Archive for the ‘Assorted and Sundry’ Category
July 18, 2016 @ 8:22 am | Filed under: Assorted and Sundry
I’m home, I’m unpacked, I’m rested, and I have only, oh, thirty or forty posts in my head to write about the Brave Writer Retreat. With Comic-Con mere days away, I may have to settle for getting to a mere seven or eight of them. 😉
My morning has been earmarked by Huck for “a lot of cuddles to make up for when you were gone” and some vital Muffin Knight recaps. Plus, you know, we’re only at level 5 in Pokemon Go. Priorities! But I’m hoping that this afternoon will afford me the time to flesh out my Retreat Resources page with links to all the books & things I mentioned in my talks. If you’d like a glimpse of my Tidal Homeschooling and Comics Make You Smart talks, parts of them can be viewed on Julie Bogart’s Periscope page, along Julie’s own talks, which were brilliant and moving and deeply insightful—which is of course what you get whenever Julie speaks!
In case you’re wondering what my family did while I was gone, here’s the to-do list I found upon my return:
So I guess I’m not the only one with a lot to accomplish.
This time next week, I’ll be in Cincinnati for the Brave Writer Retreat. I’ve known Julie Bogart online for over 15 years and we have Skyped several times, but this will be our first time getting together in person. Can’t wait! Looking forward to meeting other internet chums as well. This week I’m busily working on visuals for my talks. I’ll be speaking about Tidal Homeschooling, children’s literature, and comics. Can’t wait!
I also have a big post about skin care almost ready to go—hopefully tomorrow.
Five of my children are sick today—a rather vicious cold, much coughing and hacking. Scott is making me keep my distance because when I get a cough, it hangs around for weeks. And after Brave Writer, there’s SDCC and then my high school reunion. But mah babies! Okay, so they’re having a grand movie fest and playing loads of Terraria, and nobody needs me at the moment, but still. At least I have work to keep me busy. SO MUCH WORK. Fun stuff, though: no complaints.
I haven’t read much so far in July. In June I came down with a fierce case of I Need to Reread Riddlemaster Yet Again syndrome. Before that, I tore through a bunch of contemporary thrillers thanks to NetGalley. I need to write proper booknotes on them, but for now, if you’re looking for harrowing summer reading, these kept me glued to the page: The Girl on the Train, Security, Before the Fall, and Beware That Girl. Oh, and ever since I finished Connie Willis’s Passage, I keep going back and rereading bits of it. It has become one of my favorites of her novels.
Right now I’m a chapter into Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, which has been on my list for ages. I may have to save it for the plane next week, though.
Mid-June. I can’t quite wrap my mind around that, even though the specter of MID-JUNE has dominated my life for the past six weeks. Big scary deadline for the grantwriting work I do on the side. Happy to say I shipped off this monster application (final page count: 153—which, yes, is as long as some novels I’ve written) a few days ago and ahhhhh, I can go back to being “just” a fiction writer for a while. (My agent and my very patient Knopf editor are happy to hear this.)
Mid-June also means: I get my girl back. We fetched Jane home from college over the weekend and all is right with the world. Of course, she’ll be winging off on another adventure in a few days, but only for a week this time.
Mid-June means less than a month until the Brave Writer Retreat, at which I’ll be speaking. And a week after that, it’s Comic-Con. But no need to jump ahead of myself. After a burst of busy, our week is slowing down and we’ll soon be ebbing into low tide. Huck and Rilla are enjoying Harriet the Spy so far. We’re three chapters in. Yesterday, Huck interrupted me to ask, “Was Mixed-Up Files fiction or nonfiction?”
Heavy sigh. “I was afraid you’d say that. I wanted it to be real.”
I’m embarrassingly far behind on email. Hoping to catch up this week. I had also been neglecting my booklist in the sidebar, but I cleaned that up today. I’ve read shockingly little this year, compared to my usual book gluttony. The grantwriting work is to blame for that, too. That, and some highly absorbing internet rabbit trails. I’ve read zillions of articles but I don’t keep a list of those, and then when I’m tallying up, it looks like I’ve barely read a thing. It’s funny what we count and what we don’t.
Speaking of funny, this conversation with Scott:
He was talking about George Washington and he said, “I guess I think of him as sort of…Stalin.”
And I gave him this look like what on earth are you talking about????
And he looked at me like why are you looking at me like that?
Me: Are you being serious?
Scott: Yes, why? What’s wrong?
Me: Seriously? STALIN????
(wait for it)
Scott: What? No! I said STOLID.
Me: Check out paragraph 2 of this press release I just got—
May 5, 2016, Mount Laurel, NJ: Four of the leading independent comic book publishers have come together with Groupees to offer fans a low cost entry into the world of original storytelling from some of the leading names in graphic fiction!
This cross-publisher pay what you want “Bundle of Independents” features approximately $300 worth of books by some of the industry’s greatest creators from Garth Ennis, Greg Rucka, Duane Swierczynski, Andy Diggle, Howard Chaykin, Peter Milligan, Andy Diggle, Jim Starlin, Jae Lee, Joshua Hale Fialkov, Tim Seeley, Jeff Lemire, Dustin Nguyen, Brian Wood, Rick Remender, Joe Hill, Sam Keith, Charles Soule, Cullen Bunn, and more!
brilliant editing, guys
Scott: that’s so embarrassing
The all-men lineup. Lower in the press release you learn that one of the items in the bundle is Saga.
Why on earth wouldn’t you mention Fiona (and BKV for that matter) in your summary???
Scott: that’s insane.
But you know what? They didn’t mention Darwyn Cooke, either. Or Bryan Lee O’Malley, Walter Simonson.
Scott: what a perfect expression
Me: He’s the Mr. Knightley to the Emma actress you looked up the other day, the one I knew SO WELL
from, you know, Emma
Me: Also Edmund from Mansfield Park
Me: You realize this is why nothing gets done in modern civilization
Actually, I guess the first couple of photos here are from March. (1) We hadn’t been to Old Town San Diego in a while and made a quick pilgrimage there one day during Wonderboy’s spring break. (2) Rilla’s bunny chain—entirely her own design—is the best Easter decoration I’ve seen in a long time. Those ears!
April for real:
(3) How Huck likes to rock his Math-U-See.
(4) Library day. I want that Eric Carle rug!
(5) Another library-day shot. What I love most about this photo is that the bed they’re on belongs to neither of them. It’s Beanie’s—the bottom bunk, which has long been the favorite place for my girls to sprawl. Beanie, meanwhile, does most of her own sprawling on Rilla’s bed. Go figure.
(6) Monarch caterpillar on our milkweed: always a sight that brings me joy.
(7) Wonderboy raised these sunflowers from a handful of old seeds spilled in the bottom of a bag of mostly-empty seed packets. The color surprised us!
(8) Also a surprise this year: the giant blooms on a neglected rosebush by our patio. Loads of them! It’s like Valancy went at the bush with her clippers.
(9) Playing with a Hobonichi Techo-style layout in my bullet journal. Mary Ann Scheuer and I had a fun Skype session last week to chat about my bujo system. What’s working these days: Separate books for my messy notes and my bullet lists. It’s sort of a left brain/right brain thing: I need a space for scribbly notes of all kinds, an unkempt, all-purpose thinking-on-paper space; but I also need nice, neat(ish) to-do lists with boxes I can fill in as I accomplish tasks. It took me a LOT of years—and the revelation of the multiple-insert traveler’s notebook—to figure this out: that I need the two separate spaces.
Yay, now I can fill in that ‘blog’ box!
March 22, 2016 @ 9:26 pm | Filed under: Assorted and Sundry
This simple object is one of my most treasured possessions. It was a gift from the late, great Susan J. Hanna, whose jolly, sonorous voice I can still hear when I read certain T. S. Eliot poems. Dr. Hanna was the head of the English Department at Mary Washington College when Scott and I were students there. I spent two years as her department assistant, thanks to a lucky work-study placement. Funnily, I never actually managed to fit one of her classes into my schedule—except for the time Scott had to miss a few days of school and I sat in on his Modern Poetry seminar to take notes. Dr. Hanna was a marvelous teacher and one of the most ebulliant, brilliant women I’ve ever known. I loved working for her. I loved knowing her. She had a big hearty laugh and a tremendous presence, and she adored poetry and made you adore it too.
When I graduated, she gave me this silver letter opener—monogrammed with L for Lissa—as a going-away present. It lives on my desk and I use it daily, and think of Dr. Hanna every time I pick it up. After college, Scott and I made frequent trips up and down the East Coast between Virginia and Connecticut or New York, and every time we crossed the Susquehanna River we would sing out, The Mighty Susan J! One of our daughters has the middle name “Susanna” in Susan Hanna’s honor. Dr. Hanna died of cancer in 1994, not long before our wedding. We had sent an invitation and received a note back from her husband, the Philosophy Department chair, Professor Van Sant. I slit open the envelope with Dr. Hanna’s letter opener and was gutted to read what was inside. We hadn’t heard she was ill. News traveled more slowly in those days before we all got online.
Such a humble thing, a letter opener, a tool of limited function and unremarkable shape. And yet what a magic key it is: unlocking the portal to words penned hundreds, even thousands of miles away. Today it opened letters from France, Austria, and New York. Everything about it is special to me: the curly L that means Dr. Hanna knew me well; the solid heft of the handle, always cool to the touch. The image it conjures up of Sue Hanna striding into the office in a multicolored blouse, booming out a greeting and asking me to make a few dozen copies for her afternoon class. The stentorian recitation of a few lines from Prufrock. Here was a woman who never had to question whether she would dare to eat a peach—she seized them, split them, shared them around the room.
Sometimes when I’m cleaning the residue of envelope glue off the tip of the letter opener, I’ll catch a glimpse of myself in the surface and think about all the different selves that have been reflected there—all the iterations of myself, like a stack of letters written by the same hand but altering over time. Different paper, different postmarks. And how many other reflections are caught and held in the blade: the faces of my children, each one fascinated at some point by this curious object that looks like a knife but isn’t. Dr. Hanna’s face—I imagine her solemnly inspecting the monogram and nodding her satisfaction at the engraver. “This will do very well,” in that resounding voice. Very well indeed.
Well, I tried. Sat down at the start of my work time today, fully intending to transition with a blog post just like the old days, but a pressing email caught my attention…and here I am eight hours later.
It has rained on and off all day. Rose is in heaven—that girl was made for the Pacific Northwest, I swear—but I’m off kilter. Happy for the moisture, of course. My poor garden needs it. My freesia had just started to bloom, though—they’ll be a bit battered after the downpour.
Assorted things to chronicle:
Last Friday I was one of six guest authors at the Greater San Diego Reading Association‘s annual Authors Fair. This year we visited Bonsall West Elementary School in Oceanside. I had three classes of 4th-graders (in two groups) whose teachers are reading them The Prairie Thief. I love this event. The kids are already deep into my book and are excited to ask questions. I always start out by reading a chapter, picking up wherever the teacher left off. This time, I got to read the first encounter between Louisa and the brownie—a super fun for me because it’s a mini-reveal. Of course, that means I have to do a Scottish accent but that’s part of the fun. The kids don’t mind if I fumble it. 🙂
The other night I was in here working while Scott watched a movie with the kids. He pinged me with a question from our friend Devin (our brilliant writer friend Devin, I should say). She was working on a scene for her current book and needed help with a tree identification. Here’s a screen cap of the Google Street View close-up Scott sent me:
I couldn’t zoom in any tighter than that. Too fuzzy to make out the leaf shapes. But I figured someone out there would have compiled a list of common Manhattan street trees and I turned to my best friend Google. Turns out Someone did way better than that:
the most awesome Lite Brite I’ve ever seen
All those colored dots are trees. Specific trees. I zoomed in on the corner of Bleecker and MacDougal and found our friend the Callery Pear. Man, I love the internet. Major props to Jill Hubley, who created that rather astounding map. And Devin’s dedication to detail is one of the many reasons I love her. Nitty-gritty lovers of the world, unite.
Rilla has learned several speeches from A Midsummers Night’s Dream this year. And of course this means Huck is picking them up, too. Hearing them recite Puck’s monologues tickles me no end. “I go, I go, look how I go!” —or a world-weary yet amused “Lord what fools these mortals be…”
Here’s another thing Rilla and I have been doing with our free time. Color charts. Mmm, I could happily mix paints all day for the rest of my life if you let me.
How’s your week going?
My last post was February SECOND? For real? I don’t think I’ve gone three weeks without blogging since the summer of 2005 when Wonderboy had an unexpected surgery. Even when we moved cross-country and I spent weeks on the road alone with four little kids and an infant, I found time to toss up some short updates. It’s not that I’m busier, really—although I am seriously busy. But I was busy then too. It’s about daily rhythm and habit. I used to start the writing part of my day with a 20-minute blog entry. For years and years, that was my transition from homeschooling mom to working writer. It worked beeyootifully for nearly eleven years: spend the day with the kids, then write about the kids for a bit, and I’d be in writing mode and ready to work.
We rearranged our schedule last…summer? spring? Instead of one big six-hour block of work (writing) time, I now have a four-hour block in the afternoon, then an hour or two off for dinner and whatnot, then back at work from 7:30-9:30. When we made this shift, which has worked out well in many respects, I started reserving the evening block for blogging and various busywork tasks—paying bills, updating the website, answering emails, and so forth. I tried to save the last 30 minutes for sketching, and for the most part I’ve been successful with that. But the reality is that I need more than four hours a day for writing-work. So after dinner instead of blogging, I’ve been doing the other kinds of writing and editing that make up my workday. I’ll blog at the end, I think, and then…don’t. I’ve filled up three and a half sketchbooks, though, which feels good. I understand that I needed to take this time, need to keep taking it, to develop a sketchbook practice. I spent way too many years wishing I could draw instead of learning to draw, and I’m glad I’ve put in the effort these past 18 months. A year from now, ten years from now, I know I’ll be grateful I cultivated the habit.
Ah, but I miss Bonny Glen. The chronicle, the discussions, the community. I miss blogging and reading blogs (because that too has slipped to an occasional activity). I miss you guys!
Okay, now I’m laughing because I’m making it sound like I haven’t blogged in YEARS instead of a few weeks. When you’ve done something on a near-daily basis for over a decade, it’s reasonable to take a little vacation. 🙂 It just wasn’t planned, is all. This morning I was thinking about how quickly one habit (blogging daily) can be replaced by another (not blogging). I didn’t even think about writing a post yesterday, and today that fact startled me. My habits have shifted when I wasn’t paying attention. Sneaky little things, habits.
I’ve tried a few strategies for rebuilding the blog habit, this past year, like the weekly roundups of our reading. But those cross over into work territory, and I can’t have that. This blog must be the antithesis of work: no pressure, no obligation, just chronicle and fun. I’m greedy for that chronicle, though! I don’t want three weeks to become three months, three years. In three years, Huck will be ten, Rilla twelve, Wonderboy FIFTEEN, for Pete’s sake. (I just gave myself a heart attack. And holy cats does that boy need a new blog name.)
Well, the timing is good for me to revisit my approach, since I need to dig into my archives here anyway…I’m mining our past for good stuff I did with my older set when they were little. Today was a vintage Bonny Glen morning: first Rilla gave Huck an impromptu piano lesson and played chords to his melody (“I’m learning how to sight-see, Mom”); then a quick Michael’s run for 2-for-1 sketchbooks plus another 20% off—jackpot! Then home where we messed around on Google Maps for a while (they “drove” via street view all the way from our house to piano class); then a geocaching excursion and another two finds logged. Home again, where they made scrambled eggs for lunch. Now she’s reading Warriors and he’s reading Calvin & Hobbes. A lovely low-tide day for my littles. Beanie is off on an all-day field to the Gem Institute in Carlsbad. I have a full deck this afternoon (boy, do I ever) and I ought to get started. But this was good. Let’s do this again.