Monthly Archives: May 2008

10 Things I am looking forward to on my “vacation.”


1. Being done packing.

2. The McDonald’s in Germantown, TN. Whee! Well, at least the salads are good and you can’t beat not having to cook.

3. Visiting one of my oldest best friends from college, Hannah, for one night enroute, at her house in Meadville, PA, which I’ve never seen before. So now I will be able to “picture” her there. Also, meeting her 5 year old for the first time! If I’m lucky I see Hannah once or twice a year, but I’ve never met her youngest!

4. Reading my advance copy of America, America because Monda recommended it. Also, eye-candy shelter magazines and a couple of other books tba.

5. Driving pretty much the width of Pennsylvania for the first time, which has famously been described as “Pittsburgh on one end, Philadelphia on the other and Alabama in the middle.”

6. Not needing an excuse to sip a diet coke with crushed ice.

7. Wearing my two new hats. 1. Reharsal dinner=straw panama with black trim. 2. Family Wedding= poufy off white organza. More about the hats soon; they’re getting their own post.

8. Seeing my extended family for the first time in gosh, at least a year and raising eyebrows throughout the Northeast with my “y’alls,” because they have not evolved enough yet there to realize it’s the perfect word. At least my youngest has given up calling his brother “Bubba.” Eyebrows were regularly meeting hairlines during our “Bubba” period. I kind of miss it, though.

9. Hours of uninterrupted time on the road with my family. Strange as it sounds, in our hurried lives, sometimes road trips offer the only respite from the madding crowds.

10. Coming home and loving on my cats and discovering that the hydrangea bush didn’t actually bloom while we were gone, it just looked like it was going to. Also, finding out if Driwater actually works.

I’ll let you know.

Bye y’all.




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A sentimental reading story. . .


I love to read to my kids. As anyone who has cuddled up to read with a child knows, there’s not much out there that beats the experience. But last night I was tired. Really, really tired. We’d had two under 10 house guests for four days, kids who I love. But two kids squared is still a handful and I needed some recovery time, so I tried begging off the nightly read-in.

“How about I get tonight off?”

My youngest looked puzzled. Did I mention he’s the one that likes more than a little routine to his days? But he didn’t say anything, just nodded and wandered off.

Hmm. I thought. That was easy.

Soon though, he was back.

“How about this,” he suggested. “How about, I give you tomorrow night AND Friday night off, if you just read to me tonight?”

It was all right there in his face and then some. He was tired too. He had been sharing his Dad and me for days.

How could I possibly refuse?

“All right,” I told him. “But you don’t have to give up tomorrow night or Friday.”

No, I wanted to say, after looking into that swimming-pool-sun-kissed face, those deep blue eyes, eyes which will be staring straight into mine for only a little while longer.

You’re not going to have to give up any nights from now on. You’re going to have to tell me when to stop. And I will. But not till then.

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I won, I won, I won!!!

Let me paraphrase:

THE BOOK GUYS LETTERHEAD HERE (use your imagination)

Dear Stephanie,

Congratulations on your winning response to the “Caulfield” quiz. You have a choice of nine prizes. . .

Ok, I won’t detail the nine, I’ll just tell you the prize I picked for winning the quiz on The Book Guys, my favorite radio show on NPR: A Book Guys Watch with the logo and slogan, “Reading Is a Family Affair,” along with the Center for the Books’ slogan, “Building a Nation of Readers.”

It was even signed by Kim Stypeck, who I’m assuming must be related to Allan Stypeck who co-hosts the show along with Mike Cuthbert, and runs Second Story Books in Washington DC, a fantastic secondhand bookstore I used to frequent in my grad school salad days.

I am so PSYCHED. Talk about luck; there must have been a lot of correct entries; the question just wasn’t that hard. In fact, if you go to the website, you can see them. I think mine was the May 8th quiz.

I was actually on the show once about eight years ago, when I learned that the Edith Wharton first novel, first edition I have was worth significantly more than the 50 cents I paid for it at a yard sale (but not enough to consider breaking into my house-FYI).

Speaking of Edith Wharton, I just got another letter from the Edith Wharton Restoration Fund. They have opened for summer business (and if you are anywhere near the Berkshires this summer, believe me, it’s worth a stop) and have another 6 month extension on the loan during which they hope they can raise the other roughly 2 million. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

In other news, I am still reading The Artful Edit and can confidently report it’s one of the best books on writing (well, actually, editing, of course) I’ve read in a long time. I’m heavy into the part where she discusses Max Perkins’ and F.Scott Fitzgerald’s co-editing of The Great Gatsby, from which we could all learn a great deal. The book is littered with my post-it notes, since it’s a library book and I can’t write in it; but I’ll be getting my own copy as soon as I can and hope to report more on it. It’s definitely going to have to nudge something else out of my top five books for writers category.

My niece and nephew are visiting, which means lots of fun kids stuff AND I’m not the only girl in the house for once. Last night was coloring and bracelet making. Now, we’re off to do our nails–and we’ve even got the sparkly polish!

Bye y’all,


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A brief borrowed word about engaging the reader. . .

There is a wonderful post over at The Longstockings about engaging your readers called the Hazeet moment–is your curiosity piqued. . .check it out here.

For an idea of what I’m going to be up to the next few days, Monda couldn’t have said it better here.

Bye y’all
PS: Tim: If you’re reading this: The momma post is GREAT! You gotta send that somewhere.


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Lance Olson, Where Have You Been All My (Professional) Life

What follows is a quick and dirty post, meaning no pictures and only one link, because I’m on my husband’s older mac and it’s really hard to have more than one window up. That’s my excuse, anyway. So if you encounter anything unfamiliar in this piece, you’ll have to google it yourself.

Work continues, albeit slowly, one of the key projects of the summer, the “revising creative writing in higher ed” book and in the process of reading some important research I had somehow missed before, I stumbled on Lance Olson’s piece of fictocriticism on Electronic Book Review,
Learning to Wish for More. Click on the title if you’re curious; I highly recommend it. It’s a great blueprint for anyone constructing or re-constructing a creative writing program, graduate or undergraduate (hint, hint to any colleagues reading this). Written several years ago, it says many of the same things I’ve been saying, albeit what I’m writing considers the subject on a both broader and deeper scale (it is, after all, supposed to be a book).

Electronic Book Review was also an exciting, embarassingly belated discovery, btw.

This weekend, I planted flowers, shopped, read, baked bread and discovered the screaming unadulterated joy a $12 garage sale skateboard can bring to a seven-year-old who has been pining for one (also: helmet, elbow pads and kneepads = priceless). Tomorrow, I am probably getting the first of a series of shots that will put me in chemically induced menopause for 4-6 months. Fortunately, the next day, I am going on a two day shopping trip to Branson with my girlfriends and hopefully, this will be just the kind of distraction that will smooth over any hormonal rough edges (though actually, I probably won’t feel the full effects for a week anyway).

Bye for now y’all,

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Writing Longhand and WIOTD Resurfaces


I’m enjoying a wonderful new book by Susan Bell called The Artful Edit that I’ll be mining for blog discussions in the next several entries. It’s divided into 5 chapters, Gaining Perspective, The Big Picture: Macro-Editing, The Details: Micro-Editing, Master Class, and Servants, Dictators, Allies: A Brief History of Editors. As a connoiseur of writing books, I can safely say, this one is a real keeper.

Right now I’m in the section on writing longhand. Since I’m a big longhand fan, it’s right up my alley. To quote: “the brain and the hand are connected. Once you begin to let an idea unfold, you keep unfolding it. Ink flows, ideas flow with it. When you type. . .into a computer, you don’t give your imagination the chance to really follow things through” (Freeman qtd. in Bell 17). Heather Sellers also writes a good deal on her blog, Word After Word, that her students who draft in longhand often have better, at least more fully realized, first drafts.

Amen! At first I felt I wrote longhand just because I like the sensuous feel of ballpoint (sorry, Monda) on paper. But now I can claim that the “brain-hand” connection is really tapping into my imagination!

Bell goes on to quote from a die-hard computer drafter that he lets his imagination unfold in a similar way by not allowing himself to look at the screen while he’s writing. I imagine this could work in the same way. By typing and “not looking” you don’t interrupt the flow.

I’m interested in my reader’s thoughts on this.

In other news, a wardrobe incident of the day resurfaced this morning. Just when we’d thought we had the sweats or shorts and a t-shirt uniform down, younger son informed us that he had to wear jeans and a plain t-shirt today because he’s in a fifties performance at school.

“In it?” We said incredulously. “You’re actually in it?”

He nodded.

Needless to say, this was the first we’d heard of said performance. So, after checking with the main office and learning that he did, indeed, speak the truth, albeit belatedly, this morning has been a rush of rearranged schedules. As another understanding parent colleague, who was part of the meeting I had to reschedule at the exact same time, said, “Look at it this way, at least he didn’t tell you he needed a tri-fold display on the praying mantis by tomorrow.”

Now there speaks a voice of experience.

That’s all for now. I’m off to write in longhand and then beam proudly at my little guy.

Bye y’all,


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Mother’s Day


Thanks to my husband, who’s incredibly thoughtful on most holidays but who pulls out all the stops on Mother’s Day, I had a great one. I also had time to reflect on all the great mothers I’ve had in my life, especially, of course, the one who raised me.

But as tributes to mothers go, this one really does say it better, from one mom to another, check it out at Monda’s blog here.

The  picture itself is a jewel.

Tim has been putting up some great poems and posts here, too.

 I’ll leave you all with a Mother’s Day favorite, Strickland Gillilan’s The Reading Mother. From me to the woman who taught me that you can NEVER have too many library cards and who now, after living here less than a year, avails herself of lending privileges at more libraries in the Central Arkansas area (including all of Little Rock) than I even knew existed.  Thanks, Mom, we love you!


Strickland Gillilan

I HAD A MOTHER who read to me
Sagas of pirates who scoured the sea,
Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth,
“Blackbirds” stowed in the hold beneath

I had a Mother who read me lays
Of ancient and gallant and golden days;
Stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,
Which every boy has a right to know.

I had a Mother who read me tales
Of Celert the hound of the hills of Wales,
True to his trust till his tragic death,
Faithfulness blent with his final breath.

I had a Mother who read me the things
That wholesome life to the boy heart brings-
Stories that stir with an upward touch,
Oh, that each mother of boys were such.

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be —
I had a Mother who read to me.

That’s all for now. It’s late. Bye y’all,

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Great stuff for writers–and what’s your ritual?

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Wow–I just found a great link to an article on 50 Awesome Open Source Resources for Writers. Check it out here, you won’t regret it. Something for everyone. I can’t wait to start playing around with some of them.

So, while we’re on the subject of writing, I thought I’d ask what your writing rituals are. My question is inspired by one from the ever-attentive Cindi Hoppes who wondered awhile back about writers habits, special foods etc.. The great thing about writing rituals is that they’re different for everyone and show how writing itself is different for everyone, there is no one way/only way to do it.

My rituals are pretty simple. A really good, really smooth ball point pen (not a pencil, no, no, no, nor a felt tip, though I know my friend Monda feels differently), a lined pad or one of my great National Brand chemistry lab notebooks with the numbered pages (another Monda find–you can order them here) and something to drink, coffee, water, or diet coke depending on the time of day. This last necessity is more to keep me from worrying my nails than anything else. I don’t actually eat food when I’m working, but that’s only because when I eat, I try to be mindful about it and focus on the food and when I’m writing I focus on that alone, of course.

So, fellow scribes, weigh in. What are your writing rituals?

Bye y’all,


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Want to know where I’ve been?

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I’m back, from a hiatus of sorts during which I went in for outpatient surgery for a benign ovarian cyst that turned into inpatient surgery for endometriosis (not serious, just invasive) and a partial Oophectomy. This means removal of one ovary but I just like to say it and write the official way because it sounds like something from Dr. Seuss. Oophectomy, toofectomy, roofectomy–see I can make up words just like him! Anyway, I’m recovering well but it took a lot out of me.

A few updates. The Mount, Edith Wharton’s house, has raised close to a million dollars but not without the controversy that is detailed in a recent New Yorker article. You can read an abstract of it here. They’ve also received another extension until May 31 and plan to open for the season in hopes of bringing in more money. I’ll keep you posted.

Time laid up means time to read, namely, Leonard S. Marcus’ magnum opus, Minders of Make Believe, the first ever history of children’s publishing in America from colonial times to the present. Absolutely fascinating stuff, IMHO. Children’s publishing has some entertaining personalities he lavishes attention on, especially in the twentieth century, such as the legendary Ursula Nordstrom, May Masee, Margaret K. McElderry, Maurice Sendak, Bennet Cerf, Dr. Seuss, Goldenbooks (a personality in themselves) and my personal fav, Louise Seaman Bechtel. It’s a monumental work and a fun dishy read at the same time. Bravo LSM, who is also coming to our university next spring as part of the Artist Residency Series. Can’t wait to meet him.
Other good laid up reads: Kaye Gibbons’ A Cure For Dreams, read in one sitting because I couldn’t put it down, and Aranzi Aronzo’s The Cute Book, a wonderful, easy craft about making felt mascots that even I could do.

Visited Heifer International in Perryville yesterday on a class field trip. Despite it being a bit too much physically (my incision, which frequently holds conversations with me, was virtually shouting yesterday afternoon, ) it was truly inspiring. We toured the global village and saw how the other 75% of the world’s population lives and learned all about their programs to feed, clothe and school the poor by providing them with livestock. We also learned the 7 M’s of livestock that help lift people out of poverty: Milk, Money, Muscle, Meat, Motivation, Manure, and Materials. I am thinking of starting a Read to Feed program with my own kids this summer wherein you can get a free starter packet to encourage your kids to read to raise money to send an animal to a family to help lift them out of poverty. Check it out:

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Learn more about Heifer International's Read to Feed Program.
Children Reading to Fight World Hunger


Classes are over and I have several writing projects, well, right now the novel and the book on creative writing in higher ed, that I need to devote serious attention to but it’s been a slow start.
I’ll keep you posted. The next post, in fact, will be another short one on writing in keeping with the thread I started a while back asking about people’s revision habits. Stay tuned.

Bye y’all,


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