Debbie Bliss Fine Donegal is a luscious fingering weight wool with just enough cashmere to make it something special. A tweedy single-ply, this yarn is both lofty (read: warm) and easy to work with. Try a versatile neutral like Snowdrift, which has a cream base and touches of blue and yellow in the tweedy bits ... or go for the wilder Blackberry with its black base and flashes of bright primary colors. And check out the pattern support Debbie Bliss has provided - you can use Fine Donegal to make beautiful garments, accessories, and more!
Thursday, September 18, 2014
Tuesday, July 8, 2014
Monday, June 30, 2014
I was young, in maybe second or third grade. Keep in mind, this was back in the VERY early '80s, when fashions for young ladies were not quite as casual - or comfortable - as they are today. Think polyester turtlenecks and corduroys ... and plaid, lots of really ugly plaid.
Anyway, I had this red turtleneck shirt that I wore a lot. It was mostly comfortable, once I managed to squeeze the too-tight neck over my head (which inevitably squished my plastic-framed glasses down on my nose so hard I saw stars, because I never remembered to take them off before I started). The sleeves were almost long enough if I hunched my shoulders just right, and if I didn't, well, that just allowed them to ride up enough to show off my awesome Mickey Mouse watch. But no matter how groovy it was, the most notable feature of this shirt wasn't its color, or its neck, or its sleeves - it was the snap crotch.
Yes, this shirt had a crotch... with snaps.
See, back in my day, mothers were somewhat obsessive about the whole "keep your shirt tucked in" thing. They were always telling kids to tuck in their shirt, only slobs go around with their clothing untucked - were you raised in a barn? In the interest of making shirts that would stay tucked, no matter what, someone invented the snap-crotch turtleneck. You'd put it on like a regular shirt, then fasten the two or three metal snaps that were on the flap that came between your legs. It was sort of a onesie for the elementary school set, if you can imagine that.
Given that I was tall for my age (see comment about sleeve length above), wearing snap-crotch shirts was inherently fraught with danger. I had my choice between hunching over to keep from embedding the snaps in my delicate regions, or standing up straight and hoping the snaps didn't let loose and send one of my overstretched shirttails flapping up in the air. Yes, that actually happened. I'm sure one of my friends on Facebook will be happy to confirm that for you.
By far the worst part of wearing a snap-crotch shirt was the fact that I generally forgot how much extra time was required to deal with it during bathroom trips. Inevitably, the snaps would get stuck just when you were really hoping they'd come undone, and trying to get them fastened again was a nightmare of awkward maneuvers and mis-matched snaps. Add to that the fact that I tended to try to "wait it out" rather than raise my hand and walk past all the other students to the bathroom, and it was sort of a recipe for disaster. There were a lot of near-misses, but only one trip was truly horrifying.
I don't know what had possessed me that morning, but I had somehow managed to snap up my shirt before I put on my underwear. But I didn't realize it, or else I forgot all about it in my hour of need. So when I finally got desperate enough to use the bathroom, I slammed the stall door, threw down my corduroy pants and Underoos, and sat down to business, forgetting all about the snap crotch I hadn't bothered to undo.
I noticed something was wrong almost immediately, but being only seven or eight years old, I had neither the presence of mind nor the control of my bladder required to prevent this disaster. So, smack in the middle of my school day, I peed all over the bottom of my shirt. It soaked in almost immediately and began slowly wicking its way up my body, like some sort of ammonia-scented nightmare.
My mind has somehow blocked out what must have followed - the embarrassed hiding in the bathroom until another student was sent to fetch me, the cringing attempts to wring out the tails of my shirt, the whispered consultation through the crack in the door, the summoning of the teacher, the call to the office for a plastic bag and a fresh shirt, the teasing of my classmates who could only imagine what I had been through but teased me about it nonetheless. It's horrible and cringe-inducing enough in my imagination - thank goodness I don't have to actually relive the memories.
I do know, however, that snap-crotch turtlenecks were no longer a staple of my wardrobe after that incident ... and now, thirty years later, I NEVER tuck in my turtlenecks, no matter how sloppy it makes me look. There are some sacrifices for fashion that are just too much to bear.
Write a passage that illustrates what you think a "Dinglefloffer" does.
I just had a life-changing short rib sandwich. Write a nonfiction narrative about a memory you have that centers on food.
(I cheated and sent them an old blog post from 2007)
Liza's got the pukies (don't worry, no pictures today). So far today the laundry total includes : carseat, carseat cover, straps, and buckles; Liza's jacket, mittens, expensive pants, expensive sweater, socks, and necklace; Jason's sweatshirt, my jeans, my socks; my fleece jacket, my fleece pants; four pairs of Liza's pajamas; my watch; the wool rug in the family room; the washable rug by the back door; about 14 different places on the wood floor (including one where there's a 1/8" gap between the boards, and I had to try to fish out the worst of the chunks with a table knife); the kitchen sink; the bathtub (because I gave Liza a bath after the first episode, stupid me); and probably a few more places I've either forgotten or haven't found yet. And it's only lunchtime.
- We have hardwood floors in every room. There are two rugs on the first floor, and the kid has managed to cover both of them. The cats do the same thing. Is there some sort of puke magnet built into the rugs that I wasn't warned about when I bought them?
- What was the thought process that made it seem like a good idea to include hideously stain-inducing red food coloring in a rehydration solution? Someone without a carpet puker did this ... or maybe it's a conspiracy led by the carpet industry.
- Why is it that the kid can be happily sipping Pedialyte for an hour, watching videos and asking to be tickled, but as soon as she gets down and makes it to a virgin piece of carpeting, the fountain starts again? Why, why, why?
- Why, when called for emergency backup at lunchtime, would my husband choose to bring home food from Taco Bell, the place I've only been able to eat at once in the past two years because a particularly bad bout of stomach flu had me puking up the same burrito for a day and a half? Why, why, why? Dude, the smells of vomit and Taco Bell are now so firmly linked in my brain that the restaurant is dead to me. Dead, I tell you.
- Essential supplies for toddler pukefest: large sheet of vinyl-coated fabric that used to be the stain-catcher under the high chair (used to protect sofa or floor from puke); plastic bucket to fruitlessly try to catch puke (even if you get there in time, she'll be so pissed that she's puking that she'll slap it away, so you'd better have a good hold on it); as many rolls of paper towels as you can find in the house; as many pairs of easy-to-change clothes as you can find (for both of you - zip-fronts work best, as they keep the puke out of your hair when you're changing); as many DVDs as you own or can beg, borrow, or steal. We've watched two hours of Baby Einstein and Curious Buddies today; this afternoon I'm going to indoctrinate Liza with the finer points of the Muppet Show.
- Oh, and did I mention that my stomach doesn't feel so great, either? Hopefully I'll wait until she's done before I start ... I'm having a tough time keeping up with the level of cleaning now, I can't imagine trying to keep up while being sick myself.
- On the positive side, Liza has learned new words today, including "puke" and "sick," and has gotten plenty of practice saying "YUCK YUCK YUCK" at the top of her lungs. Nothing like a little stomach flu to improve a kid's vocabulary.
My mother just drove 10 minutes out of her way to buy gas somewhere that was 10 cents MORE expensive than the place 1/2 mile from her house. Tell me the real reason she drug me along with her.
"Oh sweet Jeebus, my mother has these huge mutant striped crickets everywhere! Your prompt for today is to write something from the mutant cricket's point of view as it plots world domination through scaring the jeepers out of me."
Monday, April 7, 2014
In no particular order, here's what's been going on around here:
- I joined a critique group for writers of children's and teens' books. It meets monthly, but I know that at least one other member is interested in meeting more frequently to discuss our work. The people at the group are very welcoming, and there's a broad range of interests, topics, and skill levels present. It's great to hear about other people's projects ... sometimes it feels like I'm the only one out there pounding away on a keyboard in her spare time. We spent part of last week helping another writer deal with her fixation on how her editor friend used the word "abusive" to describe her main character's relationship. Seeing how personally she took that single word made me doubly conscious of my own peculiarities when it comes to interpreting the comments of others. In the words of the ever-inspiring Ze Frank, "And when I eat my critique, let me be able to separate out the good advice from the bitter herbs."
- I got a Red Light in RL/GL, but the comments that "Kissy" made led me to rethink the opening chapters of my book entirely. I sat down last week and reworked them, and I believe they're a lot stronger now. They move faster and have less back story jammed into them, and I think they put the focus back where it belongs.
- I went to a critique meeting sponsored by the local chapter of SCBWI, at which a published children's author (Jean Daigneau) critiqued pre-submitted pages from our manuscripts. Unfortunately, the pages I submitted from the swamp story were from the version that hadn't been revised based on the RL/GL comments, so it wasn't really my current version at the time of the meeting. It was, however, helpful to hear Jean's comments on the story, and some of the input from the other writers was interesting. My main takeaway was that I definitely need to bump up the age of the main character, and I'll probably need add a scene somewhere since my word count falls below the standard for Middle Grade fiction. Can't decide if I'm looking forward to heading back into the swamp (and into Susannah's head), or if I'm getting sick of beating a dead horse and it's time to move on. Definitely food for thought.
- Vacation! I didn't do as much writing as I had hoped, but I got more done than I expected (sometimes I have high hopes and low expectations!). I've now got some brief character outlines and a plot for a new story. More on that soon ...
- I sent The Indian in the Garden to Alice Bradley for book-doctoring. It's such a help to have someone with a professional writing background take a look at my work. She thinks about things that never occur to me, like, oh, I don't know, giving my story a theme (shudder). She sees where things work, and she has a magical ability to point out things that don't work without making me feel like an amateur. Yay, Alice! I've read through her written comments on my story, and this afternoon I'm scheduled to talk with her about her feedback. I'll be editing The Indian pretty intensely for the next few days, just to get as much done as possible before I totally forget her suggestions. This one's going to need an extra scene to up the word count, too, so hopefully she'll have some suggestions for me on that.
- The DIY/Girl Scout story (have I mentioned that one yet?) is dead in the water. It's going to need a complete overhaul, and I'm just not up for it right now. Every time I think about working on it, I decide that cleaning the gunk out of the shower door track sounds like a better idea - so you know it's bad. I've hit this before, and generally this sort of reluctance to even open up the manila folder that houses the pages means that my subconscious hasn't figured out what needs to be done. If I wait long enough, some day I'll flip it open and voila! The path forward is clear to me! It may not be easy or quick, but at least I'll know I'm on the right track. So this story is going in the timeout pile until I don't flinch every time I think about it.
- In the interest of finding my niche in children's literature, I'm going to try - TRY - to write the story I outlined in Jamaica as something other than an MG book. The plot is fairly straightforward and there aren't too many characters, so I'm going to aim for writing it as a picture book. I know, I know - "But Gretchen," you're thinking, "how can you possibly write a whole story in less than 1,000 words? You regularly write sentences longer than that." That's just the point. By forcing myself to write the story concisely, I'll work on letting a few words paint a picture rather than having to narrate every brushstroke. Best case, I learn a few things and end up with a manuscript that doesn't take half a ream of paper to print out. Worst case, I realize that PB isn't my genre, and I move on to thinking of it as a chapter book.
** "Movin' Right Along," which is old-school Muppets. Yes, I know I'm dating myself. No, I don't care.
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Bobby earned extra money each summer by selling the snapping turtles he caught in a nearby swamp to a restaurant in town, where they were used to make snapper soup. Today, Bobby had tried to show off by making the turtle bite twigs and sticks in half over and over again. Eventually the turtle had snapped, too, and it went after Bobby instead of the stick. He would be lucky to get away with only his pride wounded – I’d heard a turtle of that size could easily bite off a finger or two.
Mr. St. Clair – father of Barbie and Bobby – poked his head outside. Shaking his head, he calmly walked up behind the turtle, picked it up, and returned it to the cardboard box Bobby had used as a cage.
“I don’t object to you catching turtles for the restaurant, Robert, but I do not want to see you mistreating them. It’s bad enough that its home in the swamp is going to be turned into a housing development soon. You don’t have to torture it, too. Either take it to town, or release it. Your choice.” He shot an irritated look at Bobby and went back inside, screen door banging shut behind him.
“Oooooh! Bet you’re embarrassed that Dad had to save you from that horrible beast,” Barbie said, rolling her eyes. Bobby narrowed his eyes and glared at her as he stooped to pick up the box.
“I wouldn’t expect you to understand how dangerous snapping turtles are, since you don’t have the guts to go in the swamp and catch one yourself.”
“I’ve got plenty of guts! I just can’t go through the poison ivy to get there, you know that,” she said.
Barbie and I had spent most of the summer exploring the wild areas around our little community – poking around in the fields and ditches, wandering through the woods, collecting rocks and shells on the beach. But we had never explored the swamp, which was surrounded by a forest that was dripping in poison ivy. Bobby was able to push through it because he didn’t react to the stuff, but Barbie was violently allergic. Like the caring brother he was, Bobby had been taunting her with stories of how awesome the swamp was, knowing it was impossible for her to get back there without a hospital visit afterwards. And my parents said I was too young to go in the swamp – I think my mother was convinced I would get bitten by a snake, lose a toe to a snapping turtle, and then drown in a pool of quicksand, all on the same visit.
Barbie’s inability to explore the swamp was a sore point for her, and I wanted to avoid watching another shouting match. “Let’s go to my house. We’ve got better things to do than sit here and listen to Bobby’s ‘Reasons the Swamp is Awesome’ lecture again,” I said, jumping down from the picnic table.
I've got the next few submissions edited and ready to send (assuming I get the green light!). Gotta plan ahead when you're trying to compete in something like this and have to leave in the middle of it on spring break!
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Except ... today is a snow day. Coming the day after a sunny-50-degree break in the otherwise relentless winter, this one is particularly unwelcome. It is the tenth day my daughter has stayed home from school due to snow or extreme cold conditions; other than the chance to sleep in, both of us are totally over it. She's holed up in my bedroom watching endless Mythbusters episodes on my iPad, and I'm telling myself I should use the quiet time to get something done. I should sit down and work on my writing, or do research on agents, or revisit my cover letters and synopses.
But the wind is making the house creak, and the tiny chunks of ice flying into the siding are so loud I can't even drown them out with my earbuds and white noise. The birds at the feeder outside my office are going nuts - my feeder is in a sheltered location, which makes it a nice break from the one the neighbors installed, which is closer to the woods but has been canted at a 45-degree angle in the wind all day. I love to watch the sparrows and junkos, and I have been doing so often enough that I've developed a crick in my neck from craning around to see them, but do they have to be so loud when they argue about whose turn it is at the feeder? How can I be expected to get anything done under these conditions?
So ... procrastination. I have finished listening to my latest audiobook, worked on my spinning, done some knitting. I ran the dishes so the dishwasher repair guy could see the problem we're having, only to have him call halfway through the cycle and tell me he wouldn't be coming because of the storm. I have endlessly checked the weather report to see exactly how awful my husband's 4 pm flight into town is going to be (answer: worse every time I check; I doubt he's even going to make it onto the plane until hours after his scheduled arrival). I have endlessly refreshed the contest page to see if the judge has started posting the results from the round in which my second page is entered (she hasn't and won't until tonight at the earliest, and yet I still keep checking). I have looked at my list of chores I'd like to get done this week, and then conveniently discovered reasons why it is not the right time to hang 14,000 pictures in the basement or wash the grease off of the kitchen cabinets.
I stared at the rough draft of the newest story I've been working on, then decided I needed to do some research on a minor plot point. Looking up things on the internet - actual things related to the story, not Facebook links and blog posts, mind you - was good for half an hour of "work," but it also made me realize that I may have to completely scrap my rough draft and rewrite the whole thing to be satisfied. And THAT makes me think that maybe de-greasing the kitchen cabinets doesn't sound so bad, after all. If only I hadn't finished my audiobook already ...
Monday, March 10, 2014
“You better run faster, Bobby, or that turtle’s gonna bite your toes off!” I yelled. Bobby dodged and weaved, trying to capture the snapping turtle without putting his fingers in danger. But his bare feet slid on the dried-up grass, making it hard for him to circle around behind the surprisingly fast animal.
“Shut up, Susannah, and scoot over!” Bobby tried to climb on top of the picnic table where his sister and I were watching the show. The turtle lunged forward, jaws snapping a whisper away from his toes. “Aiee!” he yelled as Barbie pushed him off the table.
“It serves you right for taunting that poor thing! Sheesh! You didn’t have to keep poking at it with sticks.” Barbie said.
Susannah Bohl has explored virtually every inch of the river, trails, and fields that surround her rural Maryland community. Only the nearby swamp is off-limits – her parents say it’s too dangerous for a 10-year-old, even if it is full of fascinating animals and ecosystems. But now a builder is planning to drain the land, sacrificing the wetlands so he can build a bunch of expensive houses in its place. Susannah’s neighbors are doing their best to preserve the swamp, but it’s starting to look like a lost cause.
When an unusually low tide uncovers an easier way to reach the swamp, Susannah convinces Barbie, her friend and babysitter, that this could be their last chance to explore it before the bulldozers move in. And there, ankle-deep in smelly mud, Susannah makes a discovery that just might be enough to save the swamp.
How about this one?
Ten-year-old Topher Smith is crazy about history and archaeology, so he isn't terribly surprised when he starts having vivid dreams about a Native American hunter. But things start to get strange when he uncovers some artifacts while digging in his yard – items he saw in his dreams before he found them. Topher knows the artifacts could important and should be excavated by a professional. Unfortunately, his parents are more concerned about getting their new garden ready than they are in preserving any arrowheads or pot shards that might be buried in the way. The strange dreams continue to tell the story of the hunter, and Topher’s friends are half-convinced his yard – and dreams – are being haunted. He isn't convinced … until he makes the next big find, right where his dreams told him it would be. His only hope of ever getting a good night’s sleep again is convincing his parents to shut off the tiller for good.
Sunday, March 9, 2014
Right now, she's gobbling up my latest manuscript, which is in its last revision and was sent out today to my tribe of test readers. She's read it twice before, and it hasn't changed substantially since the last version she read, so it's not like there's anything especially surprising in the draft she's reading today. And yet when I tried to get her to put the pages down at the end of each chapter to ask for her feedback, I had to basically wrestle them away from her to get her attention. I eventually gave up, figuring I'd just go through the whole thing once she was done with it all.
Of course I am pleased that she's so caught up in it that I have to drag her back to reality in order to get any sort of information from her about the book. That's what I always hope for, and what every revision tries to make better and better. I've been slashing and cutting, tightening and describing, ramping up the speed of the action and trying to make the dialogue a little snappier, all at the same time. Apparently, it's working.
Thursday, March 6, 2014
Saturday, March 1, 2014
But Knot for Me
Why, why, why? Why did I ever think that this class was a good idea? I could be sitting somewhere with an adult beverage and a pattern that doesn't make me want to tear out my hair, but instead I'm here on the verge of tears. Happy birthday to me.
I look around the room to see if there's anyone I can commiserate with, but the other students seem to be taking the new technique in stride. Well, that, or they haven't gotten to the hard part yet - since I work so fast, it's hard to tell who's caught up with me and who is still blissfully ignorant of the horrors yet to come.
The tangle of yarn in my lap mocks me. I have tried this section so many times that I didn't even bother winding the yarn back onto the ball, I just ripped out the bad section and let the strands stay wherever they fall. The next time I try to knit with it, I know, the yarn will stick to itself in clumps, making an already difficult pattern even more of a pain to execute. But right now, I'm more likely to set the whole mess on fire in the parking lot than I am to patiently wind it into a tidy ball, so I keep my hands to myself.
The pattern isn't that complicated-looking, at least once it's complete. It's made from string manipulated with two pointy sticks, the same as any other knitted object. How hard can that be? I take a peek at the student to my left, and see that she's gotten to the part that has stymied me. Her brow is furrowed in concentration, and she's not jabbering away with her friend like she was earlier in the day, but she doesn't seem to be as frustrated with it as I am.
What is it that is tripping me up? It's two sticks and some string, nothing to get myself in a tizzy over. And yet ... knitting is supposed to be easy for me. Ever since I progressed from that first scarf - the one where my stitches were so tight, they were practically impossible to work - knitting has come easily to me. If I wanted to learn a new technique, I'd look at it in a book or online, try it a couple times, and boom, it was there. My style might not be the most traditional - one knitting teacher who looked at how I formed my stitches basically said, "Huh. Haven't seen that before," - but it's fast, and it gets the job done. I can whip out a hat in a few hours, a scarf in a weekend, a sweater in a week if I don't have much else going on.
But this ... this sucks. "P2tog tbl" - the official abbreviation for the stitch I was failing to make - is evil. Purl two together through the back loop, indeed. Whoever came up with that little gem deserved a good thrashing. This was it. This was the thing that I would never learn, that would make me a failure in knitting, just like I was in everything else.
I took a deep breath and looked out the window at the lake. The water was calm, still except for the ripples left behind the ducks paddling around on its surface. I felt like those ducks - outwardly calm, but paddling like mad where no one could see. There were so many commitments, so many things pulling me in different directions. Just keeping up with the house and my family commitments was taking everything I had - and knitting was supposed to be my escape. It was the one thing I could count on, the one thing I knew I had down pat. I could sit and knit and turn off my brain and not worry about everything else that was going on in my life. I had planned for months to come on this retreat, to take this class from a famous teacher, and now here I was, paddling like crazy to keep up in the class. It just wasn't right.
I picked up my needles and steeled myself. This time, it would work. This time, I would do it.
I followed the pattern for several stitches, stitches that were nothing new, stitches I had done thousands of times before. So far, so good. Then I got to the symbol on the chart for "P2tog tbl" and I winced. Now or never. With a deep breath, I rolled my left wrist toward me so I could see what I was doing. Counted two stitches over, then torqued my right wrist to insert the needle tip into the stitches ... carefully, so that they didn't slide off of my left needle ... and inched the needle further along. I manipulated the yarn around the needle, wrapping it the proper direction this time, and drew it tight. Now, for the moment of truth. Slowly, carefully, I moved my painfully contorted wrists to pull the right needle out of the stitches, catching the new loop of yarn as I did so. New loop securely held on the right needle, I popped the two old stitches - and ONLY those two stitches get back on there you miserable little cretins - off of the left needle and finally let out my breath. It was done. One P2tog tbl complete in under five minutes ... only ten more to go on that row.
I worked carefully along the row, a stitch at a time, my normally blazing pace slowed to a crawl. Knit. Purl. Yarn over. And then ... P2tog tbl. I thought of revenge on the people who had invented that stitch, designed the pattern to use the stitch, and decided to teach a class based on that horrible, horrible pattern. Fire. Fire would be a good and reasonable response to the terrors they had inflicted upon an innocent knitting public.
Only a few minutes later, I looked down, and I had reached the end of the row. I counted my stitches with trembling fingers, hoping against hope that my number would match the one in the pattern. It did! I breathed a sigh of relief, then went on to the next row, which was blissfully absent of those evil, evil new stitches. But only moments later, I was done with that row and ready to do the return row, which once again featured my friend, P2tog tbl. Yay.
I glanced around the room again while I rolled my shoulders to loosen the tension that had settled there. I was getting a headache, and a backache, and I couldn't actually turn my head to the right without rotating my whole torso - that's how tense I had been. Around me, the other students were falling silent, their own shoulders hunched and eyes squinted at the patterns in front of them. Various oaths were muttered sotto voce, and more than one person was ripping back their work, one stitch at a time: tink, tink, tink. Oh, thank god - it wasn't just me having problems with it.
With a slightly gladdened heart I attacked the next row methodically: stitch, stitch, torque, insert, pray pray pray, slip, celebrate, repeat. This time the row took incrementally less time than it had the last time, and once again I had the proper number of stitches when I was done. Score! Maybe I was getting the hang of this.
Another easy row, and moments later I was back at the beginning of another row of horrors. Stitch, stitch, torque, insert, pray pray pray slip oh god oh god oh god no no noo get back on there you little piece of shit god damn it ...
I slammed my needles down on the table. The stitch had slipped off and run down the work, ruining a whole column of knitting that had been perfect only moments before. Tears came to my eyes as I thought of taking out all that work to fix the mistake I had made - again. I couldn't do it. I couldn't force myself to go through that again. I pulled out my needles and started to unravel the swatch. Some people would leave the class with a beautiful sample of lace, but I wasn't one of them. I looked at the hopeless tangle of yarn in my lap and sighed again. For the other students there would be triumph, and a feeling of accomplishment, and something they could show off to their knitting friends. But knots for me.
Thursday, February 27, 2014
But ... it's a convenient place to squat during the two hours I have between when I drop off my daughter at school and when I have to start my work day. I find I get a lot done here, despite the constant distraction of other people's conversations and the cold draft from the front door opening over and over again. I've got a system nailed down now that works pretty well for me.
I usually don't try to write here - that's done at home, in a comfy chair, preferably in the sunshine and with a cup of tea at my elbow. But I do all of my first drafts longhand, so eventually I have to tackle the tedious job of typing them into my computer. Panera is a great place to do that, because if that's all I bring with me, and I purposely don't connect to the wifi, I'm not tempted to do other things instead. There's no laundry to wash, no Facebook to check, and no writing books to peruse. Just me and my handwritten draft and a keyboard, every Tuesday and Thursday, until it's done.
Most of the time I can tune out the noises around me. It's hard - I love to eavesdrop (what author doesn't? where do you think all of our ideas come from?) and people seem to think the booths at Panera include a code of silence or something ... they discuss the strangest things in the middle of a very public location. If all I have to do is type the words in front of me onto the computer, the intrusion of an occasional conversation doesn't really slow me down.
Other days, though, the lure of the hubbub is too strong. That's why I always bring along my earbuds, and why I installed a white noise generator on both my phone and my iPad. I prefer the full-featured one on the iPad, which lets me make custom mixes of sounds. I like matching the mixes to the subject matter I'm writing about - when I was working on Susannah Saves the Swamp, for example, I listened to lots of beach noises and croaking frogs, and it helped keep me in the mood. If I don't have a specific theme that fits, I go with a standard blend of traffic noise, crowd sounds, and a cat purring - I call it my City Apartment Special.
I'm a good squatter, always purchasing something, never taking up insane amounts of bandwidth by trying to edit photos or post video or anything. The restaurant makes money off of me, but since I was buying my lunch here before anyway, it's not like it's an additional expense. Besides, if my $10 lunch is the cost of actually getting something done twice a week instead of just driving back and forth on the highway another time, it sounds like a pretty good deal. Besides, I plan on thanking them in the credits when I finally get published, so it's a good deal for all of us, right?
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
I have one manuscript, Susannah Saves the Swamp, that I consider finished and ready to submit to agents. My second one (The Indian in the Garden) is in the final throes of my editing process and is about to be sent out to test readers. I finished the rough draft of a third story (working title is DIY) on Monday, and I'm procrastinating on typing that sucker up even as I write this blog entry.
All three of those are chapter/middle grade books, focusing on characters that are in 2nd-6th grade. They aren't easy reader books - they're books for kids who don't mind lots of description in their stories and are willing to occasionally look up a new word or two. I'm proud of the characters I've created, and I think the stories I've written are uniquely mine to tell.
I have two more potential books that are bumping around on paper right now, too. One is definitely a Young Adult book, since there is - gasp! - kissing in it. That one is on its second incarnation - it started out as an adult book written from a different point of view, and boy, let me tell you, was swapping out all those pronouns fun to do! Right now it's stalled about two chapters from the end of the story, and it's stayed that way for a month or so. The other story hasn't decided whether it's upper MG or lower YA ... or even whether it's really something I want to write at all. I mainly started it to give me a place to try out a techniques that I haven't had the guts to use in a story I'm serious about finishing. This attempt at writing without an outline, just letting the characters "tell me what they want to do" is proving that I babble at even greater length when I don't have an outline to rein me in. I've got lots of pages, but not a lot of story so far. Eh, we'll see - maybe once I'm done with the two stories I'm editing there will be space in my brain to plan out this one.
So here I am - a few manuscripts written, SCBWI joined, an untidy pile of agent descriptions sitting on my desk. I'm starting to build my official online presence, worrying over writing a bio, and honing my query letter to a fine point. There's a lot of work to be done in the next few weeks and months, and very little of it involves actually writing stories. But if I want to be a published author - not just a hobby writer - these are all important steps on the road to success.
I guess if we're going to use the metaphor of my writing "journey", my bags are packed, some maps are uploaded to my phone, and I'm about to go fill up the car with gas and check the oil. Hop in the car, dear reader, and let's see where this literary road trip takes us!