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! :)