Monday, February 28, 2011
The weather for tomorrow in Boulder is predicted to be warm and sunny, near 60; it may well be breezy, but I think that still qualifies as "coming in like a lamb." So that means that March will go out like a lion. I have one month, 31 days, to get my lion self prepared for roaring.
The best way for me to roar is always through writing. Looking back at February, it wasn't, frankly, the greatest month I ever had. The best thing about February was writing ten (short-ish) chapters on my novel, and writing a poem every day. I also saw my graduate student Jay defend a fabulous dissertation, knit my hat with the pompom, hosted my church dinner circle dinner, and bought my car, as well as getting encouraging "revise and resubmit" comments from the Children's Literature Association Quarterly on my paper about the "twin" series of 1950s popular author Rosamond DuJardin (Double Date, Double Feature, Double Wedding). Okay, now that I'm reviewing the month's high points, helpfully cataloged in my trusty little notebook under the heading "February: Nice Things and Accomplishments," the month doesn't look so bad. But trust me, it abounded in painful disappointments (helpfully NOT cataloged in my trusty little notebook), and the best thing in it, not counting the pompom, was writing.
So in March, I am going to get up extra early every morning - early rising really makes all the difference for writing productivity. I am going to have not only a complete draft of my novel done by the end of the month, but a GOOD complete draft. I am going to continue writing my poems, and at least one of them is going to be a truly wonderful poem. I am going to write, and write, and write, until I roar down on April. Yes!
Saturday, February 26, 2011
So here's some information about it and a link to the conference website in case I can tempt any of you to come join me.
Registration is open for Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers!
This popular week-long conference offers 20 hours of classroom critique,
afternoon classes on craft, and plenary sessions by New York editors and agents.
This year's award-winning faculty includes:
Sharlee Glenn (Beginning Writer class)
Trudy Harris (Picture Book class)
Kristyn Crow (Picture Book class)
Kevin Hawkes (Illustration class)
Mike Knudson (Chapter Book class)
Claudia Mills (Middle Grade Novel class)
Emily Wing Smith (Beginning Young Adult Novel class)
Louise Plummer (Young Adult Novel class)
Holly Black (Fantasy Novel class)
Kathleen Duey (Advanced Novel class)
Martine Leavitt (Advanced Novel class)
A.E. Cannon (Boot Camp class)
Our amazing editors are:
Alyson Heller, Aladdin Books
Lisa Yoskowitz, Disney
Our talented agent is Mary Kole from Andrea Brown Literary Agency
This year's keynote is by New York Times Bestseller Ally Condie, author of
Where: The Waterford School, Sandy UT
When: June 13-17, 2011
For more information, and to register, go to www.wifyr.com
For questions, email us at: email@example.com
My main distraction these days isn't my job, anyway. It's poetry. It's all I want to do. I get up and spend the first, best hour of my day trying to craft sonnets about lost love. It's actually a good use of my time, all things considered. What better way to spend one's time than writing sonnets? I don't think anyone on her deathbed would regret time spent writing sonnets. Some of mine don't observe a formal rhyme scheme, but the one I wrote this morning did - it was a Petrarchian sonnet with the ABBA, CDDC, EFEFEF rhyme scheme. How I pored over those rhymes to get them right, even if the last line still doesn't please me completely.
AND I just signed up to give an hour-long poetry reading (!) at the Innisfree Poetry Bookstore and Cafe, here in Boulder, one evening in late May. So I NEED to get busy writing more poems, correct?
So today I wrote a chapter and wrote a sonnet. I would call this a very good day.
Friday, February 25, 2011
I was hoping the year would end before my turn came, just as I used to hope, back in high school P.E. class, that the softball game would end before I had my turn at bat. I am not good at entertaining, just as I am not good at sports. I wasn't brought up to entertain, and my house is TINY, and I'm a bad cook, to boot.
I am hosting the dinner circle tonight.
And now that I'm doing it, I'm excited. Yes, my house is tiny, compared to the large, beautiful, amazing houses of the others, but it's my sweet little house, and I'm proud of it and glad to be able to share it with the others, with the beloved members of my church family. There should be ten of us, or maybe eleven. I have room for six, or maybe seven, in a squeeze, around my kitchen table, and I've set up a card table next to it, to seat another four, and I've borrowed extra chairs from a friend, and extra dishes from the church kitchen. I've made lasagna, which is bound to be tasty, and the other guests will supply salad, bread, side dish, appetizer, and dessert.
It feels so good not to be ashamed of my house, or my entertaining skills, or my cooking prowess, but just to say, "Come! You are welcome to what I have." And I think it's good practice for not being ashamed of anything in my life, if I offer it with generous love. That's what poetry writing has become for me. I don't know if I'm a good poet, but I write my poems and email them to a few friends, or post them here on my blog, bidding the world welcome to them.
But I'm still not going to join any of the Philosophy Department sports teams!
Thursday, February 24, 2011
The night before last, I decided to give up on looking for love. Too much rejection! Too much heartbreak! Too much beating my bloodied head against unbeatable odds! In a fit of despair I canceled my subscription to every dating website. I emailed every male person who had been a possibility and explained that I was no longer in any way, shape, or form interested in forming any sort of relationship. I told my friends that if the handsomest, smartest, funniest, kindest man in the world were to ask me out, I would say no.
But then on Facebook yesterday, someone posted this quote from Thomas Edison, which is apparently very well known because it turns out that you can buy T-shirts, mugs, totebags, onesies for infants, with this saying imprinted on them: "Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is to try just one more time."
It's a great line, because it doesn't direct us to keep on trying endlessly, the old try, try again adage. Try just one more time. Of course, enough one-more-times add up to trying endlessly, but you don't have to think right now about a lifetime of endless endeavor. For now, try just one more time.
Still, there has to be something to be said as well on behalf of giving up. Authors hear stories of other authors who submitted their manuscripts dozens of times before the big, break-through acceptance, yes, but there are also manuscripts that get rejected because they are just plain bad. I've always been irked by children's books about kids who struggle with sports and doggedly keep on going and then finally earn some small success: why NOT quit an activity that isn't rewarding or fulfilling, especially if you're not very good at it? That is certainly my stance about most sports. And right now it's my stance about dating.
And yet. . . that line of Edison's repeats itself in my head. Try just one more time.
I'm not going to try today, though. Today I'm going to take my new car to get an emissions test, and to get a second key made, and to buy it some nice rubber floor mats. Today I'm going to clean and organize my very small house for the somewhat large dinner party I'm hosting tomorrow night. Today I'm going to write a chapter on my book, and write two book reviews, and read fifty pages of a dissertation.
But tomorrow - maybe - I'll think about trying just one more time.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
The biggest plus of this cute little blue car: it has windows that you roll up and down with an old-fashioned handle. I rented an Aveo once and loved it just for that reason.
Christopher and I have been sharing a car for the past many months, and he's been the one who has used it 95 percent of the time, driving to and from work and socializing with friends. I've managed quite well getting around Boulder with our wonderful buses and my wonderful CU bus pass that allows me to ride for free. But still, it's been challenging sometimes, and I'm going to need a car of my own when I'm at DePauw next year. And it's fun to be able to think of someplace I would like to go, and just go there.
So where WOULD I like to go?
Sunday, February 20, 2011
Then I found the perfect way to write a poem on Friday afternoon. I went to a colloquium talk by a philosopher who was one of our former grad students, now returning in glory. It was a very technical paper in an area in which I do not specialize. In fact, here is the abstract of the talk for your delectation:
ABSTRACT: "How is intelligent action possible? The present paper begins to develop an intellectualist answer to this Kantian ("how-possible"
So I sat there during the talk, filling a chair to show support for our departmental colloquium series. But as I sat there, I didn't really, well, listen to the talk. Instead I wrote a poem. But you'll see that I put philosophy in the poem, so, heck, I figure that it counts. Here it is:
Herr Friedrich Nietzsche said it is not true
that we shall never pass this way but once.
He said instead that everything that was
shall be again, and then again, and then
again, repeating endlessly through all
of time. He has no proof, of course, but nor
can it be proved that everything must end;
philosophers' disputes rest unresolved.
If he is right, there'll be another day
when you and I will first make love, indeed
a thousand, thousand, thousand other days,
each one the first, forever first, but then
there'll be a thousand, thousand, thousand days
when you will turn and slowly walk away.
Friday, February 18, 2011
Here's the problem, for me. I really need to start prioritizing weight loss, or at the very least prioritizing walking. But I'm already prioritizing writing my book. And I blogged a while ago about how this is the year to prioritize poetry. And by definition, you cannot prioritize EVERYTHING. If something gets "priority," then it comes first. By definition, you can't put EVERYTHING first.
This is why I so much like creating the new life for myself at the start of every month. It really does seem to me that for a few days I actually can put everything first: write more, AND walk more, AND eat better, AND read more. But then I can't sustain that much perfection, and so I'm back in the land of having to do this rather than that, the land of leaving something, even something fairly important, undone. The title of my blog is "An Hour a Day," and I really get just one FIRST hour of the day, the hour in which I do the thing that matters most, which for me usually is writing.
So: what to do? This is one of those blog posts that I write to help myself figure something out. I do know that part of the secret to doing everything is getting up early - NOT at 5:45 as I did today, but at 5:00, or even 4:30. Part of the secret to doing everything is NOT spending too much time on email. My latest email vice? Emailing my daily poem to my two poetry buddies and then reading over my sent email fifty or sixty times to admire my poem. That is not a good use of my time.
I think I'm still going to prioritize writing for the next month and let myself get just a little bit fatter, though maybe I'll take that second bag of conversation hearts into the philosophy department and leave them in the graduate student lounge. And I won't announce in class how much I love Cadbury hearts and invite students to show their appreciation of me by leaving some in my philosophy department mailbox. And I'm going to walk all the way in to work today, about three miles.
After I write my chapter. And after I write my poem.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
The deed is done.
As soon as I put the letter in the mailbox, beyond possibility of retrieval, I had my first twinge of doubt about this idea of spending almost an entire year elsewhere. I still want to have this enchanted time at this place of which I'm so fond already, with dear friends awaiting me, and an opportunity to grow as a scholar and philosopher in so many ways. But what about my dear little life here? I miss it already! My dear sweet little life - my almost daily walks with Rowan, the half a dozen dear friends who live within a few blocks of my house, my church that means so much to me, the Knitted Brow, my sons, my cat - can I really leave all this for a year, just leave it and go?
I have to stop thinking this way. I remember what when I first had Christopher, 22 years ago, I made the terrible mistake as a working mother of feeling guilty the whole time I was at work that I wasn't home with him, and then feeling guilty the whole time I was with him that I wasn't working. Luckily, I soon figured out what a bad system of thinking that was, and I started focusing on loving and cherishing every minute of my time with him and then loving and cherishing every minute of time at work.
That's what I need to do here. I'm going to savor every minute of my dear sweet life in Boulder from now until I leave in August for Indiana. Then I'm going to savor every minute of that gift of a year away. And then I'm going to return to my dear sweet life in Boulder, loving it more than ever.
That's what I'm going to do.
Monday, February 14, 2011
I also wrote a Valentine's Day poem, as part of my ongoing poem-a-day project. This one was a gift to me from the Valentine gods, in the form of an article in today's Boulder Daily Camera:
The Edgewater Pointe Estates in Boca Raton hired professional male dancers to attend their Valentine's Day ball. "At home, I dance with a broom," said Victoria Schabel, a 90-something resident. "This is better." - Associated Press
Dancing with a Broom
A broom is too skinny, for starters.
I like a man with a little meat
on his bones. And after thirty
years alone, I'm tired of leading.
For just a few minutes, I'd like
to follow someone, be held in strong
arms, his head bent toward mine,
his eyes gazing at me as if
I were forty again, or even sixty.
Oh, I'm good at pretending, that's
a fact. But it's harder if no
one else is pretending back.
Happy Valentine's Day, everybody!
Saturday, February 12, 2011
Yes. Ten minutes.
But this time I'm actually not all that sorry that I put it off, because I did do a HEROIC amount of writing in its stead. Even though I did all that procrastination, I didn't wallow in the usual sick-at-heart dread that goes with it. I just calmly and cheerfully put off this Loathsome Task while doing other more fun and ultimately more important things. So maybe that's okay. It's not really procrastination per se that is the problem; it's procrastination about the things in life that matter most. I didn't procrastinate on those things this week; in fact, I distinguished myself on those things gloriously.
Still, that a feared and postponed task ended up taking only ten minutes is something that I want to remember for next time I'm fearing and postponing something.
Maybe I'll go do ten minutes of work on my 2010 income tax preparation right now.
Friday, February 11, 2011
Regarding my current novel-in-progress, for months I was an object at rest, completely paralyzed by inertia. I could have stayed at rest for the remainder of my days if it hadn't been for the small matter of a book contract with a due date. That was the force that acted upon me to nudge me into motion. At first motion was slow, halting, fraught with self-doubt. But now, with 15 chapters written, I can't stop writing. I resent anything that takes me away from writing. I know I need to grade the papers for my Major Social Theories class, but first I want to write just one more chapter - and another - and another. I am in motion!!!!!
So, dear friends, if you are stuck, if you are sunk into the bogs of inertia, the La Brea tarpits of incapacitating sloth, try to find just one little nudge somewhere in the universe. Of course, a book contract is a particularly efficacious nudge, but if you need to seek your nudge elsewhere, make a pact with a friend to write just one page - one paragraph - one sentence. If you can just get yourself into motion, on the right kind of frictionless slope?, you will be able to remain in motion.
I need to look up these laws of motion to figure out where acceleration fits in. Because it does seem that once you begin to be in motion, you don't just continue at the same pleasant, steady pace, but you go faster, faster, faster, hurtling toward completion of your task. So maybe Newton has another law that says, An object in motion will take such pleasure from being in motion that it will move ever faster, hugging itself with the happiness of motion itself.
That seems right to me.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Anything rather than write my share of the report for the Administrator Appraisal Committee.
Now, the sad thing is that I still do have to write that horrid, hideous, hateful thing. I wish I could email my fellow committee members and ask them if I could trade TWO book chapters and TWO great guidance sessions and TWO poems for just ONE little section of the report. But I can't. So I will get up very early tomorrow morning, and I'll do what I have to do. Unless - I really could START it now, and then I'd be so grateful tomorrow morning when I roll out of bed and find this Loathsome Task already begun.
Or I could type up those two chapters. And write maybe one more poem.
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
I wrote Chapter 12 of my novel this morning - I like the book now that I have a sense of where it is going, of the characters' inexorable destiny unfolding. Then I met for almost two hours with one of my wonderful SCBWI writing mentees. We discussed the first two revised chapters of her novel and looked ahead for how she needs to revise the next three chapters. What she is going to work on most is situating us completely in each scene, and in particular, situating us completely inside the main character's head, so that we feel Jenna's complicated tangle of emotions at every point during the conversation and action. I know this author can do it!
After lunch, I reviewed five submissions for an American Philosophical Association newsletter on philosophy and women - the theme of this issue is motherhood - and wrote comments on each one. Such a satisfying task to cross of my list! And then I faced this summer's SCBWI writing retreat. I'm to be the facilitator/writer for the novel strand of the event; Linda Ashman is playing that role for the picture book strand. We've been asked to send in the titles for the FOUR different craft-related talks each of us will be giving over the course of this July weekend. Do I have four different craft-related talks in me? Well, I know I WILL have them all prepared by July, but procrastination is apparently not the style of this event's organizers, who want to have the brochure ready to go to press mid-month. So now I have to curl up and think of what four things I most want to tell my fellow writers - what four things would I most want somebody to tell ME as a writer?
That, plus two huge loads of laundry, makes for a completely lovely day.
Sunday, February 6, 2011
I got to the bookstore an hour or so before Mary, by my choice, and got myself a cup of tea in the cafe and sat curled up in a comfy overstuffed chair. There I figured out exactly what I have to do in my new book. I am no longer writing in complete ignorance of where I am going. I now have a plan!
It feels so good to have a plan. For some reason, it was much easier to make a plan in an unfamiliar setting, rather than lying on the little couch in my sweet upstairs office/studio at home. What is it about a new and different place that unsticks our stuckness? I remember being with the boys a few years ago, in Green River, Utah, and looking out the window from our hotel room as I wrote the very first sentence of How Oliver Olson Changed the World: "Oliver Olson looked up at the moon." I still love that first sentence, and I love remembering where I was when I wrote it.
Now I love the plan for my new book, and I love remembering that I made it while waiting for Mary in that wonderful bookstore, before we went together to the Denver Art Museum to look at western landscape paintings, and had lunch at Dozen's, and shared so many stories.
Saturday, February 5, 2011
Even though I love my own two boys more than anything in the world, there is some small part of me that wishes I could have had a daughter, too, a bookish daughter, a daughter who would have been in a mother-daughter book group with me. So it was bliss last night to be there with these five mothers and five daughters, eating a delicious Italian pasta-bar dinner at Michele's beautiful house, and sharing with these girls their own love of books. I loved being able to tell them all the things that I had been thinking about as I crafted Amanda's story and to hear about stories they were writing themselves. And of course, I also tried to get from them as many stories as I could about classroom drama - which boys were annoying and why, which teachers were cool and why. Material!
I even got to play a game with them, whose rules I never figured out, called Murder. First I would tap each girl on the shoulder, secretly tapping one of them twice; then that girl became the murderer, who somehow murdered the others through an elaborate hand-shaking ritual. I still don't understand the game, but enjoyed playing the role of tapper and hearing the squeals of laughter from murderer and murdered alike.
It was an altogether wonderful evening.
Friday, February 4, 2011
Now, born of painful experience, there are several things I know how to do, or at least that I know how to tell Christopher to do.
I now know how to jump-start a battery on a car. I have never actually done it myself - affixed the actual clamps to the actual battery nodes - but I have had it done by Christopher under my supervision.
I now know that there is a filter on the furnace that should be changed periodically, at least more often than the three years that elapsed before I first realized this. Again, I have never done this myself - it's very difficult to get the little door-thing open on the furnace to slip the filter in - but I have purchased filters of the appropriate size and shape and commissioned Christopher to do the rest.
And last night I learned in a sad, hard way where the main turnoff is for the water in my house. Frozen pipes led to some kind of dishwasher malfunction that caused my dishwasher to fill up without ceasing, and without draining, leading to their being vast quantities of water all over my kitchen floor. And I don't own a wet-dry vac. And I only own some twenty very large and absorbent towels which were hardly enough to sop it all up.
But then I called a friend's husband, and he talked me through turning off the water for my house. After one false attempt, which led only to my turning off the pilot light on the hot water heater and causing there to be no hot water in my house, I managed to find the correct faucet to turn; I even discovered that it had been helpfully labeled "main water shutoff" by the kindly man who did my home buyer's inspection three years ago. And I shut off the water myself, with no assistance from Christopher. (The plumber who came at ten last night, bless him, re-lit the pilot light on the hot water heater for me, and he's going to fix the dishwasher and make any number of wondrous and expensive improvements in the various antiquated pipes and things under my sink.)
So this is one very useful thing I now know how to do, added to the two very useful things that I know to tell someone else to do.
But I hope I have no urgent occasion to learn any more very useful things any time soon.
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
But I did write a chapter on my book, and I did write a poem I liked, and I did make progress on a philosophy talk I have to give on Friday. Plus I read a big chunk of a scathingly funny book, Taking the Devil's Advice, by Anne Fine, a semi-autobiographical account of her doomed marriage to philosopher Kit Fine, which reads like a hilarious textbook on why not to marry a (certain sort of famous male analytic) philosopher. All in all, it has been a good, cozy day.
AND the day is not over yet, either. I still have time to type up the chapter I wrote, generate a decent outline for my philosophy talk, and finish reading the novel. And to eat just one or two more English muffin halves - oh, the deliciousness of that orange marmalade!