Thursday, September 27, 2007

Some Final Thoughts Before You Begin Writing

Okay. We've covered coming up with a theme you care about, exploring possible storylines from that theme, figuring out the characters you'll need to tell your story, and organizing the plot of your story from beginning to end.

Wow. I'm impressed. Of course I impress easily.

This final blog entry on the subject is just going to cover some odds and ends. I can't guarantee I'm going to remember them all, but I'll give it my best shot.

1. First Or Third Person

I always find first person easier, since it eliminates a layer between the character and the reader, and allows me to let the main character take over my brain. But there can be valid reasons why third person is the way to go. So try both voices before writing, and see which one will work best.

2. Naming Your Characters

Social Security has this nifty place where they list most popular baby names way back into the 19th century. I use it all the time, to get a feel for what names were being used at the time my characters were born. It's proven very handy. When my editor objected to Jonny's name in Life As We Knew It, I was able to tell her it was one of the hundred most popular names for baby boys in 1991 or thereabouts. She was awestruck by the breadth of my knowledge.

You can always choose to name your heroine Hortense, of course. Miranda is named Miranda, even though no one has named their daughter Miranda in quite a long time.

3. Dialogue

Trust your ear. If you have any doubts, read the line of dialogue out loud. Don't use slang if you can avoid it. Slang dates immediately. Also try not to mention too much technology. Miranda didn't own an Ipod because I have no faith anyone will five years from now.

4. Finding The Time To Do The Writing

Take a week when you have nothing too complicated scheduled. Every night, Monday through Friday, find a half an hour that you would otherwise spend on entertainment, be it reading, or TV, or internet. Write each day during that half hour.

On Friday, see how much you've written, five pages, or eight, or twelve. Divide that number by five. Then the following week, each day, Monday through Friday, write that amount of pages, be it one, or two, or one and three quarters.

Never work on weekends. Weekends aren't meant for work, and if you say you'll catch up on Saturday or Sunday, you won't get into the pattern of working Monday through Friday.

If you miss a day every now and again, don't fret about it. Just return to the book the following day (or Monday, if you miss Friday). If you're crazy happy writing and have a little extra time, fine, write a little more. But don't tell yourself that's your new daily amount.

One of the great things about kids books is they're short. Let's say your story is going to take 200 pages. At 2 pages a day, 10 pages a week, you can start your book November 5 and finish by mid April, with days off to celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, and my birthday.

Fast and steady wins the race.

Now onto the two remaining lessons I was taught. The first came from my agent of many years ago. She noticed that I wrote a great deal that was unsellable, and she had advice on how to make me a better writer.

Think Before You Write.

Ponder this. If you think before you write, then you'll know your plot, your characters, and the pacing of your story before you sit down at the computer and begin the actual writing. You won't get one third the way through and decide that the story isn't going the way you'd planned. You won't get stuck, or blocked, or any of those other nasty conditions.

Before I ever start writing, I know the beginning and end of my book, and much of my middle. Yes, occasionally there are surprises, and certainly I add things that I hadn't originally anticipated. Otherwise it would be way too boring. But I'm confident in the direction of my book. I think about it every chance I get, so I know what my next day's work will be. And because I'm not worried, the writing is fast and fun. Which is my ideal way of working.

The final lesson I was taught is more a life lesson than a writing one, but every time I haven't followed it, I've gotten in trouble, so it's worth the bolding:

Don't Buy The Mink Coat Until After You've Cashed The Check.

Don't worry. Mink Coat is just a metaphor. But the nature of being a self-employed freelance children's book writer is that there are things I just know are going to happen, and then they don't. So it's always wise not to live your life on promises and assurances. Cash the check first.

Okay. You now know everything I know about writing and being a writer. Unfortunately, that's pretty much all I know about everything, except Henry the Eighth and his family, Warner Bros. movies up until 1950, and figure skating.

I guess my future blog entries are going to be very very short.

Well, you can hope!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Just A Little Bookkeeping

I just want to make sure everyone who e-mailed me has gotten a response.

But except for the sad woman in Nigeria who wants me to contribute some money to save the president's wife, is there anyone I owe an e-mail to? If there is, please let me know either by e-mail or blog comments.

Thank you!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

And Here's The Cover for the dead & the gone from Harcourt!

So different from the British cover and so eerie!

I love them both.

Shaping Your Story

In my career, I've been taught four lessons that have served me well. Today I'm going to discuss two of them, holding the other two in reserve. How many lessons can my beloved slowly gained readership take in one day, after all.

Back to today's two lessons. The first came from an editor I worked with on my book The Year Without Michael. She taught me the following:

Start your stories as close to the middle of the action as possible.

Impressive looking, isn't it. And kind of basic. But it was something I needed to be taught, since my manuscripts tended to start with lengthy expositions of how it was my characters happened to be where they were before the action ever started.

If there were money to be earned writing case histories, I would have been a happy person.

To feed the Google Alert monster, I'm going to demonstrate how to start stories with Life As We Knew It and the dead & the gone.

With LAWKI, I had decided to violate the Start The Stories rule just a bit, because I felt it was important for the readers to see Miranda's world before things turned upside down. While my editor didn't disagree, she did make me cut the beginning section. In spite of her editing and mine, I have read criticisms that the beginning drags a bit. Bad, wicked criticisms, but criticisms just the same.

Still, I knew the beginning had to have a grabber first sentence, and I decided on:

Lisa is pregnant.

That way the readers get to wonder who Lisa is and why it's important that she's pregnant. It also leads to a snapshot of Miranda's family. Lisa's pregnancy is big enough news that Miranda can think about her father, stepmother, mother and two brothers, all in the opening diary entry. So even though I didn't start as close to the middle of the action as I could have, the beginning accomplished what I needed it to. And it's definitely better than ten pages of Complete Family History with charts and x-rays.

the dead & the gone on the other hand starts very close to the middle of the action:

At the moment when life as he had known it changed forever, Alex Morales was behind the counter at Joey's Pizza, slicing a spinach pesto pie into eight roughly equal pieces.

I love this opening sentence, in no small part because of all the information it conveys. Something huge is about to happen in the life of Alex Morales, a boy old enough to be working at a pizza parlor. He probably isn't rich, because he's working at the pizza parlor, not ordering the pizza himself. But it's the kind of neighborhood where people eat spinach pesto pizzas. And I've echoed the title of Life As We Knew It, so readers can see a continuum.

Before I forget, let me recommend the book Truffaut/Hitchcock, which taught me enormous amounts about storytelling, including the fact that if you want to show Character A go from one place to another, you just cut from one place to the other and don't waste time showing him actually getting there.

Back to lessons learned from editors. This next one, I learned from the editor I worked with on Kid Power. She pointed out that I had several chapters where the characters just talked.

I figured since all I ever did was talk, that's what my characters should do as well. But my editor said no, characters actually had to do things. And she taught me the following trick:

Take a piece of paper and write, line by line, the number of chapters in your book. Then write a single piece of action for each chapter. I'm going to do a quick demonstration with the Gang vs. Baseball story of a few entries ago. This isn't going to come easy for me, since that's not a story I'll ever write. But here goes:

1 First day of school for M. He is lonely and uncomfortable.
2 M sees guys practicing baseball and asks if he can work out with them.
3 M joins his cousin and his gang friends for an afternoon frolic.
5 M plays his first ballgame with his new team.
7 Maybe something about team friends. Maybe they're not warm and cuddly.
8 M's cousin urges M to join gang. M agrees to go along for an evening frolic.
9 Crime committed by gang leader. M and cousin witness it.
10 Cousin arrested. M wants to tell cops everything but cousin says no, it'll put family in jeopardy.
11 M figures out solution.

No doubt you've noticed a couple of the numbers are just sitting there, minding their own business. If I were actually going to write The Story Of M, I'd fill those chapters in. My basic rule is when in doubt throw a party, so probably there'd be a party scene, which might be a good way to have M's cousin interact with M's team. If I give M a girl friend, I could use her for a chapter or two. Or maybe I'd have M get a phone call from back home that for some reason upsets him and pushes him into that gang evening frolic. And I'd certainly know what M's solution is before I ever began writing.

What the chapter outline does is show me where I need to beef up the action. It's the best outlining system I've ever been taught, and I pass it along to you free of charge.

Next time, I'll teach you the two other lessons I've learned and throw in anything else that probably should be mentioned. Be prepared. After all, one of us should be.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Long National Nightmare Is Over

Okay, it wasn't so long and it wasn't national, but it cost me 2 sleeping pills and 1 Yankee game (I'd been planning to go today), so as far as I'm concerned, it was quite the nightmare.

Thanks to wonderful Mr. Cavin and wonderful Marci and her equally wonderful daughter Sara, not only are things back to normal at my beloved blog, but there's been an addition of the British cover for The Dead And The Gone.

Meanwhile, I found a number of important e-mails hidden away as junk over at Lycos, so I will answer all of them today. I apologize for not having thought to check what Lycos thinks of as junk mail. I will now go there obsessively and sift for gold.

Since I refuse to imagine that anything so wonderful or so terrible that it would merit a blog entry will happen between today and tomorrow, my next entry will be about outlining a story. I promise.

But now I'm off to see if I can find a "Joba Rules" tee shirt to order over the net. Shopping for one was my real reason for going to the Yankee game today.

Thank you again,Mr. Cavin, Marci and Sara.


I still haven't figured out how to get all your wonderful comments back, but I located the missing e-mails. And there were several. A lot of you nice people wanted to sell me Viagra, and a few promised me a longer penis, and at least one of you wanted me to know I'd won a giant lottery.

I am very grateful.

But in admidst these junk e-mails were actual ones sent by actual people. I will read them at length tomorrow when I'm not sleepwalking. And maybe by then someone will have let me know how to return the comments to their rightful entries, and all will be right with the world, except for the part George Bush runs.

It's 1:51 in the morning. I really think I should go to bed.


In a ridiculous effort to learn how many people actually read my blog, I registered over at Haloscan (Never, Never trust an angel), and I did everything right, and as a result, I lost all the comments I've been cherishing from you people. And in my extended effort to try to regain them, I seem to have completely changed the way my blog looks, and the comments are still gone.

It is now 1:19 in the morning and I took a sleeping pill over an hour ago, so I'm clearly not at my best.

I really hope your comments magically reappear. I miss them...

Okzy, I got the blog looking the way it used to and that's something. But your comments, your comments...What is a blog without comments!

My generation was not brought up to edit Html. We were brought up to listen to rock n roll music and end the war in Vietnam.

You may not believe this but once I dyed my hair blonde and wore false eyelashes. The things I did to get the boys home safely.

I think I'd better go to sleep now, before I get a little too confessional. But let me throw myself on the mercy of my rapidly disdainful readership. I want your comments back. If you know how I can get them, please please let me know.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


A couple of people have mentioned sending me e-mails that I don't seem to have received.

I don't get that many e-mails, and trust me, I have no life. If you haven't heard back from me in, say, 36 hours, you should probably assume the e-mail has vanished into the ether, and if you so choose, please send it to me again.

Sorry about this. I love getting your e-mails, and I hate the thought of of missing any of them.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Whoo Hoo! Here's The British Cover For The Dead And The Gone!!!

Actually it looks even better than this, because the words Dead, Gone and unlucky sometimes look red and sometimes look black, depending on the light. And the little figure to the right kind of looks like a penguin from a distance, but really looks like a boy close up (which is how people will see it when they pick up the book). And right next to the picture of LAWKI, it says: The terrifying follow-up to Life As We Knew It.

And I posted it all on my very own. A new personal achievement.

I am so excited. But you knew that!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Part Three- Finding Your Characters

All writers work differently, and there's no right way or wrong way to create and tell a story. Many writers (or so I've heard) start with a character and then build the story around that.

I start with a situation and people it with the characters I'll need to tell that story. Since that's the system that works best for me, that's the one I'll go into in potentially tedious fashion.

I'll start with Life As We Knew It to appease the Google Alert folk. I knew the story was going to be about a teenager who lives through a worldwide disaster. I picked sixteen year old girl because sixteen year old girl is my default option. I didn't have to worry about making her sympathetic from page one, since enough bad things were going to happen to her that as long as she behaved decently, readers would care about her.

Since I was concentrating on family, the family characters came next. I wanted (this was very important to me) a mother who was a character on her own, not just the heroine's mom, so I gave her strong political views and a sharp tongue. I didn't want my heroine to be the oldest (too much responsibility for her), and it's a completely different book if she has an older sister. Besides, I like older brothers, having one myself. If my heroine wasn't going to have all that responsibility, her older brother had to be strong and willing to take it on. But I didn't want my heroine to be the baby of the family. Again, if she has a younger sister, the conflicts are different, so I gave her a younger brother. Dad was best left out of the story, but I didn't want him to have no connection with the family, so I saddled him with a different set of responsibilities, a young pregnant wife. Poof- there's the primary cast of LAWKI.

It's easy enough to explain what I did, but I figured I owed it to all of us to go through the same process with a brand new story. I went back to the endless list of Team stories, and because 4 is my favorite number, decided to select the fourth one as the situation to create characters to go with.

I tell you, it's hard being honest. Number 4 was: What if you love the sport but you're part of a gang and the cops haul you in for questioning the day of the big game?

That's definitely not a story I use over and over again.

But all right, here goes (and I've given this about 1 minute's worth of thought; this is a surprise quiz for me too):

A boy, maybe 15, so he's at an age where he could go bad. He loves a sport,doesn't have to be baseball, doesn't even have to be a team sport, maybe chess. But if it's chess, his loyalty will be to the game and the coach, not the team. For the time being, I'll stick with baseball, since that's the sport I know the best.

Okay, 15 year old boy, loves baseball. Is he good at it? I don't think that matters right now, just that he loves the game. Maybe he's an immigrant and he comes from a Central American country where everyone plays baseball. Maybe he's an illegal alien, just to annoy Lou Dobbs. Anyway, he loves baseball. Family? I don't need them yet, this is a Team book.

He has a cousin who's in a gang and is recruiting him (my hero needs a name; I'll call him M for Mariano Rivera, at least for the time being). Okay, M has a cousin who's recruiting him for his gang. Is cousin bad? Maybe not bad bad, but certainly the gang breaks the law. Drugs. But the gang also provides group support. Maybe M is living with his cousin's family. That could make for some neat conflicts, and make M more vulnerable.

Baseball could represent M's home, the gang his new home. I like that; it's kind of a wicked twist on assimilation. Okay, the gang is what his cousin knows, baseball is what M knows. M moves in with cousin's family (an aunt, an uncle, boy cousin a couple of years older than M, maybe a girl cousin M's age who's opposed to gangs, not a girlfriend option, being cousins and all, but a friend and a girl that girl readers could identify with). M finds a ball club almost immediately. Or maybe he gets recruited for that as well by a boy that could become M's friend, his gang alternative.

Maybe cousin is under pressure to bring in new recruits. Maybe he tells M it's just for a meeting (do gangs have meetings? Do they use Robert's Rules?). Anyway, it's not a lifetime commitment, so M goes along. But M has to do it voluntarily and with full knowledge. Otherwise he's just a poor innocent victim and I don't like that. He knows the score, but he figures it's just a one shot deal.

Does M commit a crime? I'd prefer not, although he's in a position where he could. Maybe cousin commits the crime, and M's conflict is whether he clears his own name by turning in his cousin. Or if that's too tough, maybe the conflict is whether to turn in the leader of the gang, which will clear both M and his cousin, but his cousin is opposed to doing that- lack of loyalty to the gang.

So M's loyalty conflict is between his cousin and his ball club. Is there an adult M can confide in? I think I'd prefer not, in which case he can't be that close to the team's manager. M's girl cousin would have no doubts about what to do, but maybe if M turns the gang leader in, girl cousin will be in serious jeopardy.

Poor M! Poor me! Already I can see M, a decent kid who's been brought up to love family and baseball, trying to fit in to a whole new world. I like his cousin too. He's amoral but appealing. Maybe we see him being protective of someone, so he doesn't come off as a complete villain. Girl cousin can be spunky; she's on the assimilation fast track. Aunt and Uncle are decent people (after all, they've taken M in), but somewhat overwhelmed with issues of language and money. Maybe M's baseball buddy isn't any sweetheart either, but sees M as a way the team can make it to the championship; the team in its own way is exploiting M just as much as the gang is. Heh.

Now if M is older, shrewder, meaner, it's a whole other story. He's got to be strong, or at least have the potential to grow. I think it's better if he's somewhat of a realist; I really want to avoid M The Victim just as much as I want to avoid M The Criminal. Same really with all the characters. None of them (including the gang leader) should be all bad or all good. That would be too easy.

Enough, enough! This is a book I'm never going to write. It's way beyond what I can do. But it's exactly the way I people a story. I use the characters to propel the plot, but the plot is dependent on the characters as well. M The Victim is a whole other story, same as M The Criminal or M The Chess Player.

Oh, by the way, please notice how little The Story Of M resembles The Bad News Bears. That's the great thing about starting off points. What you end up with is your theme, your story, your characters, your multi-millions.

Next week, I'll cover outlining your story (quicker and less boring than you might fear), followed by one final blog entry to tie up loose strings. And then you'll all go off and write masterpieces and make those multi-millions.

I ask only that you, oh beloved slowly gained readership, remember me at Christmas, preferably with small deposits in my soon to be established Swiss banking account.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Part Two- From Theme To Story

So there I was one lazy afternoon watching the reasonably bad movie Meteor when I asked myself, What if a teenager had to cope with the world coming to an end?

The next thing I knew (within weeks really), I was writing Life As We Knew It.

I tell this tawdry tale partly to feed my Google Alert system, and partly to show that ideas for stories are around us all the time. We just have to be receptive to them.

Last night I thought about movies that my beloved slowly gained readership would be familiar with, and finally settled on The Bad News Bears. Whether you've seen it or not, you know it. Its theme, which is one that doesn't resonate with me hardly at all, is Misfits Come Together As A Team And Achieve Success. We'll call the theme Team as a time saver.

Team is a very popular theme in movies. Of course there are the various sports Team movies, such as The Mighty Ducks and Major League. But emotionally troubled misfits come together to solve a crime in The Dream Team. Misfits win World War Two in The Dirty Dozen. Misfits make music together in School Of Rock and unite to cheerlead against great odds in Bring It On (okay, most cheerleaders aren't really misfits). These are all movies with Team as their theme.

Here's the basic plot of The Bad News Bears: There's a kids' baseball team that doesn't play well. Walter Matthau is hired to coach. He brings in Tatum O'Neal (I had to look that up; I thought it was Jodie Foster), who's a great pitcher. A juvenile delinquent in training joins the team, the kids all learn to play together, and victory ultimately is theirs (although Jodie Foster ended up with a better career than Tatun O'Neal).

Here's all you need to do to make The Bad News Bears the story you want to tell. You just look at it from a different angle and play the What If game.

What if you're the pitcher Tatun O'Neal replaces?
What if you're inept and you stay inept even as your team gets better?
What if your dad is the coach and you hate baseball but he insists you join the team?
What if you love the sport but you're part of a gang and the cops haul you in for questioning the day of the big game?
What if you're the best player on the team and you get hurt the day of the game and the team goes on to win without you?
What if you're thrown off the team because you miss practice?
What if you flat out hate the coach?
What if you're a pretty good ballplayer and then your game suffers because you fall in love with Tatun O'Neal?
What if your team goes on to win the Little League World Series and you go back to school as heroes?
What if your team goes on to lose the Little League World Series and you go back to school as losers?
What if your team makes it to the Little League World Series and gets disqualified because one team member is a cheat?
What if your team makes it to the Little League World Series and you're falsely accused of being a cheat?
What if the only way your team can make it to the championship is if you do cheat?
What if there's a plane crash/ bus crash/ train crash/ car crash and one or more of your teammates is killed?

Even I, not particularly responsive to Team, could have fun with a few of these possibilities (the ones that involve Consequences or Family).

So to come up with a basic plot for your story, all you have to do is determine the themes you respond to most deeply. Then, using as an inspiration one of the books or movies that showcase that theme, start asking What If. Most likely you'll go through a whole bunch of What Ifs before you find the right one for you, and that's as it should be. Bill Lancaster, who wrote The Bad News Bears, probably went through any number of What Ifs before he was satisfied.

You think this is easy? You're right, it is. Next stop, Characters, and they're easy also.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Part One- Coming Up With An Idea

You know how they always used to say writers should write about something they know? Well, that's silly. What writers should write about is something they feel.

Think about your favorite stories. They can be books or movies or TV series or songs, just as long as they have a narrative. Concentrate on the ones you love the most, the movies you watch over and over or the book you reread every summer or the TV series that ran three years longer than it should have but you watch it in reruns anyway.

Then melt those favorites down to their bare essence. What we're looking for is the themes you are most responsive to.

Take me, for example. I love Consequences. I realized that when I was in high school and saw The Desperate Hours on TV and immediately wondered what happened to the family as a result of all they'd gone through. I also love Families, which is why I'll see any version of Long Day's Journey Into Night that shows up. (and how I wish that Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward had once played James and Mary Tyrone). I also love How Things Get Started, which is why I prefer the early parts of biographies to the middles and ends.

Put Consequences and Family and How Things Get Started together, and you end up with a lot of my YA fiction, including Life As We Knew It and the dead & the gone.

But this isn't about my favorites. It's about yours. Say you love The Wizard Of Oz. Well, that's about Quest and Friendship. Jane Eyre is Love And Acceptance. Or Gone With The Wind, which I never read but I did see the movie. That's about What You Can't Have (at least that's what the movie was about). Macbeth is about What You Can't Have also, although I like it for the witches and the murder.

Everyone has certain themes that resonate strongly within them. The writing that's the most fun (and there's not much point writing unless it's fun) is the writing that allows you to explore those themes.

Let's look at What You Can't Have. Scarlett wants Ashley, and one traditional version of WYCH is a romantic triangle. You want your best friend's boyfriend, for example. But Romeo And Juliet is also WYCH (I guess Shakespeare liked that theme, understandably since it has conflict built in). An Armenian girl in love with a Turkish boy would work. So would Scarlett in love with Ashley only Ashley's in love with Rhett. Or maybe you're a nice American girl and you've fallen in love with Gorgo from the Planet Zantac and the problem is Gorgo is a plant, like a dandelion puff, and he's programed in three months time to be blown into a thousand different spores which will sprout into a thousand new Gorgos.

It's very frustrating to have a meaningful love affair with a plant.

But the great thing about WYCH (about all themes) is that it doesn't have to be limited to love (Macbeth proves that). It can be about a kid whose father left the family when the kid was young, and what he wants and needs more than anything is a relationship with his father. It can be about a girl with rheumatoid arthritis who yearns to be a cheerleader. It can be about a girl who lives in a community that doesn't approve of education for females and yet she wants to go to college. It can be about a boy with no talent whatsoever who wants to star in the class play. Or a kid who wants a kitten but his sister is allergic. Or an unpopular kid who wants to be class president (which is what Election is about).

The point (other than it's so much fun to come up with these things) is to ponder what your themes are, because now you know you have them. Then once you come up with the themes that have the most meaning for you, start asking yourself what interests you (kittens, plays, fathers, religion, romance, sci fi) and what kind of story best utilizes the themes you really love. And keep in mind, while you're doing this, that it's a very short trip from Tara to the Planet Zantac.

A Blog Entry To Explain The Next Blog Entry

A couple of years ago, I vowed to stop giving advice. I've had about an 80% success rate and the world has been a better place.

The problem is I still love to pontificate, and now there are fewer opportunities to do so. The other problem is it's always best to pontificate about something you really know about, and I don't know much about anything. Which is what happens when you're six years old and decide on a career and don't spend a lot of time veering away from the original plan.

But one thing I do know about is how to create a story, and it occurred to me that some of my slowly gained readership might be interested in doing so themselves. So I've decided to pontificate, in my own adorable fashion. I figure it'll take four blog entries, one on coming up with an idea, then one on characters, one on plotting, and one on how to get the writing actually done.

Here are the ground rules: Feel free to ask questions in the comments section, or to answer other people's questions if there are any. But I'm not going to discuss the business end, how to get an agent, how to submit a manuscript, how to negotiate, all the things people really want to know about. Sorry (well, I'm not really). And I'm not volunteering to read anyone's manuscript, because I stink at that sort of thing.

But figuring out a story is my favorite part of writing, and pontificating is such a glorious thing to do. So if you're interested, read the next (about to be written) entry. And if you're not, trust me, I've pontificated to an empty room on more than one occasion.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Another One Dusts The Byte

I didn't win the Quill Award.

Wait a second while I remove the razor blades from my wrists...

Okay, that's better. The keyboard was getting sticky from the dripping blood.

Meanwhile in a desperate effort to salvage the final dregs of my pathetic career, I read an article in the Author Guilds Bulletin on writing a blog. My eyes were immediately drawn to this part:

" ...a well-written, thoughtful blog with a unique perspective may slowly gain readership."

I'm far too modest and thoughtful to notice how well-written my blog is, so I checked out the unique part. I read every single blog on the internet (okay, maybe I missed one or two), and mine is the only one that says bad things about George Bush! I got that unique thing down pat.

When I wasn't reading every single blog on the internet (give or take), I spent the past week cleaning my apartment in preparation for Rosh Hashanah. I was quite excited to find there was actual furniture under all that dust. I also kept busy making up Rosh Hashanah resolutions. I made so many of them, it'll take me until Jan. 1 to break them all.

My personal favorite resolution (because it didn't call on me to eat less or stop spending money like a drunken sailor) is to be agreeable. My How To Be Happy Page A Day calendar specifically suggested that I be agreeable, and who am I to argue. So to get a good head start on the new year (which doesn't actually start until tomorrow evening, but why wait), I've written a very agreeable Rosh Hashanah song. Feel free to sing along.

Happy Rosh Hashanah To You
Happy Rosh Hashanah To You
Happy Rosh Hashanah Dear Slowly Gained Readership
Happy Rosh Hashanah From Sue

If that isn't well-written, thoughtful, unique and agreeable, I don't know what is.

Within the past couple of days, I've gotten requests (more than one, less than three) for the audio book of Life As We Knew It, with Emily Bauer having done such a great job as the reader. I still have more than I need, so if anyone wants one, just send me an e-mail via that neat little Lycos link to the left. I'll be going to the post office sometime next week, most likely, and I'll be happy to send them off then.

Have a happy and healthy new year. May the entire world see better days.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Happy Birthday Freda Pfeffer!

Tomorrow is my mother's 96th birthday.

To put this in historical context, until my mother was nine years old, women couldn't vote in her home state of North Carolina. To give it a more personal touch, my mother left her hometown of Winston Salem (where John Phillip Sousa gave a concert at her high school) when she was eighteen, and she hasn't been back in more than seventy five years.

My mother has an apartment in an assisted living facility. She reads two newspapers a day, one or two books a week, and watches Newshour on PBS nightly. She loves figure skating (Scott Hamilton and Sasha Cohen are her favorites, and we're talking about going to Stars On Ice if the schedule works out), and enjoys tennis (she roots for the Williams sisters). She clips out the sports section of the Daily News for me and any articles she finds about American Idol.

I read an essay once that said mothers can be at their best at different stages of their children's lives. Some mothers are great with infants, others with teenagers. My mother is the best mother of adults I've ever seen. She is tolerant,generous, supportive, undemanding, and always willing to listen. My friends love her (can you blame them?). She also has an extraordinary talent for adapting to whatever life throws her way. Of all her skills, that's the one I most try to learn from her.

She's getting two small birthday celebrations this week. Today my brother, sister-in-law and I will pop in. Alan and Esther are bringing a cake, and we'll go to her brand new computer (Alan and Esther gave her one a couple of weeks ago) and check out her e-mails (she hasn't been practicing her internet skills because of the U.S. Open taking so much time). Tomorrow she and I will have brunch at the Goshen Diner, followed by a trip to the place where she used to do her volunteer work (and where I still do mine). I already got the cake (although tragically I jostled it, and the cake now reads Happy Birthday eda). People will be delighted to see her there, no matter what the cake says.

Next Monday the Quill Award winners will be announced. Since Barnes & Noble listed Life As We Knew It as an also ran from the getgo, I don't anticipate LAWKI winning. I've already gone through my Kubler-Ross stages of grieving (denial was my favorite, with rage a close second).

But the reality is, it doesn't matter. Next Monday my mother will be 96 and she will still love me.