Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Lolita Effect at Ello's - Bloggy Announcement!!!!

My beautiful bloggy friend, Ello is hosting a blog event that’s a must participate post for any and all parents of daughters... actually, it should be of interest to any parent (as boys will likely be effected by this at some point) and I think really this is just a human issue, everyone’s created the problem, so everyone should take a good look at it.

On Wednesday, May 28, 2008, Ello will be posting a review of the book The Lolita Effect by M. Gigi Durham, PH.D seen below:

Not only a review though, dear friends, Dr. Durham will be there to answer questions and discuss issues that concern us. I haven’t read the book yet, though I think after this it will be on the top of my TBR list – you don’t have to have read it yet to participate...

For me, this has been an issue since my daughter was in 2nd grade, and it’s getting worse as she gets older. My daughter is tall for her age, always has been. So by the age of eight, she was in size ten clothes because that’s how tall she was... well, those of you without daughters this age may not be aware, but size ten seems to be where clothing manufacturers decide to hoochiefy the selection.

All of the sudden, I couldn’t find a pair of pants that actually covered her little baby bum. Seriously, why does a kid who doesn’t have hips yet, need hip hugger jeans. That’s not all my friends, no that’s not all. I actually had to start buying little diva low riser underwear. I hate this, I really do. But when I buy her the cute flowery bloomers a kid that age should be wearing, you can see three inches of them above her pants anytime she bends over. I’ve combated this in a myriad of ways, the latest of which is buying those babydoll tops that come down past her butt – it still doesn’t solve the jeans problem, but at least she doesn’t look like a mini exhibitionist.

When my daughter made her Communion, we went together to buy her new shoes and a dress and the veil... this is special mother daughter time and I really thought, being that the selection should be primary to kids who are only eight, that the whole avoid the risqué clothes thing wouldn’t be an issue... it still was. Little one also has big feet for a kid her age. I pictured cute, white little mary jane shoes with lacy bobby socks... umn, they actually had white stilletto’s with CLEAR heels in the same section... and yes, in her size, a 3 at the time... Come on!!! Seriously, are there parents out there buying these... are there daughters strippers in training? What’s the deal?

The upshot is, my daughter doesn’t, in fourth grade, dress like the cool kids. I’ll bring her to the shops she likes for special occasions, but I refuse to spend fifty dollars on a pair of boots she’ll grow out of in six months, which are not right for the elements anyway. I refuse to get her any article of clothing that doesn’t cover her midsection, except for a bathing suit... I’m not such a prude that I mind my daughter wearing a two piece so long as it’s age appropriate (and there are some)

She doesn’t complain about it too much, but she does see the difference. I only wish it could’ve waited, the whole, ‘I need the cool clothes to fit in’ thing, until she was at least a bit older than 8.

There are other issues besides clothing that will be discussed at Ello’s. Self esteem and the way a girl starts to see herself at a young age will be paramount, I’m sure. I hope you’ll all be there to check it out and add your thoughts.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A Novel Contest

The following conversation takes place in the comments section of the Stupendously Nice Agent’s Blog, who’s graciously offered up his time to host yet another contest for the benefit of his readers.

The Coolest Writer Ever: Wow! You are the nicest guy ever and I love your blog. You are at the tip top of my must query agents list....

(Insert self described brilliance that is my entry)

Newbie Learning: What a great opportunity. I’ll try my hand at this. Best of luck to all of the entrants.

(Insert carefully written entry here)

Joe Writer: Cool, thanks for hosting!

(Insert entry here)

Been There Done That: Great contest. So far, I like Joe Writer’s entry best, but Newbie’s shows a lot of promise... can’t wait to read all the entries.

(Insert awesome entry here)

Over 150 entries with various degrees of proficiency follow. Some with lovely notes of gratitude, others with comments and kudos to other entrants.

The Coolest Writer Ever: Stupendously Nice Agent Guy, Not to complain or anything, but many of these entrants have not adhered to the rules of this contest... and some of the anonymous ones are posting second and third entries – I can tell because I’m brilliant and their writing style is obvious. I think you should disqualify the ones not playing fair... notice that I played fair, I did, I did...

(The Coolest Writer Ever) now posting as Anonymouse: Yeah! I agree with The Coolest up there! We put a lot of time and energy into following the rules. You should delete all the people who didn’t! If you’re not going to run a fair contest it doesn’t bode well for your reputation as a professional.

Stupendously Nice Agent: Okay, let’s all settle down. This is really just a fun blog exercise.

Many more entries mount and the final count ends at about a bazillion... give or take, discounting the anonymous sniping in comments, as other anonymice have followed suit as trolls are apt to do when they smell blood in the blog queue.

The Major Cool Finalists for the Awesomely Fabulous Contest are announced

Comments add up with various blog followers and contestants alike, voting for their favorites and generally thanking the host with bloggy jokes and kudos for all... and then...

(The Coolest Writer Ever) still posting as Anonymouse: Well, forgive me for being the lone voice of reason, but half of these finalists didn’t follow the rules. One used cliché imagery and another couldn’t master proper English. I saw many entries that were far better written than these... take for instance, The Coolest Writer Ever’s – now hers was well done. I think this contest is crap.

Joe Writer: Hey, Anon, take it easy. It was just a contest and no one twisted your arm to play. Personally, I want to thank Stupendously Nice Agent for taking the time to host.

(The Coolest Writer Ever) still Anon: Joe Writer, nobody asked you and you’re just a suck up anyway! So there!

Anonymous (this one a miscellaneous troll who just likes the drama): I AGREE WITH THE FIRST ANONYMOUS!!! “It was just a contest...” – It might’ve been just a contest, but the prize was world domination! You can’t flaunt that under our desperate attention seeking noses and not expect a little argument when the contest wasn’t fair!

(sulks back into corner and sends off another two thousand form queries in the hopes of selling his major masterpiece that hasn’t yet been written but some ‘professional’ out there must certainly realize his brilliance...)

Stupendously Nice Agent: Sorry for the trouble all. I was just trying to be nice, but I’m getting a little tired of putting in thousands of hours of spare time only to be denigrated by people I’m trying to help. I think that’s it for the contests.

Disclaimer and Explanation: This little parody is in response to Precie’s Novelty contest. To add insult to injury, I went over her word count – so, Ha!

I hope the Stupendously Awesome Agent whose blog contest I used as inspiration does not take offense. The truth is, I think the agents who take their time to blog and discuss the ins and outs of their end of the business are more awesome than words can say. There has never been a better time to learn the craft of writing, and it’s because they are taking time out of their very busy schedules to put information out there that we never would have had prior to hitting publication before.

For those of you anonymice stopping by to read this – it may not matter to you, but you’re ruining it for everyone else. I don’t know if you believe in karma, my friend, but you do reap what you sow... and even if you don’t believe that, use enough common sense to realize that you can’t learn anything when you think you’re always right.

That concludes my parody for today... Hope you all enjoyed it.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Poetic Mystery

Once upon a time, I was paging through my mother’s photo album. Not the, we-are-a-family-all-about-my-children-type-photo-album, mind you, this was her real memory book; the one from before she had kids, the one with the cool pictures of a very young, sassy thing who sported the first ducktail haircut in her high school.

There, in the pages, was a folded piece of paper with a poem inside. She did not write the poem – I know this because at the bottom she’d written “Author Unknown”... I love this poem... absolutely love it. I loved it from the first moment I read it, back when I was about sixteen and when she recently brought me over a typed copy to have, remembering how much I liked it, I read it again... I still love it.

So, where did it come from? Well, now that’s the question that’s bugging me. So I thought I’d put it up here to see if any of you wonderful, and well-read bloggers might be able to point me in the right direction toward finding the author. My mother originally found the poem in a magazine (she can’t remember which one) back in the late fifties or very early sixties. According to that article, the poem was on a plaque at the entranceway to a boys’ reformatory.

The Clock

I swear that I ain’t stirbugs, Doc,
But in my dreams, I see a clock;
Bigger’n all the world, it seems,
The clock I see, in all my dreams.

‘N fightin’ the hands, I always see,
The little kid I usta be,
‘N hear the kid I once was, cry,
“Turn back! Turn back, before I die!”

‘N scream, ‘n scream, but no one’s there,
‘Cause those who shoulda, didn’t care.

Ya know, Doc, good kids don’t just grow,
It takes some decent folks to show
A kid just what he’s gotta be,
To fit into society.

‘N as a kid, I never had
No one to show me good from bad,
Exceptin’ other kids who thought
That bad meant only getting’ caught.

So I went bad ‘cause no one good,
Looked at a kid, ‘n understood.
I’ll tell ya, no one wants to be,
A menace, to society.

There ain’t a guy inside this pen,
Who wouldn’t like to start again,
And keep the kid he usta be,
From bein’ a case history.

But that’s just wishful thinkin’, Doc,
You never can turn back the clock.

I hope you guys enjoyed it as much as I do. If you happen to recognize it and know who the author is or where it came from, I’d love to know... Or if you’ve got any good ideas on how to find out, that would be great, too.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Various things for Aerin

I’ve been tagged by the lovely Aerin to tell you all some various things.... okay, so here goes:

1. The rules of the game get posted at the beginning (like this).
2. Each player answers the questions about themselves (if they can).
3. At the end of the post, the player tags 5-6 people and posts their links, and then leaves them a comment, yada, yada – I’m skipping this one. If you’d like to play feel free to take the meme as your own, and drop me a comment so I know to visit.
4. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer (and link love is always appreciated)

A Meme about Various Things

What were you doing ten years ago?

Summer of 1998... I had just completed my first year of marriage (I say that the way most people talk about completing prison time... la, la, la). I had just turned twenty five, we bought our first home (which we still live in) and it was my first summer as a stay at home mom... it was a big change year for me... my daughter was well under a year old at the time, so we didn’t do much of the summer/swimming fun stuff that’s become part and parcel of the season for us over the years... I think I was pretty much just getting my bearings at the time.

What were five things on your ‘to-do’ list for today (in no particular order):

1. Littlest guy’s baseball game... (He’s a Cub! Huzzah!)
2. Bring snacks for all the kids on the team (I was snack mom today)
3. Catch with oldest, as she wanted some practice for softball.
4. Work on a few revisions... and I got in a few pages on new wip
5. Can I include cleaning/dishes/laundry/and feeding the family all as one line item – they have to get done daily and five things is a little light for my daily to-do’s.

What are some snacks you enjoy?

Oy, this could be a long list... it depends on my mood...
- yogurt (I’m loving the strawberry cheesecake kind lately, and keylime pie’s always good)
- Guacamole (I know it’s fattening but I do like it)
- Salsa and chips
- Cheese and crackers
- Fresh fruit – watermelon, strawberries, honeydew, cantaloupe, grapes... pretty much anything citrus... mmm... I hate cutting it all up, but I love having it with breakfast or after dinner...

What would you do if you were a billionaire?

Selfish wants.... hmmm.... okay, I love my neighborhood and all my neighbors are awesome, but I’d love a house with a full, renovated basement – preferably one with a kitchen, where we could have family parties and such. I’d also love a bigger regular kitchen with more counterspace because I actually like to cook and bake and could use the room... oh, and my own office and library would be heavenly.

After all of those basics, I’d like to take the family on one nice vacation a year and set up good size trust funds for each of my kids so they wouldn’t have to worry about college or starting out stuff... no college loans to pay off or saving for years to be able to put money down on their first homes... heavenly, I just hope that wouldn’t make them so spoiled that I would be forced to make fun of them.

Otherwise, I don’t have a lot of selfish wants... I might splurge on travel as there are some places I’d like to see, and it would be absolute heaven to never have to worry about income and keep writing to my hearts content... but I can live without all of that, and likely will.

I’d also be a sucker for an enormous amount of charity and would use some of the time that I’d never have to spend working for money to volunteer somewhere where it would be appreciated and needed.

What are three of your bad habits
1. My motto should be, “I’ll procrastinate tomorrow”... seriously detrimental.
2. I am completely disorganized in every area of my life except my writing... odd huh? My manuscript is in order at all phases of the writing process and I update my query/agent research every time I run across something new or anything needs to be noted... my house and schedule on the other hand... well, I never miss anything for the kids but I’m often running around like a nut trying to play catch up because I forgot middle one’s little show thingie was on the same night as oldest’s chorus party... stuff like that keeps me hopping... and my bills are more often in a pile than organized at all.
3. I live in my head... this is actually a plus for the writing facet of my personality, but it’s a detraction to all of the normal people around me... Before the kids I was very social, but my social life has revolved primarily around them for the last ten years and I find myself more daydreamy now than I was in high school.. which amuses me, but annoys a lot of the people vying for my attention at times.

Five places you have lived:

Sorry guys, can’t really answer this one. I’ve always lived in Chicago or the chicagoland area... I could list five towns/neighborhoods, but I don’t really want to draw a roadmap to my house in an online venue

Five jobs you have had:

1. Waitress
2. Receptionist
3. Executive Assistant (really a secretary but the fancy title kept me from asking for a raise... )
4. Stay at Home Mom (should include combat pay, but I’ll digress)
5. Freelance writer (mostly web content business writing)

Last five books you’ve read:

1. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer – I’m currently reading this one and loving it... I know I’m a little late to the party, but I’m glad I finally picked it up.
2. Girls In Trucks by Katie Crouch
3. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café Really late to that party, it was on my to be read list for a very long time and I adored it.
4. Atonement Yeah, I know, I’m like years behind the trends... that’s because my to be read pile is so flippin huge... wait – Girls in Trucks was a newer release... there, ha.
5. Diary of a Whimpy Kid - I stole this one from my daughter, it’s all the rage among fourth and fifth graders, and it’s really pretty good.

Ello added another great category, so I’m taking her lead... Five movie quotes I love, points for you if you can guess which movie they’re from. Granted, the points aren’t worth anything but bloggy bragging rights, but still a fun game for all.

1. “Candy-gram for Mongo.” - this movie is intensely quotable, I also like:
“I didn’t get a hurrumph outta you!”
“Hurrumph, hurrumph”
“Watch your ass...”

2. “You'll slap me? You slap me in a dream, you better wake up and apologize.” – Okay, this one’s a real toughie unless you’re a big time old movie buff... I’ll give you a second quote from the same picture to help your odds a little
“Let’s go and say a prayer for the boy who couldn’t run as fast as I could...”

3. “You know, for all that pirates are clever-called, we are an unimaginative lot when it comes to naming things”
“I once sailed with a geezer lost both his arms and part of his eye.”
“What did you call him?”

4. “Leave the gun, take the cannoli.”

5. “What is the matter with you? I thought Mothers were sweet and nice and patient. I know loan sharks who are more forgiving than you. Your husband ain't dead, lady. He's hiding.” (that’s from one of my favorite Christmas movies...)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

First Page Critique - Revisited

First, I'd like to apologize for the scant number of blog posts and lack of visiting I've been doing... If it makes you all feel any better, I've been using my computer time on writing - I'm hustling through some revisions that I think are really an improvement to the novel (don't you hate when you think you're done and then figure out you're really not?)

Besides the first page I'll be posting below, I've also been working on something new. I hadn't intended to, actually. I intended to take this time to work on shorts and leisurely read, and then start researching my next middle grade novel (which is still on the horizon, just pushed back a bit)... but this idea fell into my head and keeps fleshing itself out, so I'm running with it... maybe it'll be a big burst that goes nowhere, maybe it'll become something great. I'll have to follow it to see a bit better, but that's what's been taking my time lately, so I apologize for the absence, bear with me while I get my creative imps under control... okay, I likely won't control them, I like them when they run amok... but I'll try to stop in more often in any case.

Some lovely writers and readers participated in my first page critique a few posts ago, and gave me great feedback on Marigold Mourning, which I've put to some use. Nearing the end of the comments section there, I said I'd post the revision when it's done... this is actually a bit longer than a page now, but I'll post the whole. Same rules apply. Would you keep reading? Would you stop, where, and why?

Marigold's First Page and a bit more:

Marigold stopped short at the sight of the tulips standing upright against her screen door. She never heard the gate squeak open. She’d only been to the alley and back. It couldn’t have taken her more than a minute. Maybe she wouldn’t have heard it from the alley, though. Her scant blond eyebrows drew together above a small pug nose. Where did the flowers come from?

She brushed straying locks back into her ponytail and turned to look at the open yard. There was no one there. Not a shadow. Not a sound. Whoever left them had to be lightning quick to place the bouquet all the way up on her step and leave without her noticing.

Her gaze fell on the open back door as a sudden chill ran up her arms – a prickling sensation that raised the fine hairs all the way up to her neck. Should she check the house? Maybe she should run to a neighbor’s.

“The hell with that,” she thought, “it’s my friggin’ house!”

As she maneuvered up the porch steps, each creak of the wood sent her top teeth a bit further into her bottom lip. She peered in through the window, the bright kitchen lighting made dreary in contrast to the August sunlight outside.

Grabbing the flowers, she searched for a card of some sort, knowing there wouldn’t be one – there never was. The stems were wrapped in lavender ribbon, and she tapped them against her palm, as she paced back and forth over the small porch.

“I’m being silly,” she thought, still pacing, “Too many of Kay’s admonishments to lock the doors and windows... young girl in the big city, blah, blah.”

She looked skyward, as if she might reprimand her sister through the paint chipped boards of the house’s overhang.

“I’m a big girl now. Besides, boogiemen leave creepy things, not fresh flowers.” She said it aloud to prove her point.

Marigold held her breath and opened the door. She plunged into her kitchen in a reckless clatter, as if the noise of her arrival might scare any intruder away. She shoved the flowers into the garbage and grabbed the phone off the counter, hoping her dialing finger would be quicker at nine-one-one than an intruder’s machete arm might be.

“Haaaaaaa!” she yelled, holding the phone over her head as she whipped open the closet door.

After making sure there was nothing more insidious than outdated clothes hanging there, and wondering why she ever thought she could wear orange, she continued her rampage. Marigold shoved back curtains without reservation and mangled innocent boxes under her bed with a broom handle. At the end of her mad dash, she wound up in the kitchen, chest heaving in exhaustion and, perhaps, a bit of pride when the ringing doorbell made her shriek like a little kid on a scary ride at Disney land.

Okie, dokie... feel free to comment, critique, and generally skewer.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Mothering (for Precie's contest)

The Lovely Precie has challenged me to write a mothering story. Well she’s challenged everyone, actually, there’s a contest up on her blog – deadline is tomorrow, and there are beloved booksies as prizes... anyway, I’ve been putting it off because motherhood as a topic can go in so many different directions and I’ve drawn a blank... plus, I’ve been sick *cough, cough, whine, whine* so, you know, I plead pity to all of the bloggy stuff I’ve been putting off – such as the final revisions on the first page I posted last week.

Mother’s Day, for me, is anything but a day off. Both of my sons have May birthdays, five days (and two years) apart, and they always fall right around Mother’s Day – usually one on either side, but occasionally one of their birthday’s will actually fall on the date. The wind up is, Mother’s Day becomes a joint celebration for their birthdays and Mother’s day, which means I run around like a nut job, buying gifts, baking cakes, and cooking a ginormous dinner, on Mother’s day... The boys get to sing happy birthday and get their gifts from the relatives, the mom and mom in law get gifts from their kids and my kids, and I get three hand made creations, a card, and a big flippin mess to clean up – wait, sometimes I get flowers, too.

Told you I was sick and whiny.

Now, I could go into stories about the platitudes of motherhood. How great it is, how it’s the only job in the world that hugs you goodnight and tells you they love you. All of that’s true. Most days I can’t believe how lucky I am to get to blow bubbles in the backyard without anyone thinking I’ve lost my mind... I get to draw on the sidewalk in chalk again – and they have much prettier colors now, too. I get to play hopscotch and baseball and softball. I get to eat popsicles on the patio and have water gun fights... I’ve gone sledding every good snowfall, and had snowball fights, build forts and few decent snowmen... I’ve done all of the things that, before kids, I thought were gone forever... into the fuzzy oblivion of childhood where everything seemed safe and someone always had the answers.

Now I’m the one who’s supposed to have the answers, though... scary thought. I remember the first year I was in my house. I was twenty four, my daughter was only a few months old, and spring was just starting the bloom. I went into the laundry room to start a load and I moved the basket of dirty clothes to find – ants!! Tons of them! And I screamed... not, “Ahhhhh!”, or an appropriate swear word... I screamed, “Maaaaaaaa!!!” I did, I swear it. It took me a few minutes to realize that I couldn’t do that anymore... I couldn’t just pass every household problem on to my mother... now I was the mother...

I called a bug guy, a great one actually, he’s a friend of mine from forever who happens to be an exterminator, so he sprays my house for me twice a year now to keep away bees and bugs and I haven’t had ants since that first spring ten years ago. It wasn’t that difficult to take care of, most things aren’t, but you don’t know that until you have to be the one in charge.

The thing about mothers is, they’re silent. They don’t tell you all of the things they’re doing behind the scenes. They don’t list out all of the household things they’ve fixed so you wouldn’t be inconvenienced. They don’t mention the school paperwork they’ve gone through, meetings they’ve sat through, messes they’ve cleaned up... they don’t really think about it because if they didn’t do these things, well, they’d have to live with the chaos too... I didn’t think about it when my mom grumbled about the raising taxes... until I paid taxes and then I nodded my head in agreement. I didn’t think about the endless loads of laundry she must have done, until I had a laundry room full of clothes to be done that seemed to grow by five loads a day. I didn’t think about exterminators, until I needed one.

I think sometimes we mothers do ourselves a disservice by being so silent. Sure, if we listed all of these things, the cooking the cleaning the cajoling... if we listed the number of doctors visits with screaming toddlers, the soccer baseball and softball games, the number of rehearsals and lessons... if we listed all of the things we give our time for, well, we’d just be mercenary...

And that’s not what it’s about. I do these things to build a good life for my kids. I do these things because I want them to learn how to be good and happy people, and I want them to have all of the advantages I can give them... so no, I don’t list the things I do, because frankly, I don’t have the time to come up with a list but more than that, listing it would mean that they owed me something – and they don’t. It’s not conditional, this motherhood thing.

So I give up Mother’s Day, because I don’t need a day to honor my being a mother – I’d much rather celebrate my kids, anyway. Pity, though, my kids will likely never realize all of the little things I do, until they have to do them on their own... That day in the laundry room, after I called the bug guy, I called my mom... I don’t remember the conversation anymore, but I’m pretty sure she got the gist of it... I wonder if I’ll get one of those calls from my kids some day.....