Month: March 2011 (page 1 of 2)

Books Read in March

Okay, so this list is going to show you just what I haven’t been up to this month.

*The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. I like a book that can laugh at itself. Maybe this one takes a little too long to do it, but it was a decided (and fun) left-turn from where I usually read. Also, drugs! drugs! drugs! (Okay, not that many drugs, but opium turns out to take a major role in this story. Isn’t that weird?)

*The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller. This is a new one I bought when Ms. Miller was on tour with our Very Dear Friend Ally Condie this winter. It’s about reincarnation. I’m a fan of the idea of reincarnation (not that I believe in it at all). It was fun. A little steamy in some places.

*A Whole Nother Story by Dr. Cuthbert Soup. Um, I think you should all run out and buy this and then read it out loud to anyone who will sit still long enough to listen. It cracked us right up. *Warning: It gets pretty violent in the end for a comedy, so pre-read if you’re thinking about taking my previous advice (yeah, like that would ever happen). My little people raised their eyebrows a little at the violence, but as soon as we finished it, they asked for the sequel. Which I had already bought: Another Whole Nother Story. Oh, yeah.

*The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski. I’m cheating by putting this one up, because I haven’t finished reading it yet. But this is MY list, and I want to put this one on it. I have to tell you, I’ve waited a long time on this one. I thought it sounded good, and I’ve heard a lot about it. But it was an Oprah’s Book Club book. Do I need to tell you that usually guarantees that I won’t like it? Except for The Poisonwood Bible, which I love so much, and which I read without Ms. Oprah’s permission, I don’t think I’ve ever read anything else on her Book Club list without regretting it later. But this one is really cool so far. I should finish it this weekend.

(Does that look like a pretty short list to you? Yeah, me, too. Lots of substituting. And a little more writing. And basketball watching. And so, not so much reading. Which is fine, you know. I know, too.)

Tap, tap… is this thing still on?

Oh, there you are.

Oh, here I am.

It has been a crazy, busy few days, and that is all the excuse I have for leaving blogland in the dust. I taught biotechnology and chemistry on Thursday. It was grand. Fun. I mean it. And then the Wilhites gathered around the computer to watch basketball. And we didn’t actually cry, but we had sadness when the Gators* whupped up on our Jimmer.

And Friday? Oh, Friday. It was Writers’ Fest at Clark N. Johnsen Junior High school. Their amazing committee (Hi, Mrs. Blythe!) put on a Great Show. Loads of authors (and at least one illustrator) came to talk and talk and talk about the craft, the joy, the pain, the love, the headaches and the chocolate. Okay, I didn’t talk about chocolate, but I brought plenty home. I was assigned two adorable minions (Hi, Amy! Hi, Katie!) who made sure I was where I was supposed to be and that I never dried up my bottled water or my sense of humor. For some of the classes we talked about cupcakes, and how cupcakes are good, but if you eat nothing but cupcakes you will have issues. Likewise, if you only read one kind of writing, you might get some issues as well. So… balance in diet and in literacy = good. In some classes we talked about money, and getting blocked, and people who have very good hair, and favorite junk foods, and hey, it’s okay if you hate to read, just make sure you do it anyway.

And Saturday we painted in the bedroom at my MIL’s house. I am sadly incapable of painting without wearing the paint. I do a fine job actually painting, but I’m not one of those people who can paint for a few hours and nobody knows about it. Oh, you’ll know about it when I’ve been at it. I had honeywood paint freckles upon my face and in my contacts. I am not making this up.

And Saturday was the Festival of Color, the closest Utah gets to India. I didn’t go. But the photos are glorious, and I want to throw paint. Note to self: Get there next year.

Also, Saturday evening, Kids 1 and 2 and I rediscovered that our Sympathetic Vomiter chromosome is alive and kicking. I’m happy to report that none of us actually vomited, but, oh, we wanted to. I’ll spare you the details. You’re welcome.

Tonight Kid 1 leaves for New York City. I’m giddy with excitement for her. And I’m having very few nerves. (That’s her Daddy’s job this time.) She will see many shows and, if all goes according to plan, keep all her friends. *crossing fingers* And her chaperone has asked me to sub, so I get to spend the week teaching AP English and theatre. Don’t cry for me, Argentina**. I think I’ll do just fine.

Also someone (who is not us) is using my credit card. If it is you, I’m asking you nicely to knock it off. Right now. And the nice customer service lady from India said it would stop. So I hope. (She was very proper, but kind of patronizing, and I had to keep reminding myself that it’s the middle of the night where she’s working, or she’d be more patient with me. That’s the downside of outsourcing, I guess.)

*That word always reminds me of that funny scene in Monsters, Inc. when Randall gets pushed through a door at the end. ” ‘Nother gator, Mama.” ” ‘Nother gator? Gimme that shovel.”

** Did you ever see the movie Kronk’s New Groove? Probably not. It’s the sequel to The Emperor’s New Groove, and isn’t very much what I would call entertaining. But it has one funny line, where Kronk’s two secretaries, Tina and Marge, get a little weepy, and he says, “Don’t cry for me, Marge and Tina.” Ha. There. Now you don’t have to see it.

And, in other news…

* Kid 1 hates to drive, apparently. I thought it was just hating to drive with her Dad, but it seems that she’d be happy to never, ever get behind a wheel. Hm.

* I made banana and apple muffin batter this morning. For the next few breakfasts. (That’s banana muffins. And then apple muffins. Lest we get carried away and try banana apple muffins. Which we will not.)

* 1,000 words a day so far this week. Take that, laziness gene.

* The teacher I’m subbing for tomorrow left me a message with his parking stall number (and general directions on how to find it – by the pine tree and the light pole). Isn’t that thoughtful? I thought so.

* The lovely and talented Josi Kilpack was in my town yesterday. We had a fun couple of hours together “not-shopping” because, you know, we’re not really shoppers, and eating frozen yogurt that tasted very much like ice cream. And those pink and white Mother’s brand frosted animal cookies. Big yum.

* I can make chicken enchiladas without using either cream-of-something soup or flour tortillas. Want me to prove it? Come on over for dinner. But, hey – call first, will you? Because between muffin making and enchilada making and 1,000 words a day and a lot of clean laundry, the house is less than pristine. (Less than Pristine would be a good band name. Also, it’s the Understatement that Ate Chicago. Which, likewise, would be an excellent band name.)

* New favorite exercise program: Just Dance 2 on the wii, with Kids 3 and 4, between the end of the piano practicing and time to leave for school. Also, I kicked their chicken. Yup. That’s right. This girl without a sense of grace or balance WON EVERY SONG. End of gloat.

* It was my MIL’s birthday yesterday. I love my MIL, remember that? She got an iPad. Because she wanted one, and my BIL is the king of great gifts. And I loved the thought of her, taking it easy, kicking back on the couch, feet up and iPad in hand. Isn’t that a great image?

* And speaking of iPads, the Apple company is taking their returns pretty seriously (as I imagine most companies do) and Husband sent me this article yesterday, which tells the story that a man brought his brand new iPad 2  back to the shop, the customer service peeps asked him why he returned it, he told them, and then they put a sticky note on it that said, “Wife said No.” Which make the store guys laugh, natch. And the story ran around Apple until it reached a couple of VPs, who put another sticky note on a new iPad and mailed it to the guy. New note? “Apple said Yes.” Um, why didn’t we think of that?

* Also? I just accidentally found a long-lost friend. On Facebook, of all things. (Yes, I’m aware that this is why we HAVE Facebook, but it rarely works this way for me, and today I am glad.)

* The snow pile in front of our house (the one on the street, that the plow man pushes there) has melted to the size of a medium-sized dog. A little over a week ago, it could hide a car. In related news, I can see many tulip tips poking up out of the ground. Come on, Spring. You can do it.

* Okay, then. Time for another thousand words.

At Least vs. If Only

I’ve read quite a bit lately about this phenomenon of thinking – and I’m way too lazy to link to any of it. Sorry. A little.

But here’s the Becca version-distillation of the thing – some people live in the “If Only” world. If only I were lovely. If only I were brilliant. If only my 1,000 words a day didn’t completely fail. If only my manuscript were finished. If only an agent would send me a PERSONALIZED rejection. If only an agent would fall at my feet and beg to represent me. If only my book would be published. If only copies of my book would sell. If only my book won awards. If only I’d been the one to fill that red-hot Post-Apocalyptic Zombie Mermaids niche.

There’s nothing wrong with dreaming. But do you see the negativity at work in those thoughts? My friend Pat would say, “You need to come from a place of thankfulness.”

So here’s my flip-side, my perverse thankfulness – the “At Least” world. At least I can see my computer screen (usually). At least I have fingers to type with. At least my 1,000 words are coming (even if they’re c-r-a-p). At least I’m cute. At least I have published things. At least someone likes those published things. At least there are still some ideas floating around in my head.

There’s nothing wrong with complacency either (heaven forbid I ever knock the complacency), but hey – wow. That’s all pretty negative, too.

So where do I find my place? What do I need to think about, when I find myself spiraling into the “If Only” or the “At Least” worlds?

I try this: I try to say, Yea, me. Yea, me for writing 1,000 words yesterday, and 500 so far this morning. Yea, me for trying. Yea, me, for finding time to read a little (a very little, lately, but still a little). Yea, me, for going teaching. Yea, me, for being a team player. Yea, me, for making dinner every night. Yea, me, for answering my email*. Yea, me for being on top of the laundry pile. (See it? Right there under my chair? Oh, come on. That was a joke.) Yea, me for working on a story that could be harder and bigger and better than anything I’ve tried before. Yea, me for pushing.

See the difference? If Only  and At Least compare me to some outer standard. Some uncontrollable “other” – and I will always find myself feeling icky with the comparison. But Yea, Me? That’s personal. That’s intrinsic. That’s mine. And if it’s not 100% sincere? At least I’m trying. If only I always meant it…

*If you’re waiting for a response, resend your email. Because I’m totally all over answering the ones I’ve gotten.

I just want it all, is that so much to ask?

So I went to the eye doctor this month. And he laughed at me. Again.

My eye doctor is several things, but funny is not one I would think to label him with. A close-sitter? Yes. Efficient? Yes. Able to remember if he’s on “Two? Or three?” or if he’s on “Six? Or seven?” Yep. Comfortable putting his fingers in other people’s eyes? Certainly. But every time I visit him, he feels like laughing the day away.

At me.

Because I want to see, okay?

I want to see the things that are close to me. Sometimes, with uncorrected vision, I can see my own face in the mirror. But I’m usually close enough to leave a smudge on said mirror when that happens. I remember being able to read a book with my glasses off. But that hasn’t happened for more than two decades. Oh, mercy. I am OLDing.

I also want to see the things that are far away from me. Like the cars on the road, or the clouds over my mountain. That mountain? That is the actual view out of my actual kitchen window. Except I actually stole this from google images (in fact, I wonder if that photo was taken from my actual lot). And the reality is much… bigger. But that is a beautiful snowy sunrise from here in the Frozen Mountaintops, and I love this mountain. Love it. If you have never felt an emotional attachment to a pile of rocks, you’ve never seen the sun rise on Mount Timpanogos. When I have days where I wonder, “Why do I live here?” I almost always answer with some form of praise for this mountain. It sings to me. It does.

But also, I want to be able to see it. Forever. With my eyes. Which are getting worse as I get old. See that problem? When I tell Dr. Eye Guy that I want to see the computer and also my mountain, he laughs at me. Ha, ha.

You can see the computer, says Dr. Eye Guy, or you can see the mountain. Take-a you pick. Except also, Dr. Eye Guy isn’t using a bad Italian gangster accent. That’s just in my head. And the thing is, I don’t want to take-a my pick. I want it all. All at once.

Once upon a college time, a very wise and dear man said in my hearing, “You can have it all. You just can’t have it all at once.” I felt those words sink deep. Know that feeling? It’s a good one. The words sank. Deep. And they felt very personal. As though, maybe, the other 21,000 people listening were just there for effect. And that it wasn’t him speaking, so much as it was God, telling ME that I could have it all, if I was patient, and careful, and watchful. And I’ve never doubted it.  And I’ve always treasured it. And I’ve never questioned it.Until I turned 37 and 1/2 this week. And now all of a sudden I’m greedy and anxious and needy and demanding.

I want it all. All at once. Now, in particular. And when it comes to my eyesight in more particular.

There’s just no pleasing some people.

This is Fun.

I’m a real substitute teacher. It’s fun. It is.

I still have a 5000 words/week writing goal. There will be weeks I don’t make it. And that will have to be okay. But I made it last week. And today I get to teach Kid 4’s class. Which is adorable in all its first-grade glory.

Also, Kid 2 competed? Performed? Violined? Something. She had Suzuki Federation on Saturday. She played Vivaldi. In A minor. It was stunning. Hours of practicing. Many, many hours. And? She was rated Superior. Natch. It was intense. I got a little sweaty. Especially when the first kid in their group played. Holy cow. He was a violin ninja. But My Kid 2 was awesome, and that was fun.

Also, we went to see the musical Hairspray. Oh, the joy. And that woman who played Motormouth Maybelle? She made me cry. I told husband I want to be black. He said, “I know,” and patted my head. Because he knew that at that moment, what I wanted was to be able to carry that kind of emotion in my voice. *sigh*

Then we watched BYU not quite win the championship. Poo. But there was Brick Oven Pizza involved, so it was certainly not a wasted evening. But poor Jimmer. I wanted him to come off Victorious.

I finally saw Megamind. I laughed. A lot. “And I love you, random citizen.”

Sunday = naps. Oh, yeah. I’m getting old, because daylight savings hurts. It does. Ow.

‘K – I gotta go to school now. Have a great day, and be nice to your teachers.

XO
B

Query Class

So writers know that the most intimidating part of the writing process is not the novel, it’s the query letter.

(Do writers know that? Or am I the only one scared of a 4-paragraph letter?)

Anyway. I’m teaching Query Class to Mrs. G’s 8th grade honors lit classes today. And we’re making a great project. Want to hear all about it? Here it is. I taught them what a query is for, and how it’s written (leaning heavily on the AgentQuery website‘s fine advice). I talked about the “When…” formula for the hook, that goes “When (Main character) experiences (major inciting action) he must (crucial decision).” We talked about distilling a book to a paragraph synopsis (much, much easier to teach than to do). We talked about bios (and I read them a few, some from major award-winners, others from non-published first-timers), and about the all-important closing part, where you say “thanks for your time, and see how I’m really polite and professional?”

The project, then, is a book report. The kids will write to “an agent” and query the novel they’ve just read. They’ll find a killer hook. They’ll write a short synopsis. They’ll write the bio of the author, and request agency representation. Cute, right?

I love eighth grade.

(From the other side.)

… If I Wrote Really Fast

Here’s how my life would be different if I were a speedy writer:

* I’d have more finished novels in my finished novels folder (more than the ones that are in there now, and there are more than a couple).

* I’d have many thousands of new words in my WIP. The words are coming, I assure you. But today I wrote 3 times as many as I’ve been writing on a usual day lately, and that was Good Stuff.

* My parts would not still be in this chair at this almost-noon hour.

* I would not have felt the urge to throw a milkshake at Brandon Mull’s head last week when he told me that he takes an average of 4 months to write his books. (I would like to clarify that I did not, in fact, throw anything. I just said Wow -that’s awesome, and meant it. Also, I didn’t have a milkshake handy. Lucky Brandon.)

* I would not likely forget what in the world is happening to this or that character since the last time I wrote about him. Ack.

* I would never proofread while drafting. (Except how can I even know that? Also, duh. Of course I would. I’m a compulsive proofreader. It’s the most constructive of my neuroses.)

* I’d decide that I have plenty of time to write and send those charming notes I keep thinking about writing and sending.

* I could still get a thousand (or at least 500) words written on a substitute teaching day. (But that would require some serious self-control. And we all know how I feel about serious self-control, do we not?)