Monday, September 5, 2011

A Flair for the Dramatic

My big girl, Tootsie Roll, is about to turn 9 later this month, and will begin fourth grade on Wednesday.  TR has always been a dramatic kid, from the first four colicky months of constant day-and-night screamage to the following ten months of ear infections (tubes saved the day at 15 months).  She pulled a tv onto her head at age two, and got stitches above her lip thanks to a smack in the face by a pole at age five (that's what happens when you keep swinging around it, let this be a lesson to you all).

She has since channeled her energies into more productive and artistic venues, from theater camp to tap/jazz/ballet classes to teaching herself basic piano to nonstop singing to upcoming violin lessons this year.  Her Type A side (ohh she's her mom) is coming out in the way she likes to have people follow the rules and her love of lists and schedules.  She is emotional, doesn't understand why people hurt one another, and is a fabulous writer for her ability to see deeply into people's feelings.  The constant physical drama of her younger years has definitely melted into early tween navigation through friendships and the pouring of thoughts onto paper.

But then yesterday, riding her bike as the summer days dwindle, she fell, and in a style befitting a much younger version of herself, got a lovely bike handle (sans streamers) directly in the gut.

Yes, that is the exact impression of the end of her bike handle with the hole in the middle where streamers could go if she weren't a super cool almost 9 year old.
Yeah, her new bike is black and pink with skully things on it.  Love.  Anyway, no worries, we did the responsible thing and took her to the ER, where we did ridiculous amounts of waiting they ultrasounded the bejeezus out of her and the very lovely tech complimented each of her very clear and compliant internal organs.

All is well, and now she has a lovely photo (although it saddened her that I disapproved of the idea of her lifting up her shirt to show her friends her battle scar, like Madeline - even the "Ok, then I'll only do it on the playground" version) to share with her friends... which will probably get top billing in the fourth grade requisite What I Did This Summer journal entry over her month-long theater camp, week long trip to Vermont, and triumph over all things "I can't really swim". 

Here's to a new year - you never know what drama lurks around the corner! ;)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Winds of Change - To Mine Own Self Being True :)

Hehe that reminds me of that Scorpions song.  Remember?

Well, some of you will... probably not the new first grade teacher just hired for a maternity leave across the hall from me - yeah, that guy, who is so fresh and ready to teach and so BORN IN 1987. Lol... I turned 36 this summer and I'm not feeling old, but I am definitely noticing that the rest of the world is getting younger.

So... hi. :)  It feels a little awkward coming back after a 4 month absence, and I have to say first that I am really really surprised very grateful that my Bloggy Miyagis (followers) have not left me in droves.  Ok, so a bunch of you probably didn't notice and it was probably just too much work for some of you to stop following me or maybe you just didn't know how but regardless THANK YOU for sticking around, it totally makes me smile.

So since I started blogging a few years ago, I realized that I both write and blog in definite cycles - when the last marking period of school gets super busy, I seem to go on hiatus, and then stay there through the summer while I am home with my girls.  It's not exactly ideal for cultivating a "following", though I'm not really the type to ask anyone to drink the Kool-Aid anyway.  (I'm a loner, Dottie.  A rebel.) 

What I have found with this writing blog is that I've tried to be a productive and helpful part of the writing community, and as much as I want to be that, there are times when it begins to feel burdensome, like a bigger responsibility than I can take on with work and family, especially since I am still a novice writer.  I also have a family blog where I try to update (mainly the nanas) the extended family on the kids' doings.  I used to also have a teaching blog where I shared stories, but I stopped that in '08 because although I never used anything identifying about myself or the kids, and tried to keep the stories funny and not vent-y, I always had a nagging worry that I could be putting my teaching job in jeopardy.  What it boils down to is TOO MUCH BLOG, NOT ENOUGH TIME.  Or energy. :)

So the change comes here - Le Dange will no longer be just a writing blog, it will become part family blog, part mommy blog, part teacher blog, part writing blog, part whateverisonmymind blog... sort of everything that is me.  I don't know why I was putting crazy expectations on myself to wow anyone with constant thoughtful posts on writing, because truthfully, as much as I love it, writing encompasses a small fraction of my day.... and many days not even that.  Am I giving up?  No way... I have a brand new story idea TODAY as a matter of fact, and fall is usually when I get back in the writing swing along with school and everything else routine.

So anyway... if you have stuck with me this far, thanks for sticking. :)  I'll be back more regularly, posting who knows what, and you know what?  I kinda like it that way.  Hope you come back.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

I Was Playing Dead. Did I Fool Ya?

Ooh, it's been a looong time since I posted. :)  That was sickness, report cards, and writer's block, for the most part.  I got really frustrated with the WiP I'd been working on for over a year and needed a break, so I plotted out another one.  I was/am excited about it, but it's dark... and between that and the also rather serious first WiP... I was kinda losing the fun of writing.  And you know how when your writing is meh, you run out of stuff to blog about?  Yeah.  It was all starting to feel like a job, and my full time job is pretty jobby enough. ;)  So I knew I needed a break.

In the meantime, we've gotten well, stuff is getting done, and another new idea crept its way in... a MG.  MG!  Zero trouble with the beginning, which is usually the part I a-g-o-n-i-z-e over.  It's FUN!  And I'm having fun writing it and sharing it with my 8 yr old.  It's still but a babe as far as books go, but it definitely is bringing back some of the joy I needed to recover in writing.

So... not sure how much I'll be blogging in the next few weeks, but my hiatus won't be forever.  Just one of those rebalancing, need time for other things times.  Hopefully I'll be back bopping around all of your blogs soon!  I miss reading you! :D

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Midweek Madness

Hello!  What's shakin' in your world this week?  I am knee deep in report cards and completely entranced by The Book Thief, which I just started yesterday (yeah, I'm a little late to that party but it's definitely worth the wait).

Without further ado, a few quick somethings for your hump day enjoyment.  Happy Wednesday!

My writing lately (photo credit)

Christina Perri - Jar of Hearts - Love. This. Song.  Amazing video. :)

Sand Art - Russian Love :  If you have never seen this beautiful, amazing, heartbreaking story told completely with music and sand... go.  Watch.  Immediately.  Trust me, it's worth the 8 1/2 minutes.  (Not for kids).

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Hunger Games Casting News

So we already knew that Jennifer Lawrence from Winter's Bone will be playing Katniss in the upcoming Hunger Games move.

The actors playing Gale and Peeta have been announced, too.  Liam Hemsworth (The Last Song) as Gale:
Josh Hutcherson (The Kids Are All Right) as Peeta:
Interesting they went for the blonder guy as Gale and the dark haired guy as Peeta.  Not that they can't make them look like whatever they want - obviously Katniss isn't blonde. :)  I haven't seen any of their recent movies listed above so I don't really have an opinion, I'm just excited that it's moving forward. :) 

Thoughts?  Team Gale or Team Peeta?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Midweek Madness

Well, I'm just at the very beginning stages of getting my new WiP off the ground, so I don't have much to say there just yet.  So I'm thinking about making Midweek Madness a totally random feature here at Le Dange, where I just post something fun and probably not writing related.  Yeah, if I can stick to it.  Since I have no particular blogging schedule or anything. :)  (That's right - you are at my mercy!  Oh wait, actually no.  I can't really make you come here...)

Here's a Hump Day giggle.  Enjoy!

Ooh... this new template shows video way better than my old one!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Dark Playlist Suggestions?

I'm starting a new WiP.  It's dark.  And I'm interested in your suggestions for dark, sort of intense music for a playlist (whiny emo is not invited, lol).

The WiP I've been working on has me somewhat flummoxed.  As in... it is plotted and I have rewritten the beginning 85 times.  Ok, not 85, but it feels like 85.  And ya know what?  I need a break.  I've been tinkering with this one since January 2010 and as much as I feel like there is a really good story there, I don't know.  Something just isn't working.  Part of me knows that I don't have enough time to devote to any WiP and that's probably a big part of my problem.  Time is a big struggle for me - I work full time and also bring work home, I have a preschooler and an 8 yr old that I want to spend time with, and a hubby I'm pretty fond of. :)  Lately we've been hit with illnesses and major amounts of play rehearsals.  Next up is report cards.  It never really ends. :)

But I'm not really here to complain about time - time is a struggle we all have.  I guess I'm getting tired of struggling with the same story for over a year.  So I'm trying something new.  And my new story has a darker voice.  Which is where YOUR music suggestions come in!

If interested in photo credit, please contact me - I Googled my story topic and found this
pic but the site is kind of gory for general consumption.

What do you listen to when you are in a dark, intense mood?  Or to put you there for your writing?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A New Look

Wait!  Don't go!  I know, I know... the new look of my blog is unfamiliar and you want to shield your eyes.  You're wondering, Where's the coffee cup?  Where are the wooden floorboards?  FOR GOD'S SAKE, WOMAN, WHERE ARE THE STRIPED SOCKS?

I decided to sweep the Wicked Witch look out and find something more cheerful to freshen things up a little bit.  Entice myself to keep coming back.  Oh, and you, too. :)  Besides, what's more Dangerous than something that looks so innocuous, right? 

I'm a teensy bit impulsive sometimes when I want to change my look - I'm the girl who hands her hubby a pair of scissors and says, "Please chop my hair."  And when he gives me that Not again, would you PLEASE just go to the hairdresser staredown, it's not that I'm cheap.  Well, maybe.  But every time that happens, it's like 11pm and no respectable hairdresser is open and I can't wait until tomorrow, I need you to cut 8 inches off my hair this minute.  And mostly he obliges.  Because he is super sweet.  And because my hair is straight and you can't mess it up that badly, and if you do, I'll just shrug and say, Whatev, cut some more to even it out.  It's only hair.  It'll grow back.  I totally don't get mad.  Ask him.

In fact, I am currently looking for a new pic to post over thar at the top, because that one that's up there is  rolling her eyes at me in a very Mean Girls kinda way, since I have had short (like SHORT short) hair since last summer.  LAST summer, friends.  Time to update the pic already.  Hush.  I'm usually the family photographer, which leaves a very small and weak selection of pictures of myself to choose from.  (By the way, Handsome Hubs says he prefers the longer hair, but I think really he is happy as a clam that now I actually DO go to the hairdresser since I'm not sure I want him buzzing my hairline).  So... pic on the way.  Pinky swear.  In the meantime, enjoy the new view!

Edited: New pic added.  I took this pic today.  Doesn't get more current than that. :)
BONUS: Added a pic of Handsome Hubby, too.  Cause I like to look at him.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Lindsey Learns... About Readability Statistics

So... usually Lindsey Learns, which I have been lax of late in even writing (oops), focuses on something I'm learning as I read.  This time I'm not featuring a book, though, just a nifty little feature in MS Word that I didn't know existed until now.  I'm not sure how useful or helpful it actually is, but it's interesting.

Put very simply, Word can sort of generally maybe figure out what reading level your writing is geared toward.  After it checks your document, it displays info about its readability, like so:

(That is from a short passage of my WiP) 18.2 words per sentence, really? Interesting.  Also interesting that the Grade Level it decided is 7.8.  Now, keep in mind, it's not scanning content here, it's looking at the average number of syllables per word and words per sentence.  So I'm not really sure how useful is in actually predicting what someone else would level your book grade-wise, but interesting nonetheless.  I'll have to try it again as my WiP grows in length.

Here's how you do it:

1. On the Tools menu, click Options, and then click the Spelling & Grammar tab.

2. Select the Check grammar with spelling check box.

3. Select the Show readability statistics check box, and then click OK.

4. On the Standard toolbar, click Spelling and Grammar .

5. When Microsoft Word finishes checking spelling and grammar, it displays information about the reading level of the document.

(I got that right from the Help section in MS Word)

Newer versions may need this from the actual

1.Click the Microsoft Office Button, and then click Word Options.

2.Click Proofing.

3.Make sure Check grammar with spelling is selected.

4.Under When correcting grammar in Word, select the Show readability statistics check box.

One thing to note: I kept trying it and wondering where the actual display was because I couldn't find it.  Turns out, you have to complete the spelling/grammar check (so follow the steps above to change the settings and then actually run the check - click through the "replaces" and "ignores" as you would if you were checking for real) and it shows up when the check is complete.  So I'm not sure how often I'd do this... but it's interesting.  One more Word feature discovered!  Sometimes I feel like Word is a game full of Easter eggs, KWIM?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Here We Go, Let's Rock and Roll!

My fabulina Crit Partner Rebecca and I have challenged each other to a duel. 

Me:  You rewrite your WiP beginning and I'll rewrite mine.

Rebecca:  That is a terrible idea.

Me:  Come onnnn....

(Insert her grad class that I paid to give her wonderful advice, thereby coming to her own decision to rewrite. Because I am evil.)

Rebecca:  If I dislocate my thumb, I can't type that much.

Me:  I'll see your dislocated thumb and raise you a kid with four teeth pulled out.  Hey, why are you blogging with a dislocated thumb?

Rebecca:  Because you asked me what was wrong... Heyyyyyy.... Wait.  Exactly how does having a kid with missing teeth stop you from writing?

Me:  You think too much.

Rebecca:  That's what makes me a good writer.

Me:  Touche`.  Good luck with your rewrite.

Rebecca:  You too.

Ok.  I made that whole thing up.  Well, actually I didn't make up any of the facts - we are both rewriting our beginnings, she dislocated her thumb, and TR got her teeth yanked out.  I didn't actually pay her grad class, but they did crit her beginning.  Cuz she is brave and let them.  But this conversation never actually happened.  So let's hope she doesn't sue me or anything while I am off beginning my rewrite. :)

Friday, March 11, 2011


I haven't posted in about two weeks because it's just been busy around here.  Work is busy, and both Handsome Hubs and Tootsie Roll are crazy busy with their respective plays, both of which open in the next few weeks.  And Tootsie Roll just got 4 teeth pulled out.  And I've been a mad crazy person preparing for Technology Week at school.  So... it's just one of those incredibly busy cycles we all go through and I've gotten no blogging or writing done.  But at least we are all well and happy, if a bit stressed.

I had a post planned for... whenever I had time to write it, but now that I'm sitting down, exhaustion is setting in and I'm not finding the pictures I want to post with it.  So it will come, but not tonight.  It was a post about stopping to smell the roses when you're really busy, and being grateful for the everyday things around you, and I think the tragedy in Japan magnified that by infinity, so sadly.  I read snippets of news online when I could today, but only when my first graders were out of the room, so I was getting choppy info.  Think I'll take some time now to read or watch the news.  The pictures are heartbreaking.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Who Keeps Letting Her Near the Coffee?

Macbook = good.

Coffee = good.

Macbook + coffee = not so good.

Oh, yes.  Yes, I did.  And from here on out, I shall let the Ghost of Coffee Spills Past take over this post.

BIG, MEGA-DRAMATIC SIGH.  Seriously, folks, WHO keeps letting Lindsey near the coffee?  Haven't you learned?  Remember this incredibly embarrassing scene from 1999:

The scene:  Lindsey, sitting at the end of a row in a high school auditorium crowded full of probably close to 1,000 teachers.  It is the first day of her brand new teaching job in a brand new state.  It's an inservice day, and the mayor is speaking to the gathering of the entire school district teaching staff.  The auditorium is all clean, thanks to the very hard work of the summer custodial staff.  Lindsey sits relatively near the back of the auditorium with several other staff members from her school that she has just met.  Wait... what is that?  That ribbon of brown liquid running down the center aisle of the beautifully cleaned carpet?  As the mayor speaks?  To several hundred of her new colleagues?  Yes, friends, that's Lindsey's coffee.  And those are people pointing and whispering as it makes its way down, down, down the slanted auditorium floor.  And yes, that's Lindsey, sneaking out of the room with all eyes on her, headed to the office in the middle of a speech by the superintendent, to ask them to page a custodian... someone who probably spent hours the week before shampooing that very carpet.  And yes, 12 years later, when the entire school district convenes at one of their high schools on the first day every year for this same meeting, Lindsey is silently mortified.

Oh, and how about the time the trainers from Columbia University's Reading and Writing Project were hosting a summer course for teachers in her district and Lindsey spilled coffee all over her desk and all of her papers?  Remember that one?

Let's not forget the fact that Lindsey's own Handsome Hubby has joked on multiple occasions that you could brew a pot of coffee just by boiling Lindsey's car mats?  (Wait a second!  That one is totally not my fault - my car cupholders are an inch deep!  They don't hold ANYTHING!  If I let go of my travel mug for a second, it's a goner!)

Yes, that's probably why one time your travel mug fell right over into your teaching bag, upside down, soaking not only your lesson plan book but also a stack of kids' papers you had just marked.

Oh, that was years ago, get over it.

I can't, I'm the Ghost of Coffee Spills Past.  It's kind of my thing.

Fine.  Then get to the point.

The point is, this one is your piece de resistance, spilling coffee on your Macbook.  Your WORK Macbook.  Given to you by THE WORK THAT PAYS THE BILLS.  Paid for by work.  Intended for work use.  Not really yours.  You don't own it.  That Macbook.

Ok, but it still boots up... so... how bad can it be?

You might know that if your "b" key made "b"s still.  Or your "n" key didn't go "nbbbbbbbbbbbb".  Or your "h" key didn't make an apostrophe instead of an h.  Or your backslash didn't turn down the volume.

That last one only happened once.

Yes, but, Lindsey... you don't know if anything else is not working, because without THOSE keys working, you can't login.

I can't help that my work makes me use a 15-stroke password with letters and numbers and capitals.

Nice try.  You can't even type your name.

Ok.  True.

What do you have to say for yourself?

Um... I'm a bad, bad person.  And I hope they can fix it.


And I'm glad it wasn't the machine my WiP is on?

That's what I thought.

photo by ReneS

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Don't Let Mom Drive the Car!

I have crashed cars.  (Yes, multiple... but let's stick to the topic here).  And when you crash them, they don't really.... um... go.  anywhere.  anymore.

This is kinda what writer's block feels like.  Like something is broken and the story won't go anymore.  It has happened to every writer, and it has been the bane of my writing existence this month.  After I got some feedback from my lovely CP, I had some good ideas about making a change to the beginning and cutting a few things that could wait to be explained later in the story.  So, with all this in mind, I wrote the next scene.

A short scene.  Like... a few pages.  And then.  The car.  Crashed.

And there I was, in the passenger seat, saying, "Wait a minute!  This was supposed to work better!"

And right off the bat, I knew what was wrong - my MC's mother did something that derailed her character completely.  I know, I have blindly followed the crazy things characters do, yelled at them, frowned upon them, cursed at them for laughing at me behind my back when I named them the wrong thing... and later realized that they were right.  However, this time, I think Mama was just desperate for a little more screen time or something, and she Thelma & Louise'd the story right into the ground just by reacting a certain way in a scene with the MC.  Because it totally threw everything off.

And then I got bummed.  Because my fix didn't fix, it made things worse.  And everything I tried to add after that sucked.  So I complained and ate chocolate and went back on Facebook after my 4 month hiatus (which has now re-begun) and fretted and wondered what to do.  This went on for about a woeful week.

And then, today, as I was driving home from work, it occured to me how to rewrite the scene to make it work.  So I will be doing that shortly, and hopefully it will send my WiP to the repair shop.  And Mama will be getting a very stern talking to (and perhaps a forceable license removal). :)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Love to Wisconsin

I don't like to soapbox here; it's not really the place.  But I can't sit by without sending love and support to Erica and Christy and fellow teachers in Wisconsin. 

It's time for politicians to stop demonizing teachers. 

Enough already.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Words, The Words, The Music in Words

"He arranged his dignity around him with a few carefully placed licks." (a cat)

"His face was grooved like a winter road."

"He tipped his chin up and smiled at one and all, chattering like a baby bird - but he listened like an empty well."

"He moved like a jumping jack that was strung too  loosely, so that he seemed about to turn a flip or clatter into a pile of bones and string."

"The white coat bleached him further, made him look like a painting that had half washed away."

I am reading Plain Kate by Erin Bow, and enjoying her turns of phrase as much as the story itself.  Her words conjure up very clear images, and the book reads like you're listening to an old storyteller.

And in the little bit of writing time I've had today, I've worked out some story and gotten words on the page, but there is no music to them.  Sometimes music and story come together.  Sometimes... I'm thankful for revision. :)

Friday, February 18, 2011

I Could Get Used to This...

Today, a rare and miraculous thing is happening... shh, don't talk too loudly or you might wake me out of this dream... I have the day off.  Home.  Alone.  All to myself.

My school has a nice, long President's Day weekend (today and Monday off) but Hubby and Children's schools do not.  Eeeeeevery now and then there is an advantage to following three different school district schedules.  Sometimes.  Ok, rarely, so I have to celebrate it, lol.  We are all off on Monday and then on Tuesday when the rest of us go back to work, Tootsie Roll has a random inservice day.  (That's more like how things usually work out.)

So after I spent the morning dropping kids off, futzing around, coffeeing up, texting Handsome Hubby to try to make him laugh during his inservice today... I sat here.  And began.  To write.

And OH MY GOODNESS!  I have been doing a lot of thinking since my CP's very helpful comments and have needed to cut and rework some things, so today I got to actually sit quietly and work on it.  And a problem that I have had with the beginning being too expositiony and not enough "let's get to the interesting stuff"y is beginning to work itself out.

Is this what being a writer is like? Not having to steal an hour after kiddies are in bed to jot down a few paragraphs?  Cause, seriously, sign me up!

p.s. - Yeah, I know.  It's not that simple.  And life is always busy, even if you are home alone during the day.  But it's me who's dreaming here, so let's pretend, shall we?  Cause I am loving this day!

Monday, February 14, 2011

First Dates, Red Velvet Cupcakes, and No Love for Blogger

Handsome Hubby and I were sophomores in college when we had our first date - a concert with a bunch of friends and back to the dorm to watch Rock Horror Picture Show.  Romantic, huh?  Hehe... well.. it wasn't really even meant to be a date, just a fun time with friends.  Funny how things work out. :)  That was on February 11, 1995.  16 years ago.  We were 20. :)  To this day, we celebrate First Date Day on Feb. 11 instead of Valentine's Day. :)  This year, on First Date Day, I sent HH some of these at work:
Shari's Berries -
And guess what he put under my pillow?

Oh yes he did.  An entire box of 18 King Size Hershey's Special Dark chocolate bars.  I laughed so hard I cried.  Seriously. :)  I will have chocolate until the end of tiiiiiiime! :D  Now that's love.

Speaking of love, over the weekend, Brad Jaeger posted the following fantastic recipe for red velvet cupcakes, which I am stealing from him to post here (which he stole from  I made these with my girls yesterday and OH.  MY.  GOODNESS.

2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
1 oz red food coloring
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 tablespoons sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 (16 ounce) box confectioners' sugar


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Set aside.

2. Beat butter and sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Mix in sour cream, milk, food color and vanilla. Gradually beat in flour mixture on low speed until just blended. Do not overbeat. Spoon batter into 30 paper-lined muffin cups, filling each cup 2/3 full.

3. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted into cupcake comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire rack 5 minutes. Remove from pans; cool completely. Frost with vanilla cream cheese frosting.

Frosting Directions

1. Beat cream cheese, softened, butter, sour cream and vanilla extract in large bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in confectioners' sugar until smooth.

I wasn't sure how my kids would like cream cheese frosting but there was love in abundance.  Now guess what?  I wanted to show you a picture of such red tastiness.  But I can't.  Because Blogger says that my picture album is full and that I am welcome to purchase more picture space.  You should see the teacher look I am giving Blogger right now at this lack of cooperative attitude.  Yes, Blogger, I know that other blog, the one I use to keep my family updated, is a little picture heavy.  I can't help it.  My girls are cute.  Sue me.  But apparently I need to get on some deleteage or I will never be able to share pictures with you again!  (Cause, um, I'm not buying picture space, Blogger.  Get over yourself.  No?  Get over myself and delete some pictures?  Grumble...)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Lemme Tell You About My First Time

I've mentioned my new CP a few times here at Le Dange, cause I'm still kinda giddy at the whole thing.  So guess what?  We survived our first critique.  WOOOOHOOOOO!

A few months back, Rebecca kinda mentioned in an email that maybe we'd make good CP's down the road when we both had something ready and I was all happy cause, actually, I'd been thinking the same thing.  We haven't met but we've become bloggy friends and I think we have a similar sense of humor and that probably counts for a whole heckuva lot in CPville, because, really...  you are going to be both dishing it out and taking it, and you have to do both of those with a little bit of nervous laughter and all.  So I haven't even told her this but I was thinking the same thing and hadn't asked because I didn't have anything ready yet and I thought she might be all set and be like, "OMG... you total lame-o.  If you're going to ask you should at least have something to critique."  Except she wouldn't have said it like that.  Cuz if we had to be Good and Evil for Halloween, she'd be Good.

So we decided to set ourselves a deadline to get pages to each other by the end of January.  That was tricky since it was right around report card time for me, but lemme tell ya, it kicked my writing into gear.  I rewrote the beginning of my WiP for the fourth time (ha) and then actually went on.  Ok, only a little bit.  But it was more than before.  By the end of January, she sent me the beginning of her NaNo rewrite and within a week, mine was on its way to her and hers was on its way back.  (Some people wait until their novels are done to look for CPs or ask for readers.  We're jumping on the train right from the first stop.  I'm only done my beginning with the rest plotted out.  She's done the beginning of her rewrite.  So that's what we traded.)

Let me tell you something about critiquing someone for the first time.  It's not easy.  I've never been a CP before.  Sure, I have my opinions about any writing that I read, but I've never really commented about it to the author before, which , um, is a whole other ball of wax.  She said she wanted me to be nitpicky and brutal if necessary, and so I read really carefully, made a lot of comments and suggestions, told her what I loved, what sounded awkward, etc.  And sent it off.  And waited.  One thing that I can say is that I found it helpful that we write very differently.  While both of our stories are YA, the genre, tone, and even POV are completely different.  So I felt like I could put mine aside and give hers my full attention.  With my red.  Comment.  Bubbles.  (Why do you have to make them red, Bill Gates?  Why?)

I wasn't sure how she would take it.  And when she wrote back, it was much like I thought, it STUNG.  But it got her thinking.  And whether or not her revisions use my thoughts, I was honest and tried to be helpful and balance criticism with positives, of which there are bunches.  Cause her story is mad witty and fun.

This morning, I got my first pages back from her.  And my reaction was exactly the same.  At first... OUCH.  Seeing all that red in your document hurts a little (ok, for a second, a lot).  But, especially knowing what I had sent to her, I expected it, and it's what I wanted - very honest and specific feedback, good and bad. 

Truthfully, the sting didn't last long.  I think I was pretty well prepared by her reaction when I sent hers back.  And I thought about all the blog posts you read about CP's and how you shouldn't get mad or defend your work... honestly, I never felt angry at her, nor did I feel like she didn't understand my story, nor did I feel like I had to defend or explain anything.  Her comments were good, specific, and fair.  When a sentence didn't work, she said so.  My propensity for comma misuse (abuse) was called out.  And, interestingly enough, the sentences she labeled as awkward sort of rang vague bells in my head from when I was writing a few of them... maybe that wasn't the best or clearest way to put that... oh I'll let it slide, it's fine.

How do I feel now that the first one is behind us?  Excited to get back to work.  Ready to improve.  Grateful for a CP that I can trust to be both supportive and honest because in the end, that's what we all need.  We're just at the start of this CP journey, but I'm so glad for that first step.  I heart my new CP! 

*Aaaaaaaand..... end gush.* :)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Little Guy, Big Voice

The majority of my first graders do not speak English at home - their home languages in my class include Chinese, Korean, several Indian dialects, Spanish, and Russian.  Several of them speak English very well and others are in various stages of learning.  My school is in a very multicultural town and that's how we roll.

It's amazing, really, how well our kiddies write.  We use Columbia University Teacher's College Reading and Writing Program, created by Lucy Calkins.  Our Writing Workshop focuses on learning a variety of writing genres, craft, and using voice in writing. 

My class is about to publish How-to stories.  After several lessons on craft and revision, one of my little boys, who spoke no English in September (he spoke only Chinese), wrote one of the cutest stories I have read:  How to Build a Lego Racecar (words by B, spelling corrected by me for posting purposes, lol)
"Do you know what to do on a rainy day?  I know!  Build a Lego racecar!  I'll show you how in this book.  Ready?  Let's get started!"

"Materials List:  Lego windows, wheels, wings, doors"

"Step 1 - First, find the Lego windows.  Be sure not to let your little sister play with them because they are small and she will eat them."

"Step 2 - Next, find the Lego wheels.  You better have four because your car won't work."

"Step 3 - Then, find the wings.  I'm not sure why the car set has wings but if it was in there you better use it."

"Step 4 - Finally, put the doors on.  If you don't, your Lego driver will fall out and break his leg."

"Now that you have built a Lego racecar, come to my house and race with me!"

Voice!  From a first grader!  Who spoke his first words of English 5 months ago!  I am SO proud of him. :)
And I think his story is as cute as a baby hedgehog. :)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Kindle Contest and Crit Coolness

Two things since I am too tired to be alive right now:

1. Reggie at The Undercover Book Lover , Lisa at A Life Bound By Books , Aly at Kid Lit Frenzy , and Mavie at The Bookologist are giving away a Kindle!!!  US only, contest ends March 4.  Whoa baby!

2. Report cards are done, I sent my very first pages ever off to my new CP, and I just sent her back her very first pages.  Scary stuff but I'm very excited about it and it is definitely getting my butt in gear to get more serious writing done.  I loved reading Rebecca's work and our stories are so different (different genre, different tense, different POV) that it is very refreshing to take breaks from mine to read hers.  I've never really had someone besides family and friends read for me (and not even much of that), so this is a big step in the right direction.

Ok, now I think I am sleeptyping.  Off to bed.  Go win a Kindle! ;)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Oh the Things You Can Think!

Ok.  I didn't think of it.  Come to think of it, neither did you.  Or maybe you did and I just totally dissed you.  In that case, oops.  Sar.  But someone did...

Why, YES... it IS a USB typewriter!

In fact, USBTypewriter is its trademarked name and you can find out all about it here.  Take 11 seconds of your life to check out the demo:

Neat, huh? :)  Ok, yes, I am trying to distract you from the fact that this week I am too busy to post for real because of report cards and trying to get pages ready for my VERY FIRST CP (aaaah!  And I heart you, Rebecca of the 16 pages!) and reading the super fun beginning of her awesome NaNo rewrite.

Wait... I would have posted this anyway cause it is full of awesome! :)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

One Love-ly Little Lady

My Tootsie Roll may still be little (she's 8), but she has a huge heart.  She is known for making donations to those in need, including most of her Easter goodies every year to a local shelter, completely her own idea.  When she was in kindergarten, a classmate of hers was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. He returned to school when the kids were in first grade and most of the boys in the class shaved their heads in support of his return.  T-Roll chopped about a foot off her hair back then and donated it to Locks of Love, where it was used to make a wig for someone who has lost his/her hair due to illness.  Now, two years later, her friend is (thankfully!) in remission and Tootsie decided it was time to donate her hair again.  I'm so proud of her giving nature.

T-Roll and Daddy sport their new haircuts
She loves her grown-up new 'do!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Mugged! Erica & Christy's Blogfest

It's time for Erica and Christy's Simply Hot Mug Shots blogfest!  The Teacher Mommy Writer Bloggers invited everyone to share their favorite mugs, something a writer cannot live without!  This was the perfect blogfest for today here in New Jersey, cause... um..

Me + snowbank that is taller than me when I am standing -  I give up! :)
For the record, those ARE gray pajama pants with silver hearts.  Jealous?

Handsome Hubby fighting his way through the mad snow beast

So yeah.  Some AAAAHHHHHHHHH in a mug is a pretty awesome thing. 
Mug with quote from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
I got this one for Christmas from a good friend who knows I am an Alice obsessor fan.

You can probably guess that as an elementary school teacher, I have a mug collection to end all mug collections.  Which is actually a good thing, seeing as coffee and I are pretty much attached at the hip.  (Last month, in a completely inhumane effort to save energy costs, we were told to get rid of all coffeepots, microwaves, etc. in our classrooms.  Ok, it was also for safety reasons.  Ok, I also totally get it and really don't mind walking down the hall to use the Keurig in the faculty room, except that I can't break free from my room until 12:10 every day when  my kiddies go to lunch.)  I have teacher mugs galore and I have adorable mugs with my kiddies' pictures on them (and even one with a collage of pictures of my dog), but in honor of my mostest favoritest book in the entire world, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and it being Lewis Carroll's birthday this week, I give you... my Alice mugs!
Cheshy... he used to appear when you poured hot things in the mug and disappear leaving only his grin behind when the mug was empty, but alas, he grows old and weary and is just sort of half-there all the time now.

And my all-time favorite...

"I'm Queen and you're not."

No, my mugs are not floating on air, they are sitting happily on my very weird glass table that came with my house.  That middle green part has tiles of fruit around it and is filled at the top with black beans.  I blogged about that weird table at the end of this here post, complete with pictures.

Happy blogfesting!  Stay warm! :)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Bad Surprise and a Good One

Guess what woke me up at 4 this morning?  A bad surprise of the stomach variety.  (Guess who called at 2:30?  Tootsie Roll's school nurse with similar surprise).

Guess what arrived in the mail today?  An ARC of Matched by Ally Condie that I won from Mary Campbell at Writer's Butt Does Not Apply to Me!

Yay and woohoo!  This has definitely made my day.  Thank you, Mary!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Red Riding Hood Trailer

Red Riding Hood Trailer 2
Uploaded by teasertrailer. - Check out other Film & TV videos.

What do you think of this trailer?  I can't say I'm really excited to see this movie, which is sort of disappointing because you could do so much with a new Red Riding Hood.  It's from the director of Twilight and I have to admit that I haven't seen the Twilight movies, but this trailer sort of reminds me of Twilight vs. The Village.  I think it comes out in March.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Lindsey Learns... to Be Prepared

This feature is based on whatever I am reading at the moment (so, yes, you are at the mercy of my readerly whims) and whatever I happen to learn as I am reading. My goal is to write about it and then open the subject up for discussion in the comments. Please come on along for the ride!

Tuesday was a bad day in first grade.  It was because everyone was a little off from school being closed on Monday and then Tuesday we had a delayed opening due to snow and icy roads and I had a meeting as soon as I got to school and didn’t have time to finish making copies and get prepared for the day as I would on a normal day when I get there early.

When you have taught the same grade for 13 years, you can certainly wing it for an afternoon – you know how to teach a concept backward, forward, inside, and out.  You have lots of different teaching methods in your bag of tricks. If you don’t have copies, no worries, you can pull out another way to teach the same thing.  But still, being unprepared makes me crabby, and in turn, threw my kiddies off.  I felt like there was no foundation to our day, and I felt like I didn’t teach things well, and I felt as the day went on like it was unraveling like a sweater. 

A seasoned colleague of mine who is retiring this year has all of these wonderful, funny truisms about life in first grade, and one of her famous ones is "the fish rots from the head".  She doesn't even know where the saying came from, but what it means is that if the class is having an 'off' day, it can be that they're taking their cues from you (the teacher).  In other words, if you're not feeling well, if you're stressed out, if your mind is elsewhere, if you're pushing them too hard... chances are you will see it reflected back in the kids' behavior.  On Wednesday, I didn't feel like I was prepared, and it threw me off, and in turn, my kids.

Immediately, when I stepped back to reflect on the day, I made the connection to my current writing situation.  Recently, Elana Johnson sang the praises of the book Save the Cat! on her blog.  It was within a post where she discussed how to start your book, and since I have my story idea all happily settled and the beginning has been a real bugger, I was all, HELLS YEAH and my fingers immediately did the walking and ordered the book.   Like, pronto.  Flames, on the sides of my fingers.  I typed that fast.

"Flames... on the sides of my face..."

Save the Cat! is actually a book about screenwriting, but as Elana said, the advice it gives is just as effective for novel writing.  It's a quick and easy read, to the point, makes things so clear, and on every page, it's like, YES, THAT MAKES PERFECT SENSE!  Trust me.  Go buy it.  I'll wait.

Back?  Ok.  So Save the Cat! arrived at my doorstep pretty quickly (for those of you who have been following for awhile, no one stole the package from my front door!  Bonus!) and I dove right in.  I kinda had to, because Handsome Hubby is a TV Productions teacher and I think he is chomping at the bit to steal my new little gem. :) 

Anyway... onward toward the point of this post, I promise... I have been gobbling up the book and in it, Blake Snyder wills us as writers to do some sensible planning before we dive into the writing.  To have a clear logline in mind.  To make our MC likeable, even if just a little, so the readers are willing to go on this journey with us, and to have the genre clearly focused in our minds because each genre has a set of beats that should be followed to make the story a success.  He tells great tales of why movies flopped, generally because the moviemakers spent lots of money on effects rather than a few dollars on bettering the script.

So what did I learn from this?  That the whole reason that I am having trouble with my beginning, even though I have a whole story in mind, and pieces of it written, is that there were small but immeasurably important steps I hadn't yet taken before flying into the writing itself.  In essence, I jumped the gun.

Ok, this is more like running but... yeah.

So I stopped.  And I thought.  And I storyboarded.  And I worked on a logline and a title that gave me a clearer vision of my own story (they are still works in progress, but I feel like I have a lot more direction).  I know now how my MC will "save the cat", or perform an act at the beginning of the story that will sort of set her character in the readers' eyes.  It makes sense, but I hadn't done it.  I carefully read the 10 genres of screenplays he wrote about (it fits books also) and the necessary beats and focus of each one, and better identified the type of story I am writing.  And it has made so much sense.  I'm a complete Blake Snyder convert.  (And I have a brand shiny new CP to show my story to once I spiff it up a bit! WOOT!)

So let's chat.  Are you a plotter and planner, or are you a gun-jumpin' pantser?  What works for you?  Have you read Save the Cat!?  Did it help you like crazy like it is helping me?  Let me know in the comments!

Oh and by the way... Wednesday was much better  in school.  So much so that I have a First Grade Funny to leave you with (yes, I know that's poor grammar, sue me):  So when your girls are being noisy in the hallway bathroom and you go in and ask them all sternly what they are doing, and you find that they are playing Rosa Parks and they show you how each stall is a bus seat.... You just kinda have to laugh. :)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Rediscovering, Part 1

When I was little, when my first real memories begin, at the early elementary age, we lived in a tiny little town in central Pennsylvania called Tyrone.  It's near Altoona.  Tyrone's big claims to fame were that it was the home of Gardner's Candies (creators of the peanut butter meltaway, yummmm)

and the home of bandleader/musician/radio personality Fred Waring.
There was a Fred Waring Day each year in Tyrone, though I don't for the life of me remember what anyone did to observe it.  There was a paper factory that stunk up the town on occasion and I remember two parks, Soldiers Park which memorialized fallen soldiers from Tyrone, and Reservoir Park where the annual Easter Egg Hunt was held.  I remember going to Soldiers Park on a school field trip.

When I was in third grade, we moved back to a suburb of Philadelphia (I was born in that area too).  When you live there, your school field trips are all to Philly museums and historical sites.  Which is a lucky thing, obviously.  Except when you're a kid, you don't see it like that.  Instead, you whine, because, well, you're a kid and you're good at whining.

"We're going to the Art Museum again?"

"We went to Betsy Ross' house in second grade."

"Yeah.  It's the Liberty Bell.  Seen it."

When you're young, you really don't appreciate the treasures around you, especially if they are relatively easily accessible.  As I grew older, I didn't visit many of these places.  When I could, I'd hit the Jersey shore or if I was really lucky, see a show in NYC.  My little world was broadening and I didn't want to see the same old museums; I wanted to see what else there was to see out there.
Broadway - New York City

My Philly suburb was still pretty city-like, and I always wanted to live somewhere a little quieter, so I went to a teeny tiny college whose entire student body was about the size of my high school graduating class, and then Handsome Hubs and I ended up settling down in a small town (which I love love love).  I laugh because TR's school field trips have been to the local museum of our town, local farms, the ice cream shop, the pizza parlor, and once a year they go somewhere bigger like the Philly Zoo or the Franklin Institute.  But Philly is an hour away, so those trips are a big deal, not like when I was a kid.  She loves to go.  This past summer, when Tootsie Roll was about to turn eight, we took her to Washington, D.C. because she really wanted to see the landmarks she was learning about in school, in particular the Lincoln Memorial.

(I won't tell you about how Curly Jones scooted under that little chain there and ran up the steps, screaming in three year old glee.)  We saw most of the major landmarks in D.C. and went to several of the Smithsonian museums.  We hadn't planned on going into the Smithsonian Art Museum; however, because I thought we might get thrown out  the three year old I mentioned above isn't exactly the most sedate, art-appreciative type just yet.  But we went in by accident, thinking it was the Museum of Natural History (which we eventually found next door).

Anyway, where is this story going?  When we went into the Art Museum by accident, Tootsie Roll was instantly entranced.  Amazed.  In awe.  She pulled out a little notebook I had given her to keep her busy on the drive from NJ to D.C. and began taking notes.

(Did you know you can take pictures in art museums?  You can!  At least in D.C. and Philly).  We couldn't stay as long as we would have liked since someone little was a bit less entranced, but it reminded me of all of the treasures I had at my fingertips growing up.  So over Christmas break, we dropped CJ off at preschool one day and took TR to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which is only about an hour away from where we live now in New Jersey.

It was amazing to rediscover a place I'd been so many times as a kid and probably never really appreciated the way she did on her first visit.  Part 2 with pictures coming soon!

Me:   These are famous steps.  Rocky ran up these steps in the movie!

TR:  Rocky who?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Lindsey Learns... About Mood

This feature is based on whatever I am reading at the moment (so, yes, you are at the mercy of my readerly whims) and whatever I happen to learn as I am reading. My goal is to write about it and then open the subject up for discussion in the comments. Please come on along for the ride!

It was a dark and stormy night...

Mood.  Tone.  Is it set up at the beginning of your novel?  Do we know where we stand pretty quickly?  Do we need to? I just finished reading Carrie Ryan's The Forest of Hands and Teeth, and without spoiling anything, I can pretty easily say that the book's mood is helpless.  The Unconsecrated (zombies, if you haven't read it yet) are kept out of the town by fences.  Those same fences keep all the people in.  And there is constant worry that eventually the Unconsecrated will breach the fences.  It's only a matter of time.  Helpless.

This doesn't mean that the main character, Mary, is helpless.  Her own moods and hopes rise and fall with the conflicts that she faces personally throughout the story.  Sometimes her life is focused on other things, and as readers, we are vaguely reminded of the constant moaning and rattling of the Unconsecrated at the fence.  Sometimes she is in the middle of Very Dangerous Zombie Smackdown with Potential Death. (I was going to put a zombie pic here but... they are pretty nasty!  And my 3 yr old is right here... lol)

My current WiP is getting a complete redo.  I started it last January, abandoned it, and restarted it at the end of the year.  I've re-outlined, reworked, and started the writing from scratch.  I have a few major decisions to make before my writing can seriously continue, mood being one of them. 

I'm trying to decide right now what the overall mood of the writing should be.  A big part of that is nailing down my MC's voice, because the lens through which she views events will obviously affect the mood of the story.  What I liked a lot about the mood in Carrie Ryan's book is that you feel the blanket of depression surrounding Mary even when Mary herself is not feeling that way.  It's the mood of the situation, of the general populace, of the setting.  Her book starts long after the world becomes zombified.

My book is a little different, the people in the story discover the problem around the same time that my MC does and the situation goes from typical to bleak over time.  Working on that mood shift is delicate - I have to make it realistic, not zero to panic mode in 60 seconds, and not so gradual that it's boring - while my own character's specific conflicts will work into, with, against that backdrop.  Sometimes she will fall into the overall mood and other times she will fight against it.

 (For the record, I am reading another book where in one sentence it talks in first person about the MC's "big, open, genuine smile" and then in the next sentence he slams something on the ground because he is so mad.  Mood of me, the reader?  Totally confused about mood of the MC and of the story  in general!)

The biggest struggle I have with mood is that I don't have big chunks of time in which to write (hence  my 100 word a day goal) and it's hard to get enough into the mood myself with the time I have.  I know a lot of you have soundtracks to write by, but as much as I love music, that's not really how I work.  I'm hoping that the further I get into it, the more naturally I will slip into the mood.

So let's talk mood.  What is the underlying mood of your WiP?  Have you ever found a book that doesn't seem to have a consistent mood?  A book where mood is like a character, the way setting can be?  An author who sets mood extremely well?