Friday, May 1, 2009

The Rock Star Life.

Oh yeah.

It's a glamour-fest, I tell ya!

What... you already read the previous entries from this week and sense I'm being less than truthful in that statement?? Dang. The perils of being the Friday Girl. Ah well. Okay - I admit it ain't all roses and blue M&Ms as far as the eye can see, this writing gig.

And yet... the day I'm going to tell you about is certainly writerly, awfully cool and ever-so-slightly rock star-ish. Sure - it was untypical, but I thought you guys might like to catch a glimpse of what it was like for me to hit the high school circuit at a couple of recent Writer's Festivals - the Frye Festival in New Bruswick and the Ottawa Writer's Festival.
For almost two weeks, my days consisted of two or three school events a day, reading for auditoriums full of teens, answering questions and *giggle* signing autographs. It was marvelous.

Aside from the early mornings (to which I am morally opposed just on principle!!), and the threat of losing my voice (a horrifying prospect - how would I do all that talking I always do?!) it was a terrific experience. Typically, for each presentation, I would do a 10-ish minute reading followed by a bit of chat about me, the book, what it's like to be an author and an actor, and a little insight into the publishing industry. Insofar as this was my first real "touring" experience, I was a little worried going in that that I might not have enough material to fill hour-long sessions. I mean - just a reading and a Q&A? And what if the kids get bored? What if they fidget? What if they don't ask any questions at all? *wail/gnash/flail*
I needn't have worried. Even in the presentations where there might have been a little bit of reluctance to start the ball rolling, inevitably the kids always wound up having more questions than we had time to get to them.
The audiences were uniformly filled with an abundance of kids who were smart and funny and fabulous. And the teachers - man, teachers rock. Seriously rock.

Inevitably, after each session was over, a bunch of the kids would stay behind and continue to ask questions. And ask me to sign a wide variety of items. I signed my first cast, my first shoe (a couple of those actually...), several hands and binders and - yes - even books! ;-D
I love teens. The whole experience made me so glad that I write stories for them. It was both exhausting and exhilirating. And I had a blast.

A pretty good few "days in the life". See?

Serious Author with Awesome Kidz and Teacher!

Silly Rock Star Author with Awesome Kidz and Teacher (and rabbit ears!)

~ Thanks to the marvelous Miz Arsenault at JMA for the pics!! ~

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Life and Writing

A really cynical writing professor of mine once told me that writing was an incredibly hard profession because life is always getting in the way, and it’s impossible to write when you have to deal with life.

Okay, in a way that’s true. My life is this: stay-at-home mom to two little boys, wife, part-time writing professor, errand-runner, dinner-preparer, launderer, well, you get the point. A day in my life is all of that – changing diapers and playing with my kids, wiping tears and runny noses, grading papers. And the writing?

While other moms I know put their kids to bed and then hang out with their husbands, watch TV, or go to bed early, I write. I have a date with my computer every weeknight between the hours of 8 and 11 and sometimes on weekends, too. I don’t always get writing done, but most nights I do. And even if I don’t write, I almost always try to get something writing-related done, even if it’s just writing a blog post. This also means, I hardly ever get enough sleep or get to clean my house, but I’ve learned to be content with my mess and savor my morning coffee, if it means that I’m able to write.

And here’s the funniest part: Since having kids, my life has been more hectic than I could ever imagine. Most days, I barely have time to breathe. But I’ve somehow managed to get more writing done than I ever did in my pre-kid life, where I had actual bona fide leisure time. Incredibly, I’ve written two novels in the last year and a half. I think after my first son was born, I realized how much writing meant to me, how much I not only wanted to, but needed to do it. And also, I thought about the fact that someday my baby was going to get older and ask me what I did for a living, and I wanted to be able to tell him that I was a writer, a real writer. This gave me something I never had in my pre-kid years, the discipline to sit down every single night and write, and to treat writing like a real job (albeit one done only after dark!)

There’s something else, too: in my crazy, busy kid-filled life, things are always happening. I meet interesting people at the park; I find myself constantly falling into embarrassing situations (Might I mention that I’ve been thrown up on, in public, twice in the past month!). And all of this becomes part of who I am and what I write about. Even The Wiggles – my youngest son’s favorite show -- made its way into my latest manuscript! Life is what gives me the details, and in my opinion, it’s the details that really make a piece of writing stand out.

So, to tell you the truth, I think I actually love the fact life “gets in the way,” of my writing, because without it I know I never would’ve found my way to writing for real.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ain't life curvy?

Life. It brings to mind one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite people, John Lennon. “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” I’ve lived by that, whether I’ve wanted to or not, for the last twenty years. Just when I start to plan my world one way, here comes life in all its glory, pain, or more simply, its inevitable distractions. And my life is forced to curve off in another direction.

The Beatles have another song, “A Day In The Life”, the capstone on their brilliant Sgt. Pepper’s album. It is about the wealthy man who has everything and dies suddenly. The song speaks of money not producing joy. It brings to mind the importance of living with joy, no matter our financial or personal circumstances, as the gift of another day is never a guarantee.

Are you racing through life with just enough time to wolf down your apple instead of slowing down to savor its rich, tart flavor? Do we tackle our to do lists with any joy at all or are we just checking each task off simply to make it through?

Now that my kids are grown, my life does not take on the moment-by-moment insanity of yesteryear. I MISS THOSE DAYS! I had no idea at the time but the toddler years were downright innocuous compared to the stress of the teenage/young adult years.

Maureen and Tracy’s life schedules are far more interesting than mine so I won’t even try to paint my daily portrait.

I will say, though, that every day when I wake up I have the greatest intentions of fitting in my writing. YET, it’s 7:30 a.m. right now and I’m sitting on my bed, laptop battery power 17% - cord all the way upstairs. I’m trying to have this post done, as I have a huge week ahead and no spare time whatsoever! I am already late for work and there are ARCs (advance reader copies) to send out with personal notes, not to mention I have a huge formal event Friday night at work.

My youngest son graduates from high school on May 24 and we are late on everything. There’s Project Graduation to plan (the all-night lock-in at the school to keep kids sober and off the roads), transcripts to request, and college decisions to make. We still have to mail our graduation announcements, I still haven't bought "the big" graduation present, and the Tennessee Hope Scholarship has yet to be applied for. If I'm honest, I’m just racing through and checking each task off one by one, hardly enjoying any of it. Each chore seems more taxing than pleasurable.

And I'm still worried about my writing! Where does that fall in line? I am striving to one day be a full-time writer!

Writing takes a commitment - a dedicated time slot for me to produce anything. I must carve out an entire Saturday or take a full day off work to see any progress at all. Nighttime is out. By then this old girl is pooped! I can't seem to find enough hours in the day.

But I have to say, I do take the time to smell my daffodils. I do appreciate any day I wake up healthy. I do say I love you. I didn’t come by this heightened sense of smell naturally, however. I've held on tight to the handlebars while my roller coaster has chugged up the mountains and screeched back down into the valleys. I've winced from life's pain and lavished in her beauty. Life has thrown me curve balls and passed me home runs. Thankfully, wisdom has been the win from each and every hit.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


I agree with Tracy--this is going to be a really fun week! I also love to hear about other writers' schedules...mainly because I always want to know how someone else "does it."

As a tender young child, I assumed that when I had my first book published, well, that was what I would do for a living. (In fact, I've come to realize that 99% of people I meet assume I write full-time also.) And well, with the first time advance for a new author not being quittin'-your-day-job kind of money (Because I am not Stephenie Meyer. Damnit.), I work full-time in addition to writing. Now, don't get me wrong, my day job is great, but sometimes I feel like I have to wear so many hats throughout the day that my poor little head is going to cave in.

Throw in two cats, a dog, a husband, a toddler and a house with dust that reproduces at the rate of a fruit fly, and you understand why I recently joined a Wine of the Month Club. And let's not even talk about planning book promotions for A BUMP IN THE ROAD, edits on Book #2 and revising of my YA book. Oh, and apparently the new standard is to put out a book a year, so I'll have to find time to finish ANOTHER book by the end of the year.

It also does not help that I can't keep my eyes open past 11pm most nights, so pulling all-nighters with my writing is kind of out. I fear the prose that would wind up on the page after would probably sound like I was on some serious hallucinogenics.

Although no day is typical with my toddler (Depends on if Evil Child or Angel Child joins us that day), here's a little run down of yesterday:

7:00am: Alarm goes off. Hit snooze.

7:30am: Finally get out of bed. Accidentally step on cat, causing screeching, biting and hissing. Sort of feel bad, but kind of don't. Fetch Toddler out of crib. Ignore as he shrieks, kicks and flails while I change his diaper. Sort of feel bad, but kind of don't.

7:30am-8:30am: Get self ready for work and Toddler ready so my husband can drop him off at the baby sitter's house. Use Jack's Big Music Show as child sedative so I can blowdry my hair. Leave for work. Pick up coffee on my way into work. (This is a must--my husband told me last week that when I don't drink coffee in the morning I'm "cranky," I "complain a lot" and "sigh loudly." Sounds pretty accurate.)

8:30-5:00pm: Day job.

5:30pm-8:00pm: Come home, cook dinner, sweep up kitty litter that the cats have thrown around during the day. Deal with approximately 1,345,678 temper tantrums and time-outs thanks to end-of-the-day Toddler Exhaustion/Apocalypse.

8:00pm: Put Toddler down to bed. Sit on couch, beg husband to use the laptop. He begrudgingly hands it over, depressed that he has to leave Facebook and ESPN websites.

8:00pm-10:00pm: Writing-related activities. Research, revisions, actual writing, book promotion, etc.

10:00-10:30pm: Read trashy magazines in effort to reset my brain for the next day. At the end of the day, reading about Lindsay Lohan's relationship problems is about all my overloaded mind can handle.

10:30pm: Pass out.

Despite all of the craziness, and despite still having hope that I'll be able to pursue writing at least part-time, my insane life is great. If nothing else, it gives me tons of material and fodder for my fiction. Like last week, when I was reading an email from my agent after just getting home from work. I was still in my work clothes, perched on my bed, squinting at my laptop.

So my son decided that was the perfect chance to take his diaper off, run around naked and shriek. I peered around the corner, saw his naked butt scampering off and smiled. Because I knew I had at least three more minutes to finish reading my email.

Ah, the life of a working mom!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Hectic is the Word

I've always loved reading "Day in the Life" posts from other bloggers, especially when they've been written by agents, editors, and other authors. It's like a peek into their life, and how cool is that, right? But now it's my turn to write about a day in MY life, and I gotta say before I get started: it's a little crazy at my house. But living it is a lot crazier than it sounds in text, it's kind of boring sounding.

I have four kids, two pets, and a husband who has been laid-off for the past eight months. It's important that this previous sentence is taken into consideration as you're reading my "Day in the Life," because I am NEVER alone. Ever. Interruptions happen constantly. So, with that in mind, here is my day last Friday, April 24th.

6:30-6:45 AM: Wake up to a *thud-thud-thud* that refuses to stop. Try to ignore it, but the thudding gets louder, followed by a very upset "Meow!" Realize that the cat is stuck in the room and wants out. Now. Relunctantly get up and open the door and decide the day has started.

6:45-7:30 AM: Begin coffee. Stand in the kitchen staring at the coffee maker, waiting for it to finish. Drink first cup in relative silence before older kids wake up. Number One Son gets ready for school. Daughter is staying home because she's a senior and that night is her Senior Prom. She begins wailing about everything she has to do to be ready by 5:30 PM.

7:35 AM: Wish I could go back to bed.

8:00-8:45 AM: Younger kids wake up. They want breakfast, and they need clothes--dang, did I forget to put their freshly washed clothes in the dryer the night before? Yes, I did, so mad dash to get them dry enough so they can go to school on time.

9:00-9:20 AM: House is empy of half its human occupants. Put my copywriter hat on and begin working on a set of articles I'm writing for a client.

9:20-9:30 AM: Try to convince daughter her body is not lopsided.

9:30-9:40 AM: Try to convince daughter to not try on prom dress again because it looks the same as it did the previous two dozen times it has over the past week.

9:40-9:50 AM: Try to convince husband to take daughter to get a latte so I can have an hour of quiet time. Husband agrees. Daughter doesn't want to go. The boyfriend might stop by, and she needs to be home if he does.

9:50-10:30 AM: Work on article one for client while trying to ignore the loud sighs from the daughter as she walks in and out of my office.

10:30-10:45 AM: Sigh in frustration when daughter is still sure her body is lopsided. Try again to convince her that is not the case.

10:45-12:30 PM: Take laptop and hide in younger child's room and finish article one and start on article two. Giggle joyously when left alone for more than 10 minutes! Hear daughter freaking out because her hair appointment is in 30 minutes, and even though the salon is 3 minutes away, is sure she will be late if we do not leave THAT MINUTE.

12:30-1:00 PM: Take daughter to salon. Look through photos and help her decide what she wants. Assure her she will be fine without the presence of her mother overlooking the upsweep and the curling about to take place.

1:00-2:00 PM: Mad dash to the grocery store and then return to get daughter. Tell her how gorgeous her hair is. Listen to her complain that her mother (me) missed out on sharing an important prom moment by not sitting in a chair watching the upsweep and curling commence.

2:00-3:30 PM: Finish article two for client. Decide nothing else will get done until daughter leaves for prom.

3:30-4:00 PM: Greet and chat with other kids after school.

4:00-4:30 PM: Re-curl the same strand of hair repeatedly for daughter until she is happy with the "slope" of the curl. Help her with makeup, dress, etc.

4:30-5:00 PM: Prep dinner.

5:00-5:15 PM: Take lots of pictures of beautiful daughter and handsome boyfriend before they leave for prom.

5:15-5:20 PM: Collapse in chair and realize hardly any work has been completed that day.

5:20-6:00 PM: Dinner and family talk.

6:00-7:00 PM: Take younger kids and dog to park so they can play on swingsets they like better than the one in their own backyard.

7:00-8:00 PM: Answer e-mails, check blogs, create a to-do list for the following day.

8:00-8:30 PM: Listen to husband's new story idea and give feedback.

8:30-9:00 PM: Play Scrabble on the computer. Win!

9:00-9:30 PM: Put younger kids to bed, read them a story.

9:30-12:30 AM: Work on manuscript.

12:30-1:30 AM: Watch DVR and then collapse in bed.

You might say this isn't a typical day because my daughter isn't going to prom everyday, and while that point is correct, there is always something happening at my house that needs my attention. The days I'm most productive are when all four kids are in school all day, but honestly--that doesn't happen as often as you'd think. Take for example last week:

Monday: YAY first day after spring break, all kids are in school. Well, this is true until one of my younger son's became ill and needed picking up.

Tuesday: Other younger son is now ill. He is home.

Wednesday: Daughter is ill. She is home.

Thursday: Son says he's ill, but I think he just wants to stay home. He stays home because I can't prove he isn't ill.

Friday: Prom--daughter is home to get ready.

Today, however, everyone is blessedly at school and I'm actually getting some things completed. Kind of. Husband is still here, and he has needed all sorts of information today that (for some reason) I am the only person who can supply it. So yep, my daily life is hectic and filled with interruptions, and except for rare moments, I love it just the way it is.

Have a great Monday!