually.  I love how my first graders get all excited (we don't dress up in school, but we have a big Fall Fest day of activities) and totally enjoy dressing my girls up for their dance class, for the Masquerade Ball at night at my school, and for trick or treating.  But when it's all said and done, I'm like... ok... put it all away... let's move on.

We host Thanksgiving at our house, and I do love it (Target seems nonplussed, although they did have more in autumny candles and yellow/gold/red housewares).  We have both sides of the family over and everyone brings stuff, and it's just a wonderful day.  Yes, it's a lot to do (I clean the house and set everything up, Handsome Hubby does the cooking), but there's just a feeling when everyone is sitting together and chatting and eating that you can't replicate.

But Christmas is the holiday I love the most.  Just the love and peace and togetherness and time off from work to hang out with the kids.  We have so many holiday memories.  I already have the kids' Christmas dresses and shoes (thanks, Target, for red shoes in both size 8 and 1 1/2) and have their portraits scheduled.  So I guess Target and I aren't so far off in our thinking.  It's just weird to see it all together, skeletons and fake pine wreaths...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Random Cuteness

From before dance class today :)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Remembering Our Babies

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, and Oct. 15th specifically is PIL Remembrance Day.  (The banner above is from the official site for Remembering Our Babies).

Today is an Angel Day for me.  October 21, 2006, was the due date for my Lily, who I lost early at 8 weeks.  She would have been 4 today.  Earlier that same year, May 17th, 2006, was the due date for my Conor, who I lost at 6 weeks.  He would have been 4 this year as well.  My two losses were five months apart, and they were between my two happy and healthy baby girls.  I had no problems with Tootsie Roll's pregnancy.  After my miscarriages, I was put on meds to help ensure that Curly Jones' pregnancy would make it to term.  The doctors told me that they usually don't treat anyone until they've had three miscarriages.  I pretty much didn't accept taking my chances on a third.  They drew 21 vials of blood to do testing and found very little in terms of cause, but they put me on Metformin (which is an insulin regulator, they thought I maybe had PCOS) and progesterone.  Curly Jones' pregnancy was healthy and uneventful, thankfully.

Miscarriages have a strange stigma.  People don't talk about them much but they are something that many of us have gone through.  Even early ones like mine are completely devastating, and you need to grieve.  After I took a few days off with my first one, I returned to work and my principal at the time (a woman) said to me, "It happens to lots of us.  Get over it."  There are a lot of wrong things to say to a grieving mom.  This is one.  Also wrong is for the OB's receptionist to be telling you jokes as she schedules your d&c.

I have grieved and I have some remembrances for both of my losses.  Today, I remember Lily and Conor both, and I send a prayer out to any of you who have experienced loss.  There is a lot of support out there.  If you are trying to support someone who has experienced loss, please reach out to them.  You don't have to say anything but you're sorry and you're there if they want to talk.  It means the world, since so many people say nothing because they don't want to say the wrong thing.

The following is from

“Every single day in the US, 2,000 women lose a baby to pregnancy/infant loss. That’s 700,000 a year, a third of every female in this country. So why does no one talk about it?

In honor of October 15th, National Pregnancy/Infant Loss Remembrance Day, we are opening up the conversation. We are “putting a face” on miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss. We are sharing our faces, and declaring to the world, “I am not ashamed to talk about my baby.”
The goal of the I AM THE FACE campaign is simple: to spread awareness of pregnancy/infant loss, and raise support for those who are affected by it. With your help, we will raise $2,000 for the 2,000 women who experience the loss of a child every day. $2,000 for 2,000 faces.

I have gotten some very lovely and tasteful remembrance jewelry at My Forever Child.

Love to Conor and Lily and all Angel Babies today and always.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Is My First Work of Horror a Horror Show?

Lol... I have no idea!  I just finished my flash fiction for Horror at Hannah's, and never having written horror before, I have no idea what to think.  Is it passable?  Does it suck?  I guess I'll find out soon!  Trying to have a few people read over it for me before I submit. Hubby told me he got chills, but didn't have any suggestions other than fixing a typo (lol).  I haven't gotten a WiP to the Crit Partner stage yet, so I don't have a tear-it-to-shreds bud just yet. ;)  And flash fic doesn't offer much wiggle room - My 1,000 words or less story is 1,000 words on the nose.  Go me!  Or something. ;)

I'm not a huge reader of scary stories.  I like suspense, but not a ton of gore.  I read a couple of John Saul books a few months ago and they were sort of suspenseful but icky.  I'm not a big Stephen King fan; I actually really prefer his non-horror books like The Green MileThe Eyes of the Dragon is my favorite by him, and it's fantasy.  I liked The Ruins, even though it was kind of silly.

Hmm.  What are your favorite books that are suspenseful or scary but not overly gory?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pace and Backstory (Or... An Area in Which I Have Issues)

When I think about the pace of a novel, I think of a marathon*.  You have to keep up a steady pace to keep your reader interested.  There will be peaks and valleys, but it has to keep moving.  And, like a marathon, reading a novel is voluntary.  Though people don't like to drop out after beginning, they will if they lose momentum.

Pace has always been an issue for me.  I'm not currently WiP-ing, but today on the drive home from work, I began to give serious thought to the WiP that I was working on when I started this blog back in January.  I put it aside over the summer because it began to overwhelm me.  I was doing a bunch of research (that in itself can become burdensome.  Wait... is that a word?) and trying to decide if I wanted events that happened before the story to be a prologue or to work them into the story later.  In short, a bunch of things made me begin to feel like I was losing control of where I wanted the story to go, and I needed to step away from the vehicle.

Why is this an issue of pace?  Because my major issue is that I'm not sure where to drop backstory in while keeping the story itself moving.  I don't want to break the action by blabbing on about what happened before, but the reader needs to know. How do you do that naturally?  How do you "show not tell" things that have already occured?  I am going to have to reread The Hunger Games like a master class in dropping the reader into the action while having a whole lot of backstory to explain.  I don't remember being distracted by Panem's backstory in the series; in fact, I was hungry for as much information as I could get on what had happened before and how Panem's history had led up to The Reaping at the beginning of the first book.

I guess I'm a lazy writer, lol.  I wish I could just drop my reader into the current story with an understanding of where my MC has been (and, more importantly in the beginning, where her parents have been).  In my mind, I can visualize it like a movie... and when you see it, there is so much less to tell (or it's so much easier to show, lol).  This is what happens when you have a hubby who teaches TV Productions and analyzes film with his classes.  I could paint the backstory in a few effective shots.  Opening credits.  I wrote the opening backstory scene as a prologue initially, but then it's kind of an awkward transition to the present in Ch.1.

Well, I haven't looked at it since the summertime.  Maybe I'll reread it and inspiration will strike.  I guess it's time to wake up my muse...

* Note from Lindsey's pen:  Do not be fooled.  Lindsey has never run a marathon, nor is she in any shape to do so.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Chapter Book Read Aloud Suggestions?

If you've visited here pretty much ever (lol) you probably know that I teach first grade. And I can tell you that there are only two times during the day when first graders stop talking: snack and chapter book time.

I read lots of picture books to my class, usually at least two on any given day, but we also always have a running chapter book going on for discussions about characters and setting, predicting, thinking aloud, vocabulary, retelling, you name it. The kids get very invested in whatever book we are reading and can't wait each day until it is time to read the next chapter.

Now... I've been teaching first grade for thirteen years.  Yep.  Thirteen.  So believe me when I say that there are some books that you just get sick of reading out loud.  And everyone's tolerance is different.  For example, I groan to myself every year when I pull out Charlotte's Web in the springtime, because it has 22 chapters and takes forever, and there is soooo much to explain to my sweet-but-completely-unfamiliar-with-farming-life children.  But as soon as I start it, I love it.  (We happen to be surrounded by farms, but many of my kids are new to the country and haven't experienced them yet.  We read it before we go to a farm each May.)  I can't tolerate Trumpet of the Swan.  Ditto Mr. Popper's Penguins, which some teachers love. I also dislike The Boxcar Children (the latter two mainly because the language is very dated - or, in Mr. Popper's case, dated and British - and my class is comprised completely of children who do not speak English at home.  They are learning basic English vocab, so throwing in language like that is very tough).  I don't like Junie B. Jones, because my kids are just learning English grammar and she does not exactly model that (lol).  I'm not a stick in the mud, I know she is silly.  But there is also a lot of name-calling, which we don't allow, so she's not my character of choice.

I know, I know.  I'm not reading them for me.  But our curriculum does not specify which chapter books to read, it simply states the skills we should be working on during Read Alouds and lets us pick the books, so I try to pick books that I am really enthsiastic about because I know that the kids can tell. Oh yes.  They know.

So.  Which chapter books do I love reading to my kids?  My Father's Dragon, The Hundred Dresses, Donovan's Word Jar, The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo, 26 Fairmount Avenue, The Stories Julian Tells.  I also have a chaptery version of The Nutcracker that I love.

There are a bunch I think are ok and I read off and on different years - The Littles, Flat Stanley (I do read this every year, it's ok, but the Flat Stanley Project is awesome!), The Mouse and the Motorcycle, Meet Me at the Cucumbers, Ivy and Bean, Freckle Juice.

Early on in the year, I also read lots of beginning books from series that they will be reading independently by the end of the year, like Frog and Toad, Henry and Mudge, Iris and Walter, Mr. Putter and Tabby (lol, notice a theme here?), Poppleton, Nate the Great, Cam Jansen, etc.

So... I've read these books over and over and over and over and I am looking for some new ideas.  Right now Tootsie Roll and I are reading a delightful new book called The Magical Ms. Plum by Bonny Becker, which sort of reminds me of a newer version of Mrs. Piggle Wiggle in that each child in Ms. Plum's class has his or her own personality (not all good, lol). Ms. Plum sends each of them to the supply closet at some point in the year and they return with an animal that ends up teaching them a lesson or rewarding them somehow based on their behavior.  It's very cute and when we finish I may take it in to read to my class. 

Anyone else have any suggestions for good chapter book Read Alouds with content appropriate for first graders?  (I can explain vocab, but I don't like having to edit content as I read, especially since parents often pick these books up to read with the kids at home as well!).

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sunday Night Giggle

I can't help but laugh when I watch this.  If you have seen Les Mis, you'll be laughing too!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Otherwise Occupied

I am, at the moment, supervising six very chatty third graders who are sleeping over for Tootsie Roll's birthday.  They are supposedly watching a movie but I'm pretty sure they haven't heard a word of it. :)

Earlier today, my Girly Whirlies had candid pictures taken at dance class so we were allowed to add colorful tutus and hairdos to their usual black (Tootse Roll) and pink (Curly Jones).  Fun!

Friday, October 15, 2010


So tired.  Long week at school.  Tomorrow it's dance for the girls, then the rest of the weekend is Tootsie Roll's birthday party/sleepover.  Fun times with a bunch of adorable third grade girls!!! :D

So tonight I am taking a break, going to jump in bed with my new book from Rebecca, The Garden of Eve.  Looks so good - a sort of thoughtful, suspenseful fairy tale?  Perfect for a very windy, possibly stormy night!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Scariest Movie Game

I totally made this game up so I hope someone plays along, lol.  I'm going to post the synopsis (mine is from IMDB) of the horror movie that scares me the most.  Guess it, then post the synopsis of the one that scares you the most in your comment.  The next person guesses yours in the comments and posts theirs and so on.  GAME ON! Here's mine:

"A boy preacher named Isaac goes to a town in Nebraska called Gatlin and gets all the children to murder every adult in town. A young couple have a murder to report and they go to the nearest town (Gatlin) to seek help but the town seems deserted. They are soon trapped in Gatlin with little chance of getting out alive. "

Go for it! :)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Today's post is a flash fiction response to this week's Sunday Scribblings prompt: essential

Mom stood in the doorway for a minute after she threw the duffle bag on my bed.

"Pack up.  Only what's essential.  You have ten minutes."

Her eyes traveled across my walls heavily, painting the room with sadness.  She pressed her knuckles into them like a child, and I knew better than to sass her about the undersized pee wee soccer bag.  She walked across the hall into her room and I looked around frantically.  Where were we going to go?  The apartment was small and dirty, but it was better than nothing, wasn't it?  Why did we only have ten minutes?

I sat on my bed, grounding myself.  I looked around the room in quadrants, trying to decide what was essential.  Breathing steadily, I opened my dresser and took out underwear.  Three pairs.  One pair of jeans.  Two shirts.  Two pairs of socks.  With what I had on, I'd have at least three of everything.

I moved back to the bed and considered my toothbrush.  Favorite books.  Pen.  Notebook.  Dance trophies.  Brownie vest with all of the patches.  My stuffed owl with the fuzz loved off in spots.  Gold #1 Daughter charm my mom had given me on my twelfth birthday.  My mom shouted.  Three minutes.
_ _ _

My mom died of a drug overdose about three months later.  We had been spending our nights in the basement of a church.  No one knew we were there.  My mom had stolen the key from the church office during a service.  We kept the lights off.  The morning I woke up next to her cold body was the last time I ever saw the place.  I kissed her cheek and left her there.  I figured they were her best chance for getting somewhere better in the next life, if there is one.

I still have the duffel bag.  I zipped it up at home that day and haven't opened it since.  I don't need to see what's inside to know it's there.  When my countdown reached one minute, I threw all of the clothes out and stuffed in a photo album, the only one mom put together.  It had a couple of wedding photos in it of her and my dad.  The three of us sleepy-eyed one Christmas morning.  My first and second birthdays, before Dad left.  The pages after that are empty.

I didn't know where I was going, and turns out it wouldn't be the last time.  But essential was where I'd been. Where we'd been.  Together.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

We Shall Entice You with Contesty Goodness

I dropped a hint recently that a contest is in the works.  This one is going to be a joint endeavor with one of my mostest favoritist writerly bloggers (who I met through another contest - win!) and possibly a third writerly as well!  We are plotting and planning and rubbing our hands together and planning our little graphic to roll things out as we speak.  We are celebrating some exciting Follower milestones (you there!  The 300.... almost!  Ok, it will not be into the valley of death with you.  I promise something a smidge more appealing).  We were going to try to get it in before Halloween (read: before everyone's life goes into NaNo blackout) but we're writing for Hannah's contest and people are already NaNoPlotting, so we decided to wait until early December when you are so exhausted that you're easy to push around ready for something a little more lighthearted and a whole lot less stressful.  And there will be PRIZES!  We are hoping to roll out the announcement next week and then really light the fire after NaNo.

Speaking of NaNo... good luck to all of you crazy brilliant awesome hermits-to-be! (For anyone who has happened upon The Dange and isn't familiar, NaNoWriMo is the totally tonguetwisty nickname for National Novel Writing Month.  The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel.  In the month of November.  It takes place annually, anyone can sign up, join write-ins, get support, guzzle coffee, go on a social blackout, alienate all of your friends except fellow NaNoites, scream, pull out your hair, stay up all night, take days off from work, and WRITE YOUR BUTT OFF.  It's not supposed to be a good novel... it's supposed to kick you into high gear and get enough writing done that you can turn it into a good novel with some mega revision and editing once the month is over.  Or you could write "All work and no play make Jack a dull boy" over and over until you hit 50,000 words.  You'd still win, but it wouldn't be nearly as fun as commisserating with fellow NaNoites about writer's block and characters that won't cooperate and the fact that your favorite coffee flavor doesn't come out until December when you really need it for NaNo.)

Hey, wow.  I allllmost convinced myself to do NaNo just then!  I have done it twice before and failed miserably.  I just don't have the time with teaching and the kids and parent conferences and hosting Thanksgiving.  Excuses, excuses, right?  If I had a decent story idea, I might. consider it.  a little bit.  maybe.  But I don't really, seeing as I just shelved my WiP and nothing is dying to come out at the moment.  So I'm planning to give myself a break this year and hope maybe next year.  But I will miss the chaos and fun with my writing buddies.  Have fun, you guys!! I will be cheering you on like the crazy goth cheerleader who totally doesn't belong but does it for just that reason!  LOVE you guys!  Break a pencil! :D

Monday, October 11, 2010

Columbus. It's Complicated.

If Christopher Columbus had a Facebook status, it would be "It's Complicated."

Why?  When I first started teaching, 13 years ago, it was all "Columbus discovered America!  Hooray!" 

Somehow since then, the sentiment even in elementary school has become a more cautious "Columbus wanted to find a new, faster route to the Indies, but he bumped into the Americas by accident.  When he got there, he thought he had reached the Indies, so he called the people Indians.  So, really, the Native Americans that he called Indians were here first, but Columbus let the rest of the world know that they were here.  Got that?"  (To complicate things further, try telling this to a class of 6 year olds comprised mostly of Indian children.  From India.)  A lot more complicated, if also a lot more accurate.

(We won't talk about the day when we tell them that Pocahontas' true story did not end quite like the Disney movie).  Although we don't get into this in first grade, some people - adults, presumably - take a bit more disgruntled approach to Columbus.

So.  Christopher Columbus.  Hero?  Villain?  Something in between?  There are two sides to every story.

In the musical Wicked, Elphaba (the Wicked Witch) calls the Wizard out for being a phony and not a wizard at all.  He replies that the people of Oz gave him the name Wonderful (as in Wonderful Wizard of Oz), so he just went with it.  He's trying to convince her that she can do the same.


I never asked for this

Or planned it in advance

I was merely blown here

By the winds of chance
I never saw myself

As a Solomon or Socrates

I knew who I was:

One of your dime a dozen


Then suddenly I'm here

Respected - worshipped, even

Just because the folks in Oz

Needed someone to believe in

Does it surprise you

I got hooked, and all too soon?

What can I say?

I got carried away

And not just by balloon:


They called me "Wonderful"

So I said "Wonderful" - if you insist

I will be "Wonderful"

And they said "Wonderful"

Believe me, it's hard to resist

'Cause it feels wonderful

They think I'm wonderful

Hey, look who's wonderful -

This corn-fed hick

Who said: "It might be keen

To build a town of green

And a wonderful road of yellow brick!"

(spoken) See - I never had a family of my own. So, I

guess I just - wanted to give the citizens of Oz everything.

ELPHABA(spoken) So you lied to them.


(spoken) Elphaba, where I'm from, we believe all sorts of

things that aren't true. We call it - "history."

(sung) A man's called a traitor - or liberator

A rich man's a thief - or philanthropist

Is one a crusader - or ruthless invader?

It's all in which label

Is able to persist

There are precious few at ease

With moral ambiguities

So we act as though they don't exist

They call me "Wonderful"

So I am wonderful

In fact - it's so much who I am

It's part of my name

And with my help, you can be the same.

Is he wonderful?  Terrible?  Perception is a funny thing, and a lot of books like Wicked have been cashing in on telling very compelling "other sides" of the story.  Giving the traditional villain the chance to be heard and the backstory to explain why deeds perceived as evil may not have been that at all, or may have been misunderstood, or may even have been forced by the traditional hero.  A while back, before I started this blog, I was working on a WiP in that genre.  My Columbus lessons today made me think of it. 

A good story is more complicated than good guy/bad guy.  Thoughts?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

I'm in Love!

Totally infatuated with my new Canon Rebel.  HH and the girls gave it to me for my birthday back in August but I just got a memory card for it, and it was the perfect fall day to be outside taking pictures!  I have never used anything but a point and shoot, so I know n-o-t-h-i-n-g about using this camera yet and all of the amazing features it has, but even what I was able to take today has me head over heels!

Wooohooo!  Can't wait how to actually learn more about using it!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Happy Dancing!

Today I opened my mailbox to happiness and joy!  Inside was a box from Rebecca at Sonshine Thoughts.  A happy box.  A wondrous box.  A box full of luuuuuv!  Last month I came in third in her flash fiction contest based on the adorable book Be Happy That... and LOOK at this loot!
I GOT MY OWL!!!!! :D  You have no idea how happy I am.  No idea.  No, no you don't.  Stop thinking that you do.  She sent the book from which she got her contest prompts, Be Happy That..., which I read immediately and it is hysterical.  The Garden of Eve sounds spooky and enchanting and delicious.  The cover art is gorgeous (I know you can't see it well on my desk there).  And, look!  Revision & Self-Editing!  To revise & self-edit, I need a working WiP.  Which means maybe I'll get my butt in gear and start another one.
The owlicious lunchbox (!!!) and the cutie little windup seal (the ball on top spins and he slides!) were super sekrit surprises.  Thank you, Rebecca!!!

Wait... one more pic...

This is the upper tier (like a shelf) of my writing desk.  On the right are books and owly bookends.  On the left are a zebra head and a porcelain angel - dollar store Mother's Day gifts from my girls (my favorite things, because I love that they go into the store with HH and pick WHATEVER they want to buy and are so proud to give it to me).  In the middle is Sad Robot, who I got at Philly Comic Con (the hand-sketched comic he came with was pretty lame but that's ok because I am not much of a comic reader; I just fell in love with the handmade stuffed felt Sad Robot).  On Sad Robot's left, very small, is a Play Doh rendition of Daphne from Scooby Doo made by Tootsie Roll.  And now Sad Robot is hugging the owly friend he has been waiting for!
LOVE!  Thanks again, Rebecca!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Why We Do What We Do

Today, out on the playground, I told one of my first graders that he needed to tie his shoe.  He has had trouble tying it so far, so I added that I could help him and asked if he's been practicing at home.  His face lit up.  He said, "YES!  AND I GOT IT!  WANNA SEE?"  I watched him very slowly and determinedly tie his shoe with an extremely furrowed brow, so full of concentration.  When he was done, he beamed and I gave him a big hug and told him how proud I was.  Then he went off to play. 

It was one of those moments that reminded me why I teach, why the little ones, and how much I love it.  You can absolutely physically see when they finally meet success at something with which they have struggled.  They just exude pride and excitement. (You should see them when they realize that they can read!)

So it got me thinking about why I write.  I have thought about this a lot  in the past few months, since I haven't had a whole lot of time to write, and I really haven't been beating myself up over it.  And I realized that I haven't been beating myself up because I don't really write to get published.  (Oh yes I did.  I said that.)  Now, I know that the holy grails that most of us writerly bloggers are going for are agent representation and publication.  It's why we pay attention to details and join SCWBI and peruse editors' blogs and do crazy things like locking out life for a month to try to achieve 50,000 words during NaNovember.  Have I been serious about wanting to be published in the past?  Yes.  Will I keep up my subscriptions and keep my ear to the floor in publishing circles?  Yes, because I think it's good to pay attention and I don't want to get lazy should I decide to step up my game.  I'm not opposed to publication (now that just sounds crazy) but as wonderful as that would be, if I'm being honest, it's really not my main goal at the moment.

I write for two main reasons:

1. I write for release.
I spend my days with noisy little guys.  I love it, but there is not a moment of quiet or down time all day long, and then I come home to little ones.  Writing allows me some peace.  My shoulders relax.  My brain is allowed to wander to places that are a little bit darker, a little more foreboding, a little less rated E for Everyone.  My writing isn't graphic, but there is a big difference between YA and age 6, lol.  It reminds me that I am a grownup with more complex thoughts and ideas, and it allows me time when nothing looks like a lesson plan telling me what I need to do next, but instead the world is mine to create, unfurl, quickly or slowly.  I am not responsible to or for anyone else when I write.

2. I write for my children.
Maybe it's all the "dead body shows" (Handsome Hubby's phrase) I watch, like Forensic Files, but I have this weird need to put part of me on paper for my kids.  And I don't mean that I actually even write about myself, but I want to give them an idea of who I am through what I write.  Where my mind wanders.  What I was really like when they were 8 and 3.  I have a terrible memory and I don't remember what my mom was like when I was that age.  (My mom, for the record, is still very much alive and well, lol - Hi, Mom!)  Could I ask her?  Sure.  Easily.  But what I'm trying to capture isn't what you can tell a person through stories about when they were young or what you can see in a photograph.  When my girls are adults with young kids of their own, I want them to know what weird, interesting things were spinning through my own head at this time in my life.  Things that I won't even remember next week if I don't write them down, because they're figments of my imagination.

So... that's why I teach, and that's why I write. 

Why do you do what you do?

Thursday, October 7, 2010


I'm feeling very scattered today.  There are papers everywhere - the girls both have photo orders for school and both for dance, Tootsie Roll has to take in snack for her Brownie meeting tomorrow but we both work so we can't even get there for the meeting (she can, it's right after school in the building), her birthday party is coming, I have patches to sew on her Brownie vest, somehow have to figure out how to make a Violet Baudelaire costume, nut and magazine sales for Brownies, wrapping paper and chocolate sales for school, rehearsals for a school event, I'm in the midst of changing over the girls' clothing in their closets and drawers from summer to fall/winter so there are clothes everywhere to sort and store, and my principal just recently told us we have to start handing in lesson plans two weeks in advance (which is asinine, because within 3 days first graders have veered from the plan anyway).

I prioritize.  I make lists.  I organize.  I filter and give away and recycle.  I try to minimize, but I bring a lot of work home so I don't have much time and things do pile up.

So this is me saying... Um, yeah.  This counts as my blog post for today. Lol :)  I threw "scattered" into Google and got some interesting pics...

Most of those look too neatly scattered.  :)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Scariest Childhood Memory

Children view the world in a very different way than adults.  If you've ever read the picture book Shortcut by Donald Crews, or seen the movie Stand By Me (I mention the movie since I haven't read Stephen King's novella The Body upon which it is based), you know what I mean.  When you experience a truly scary event as a child, it's like putting a pin in your life map.  Whether or not it was earth-shattering, you view it with a somber seriousness, a memory you don't really kid about.  Children don't have the world experience to put events into perspective - how serious was it?  Was it really as terrifying as it seemed at that moment?

In Shortcut, Crews tells a story about being warned by Big Mama not to take the shortcut home, but the kids do anyway.  They are fooling around on the train tracks, have to decide whether to turn back and go the right way, and they decide to go on with the shortcut.  Of course, the train comes, and the children have a very close call.  It's very edge-of-your-seat for little guys, with the train KLICKETY-KLAKing closer and closer (the font gets bigger and bigger, it's great).  Once the train goes past, they complete their journey in silence.  They don't ever talk about it.  And they never.  Take the shortcut.  Again.

Stand By Me is a coming of age story about four best friends who go searching for the dead body of a boy killed by a train.  The story is more about the journey, but once they find it, the movie comes to a close by describing their lives afterward, what happened to each of the boys as they grew up, etc.  Their lives are sort of forever divided into Before The Body and After The Body.

My scariest childhood memory doesn't have anything to do with bodies or close calls with trains, but I can tell you that when and after it happened, it was more serious to a 9 or 10 year old me than anything.

At the time, we were living in a rowhome (aka townhouse, houses that are attached on both sides to other houses).  Our house was right next to the corner house.  About halfway down across the street lived friends of our family. Their house was for sale. They were getting ready to move and my mom and younger sister and I had walked down from our house to visit.  They didn't have any children my age, so I got bored and decided to go home. 

On the way home, a man that I had never seen before came up to me.  He asked me if I had ever been in the house that was for sale.  I don't know if he had seen me come out of the house, but I said yes.  He asked me how many bedrooms and bathrooms it had, and I told him.  He asked me if I lived nearby.  Now, at this moment, I was honestly thinking that he was trying to find out if I lived in a similar house so I knew what I was talking about, but a warning went off in my head and I just said, "Yeah, down there," and waved in the general direction of my house.  He nodded and kept walking down the street.  I ran to my end but did actually have the sense not to let him watch me go into my house.  I think I just hung out outside for a while.

My mom and sister came home later and didn't mention any man coming to look at our friends' house, so I began to get scared.  I kept replaying the scene in my head over and over to decide if I had given him too much information.  That night, I listened to every little creak in the house and couldn't sleep.

I guess I did fall asleep eventually.  When I woke up in the morning, I was still nervous, but it was a bright, sunny day, and nothing had happened during the night.  I wondered if I had gotten myself too worked up.  I went downstairs.  Our stairs led right to the front door, so if you were coming down, you had a view out the little windows in the door.  I stopped short on the stairs when I saw him.

The man from the day before was sitting on our front steps.  Just sitting there.  I ran to get my mom and I asked her if she knew who he was.  She didn't.  I remember her frowning and looking out the window but not going outside.  Eventually, he got up and left. 

We never saw him again, but I spent probably the next entire month of my life sick to my stomach with terror.  I thought for sure that the guy was going to do something to us or to our friends down the street and I couldn't tell anyone what had happened because if someone got killed it would have been my fault.  Try living with that on a 9 yr old conscience!  Our friends moved soon after, and I was so relieved, but then I worried about the people who moved in.  I didn't stop worrying until more than a year later when we also moved.  WHEW!

This story just reminded me of another scary thing that happened when I was even younger.  We lived in a big house, just my mom and my sisters and me (before the rowhome).  The deck off of our kitchen was a full story from the ground, so it had a full flight of wooden steps to the ground.  One night, I had to be maybe 5?  6?  7?  I went to the kitchen in the dark to get something.  I heard a creak on the deck stairs.  I turned on the light and looked out the window in the kitchen door.  A man was coming up the deck stairs in the dark.  When he saw the light come on and my face look out of the curtain, he stopped, about halfway up the steps, waved at me, then turned and went back down the steps and then he was gone.  Spooky!!!!

Do you have any scary childhood memories?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Something's Brewing...

... and it's a contest!  I meant to host a contest when I jumped back into blogging after my summer hiatusish, to celebrate coming back and to drum some interest back up in these parts (thanks to my awesome bloggy friends who came back even though I haven't given you stuff, lol!).  Of course, then school started, and anyone who either has small children or teaches small children knows that someone who both has them AND teaches them is a little crazed in the month of September.  What can I say, I sometimes bite off more than I can chew.  BUT... I am nearing 300 followers (WHAT!?!?!!!) which totally blows my mind, so we definitely need to dance the happy dance with some fabulous prizes.  I think I want to have a writing contest this time, because I have had an absolute BLAST with the ones I entered this year and each one has pushed me a little further into something I haven't written before.  So now I want to read what you've got up your writing sleeves!  I'm thinking on it.  Will keep you posted.  (Perhaps after 9 girls sleep over this weekend for Tootsie Roll's bday...)

Something is also NOT brewing.  I am currently WiP-less.  *blink*  *blink*  *crickets*

It's true.  I have shelved my most recent WiP since the voice just wasn't there.  I still like the story idea but I need to put it away and come back to it with fresh eyes.  I am enjoying the challenge of flash fiction right now and finding that smaller writing exercises are really working better for me at the moment.  I feel like a flower blooming, but one tiny petal at a time.  Each small piece that I write is teaching me something new and the entire process has been really helpful in focusing on important words.  I also have four books on writing (including On Writing) that have been sitting on my writing desk shelf for the past few months begging to be opened.  With my schedule, I find that I have maybe an hour at night to read or to write, but not really both.  So I think I will crack open those books and let my newest idea (which is just a wisp, a hatchling) simmer, keep chipping away at flash fic, and hone a little bit.

"No, Handsome Hubby, I can't watch Castle right now, I'm honing..."  :)

Monday, October 4, 2010

This Could Have Been Lame But It Isn't

So... it's 11:47pm and I haven't posted yet.  It's ok, I was playing with my kids earlier this evening, and then working on my horror piece.  But I refuse to fail NaBlo on day 4 (omigosh, sad) by not posting.  So instead of rubbing my tired eyes and blabbing about something just for the sake of it, I'm going to share with you some of my mostest favoritist art prints and send you to Johanna Wright's website, where you can find more of her precious prints.  I have the first two and will definitely be back for more!

 Ukelele Days
Under the Weeds
 Midnight Picnic
 Gretel's Revenge
 Even Giants Fall in Love
A Much Better Castle

I am so in love with Johanna Wright's art.  Go see more!