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Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009
7:41 pm
Yes, it's been more than a year since my last post. I'm amazed I could even remember how to log in. So, um, how ya doin?

Enough small talk. Let's cut to the chase: my friend Steve Watkins just won the Golden Kite for "Sand Mountain!!!" It's a great book. READ IT!

I'm excited for Steve, and I'm excited for me because now our families will see each other again when Steve comes west to accept his award!!
Thursday, January 3rd, 2008
10:16 am
First off, HAPPY NEW YEAR!

So last night I had dinner with my lovely and amazing Great Aunt in Southeastern Pa (where I am from), who I call Zia. Zia is 80 and a hottie. Is there a better word choice for someone her age? She's been a widow for about seven years now & would like to find a companion. I told her that I don't think many men her age could keep up with her, and she shot back "I can slow down if you find one!" Seriously, she gets on her tractor and mows her 10 acres every year, tends an enormous garden, sews, cooks, reads, goes to Women In Black vigils, and paints & sketches. Every thing she does is artful. She is kind, smart and well-traveled. She would like to travel to Europe again. She's a longtime leftie & is in excellent health. She's tall and slim and the would-be suitors who've asked her out have all been younger. I think she would like a clever, charming, independent, healthy, attractive man with compatible interests and politics. My feeling is he should be younger, like maybe ten years. So...anyone out there know any wonderful and eligible 70 year old men?

Tomorrow we board a plane to return to Ca. It was good to see my family again after a year away, and it was also good to tour around the beautiful region where I was raised that continues to tug at my heart. Even with the trees bare and the ground muddy, I will miss the stone farmhouses & barns, the low-rolling fields and the narrow, bending, tree-covered roads. And, yes, I also miss the biting cold from time to time & the sound of rain and sleet on the roof.
Sunday, December 23rd, 2007
3:40 pm
Musings and mirrors
Yesterday my daughter sat on Santa's lap for the first time & had a little chat. In the course of this chat she revealed, also for THE FIRST TIME, that she would like Santa to bring her some new trains and tracks. HUH?! COME AGAIN?! I'm down with trains and tracks, but why weren't they on the lengthy wish list I was given a few weeks ago?! Apparently this is because X. is a sensible girl who doesn't want duplicate gifts! Unfortunately Target didn't have the wooden tracks & now it's a scramble to get them before Xmas morning. Wish me luck!

Imagine a smooth transition here.

Recently a new friend moved back to India despite my best efforts to steal her passport. Before she left I had lent her a book of poems by Claudia Emerson (I don't think there's any relation to that other famous Emerson guy), but she didn't have a chance to read it. So I'm posting two poems here for her benefit & for all poetry lovers out there in lj-land.

I was introduced to Claudia Emerson's poetry when I lived in Fredericksburg, VA, where Ms. Emerson resides. She teaches at The University of Mary Washington. I never met her, but after her book "Late Wife" won the Pulitzer, her face was all over the local media. Well, there was an article in the local paper and a display at the library anyway. "Late Wife" is something of a departure from her previous books, which focused on themes pertaining to southern, rural identity; it is an excruciatingly personal, but cool-headed, collection of poems narrating the demise of her first marriage & her eventual second marriage late in life to a widower. The two poems I have chosen to share are about framing, about moments in life that enable us to step outside ourselves to view the ways in which we have changed and been changed and continue to change. The first is from the first part of the trilogy entitled "Divorce Epistles" and the second is from the last and third section entitled "Letters to Kent."


Most of the things you made for me--armless
rocker, blanket chest,lap desk--I gave away
to friends who could use them and not be reminded
of the hours lost there, the tedious finishes.

But I did keep the mirror, perhaps because
like all mirrors, most of these years it has been
invisible, part of the wall, or defined
by reflection--safe--because reflection,

after all, does change. I hung it here
in the front, dark hallway of this house you will
never see, so that it might magnify
the meager light, become a lesser, backward

window. No one pauses long before it.
This morning, though, as I put on my coat,
straightened my hair, I saw outside my face
its frame you made for me, admiring for the first

time the way the cherry you cut and planed
yourself had darkened, just as you said it would.


The camera is trained on the door, no one
in the frame, only the dog sleeping. And then
finally, I see this was to surprise you,
filming your arrival, the dog's delight. Only now,
six years distant, can this seem scripted, meant:
the long, blank minutes she waited, absent
but there--behind the lens--as though she directs
me to notice the motion of her chest
in the rise and fall of the frame, and hear

to understand the one cough, nothing, the clearing
of her throat. Then, at last, you come home
to look into the camera she holds,
and past her into me--invisible, unimagined
other who joins her in seeing through our
transience the lasting of desire.
Thursday, November 29th, 2007
9:38 pm
"It's the most remarkable word I've ever seen. I wish I knew exactly what it means."

What does jonowrimo mean?

There's no way I'm making my three chapter goal. What was I thinking & why do I always set the bar impossibly high? I *may* finish chapter three, however. I have *some* pride to protect.

But I won't be able to report until Dec. 4 because I'm going away on a writer's retreat. One I created. I'm taking a new friend with me & we are going to spend the weekend typing at 6,000 feet above sea level. Hopefully the altitude will do wonders for my brain. And wordcount.

To everyone else--keep chuggin'! GO YOU!
Tuesday, November 13th, 2007
8:02 pm
Hello? This is your mother. Are you there? Are you coming home?
Whoa. It's been a while. What can I say? I've been busy. This and that-ing and, yes, writing. Hoping to reach my goal by the end of the month. In the meantime, hello. I'm still here and I'm fine. Hope you're doing well.

Subject heading is from "Superman" by Laurie Anderson. Or did you know that already?
Monday, October 1st, 2007
9:35 pm
Since joining jonowrimo, I am pleased to report that I have written *something* every school day (meaning every day my child was at school). I started with 200 words & built up to 400-500. That may not seem like much but we're talking dissertation here, not fiction. So I'm moderately pleased with myself.

Except today I goofed. I didn't write anything at all & barely made it through a research-related essay I checked out from the library. A mini crisis of confidence. I will recoup tomorrow.

I also want to mention that I read & loved Linda Urban's "A Crooked Kind of Perfect." Great main character, nothing extraneous in the prose or story, lots of heart and some deftly funny touches.

Lastly, the other day I was typing at my dining room table when I became aware of a strange presence along the periphery of my vision. I looked up and there, just outside my window, was giant buck staring at me less than fifteen feet away. As with my word count, this may not seem impressive until you understand that this was 10:30 in the morning and I live in a dormitory apartment complex that houses about 350 people. This buck had come up from the nearby canyon was creeping along the sidewalk doing I don't know what. Looking for food I suppose. It was such a strange occurrence, made stranger by the fact that NO ONE ELSE SAW IT! But you believe me, right? Someone kindly suggested that perhaps I'd experienced a Native America visionquest. That would be cool with me, but that's not what happened. And if that were the case, what does it mean?!
Sunday, August 26th, 2007
10:06 pm
Did you know that the State of California requires all state university employees to sign a loyalty oath?

I was under the impression that loyalty oaths were a thing of the McCarthy past, as out of fashion as a vacuum tube television. That they were unconstitutional when applied to citizens with no access to state-sensitive information. That religious minorities such as Friends (Quakers) were exempted from swearing out oaths.

I was misinformed.

I won't bore you with the legislative ups and downs. Suffice it to say that current Ca law does indeed require all state employees to take the oath, but written into the legislation are loopholes. One loophole, intended to protect "academic freedom," allows for employees to attach "memorandum of understanding" to the oath. In other words, if I object to the oath for whatever reason I can state the nature of my objection so long as I do not nullify the oath. I can clarify for my own peace of mind what "defend the federal and state constitutions from all enemies, foreign and domestic" means to me.

Unfortunately the administration of a certain state university which shall remain nameless is either unaware of this provision or is knowingly breaking the law.

I can't say more at this time because my case is currently under review with the ACLU.

Looks like I will have more time this semester for writing.
Sunday, August 5th, 2007
10:25 pm
Boxes and boxes of books!
Hello everyone in L.A! I know I said I would meet up with you there, but that was before I knew that I was moving Aug. 1. Sorry, Kelly! And all other ljers & blue boarders I won't yet get the chance to meet face-to-face. I look forward to reading post-scbwi posts.

Well, here I am on top of a small mountain next to a wilderness park. So far I've encountered a road-runner, screech owls and a coyote skulking around. The smell of sage envelops me when I step outside. Aaah!

No closets and fifty-two emails about next semester's classes in my inbox, but I'm not complaining. Life is good!

Hope to catch up with everyone next week. 'till then....
Tuesday, July 17th, 2007
6:36 pm
I am...

The Harry Potter Personality Quiz

You're Albus Dumbledore! You're wise (one might say wise beyond your years, except you're 150...)You are an excellent judge of character and people are always coming to you for advice. You tend to be a bit eccentric, but that makes everyone love you even more. Hey- when you go back to your office, would you give my best to the Sorting Hat?
Take this quiz!

Quizilla |

| Make A Quiz | More Quizzes | Grab Code

I hope D. doesn't go totally evil or something. I've only read book one.
Tuesday, July 10th, 2007
2:42 pm
I haven't been gone THAT long!
lj greets me with "Welcome back, wgwriter."

I did try and keep up with my flist while I was gone, but if I missed any exciting news please accept my apologies and congratulations.

Family arts camp was a blast! There were exhibitions, recitals and classes. There was yoga, recreation and socializing with other families. My daughter brought home a beautiful batik that she made herself (with COLD wax)and an equally gorgeous decorative wooden mask. She also got to experience the thrill of an audience's cheers. She performed in three separate shows and loved it.

As for me, I got some writing done and learned to sew. I also did yoga every day, which is the most exercise I've had in four years.

Now we are camped out at a friend's charming home in Laguna for the next two weeks, dog-sitting and koi-fish-feeding. The Pacific Ocean is visible from the kitchen window and deck, hummingbirds are darting around the trumpet vine and bougainvillea and the neighbors below have a funny pet pig. Plus I've got a week's worth of free yoga classes at a nearby center.

In short, life is good. Except my daughter is exhausted and won't nap. She prefers instead to interrupt me every ten minutes and weep over stubbed toes and toppled block towers. I guess she misses the excitement and constant activity and companionship of camp. Hopefully she settles down tonight.
Thursday, June 21st, 2007
9:35 pm
No more teachers
but plenty of books!

Yes, summer has officially begun.

Recently I read Peter & Iona Opie's "I Saw Esau: The Schoolchild's Pocket Book," with pictures by Maurice Sendak. I love kiddie folklore & playground sayings. My daughter came home with a weird one the other week--a kind of riff on a knock-knock joke. It goes like this:

Knock, Knock.
Who's there?
What do you want?
My money.
Can't have it.
Why not?
Because I found something in my milk.
What'd ya find?
[you fill it in., e.g, a bug, a hair, etc.]
What's that coming out your nose?

It goes on from there to include every orifice and major body part.

I also watched a documentary called "I Am a Promise." It covers one year (1996) at an elementary school in North Philadelphia where 90% of the kids are under the federal poverty level. In recent years parts of north Philly have undergone urban renewal and gentrification, but 1996 was the tail end of the crack epidemic and back then it was a blighted and dangerous place. I found the documentary timely, occasionally depressing and ultimately inspiring. "I Am a Promise" won filmmakers Susan and Alan Raymond an Academy Award. The DVD was released last year. If you get the chance, I highly recommend the commentary by the filmmakers and the former Principal of Stanton Elementary. It was very interesting and informative to hear their perspective ten years after the film was made.

Read a bunch of good books this week and last ("Bud, Not Buddy", "Dear Mr. Henshaw", "The Goats"). M.T. Anderson's "Feed" was a real knock-out. Also read two chapters of a clunker, "A Coyote's In the House," by the-one-the-only... Elmore Leonard. I was so surprised to learn that Elmore Leonard, better known for his westerns and crime fiction, had tried his hand at kidlit. MG, I suppose. I don't want to be too hard on it--"Coyote" wasn't terrible or even really bad--it just wasn't good. I guess it's hard for a publisher to say NO to an author as successful (and skilled in his usual genres) as Leonard. Feel free to disagree with me if you've read it. I'm willing to read the whole shebang if someone says I've been too quick to judge.
Wednesday, June 20th, 2007
6:56 pm
by Kathy Erskine sounds totally intriguing. Of course, as a sometime Friend (i.e. Quaker), I may be biased. But annemariepace has never led me astray in her book picks, and she likes this one so much she is holding a giveaway contest. Check it out!

I have more to blog about, but it will have to wait for another time. Gotta run!
Friday, June 15th, 2007
11:17 am
I'm it!!
I've been tagged!! I've never been tagged before! I probably shouldn't make like I'm excited or I'll get tagged all the time & it will be like those tupperware/kitchen/wrapping paper/doodads "parties" that neighbors and acquaintances invite you to & you really don't want to go but feel obligated. But, hey, for now I am pleased to be included. So thanks lurban.

8 things that are unique-ish about me:

1) I didn't know what "the 8 things meme" was, so I googled it. I forgot to google "meme." I know what is MEME, sorta, but don't know what EXACTLY MEME means. Me myself and I? Memory entertainment/ more errata?

2) I am technologically challenged. Twice I've been shown how to hot-link, or whatever it's called, to other ljers. You know, do the thingy with the thingy? I even did it myself a few times. But, um, I can't seem to do it anymore.

3) I also cannot remember strings of numbers. Apparently there is only space in my brain for one social security number, one alarm code, and two phone numbers.

4) Let's leave the "ways in which WG is a dummy" category behind, shall we? Ok...let's see...I once ate a dog biscuit. Maybe that's dumb, or MAYBE that's ADVENTUROUS. In case you are wondering, dog biscuits are bland and dry. Of course it *was* generic, so if you want to try Milkbone or some other gourmet biscuit don't let my low opinion stop you.

5) I love Halloween. And I never once got a razor blade or a pin in my candy, did you?

6) I hate bobbing for apples. Ick.

7) Today I had to bring cream cheese to the "Doughnuts with Dad" party at my daughter's school. I remembered "cream cheese" about one minute from the school and 27 minutes from my fridge. So I dropped off daughter/dad duo, raced to the nearest grocery store, went through the self-check out & raced back to the school. Turns out the person who committed to bring bagels forgot, so the cream cheese wasn't needed. I told the school to keep it anyway, then discovered that the self-check out machine had given me a five dollar bill for change instead of a one. Ethically I'm obliged to go back and give them their money, right? Only I don't have the receipt anymore. Do you think that the store workers will look at me like I'm nuts?
Tuesday, June 5th, 2007
2:42 pm
who'da thunkit?
Well, while many an ljer was busy at BEA, yours truly was at LEGOLAND. Never been big on amusement parks--I'm more of zoo gal--but I have to say that Legoland was cool. The rides were unique & exciting but not spine-snapping (i.e. no loops or free falls). The real surprise was that my daughter, my shy and cautious darling, went nuts for the roller coasters. I would never have predicted that one. I'm talking big dips and lurches. I'm talking stomach-shifting white-knucklers.

Good thing X. was there to hold my hand.

Then she combed through the sale bins to find the pink and purple Legos and we went home satisfied and impressed.

Recent reads: Jane Yolen's "Take Joy" & "Celine" by Brock Cole. I recommend both.
Thursday, May 24th, 2007
11:55 am
I can't shut up!
Forgot to mention two more items of good news!

Remember when I blogged about my friend and fellow author Steve Watkins signing with agent Sandy Dykstra? I predicted then the imminent sale of his novel. And, no surprise, I was right. Candlewick bought it. It's currently titled "Sand Mountain" and is a semi-autobiographical YA. Not sure when it will come out. Hooray, Steve!

Secondly, while viewing my flist, I learned that Kim Norman's pb "Jack of All Tails" (Dutton) is coming out in two days. I was in a writers' support group with Kim and heard her read that story before it hit the glossy pages. Wacky and funny stuff. Hooray, Kim!
11:32 am
Aw, shucks! And I predict a hit!

A flurry of good news!

First off, got a lovely end-of-the-year report from my daughter's preschool teacher. It begins with "X. excells in all areas of devlopment." It  goes up from there commenting on a range of things from her deep love of books to--get this--her INTEGRITY. "X. has a vast knowledge of people and issues in the environment that help form her solid sense of integrity." Or something like that. Lucky for you lj-ers that I don't have the report with me or I'd give you a full citation. Aren't proud parents like me insufferable?!

Secondly, we're moving. Goodbye to the interminable commute. Goodbye, I hope, to street violence. I feel a little guilty about the move. I'm leaving Santa Ana, but I don't intend to turn a blind eye to the social injustices I see around me. It seems that a lot privileged OC people want to pretend that the gardeners, maids, aids and nannies they hire on the cheap don't have to live somewhere in this overpriced region. Since 2004, 75% of loans in Santa Ana have been subprime. 80% of the city's residents are Mexican or Mexican American. Can you say modern-day red-lining?! The foreclosure signs are popping up all over like dandelions used to on my Virginia lawn.

Speaking of lawns, ours is in a bad way. Our failure to adjust has occured on many fronts--like the front of our house. Yikes! Every night now we announce, "time to waste Colorado's water," then dump gallons on the green. Or greenish brown. We replaced the dead azaleas in the back beds with native plants like Mexican lobelia, sunflowers, wild lilac and sage. Why don't more Californians use native plants? (Aren't pc know-it-alls like me insufferable?!) Well, wish us luck. We need to get the yard in shape before we leave.

Got some nice summer plans, including an arts workshop for the whole family and a camping trip to see the Sequoias. Originally I had planned to go back east for the entire summer. It's hard to describe the loss I've felt this year to folks who've never left their home region. I read lj entries like the one  <lj user = "jbknowles"> wrote about the bears on the road or look at <lj user = "cynthialord">'s husband's photos and feel a lump in my throat and a terrible longing for familiar greenery and running brooks. Ok, once or twice when looking at images of ice-covered everything I thought, "hey, short sleeves in February isn't so bad!" The robbery, the drive-by shooting, the hours lost behind the wheel have been stressful, but made much worse by the endless urban-suburban sprawl and palm-tree dotted brown vista that confronts me everyday. Gradually I've come to realize that I'd better find something pleasing about California because it appears that we are not going anywhere else anytime soon. So this summer is about discovery, about finding interesting things to do and places of beauty to offer me some consolation for my loss.

I got some writing done this week, but not enough. Before I get back to it, I want to mention a few books that I've recently read and liked. Two were recommendations from <lj user = "annemariepace">. Loved "A Drowned Maiden's Hair: A Melodrama" and "Journey to the River Sea." Read them! Also, has anyone heard of this book, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone?" I read it yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed it. I predict a hit!

Wednesday, May 16th, 2007
4:00 am
look! a new post that mentions D. L. Garfinkle
This morning my daughter said, "Are you wearing make up? Turn on the lights and come here." (She's bossy, I mean, self-assured). "It looks like you drew big circles under your eyes." Thanks, kid.

I have to admit she's right. What was the name of that cartoon hound dog from the seventies with the nasally voice? Underdog? I look like him today.

Speaking of the seventies....I devoured Debra Garfinkle's "Stuck in the Seventies" like a box of Hot Tamales. All in one sitting. And, like the candy, the book has a sweet interior (positive message) with a spicy coating (sex & pop culture appreciation). I think it will appeal to boys and girls equally, as well as reluctant readers.
Saturday, May 5th, 2007
8:31 am
Been quiet 'coz
I've been preoccupied. Article link below will explain. J.S. is my husband. The four-year-old mentioned is, of course, our daughter.


Daughter is doing ok--thinks she witnessed a car accident. Some trouble sleeping at night, but that's not so unusual for her.

Also trying to power through this month to produce three solid chapters. Got page count at present, but all messy. The downdraft belch.

Would love to meet SCBWI folks who will attend the L.A. conference even though my own kidlit work is on the back burner these days.

Have a good weekend.
Monday, April 23rd, 2007
9:58 am
try this
Last week was difficult and this week is shaping up to be bleak, too. Maybe I'll blog about it sometime. Meanwhile, I'm indulging in a favorite game: google searches of random word combinations. Today I did "cupcakes, chewing gum and horses." There were quite a few hits that combined chewing gum and horses (mostly tall tales about sheriffs), and some that had cupcakes and chewing gum (some company seems to think that importing Hostess cupcakes and Wrigley's chewing gum to Africa is a great idea). But only one had all three. Drumroll....


A blog! By some punster in Toronto whose 2/28 entry features this wordplay:

Longlegged Lolitas licking plasticine fajitas, moody, milking mojitos on a Monday, nursing the same sugared drink till midnight on a Sunday.

I didn't explore the site beyond this. I didn't want to risk spoiling my fun.

Another fun game, if you are using the internet at a library, is to pull up all the past searches on a computer's memory. I like to know with whom I am sharing public space. For instance, whoever previously used the computer from which I am now typing these words went here:


I thought maybe it would re-direct me to a site about the band, the mekons, but no. It's some kind of design-your-own-logo site. Now I'm left wondering who designed a logo, what it looked like and why he or she wanted one in the first place.

Well, I don't want a logo. But I am need of a mantra. Something along the lines of "GET TO WORK!"

Bye for now, lj-ers.
Monday, April 9th, 2007
10:02 pm
My index has an index
Now that's organization for you! Ha!

I started my diss research five years ago by slogging through an institutional storage closet full of uncatalogued material. Exciting (in a geeky history-buff way) to be the first one to really read through this stuff, but time consuming. First I had to figure out what was there, then I had to create some kind of an organizing system while transcribing and filing. It sounds like a straightforward process, but it's actually kind of a mental maze because it takes a while to make important connections, i.e. when are the same people re-appearing in different documents, what's a likely range of dates for undated letters, etc. etc. You get the picture, right?

And, of course, this was not a paid gig for me. So in between I was working and teaching, with a long break after I became a mother and moved two-hours distance from the archive.

Last summer, when I knew I was going to move across the continent, I spent six whirlwind weeks trying to finish the job--and came within one box. Mission (mostly) accomplished!

Now I am surrounded my mountains of paper as I cross-reference and double check to make sure that what's on my computers matches older print-outs and earlier files. In short, I am indexing my index.

No major "OH *&*%" moments so far, with 85% complete. Fingers crossed for the last 15%!
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