Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Exercise: Good For The Body. Good For The Mind

I had lunch with my mother yesterday and happened to arrive right before the physical therapist did. The government is giving my mother four sessions of physical therapy, with the last one scheduled for Friday.

Since my mother's idea of exercise is napping, I'm all in favor of her being forced to move her body around. My mother claims she's been doing the exercises on her own, but I have my doubts. I have even more doubts that she'll continue with them.

However, she is 98 years old, so whether she exercises or not, she's done all right for herself.

After I visited my mother, I got an email from my brother, saying that someone we'd known many years ago was working in Afghanistan and had converted to Islam.

I googled the name and found the job part easily enough. My brother must have done some more research to find the conversion information, which, of course, made the whole story considerably more juicy. When we'd known the (no longer) young man, he'd been a practicing Catholic, living, I think, in Connecticut. Maybe New Jersey. Wherever it was, I could spell it without spell check.

Inspired by this story, I decided to give you some homework. Don't worry. You won't be marked, but you might have some fun with it.

Think about an enormous change a person can make. Seriously enormous, like converting from Catholicism to Islam. Ending a bad marriage. Quitting a job. Changing one's name and growing a mustache and leaving the country (a personal fantasy of mine).

Then take that concept of enormous life change and see if you can use it for a kid/teenager. The change would make perfect sense to your character because they've been living their life, feeling their feelings. But to someone they haven't confided it, even a good friend, it could be a real shock.

Dropping out of school maybe. Choosing to live with a non-custodial parent. Breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend. Quitting the debate club or the football team. Trying out for the debate club or the football team. I tend to think in teen terms because I've been writing YAs lately, but my guess is there are middle school or even younger equivalents. Relinquishing a pet (it really isn't a good idea to keep a boa constrictor in the bathtub). Becoming a competitive speller. Whatever it is, it has to be big, seemingly unmotivated, and enough to shake up a viewpoint character.

So that's your homework. You have a choice between exercising your mind or doing ten leg lifts and walking to the other end of the assisted living facility, like my mother is supposed to.

I'll get my exercise by strolling to the freezer and removing two of those peanut butter cookies I took home from lunch yesterday. Just think of it as exercise with benefits!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

And I've Eaten Godiva Chocolate

Last week was very busy, and I'm spending today resting and recovering (tomorrow I'll spend fasting, which will help me recover from all the crazy eating I've done over the past few days. Make that weeks. Oh heck, make that months).

It was really a great week, even if it was a tiring one. Last Sunday I went to Virginia and stayed overnight at my friend Renee's, who I haven't seen since we went to the World Figure Skating Championship in LA last March. Renee is very worldly and sophisticated, and I live in constant hope that some of that will rub off on me. It never does.

Renee is doing genealogy, both for herself and her friends. She located my mother's father (and my Great Uncle Joe) online as they got off their boat and landed in Baltimore. I'm not a big genealogy person, but I did like Renee's story of how she worked out the family tree of a friend of hers and discovered that friend was a direct descendant of Lady Godiva.

Monday, I spoke at two schools as part of Fall For The Book, and I had a good time at both of them. Very nice students, very nice adults. Then I drove home, discovered the first pass whatevers waiting for me, and spent Tuesday reading This World We Live In and making the smallest of changes.

I may have also done some kvetching around then.

Wednesday, I went in to NYC and had lunch with my UK publisher. I wore my new black sweater with ruffles, which I showed off to my publisher ("See? See the ruffles?"). She was unruffled herself, but I didn't hold that against her. It's possible, after all, that ruffles are an American thing.

In spite of her lack of ruffles, my UK publisher is a totally delightful person. She showed me very rough drafts of the new covers they're going to have for Life As We Knew It, The Dead And The Gone, and This World We Live In. Very different from what they had before and very different from the US covers. When the cover designs are finalized, she'll email them to me, and if I can get my blogging skills to do it, I'll post them here.

My UK publisher mentioned in passing that she's a direct descendant of Charles Dickens. As it happens, although I didn't feel the need to tell her, I am a direct descendant of someone who once read a novel by Charles Dickens. Under ordinary circumstances, I probably would have let that drop oh so casually, but she was overwhelmed by the ruffledness of my sweater, so I kept the info to myself.

Thursday morning I mailed off the first pass whatevers (which I didn't have time to mail on Wednesday and besides, it turned out I didn't have an envelope in the apartment big enough for them, so I had to buy one which really added to the amount of time it took), and then I drove to Sandwich, MA to speak Friday morning at Sandwich High School, where Life As We Knew It and/or The Dead And The Gone were their summer reading books.

My ego may never be the same. I even got to see homework assignments based on my books.

In addition to the basic ecstasy of being in a room with people who've actually read what I've written, the people themselves were incredibly nice. It was a wonderful experience, a perfect ending to a really great week.

The only professional news I have is kind of anti-news. Listening Library has postponed the publication date of its audiobook version of This World We Live In from January to April 13. -*69++++++++++++++++++ (Scooter just walked over the keyboard to climb on the printer and eat whatever he could find and I kind of like his addition so I'm not backspacing it out).

I always thought it was a little strange to have the audiobook come out three months before the real book did, so I'm not complaining. I bet Harcourt isn't either.

Clearly it's lunchtime for Scooter and for me as well. I need to eat everything in the house today to make my fast tomorrow easier (there'll be no temptation to eat if there's no food in the house!).

Here's to a new year where we all write as well as Charles Dickens and dress even better than Lady Godiva!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Should I Atone? Should I Kvetch? Should I Atone About Kvetching?

Oh let's get real. I'll kvetch about atoning.

The days between Rosh ha-Shanah and Yom Kippur are the most solemn on the Jewish calendar. They're devoted to self-examination and atonement for all the wrongs one has committed in the past twelve lunar months (thirteen lunar months in a leap year).

Alas, it turns out that atoning doesn't necessarily coincide with forgiveness. The two people whose feelings I hurt have both let it be known they haven't forgiven me.

Well, where's the fun in that? Ideally, one should apologize and the other person should say, "That's all right and I forgive you and I can tell guilt has been eating you up inside so let's get hot fudge sundaes. I'll treat."

It's not like I'm asking them to say, "And it was all my fault anyway." I don't push my Yom Kippur fantasies that much.

Now that I think about it, you can make it two people and a kitten who aren't going along with this whole atoning business. I was in Virginia Sunday and Monday, and when I got home last night, Scooter was a maniac. An even more than usual maniac. Marci and Bonnie had both visited him on Sunday, and Julie the cat sitter came over Monday, so he wasn't alone (and he sleeps all afternoon anyway). But once he was certain I really was there, Scooter never stopped biting my ankles, my feet, and my legs. I guess he needed to taste me to confirm it was really me.

And he didn't offer to buy me a hot fudge sundae either.

Things are going to get worse, at least for Scooter and me. Tomorrow I'm going to NYC to have lunch with my UK publisher (I like saying that, although since nothing in my life is easy, it's supposed to be 80 degrees, and I bought a brand new black sweater with ruffles that I'm absolutely determined to wear no matter how unseasonably warm it might be), and then Thursday, I drive to Sandwich, MA, where I'll be talking to students on Friday.

Just because nobody suffers like I suffer, I found a package waiting for me yesterday from my US editor. I knew it couldn't be anything good, but I opened it anyway. It was what's called the first pass rough pages (I didn't know that was what it was called until I read the cover letter, and even having read the cover letter, I still think first pass rough pages sounds like something from a western).

What first pass rough pages turn out to be is (are?) the first printed version of This World We Live In. Which would be almost as yummy as sundaes except I'm supposed to read it and look for things to correct. Which means actually read it, as opposed to seeing how lovely the copyright page is (and it is lovely). Then I have to mail it back to my editor, who doesn't know that tomorrow I'm going to NYC and Thursday and Friday I'll be in Sandwich, MA, and Saturday is the sabbath so I try hard not to work, and then Sunday night into Monday is Yom Kippur, which I spend fasting and atoning and fantasizing about ice cream and whipped cream and hot fudge.

My mother, when I complained to her about all this, said, "When you're successful you have to work a little." Of course when I was a failure, I worked a little too, so it's better to be successful and work than a failure and work. But you'd think there'd be a happy median where you get by and don't work.

Oh well. I'd better start reading those first pass rough pages before the Lone Ranger shows up.

Maybe if I'm really good, Tonto will treat me to a sundae!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Things Are Looking Up

This morning I mentioned to my mother that we should try to find her a nice 99 year old boyfriend, and she said, "I'm not really into that kind of thing yet."

So with the future in mind, she and Scooter and I wish all who happen by a healthy and joyful new year!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My Mother Is Home

I brought her back to her apartment around 11 this morning.

She called my brother. She wrote a couple of emails (well, she dictated; I did the typing).

She went for lunch in the dining room.

She is fine and well. And I intend to take a three hour nap!

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Offical Unveiling of This World We Live In Cover

I asked my editor if I could have a picture of the cover of This World We Live In that I could put on my blog in a better than I printed it on typing paper and pinned it to a chair with needles and took a picture of it with my beloved digital camera format. Something a tad more professional.

And I got one! The super great thing about this is they changed the cover. I'd test you except the version that I originally posted here is so pathetic you can't see the change. But instead of it saying: SUSAN BETH PFEFFER BY THE NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLING AUTHOR OF LIFE AS WE KNEW IT, it now says: SUSAN BETH PFEFFER THE NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLING AUTHOR OF LIFE AS WE KNEW IT

I asked for that change, and it's good to know they listen to me.

So without further ado (we've had enough ado to last us), here is the Official Unveiling Of the This World We Live In cover.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

One Book, One Boone. One Big Ego Boost

William R. Boone High School in Orlando, Florida selected Life As We Knew It for their One Book, One Boone 2009 summer reading choice, and LAWKI is being woven into various classes this year.

As if this weren't enough to make me happy, the teachers were also asked to have pictures taken of them reading LAWKI this summer, and I was given the honor (well, I think I demanded the honor) of judging the photographs.

I was sent a CD with scores of photographs. Oddly enough, I loved them all. I took the CD to Target and printed up about a dozen of them and put them in frames, so I can look at them whenever I feel like it (which seems to be all the time).

I asked for permission to put some of the pictures on my blog. So with many thanks to the staff at Boone, here are some fabulous teachers reading LAWKI!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

It's All Labor Day Weekend's Fault

And yet I wish you all a happy Labor Day Weekend.

My mother is doing great, but she's stuck at the health center a while longer because of Labor Day Weekend.

Before they'll spring her, she has to do what's called a home visit. Basically that means she visits her home, while we all watch her (I'll be joining the crowd). Because of the holiday, the home visit can't be scheduled until Wednesday morning.

Then, after my mother breezes through the home visit, there have to be some more meetings to discuss what will happen with her once she leaves the health center. And that will add a few more days to her stay there.

So even though as far as my mother and I are concerned, she could go home today, she'll be stuck at the health center most likely for another 10 days or so.

Curse you American Labor Movement! Okay, I don't really mean that (sorry, Samuel Gompers), but I do wish Labor Day were either earlier this year or much much later.