Monday, August 30, 2010

How do they do it?

You've seen the bios:

"So and so is a stay-at-home mom to three adorable children under the age of five, two dogs, a cat, and a bearded dragon named Louie. When not writing, she enjoys building houses for Habitat for Humanity, hand-making all her family's clothes, and acting as mayor of Dubuque. She recently finished her thirteenth solo ascent of Everest. This is her sixth novel in the past year; her first collection of self-illustrated poetry will be out in July."

Who ARE these people? WHERE did they buy their time-turners? And, while I'm asking questions with all caps, WHO THE HECK STUCK THIS EXTRA WEEK OF NO SCHOOL IN BETWEEN AUGUST AND SEPTEMBER???

I try. I do. I know people send their kids to play and shut the door and go write masterpieces. But I have to assume those people's children don't think up games like "Carry the Cat By Her Tail," "What Happens When Dry Erase Markers Get Really, Really Wet?" and the classic "Sit on Your Brother's Head Til He Screams." The only time my kids are silent enough for me to write without leaving one ear and some brain space available to monitor them is when they're up to something really naughty.

So today I planned myself some writing time with a playdate. That fell through. Child care? Nobody available. I planned a pool trip; at least I could jot down ideas while they played, right? We lotioned, got dressed, and biked down there. Immediately upon our arrival, someone else's kid vomited vast and chunky all over the shallow end. Pool closed indefinitely.

"Go play," I ordered when we got home. They went upstairs to play Harry Potter School. I opened Word. And it's broken. Won't start at all. I spent five minutes re-starting and swearing at it before the door to Tink's room opened.

TINK: Mom?
TINK: Mom?!
TINK: We need you to come be the werewolf!
JACQUI: No. I'm busy.
TINK: Please?
TINK: (runs down stairs) PLEEEEEEEASE? PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE? (dances circles around living room)
DESTRUCTO: (bounces down stairs) Pyeez pyeez pyeez. (spins in nauseating circles, narrowly avoiding every pointed edge in room)
JACQUI: Stop. No. Go away. Shoo! (holds laptop like shield)
TINK & DESTRUCTO: PLEEEEEESE! PYEEZ! TWO MINUTES! PLEEEEEEEEE -- (continues until blue in the face) -- SE!
JACQUI: (Deep breathes. Closes laptop. Weeps)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Taming of the Critter

Oh my. Tink and I had such big plans for Critter. Sunset walks on the beach, tickets to the symphony, late Sunday brunches with asparagus omelets...

But Critter? Critter was out of control. We tried to interest him in books, like some other bloggers did. We took him to our favorite places in Ann Arbor -- the downtown library...

... and Liberty Street Robot Supply & Repair.*

But Critter just kept trying to sneak into Pangea Piercing.

When they asked him for ID, he ran and hid behind one of Ann Arbor's many fairy doors.**

Eventually, the fairies delivered him back to my house with a note that said, "Never again." Tink and I felt bad for Critter. Maybe he just needed some coddling. We cooked him a healthy farmer's market dinner. He ignored it. He said he wasn't hungry. Then, later, we found this:

It was obvious to Tink and I: Critter needed finishing school. We got right to work. We set him up a strict behavior management system with Twizzler Bits as rewards.

We taught him to cook.

Tink gave him a more formal wardrobe. Finally, Critter was ready. Look, how lovely and peaceful he is now!

"Our work here is done," Tink said. And it's true. I don't know how long the pink lacy phase will last, though, so we have shipped Critter off with all due speed to Tina Ferraro, who writes young adult books, and is, thus, better able to take care of recalcitrant Critters. Apparently, Tina may be taking Critter to Las Vegas.

I hope he doesn't gamble away his new ballet slippers.

* which is the storefront for 826michigan and also where I work on Mondays and also the coolest store in town

** Yes, there are really fairy doors all over Ann Arbor. If you come, we will tour them and you will be all "Aww" and your kids will stand gape-mouthed and whisper, "I believe."

Friday, August 20, 2010

What is a Critter?!

Ian Sands seems like a very cool person. He makes public, interactive art in North Carolina. Like, his art is on the side of a bus. Or, you might be walking down near the water in and see this, that Ian made:

That would make me so happy. Someone did public art in the Huron River here in Ann Arbor, but it was all rusty wires and then it blew away in a tornado. Sad.

Anyway, Ian started a project called the Lost Critter project. He made a lot of Critters and then set them free...

Christy Evers is also a cool person. She writes books for kids. You may know her around Jacqui's Room as the eternally encouraging commenter C.R. Evers.

Now, somehow, Christy got a hold of a particularly cute Critter:

She is sending him all over the real world to visit children's writers. At the end of his travels, Christy is going to auction Critter off and donate the proceeds to charity (I told you she was nice).

And now, this week, Critter is in my house. I got him in a padded envelope along with the directions to "have fun" and a hint that Christy expected "mischief."

Mischief? Me? Stay tuned...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Working is in progress again

Remember when I was writing so hard that I had to stop blogging and write a poem about how hard I was writing?

This week, I don't even have time for a poem. It's good news: my agent loved all my new ideas and wants to see them all ASAHOIPOS.* And my agent is wise and I always do what she says. Also, she is a black belt and can beat me up. So no blogging for me for a few days.

That said, we have a visitor at our house this week. And, oh, the adventures we have had. Already, there has been dress-up and candy and a robot vs. objet d'art brawl.

Have you met Critter? You will...

* As Soon As Humanly Or Inhumanly Possible Or Sooner

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Living with your inner critic

You know that voice inside you? The one that says, "This is no good. You're never going to get it right. You may as well give up." Mine is strong and mean and persistent. It beats me up, and it also uses logic ("Does the world really NEED another book? You know who needs you? Your kids!"). And it doesn't just bug me while I write. As I've been training for this marathon, it's started in while I'm running. "You're never going to make it. You may as well stop. You're probably about to injure yourself. C'mon, slow down."

I hate it. I used to try to ignore it, or to get rid of it. But lately I've stopped.

I went for a run in LA with the amazing Sara Lewis Holmes, and we got to talking about the voice, both in running and in writing. Here's what we realized: it never goes away. You can win 15 National Book Awards and a Pulitzer, you can run 95 ultramarathons, you can be the most accomplished anything in the world. But the voice will still be there. Every time it gets hard, it will be there, feeding on your insecurity and trying to convince you to quit.

And then Sara said the wisest thing. She said maybe you have to learn to live with it, to say, "Oh, hello. I recognize you," and then to go on.

Earlier this week, I went running with Tink. She rides her bike alongside me and it's usually great. But this run, she was cranky. She started whining at the farthest away point and she screamed and kvetched at me for two miles. She was making me CRAZY. But the more I talked calmly back and kept running, the more ridiculous she got ("I am going to DIIIIIIIE!"). I could laugh at her. And of course, we made it. Now, when I am running and the voice starts in, I just pretend it's Tink kvetching. And I go on.

I am about to start a new book, and I know soon thereafter the voice will start. But I'm not going to ignore it. I'm going to say, "Oh, hello. I recognize you." Because I am less nice than Sara, I will probably add "You stupid voice."

And then I will go back to writing.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Why my children have no hope of being normal...

Part 357: the omen

...because I promised Tink we could do "Harry Potter camp," just she and I, this week. Today is Potions. I printed up a simple baking soda and water recipe in a fancy font and labeled it "Revealo Totalum." I told Tink we were going to learn a simple potion that you paint on a plain piece of paper to reveal secret messages, or the future.

Then last night, I snuck downstairs, took the "plain piece of paper" and, in vinegar, wrote "THE DARK LORD RISES! BEWARE! BE NICE TO YOUR MOTHER!"

Heh heh heh.

Monday, August 9, 2010

This week, we are obsessed with...

(books you should read)

1. Once Upon a Time, The End (Asleep in 60 Seconds)
by Geoffrey Kloske, illus. Barry Blitt

For any parent whose kid ever insisted on "One more story!" ten million times until you were left exhausted and skipping entire pages and telling stories like, "Once upon a time a kid wouldn't stop asking for stories and his mother went INSANE. The end."

Includes such classics as The Two Little Pigs and (my favorite) The Princess and the Pea ("Is there a pea in your bed? No? Then what's your excuse? Go to sleep."). Hilarity.

2. Iggie's House, by Judy Blume

Winnie's best friend Iggie moved away, leaving Winnie miserable. When the Garber family moved in with three kids, Winnie was thrilled. But the Garbers were the first black family in the neighborhood and not everyone was as thrilled as Winnie to have them there.

From the publisher: Winnie, a welcoming committee of one, set out to make a good impression and be a good neighbor. That's why the trouble started. Glenn and Herbie and Tina didn't want a "good neighbor." They wanted a friend.

This book was first published in the 70s and re-released in 2002 with this new cover (which Tink & I both I hate, though we can't articulate why; I think it's because the kids look so happy, which they are definitely not in the book). It feels a little dated (I had to explain to Tink what "Negro" meant). But what is both amazing about Judy Blume (and terribly depressing about the world) is how not dated it is. The awkward way Winnie and the Garbers learn to make friends with each other as individuals and not representatives of their respective races, Winnie's ignorance, and the thinly-veiled excuses Winnie's neighbors give for not wanting the Garbers around could easily have been written this year.

3. Cool dates. As in, today is 8.9.10. We will definitely be having a dance party tonight at 6:07. Who's in?