Sunday, December 14, 2008

Time Marches On....

.......and I'm finally pretty much back to normal (or what passes for it around here). I discover that I experienced the same kind of thing I go through if I'm away from home for a long time (which, for me, is three weeks MAX): to wit, it takes me a few days to reorient myself to routine (or what passes for it around here). I'm making a note to myself in my NaNoWriMo book so that I'm prepared for that next year. Did you catch that? "NEXT YEAR" ! The first time is sort of a dress-rehearsal as I see it. Next year I think even the rough draft might be a little more polished. So what's happened since my last post?

First - it snew. The first Proper Snow of the season, I'd have to say, as it resulted in a Snow Day - well, two for us because we weren't scheduled the second day anyhow. Oh, I'm sympathetic to folks who have to drive in bad conditions, &c. My son is a semi driver; my daughter has to get to work. There were many years when I worked at University Hospitals, and I don't have to mention that hospitals don't close, for weather or anything else. I also worked at the University, and even when every elementary, middle and high school in town are closed, the University does not. I think it's closed maybe twice on twenty years.

But the Museum did close (our school groups from out of town cancelled in any event - and I'm just as glad. I wouldn't want to see a school bus coming from out of town in bad weather). So all the kiddies in town were out sledding and playing, and I? Curled up on the couch with a cuppa in one hand, book in the other, knitting and cat in my lap - and probably a shit-eatin'grin. Part-way through the afternoon - a nap. I always was pretty good at the Power Nap (I could doze through a 15-minute break, did me a world o' good at work) but now that I am of Advancing Age I do a masterful, luxurious, elegant nap.

NOTE: that's how they feel ... I'm probably splayed out in a most unattrative manner snoring and drooling. If so - and you know of it - spare me, I don't want to hear about it. Nevermind.

Last week a few of us NaNoWriMo Winners had a celebratory and festive wrap-up party! It was also modest, but then - we are novelists, and at this point none of us have Newbury awards, Nobel prizes or movie deals.

I'd reserved a room in the Memorial Union (I can do that, for free, on account of I am a Lifetime Member) and we arranged to meet midafternoon on Saturday. The room I booked is called "The Board Room", and it's on the 3rd floor. It's a smallish room, has a conference table and chairs in it, and a water cooler; there's a chalkboard on one wall. HOWEVER!! It also had two (count 'em, 2) pianos, not that there was room for dancing; there were three trashcans, two full of empty chili bowls and the effluvia of an earlier meal, and the water cooler bottle was nearly empty.

FURTHERMORE (and I'll issue a warning here - Wrathful Feisty Old Broad Ahead!!) they were holding the Hoofers' Ski Sale. No worries, it's an annual and very popular event, they sell off their used equipment for cheap. But this had a negative impact on the NaNo Celebration: when Becky and I took the elevator up to third floor (remember me? "advancing age"?) there was a table pushed across the elevator opening ! Can you say "Call the ADA"? We just moved it, and went around to our room. There were also three people sitting on chairs at the stairwell, to keep folks from coming up or going down - you see, there was a big huge fear that thousands of people would storm the place and run off with stolen merchandise. Folks - we're talking SKIS here. SNOWBOARDS. Frankly, if a kid can conceal a pair of skis and poles (and probably boots)....even under a thick North Face down vest - heck, I say let 'em have them, and I want to watch. Talk about material for a novel!

I went to find the Floor Supervisor and apprised her of the problem. The result? We had a fresh bottle of water almost instantly. The Troll on the Table, however, still refused to let us use the elevator to go down - he told us(grudgingly) that he'd let us out of the elevator coming up, but (and this is a direct quote, with Becky and the gods as my witnesses): "You're both able-bodied, you can walk down."

My father was famous for his brilliantly-written Letters of Dissatisfaction; we called them the "Sidney S. Goldish Three-Page Letters", and you didn't want one. A nasty Speech teacher of mine in high school got one - and he apologized to me, at some length, in front of the whole class for his ill-chosen words earlier the week. Now, I consider myself a Writer, and I'm told now and then that I'm pretty fair at it. I do pride myself on having inherited the SSGTPL gene, and I am SO writing one to the Union Directorate. Just sayin'.

Anyway, there were just five us of (I can only assume that the other local winners were still lying comatose in front of their laptops or desktops), and *I*, at least, had a very nice time!

Personalized NaNo Winners' Cake!!

Now, there's nothing like comestibles to add some Happy to a gathering anyway. I went down (in search of pizza, but there warn't none) and brought up some nachos for the masses (OK, I admit it, I was looking for another excuse to use the elevator) -- but then Becky went and got HER offering. Have you EVER??

DETAIL: there is a NOVEL on the cake!! How cool is that?

Notice the detail - it's a tiny BOOK! Furthermore, this cake not only had all the requirements for a Perfect Treat Celebrating a Major Event - it was so far beyond "delicious" as to defy description. It had light, buttery cake, and between the layers a thick, rich strawberry layer. Sometimes when cakes are this beautiful, and even when they have fillings like that, sometimes the frosting isn't so great. They go for texture so they can make nice flowers and stuff. But HOLD THE PHONE! This was actually really-truly buttercream frosting. So along with the appearance, which you can see for yourself, the flavor was incomparable.

When I eat cake, I like to take a bit and then breathe a little bit, you know? So you get the fragrance of it as well as the taste. And I'm here to tell you - that was just awfully wonderful. Becky - THANK YOU, in ten languages! The room was a little dismal, the trolls outside a disappointment - but the cake made up for everything.

And guess what? That wasn't even the best part! (Embarrassing Admission: I'm terrible with names. Terrible. So - when I say "Linda" - I hope that was her name. I remember James, and Becky, and Mary {Marie?} -- and I *think* "Linda". Forgive me, I'll improve but for now, I'll call her "Linda") Oh - and if any of the others know, and see this - could you let me know? There ARE drawbacks to Advancing Age........

Anyway, Linda had a good idea: we'd each read a bit from our novels, just three minutes' worth or so, and talk about them. So we did, and I was struck by similarities in our very diverse stories - a few of us had moonlight, and there was an uncommon richness of imagination and language. FURTHERMORE - hey, three minutes is not enough. I want to hear MORE of all of 'em! (Also, I hadn't anticipated that, or I'd have dug out some bits that I thought were a little better than what I had at hand.)

Anyway - the upshot is that we're hoping to begin to meet regularly, more like a regular critique group - like read more like 10 pages each time to comment on. Can't get but a little taste in three minutes. That's like dipping a pinky in the gravy for a taste when there's a whole huge fragrant roast joint on the table. I don't know about y'all, but I want a SLICE! So that's the plan, and I'm excited. It's going to have to wait until "after the holidays"......but it sure is something to look forward to in the new year!

Otherwise: my Writers' Group really liked my little story about the ill little girl and the teddy bear - and I've decided that I AM going to go back over my novel to see if anything is salvageable.

Normal Life (or what passes for it around here) resumes!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

School's Out!

Doesn't this just say it all??

And now what? I really do feel like school's out! I find myself thinking "OK, the dishes are done, now I can get in a little more writing.......oh, wait! It's DONE!" and dare I say it? I miss it! What I need to do establish the routine of writing regularly for my regular writing now. And I think I'll be able to do that, because it really is just about habit to go into the writing room at 10:30 pm and get to work.

SO what did I win? See above! And the feeling of just letting it all spew out, and then, like an archaelogist, attacking it with a little brush and getting rid of the crap.

I *still* haven't started at the beginning and read it straight through, but I'm about it, and then print it out so I can more easily circle the good bits and cross out the roughage. I'm hoping that, after I do that, there'll be enough shards left to put into a good story. (I still like the bit where she nurses the baby, which was cool because she never gave birth. Pretty clever.) Hopefully there'll be more bits like that.

Oh, and to all my fellow NaNoWriMos who crossed the finish line: MAZEL TOV!! We are now all genuine novelists! Next step: submission, publication - and negotiating for film rights!


Sunday, November 30, 2008


{ahem} OK, sorry 'bout that. Short post today; I have a story to finish; however, as I sit before you (and before the lovely fire at Starbucks), I am happy to report that I have sailed, soared, trotted, galloped, stomped....across the virtual Finish Line, and I have


Yes, I have over 50,000 words. No, I haven't uploaded it for verification yet; I won't feel like I've *really* finished until I've gotten to the end of the story. I actually have over 52,000 words at this writing, and there'll be more. But I am winding down. My goal is to finish the story, no matter how sloppily (I'm blushing, I should be ashamed of myself) and THEN post it for my official win, for my Purple Band.

So now, I'm Ensconced, and will come back with a proper post when I have Become Official.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

And There They Sat.....

41,670 words later, smiling and nodding to each other. Huhn?

Oh, 'scuse me. I'm just back from a five-and-a-half-hour stint of "NaNo-ing" at Starbucks, and that's my word count. That means I'm 8,330 words from The End. Yes indeedy, ladies and gennulmens, I do believe that I am going to WIN the 2008 NaNoWriMo. I think that I AM going to have written a 50,000 word novel in thirty days. And I have to say, "novel" is going to be the word for it, as in "odd", "unique", "unusual"....crappy.

The story line (oh, is there a story line?) is thin. It if stood sideways in a strong wind, it would be invisible. Point of view? Oh, yeah, there should be one. The action should be seen through the eyes of somebody, preferably a character in the story. Or the "omniscient narrator". Can't say as there's any such thing here.

Continuity? Hmmm....credibility? Uhnnn...naw. But I think that somewhere, amidst the blathering of the various characters and general "descriptizing", there may be a beginning, a middle, end. I think there are occasional moments, periodic phrases, which might be worth salvaging with an eye to putting them in somewhere to good effect.

I like the scene where the girl (who has never had a baby) breastfeeds the infant, and the milk is so copious as to run from the corners of the wee lips. Sounds like the King had a nice wedding. Some of the scenery isn't bad. The image of the fat kitty, tucked up in meatloaf mode on the back of the sweet little ewe is endearing (at least in my mind).

Where am I right now? Well, let's see....everyone is just leaving church, having all sworn to protect and defend, not only the foundling princess but all of the children, every woman, and themselves. Interesting: when the Da and the priest laid it on them that the child they'd seen these ten years, friend of their own children, comforter of the sick, &c --was in fact a foundling who might, in fact, be the very princess they've been ordered to return to the King or folks would die.......didn't seem to phase anyone.

I now have 8,000 words in which to get her to the castle (with the priest, he has to go with her); she'll then have to find out what's wrong with each of the ladies-in-waiting, shear her instant-grow-back sheep's fleece, wash, card and spin it into mighty fine yarn........and knit it into magical garments which will heal each of the ladies. How will she diagnose them?

Well, conveniently, her cat can eavesdrop on them, and find out. Of course, he hasn't said a word up to this point; he's been a lovely animal but manifested no hint of Disneyism, by way of chatting her up. How's he going to do that, then? Good question. So glad you asked. I'll just be getting back to you on that one.

She's then going to have to knit up the precise little magical piece to cure, heal, and fix each one (I can only assume that she's making small things - quick knits).

OK, so then they're all fixed. Aaaaannnnddd??? Well, somewhere along the line, the Spell Will Be Broken. Everyone enchanted will resume his or her normal shape, all will be revealed, and everyone will Live Happily Ever After. That's what I think is going to happen. On the other hand, just read it along with me, we might both be surprised. {G}

But you know what? I WON! Already!! Because I HAVE written, if not every single day then enough on the other days to make up for it. And it's fun just spewing, and I'm going to relish checking it out afterward; I'll print it up (on scratch paper) just to see the whole thing. And when all is said and done, and NaNoWriMo 2008 is over, I will still have the experience of spending real time at the keyboard. I'll be able to tape something on the teevee instead of watching.......or forego it altogether. And this is a good thing.

Who'd a thunk it? (I wonder, does this give me the right to call myself a Novelist? Even though it's a quantity-only effort?)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Little Did I Know....

...what's involved in NaNoWriMo! I have to say, it's exhilarating, fascinating, curious - and tiring! Of course, I have considerable assistance, I must admit it. I have a Writing Coach-Nagger-Cheerleader-Critic. She yells, she nags, -- but most of all, she has a Baleful Gaze which is so laden with guilt as to be crippling. (I wonder again: how does anyone manage without a cat to help out?)
Here's an example: I like my cup of tea while writing, and as you no doubt know, tea is "rented"......doesn't stay with you for long. So I had gone to visit the Necessary briefly. When I came back, Evangeline had changed her position from "meatloaf" with head facing me to THIS. I can only surmise that she read what I'd written in my absence - and thought this the best way to express her feelings about the whole thing.

I gently reminded her, "No editing. Quantity, not quality. And besides, you can't even type because you have no thumbs."

Everyone's a critic.

However - today I'm "off" -- no outside obligations, and because I stupidly --- carelessly --- unavoidably took a day off from writing yesterday (she let me get away with it simply because I wasn't home, I was know, making a little money so I could afford her bags and bags of treats) I mean to spend the most of today writing. I'm starting at home, but may check to see where my fellow NaNos are writing, if they're out and about, and join them. Misery loves company.

Seems like a lot of them like Starbucks on campus.......I don't drink coffee, wonder if they have anything good to eat?

OK, back to work.

OH! PS: my cute little mouse, which I always use because I like it better than the touchpad system on the laptop, died yesterday (a moment of silence for the technological helper it was). But Mr Tremblingquill (have I mentioned that he's My Hero, in more ways than I could mention?) went out and found me a NEW mousie, with NO CORD to wear out (that's what happened to t'other one)! The new one is super-DUPER cool, and...get this: I got a choice of COLORS! So I know have a fantabulous NEW deep metallic blue CORDLESS MOUSE .

You can have so much fun it you're Advancing in Age and Easily Entertained!!

OK, NOW back to work. For real. Right now. Here I go. Watch me. Here I go.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Catching up.......

DISCLAIMER: this photograph is NOT an actual depiction of me being a NaNoWriMo. However, because this exact situation has been repeated during the writing of the Novel, I felt it legitimate. For one thing, it shows one of the pitfalls of trying to write while seated on the couch -- so I don't do it anymore. I have moved my novelling to either the den (known familiarly as "my writing room") or the kitchen, which allows more space to spread out my pieces of paper, teacup, snacks, &c &c.

Evangeline, I have discovered, is a furry little Conscience. These last couple of days, Mr Tremblingquill has been away (to return Monday next). So I have been taking up the whole of the kitchen table. ( In case you're reading this, my dear, it'll be tidied up with no evidence left behind before your return! ) I've been putting in some decent hours of writing, too - and I've discovered that, if I get up know, use the bif, for example...she follows me, mewing. If I happen to (horrors!) sit down on the couch and turn on the teevee, she stands at my feet, mewing. Now, this behavior has been illustrated in the past, when she feels that 3:00 AM is as late as I should be up, and she mews until I go get into bed.

But this is something new.

Because she loves to be near me at all times I love to have her near me at all times, I've put her knitted kitty-pi bed (now, admittedly, just a round flat disk, but knitted just the same) on the kitchen table where she can curl up and either watch the birdies at the feeders right outside the window.....or cast the Baleful Glances perfected by her kind over the centuries at me. Believe me, Jewish Mothers have nothing on cats when it comes to guilt trips.

So now -- you've caught me out. I'm writing in my blog and NOT on my novel. Did I mention that I excel at Procrastinating? Well, you'd have to travel far and wide to find my equal when it comes to putting-stuff-off. But I AM almost caught up to the daily word count, and that IS impressive, when you consider that I did not write one single word on November 4th (watching the teevee) or November 5th (watching the teevee and behaving in a generally celebratory manner).

Therefore, being as I'm here, now, I feel moved to set forth some of my thoughts, and then - I PROMISE - it's back to the novel. (After I make some tea and find a little nosh. Nevermind.)

Barak Obama is the President-Elect of the United States of America. Lots of folks are happy about that - but, I dare say, none more than I. As a Hippie-Civil-Rights-Worker-Anti-War-Protestor of Slightly Unusual Spiritual Beliefs, I feel as though I've been working toward Mr Obama's campaign for years. I remember conversations with fellow college classmates and Civil Rights workers about whether or not we would see a black President in our lifetimes. I remember conversations at night with my first husband, a black man who came to St Paul from Selma, Alabama with some of my friends who had gone to a rally there....we theorized that, while our son technically could be whatever he wanted to, including President, we weren't sure he REALLY could. Or, again, that any black man would -- in our lifetimes.

Well, it didn't happen in his lifetime. But he died really young. (After-effects from his Viet Nam experience -- see reference above.) But by gum, it COULD happen in my lifetime after all, and what's more, it HAS.

My personal feeling is that Barak Obama is What I Want in a President. He's highly-educated, and besides, he's intelligent (the two are not necessarily the same thing). His ideas sounded good to me, even through the filter that I know is "campaigning"; he has served in the Senate, which experience can only be to the good; he's not afraid to talk to ordinary people and seems to HEAR them; furthermore, he's a nice man and looks to be a nice daddy and a nice husband, and he likes ice cream. (Dare I say it? I saw some film of him dancing somewhere, and 1) not all black people can dance, and 2) fortunately being a good dancer is absolutely not relevant to being a good President.) In fact, as my mother used to say (paraphrased) "If his not being able to dance is the WORST fault he has, we are very lucky indeed!"

That's not to say I think he has NO faults (though in the scheme of things, he seems refreshingly free of any that've been identified in other heads of state through history), but it seems to me that this was an Election, where people voted and the numbers added up and more people wanted him to be President than McCain and so he won. I feel optimistic about the direction we'll be going under his leadership -- and I haven't felt optimistic after a Presidential Election for Quite. Some. Time.

Also I've heard that, whichever kind of dog he gets for his daughters, they're getting it from a Shelter. My kind o' guy.

And because this is my blog and I can kind of say whatever I want, and also because I am Advanced in Age and therefore can kind of say whatever I want, I thought that Sarah Palin was quite possibly the most frightening person I have witnessed in recent memory. I find her attractive, pretty...and downright, clear-cut, absolutely DANGEROUS in many ways. There are jokes about "moving to Canada" (easy for those of us in Wisconsin, it's just "up there") but, while I think McCain would have not been the kind of President *I* wanted. the potential, no matter how slim, that he could die in office leaving Sarah Palin as our President, Commander-in-Chief, &c &c - well, like I said, the single most terrifying thing I could imagine.

I don't like what she stands for, I don't like her attitude towards women's rights, I don't like the whole wardrobe thing (although that's not relevant, she didn't spend any of my Democratic dollars) and...most of all...I thought her interviews with Katie Couric were scandalous. SCANDALOUS! I can't believe she's a truly stupid woman, and I couldn't have answered some of those questions either - but then, I was not now and never will be running for office of any kind. I can't believe she reads every single magazine and periodical there are. I just can't.

So now, feeling good and hopeful and optimistic and confident........I'm going back to writing my 50,000 word novel.

After I get a little snack.

Monday, November 3, 2008


...she RECOVERS! Well - time will tell. However, I am here to report that, after achieving the noble word count of 4,488 on Day Two, I scrapped it! Bagged it, tossed it, heaved it, pitched it. In a word --

I started over!

I didn't actually kill the first version; I just couldn't actually delete all 4,488 words. But here's what happened: after a fun day driving to Viroqua to pick up Mr Trembequill's 19th century suit (very handsome) we took advantage of his seamstress' offer of two tickets to hear the Kingston Trio. It was surreal. Good...but surreal. (None of the original musicians, but yeah, very good nonetheless.)

That was followed by a rather white-knuckle drive home, because Mr Tremblequill had forgot his clear glasses and had only shades, which in *my* book render night-driving Highly Unwise. But I don't love driving at night, glasses or no. I managed - but was pretty played out when we got home.

So I set my little timer for an hour and stretched out to nap on the couch. When I got up, some four hours later or so......I had had a Thought. And the thought involved taking the same characters but moving the lot out of the castle (just could NOT work out a way that the sheep had any dealings with anyone actually living in a castle) and into a cottage. It all suddenly made sense to me.

So I came in and started back at the Starting Line. Oh, I kept Version 1, on my hard drive. But I renamed the new one more or less, and got into gear. It is evening of Day Three now, and I am about to resume writing. At the rate of 1,667 words a day, I should have a total count of 5,001 words by the end of today.........and guess what? I have 4,417 written, after a good session at the Ashman Library. Less than 600 words to achieve the daily goal, and I have a feeling my little Peigeen is going to have more than 600 words' worth of adventure before I turn in tonight.

Is the new version the Great American Novel? Well...errhh...uhhhnn....probably not. But it IS a damned sight better than "It was a dark and stormy night."

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Out of the Gate!

So I guess this means I am a NOVELIST ! (Note the absence of the word "published", which isn't like to happen any time very soon - that's an obsesrvation, not a complaint.) I am glad to say that I DID start writing at 12:01 AM on November 1st. I wrote exactly one line - then had to peel the cat off my lap and move the laptop back to the den/writing room because she was insistent about being on me.

So there was a gap between the first line and the next, but I DID actually manage to crank out over the required 1667 words which comprise the daily minimum to reach the goal. I can see an advantage to this whole NaNoWriMo deal already, at least for me: it's going to necessitate setting aside a period of time, DAILY, to write. If I can form that into a habit, it'll be that much to the good when I return to writing in the regular slow, thoughtful and editing-along-the-way way. So far (remember, yesterday was just Day Two) I have found that very late at night serves me best. I haven't tried writing a few shorter periods during a day, but I think I will, just to see if there's any advantage to the chained-to-the-desk approach.

Oh, and I'll go on record here (where it's pretty safe, as I have no readers) that my novel, as it has come out of the chute, is -- well, I feel very confident in saying that it may well be the worst conglomeration of words ever strung together under the guise of "story".

I'm surprised to find that I am almost overcome with the temptation/desire/yearning to just go back "a little way", to just fix up "one or two sentences" -- after all, maybe I can add a few words. As it stands right now, unless there are some improvements, this will NOT be anything worth saving to go back and polish with the possibility of it actually being something readable.

But - it's an experiement, an exercise, a challenge, and I'm going to stick to the rules and get from it what I may. And I suspect I'll be glad to look back HERE for my feelings as I slog through this.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

It Has Begun..........

The count-down, that is. OK - I've only done ONE of the warm-up exercises. I think what I'm going to do is try a couple of warm-ups on my own; with thanks to Jen, who had her excellent idea of even DOING a warm-up, might I add. I'm glad to have the book (the aforementioned "The 3 AM Epiphany") and will be referring to can't have too many writing books.

Wait - that sounds like "an addict can't have too many empty pill bottles". Oh well.

Anyway, the next 48 hours (give or take) which precede the beginning of NaNoWriMo are going to be busy. I think that's good.......the bloke who Started It All says that being busy engenders more writing, and I can see that. I think sitting down and clearing the decks to write without distraction - in this case - might not be the plus one might think.

So today -- and please note, I'm writing at 4:30 AM (what are you, CRAZY? I take the 5th). The alarm is set for 5:00 AM, because we have to put on funny clothes and report to the teevee station at 6:15. After our Stint (ending before 7:00 AM) we get to come home and nap, and I think I probably will. Then we report to the Museum, again in funny clothes, for tours and Halloween hijinks. That concludes in participation in a reception for teachers -- we'll wander around being part of the "Odd Wisconsin" exhibit.

After THAT I have my class on Childhood in the Middle Ages, which is pretty much fascinating and after only one class is proving, I think, to be the source of details and information which might be useful for future writing projects. After THAT (!) I'm going to stop for a few minutes at Barriques, a coffee house on Monroe Street, at which some of the local fellow NaNos are getting together for a Yay! Rah! in anticipation.

Friday has more stuff, although I'm too lazy to go get my daybook to see what at this point. And of course, I have to finish decorating for Halloween and prepare for the expected mobs of little Sarah Palins I imagine appearing at our door for their yummies. (Mr Dearling laid in a good supply of yummies which we particularly like, in the event that we have left-overs. LOVE it!)

In fact......I'm tempted to go in there and nibble me a sample. But if I go into the kitchen, reGARDless of the time, I'll get caught up in the Feline Feeding Frenzy and it's just too early.

So - all for now, but I'm going to try to keep notes here throughout the month. Lawsy knows, I've been falling down something grim on the knitblog, although I am semi-steadily moving toward completion of the Dr Who scarf, and I'll report the completion of it on both blogs. On account of, 'cause it's a genuine, real, authorized and documentable Big Deal.

Let's see...should I nap for 20 minutes?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Whole 'nother Level!

Yep, I've won it - the Olympic Gold for Procrastination. Having said that, I present here my FIRST warm-up exercise as assigned by Jen. The hard part was keeping it to 600 words; it's the #29 exercise from "The 3 AM Epiphany". For your pleasure I present:

Mrs. Whittier

Mrs. Whittier seated herself at the table, placed her napkin in her lap and watched as Eleanor poured her tea. Setting the teapot back, she lifted the covered Haviland dish and asked “Sausages, Ma’am?”

“No…no, Eleanor, this will do.” Eleanor studied her mistress for a moment, then turned and went back to the kitchen. Almost instantly, she heard the chiming of the little bell, and hurried back to the table.

“Eleanor, my daughter is dead. We must make arrangements. The wake will, of course, be held here. I’d like you to arrange for the undertaker to bring her body, and see that the parlor is prepared; he will tell you what he needs for the laying-out. And Eleanor – spare no expense. I must have a large black wreath for the door.”

Eleanor stood, uncertainly, then quietly retired to begin the preparations. She heard Mrs. Whittier whisper something, but decided it was not for her ears.
Mrs. Whittier had said “Draped in sable….like her hard, wretched heart.”

The night before, her daughter had come to supper, stalking in ahead of her family, and announcing “We cannot stay long, Mother.” Her husband Edgar had whispered “Sorry” as he kissed his mother-in-law’s cheek, and the little boy and smaller girl had eagerly embraced her, one on each side, as she bent to kiss their heads.

Margot led the way to the dining room, and arranged her skirts around her as she seated herself at the end of the table; her husband helped the little ones to their chairs and held Mrs. Whittier’s chair before taking his own seat across from the children, at her right.

“I trust you’ve spared no expense for the menu? You must know, my only pleasure these days is your occasional invitation for a decent meal. Lord knows I can’t return your hospitality unless you favor cold ham and biscuits. A clerk’s salary doesn’t stretch very far,” she said, smoothing her napkin over her lap.

Edgar said quietly, “I’m doing well enough, my dear, and I’m not a clerk. Mr. Lawson says I’ll be a partner in the firm one day.”

“Yes, well, I can only hope it’s before all of my gowns have worn completely to shreds.”

Mrs. Whittier had rung her bell, and Eleanor had set before them a very satisfying meal indeed. As instructed, she placed the small crystal bowl of herring at Margot’s place, and Mrs. Whittier said, “I know how much you like herring, Daughter, your shared your affection for it with your dear father, of blessed memory. Eleanor found it at the market – although it was quite dear.”

Margot had emptied the bowl onto her plate with no thought of offering any to others, and devoured the herring greedily.

The conversation during the meal was terse, and in short order, Mrs. Whittier was standing at the door, watching her daughter hasten down the steps and into the hansom cab without a backward glance. Her husband dressed the children against the cold and again embraced Mrs. Whittier. She again kissed the darling children’s little faces, then paused and took Edgar’s shoulders firmly, looking him straight in the eye.

“I have confidence in you, Edgar. You provide very well for you family, their future is secure. I foresee greatness for you, and in time, for the children as well. Brighter days surely are just around the corner.”

Mrs. Whittier remembered the scene as she sat at her tea. Nodding to herself, she lifted the cat to her lap, and, stroking its back, said to it, “Do you suppose that herring really had turned?”

(598 words!)

Monday, October 20, 2008


I've heard that fact, I've heard that really the very BEST authors....procrastinate. Now, don't get me wrong, I am NOT putting myself in that category. I gave my opinions on procrastinating as it applies to me last time. it is Monday again, and again I have an assignment as a warm-up for NaNo, and it is clearly obvious that I did NOT finish and post Warm-Up Exercises one OR two before going to the Conference. And guess what? The third one's not here either.

All righty, then. The Very Next Post you see here will be the first assignment, followed in turn by numbers 2 and 3.

And yes, it WILL be before the turn of the century.

I hope.

Just sayin'.


PS: the Writers' Retreat was all I had hoped for -- and more. So even though I haven't posted any writing *here* yet, I really did come home with inspiration, understanding of a great deal, and enthusiasm - not to mention having had the uncommon pleasure of hearing two of the best writers of children's stories... Holly Black (Spiderwick Chronicles) and Linda Sue Park (A Single Shard, which won the Newbery). I didn't know to expect it, but being in the presence of highly successful authors like that was as inspiring as anything I could imagine. I wondered if I might come away feeling really *down* and inept, but I did not. The whole thing was most excellent.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


OK - I now have TWO Monday assignments, and it's clear that there is nothing here yet of a writerly nature ! Believe it or not, I'm NOT procrastinating (although believe me when I say, if it were an Olympic sport I could serve dinner for twelve on my gold medals....with soup); no, it's just that after a false start (about seven pages' worth) I decided to rewrite the first one, and the second is "in the works".

I will say, however, that I'm liking that book a great deal, and owe Jen for introducing it to me.

WARNING: Gratuitous whining ahead: I'm preparing to go to the SCBWI Fall Retreat day-after-tomorrow. Now, I've never been before (Anxiety #1). I have to decide what written pieces to take along (Anxiety #2). I'm going to be surrounded by REAL writers, and what's worse, professionals (Anxiety #3).

I *expect* to come home energized, knowledgeable in new ways, inspired and having met all sorts of wonderful new people. I ALSO *expect* that there's a reasonable chance I'll be found out as a Totally Phony POSER (or, as we say in French, "poseur").
But it is my intention (isn't that what the Road to....oh nevermind) to finish both pieces and post them here before departing.

Watch this space!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

What was that exercise???

OK, so the challenge was, Jen said, on Mondays she'd give us the number of an exercise from "The 3 A.M. Epiphany", and we'd have the week to write it. Excellent, says I to Me, warm-ups for the NaNoWriMo. I can for SURE use that!

So I got the book, turned to #29 as instructed, and -- Wednesday morning -- began to write. And discovered a few things about myself.

To wit: 1) Getting an idea wasn't TOO hard. Not a breeze, but I managed. 2) Once I actually sat down and began writing, the story formed itself up quite nicely. 3) As I'd thought, my best writing time is going to be after 10:30 pm (and I'm determined to carve a hunk o' time during the day too, and stick to it).

But here's what's happened so far: I didn't finish in time to post the story here Friday, and - more to the point - in finishing today....(I've only a little left to do)....I see that I'm a little over the required 600-word limit.

In fact, I'm 1,401 words over the limit.

What is this, some kind of a joke??

Thursday, October 9, 2008

And so it begins.......

Day One of Blog! It's Thursday night; tomorrow I will post here my first Writing Exercise, which I'm doing with a group of folks in preparation for NANOWRIMO. I am officially registered (I need to find out how you add little banners at the side of blogs). The first exercise (yeah, due tomorrow, I'm writing this at 11:45 pm - do ya s'pose I should BEGIN ??) {ahem} is # 29 from "3 AM Epiphany". I'm doing these warm-ups to establish for myself a dedicated writing time and to limber up, lubricate and activate the Imagination Cells.

I will here admit to considerable nervousness, coupled with a grim determination. The fact that I'm about to start two four-week classes, I'm preparing for the SCBWI Fall Retreat (another new experience), and I have to research a character I'm to portray at the Museum -- and I need to finish the Dr Who scarf I'm working on. Eight feet down, about four to go. Oy.

Tomorrow - Warm-Up Exercise Number One.