Monthly Archives: December 2014

It’s a Christmas iMiracle…

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I’m writing my first blog post from my new iPad.

This is decidedly too much technology for me. My husband is wisely sitting back and letting me figure it out. My kids keep wanting to help. Evidently, all that playing on devices at the apple store is some dear education I could’ve used.

It was the last gift behind the tree.

It reminded me of another Christmas, maybe 1988? I wanted a Cabbage Patch doll just like every other girl who loved Xavier Roberts in the United States. It was the first time, but not the last time, my parents would pull the “all done! …oh, wait… here’s one more,” trick. It was a surprisingly similar feeling today when my husband pulled out one that said, “from your four biggest fans”.

You see, I may have mentioned before that I have bad luck with computers. Even as I write this I imagine my super smart iPad contemplating that sentence and learning how to fear.

Yes, my last computer had been getting worse. I will speak of it in the past tense with malice and forethought. For starters, the battery was a dud. If it was unplugged I had about three minutes to run it to its charger before shutdown. I can’t tell you how many revisions and edits this cost me when I thought the computer was plugged in, but found out otherwise when my document went black and shut down.

Also, it ran really hot. You couldn’t hold it in your lap, it was so hot. I could feel cancer being made within my thighs. It would get so hot it would shut down to cool off. This was happening more and more frequently.

It had gotten worse to the point three weeks ago when the screen would go black after a short use. I would turn it off and turn it back on again and sometimes it would come up and sometimes it wouldn’t.

Last week I desperately had to send a document that lie solely in the hard drive of my petulant lap-heating computer. It wouldn’t come on and wouldn’t come on until my husband brilliantly put it in the freezer. It came on just long enough for me to send my e-mail.

I didn’t think I’d be getting anything like this for Christmas. I was mentally preparing myself to write my next book on legal pads. That’s how I wrote my first one. I remember my Dad saying, “Barbara, promise me you’ll never do that again.”

I promised. Copying that book out from my handwriting was a task I didn’t want to duplicate. I’m so glad I don’t have to. Blog props to my spouse and my kids who believe in me enough to sponsor my writing addiction.

My husband said, “It was just so sad watching you over there, writing your blog posts on your little phone.” One finger is not ideal, writing should be all fingers and elbows and energies flowing down to all points in contact with the board.

So, now it’s time to write my four biggest fans a story.

Apartment Strategies…

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I wouldn’t say we have a whole lot of extra space. No, I would not say that.

When an Amazon order comes in (toilet paper, soap, diapers) my children descend on it like locusts and tuck everything away for me. I can’t order too much because I can’t fit that much. Toilet paper and Kleenex boxes get stuffed like plaster into the cracks of my closet. I only order soap three bars at a time because I simply have no place to put them.

Well, our first Christmas here has highlighted this deficiency. I ordered most of the Christmas presents online. Thank goodness! The malls are on the other side of town and I have yet to be able to shop alone this season.

So, my trained children see the boxes, come in to open them, and hear their seemingly bipolar mother suddenly yelling, “No! Don’t open them! Leave them alone!” And the boxes get stacked up beside my bed. There is no room for me to unpack them into the closet. And I reject the idea of just wrapping everything and putting it under the tree already as anticlimactic.

But, after yesterday’s shopping there are loose presents. And baby is really good at finding things he can’t play with. So, now my room is latched and off limits. And we are one bedroom short for quiet time spaces.

As James and I like to say, “we don’t have no stupid babies”. They know why the parents’ room is suddenly off limits. I sigh a little. I guess there just can’t be too much mystery in a two bedroom apartment with a family of five. But that’s part of the magic, too, all of us falling over each other, stuffing bags under beds when someone walks in.

Yes, the anticipation is high around here, my friends. Merry twenty-second of December!

Being the Mommy…

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I’m a sucker for those suggested posts in my Facebook feed. Invariably, I click on them, read them, and then wonder who shared them only to learn I’ve been duped again! I mean, what a sucker. If you want to market something to a sucker, field test it on me!

Well, I read one the other day about fifteen celebrities who have said that they won’t ever have children, hard hitting stuff. I doubt very much I could’ve spent a more productive five minutes. And they all had their reasons. And let me say, they were all very valid reasons.

You need to work, you need your sleep, you don’t want things to change, you aren’t good with kids, you don’t want kids, you’d make a terrible parent … VALID!

All of these things are true of me every day at some point or another. All of them! Totally valid!

I often say to myself when we have our little Barbara talks, “Barbara, if this motherhood thing is all and the best you’re supposed to do with your life, wouldn’t you be better at it?” And I am forced to admit to myself and my infallible logic that, “Yes, I think you’re on to something there.”

But motherhood’s given me a lot and I wouldn’t return a particle. I like who I’ve become and I doubt very much there is any other path that would have made me into the tower of patience, selflessness, and maturity I’ve come to be (cough cough).

Right now, I am standing in the glassy atrium of a mall. People are walking by admiring the curly head of my toddler finally asleep in his stroller. What they don’t know is that we were up all night with the sniffles and the amount of mucus I’ve seen in the last twenty-four hours would easily make a few more celebs vow off children. I’m standing here by myself pretending I don’t know my husband and kids are in L’Occitane right now buying me sweet smelling soaps.

And, in this moment, I’m proud of my work. I’m proud of how I’ve changed. I’m proud of how little sleep I got last night. I’m proud of my kids. I’m proud of my less-than-perfect parenting. I’m proud to be the Mommy.

Critique Group…

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I received one critique on my query letter from the editor at the writing workshop. She said, “You need to have right here that you are a member of SCBWI.”

“I should join them, then?” I asked.

“Honestly,” she said, “If you want to be a children’s book writer and you’re NOT a member of the largest international organization of children’s book writers, well …”

And so, the next day I paid the hundred bucks and joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. It felt good.
And the first thing I did was get myself a critique group.

My paragraph bio sat on the region’s group list for about a month. I kept meaning to go e-mail some of these people, but it was a crazy month. Thank goodness somebody contacted me.

Well, last month I couldn’t go because of all the myriad of children who need me to stay here and be a Mom. But, this month I shoved my kids at my husband and trekked the short bit across town to the group.

I took a new picture book I’ve been working on. It’s a good story. I was feeling like it ran long in places, but it was under a thousand words, so I left it.

Now, normally I pride myself on my professional writing skills. Edit this? No problem. Kill off my favorite side character? Without hesitation. I am an editing machine, excepting today. Today it stung.

For starters the lovely lady reading mine, read it slow, so slow and so sweetly. My peppery sassy little book sounded so awkward and long.

The first comment was, “I hear picture books are supposed to be under a thousand words.”

“It is,” I said crisply.

And then they talked about how the illustrator was going to illustrate it, unhelpful.

And there was other stuff. Some of which was (ouch!) very, VERY true.

So, here I am butchering and stitching back together, a cold-blooded serial editor. I imagine the road to publication littered with the pale corpses of pretty characters and turns of phrase once brilliant, now dull and peeling. In my one thousand words, not one is safe.

Except my first sentence, I’m rather attached to my first sentence. I don’t care what you or they or anybody says, I’m keeping the first sentence.

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear…

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I don’t know if I remember ever having sung the second verse of this carol. It fell upon me quite suddenly last Sunday morning.

“It came upon a midnight clear, that glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth to touch their harps of gold.
Peace on the earth goodwill to men from heaven’s all gracious King.
The world in solemn stillness lay to hear the angels sing.

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load, whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow,
Look now! For glad and golden hours come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road, and hear the angels sing!

For lo! The days are hastening on, by prophets seen of old,
When with the ever circling years shall come the time foretold,
When peace shall over all the earth it’s ancient splendors fling,
And all the world give back the song which now the angels sing.”

I, for one, am looking forward to doing the job of the angels and singing back to the heavens their song, when I’m at the end of the story and can look back on the breadth and the width of it with full knowing. I anticipate the sight of these mysterious ancient splendors flung over the earth and wonder not a little bit if they will be so strange or, rather, if they will be more familiar than I had ever thought. Ah, yes! This is what it was supposed to be like! This is what we were waiting for! This is right! This is why everything else felt so wrong!

So rest, you weary forms toiling along the climbing way, rest in this season and hear the promise in the angels’ song. It’s our song to learn. And one day we will sing it back.