Monday, May 31, 2010

Oh my poor neglected blog

A week since my last post!? I'm really dropping the ball here. Sigh. Remembering the *old days* when Clementine was a newborn and I could blog with her asleep in my lap. Not anymore!

Time is at such a premium these days. I've set a schedule for myself for the book in progress, and it's fairly grueling, but I'm really excited about it too. The trick this summer will be to make plenty of time for doing fun stuff too. Jim and I have always had a difficult balance with life and work, and it's always been at its worst in summer, which is unfair. We would have grand plans for camping and such, and then one of us would always seem to get a deadline that meant workworkwork. And so we've done woefully little camping and exploring in our adopted state of Oregon, where we have now been for more than 9 years. We haven't even been to Crater Lake, for goodness sake!

And then there are the little summer things, like berry-picking on Sauvie Island, the zoo concert series, Saturday Market, trips to the beach, the river, farmer's market, and just sitting at some cafe patio somewhere drinking something, and you know, all that good stuff. I want to make a list of things to not neglect to do this summer. It's Clementine's first summer, and though she won't remember it, I want it to be full of loveliness.

I read a great retweet the other day, which originated from one of my very favorite artists, Dave McKean, who has a visual imagination like no one else on this planet. The tweet was his New Year's resolution, and it was:

"More unequivocal days, that is: WORK days and PLAY days, not guilty play days and distracted work days."

Yes. Yiss yiss yiss. That. Only, in my case it will be unequivocal hours, not whole days. My writing times are: the morning from about 8:30 to about 12:30, and then after Clementine goes to bed in the evening, which tonight was a disastrously late 10 pm! I don't know what happened there. She just didn't want to sleep. Not the usual. But anyway, just this past week I started trying out the cafe nearest my house for writing in the mornings, and it's going well.

I've never been a big cafe writer, because people are noisy! How DARE they go to cafes and TALK? Don't they know writers are at work? Ha ha. I bottle that outrage and keep it to myself :-) But the good thing about this particular cafe, aside from it being only a few blocks away, is that it is plain and small and quiet -- not hip or exciting or especially delicious. There's not much to get distracted by. Well, the other day three women were gossiping about their fellow Girl Scout leaders, and that was a pain, but I drowned them out with my ipod (I was listening to Vas, which is great moody ambient stuff, perfect for the atmosphere of my book).

I do have a writing room at home, and it seems a shame to go spend money on coffee every day, but if I stay home I end up getting sucked into the cuteness of Jim and Clementine. It's inevitable. The tractor beam of cuteness. So: the cafe. Onward, book!

So, those were some unequivocal WORK hours last week. Here are some PLAY hours. Jim and Clementine and I went to this newish restaurant called Slappycakes where the tables have pancakes griddles in the middle and you make your own. It was totally fun! My favorite was the peanut butter-butterscotch chip concoction :-)

A funky mural on Belmont:

Also, we went to a pizza-grilling party at our friends' house yesterday -- Matt Holm, illustrator of the fabulous Baby Mouse, and his wife Cyndi, who makes wine and all manner of cool crafty things, including a pink wig for Clementine when she was a newborn! -- and Matt had made, get this, homemade mozzarella. And it was totally good! Who makes their own cheese??? Show-offs, that's who! Ha ha, just kidding. He also made the pizza dough, which was great. I made something too: a tres leches cake, thank you Martha Stewart. I'd never made that cake before. Have you? It's a super simple cake, and then right after you take it out of the oven, you pierce it all over with a skewer and then slowly pour this milk mixture over it: whole milk, evaporated milk, and sweetened condensed milk, so the cake gets all spongy and saturated. I was skeptical that it would absorb so much milk, but it did. And then top with fresh whip cream + fruit. It was really good, but you know, we had a little bit and left it at the party, and I kind of wanted more, so today I made another one. Oink oink.

Shoot. It's 11 pm already. I'd better get my bones back to work!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What I've been doing lately

So what's been up around here lately? Oh, stuff.

-Non-stop rain, for one thing. What is this, the Pacific Northwest?

-I got my hair re-pinked yesterday, and was told afterward, while ordering plantain burritos, that I had "the most perfectly dyed hair" that the counter girl had ever seen. Why, thank you very much :-)

-I saw a movie on the weekend with one of my Portland writer friends, Bridget Zinn -- Letters From Juliet, which stays in your head for about as long as it takes gelato to melt on a hot day. Of the various romantic interests in the film, I thought the 70-year-old Italian, Franco Nero, was the hottest. Here he is at not-70:

-We've been chasing the "portable mess-maker" that is crawling Clementine. Wow! The world is made of things to grab. (Actually, right this MOMENT she is discovering the stairs for the first time. Yow! Don't worry - I'm not just sitting here watching her climb up stairs. Well, okay, I am, but Jim is with her!)
Doesn't she look totally fierce here? Like a little lion guarding her prey, ha ha!

-We had dinner last week with another Portland writer friend, Suzanne Young, at their totally cool new house, which is a geodesic dome in the woods.

-I've been reading Marie Rutkoski's The Celestial Globe, the sequel to The Cabinet of Wonders. Both are wonderful middle-grade adventures set in Bohemia, London, and other exotic locales. Reading is slow-going these days, since the reading-while-nursing days are over, sigh.

-I have collected a stack of library books on siege warfare, but haven't breached them yet. That's my *assignment* for the next little while. Wouldn't it be great to go back to college and take a bunch of awesome history classes? Well, you know: not for a grade. I wouldn't have to write the papers, I'd just sit in on the lectures, do the reading. Maybe some day I will. I didn't get to take enough history classes in college. I got churned out of there in four years -- that's just not enough time!

-I have eaten approximately 2-1/2 mango tango donuts from Voodoo :-), while sharing the other 1-1/2 with Jim, because that's the kind of wife I am. (Hm. I suppose a really good wife would have shared 50/50, wouldn't she? It's okay. Jim is a health nut. That's a lot of donut for him!)

-I got a wonderful fan letter yesterday from a 6th grader in Florida, who told me that as soon as she finished reading Blackbringer, she flipped to the beginning and began again. I LOVE that, because when I really love a book, I do the same thing. (*love*)

-Did I tell you? I found out [from the translator] that Lips Touch sold Indonesian rights. So cool! It will be my first Asian edition. Yippeeeee!

-I have been writing my new book, for which I am filled with love.

-And I have mostly been occupied with something else I will tell you about soon. Soon. (And no, I'm not pregnant -- funny how that's always the first thing people think! Speaking of, though, did you hear that Shannon Hale is going to have twins???)

Have a happy day!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Today . . .

Today . . . . . . is a good day.


Monday, May 17, 2010

Clementine, Crawling and Purring

Oh man. :-)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Super Random Joke :-)

I'm not a real jokey person, mostly because I can't remember jokes or tell them well, but heck, even I can type a joke. This is so random, I totally love it.

* * *

Every year, Joe takes a week during summer to relax at his friend's cabin in the Maine woods. One night after he's just arrived, he's sitting in the cabin when he hears a knock at the door. He opens the door and doesn't see anything--until he looks down. On the wooden porch he sees a small snail. Annoyed, he picks up the snail and throws it as far as he can.

Three years later, Joe is back in the cabin for another summer retreat. There's a knock on the door. He opens it and sees nothing, then remembers. He looks down--and there's the same snail!

The snail says: "What the hell was that all about?"

* * *

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA...HAHAHAHA! *gasp sputter* ha ha ha. Seriously. Love it. Love the random.

Happy Sunday! Ours if off to a terrific start with the neighbor weed-whacking directly under the window while Clementine was trying to take her morning nap. And this after she mowed and whacked two days ago. ARG! Oh, and it's raining, after a few days of fabulous sun, so there's that. But I have to be indoors working anyway, so who cares.


Friday, May 14, 2010

New Laini's Ladies

As I hunker down to a new batch of Laini's Ladies, it occurred to me that I probably didn't show you the last batch, which are available now HERE.

"When I have a little money, I buy books. If I have any left over, I buy food and clothes." - Erasmus

"There is nothing better than a friend . . . unless it is a friend with chocolate." - Charles Dickens

"You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough." - Mae West

"Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life." - Berthold Auerbach

I also didn't show you the baby announcement illustration I did last month for my dear friends in Amsterdam:
(the canal houses and tulips = Amsterdam; the cats are their cats; and the rocket ship - The Stork! - and robot in the background are at the request of the dad :-) I had so much fun doing this, and I'm so happy Fletcher is in the world. Yay, babies!

The weather got suddenly gorgeous in Portland yesterday, which diminished my productivity considerably. Those of you who live in year-around sun, how do you get anything done? Do you just get used to it? Hm. I know that when Jim and I moved here in the dead of a particularly wet and grey winter, we discovered the huge benefit to creativity that nasty weather brings. We stayed inside our first few months, and developed work habits that have stayed with us. But yesterday was so pretty! We walked to our favorite Thai place for take-out and then went to the park with pad Thai, dumplings, fresh spring rolls, a tupperware of watermelon chunks, and some chocolate-covered coconut shortbread (from my sister). Clementine watched the bigger kids race around the playground, and she got to go in the bucket swing, and she crawled in the grass.


Suddenly she's crawling. Yikes! It's so cute. Then, back home and thinking to get some work done maybe, the phone rang and it was my best friend beckoning me out again, and I gave in easily and so did Jim, and we all went back to Mississippi Avenue for more pineapple ginger ale floats. So there went the afternoon. Here's the food cart:
So pink! And their sign:

And then by evening, Clementine was saying, "Bedtime? What is this "bedtime" you speak of?" and so it wasn't until around 9 pm that I got around to doing a little work. You can imagine how inspired I was. (Actually, I had done a couple of hours of writing in the morning! I vowed to do it no matter what else is going on in a day, and so far I haven't broken that vow.)

Today: more wonderful distractions loom. So I'd better get that couple of hours of writing in now. Laini's Ladies, see you tonight, probably around 9 pm again. Ha!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Clementine at Nine Months + My First Mother's Day!

Somehow it's been nine months already. Astonishing. And yet, in a way it feels like it's been longer than that. Memories of Clementine's newborn tininess are fading. Today I was holding her sideways across my body and I caught sight of us in the mirror and she seemed gigantic. She's grown so much, and every day now brings new developments. The motorcycle mouth sound (brrrrrffffffvvvvvvvv), like little boys make playing cars; the squiggling becomes a commando-crawl; maniac sleep rolling, so she covers the surface of the bed; feeding me tastes of her dinner; fake-coughing, and then laughing at herself; total resistance to the changing table, for some reason . . . and so many little things, minute by minute.

It scares me that my memories of the past nine months are not crisp and in order, like the pages of an album. I want to remember everything, but what I'm finding is that new memories are overwriting old ones. Details blur. Photos help, and I started belatedly keeping a little journal of landmarks -- wish I'd done that from the beginning. I feel this mania to record it all, like it's the most important thing in the universe, but I just can't get my act together. Sometimes there's not enough time to both live the days and record them, alas, in which case one must choose to live them, and hope to remember.

Speaking of recording things, my blog has hit a slow patch. You may have noticed that I haven't updated much, and that when I have it's either WRITING or CLEMENTINE. Well, yeah. Pretty much. Add Jim in there, with some friends, some walks, and a smattering of cake, and that's life these days. (Mm. Cake.) I cruise around (occasionally) to blogs and I feel this thing I've felt ever since I started blogging (and before, but more clearly since blogging), and that is a frantic desire to DO EVERYTHING. To fit six or seven lives into my one life, not end to end, but side by side. I want to have the hiking/outdoors life, the arts and crafts life, the beautiful lifestyle/decorating life, the garden life, the thoughtful book reviewer life, etc etc. I envision my blog a certain dreamy way that I don't have time for, and that means I guess that I envision my life a certain dreamy way that I don't have time for.

Choices, dagnabbit. I could take a sewing class and make adorable baby dresses, or I could work on my book. I could go garden-crazy and make a great play/lounge space for summer (and I reallyreally want to!!!) or I could work on my book. It goes on like that. Life has gone fairly narrow right now, which doesn't mean it isn't incredibly rich. The more the river narrows, the more powerful the current. True of rivers, and maybe-sometimes true of life? Can't let it narrow too much though.

One of the great things about having a child is that it makes me see each moment and day as precious for Clementine's sake. If it were only Jim and me, we would go on in our routine of working all day and evening, and not getting out and moving in the world. We would put off that whole "living" thing in favor of working, like life is going to start at some later date, once we're "ready". But for Clementine, we want to build a beautiful childhood with hikes and geese and playmates and toes in the grass and all the wonders that are out there, so we do stuff. Stuff!

On Mother's Day we got out for a little bit and discovered a fun new place to eat, and we walked in the sun and bought gigantic flowers, and we shared a pineapple float that was ridiculously good!

In Portland, food carts are kind of a big deal. We don't go to them much, because we never think of it, but the other day we drove past a cute-looking court of food carts on upper Mississippi Ave, and we needed a snack on Mother's Day to tide us over until dinner with my parents, so we went there. And oh my. So. Good. We chose this one nondescript silver trailer (Garden State) because of a good-sounding sandwich (chicken and cured lemons with goat cheese and asparagus! Cured lemons were the kicker. So good!), and it was DELICIOUS, and we found out after that this cart had won the Willamette Week's "Carty Award" last month for overall tastiness. If you're a Portlander, go by and try this sandwich, though they're more famous for the chickpea-cake sandwich, which looked awesome too. After that we had a pineapple float from the "Sugar Cube" cart = pineapple ice cream + house-made ginger syrup + ginger ale. It was perfect on a warm day. I will go back just for that. Seriously.

And to make this an even more perfect lunch spot: it backs up to the sunny beer garden of the German restaurant Prost, who invite you to bring in your food, so long as you buy their drinks. Done and done.

Here's me with my girl on my first Mother's Day:
The three of us strolled around, bought giant peonies, got coffee, loved our city, loved each other, and then stopped at the Pastaworks deli to buy an assortment of salamis to bring along with fig & anise rolls to my parents' house. It was kind of silly: we made the girl shave us off a couple of meager slices of a bunch of different salamis. (There are a lot of kinds of salami.) She endured good-naturedly.

Somebody slept through the whole thing:

Later, lolling and opening presents (so many presents! Like a birthday. I was seriously spoiled!) and playing with the cats at my parents' house. Here is Clementine offering coconut marshmallows to Bea:
And meeting my mom's tortoise, who is the most *loving* tortoise you will ever meet:
And, my sweeties in mom's garden:

And a couple of recent shots, marking time:

Clementine at nine months, you are our delight. Beautiful and hilarious, determined, sunny, silk-soft, sweet-smelling, and endlessly fascinating, I have not experienced a moment's frustration with you in nine entire months. Even when you're crabby, which is rare, I feel only tenderness and a desire to make you un-crabby again, to which end I will do preposterous dances, invent silly songs, nibble your toes, run for the Cheerios, or just show you yourself in the mirror. Even you can't look at your adorableness and stay crabby!

Welcome, last week, to tooth #3, and to the first hints of sleep-resistance (joy!). You are revving up to crawl in earnest. You aren't quite doing it yet, but you are locomoting in your own squirmy, determined way. The best bait to lure you to crawl? Library books, new ones with crisp crinkly wrappers. Ah, the crinkle! Favorite foods? Steamed carrots, hummus, pear, guacamole. And you were a fan of the pineapple ice cream float!

This next month will bring even more and faster changes, I think. Whatever they are, I'm sure they will be even more fun that what came before them. I love you.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Writing about writing, and then ... driving to Seattle again!

So I'm giving a talk tonight to the Writing For Children program at University of Washington. Spoke to them last year too and what an awesome class! Since it's all new students this time, the teacher had invited me to reprise my same talk, which seemed like a sound plan to me. It's time-consuming, after all, to prepare these things. So last night I opened the file to go over it quickly in preparation . . . and, um, oops.

See, it's highly likely that everyone in this class will have JUST heard me speak (maybe twice) at the SCBWI conference in Seattle -- same small community -- and there was a lot of repetition in this talk. So. Last night I prepared a NEW talk. Ha ha! This one is called "Filling Up the Book" and is an offshoot of my Plot talk, focused on: how to fill up an entire book with things happening. Because I totally remember my high school and college writings and strivings, and how much staring at blank pages I did then, while the vasty twilight wasteland of the unwritten book spread out before me, taunting me to fill it. And I didn't and couldn't and didn't and couldn't, and then finally (in my 30s) I rolled up my sleeves and did and could. And now I have tricks and methods and that vasty twilight wasteland is my playground, mwahahahahahahaha!

So, onward to Seattle! And yes, a 3-ish hour drive (each way) for a 1-ish hour talk. Sigh. I'm a patsy. But after this I go into total writerly hibernation to put my theories into nonstop practice. I've been on a good regimen these past couple of weeks of writing EVERY DAY no matter what, at least for an hour, to keep my head in it and not forget what's going on. I hate that, when I stop for too long, and I am NOT GOING TO DO IT ANYMORE!

Have a great day, all!