Sunday, December 28, 2008

Leaving Home

This could actually be Christmas in Connecticut, Part Two. The second picture is what I saw when I opened my curtains the morning I left Connecticut. In the first photo, there I am, looking like a tree trunk,...but without twinkly lights. Nobody told me it was BYOD (bring your own decorations). It was...brisk.

I realized, bringing my mom cross country to live in the wild, wild west, that something one of my best friends from CT told me wasn't quite true. "You'll never be back, now." I figured he had a good chance of being right, but that somehow I couldn't quite let go my hold of such a big part of me. I'd have to get back - to see the few remaining friends there, to crunch through magnificently painted fallen leaves in Autumn, to savor Tulmeadow Farm's amazing ice cream, to kayak down a sleepy river. But what if he were right? What if, like Thomas Wolfe says, you can't go home again? Then it dawned on me - whether I ever physically go home again or not, all I need to do is close my eyes and be still and I'm there. Imagination is a lot like Dorothy's ruby slippers. Whether it's home we're going to or a place we've invented in one of our books, it's all quite real, and it's all right there.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas in Connecticut

My whirlwind trip to the frosty East has come to an end. It more closely resembles the sugar frosted East, dusted by a generous dose of light, fluffy snow - things Sugar Plum Fairy dreams are made of. The first reminder I got that life is different here in a winter's storm is the hush that falls with the snow. You can hear your breath as it puffs into miniature clouds before you.

As I left my childhood home, for good this time, mom-in-tow, we walked into a snow globe of remembrance, heralded into the next chapter by the honks of close-by geese. Whether they were saying goodbye or merely irked at the change in weather, I'll never know. I believe they were calling goodbye. Especially in this season of Christmas, I believe.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I flew cross country - yes, over the Christmas holidays. There's not much more excitement than boarding a plane at 5:30 a.m. (I am NOT a morning person...the skycap had to ask me 3 different times where I was going before I correctly answered), stuffing yourself and your bags into a tiny seat next to people fighting you for the armrests, then being told you're heading back to the gate due to electrical problems...just after you took the meds your doctor gave you that would just barely, maybe, last long enough to keep your eardrums from shattering by the time you landed two planes later (because "you REALLY shouldn't be flying"). But wait, there's more!

Securely wedged among sleep deprived passengers, you are suddenly grateful for your recent sleep deprivation due to night time hot flashes (yes, much too young for that, and no, they are not like quick trips to the tropics) because you're not feeling tired. In fact, you're almost energized. You're feeling alive and upbeat...and like it might be time for a bathroom break...except the guy on the aisle is sound asleep and sprawled across every inch he has and much of yours...including the armrest.

In desperation, you wonder how good those throw-up bags are...then remember that at least you'll be able to use this in a novel...if you don't lose the use of your right arm from lack of armrest space. :)
I've been delinquent. There's no other word. Well, actually, there are a lot of other words. Hey, there's a fun challenge - what UNUSUAL words can you come up with for a newly-blogging person who lapses for far too long? We'll make it a contest. The winner gets...publicity! Notariaty! Possibly humiliation or public outcry! Results posted after New Years, so keep 'em coming!

So back to my lapse - no, enough of that. I fell off the horse. I'm back on. Giddy up.

Speaking of horses, I once (note: ONCE is an important word) rode horseback with my husband on a Mexican beach. Ahh, the thrill of GALLOPING, full speed, manes (mine and the horse's) whipping behind us, salt spray lashing my sun-kissed skin, derriere aching as it slapped against the WOODEN saddle. Now you understand why "once" was the operative word. I had bruises, and couldn't even show them off.

But, all's well that ends well (pun intended). I'll probably use it in a book one day.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Have you ever wondered if there's a writing gene? Me neither, until now. I took my athletic daughter (talk about a random gene!) to her friends at the orthopoedic doctor's office last week because, as it turned out, she chipped or fractured a bone chip or something else really odd by whacking her elbow on a door. This is a kid who flies over hurdles, skied down black diamond slopes her third time on the mountain, dives off the 10 meter springboard and makes it look good, and fences. But put her in real life, and she is, like moi, a klutz.

I danced for years and years but am always walking into walls, tripping, and other not-so-graceful things. Do you know I got chin stitches in the ER next to a skate board dude and a roller blader? I was the only one who didn't have "teen" in their age. How do I break bones or tear ligaments? Let's see...playing Blind Man's Bluff, skipping...the embarrassing list goes on and on.

So I wondered, is there a klutz gene? Did I pass it onto my daughter?

Then my mind went to, is there a writing gene? Does it lurk, waiting for you to ignite it? My grandfather was a fabulous writer. He never wrote professionally, but his comments found their way into the NY Times OpEd pages when he had something fun to say. Both my parents can spin a good quill, as well.

As opposed to the klutz gene, which I'm still not sure you can purposely nurture or deliberately overcome, I think you can both nurture a writing gene, and overcome your lack of one. Unlike things like blue eyes and curly hair, this one comes from work, plain and simple. It's time in your chair, writing. It's time reading - lots of time reading. It's time putting your manuscripts into critique situations, opening your mind, rolling up your sleeves, and delving in again. It's classes. It's inspiration. It's persistance.

So here I go, back to my computer...padded, just to be on the safe side!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Now that the boxes are gone, we finally got around to unwrapping our art, in the hopes of adding some character to our walls. Some of the finds were like unwrapping old friends. Others...

Had our taste simply changed in nine months? Or was it that distance made us look twice at some of the things we thought we loved? We said things like, "how could we have picked THAT frame?" Or, "Honey, um, do you still like this?" Thankfully, we were on the same page with almost every piece.

I started thinking how it's a lot like our manuscripts. We LOVE them when they're hot off our computers, but thank goodness we know enough to put them aside for a time, then go back and take another look. A re-vision. Time may seem like an eternity while we put things aside, but it's well worth the wait.

Thank goodness for time. Thank goodness for revision. And thank goodness for those REALLY objective eyes of fabulous critique group writers!! More on that in another post!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

It's the day before Thanksgiving. I started the day almost jumping through the roof of my car as an almost-ex-crow fell out of the tree above me, right onto my windshield. The day improved when I got to watch amazing 2nd graders in Pilgrim outfits, then hugged my son through a very painful finger procedure. But the best was volunteering at St. Monica's annual feed and clothe the hungry and homeless.

The photo shows the Boutique room BEFORE over 1000 fed and joy-filled people got to shop for warm clothes, sleeping bags, ponchos and toiletries. I was going to post the picture with me in it, but it's not about me. There was the man who was sober three days, whose eyes twinkled more than a kid's Christmas morning. There was the young guy sporting new shoes, because he had just received birthday money from his mom and his feet were no longer cold. There was the overwhelming feeling of gratitude for a slice of turkey, a piece of pie, and a few hours of respect. I am humbled, grateful for my blessings, and grateful I got to volunteer again this year.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 21, 2008

I've had a lot of comments on my acting pix, and thought about an interesting connection to writing. I promise I'll get there in a sec. When you think of acting, you may get mental images of young Hollywood in rehab or who's got the, ego. Personally, I think it's all about heart. You'v got to not only love the art, but love the process. With acting, there's the challenge of nailing a character somebody else wrote, then finding all those nuances that only you can bring to that character. There's the challenge of connecting with the other actors and connecting with the audience (if it's live).


Everything. First, you've got to love the process. Next, maybe because of my acting background, I write from the heart, and I write from character. Hunh? Bascially, in my first drafts I can't plot myself out of a paper bag. THANK GOODNESS for first drafts! If you've got character, you know what makes their heart've got voice. So write from the heart - the plot will follow. It may be several revisions later, but it will come, so trust your heart.
I'm baaa-aaack! In the past week, I've gained a new understanding of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. We supposedly moved back home, but this week our house has been inhabited by not only box sculptures, but all kinds of creatures...painters, plumbers, electricians, contractors, TV installation people, phone people (they come from a VERY different world!) name it, they've been here.

This afternoon is the first moment my dog and I have been alone (soon to change, as more workmen are due shortly), and my feelings of unsettledness are on guard, but shifting. As I sit at my finally-connected computer (how is it possible that Verizon is still in business?!) in MY WRITING SPACE, looking at the BLOOMING plants we watered diligently during construction, I am grateful for change, and grateful for growth. I hope that, once the dust settles, I'll discover that change and growth have found their way into not only my garden, but my writing as well. A few more boxes to unpack, then back to manuscripts!!


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Pack your way to a better novel

We're moving soon, so our house looks like what I imagine Costco's back room to look like...except with less stuff. ..and less cool stuff. We have box sculptures everywhere, and the constant cry of "who has the packing tape?" echoes through our emptying rooms.

As I was packing, I practiced the new family motto of "if you haven't used it in a year, send it to Goodwill". As my packing pile diminished, I felt the way I do when I revise a manuscript - elated that I was getting to the core of what makes me tick, with a few interesting things left that make me who I am. Who can get rid of the mini chattering teeth (I use them for school visits because one of my poems mentions dentures, and hey, they're fun!). And what about the paperweights that say "believe"? Gotta keep those. But life is definitely too short to wear those cute shoes that kill my feet.

With a manuscript, I love the freedom of that first 'throw it on the wall' draft. But then the real craft starts. I weed out the tangents that don't move the story forward, keep the details that make my characters who they are. Too much that's NOT needed takes our focus away from what we really need. Unlike Goodwill, if I throw out something I end up needing later, it's only a saved revision away!

Back to packing!

Saturday, November 8, 2008


I've been Regional Advisor, along with Edie Pagliasotti (she's as fun as her name!) since 2000, and I still say this region rocks! Joan Charles, Jane Smith and their team put on an amazing Illustrator's Day today. Art directors, illustrators, stories from the trenches, great tips, and contests with REALLY FABULOUS prizes (like postcards of the winner's art to send out) helped to make it an inspirational day for all of us, writers and illustrators alike.

For more info on upcoming events in the tri-regions of Los Angeles, stay plugged into

Come and be inspired!