Friday Free Time

I had one of those school dreams again, but this time, it was the traditional one, where it’s close to the end of the semester, and I realize I’ve never attended one of my classes. It’s not difficult to analyze — I’ve been feeling anxious all week, because I’ve been working on a revision of an upcoming picture book, and it was due today. Thankfully, I finished it and sent it in about an hour ago. [cue sound of POPPING CHAMPAGNE CORK]

Now, I have a completely open afternoon, on an absolutely gorgeous Friday. What do you do when you have an unexpected bit of free time?

Image from The Graphics Fairy.

A Formula for Success?

I tend to have vivid, very realistic dreams. Perhaps this is the trade-off for suffering from insomia; once I DO get to sleep, I’m thoroughly entertained. Last night’s dream was particularly thought-provoking, so I thought I’d share it…

[Cue FOG and wavy, dream-like camerawork]

I’m in a classroom filled with writers, much like an SCBWI lecture. I’m standing at the front of the room, at the blackboard, ready to give my presentation. Only there’s another teacher there, and he’s completely filled the chalkboard with his notes, and he won’t leave. I go to another, smaller classroom, but certain people (who shall remain nameless) are there, and they’re distracting my audience. I’m standing at the front of the room, trying to get everyone’s attention and erase everything written on the chalkboard so I can write out the note that will kickoff my presentation. In the dream, my presentation is called “Formula for Success,” and this is the formula I am trying to write:

Success = Talent + Patience + Charisma

I pretty much know how to interpret the dream: I’m ready and eager to do what it takes to succeed, but until recently, certain circumstances have gotten in the way. But the formula intrigues me. I never considered success in these terms before — or at least, not consciously. What do you think?

Chalkboard graphic by Salvatore Vuono.

Not Out of the Woods Yet

This past weekend, while it seemed just about everyone was taking their final vacations and hosting Labor Day cookouts and getting their kids ready to go back to school, I was hunched up in my house, struggling with the first major revision of my work in progress. The first revision seems to be the hardest for me — not because of all the changes and cuts that need to be made. It’s because of all the text I have to add. I’m pretty good at cutting away and rearranging; I’m not so eager to tease out new scenes. And this time, I needed to add four new chapters, most of which were filled with a lot of action. Sporty action. Gaah.

So I did it, slowly and painfully, and emailed it and printed it out for my Trusted Readers. You’d think I’d feel a sense of exhilaration and relief at this point, but no. Because this is just the beginning. I’ve reinforced the major, structural stuff, but I know I still have plenty of dangling threads. Wait, is that a mixed metaphor? I think I’m too tired to care.

On the upside, my family in CT got their power back late last week, so the cheese and chicken are no longer in danger. My grandmother is now gearing up for her trip to Florida, where she will stay until May, and where she can keep her food cold and the rest of her house un-airconditioned, the way she likes it. FYI, Cousin Joyce will be staying in CT, though I’m not sure anyone has broken the news to her yet. If she had a face, I’m sure it would register disappointment.

I’m gearing up for the Providence Arts Festival this Saturday, where I’ll be participating in a storytelling session at the ROOTS Cafe from 12-5 (my slot is at 3:20pm) and selling and signing my books. I’m looking forward to focusing on stories that are finished and published and out in the world, for a change. Will I see you there?

Photo by “dan.”

Exhausting Options

I am, by nature, a night owl. But I’d much rather be an early bird. There’s something about waking up first thing in the morning and greeting the day with a smile and a fresh cup of coffee that seems right and good and civilized. And there’s something about staying up until the wee hours of the morning until you’re bleary-eyed, then slouching towards the bed (sometimes without brushing my teeth, or even changing into my pajamas) that feels pretty darn awful, especially when it means that I’m totally worthless during the day. When you can tell even your cats think you’re lazy, you know you have a problem.

I can go weeks and weeks on my perfect early bird schedule, but give me ONE late night, and I’m back in dirty night owl mode. I’m stuck in this cycle now, as I’m revising my current WIP, and while the writing is going great, I feel terrible, like I’m in a constant state of jet lag. It’s certainly not good for my health, and it’s definitely not good for my sense of self-worth. So, then, why does staying up late come so naturally to me?

And, more important, how do I get off this late night ride?

Image c/o The Graphics Fairy.

Steppin’ out, with my Baby…

After much trepidation, I just posted the announcement of my editorial retirement. Now that the word is out, how do I feel? As if I’ve just stepped out from the shadows.

Of course, I created those shadows on my own. Like so many (TOO many), I suffer from a chronic case of debilitating insecurity and an unwillingness to put myself first. But if the events of the past year and a half have taught me anything, it’s that I don’t have time for this shit. None of us do. We have stories to tell.

And nobody puts Baby in the corner, not even Baby herself.

Late Summer Nostalgia

I grew up on this beach, in Milford, Connecticut. More accurately, my grandparents owned a cottage there, and my mother and sister and I would make the 20-minute trip from Stratford each summer morning, and stay for the day.

If we were really good, and pestered our grandparents just the right amount, they’d let us SLEEP OVER. The Sleepover was the funnest of the fun, and often involved not sleeping at all, but instead peeking through the slats of the guest room door at episodes of M*A*S*H or Taxi or whatever other “mature programming” our grandparents happened to be watching.

The neighborhood of the beach was populated with unique characters. A big white house right on the beach was inhabited by the Chichester Sisters, three spinsters who could be seen going for a swim together each day in their old-fashioned bathing suits and caps. There was Jaya, a big woman with a kind face who taught me how to float and hold my breath underwater. Mrs. Imbimbo, who sat on the beach all day, slathered in baby oil, drinking from a sweaty can of Tab cola while her big, black Labradors ran up and down the shore. Mr. Stüller, a little bespectacled man who fixed watches and clocks. Miss Virginia, the esteemed ballet teacher who lived next door to my grandparents. Janet, a woman who was deathly afraid of bees, and had a teenage daughter named Lenore who took me under her wing and enjoyed playing me her Peter Frampton albums. My great-Aunt Dorothy and great-Uncle Gorzy, who lived across the street; from my grandparents’ cottage window, we could see them stick an American flag in the mailbox next to their front door when they wanted us to come over for coffee.

And those were just a few. The cottage and the quaint neighborhood and most of its inhabitants are gone now, though I feel blessed that I was able to spend time there with them, at least for a while. The memory of it all inspires me to create other havens like this in my own stories. Not just for my readers, but for myself.

Surprise, surprise.

In case you hadn’t guessed, I am not a “sporty” gal by nature. In fact, I have been known to flee from organized athletic competitions of just about any kind. (Except for badminton. I’ll never say no to badminton. Or its fetching footwear.)

Color me surprised, then, when the biggest scene in my current WIP ended up being a sporting event. Whaaaaa? How did I get there? I don’t know, but it happened, and it seems to be where the story needs to go. I feel a little bit like Janeane Garofalo at the end of The Truth About Cats and Dogs, where she’s on roller skates holding a leash with a big slobbering dog at the other end of it, pulling her along. Ultimately, the dog leads her to dreamboat Ben Chaplin and away from Uma Thurman, so it’s not a completely hopeless metaphor. Though I think Ms. Garofalo would agree that winsome heroine, adorably unruly dog, and Ben Chaplin dreaminess aside, the movie itself is pretty terrible.

So…I knew the sporty scene was coming, and I DREADED writing it, because I suffer from the aforementioned sports-aversion, as well as chronic cases of failure-phobia and being-thought-of-as-a-hack syndrome. But finally, yesterday, I wrote it! And it’s kind of terrible! But I can fix it later. For now, I can move on to the scene I really want to write. It’s the last scene in the story, and it features a character I love, who has a big unexpected moment waiting for her. I hope it’s going to work.

In other news, I just got more specifics about my appearance at the Burlington Book Festival on Sunday, September 25. I’ll be appearing with the lovely and brilliant Elizabeth Bluemle from 12:30–1pm, and on something called a Super Panel from 3–4pm, where you can get a load of this line up:


Can you think of a group of more kick-ass authors? I myself cannot. If you’re in the Vermont area, I hope you’ll come to this shindig. I’m not even that great at math and I know Vermont + autumn + books = duh.


I don’t hate my name, but it’s not an easy one to live with in the world. I’ve come to expect the looks of confusion and anxiety when people see it written out, and I can imagine what they’re thinking (“Oh. Oh my. All those vowels. Where to begin?”) before I hear their attempts at pronunciation. Confusion-mixed-with-anxiety is not the kind of first impression I want to make — at least, not with people I like.

Distant cousins with the same last name live in my hometown, but they pronounce their name differently (their LaReau is “LaRoo” while ours is “LaRow”) — or perhaps they just never bothered to correct anyone. But their kids went through school just before my sister and I did, and left us a legacy of mispronunciation to clean up. Imagine trying to tell a teacher they’re saying your name wrong, while they insist they’re correct because the OTHER family pronounces it that way. No wonder I have no respect for authority.

The upside to this lifetime of misunderstanding is that it’s made me pay attention to people’s names and make sure I say them right, and it’s given me a fascination with names and pronunciations in general. Sometimes just hearing a word will make me think, “Oh, THAT would be a terrific last name.” And sometimes just hearing a really evocative name will give me an idea for a story. For instance, last year I was watching an episode of American Pickers where Mike and Frank came upon a vintage hotdog puppet. One of them referred to it as a “marionette weiner.” Marionette Weiner?! I mean, if that’s not a gift from the gods, I don’t know what is. (And don’t think you’re going to run off and use that in your story. Trust me, I’ve got this one.)

Sometimes I joke that I became a writer just so I could get my name in print, where everyone would HAVE to learn to say it right. That would be hilarious if it actually worked.Thankfully, the good people at invited me to participate in their handy author name pronunciation guide. I’d like to think this means I’ll never have to deal with this issue again. But as I’ve learned the hard way, in life, there are no guarantees. Which leads me to wonder…

…wouldn’t Noah Guarantee make a great name?