Tuesday, March 31, 2009

In Memory

Cuppa Jolie will be quiet for the week
in memory of my father-in-law

Colonel Joseph Stekly


Monday, March 30, 2009

Monday Moment #12

I've been buried in birthday festivities and nuttiness that won't end until tomorrow night. While great fun, it's also great work, and full of a great number of calories. Three days of birthday cake and celebration eating means I need extra Bodypump classes--like, probably three a day for the next three weeks.

Now wait, just so you know, it's not my birthday but today my baby (MY BABY!) is seven. And tomorrow, my dad is, well...he'll be a year older than he is today. Yesterday, to celebrate both birthdays, we had a big family celebration with people over for a BBQ (thank you, Weather, for cooperating) and cake number one (chocolate with brown sugar frosting). Today, nine girls will take over the casa with their high voices and big laughs for the "friend" party, which means I must be on my toes. The cake? Again chocolate, this time covered with pink frosting, Sweet Tart polka dotted sides, and a Littlest Pet Shop Birthday scene on top. Later, per the birthday girl's request--pizza. Tomorrow, for the dad, it's a steak and garlic mashed potatoes dinner followed up with cheesecake.

Oh, I know. Great goodness of yummy food but holy guacamole, the calorie intake will be ree-dunk-u-lous and go straight to my trunk-u-lous!

Where's this going? And what, at all, does it have to do with the next Monday Moment? Well, since birthdays are on the brain, let's go there. Memorable birthdays. One you wish you could forget. Favorite parts. Everything in between.

I'll contrast two of mine for you. At fifteen I was new to the Seattle area and hating it. The only thing I remember about my fifteenth birthday was my horrifying haircut. New to the area, my mom didn't know where to take me. I think we went to Fantastic Sam's and it was NOT fantastic. NOT! The hair-butcherer cut my bangs so short, and, well, you can imagine the visual (too bad I can't easily dig out that photo!). But at sixteen, while it was full of much loveliness, my most vivid memory of that day is walking into the bathroom to find a Happy Birthday message scrawled in lipstick across the bathroom mirror from my mom.
What is a vivid birthday memory or detail (big or small) experienced by your main character?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Critique Groups...Keeping On Track

(There's a prize at the end of this post! Really...keep reading.)

It's a bit maddening to have multiple projects and obligations that make it quite easy to ignore the really hard revisions someone (that would be me) MUST be dedicating some time to. I have far too many--distractions that is.

Even though I have these many must-dos, they never stop me from getting to my critique group. I make attendance and sharing work a priority. The group is a huge motivator that keeps me moving forward with my writing.

But creating and/or finding a critique group is not easy. NOT AT ALL. In fact, it took me a year to find the one I'm in. Prior to that, I was part of two that fell apart and one online group that wasn't a good fit for me personally. I don't think my story is unique.

I want to know:

1. Are you in a critique group or wishing you were?
2. How did it come to be? (How did you join or create one?)
3. How do you make it successful?

I really want to know!

The prize at the end of this post?

Coffee! Seem appropriate? One lucky commenter will have coffee (or other beverage of choice, tea, soda, vodka...) with me! Yes, I know only a couple of you actually live in Port Townsend, but I'll make it work. I have my ways. Really. Just comment and you'll see!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Great Revision Flop

Is that a stuffed animal, flung by a child, just waiting to be picked up under my entryway bench? Nope...that would be Luna flopped there taking a brief puppy snooze.

I'm feeling a bit like I'd like to do the same at the moment when it comes to revisions--to just flop in a quiet spot and close my eyes.

I think I remember going through this very thing the last time I started a big revision. It felt a bit overwhelming and I froze up, at least for a short time.

Now, I'm reminding myself that all this thinking time and note taking is writing time, even though at the moment, the actual book isn't progressing (or doesn't feel to be). I'll get there.

I will get there, right?

Oh, yes...yes I will. I may flop. I may even have a tantrum or two. But I will get there.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Monday Moment #11

Today's Monday Moment is in memory of my dear friend Stacy (1973-1985).

The night before, I was talking to her on the phone. Just the night before.

I was her best friend. I was the one who should’ve known.

But we were just chatting. About normal stuff—silly stuff—like getting back to school and hairbrushes. Her hair was crazy pretty; long and thick and wavy. I loved to play with it. Other girls were jealous of it. And of her green eyes, too. Some people didn’t think they were real—the color of them—but it didn’t matter. They were hers.

I was so confused when she didn’t show up at school the next day. She’d missed the whole week before and she was excited to get back. I couldn’t wait for her to be back. It wasn’t the same without her. It felt like I hadn’t seen her forever.

Everyone kept asking me, “Where’s Stacy?”

They asked me because I was her best friend. I was the one who should know.

But I couldn’t answer them. I had the same question.

Even when my parents showed up in the middle of the school day, and I knew because they did, something was wrong—really wrong—I never once thought something was wrong with her.

Principal Taylor wouldn’t tell me anything when he pulled me out of class, only that my parents were waiting outside to take me home. He left me alone at my locker—alone with my racing thoughts and the quiet of the hallway. It was empty and silent and scary, a way it had never been before. My heart beat knew. Knew life would never be the same once I walked out the school doors. I just didn’t know why.

I didn’t know until I stood there on the concrete steps. I didn’t know until my parents said the words, “Stacy killed herself.” I didn’t know I’d never be the same again.

I can still feel the word No tear at my throat over and over again. It was the only word I had. The only word I could say as my heart and head did everything they could to believe it was a lie.

I was her best friend. I was the one who should have known.

That was over 20 years ago. I was thirteen, but moments were seared into my brain, including the date--March 23.

Even though sharing this piece of writing makes my insides tremble, it feels appropriate given the day's date. I wrote this not too long ago during a retreat. The amazing Patricia Gauch gave the following free-writing prompt: Select someone you loved but lost. Tell a teacher whom you trust about her. Use a scene you can’t forget, engaging first what you saw, smelled, touched, then what you felt.

Now, I don't know if I did exactly what Patti wanted, but it's what came out. (Feel free to use the prompt yourself.)

But for our Monday Moment #11, my thought is a bit different. That particular experience in my life, the loss of my best friend, was transformative. I was never the same person after March 23, 1985. And, as is the case for most of us, we have all experienced such a loss, and loss can come in many forms. But in my situation, Stacy's passing was a marking of time, with a definite before and after. Some of our characters have certainly experienced loss and others maybe not. Either way, it should say a lot about who they are.

Has your character experienced a transformative loss, a time that marks a definite "before" and "after"?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Post in Which my Tween Self Emerges Needing Some...Some...

Hmmmm...What does my tween self need? Some validation. Some confidence.

Some more friends! That's what.

'Cause I'm feeling pretty rejected, even though I KNOW I should not, but I kind of do.

Here's why: I've been searching for some old friends from way back in my Montana days. We're talking childhood. Elementary through middle school. So far, I've found four friends (two girls, two boys). I asked if they'd be my friend on Facebook. The girls? YES! The boys?

Well, now you know why I'm feeling like I am. Why does the fact they haven't "friended" me make me feel like a twelve year old again. In a what's-wrong-with-me sort of way. One of them especially. Because (gasp) he was the first boy I ever kissed. *sigh*

He was one of three hot brothers. Did you ever grow up with a family like that around? When there are three male siblings, all hot, kind of like the Baldwin brothers, but cuter? So, when I think back, I think of that (cute boy), which makes me turn into that awkward, self-conscious tween girl that just wants a boy to like her.

So, if those boys won't friend me, maybe you will (if we're not friends already). I think you can do that HERE.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Girlie Conversation

So yesterday I’m bringing home a load of girls from school, my two and one extra, you know, just for the fun of it. Sometimes the conversations had by kids while sitting in the car are extremely entertaining. This one didn’t disappoint.

The conversation really got rolling as they starting talking about thier friend’s hamster and my girilies' gerbil.

Girl6: What if we took your hamster and our gerbil and put them in a ball together and then floated them out in the ocean.
Friend: You couldn’t do that.
Girl8:No, you couldn’t do that.
Friend: They would sink
Girl8: They would drown.
Girl6: No wait. Wait! I’m not done with the story. But they would sink down and grow gills. Then they would have baby hamgers.
All: (Laughing) Hamgers.
The subject switches that quick...
All: Bread, bread, bread. (they sang out "bread" very loud and operatic excited about the fresh loaf I had in the car)
Girl8: I love bread. I love it so much, I want to eat out its guts.
Girl6: It's guts. (giggling) But not if it was male. I would not eat its guts if it was male.
Friend: No, not if it was a male. I wouldn’t eat anything if it was a male.
All: eew
Friend: But wait. If I ate fish, which I don’t, because I hate fish. But if I ate fish, it might be a male.
All: (they recall when they went to the salmon hatchery when they saw male and female fish)
Girl8: Remember they squeezed the male and he peed.
Friend: He didn’t pee.
Girls6,8: Yah, he did.
Friend: But remember it was white, not yellow.
All: Eew. Then conversation turned to getting buckets of white pee and someone drinking it—on ice.
All: Eew
Girl8: I would NOT drink male fish fertilizer pee.

And that’s when we all got out of the car to run an errand, the day went on, like that whole conversation was perfectly normal.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Monday Moment #10

Okay...so I've never been much of an actor. But that doesn't mean I didn't have wonderful experiences in theater productions as a child.

I even starred as Beth in Little Women. Impressive, huh? Well, actually...you shouldn't be. It was in my high school drama class. The class where my teacher called me Jolly for half of the year. Plus, she had to cast me since I was in the class. And, I'll be the first to tell you, I didn't show any promise as an actor.

Let's jump back further. I grew up in a small town in Montana, and for several years, the Missoula Children's Theater came to town and put on a show. A show starring us kids.

Here's a picture of me during try-outs that was in the newspaper.

What do you think of those bangs? And, I totally remember that sweater with the ruffly turtle neck. Isn't it funny how you can remember your clothes from so long ago? That's my little brother standing next to me. He was the one who always got cast in the bigger roles.

I never had a major part, but I did make it into a the shows. I was in Snow White, Cinderella, and Johny Appleseed.

Now here I am today, in Washington state with kids of my own, and surprise, surprise--I find out the Missoula Children's Theater comes each year to work with my girlies' new school. They attend an alternative school which is a multi-aged classroom (grades 1-5). I never expected that my own kids would get to have the same wonderful experience some day. I had no idea that the Missoula Childrens Theater crew even travelled world-wide to work with children. Pretty cool, huh?

It's amazing company. This is how they describe their tours:

"A little red truck pulls into your town with everything it takes to mount a full-scale musical production...except the cast.
That's where the children of your community come in.
On Monday, they're cast as characters.
By Saturday, they've gained character -the kind that really counts."

And I love how they cast.They don't talk to anyone before auditions. In other words, they don't let teachers or parents influence how they will view each child before they cast. The two travelling actors are unaware of the class clown, the shy one, or the child who suffers from learning difficulties. Guess who sometimes gets the starring role? Love it! That's transforming. That builds character.

So when my girlies were cast into their roles as part of the Robin Hood production (as a skunk and a forester), it was fun to dig into my old photo albums and pull out my pictures to share with them. I think they got a kick out of it, too.

Here's me as a Lady in Cinderella...

I'm the one on the end in the blue skirt.
And here's me as a ghoul in Johnny Appleseed...

That's me, the cute one!

And now here are my girlies...

My fern child and little stinker...the casting was perfect!

Okay, now to finally get to the Monday Moment prompt.
We were able to purchase DVDs of the show and the girls just got to watch it yesterday. My little skunk noticed (and remembered) that, in her words, she "got confused and forgot to shake her booty." (The skunks did a very cute little tail-shakin' dance.) This really bothered her, upset her. And I wonder if it's one of those little insignificant thing that no one will ever remember...except for HER.

What is a moment when something happened, or words were spoken, that are long forgotten by all except your main character?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Lunch with Susan Patron, LUCKY BREAKS, and Male Anatomy

(Note: I'm not kidding about the male anatomy. There will be use of words later in this post.)

I headed into the city on Wednesday for my favorite day of the month--my writerly day with writerly friends. But this month's was extra special because I was able to join friends for lunch, including Susan Patron who was in town sharing her latest book LUCKY BREAKS.

After a little lunch, we headed for cupcakes. Here we are...

Except, our heading for cupcakes turned into Jolie having a cupcake (hey, was that whole thing planned for my sake...my love/need of frosted treats?) So, see that big cupcake (Guinness Stout was the special flavor of the day) in front of Jaime? That's mine. Jaime and Susan had bitty-bitty ones. Like, we're talking a one-bite size.
Back to Susan and LUCKY BREAKS (which I can't wait to read). But if you want to read a review that's going to make you run to your nearest Indie to buy it immediately, then read Kirby Larson's HERE. What she says about the first page of LUCKY BREAKS is perfect. I fell in love with the book on page one.

Now, I have only read page one, because I always read page one. Do you? I love getting a brand new book. It's like a sweet, little present. I love to examine the cover, look through the beginning pages (read the dedication and sometime the acknowledgements), and read the first page. But I made a decision to stop reading LUCKY BREAKS for a couple of reasons. 1. I had to get in the car and drive, and 2. I decided to share it with my girlies.

Reading to my girlies every night (well, almost every night) is about my most favorite thing in the entire world. Theirs, too, because on those certain nights when it's not possible (usually because I'm not home at bedtime) they are (hmm, should I use the word...well, okay) pissed. They are! And I LOVE that! We just finished Patrick Jenning's WE CAN'T ALL BE RATTLESNAKES last night, so I thought it would be time to start LUCKY tonight. However, they haven't read THE HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY yet. I tend to have to gauge what I'm reading by my youngest, and now I think she is just the right age to appreciate it. So, tonight we start! And, we'll read both.

But, I do have to admit, I am already anticipating the scrotum conversation that is sure to happen. But, at least it will come about in a more appropriate way than the penis conversation did. That one came about when my girlies came running outside, calling each other names (loudly! when neighbors were about). Sort of like this...

"You pean!" (Okay, I already knew where this was going and I was cringing and running to get the words to stop, but then...) "You penis!"

I hustled them in the house to have a "talk." Of course, my first question was, "Do you know what a penis is?"

Shaking heads. They had no clue.

When I told them...they were horrified. So I then set some ground rules. The word was okay to say and use, but only when appropriate. And to call a person one was never okay. Of course, my youngest girlie, who was probably just five at the time, took my words to heart. She used the word appropriatly as much as she possibly could.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I Love Good Signs (Especially When They Involve Ice Cream)

So, I'm admitting a bit of my weirdness today! Sometimes I take "things" (sorry to be so vague, but it's not always the same thing) as a sign. I do have one "sign" that is specific and that is seeing bald eagles. I was once wrestling with a big decision and it seemed every time I thought about it, I'd see an eagle. The day I saw an eagle perched on the side of my neighborhood road (this was 100% not normal) then I knew, those eagles were a sign. Decision made (and it was a good one).

So, imagine my PLEASURE to find a sign that ice cream was a great and needed treat for me the other night. Just look...wouldn't you take this as a "you should absolutely have ice cream tonight" sign?

I did!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Baby Bird Book and Tweeting

Today, walking up the sidewalk on my way to The Vault, there was a mom and her daughters (I assume) following right behind me. They were having a conversation about books. Love it! The smaller girl couldn't have been more than three. She was very wee with a high and sweet voice.

Mom: I don't remember the author of that book.
Little girl: Baby birds. Baby birds.
Mom: You want a book about baby birds.
Little girl: Yes.

Then I had to go in the door. But that little conversation made me want to stay and listen to more.

And, since I'm on the subject of birds...


I've been thinking about tweeting...on Twitter. (how 'bout that transition) Not thinking about doing it, because I already am. But thinking about it.

I ate an early lunch at home today. While I devoured my Gardenburger, topped with pepper jack and granny smith apples (cuz I'm sure you want to know), I watched a bit of Ellen. P Diddy Combs (Puff Daddy, Sean Combs, whatever his name is at the moment) was talking about Twitter and how he has, like, the biggest following of anyone on Twitter with a 100,000 followers. Now, I'm sure he has a lot, but I'd love to know if that's really the most of all the many Tweeters out there. But then, I felt a bit jealous of his enormous following when I know that people "tweet" not "twit" on Twitter. Right? He should know that if he has the "biggest" following.

So, new goal....catch up with Diddy. Help me make my way to 100,000 followers. And, stop laughing. Just because I'm no where near 100 (or even 25 for that matter), I'm spreading the word now. Cuppa Jolie is tweeting over at Twitter. Come and following me HERE.

I realize this means I need to get better at it. I think tweeting works when you do it often. And it especially works when you're doing cool stuff and at cool places, like the SCBWI Conference in LA this August, and part of SCBWI Team Blog--which I am! So get an early jump, 'cause I'll be tweeting all over the place while I'm there.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Monday Moment #9

Love is in the details. Right?

I think that's true when it comes to our stories as well. But that doesn't mean sentence after sentence (or page after page) of description is needed. For me, that's a Zzzz! A Snorer.

This is definitely where quality over quantity comes into play.

Now, you all know we that we have a new puppy. And she's a love. Want to see about the sweetest picture in the world of her? I'm not waiting for a yes or no. Here she is. Sleeping like an angel.

I know! Yummy, huh?

I could write and write about how Luna looks physically. You know, about her creamy little fluffball body with those dark eyes and nose that form a perfect triangle on her sweet face.

But how about a special detail about Luna?

Here's one: Luna's tail is a curly-que that rolls over her back and makes a little valley within her fluff as she wags her tail back and forth.

I love that little dent! It's her happy dent.

So, if love is in the details, what's a small detail your character notices?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Happy Birthday, Barbie!

Tomorrow is Barbie's 50th birthday. 50th! Wow. She's almost old enough to be my mom. But, you know, it would be cruel to have Barbie as a mom; the name, the long legs, the frighteningly tiny waist, the big, huge...

HAIR! (What? Where was your mind going? Yah. She has those too.)

Barbie has influenced little-girlie brains for so long. Just think, 50 years times millions of impressionable girls, well, that equals a ridiculously big number.

I myself didn't have many Barbies. Only a few. But it was enough, and I did have a Ken (or some version of Ken) which was key. My neighbor friend, however, had a Barbie wonderland in her house: The multi-leveled house. Tons of dolls. Plenty of boys. And most important of all, a huge wardrobe with a slew of shoes--all enough to make a Barbie Dream Closet smile.

Now, here's what I've realized. I totally wrote SEX AND THE CITY as a pre-teen. I mean, was Candace Bushnell secretly my neighbor friend or eaves dropping as play-acted out the huge hit? Really. She must have been. For me, Barbie was all about the fashion and hair ala Carrie Bradshaw. Next, it was all about the boy(s). The dates. The kissing. And, of course, the taking off of those fabulous fashions at the end of the night. (Oh, c'mon...no judging. You know you did it, too. The hiding in the closet with your naked Barbie as she totally mashed on Ken!)

So, Happy Birthday, Barbie. May you have many more years of being played with by little girls, even though they might toss you into the closet or under the bed bare naked because their mom just opened the door and scared the pants of them.

"What's you doing, sweetie?"
"Ah, nothing, Mom," little girls says holding up her fully-clothed Skipper Doll. "Just playing."

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

It's Effing National Grammar Day!

I didn't start my day on the best foot possible. I don't know what the "bleep" I was thinking, but I got in the shower with no towel (notta one...and I prefer two) on the rack. And as I turned off the water, I stood there dripping wet and realized, not only did I NOT have a towel on the rack, but I didn't even have one in the bathroom. At least nothing bigger than a hand towel. I had one load in the dryer and another in the wash. Brilliant!

So what did I do? I shouted out swear words--but only in my head.
Side note: Did you know it's National Grammar Day, and in L.A. it's been declared No-Cuss Week?

As I stood there, swearing to myself in the bathroom, I couldn't help thinking about these two events.

I don't know about you all, but I'm terrible at swearing. My filter is MEGA strength. It's the elementary school teacher and mother in me. Cuss words rarely pass BY my lips because the filter is so strong. It doesn't even feel right. Not that I don't have friends who swear like truck drivers. I so do! (You know who you are.)

Speaking of...

I thought it best to go the Grammar Diva herself, Martha Brockenbrough, to ask about how grammar and swearing intermingle. Now, Ms. Brockenbrough is the creator of this fantastic National Grammar Day and The Society for Promotion of Good Grammar, and she wrote THIS awesome book. So, of course, she is in high demand at the moment. Hollah! I mean, really! She's, like, fresh off the jet with the Jo Bros and today her column "Celebrity Grammar Rehab" is front and center on the MSN page. She's a freakin' rock star.

So, how special do I feel to have received a reply from her on this very day? Pretty flippin' special. That's how much. (Thanks, Martha!)

I asked, on this National Grammar Day, during No-Cuss Week: Can a potty-mouth have good grammar?

Her reply: "You can be a potty-mouth and be grammatical. Hell yes!"

She also sent me the following links:

Something she wrote for Encarta about swearing...HERE

And a really interesting Defense of the F-Word by a really smart brain science/language guy...HERE

And now after reading those, I'm realizing I might need to reconsider my MEGA filter. What? Swearing can be good for my brain. And I can still be grammatical (well, that remains to be seen in the first place).

But, I've often thought about this as it relates to writing. Does the amount you swear in your own life equate, at all, to how much you do in your novel writing?

Tell me. I'm curious.

For me, although I seldom use swear words in my work, they do flow off the fingertips (as they relate to my characters) much easier than I can speak them out loud.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

And the Golden Kite Goes to...

It's no secret that I heart SCBWI! I've committed my time to the organization, learned so much from it, and have made amazing friends.

Today, I'm THRILLED to be able to post about the 2009 SCBWI Golden Kite recipients and to announce my own SCBWI-related news.

But first, the Golden Kite goes to...

Yes, yes, and triple YES. Bonny Becker is the winner of the 2009 Golden Kite for Picture Book Text for A VISITOR FOR BEAR (illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton and published by Candlewick).
Yay, Bonny! Bonny is a Seattle-area writer and one of those above mentioned SCBWI friends. You can read a little more about her recent SCBWI Western Washington appearance HERE.

Also taking home the Gold...

Steve Watkins gets the win for Fiction with his debut young adult novel DOWN SAND MOUNTAIN (Candlewick).

The Nonfiction category goes to A LIFE IN THE WILD: GEORGE SCHALLER'S STRUGGLE TO SAVE THE LAST GREAT BEASTS by Pamela S. Turner (Farrar, Straus and Giroux).

And, LAST NIGHT by Hyewon Yum is the winner for Picture Book Illustration (Farrar, Straus and Giroux).

Golden Kite Honor Recipients are:

Fiction: THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX by Mary E. Pearson (This book has also been chosen as this month's feature over at readergirlz. Way to go, Mary!)

Nonfiction: THE MYSTERIOUS UNIVERSE: SUPER NOVAE, DARK ENERGY, AND BLACK HOLES by Ellen Jackson; photographed and illustrated by Nic Bishop

Picture Book Text: BEFORE JOHN WAS A JAZZ GIANT by Carole Boston Weathersford, illustrated by Sean Qualls

Picture Book Illustration: I LOVE MY NEW TOY by Mo Willems

The SCBWI Golden Kite is unique in that it also recognizes the editors and art directors of these books. Congrats to Candlewick and FSG for sweeping up the gold!

The awards will be handed out at this summer's SCBWI Conference in Los Angeles. Mark your calendar NOW for August 7-10. If you've been to the summer conference, you know it's not to be missed. If you haven't, I'm telling you, IT'S NOT TO BE MISSED.

Now for news I've just been dying to tell you (and it's all related to all of the above)!

I've had the privilege of attending the last three summer conference as one of the regional advisors. I've since hung up that hat. But a new one was flung my way. I grabbed it, put it on, and I'm so, so thrilled to tell you that I will be wearing it as part of...
Many of you likely followed Alice Pope, official blogger of the SCBWI Winter Conference (and CWIM Goddess). If you haven't seen her conference posts, check them out HERE.

Not surprising, the conference blog was a hit (and still is) but poor thing blistered her fingers doing so much blogging. And the summer conference is even bigger! How could it be left to only ten tiny fingers. So SCBWI asked Alice to assemble a team--SCBWI TEAM BLOG.

And I'm turning circles over the fact that little ol' me, over here at Cuppa Jolie, has been asked to be part of this team along with Jaime Temairik, Lee Wind, Paula Yoo, and Suzanne Young and, of course, Team Blog Leader Alice Pope. Watch for lots of SCBWI Conference news right here. I'll always let you know about happenings over at the SCBWI Conference Blog.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss! and Monday Moment #8

Although it's Monday and time for Moment #8, I feel compelled to start today's post by shouting out...

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

It's a big day. Even Google is recognizing it!

That's the image on the main Google page today. Love it!

And in many libraries and schools across the country, children are celebrating. Some I know are spending the day in jammies with pillows, blankets, and Dr. Seuss. Sounds like a perfect day to me.

But onto Monday Moment #8!

I have to start with, Wow! What a weekend.

I had an amazing and challenging Saturday. And even though I have some thoughts about other Monday Moment topics, it seemed appropriate to try and relate today's to my experience over weekend since it was all about challenge. (And because I'm proud of myself and I want to share.) And isn't challenge exactly what we have to present in our storytelling?

I drove down to the Hillsboro, OR with a group of instructors from my gym on Friday night to participate in my first Les Mills Quarterly. It was a day spent with U.S. National Trainers as they role-modeled all the new quarterly releases--that's a total of EIGHT programs. And it was not just sitting and watching...it was doing. And there was an opportunity to DO seven of the eight programs. In other words, I worked out like a freak from 8:00 am until 7:00 pm. Talk about challenge!

How does this have anything to do with writing? Well, it did for me. You know the whole chase your character up a tree and throw rocks at them thing? I felt very much in that situation while at the Quarterly. And one of the hardest parts of the day was knowing that MY program, BODYPUMP, was the last of the day and the one I wanted do and do well the most! But as the day went on, I felt my body becoming more and more whooped by the minute. I mean, you can imagine the way in which national trainers push and what they demand of instructors taking their class.

The first four classes happened pre-lunch. And a particular one, BODYCOMBAT literally kicked me in the bahookey! After lunch it was time to JAM, STEP, and PUMP. Did I consider sitting one or even both of them out so I could go full out for PUMP. Absolutely. But, I ended up going for it. I had to. And not because anyone made me. The drive to rise to the challenge had to come from me.

It got me thinking about why? Why didn't I give myself a break? Just let myself skip one or two hard parts so that I could (hopefully) get through the final challenge?

As I finished up JAM, I felt like I had nothing left and my feet were screaming. I really wondered if I had enough to do it. But I wanted to. I wanted to be able to say I did all seven classes. Of course there was some peer pressure involved, as the other instructors I was with were going for it, as well. And there is a certain power and energy we get from our peers. Perhaps a bit of confidence in ourselves, that we might not be capable of producing on our own (in certain given moments). But in the end, as I loaded up full weight for BODYPUMP, even though my body had very little left to give, I fought through. Where did the fight come from? It wasn't the competitor in me. It wasn't from my peers. It certainly wasn't my own confidence (truly, at times I questioned whether I could trust my body to go there). It was all heart and determination because, honestly, that's was all I had left (makes me weepy just typing this). I wanted it. I went for it. And I achieved it. (Hmmm. Remind you of writing a novel?)

It felt pretty damn good.

Then I ATE! I ate a lot.

I challenge you to think about how challenging "things" really get for your main character. And, where their fight comes from?