Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Lucky me, I got to see the ever-talented Lisa Wheeler at my son's school today! I first met Lisa online 8 or 9 years ago (!), and took her fantastic picture book workshop here in Austin this past March. She lives in Michigan, so I was surprised but delighted to find out she'd was doing an author visit at my son's school, of all places. She mentioned that it's already snowed in parts of Michigan this fall (!!), so I'm sure she wasn't thrilled to come experience the record-setting streak of triple-digit temperatures we've been having here (it was officially 107 yesterday, though my van's outside temperature gauge registered up to 112 at one point...)., but I'm glad she braved the heat, as it was a treat to hear her speak.

I'd never seen an author's school presentation before, so I was very curious. I went to the presentation my son attended, for 1st graders, then stayed on to hear her presentation for 3rd & 4th graders, which was completely different. She did a great job, with lots of fun props & stories, & I found out I'd have to get a lot braver than I am now if I ever wanted to do school visits myself someday! I have no problem acting a part on a stage in front of people, but having to command the attention of 100+ first graders and their teachers while speaking as myself seems really scary! I bought a copy of her fun book, Bubble Gum, Bubble Gum, had her inscribe it to my kids, & snuck it into my son's backpack while he was at lunch. He was excited to find it there. He read it to himself on the way home, & I read it to my four-year-old when we all got home. I highly recommend it as a read-aloud book. I was also amused that Lisa got the idea for Sailor Moo while eating at Wendy's, since I've had an article published myself about how many of my ideas have come while eating fast food! (Hmm...think I should go to Wendy's tonight?)

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Thank goodness Hurricane Rita didn't cause the kind of destruction that was feared! I hope everyone who stayed in the affected regions is okay. We stayed up until almost 4 am watching the live coverage, but were relieved to get up and find nothing worse reported than what we had already seen.

As if I didn't already have too many writing ideas, today my husband & I came up with a concept for a humorous chapter book series, possibly mysteries but maybe just funny stories. We don't have actual plots, but came up with several titles and ideas. We cracked ourselves up, anyway.... I've just been experimenting with the possible voice for the books, trying to figure out whether first person or third might work better, and much more importantly, whether the main characters should be animals or people! It's certainly easier to write about people than animals, but the animal idea lends itself to more zaniness. Then if they're animals, we'd have to decide if they live in human-type homes, animal-type habitats, or what. It's crazy to even entertain this idea when I've got so many other projects, so it'll probably go on the back burner, but it seems like something that would be really fun to write. We read so many chapter books and chapter book mysteries to our kids that I'm at least much more familiar with the genre than I was a year or two ago. We're also considering collaborating on them, which is a weird idea in itself!

I also wrote more notes today for my possible children's play idea. That one poses some problems, too--should it be written for child actors or adult actors? I suspect it could make a difference in the size of the cast. I'm leaning towards a large cast, though that might make it hard to market.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

So I didn't win an SCBWI work-in-progress grant. Again. I always think these things won't bother me because I don't expect to win anyway, but they usually bother me anyway. I feel like a poser right now, for being at this so long with so little to show for it.

I can't believe another hurricane is coming. We may get storms from it even here, 4 hours north of the coast. Rita, Rita, go away! Dry up now, don't hit the bay!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The biggest news at our house this week was my older son, who turned 7 last month, finally lost his first tooth! It wasn't even loose until a few hours before it fell out. His 4-year-old brother drew him this picture to commemorate the occasion:

For bedtime reading that night, we read two books about loose teeth or the Tooth Fairy (who did find our house that night), and I shamelessly shared a poem I'd written about losing teeth. (Still seeking a market for that one....)

Second biggest news was that my younger son started his 4's preschool class on Monday. It's a new school for him, but he seems to really like it so far--on Thursday, he asked how many days until he could go back.

Third biggest news was that Wednesday was my husband's & my 14th wedding anniversary. We had other obligations in the evening, but while the kids were both in school, we celebrated with a morning date at a 24-hour bowling alley (fun!), followed by a nice lunch at Hill Country Pasta House.

At the library this week, I checked out about 15 books for the kids, plus 2 for me: Dunk by David Lubar, and Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta. I've read a bunch of the books for the kids, but we'll see if I can get to the ones for me!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

I'm so impressed with Austin! We went to the Care for the Coast donation drive at the grocery store Friday, & they already had huge trucks and containers FULL of donated water, food, & diapers, with people driving up to bring more all the time, & that was only one of multiple donation sites. Meanwhile, several thousand hurricane evacuees have come here (including a new boy from Louisiana in my son's first grade class today), and an apartment complex opened some units to house evacuated families rent-free for a while. They were soliciting donations of basic living supplies, furniture, cookware, etc., for that complex and possibly some others. We took over some donations on Saturday, & planned to take another van load on Sunday, but they reported they were FULL for the time being, with nowhere to store any more donations! We figured we'd donate another load to the city's official donation drop-off location this week, but today the newspaper reports that the whole 400,000 sq. ft. warehouse is also full! So they're only taking cash for now (Austin residents--check the Austin Freecycle forum for updates on where to make non-cash donations). My local SCBWI group is also collecting book donations for evacuees this Saturday, my son's school is collecting necessities, there's a benefit concert planned with Willie Nelson headlining, and there's a city job fair for evacuees here this week. I'm sure it's not just Austin...I've heard such stories all over the net, and seen people on all my online groups just looking for ways to help. With all the negativity and blame being passed around, it's heartening to see this kind of response! (And props to celebrities like Macy Gray & Sean Penn for actually volunteering in person, instead of just criticizing relief efforts from a comfortable distance.)

For most of the past week I was too horrified by the hurricane to even think about writing, or to read anything but news and message board posts. For Labor Day, I decided to take an escapist break and finally read David Lubar's novel Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie. I really, really enjoyed it! I'm glad I took a chance on buying it instead of waiting to check it out at the library. When Cynthia Leitich Smith blogged about this book, she mentioned she'd never been a high school freshman. Same here--my high school started with 10th grade, and I don't recall a class caste system as such, so I didn't really relate to the freshman experience aspect. Yet on another level, just being human and having lived through high school, I related to so much of it! And special kudos to David Lubar for mentioning Dorothy Parker's excellent, snarky story "The Waltz," one of my favorite short stories ever. I once did a reading of it at a speech tournament. David Lubar also has some hilarious humor on his web site, including a Young Adult Novel Kit I just saw yesterday that made me laugh so loudly that my 7-year-old asked why I was laughing and I couldn't explain.... I also love his guide to literary fiction (a must if you've ever tried to write it, as I have!) and his aptitude test for potential book reviewers for "Carcass Reviews." (He's also got a daughter named Alison, so that's got to count for something!)

Anyway, the book was a welcome diversion, as well as thought-provoking and even somewhat educational. But as I got to the end, it brought me right back to reality with a passing reference to New Orleans on the penultimate page (penultimate being one of the narrator's favorite words). Who could have imagined that the mention of a concert in New Orleans would sound jarring enough to send a shudder down my spine, mere weeks after the book's release? So strange. I hope it doesn't sound jarring this time next year. I only went to New Orleans once, for the World's Fair in 1984. My souvenir of New Orleans was a pair of ceramic comedy & tragedy masks I bought in the French Quarter. It seems almost eerie now, thinking of that tragedy mask as a symbol of New Orleans. But comedy and tragedy are interwoven, and in the city where, as Rick Bragg wrote so eloquently this week, death has long been faced with music and humor as the saints go marching in, I hope the smiling comedy mask comes out triumphant, as the people of the region rebound and have the last laugh.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

I read on someone else's blog that this is Blog for Relief Day for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. So, I'll join in the urging for everyone to help however they can. Here are direct links to the hurricane relief donation pages for the Salvation Army and the American Red Cross. Of couse there are many other wonderful groups you can donate through...I chose those two because they already have so much help organized, mobilized, and underway in the affected areas. Note that both sites are very slow today, which I hope is an encouraging sign that they are being bombarded by donors!

Here in Austin, a Care for the Coast relief drive is going on this Friday, September 2, from 6 am to 6:30 pm at the following H-E-B locations: Hancock Center (41st at Red River), Highway 620 at Anderson Mill, Highway 71 at Bee Caves Road, 500 Canyon Ridge Drive, and also at the Capital Area Food Bank at 8301 S. Congress. They are asking for donations of these five items: peanut butter, canned meat & tuna, granola/cereal bars, water bottles (consumer size), and diapers. The Capital Area Food Bank will also collect monetary donations at those locations. And here's a long list of other donation drives and ways to help in the Austin area. Please turn out to donate for those in need!

Meanwhile, I'm feeling nearly physically ill seeing and contemplating all the devastation, and I'm not at all encouraged about the prospect of moving my own family to the (Florida) Gulf Coast!